OC Bartenders Smell The Glove! We’ll See…

Every second and fourth Wednesday night of the month, legendary bartender/chef/restaurant insider Dave Mau hosts Dinner with Dave at Memphis at the Santora, where he treats drinkers to a free meal and live music as the evening progresses. To remind ustedes of this great night, Dave treats us that week to a random OC food or drink musing of his choice. Enjoy!!

You can find yourself in some strange situations in The Biz, thus it was when a good friend of mine (you can probably guess who) found himself cutting fish and making sushi to order at a giant swinger party in a seedy industrial space off the 73 a few years ago. What had been initially billed to him as a “gathering of a few friends” turned out to be an epic sexual free for all of Sodom and Gomorra-esque proportions. My buddy was stuck behind the sushi case wondering how the hell he got drafted into this one but the money was good so along he went with the program, as dismayed as he was. In the middle of said gathering was, well, how should I put it? Let’s just say an attractive young lady was being kind enough to (“ahem”) be entertaining several gentleman caller friends while she was on her knees and the banco de la boca was open for business.


After said encounter she was apparently hungry (from what I heard she should have been absolutely stuffed!) and sauntered over to the sushi bar to grab a bite. When she saw my buddy making sushi with his bare hands she lost her noodle.

“Ewwwwww! Why aren’t you wearing gloves? You’re touching my food!”

My buddy was incredulous to say the least, especially considering what (and whom) she just had as an appetizer.

I relate this story to prove a point; people are really neurotic and selective about what they worry about putting in their mouths. Thus turns the next page in the Nanny State saga, making a non-issue into an issue and raising the specter of bartenders having to wear gloves. As of January first, all foodservice workers who handle food that is not cooked are supposed to handle said foodstuffs with gloved hands. Apparently, this also applies to those behind the bar since we handle mint, limes, berries, etc. I’ve always been skeptical of the glove thing. I think it’s a selective consumer perception thing akin to the example above.

So let’s put this whole thing to bed once and for all, and you can quote me-

1) There is plenty of evidence (anecdotal and otherwise) that since foodservice workers “perceive” their hands to be cleaner when wearing gloves they are far less likely to change them following contact with something questionable (like their junk). There’s also evidence the natural anti-microbial properties of your skin are less germ friendly than latex or vinyl. Our bodies are living, breathing, germ-fighting machines. Gloves are not.

2) Since the proper procedure if you feel you have to change gloves is to wash, thoroughly dry your hands, then put on a new pair, workers are far less likely to do so regularly, especially if they are busy. Usually they simply remove the soiled gloves and put on another pair using their dirty hands: pointless. When the rubber hits the road, most people will forgo swapping out gloves if they are staring at a big stack of kitchen or bar tickets waiting to be handled. That’s just a fact of life, as sure as gravity itself.

3) For bartenders, we have our hands in sanitizing solution probably 30 percent of the time we are working. I guarantee in the middle of any given shift my hands are a rocky place upon which even the hardiest of bacteria could find no purchase. (I have the bar rot to prove it.) Even then, the things we do come in contact with are generally submerged in alcohol or citrus, neither one of which is amenable to bacterial growth. I’d like to see a human metapneumovirus (responsible for 10% of all colds) thrive in a bucket glass of Jameson. Indeed, if it did, that would be a cold I’d be proud to come down with.

4) You know where there are germs aside from the hands of your friendly foodservice worker? F’ING EVERYWHERE!!! Your car keys, that pack of gum from the store, the 19 cent banana sitting on the shelf at Trader Joe’s, the drawer handle on your desk — everywhere! That doesn’t mean we should be reticent in our food handling duties to keep our nails trimmed, hands clean and make sure we are using sanitizer, but I guarantee our hands are cleaner than that person you just shook hands with, after which you then touched your mouth or nose. Plus, people will let their pooch slobber all over their face after he has licked every pee spot and sniffed every dog rectum on the block and I bet your chances of getting sick are better in a hospital than even the filthiest of restaurants. Bikram yoga studios are absolute Petri dishes of rank contagions but nobody complains about them. Germs are like exes: you wanna pretend they’re not around but your probably gonna run into some whether you like it or not.

5) The kicker? Bartenders handle money! Dirty, dirty money. Which means, in a strict, technical sense, they should wash, dry and change gloves between every financial transaction! Like that’s ever gonna happen!

There is a line somewhere when it comes to “protecting” the public and this latest bit of overreaching legislation crosses it in spades. It’s a silly notion that state regulators can create a germ-free utopia like something straight out of THX-1138 and you can’t tell me millions of extra disposable gloves piling up in our already trashed landfills/oceans is a good idea. But you know who probably thinks it is? The glove industry lobbyists in Sacramento and the shareholders they answer to, that’s who.

As for me? Well, if the Health Department starts asking me how I grab all the garnishes and other bartender accoutrement I’m gonna take a tip from my sushi chef buddy and handle that stuff like he handles ginger and wasabi when he plates food — with chopsticks.

Follow @ocweeklyfood on Instagram! And check out Dave’s podcasts: Memphis Mondays and Fat Drunk And Happy!


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