Sushi chefs upset over new glove requirement

Sushi chefs are up in arms over a new state law that requires culinary workers to wear gloves when handling raw food.
April 3, 2014 5:26:58 PM PDT
Sushi chefs say there's something fishy about a new state law that requires all culinary workers to wear gloves when handling raw food. Some chefs are making artistic and practical claims.

This new state law has as soft rollout so food inspectors will be issuing warnings for now, but come July, they may be issuing fines.

Supporters of the new law say gloves enhance food safety and hygiene and that other states already require food handlers, including sushi chefs, to wear them, but not everyone agrees.

Takatoshi Toshi is the executive sushi chef of acclaimed Sushi Ran restaurant in Sausalito. He had crafts every delicious morsel. He's made countless sushi creations in his 20 years in the business, molding each grain of rice with great precision.

The raw fish is kept refrigerated at a temperature of 41 degrees to avoid bacteria. He washes his hands constantly and says his hands are the tools of his trade.

"Sushi is very important to the feel," said Toshi. "How much is the fish. How much wasabi. How much is the rice. All balanced in the sushi."

Those are all reasons why sushi chefs like Toshi are fighting the new law that requires them to wear gloves.

Hiroshi Imanaka is the owner of Isobune Sushi in Burlingame. He told ABC7 News, "We tried a few times to have our chef wear them. Ninety percent of sushi making is by feel. And with gloves on, they don't have that delicate feel for it, with the sushi and the rice becoming one."

San Francisco health inspector Mohanned Malhi says he believes gloves won't hamper a sushi chefs' dexterity. He told us, "In all reality, a brain surgeon has to actually conduct his surgery with gloves on, which requires much more dexterity than a sushi chef."

Yoshi Tome is president of the Japanese Restaurant Association. Instead of the glove law, Tome says educating food workers is the key. He told ABC7 News, "Much more important to us, personal hygiene and teach people who work at the restaurants, wash your hands many, many times as much as possible."

Because of the uproar, there is now an effort to change the language in the law to allow sushi chefs to use their bare hands. That bill may come up for a vote in committee next week.


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