Food smackdown: Health Inspectors vs. Sushi

There are few places to get good sushi in Columbia. I’ve enjoyed Sake the few times I’ve been there. A lot of people like Osaka. You can also get the raw stuff at KoJaBa, Jina Yoo’s and a handful of other locations. At not one sushi place in my life – here, in Chicago, D.C., anywhere – have I seen the sushi chefs wearing gloves. But that’s exactly what the Columbia/Boone County Health Inspectors want them to be doing.

I had a discussion about this last night with Jina Yoo, owner of Jina Yoo’s Asian Bistro. She described her most recent encounter with a health inspector where he said she was required to have people making sushi wear plastic gloves. She said she was incredulous. “Have you ever seen people make sushi before? You cannot do it wearing gloves.”

He was adamant. And while she offered that she understood he was just doing his job, she felt the man’s supervisors should revisit the issue. Then, in fit of plucky defiance, she says she told him “the minute you walk out of here I’m having them take their gloves off.”

After I got done wiping the mojito-spray off myself she said he calmly looked at her and said, “I wouldn’t do that Ma’am.” She even did it in a perfectly deadpan American accent. And granted, there’s no excuse for some of the other things from their last inspection but seriously, there’s nothing magically disinfectant about latex gloves. And I can’t imagine trying to make sushi with them on.

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Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

7 thoughts

  1. From what I’ve heard, the Columbia/Boone County health department is one of the strictest in the state, so nothing really surprises me.

    I’ve eaten sushi, locally, on the east and west coasts and everywhere in between. I’ve never seen a sushi chef wear gloves. When I’ve sat at the bar, most of the sushi chefs I’ve witnessed have been impeccably clean, but no gloves.

    Texture is so important in sushi that I would imagine gloves would hamper the chef’s ability to really feel what they’re doing. I would also imagine that a latex taste could rub off on raw fish. Blech.

  2. I just tried Bamboo roll for the first time about a week ago. I watched the sushi chef make the rolls fresh for my order. He was wearing gloves. He didn’t seem to have any trouble. I’d like to know the reasoning for not wanting to wear gloves during sushi making, aside from simply “you cannot do it” because obviously you can, since I saw it done with my own eyes.

    Best,

    Alan

  3. There we have it, someone who’s seen a sushi chef using gloves. I’ve only been to Bamboo once and didn’t notice that.

    I think the main reasoning behind doing sushi barehanded is you get a better feel for the rolls/sashimi, resulting in tighter sushi that sticks together. Jina said rolling with gloves makes it difficult to get that right.

    Also, she says the rice will stick to gloves, resulting in an uneven application of rice.

    Finally, if you wash your hands I have no problem with you touching my food. Gloves can transmit the same germs bare hands can, so you’d have to be constantly throwing gloves away and putting on new ones. Just wash your hands and we’ll all be fine is what I say. People have been eating that way for thousands of years.

  4. The one time I ate at Bamboo the food was mediocre and the roll was very loose and sloppy looking.

  5. I haven’t had the sushi at Simma Down, but if it’s like their other offerings it’ll be very tasty and take 45 minutes to come out.

    I’ve only been to Bamboo once and found it, well, just okay. It was early and probably merits another visit. Your take on it rweater doesn’t bode well, however.

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