Sushi Dojo has been hailed as one of the best new sushi bars in the city, with sushi wunderkind David Bouhadana turning out some truly spectacular specimens at the helm. But Dojo was shuttered recently by the Department of Health, with Bouhadana claiming that they “were closed for one thing and one thing only, not wearing gloves.” Huh?
Yes, last year New York’s Department of Health put new regulations in place requiring all sushi chefs to wear gloves, and to freeze many varieties of fish for 15 hours in order to kill bacteria. At the time, Bouhadana told Eater that “We already have freezers, but no one has that many freezers to all of a sudden start freezing their entire inventory. They expect me to go out and buy four to six more freezers and find space in my already packed 200 square foot basement?"
But the glove issue is the one that seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. “Sushi chefs are not supposed to wear gloves,” Bouhadana maintains, which is absolutely correct; making sushi – from making sure that the rice is at the right temperature to slicing the fish perfectly – is an incredibly tactile art form, far different from, say, making a sandwich, and it requires that the sushi chef have nothing between their hands and the sushi.
“We will take back sushi. I'm the voice for these master chefs, they are old and English isn't [their] first language,” Bouhadana continued. “I will stand up and take this head on. And will show everyone that DOH has abused its power.”
It’s assumed that everyone who’s preparing food (especially those who are within sight of the diners) will keep their hands impeccably clean, and for sushi chefs who’ve spent decades mastering the craft, it’s obvious that they’re going to keep their hands washed; to not would be an insult to both the diner and the sushi they’re contaminating. The DOH has every right to go after sandwich shop workers who don’t put on gloves before handling potential bacteria breeding grounds like cold cuts and cheese. But there’s no food whose quality declines when its chefs are forced to wear gloves more than sushi. Shutting restaurants down when sushi chefs refuse to wear gloves isn’t just senseless, it’s bullying.