Why Do Chefs Eat Salad With Their Fingers?

Earlier this month, inspired by our beautiful new president’s (then president-elect’s) call for change, I helped to plan a fund raising dinner in Los Angeles to help underwrite the much-publicized dinners that Alice Waters more recently hosted in Washington, D.C. It was an exciting, happy, and hopeful occasion with the kind of famous names in attendance that I don’t recognize and that I have to Google when I get home, and the kinds of chefs cooking who some people regard as celebrities. The next day, I had a casual dinner of delicious leftovers with the host and his family, and as the host—I’ll call him Hank—sat at the head of his dining table, he plunged his right hand into his salad bowl and picked up a small handful of greens, announcing: “If Alice can do it, so can I!” Our host went on to tell me how stunned he was to look next to him during the dinner earlier that week only to see Alice eating her salad—a beautiful melange of mixed field lettuces, watermelon radishes, and shaved fennel, all from Chino Ranch, tossed together by Alice herself and presented with dramatic flourish in a enormous hand-carved wooden bowl—with her fingers. If Hank had looked down the table, he would have seen Nancy Silverton doing the same thing. And across from Nancy there was me—not that I am famous or a chef, but I do like to eat my greens with my fingers. To be honest, I was just as surprised that Hank was surprised as he was at the fingers in the salad bowl. After all, Hank dines out a lot, and he knows a lot of chefs and its pretty much a given that chefs eat as much as they can with their fingers. And don’t they always eat salad with their fingers? The bigger question is, why?

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5 thoughts on “Why Do Chefs Eat Salad With Their Fingers?

  1. Yeah, why? It may be a given in chef-land that you guys eat with your fingers, but those of us who were constantly told to wash our hands for germ avoidance growing up find it unnerving. Esp if the hands go in the mouth and then back in the bowl, so there’s saliva transfer. Chefs are usually so germ-aware. Anyway, Caro, illuminate please.

  2. Eating a salad with ones hands is strange to me, especially seated at a table. Serving a salad to your plate with your hands makes more sense since most salad serving devices are basically useless. But then eating the salad with a fork is more the norm. Most chefs (me included) eat most of their meals at work, and by eating I mean standing over a trash can or sink (often in the dish-pit) and inhaling whatever you can stuff into a tortilla, flatbread, baguette, or whatever. Consuming just enough food to keep the coffee from eating a hole in your stomach, and all done in two minutes or less. let’s face it, when you are preparing food for people all day, it loses it’s appeal until you are well removed from the kitchen and relaxed.

  3. I am not a famous chef, but I cook often and people say I am good. I eat salad with my hands because I eat everything that isn’t gooey with my hands whenever I can get away with it. I don’t think it is about sex, per se. Rather, I think some of us are just more tactile (or kinesthetic) than others and touch is one of the ways we “take in” food in addition to taste and smell.

  4. I eat my salad with my hands when not in public. Recently on the food network, someone gave this a name and in my search for it, i ended up here. I doubt I will find it. Lets give it a name so that it will become more mainstream.

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