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Jan 26, 2009 06:16 PM

Short Fingernails a "Must" for the Kitchen?

Ok, I am laying it out here.

In NY, my fairly new (on a somewhat regular basis) residence, long nails on women in particular, but also for some guys, are a big plus for gals/guys looking for out-of-the-kitchen action.

I am not from around here, and don't understand it. I love to garden. I love to cook. I love to play with paint. Can't imagine a life with fingernails of 'who-knows-what' captured and growing under them, not even if those "nails" have a pretty, 'Permanent French Manicure' on top. Just me - no judgements, to the lovely ladies (or guys), into it. When I get a manicure, the instructions are always the same... "as short as possible, no gloss, just one coat of Nailtique" (ok, we have a selection, so I choose the most natural.)

I start getting queasy when I think of the bacteria in the rarely-dry, long-nail/fingertip area that has been in contact with (you never know) perhaps, a lot when ingredients in the kichen, touching my or whoever I am with's food.

Two questions... one, if someone has long, luxurious, beautifully painted nails in the kitchen and just prepared your meal, how clean do you think the food is? Is it 'all good', because the nails look good? Does it make a difference, or am I just a bit over-anxious about this? I keep mine so short that there is no visible nail, most of the time. (No offense to anyone with longer nails, but I am still recovering from the "Worms in Cod" thread. Thanks to Sam, I think I see tiny tapeworms near me thinking about procreating in my nails...)

Second, if you went into your most delicious and newly discovered resto, toured the kitchen and everyone prepping and cooking in the kitchen (men included) had long fingernails, would it bother you at all (considering the food was otherwise excellent?) in terms of health?

To you, are short nails a necessity in a clean, orderly kitchen; even at home?

And p.s. I've noticed some "chefs" have one long pinky fingernail, what's that about? All the other fingernails are short. Is that long nail a special "spice finger"?

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  1. Since I live in a "magic house," I have no problems with others and the cleanliness issue. I, however, can't do it. I also like to garden and between that and cooking, fingernails just don't work for me. I love Oprah's nails (short and squared off) but I can't even do that. Too much maintenance and $$$. I just stick with clipping mine every couple of weeks - if that :)

    1. "what you don't know won't hurt you"
      My SO worries about all kinds of things like that. The restaurant kitchen isn't the sterile place you'd like to think it is. There are worse things than long fingernails going on there. It's nice to see that in the last few years some of the food handlers are wearing gloves.

      If there was a significant health risk from long fingernails, the the health department wouldn't allow them. Years ago I managed restaurants for a chain and their kitchens were consistently spotless and clean. Unfortunately the one thing you can't control is the personal hygene habits of the people handling your food. That towel that cleaned the table you sat at wasn't used on your table only and lots of other incidents where there can be cross contamination. I cringe when the person handling my water glass is touching the rim of the glass.

      1. well, if you know the typical restaurant employees predeliction towards "recreational substances" you will understand what the one long nail is for!!! "spice nail" indeed.........

        too funny!

        3 Replies
        1. re: nkeane

          The OP should know, that's probably the cleanest fingernail.

          1. re: nkeane

            OMG, that is EXACTLY what my thought was - HA!

            OR... my Sicilian grandfather used to keep a long pinky nail so that he could clean his ear - yep, I couldn't make that up.

            1. re: lynnlato

              I'm not sure how to respond... cannot decide what is more disturbing; that cocaine could still be "in", or that my chef might be cleaning his ear with his spice finger before prepping my food...

          2. To me I just don't see longer nails as a bacteria issue. It probably is, but as long as they wash their hands really well I'm not bothered by it. Looking at my nails I can't imagine how dangerous bacteria would get under them, maybe dough, but it seems like bacteria would just easily get washed out. What grosses me out more though is when people cook with their rings on.

            Personally, I keep mine shorter cause of turmeric. That stuff dyes really well and then next thing you know I'll be walking around the whole day with yellow fingernails. >_<

            1. In a professional kitchen...NO LONG NAILS..and no painted nails either. Ugh.

              I've never noticed the one longer fingernail...maybe it is a cocaine finger. Who knows?

              4 Replies
              1. re: melly

                Yes, I believe that was what nkeane and monku hinted at above. I remember one of the first places I waited tables. I teased one of the cooks about his lone fingernail, and how 'un-manly' he was. Only later did a fellow waitress explained to me its real purpose...I felt like such a dork :)

                1. re: enbell

                  I believe these threads are essential in totally obliterating the appeal of restaurants and the industry ;)

                  1. re: Blueicus

                    Sorry, I couldn't fall asleep in good conscious last night without posting this nagging question... :-).

                2. re: melly

                  no nail polish is actually a health dept regulation - short nails are more difficult to regulate- what is short and what is long?

                  about the gloves comments below - are only required for food that will not be cooked prior to serving - latex, which is the closest to working bare handed - is not allowed.