Dear chef: I just saw that the new Edgewater food hall allows dogs inside, and that the state is considering loosening regulations on animals in places that sell food. What do you think about that?
I've been tracking the ever-growing signs of an impending apocalypse for some time. The list starts with white-framed sunglasses, using speaker mode on your phone in public, the rebirth of fanny packs and, of course, bedazzled jeans. However, there's no greater harbinger for the end of times than people who bring their pets into places that sell food. How myopic do you have to be in order to believe this is acceptable?
I love dogs. My Boston terriers were our first babies, and our current rescued Lab is, along with our two-legged daughter, the light of our lives. But we all have to understand that dogs don't belong everywhere and, more importantly, that the world doesn't revolve around our individual program.
This isn't a question of food-based businesses being dog-friendly or not. This is about creating an equal playing field for all guests by maintaining a safe and sanitary environment that's meant to keep you, the general public, from purchasing and ingesting contaminated food. We, as service professionals, have to wear gloves, beard nets, head covers and aprons. We keep temperature logs to track hot-held foods, cooling processes and refrigeration function. There are more hoops to jump through than the average diner can possibly imagine in order to ensure professional standards are met.
On the contrary, the bare minimum asked of the guest is that they're wearing shoes (most of the time), that they arrive somewhat clothed and that they don't bring pets with them. While it seems this shouldn't need to be defined, clearly that's not the case. Pets and their wake of accompanying pieces and parts, from dander to much worse, shouldn't be consumed by humans.
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Beyond that, there are the diners and shoppers who are allergic to, afraid of, or for some reason averse to dogs and are not expecting a confrontation with this concern in a place generally accepted to be pet-free. This becomes the self-awareness and humanity piece. You cannot expect everyone to be okay with your dog, or any pet, in every setting.
Ultimately though, it's up to the business to explicitly define its rules of engagement (within the law) when it comes to pets, but as hospitalitarians, we have a hard time saying no. I encourage all of us to set better parameters for the good of all our guests. If you want to take your dog anywhere you go, then seek out eateries and food vendors who don't mind the commingling of animal hair, dander and food. There, you'll find like-minded diners in a private business space where the expectation is that there will be dogs. It's a win for everyone involved.
After twenty years in restaurant kitchens, Jamey Fader is now culinary director for Marczyk Fine Foods. But he’s still stirring the pot, and will answer your culinary questions in his weekly column for Westword. Have a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.