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gfron1

Lefties in the kitchen

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I know this isn't exclusive to the restaurant world, but the consequences are different, hence this forum.

 

I've had the worst luck with lefties in my kitchen.  They can't seem to fold batters without deflating.  They are sloppy choppers.  They cut themselves - a lot!  A general klutziness.  I'm basing this on a half dozen lefties over the past 6 years.  I have had some of these issues with righties, but every lefty has had all of these issues.

 

Has anyone else had this problem?  Is there anything that can be done beyond buying left-handed appliances when available?  I won't mention it - but is it illegal to not hire someone because they're left handed?

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You've probably just had bad luck with the left-handed people you've hired. I'm left-handed, and so is my boyfriend, and neither of us is more accident prone than most, and we're both more coordinated than many (few enter the kitchen when I'm working, since I'm draconian about sloppiness and carelessness). In fact, the general habits of most of the left-handed people I know (and I know quite a few) might best be described as 'precise'.

 

Screening new hires more carefully for their actual fitness in a kitchen would make more sense than considering not hiring the left-handed applicants.

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Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Rob! Awesome to see you here again! Anyway, I wanted to try to be helpful here because I'm technically a lefty and I don't have any of those difficulties you've mentioned. That would be relevant since I've been working in restaurant kitchens for a fairly long time except for one problem... my brain seems to have some sort of cross-wiring going on or something. I write left handed, hold a fork, spoon, etc. left handed, play guitar left handed but for reasons unknown to me, I do all sports stuff (throw, golf, bat, etc,) right handed. And, despite using my eating utensils left handed, I use my kitchen knives right handed. I have no explanation as to how my body/mind chooses which things it will do with which hand, I just go with it. But I definitely don't have any particular difficulties with precision, speed or being injury prone.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Hi, Rob!

 

I'm left-handed but my husband is not. Lately, he's the one who has hurt himself (cut, burned) in the kitchen. The two appliances that I seem to struggle more with are the (manual) can opener and the handheld mixer. I know there are left-handed can openers, but every one I've ever seen has been a piece of junk compared to the heavier-duty "normal" versions, so I struggle. The mixer cord annoys me, but my mixer issues stem more from having trouble pushing the beaters in securely...and I always put the bowl on a piece of nonskid so I can let go of the bowl and move the cord out of the way as needed. As long as I have sufficient elbow room on the proper side, I have no issues folding batters. As long as my knives are sharp (and as long as I'm not trying to use the one knife in my husband's knife drawer with a distinctly right-handed handle), I can chop without cutting myself or anything else that isn't supposed to be chopped. I think you've just had a coincidence. Don't distrust us all. And remember that we often use the "other" side of the vegetable peeler, so you can actually keep the same one for twice as long!

 

MelissaH


MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Ah, the arrogance of right handed people! Including my husband. Although secretly he is in awe of us lefties. I rarely have kitchen accidents of any kind and I do all the cooking in the house. My husband can bake bread like nobody's business but his knife skills are pretty bad. Left handed people have a long history of learning to adapt to less than perfect tools and that is a plus when it comes to solving kitchen problems of all kinds. I use left handed scissors, which make a big difference. The single most important left handed utensil I own is a ladle, with the lip on the correct side. A right handed soup ladle is a worthless piece of crap! It occurs to me that my husband, when he dishes up his own portion of soup, has never complained about the ladle, so he earns my admiration for either a brilliant adjustment or being silent in the face of adversity. I don't remember seeing an ambi soup ladle, with two lips instead of one, but they must exist for mixed hand couples.

 

But the worst decision we ever made (he convinced me it was a great idea, and I never imagined how inconvenient it would be) was a right handed FAUCET arrangement. The stem of the faucet was actually left of center at the back. Just think about that for a minute. I was always having to work AROUND the stream of water and my left sleeve was often soaked as a result. Such a great day when we got rid of that thing.

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I'm a southpaw and there are definitely some things in kitchens that are designed for R-handers more than L-handers - serrated knives have the serrations on the wrong side for things like bread-slicing, manual can-openers are a super-pain, ladles pour the wrong way, measuring marks on cups or pots often can't be read while holding in the left hand, and spatulas are always slanted the wrong way (is this the problem with the batter-folding that you mentioned, by any chance?). 

 

I bet i organize my home kitchen differently than a R-hander would. I prefer my spoons and ladles and tongs handy to my left hand while cooking. I stand to the right when using the controls on a right-handed appliance like a microwave or a toaster oven, while a R-hander stands comfortably in front. If I'm chopping a bunch of veggies, I want to direct the end results to the left in most cases, not the right. 

 

If you have a tight kitchen and it's set up for right-handed work, a southpaw might find it more awkward to do the same tasks. Their ideal work flow will be a bit different. 

 

There are some nice kitchen tools for south-paws. If I worked in a kitchen I would probably bring some of my own knives with me. Check out web sites like Lefty's in San Francisco or Anything Left Handed in the UK to see why these might be beneficial. 

 

http://www.leftyslefthanded.com/Lefthanded_Kitchen_Tools_s/3.htm

 

http://www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk/videos/kitchen-tools.html#sthash.hsPIUqer.dpbs

 

Try working in your kitchen with your left hand for a few minutes at several different tasks, I bet you'll see how some things differ. I don't think you'll find many left-handed appliances, by the way. And I'm not sure why your L-handers seem to be bad at chopping or cut themselves a lot, but you could encourage them to try bevelled blades for L-handers? (thought I wouldn't think this would be necessary, in most cases)

 

http://www.amazon.com/Shun-DM0706L-Classic-Left-Handed-Stainless-Steel/dp/B000FR5TB8

 

http://www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk/acatalog/chef_knives.html

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That's extremely helpful and it reminded me that because I'm in such a remote little town my staff rarely have experience except in town, and often nothing more than home experience, so that they may not even know enough to suggest changes in our kitchen - which is small.  Thanks.

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I know this isn't exclusive to the restaurant world, but the consequences are different, hence this forum.

 

I've had the worst luck with lefties in my kitchen.  They can't seem to fold batters without deflating.  They are sloppy choppers.  They cut themselves - a lot!  A general klutziness.  I'm basing this on a half dozen lefties over the past 6 years.  I have had some of these issues with righties, but every lefty has had all of these issues.

 

Has anyone else had this problem?  Is there anything that can be done beyond buying left-handed appliances when available?  I won't mention it - but is it illegal to not hire someone because they're left handed?

I'm left-handed. While I don't have any experience cooking professionally, I've never had any of the issues you've mentioned.

Maybe the real issue is that the people you've hired weren't very skilled, not because of their handedness.

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Rob!!!!  Mwah, mwah, mwah!!!!  Good to "see" you!  To the topic – I’m like Tri2Cook only officially left-handed.  Mr. Kim is completely left-handed.  I’m not at all kitchen-clumsy and he is like Frankenstein trying to do the minuet.  So you may have something there.  But, no, you can’t summarily not hire lefties, ‘cause then you’d miss ones like all of us! :raz:

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Point has been taken.  I have just been on a rut of leftie bums.  I need a leftie angel now to show me the light!  BTW, just this morning my current left cut an existing cut and after yelling said, "I hate right handed kitchens!"  I asked what made it right handed and he said all the gadgets...  :/  Not sure what to say since a julienne peeler that he was using is symmetrical. 

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Not sure what to say since a julienne peeler that he was using is symmetrical. 

What I would probably say in that particular case is "suck it up muffin, a peeler doesn't cut anything other than what the user applies it to". Probably not the best reply but I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who can never just say "oops, my mistake" and instead look for something/someone else to blame.

 

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Tomorrow (August 13th) is International Left Handers Day, so I thought I would revive this thread in honour of Southpaws who are indeed comfortable in the kitchen, but may want an occasional left-handed setup or tools.  :D

 

Lefty's has left-handed kitchen tools

 

This Houzz article has some interesting points and suggestions. Funny, in the few kitchens where I have been able to situate the dishwasher, it is indeed always to the left of the sink, but I never really thought about it much. 

 

I liked this comment:

Quote

Other businesses, like California kitchen and bath company Native Trails, have recently added products to their lineup that can be installed for right- or left-handers. The Cocina Duet Pro sink, shown here, for instance, can be adjusted so the smaller basin is on the left side, making it easier for prep work and dishes to flow from left to right instead of the traditional right to left. Native Trails has several left-handed staffers, including a top designer, says Vice President of Sales Eric Dietz, so creating comfortable and ergonomic designs for left-handed customers has long been incorporated into their mission. 

 

And finally, @gfron1, I hope you have discovered some talented Southpaws in the kitchen!   xD

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On 4/29/2014 at 9:44 AM, gfron1 said:

My apologies.  Let's try this a different way.  What accommodations are common in a restaurant kitchen to assist lefties?

 

Just a historical footnote here, a generation ago, if you wanted to work in a professional kitchen you used your right hand as the dominant one.  Culinary schools forced everyone to be right handed so that in close quarters on the line (often just 24" of counter space per person) no one would bump elbows. I know of one very famous pastry chef who did his apprenticeship in Switzerland as a teenager in the 1970s and was given a whipping every time he tried to use the left hand. Yes, that's right, hauled outside and whipped. He stuck with it and is essentially ambidextrous now but proudly uses his left hand.

 

That said, I studied under chefs who encouraged everyone to develop skills in both hands for the sake of speed. Life is a lot easier if you can crack eggs or shape rolls with both hands, switch off while whisking, etc.

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3 hours ago, Lisa Shock said:

Just a historical footnote here, a generation ago, if you wanted to work in a professional kitchen you used your right hand as the dominant one.  Culinary schools forced everyone to be right handed so that in close quarters on the line (often just 24" of counter space per person) no one would bump elbows. I know of one very famous pastry chef who did his apprenticeship in Switzerland as a teenager in the 1970s and was given a whipping every time he tried to use the left hand. Yes, that's right, hauled outside and whipped. He stuck with it and is essentially ambidextrous now but proudly uses his left hand.

 

wow, thanks for sharing that @Lisa Shock . I know that I was discouraged from being a southpaw even though I was a child of the 60's/70s. But not like that! 


Edited by FauxPas Also not to suggest that I was ever anything great in the kitchen, just talking about general life. (log)

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On 4/29/2014 at 6:41 AM, Tri2Cook said:

Rob! Awesome to see you here again! Anyway, I wanted to try to be helpful here because I'm technically a lefty and I don't have any of those difficulties you've mentioned. That would be relevant since I've been working in restaurant kitchens for a fairly long time except for one problem... my brain seems to have some sort of cross-wiring going on or something. I write left handed, hold a fork, spoon, etc. left handed, play guitar left handed but for reasons unknown to me, I do all sports stuff (throw, golf, bat, etc,) right handed. And, despite using my eating utensils left handed, I use my kitchen knives right handed. I have no explanation as to how my body/mind chooses which things it will do with which hand, I just go with it. But I definitely don't have any particular difficulties with precision, speed or being injury prone.

We're exact opposites.  I write, use a fork, use a knife with my right hand. Everything else with my left.

 

I used to play A LOT of basketball and while I can dribble with either hand, I'm better with my right, I shoot with my left. Pretty good for confusing defenders.  

 

I was adopted and both of my adoptive parents are left handed. My brother, their biological kid, is right handed at everything. I went to Catholic school where using your left hand was strongly discouraged. My parents were both avid bowlers, so when I got old enough to join a league I was all about it. At one point the coach came up to me and said, "I don't care which hand you use, just pick one and go with it". I had no idea I was using both. I was once chastised for the way I cut my steak. I hold it with a fork in my right hand and use the knife in my left to slice off a piece. Works pretty well for me, not sure about he etiquette though. 


That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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I am a natural southpaw but I play all sports right-handed as my Dad and brothers taught me sports as a kid.  They never had issues with my writing and eating with my left hand.   

 

I was a quiet kid with good grades, until I came home from 3rd grade with my first report card, that had an F in penmanship.  I had never told my parents that this teacher would not let me write with my left hand.  My parents, neither of whom graduated HS and didn't speak English until age 7, had never challenged a teacher before (I had 2 older brothers). 

 

But they went to the school the next day and talked to the principal.  I was allowed to write with my left hand after that.

 

This was in the early 1960s.


Edited by gulfporter (log)

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So often, the special left-handed versions of tools are not as well made as the "standard" version. So I've learned how to use a can opener right-handed, and I cope with the rest.


MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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My sister is left-handed and seems to have adapted without special tools. She does cook most days and entertains w/ cooking frequently. She went through that bit about converting (early 60's) until her teacher told my Euro parents to ""quit it!" in no uncertain terms. There is even a German expression bout using the "pretty" hand!  She resolved many inconveniences like spiral notebooks by developing a beautiful upright penmanship. I've been forced left due to arm/hand breaks several times. Amaing how the mind adapts. After a 9 month lefty situation I couldn't seem to train my mind to use the mouse on the right again. Had a freak moment when I used someone elses mouse and thought I'd screwed up the poor boy's computer....it was a left handed mouse - who knew? Can openers were not a problem but scissors I'll admit as challenging. 


Edited by heidih (log)

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My mother, having been born in the 1920's, was also discouraged from using her left (dominant) hand, and was essentially ambidextrous: she wrote and used scissors with her right hand, for instance. Nonetheless when left to her own devices, she'd do things left-handed. We didn't realize there was a right- or left-handed way to set up the dish drainer in our farm kitchen until a visitor commented on it: we set the dish drainer to the left of the sink, and that was apparently unusual.

 

A few years ago we remodeled our kitchen. After I'd settled on the double sink that I wanted (size ratio of the basins, and so on) I had to specify which side would have the smaller basin. I didn't think it had to do with handedness, but one of FauxPas' links suggests that it does. It's nice to have choices. 

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I'm left-hand dominant, I guess,  as I throw a ball with my left hand, but I write with my right hand.

 

When I'm in the kitchen, the chef's knife is in my left hand. When I'm at the table, the fork is.

 

My dishwasher is on the left of my sink.

 

Interesting stuff.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I wonder if klutziness could be a byproduct of being forced to do things right-handed by bad teachers. Maybe this comes up more for certain generations or demographics. 

A sinister proposition.

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Notes from the underbelly

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14 hours ago, paulraphael said:

I wonder if klutziness could be a byproduct of being forced to do things right-handed by bad teachers. Maybe this comes up more for certain generations or demographics. 

A sinister proposition.

 

Nice pun! My mother, a born leftie and forced ambie, thought so.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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