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Shake 'n' Bake?

Dear Mr. Gold:

I was at a restaurant last night, and when the chef made his rounds after dinner, I sort of instinctively stuck out my hand. He shook it but seemed to hesitate. Is there a protocol about this? Because I came down with a slight cold today, I'd hate to think that as a result of my handshake, the entire restaurant is about to come down with it too.

—Tomas

Dear Tomas:

Like so many people in the helping professions, surgeons, dental hygienists and kindergarten teachers among them, chefs tend to wash their hands a lot. It's the decent thing to do, as we have all learned from innumerable warning notices above innumerable sinks, and the health department has strict ideas on the subject. Plus, later in the evening when chefs feel they have enough time to work the dining room, the evening's service is probably pretty much over, and it is unlikely that the residue from your germy, grimy mitts will be plunged directly into a bowl full of egg whites. If a hand is offered, feel free to shake it. If it is not, a friendly nod should suffice.

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