Restaurant Health Inspections: The Sequel

This morning’s “06880” story about Julian’s — the Post Road restaurant that received its first-ever failing grade from a state Health Department trainee, then lost customers when the score was disclosed to the media (despite passing with a high score on its re-inspection) — generated plenty of reaction.

Readers wrote, relieved that one of their favorite restaurants was not suddenly gross. Others commented on their own experiences working in restaurants.

A Westport owner sent me a detailed reply. He asked not to be identified, but said he spoke for many colleagues. He wrote:

This is so interesting. I thought I was going crazy.

An inspector who was just hired by the town paid us 3 visits in 2 weeks. A little excessive, I thought.

No hands — but gloves required?

She deducted points for a broken tile in the customer seating area. How is that a health violation? Until then, I thought the craziest thing I had heard before from a health inspector was to use gloves to make an espresso (there’s no hand and food contact when making an espresso).

I have said for years that all health inspectors should, by law, have worked in restaurant kitchens for at least 6 months, so they understand the pressures. Some of the regulations make no sense, and they can’t explain them.

Just last week we were told we could not cook whole turkeys, porchetta and roast beef because our kitchen is not “equipped” for that. She told us to buy pre-cooked crap meat. Mind you, we have a type 4 license, which allows us to cook whatever we want.

When taking over our space we added more modern ovens and a lot of refrigeration in order to get that type 4 license. When we asked the inspector why we couldn’t cook the meats, and how to comply with regulation — meats that made us known among our customers — she didn’t know how or why.

The other thing that bothers me is that the health department has been unwilling to explain things through the phone or email, so we can quickly fix or adapt. They are requiring these long, in-person meetings.

Even with all of this going on, our lowest grade was 85.

Fortunately, I recently had a lengthy and productive conversation with Jeff Andrews, the health district’s chief sanitarian. We were able to find solutions for the “problems” they encountered.

I’m relieved to know that this was not a targeted attack on us. Please let Mike Sayyed of Julian’s know that we thank him for speaking out. This business is tough. Most of us operators are honest, and want to make sure all health regulations are met in our places. Crazy inspectors make our life very hard.

7 responses to “Restaurant Health Inspections: The Sequel

  1. Jean Marie Marie Wiesen

    Good to know what the truth is, b/c I really like Julian’s. I’ve run into some oddball health inspectors who are very annoying. I don’t want to say where, but they have an attitude and I did get the impression that their mission was to make people’s lives very difficult w/o comprehending the industry. When I do eat out, I don’t want processed food. Yuk! I want healthy food that’s been prepared by the restaurant. How crazy to be told to buy pre-cooked? Seriously. That defeats the purpose of choosing the restaurant. Great article, as usual.

  2. Jean Marie Wiesen

    Good to know what the truth is, b/c I really like Julian’s. I’ve run into some oddball health inspectors who are very annoying. I don’t want to say where, but they have an attitude and I did get the impression that their mission was to make people’s lives very difficult w/o comprehending the industry. When I do eat out, I don’t want processed food. Yuk! I want healthy food that’s been prepared by the restaurant. How crazy to be told to buy pre-cooked? Seriously. That defeats the purpose of choosing the restaurant. Great article, as usual.

  3. Carolanne Curry

    interesting that a lack of knowledge is compounded by power tripping as these “inspections” are conducted.
    Far less of the latter one and far more of the former one appears as a reasonable answer.

  4. Jenny Clerkin

    Pain in the butt everywhere,

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. Of course they want to “meet in person” to discuss “problems”…phone or email would reduce number of employees and who would ever want that?

  6. Joshua Stein

    The health inspection data should be online, past and present. Most other cities have it. Fairfield is adding it any time now. Westport is resisting it or waiting until there is a state-wide implementation “The Director of Health said that it is planned that when the FDA Food Code is implemented, the State Department of Public Health will actually have ratings of restaurants available to view online throughout the entire state of Connecticut. But until then you will have to come in and inquire in person. ”

    Should be super easy for them to do it, should have been done long ago.

  7. I really sound old and outdated here..but some of these young inspectors have never worked the ropes..or know whats really important or necessary to running a business. They may be book smart but not actually know what is reality in running and keeping a small shop open.. Closing an establishment for a broken tile in a non working area..can make or break a small business. REALLY!! I’d like to see these inspectors clean their own house as they expect a pizza place that flings dough and flour into the air non stop all day.
    I eat at Julians at least once a week. Its very clean and very good! Kuddos to them..and I hope anyone else who eats there..stands up for them to!!