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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.

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