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The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Food Network's "Health Inspectors"

I think I finally understand Food Network's agenda and it is a fiendishly clever one, indeed. They air a lot of programs about home cooking, right? And they have their own cooking magazine, right? And their own line of cookware? So here's the deal; in order to make sure everybody stops patronizing restaurants and starts cooking at home, Food Network gives us shows like Restaurant: Impossible and its latest offering, Health Inspectors. Watch these shows and you will never want to eat in a restaurant again.

In the inaugural episode of Health Inspectors, restaurant consultant Ben Vaughn visits “Big Momma's Chicken & Waffles” in New Orleans. The owner, Earl, says he knows he's got problems but he doesn't know why or how to deal with them. Let me give you a clue, Earl. Two words; “You're fired.”

Anyway, in a gentle slap at chefs Gordon Ramsay and Robert Irvine, Vaughn assures Earl that he is not going to remodel the dining room or revamp the decor. He's there to make sure the kitchen is clean. Period. And, boy, does he have his work cut out for him.

When he tries to figure out who is responsible for what, Ben is met with a stereotypical scenario that involves two women arguing loudly and shrilly with one another over their respective duties. Then we move back to the kitchen where the clueless manager is surprised to find that the filthy fryer and the dirty standard home refrigerator can actually be moved. He didn't know that. That's why the grease and filth were inches deep around the fryer and why the roaches staged a road race when Ben moved the refrigerator away from the wall.

The exhaust vents, cleaned at least once a week in most establishments, probably hadn't been touched since they were installed. Those vents, by the way, collect grease, smoke, and steam from everyday cooking. When enough crud accumulates, it drops back into the food on the stovetop. Something for you home cooks to think about, too.

The inside of the inadequate refrigerator was an inspector's nightmare of improperly stored food.

I won't talk about Ben's discovery of a sink full of chicken soaking in filthy tepid water because of an “emergency” that led to this insane method of thawing.

Then there was the inevitable hair in the food, caused in part by a cook who felt her hair was “too cute” to be put up in a net.

Obviously, this bunch of five-star wannabes knows absolutely nothing about restaurant sanitation and food safety. Of course, if it were me, instead of putting my establishment up for public ridicule on national television, I might have enrolled my employees in a ServSafe course, a training program sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. But then, while that might have cleaned up my restaurant, I wouldn't have gotten any publicity out of it.

Let me tell you something, Earl; when I go to New Orleans, I'm not gonna be looking for the place Food Network came in and cleaned up. Nope. I'm gonna be avoiding the place Food Network had to come in and clean up. See, when my dog gets filthy, I give him a bath. I don't stand around and wonder and whine about how he got that way. Nobody's got to come in and tell me my dog's dirty. I've got sense enough to see him and smell him. And I know where the soap is and the water and the brushes and the towels.

And remember, Earl, you said it yourself. After Ben got finished, your place looked like it did when you first opened. As a compassionate person, I hope that whatever transpired between those two dates doesn't happen again, but as a potential customer, I'm not sure I want to take the chance.

Health Inspectors aired as a “special” on Food Network at 10 PM on Wednesday, June 20. This is network code for a pilot episode that will turn into a regular series if enough people watched it. And I'm sure enough people did. It's the TV equivalent of a train wreck or an auto accident; you know you shouldn't look, but you do anyway. So be looking for another televised train wreck soon.

In the meantime, I think I'll go give my dog another bath.

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