Courtesy of Mile the Waiter's Blog.
Boy..does this bring back memories
My regular readers know that the Saratoga Trunk Restaurant in Redmond, Washington was my first real restaurant management job in fine dining. It was also back in the days when health department inspectors were really feared because they really inspected. Nowadays, they are pretty well bought off with the occasional free meals. This is simply indisputable fact. No offense to the health inspectors intended. They are but a symptom, not a cause, of the decay in government oversight–and government in general, for that matter.But way back when, in Washington State, the twice yearly, unannounced, health department inspection was always viewed with trepidation and fear. And when you did have one in the door, with flashlight and thermometer in hand, it was always “yes, Sir”, “no, Sir”…. “I really like your new haircut, sir”, etc.Unfortunately for me, my employees didn’t always exude the same reverence that I displayed–and it came back to bite me on the butt!You see, health department personnel work a nine to five shift, just like the rest of the government bureaucracy. They always inspect during the day–never at night. Well, as all of you know already, lunch shift is always a more frenetic pace than dinners. We rock and roll at lunch!This particular lunch was even busier than usual, and of course, who showed up? Yep! Knee deep in alligators and boom… in walks the man.So, of course, I drop what I’m doing and go into my obsequies routine. “Why, hello…so nice to see you…lalalalalala”The bar gets scored o.k. the dining room gets scored o.k. then on to the kitchen.At the time, we had an unwritten rule that not even managers would go behind the cooks line. This was enforced by the cooks by “accidentally” spilling sauces on 3-piece suits of any offenders.Apparently, nobody had explained to one of the most junior cooks that this didn’t apply to health department inspectors, who have the right and the authority and the obligation to inspect EVERYWHERE in the restaurant.So, whence upon this particular day, this inspector, towards the end of the inspection, ventured behind the cooks line at the height of the lunch rush–you guessed it–little LeRoy proceeds to unleash on this unsuspecting fellow with a torrent of expletives, followed by a threat of physical violence!Well, the inspector smiled, left the kitchen, and went to the main entrance to the building and posted a sign “CLOSED BY ORDER OF THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT”.Way bummer! Do you know what a sign like that will do to your business?We literally worked deep cleaning for the next 24 hours and humbly requested a re-inspection. He brought a fine tooth comb this time, but we passed and reopened.Of course, we opened with one less employee! I always wondered what happened to little LeRoy. I wish him well.