This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Culinary no-no #186

Culinary no-no's

Running a restaurant is anything but easy.

Just opening one is difficult without the proper capital to invest. Should you be fortunate to start a restaurant, making a profit in the first year is notoriously impossible, and no guarantee in the second year. The Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly reports about one out of four restaurants fail within their first year of operation. By the second year, the rate doubles. The restaurant business is doomed to failure.

Devotion to the business requires long hours, for some managers, 90 hours or more per week. That means day and night, mornings and evenings, weekends and holidays.

The work is just plain gruesome. Someone calls in sick, the manager picks up his/her job and the slack. That’s no surprise. The restaurant manager works the most hours and does every job if he/ she is a good manager.

There is intense competition. Your shop, after all,  isn’t the only game in town.

You may have a tremendous, popular, successful operation, but if the economy turns south, it doesn’t matter if you have the best lasagna in town.

And let’s not forget your business must abide by strict government rules and regulations, and must pass rigorous health inspections. In New York this summer, an actual grading system was implemented for restaurants. The New York Times reports:

“Several restaurant windows in New York are quite likely to display a new attraction alongside the usual menus and reviews: a brilliantly colored placard bearing a letter grade.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has added 23 inspectors to its 157 to conduct annual visits that are expected to rise by more than one-third, to 85,000 from 60,000.

The department’s printing presses have produced 28,000 letter-grade placards and enough new procedural guides for every food establishment in the city. Workshops to help restaurant employees and operators understand the new system — conducted in English, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese — have attracted about 2,000 participants. 

The new inspection rules require restaurateurs to post the placards prominently, displaying ratings that were previously available only at the health department or on its Web site. Failure to do so will be punishable by a $1,000 fine, with additional penalties for counterfeiting. 

The blue A card will correspond to 0 to 13 points under the old system, which imposed numerical penalties for each violation. A green B will designate a less sanitary 13 to 27 points, and an orange C will represent 28 points or more. A black-and-white “grade pending” sign will be posted in restaurants that are appealing their scores.”

It’s a bit much to say the least. I concur with Robert Bookman, an attorney for the New York City chapters of the New York State Restaurant Association who says, “We don’t know that the government can compel you to post a sign that expresses an opinion about your business that you do not share.”

Henry Alford of the New York Times came up with an intriguing scenario.

What if I was to turn my NY apartment into a small restaurant, i.e. entertain four friends for lunch and invite a NY City health inspector to grade my kitchen? Would the government shut it down?

And what about your kitchen, dear This Just In reader. Could it pass a government test?

Henry Alford writes:

I had 27 hours to prepare, or should I say to obsess. That my wholly average-seeming level of cleanliness was to be rated while I was cooking for guests filled me with a kind of terror; my brain dredged up the words dance recital, underrehearsed, overweight, leotard. The inspection information on the health department’s Web site was largely unsurprising. But it did prompt me to remove a light bulb over my stove that was not ‘shielded or shatterproof.’ Then I scrubbed and scoured for nine hours.

Having formulated the theorem, ‘It can’t be a violation if it doesn’t exist,’ I removed seven garbage bags’ worth of opened foods and assorted flotsam from my kitchen. I used antibacterial wipes on any surface my cats may have walked on. After sleeping for an hour, I awoke at 12:30 a.m. — the grim-faced woman with the tweezers — and cleaned for another hour. The next morning, uncertain how much of my environment would fall under the inspector’s purview, I sponged four dust-saddled walls in my building’s stairwell, and bagged and discarded a wet mohair rug that had mysteriously appeared on the stoop.”

So, did Alford make the grade with the inspector, Beth Torin?

How would your kitchen have fared?

Read how it all turned out….here.


A recent suicide demonstrates the perils of the cooking profession.


Is bacon out????

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