Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Health Inspections

Had my first ever health inspection yesterday. Now that was an experience. It appears that we are in a special risk category. Why? Because we're a restaurant that prepares all its own food. ......? We get inspected more regularly and are considered dangerous to customers. If you ever wonder why so many pubs and restaurants just reheat Brake Brothers food, then this is one of the reasons. What got me was how unusual she thought our place was.

The most concerned our inspector got was when she heard that we make our own mayonnaise. We now have to warn the customers that we've adopted this dangerous practice. Apart from holding in the fridge (we do) we have to throw it away at the end of service. Pates and terrines should be held in the fridge for no more than three days. These are methods of preserving food that pre-date the refrigerator.

Then there is the question of our wild food that gave her cause for concern too. She was worried that we wouldn't know the source of the game. We pointed out that we think we know the field it comes from and its relatives, but that didn't help. Basically she wants a name on the box.

Our kitchen is old. A lot of our equipment is old. We need to gradually replace, well, everything really. We don't have the money for it all, so it's a gradual process. I'm not proud of my kitchen, but it is moving in the right direction.

But that's not really what the inspectors mark you on: they want paperwork systems. They want monitoring and records of things like temperature of fridges and temperature the food turns up at. If we can show process and procedure they're relatively happy. Our hygiene bible tells me that to ensure I don't poison the customers, I should 'follow the food manufacturer's instructions'. Even in our tacky little kitchen we're probably going to get an OK star rating (probably three stars). We can do their paperwork systems, we just can't do the not preparing from fresh.

When you see five stars 'on the door' it means that place is a factory. They're processing food not cooking. There are inspectors in white hats wandering around with little probe thermometers and clipboards. There's some paper trail that takes up all their time and energy. Me, I'm not going to eat anywhere that's got more than three stars.

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