Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Breaking: Stephen Starr has a dirty little secret

UPDATE: The original report that Philadelphia’s Office of Food Protection gave to Philadelphia Magazine was filled with mistakes. For more info, go here and here.

In the May issue of Philadelphia Magazine, Noel Weyrich complains about it being too hard to find publicly available, city-maintained information on the Internet. His concern is primarily crime data. But then there’s a sidebar piece about how hard it was for the mag to track down any info on health violations at city restaurants. When they finally got a copy of the city’s most recent report, they did what any decent publication would have done and immediately posted it online.

The problem is the report is 108 pages long. Luckily, we’ve gone through it so you don’t have to.

While there’s plenty of fun to be found within (Rittenhouse Wawa came out clean, just a lack of hot water — phew!) the real eye-opener is that of all the 200+ restaurants in Center City, the seeming majority of the popular restaurants that were cited for a health violation in the report happen to be owned by Stephen Starr.

Seriously, eight of his restaurants are in this thing. That's two thirds. The report spans 14 months, from January 2005 through February 2006. In that time, eight different Starr restaurants were cited — many on numerous occasions — while not many other notable restaurants are included at all?

It's a little disconcerting. There are so many great restaurants in Center City that aren't in the report once, how's it possible that eight out Starr's 12 were cited for multiple health code violations. (Sure Haru, Capital Grille and Devon made it, but they're all chains so no shock there.)

It's probably one of two answers: 1) The city’s health inspectors have a hard-on for Starr or 2) Starr never saw much benefit from maintaining sanitary kitchens before.

If it’s the latter, it might change soon.

Here are some highlights from the report:

First, Buddakan:
- Hot water at hand washing sink is not provided in unit.

On a trip to El Vez:
- Wiping cloths are used in an unapproved manner.
- Food is not protected from contamination.
- Refrigeration system does not maintain proper temperatures.
Not a stamp of approval, per se, but not the end of the world either.

Next up Jones:
- Mouse infestation is present----several fresh mouse droppings noted under basement step.
- Ant infestation is present.
That’s a bit worse.

Mouse infestation is present. Mouse feces noted in chip aisle shelves
Not any better.

How about Continental? Inspectors made three trips there within one month:
- Fly infestation is present.
- Mouse infestation is present. Droppings on shelves throughout.
- Mouse infestation is present. Droppings present on numerous shelves.
- Roach infestation is present. In the prep area and basement.
Yikes. At least they got rid of the mice. (We’re assuming this is from Continental; in the report, the SRO corporate offices are listed, which are right next door to Continental.)

Striped Bass is next:
-Roach infestation is present: numerous roaches observed inside cabinets over and under kitchen utensil sink and crawling out from behind back splash of utensil sink and baseboard radiators up on to the wall and behind book case in hallway.
- Mouse infestation is present: numerous mouse droppings were observed on floor around floor fan in front room and on top of radiator covers in middle room. Both rooms on 2nd floor and both rooms are used for daycare.

What about Washington Square? It only gets worse...
- Adulterated or unwholesome food is present -- Fresh mouse feces observed inside bulk rice container.
- Mouse infestation is present -- Fresh mouse feces observed in food product.
- Roach infestation is present -- Numerous live german roaches observed in food cabinets.
- Multi-use utensils are not properly cleaned and sanitized:- utensils were observed being washed with plain hot water then put into sanitizer. There wasn't any washing with detergent.
- Employee observed not following good hygienic personal practices:- food handling employee was observed scratching arms with finger nails. She did not wash her hands and put back on used single service gloves and returned to food prep activities
- Employee hand wash frequency is inadequate.
But the kicker is from the Iron Chef himself, Morimoto-san:
- Mouse infestation is present----fresh and old mouse droppings till noted on floor perimeters in rear food storage and front counter areas under and behind equipment.
- Rat infestation is present----rat feces noted in basement area.
Rats huh? And not the inflatable kind? Yeah, that’s not so good. You’ll probably want to have that checked out.

Needless to say, we didn't see any other "renowned" restaurants in the report that had a problem with rats, unless you count the inimitable Wawa at 38th and Spruce.

So we’re thinking that Stephen might want to take a break from all the hoopla in NYC and pay a little more attention to his 12 restaurants here in Philadelphia.

After all, you shouldn’t shit where you eat.

***UPDATE, 5.16.06: Philadelphia's Office of Food Protection further proves the many virtues of bureaucracy, delivers report with several major mistakes to Philly Mag. More to come...

***UPDATE, 5.22.06: All your answers are here and here.

How would you like a nice heaping of rat feces with your fish roe? (Full Report, PDF) [PhillyMag] UPDATE: Report taken down, see editor's note (one scroll down)
New York’s making Starr more flamboyant: It's a mess. It's a madhouse. It's typical. [Inky]

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great work. Truly informative stuff, and bashing the way-overrated Starr at the same time.