› ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Chefs › Health department stupidity?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Health department stupidity?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

We got inspected this morning and she had 2 huge issues...


The first was our prep cook was holding a 2 part soup (bechamel and tomato base). He had the bechamel in one 6 gallon steam kettle and the tomato mixture in the second 6 gallon steam kettle. He had pulled 8 quarts and ice bathed it. He had pulled and mixed the rest in 7 quart steam table soup pots and moved them to the steam table on the line.

The health inspector watched him move the 5 soup pots to the steam table. When she went to inspect the prep station she started bitching at the prep cook because she thinks he is trying to keep to much soup on the steam table and he needs to cut down on his batch size. She flipped out when he says “I'm going to make another 10 gallon batch before lunch is over”.

The lady schooled me for 10 minutes about cooking less more often. I asked her if it was safe to soup on a steam table for under 3 hours and she looked shocked. Then I showed her where we had sold over a gallon of soup in the hour that it was offered and she calmed down.


The second issue she had was when she went to inspect the bakery. I told her flat out she was a city inspector and our bakery falls under a federal inspection. She didn't care what I told her and went to inspect it. Everything was good till she walks up the the 50* walk in and she flipped out. Before she even walked into it walk in to see what was in there she told me that it's all has to go in the dumpster right now or she is going to shut us down.

I picked up the phone and called her boss. I told him she is trying to inspect my bakery and has no idea she is doing. I explain that she wants to shut us down because we have a 50* a proofing walk in that we also keep some dry stock in.



After she spends over 2 hours and kills my morning for nothing she gives us 98 (out of 100). 1 point she took off was from the bakery that is not an issue under the federal inspection. I truly wounder the training that these people get. I understand that we sell more food between 5:30am to 9:30pm then most of the other places around us sell in a week, but they should at least be able to understand that some places do higher volume.


Sorry for the rant.

What other stupidity have you run into from the health department?

post #2 of 15

You were absolutely right to call her boss. Tha health department is supposed to be about compliance, NOT "Gotcha". It is not supposed to be a revenue generating arm of the state. 

I do not have the time or space here to review all the issues I have had with my local health department. 
As you have experienced, not every inspector understands or knows all they need to. Not all restaurants are treated equally.

      You should have a copy of the local health code on hand. You should read it thoroughly. You should have a complete understanding of proper sanitation and food holding procedures. You should read the inspection report to see where it may differ from the health code pamphlet.

If you have any questions about a particular code, ask which actual written law it is based on. Much of New York States' is on the internet. Find out when the last time the health department pamphlet was written and which parts may not have been updated to reflect current law. 

An inspector is not allowed to make up violations based on their imagination or whims. We should all follow the law and proper sanitation procedures. You have every right to question the inspector and have the issue's legality explained to you. You have the right to a formal hearing if you really disagree with something. 

The health department is necessary because there will always be restaurants and food service places who do not follow proper food safety procedures. Serious violations need to be addressed but the inspectors do not have the right to be bullies. And when they act like one, they deserve to be knocked down. 

post #3 of 15

Ready...........Our Building Inspector is also the Health Inspector!.......He took a night course in biology and now he really knows a building inside & out!.

So he shows up with a woman in tow, who just happened to be the person that took my money over at the county building when I renewed my health permit. He explains that he will be training her to be a health inspector! Now I have two people in my way in an already tight space.

He asks me how I knew if a burger patty was cooked to the proper temp by touching it, I explained that I have been doing this for 30 years and I just know. He asks me to temp the meat with a thermometer and to not touch it for doneness any longer.

He also wrote me up for having what he deemed "raw meat", (it was cooked roast beef used for cold sandwiches) over pastrami in the fridge.

Even if it were raw, the pastrami gets  further cooked before being served.

I had an argument with him about the fact that he could not tell the difference between cooked and raw, I showed him the fridge with all the raw meat in it, told him to compare the two, he still considered it raw meat because it had some color to it.

My soup was at 145, he told me that I should keep it hotter, that it was only 5* over what is required for holding, I said exactly, he looked pissed.

Can't wait for the next one to see what things he can bumble his way through. My last inspector was just as bad, she was 22, just graduated college, this was her first job and thought she knew it all.

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

I under stand most of there codes and have not had any critical violations in the 20 years I have run my restaurant and bakery. There are a few of the codes that I don't under stand and the health department has not been able to explain them properly.


I do have the current PDF of the local and the PDF of the federal codes. To me there little pamphlets are useless when it comes down to what is truly needed.


Every year I send a few of our staff and my self for HACCP training. I also send at least 2 of employees to every “food safety certification” class that the local health department dose. We also give any of our staff $500 cash for taking the PSCC's on line class and test (we will pay them every year if they retaking the test).



The issue I have is that the one I got was not trained. She did not even know that a bakery fulls under federal inspectors.  So far all the federal inspectors have known what they are doing and are professional.   

I wish my city would hire a strict inspector that knows the codes and to inspect everyone. If they had a good one I say bring it on and I'll take 5 to 10 a year and not the current one ever 9 to 12 months there doing now.


I kinda want to fight the one minor violation from the bakery under the city code, but it is not a federal violation. I know if I fight it I would have to see this lady again after the stupidity I have already put up with i kinda would rather just take my 98.

Edited by veghead - 4/5/13 at 12:27pm
post #5 of 15

Lotsa stories.


With the ones here in N. America, I just smile and nod, and wait until they leave.


The ones in Europe are highly, highly trained,  take samples with sterilized equipment, get you to sign the sealed petri dishes, and do a bunch ot tests at the lab.  If your samples are over a certain count, you pay fines plus the inspection fee, if not, no phone call back to you.  Those guys you don't dick around with.  Different world though, in order to opeate a food service yu need a "Wirteprufung" or operator's license.  This liense is no joke and courses for it take 3-6 mths to complete.  Everyone knows the codes, and  the consequences.


The ones I dealt with in Singapore were, I guess you could say, inconsistent.  I was Chef at a new place just opening up along the Boat Quay district along the S'pore river.  Brand new kitchen, brand new equipment.  Health dept made us put a wall around the dish pit, and gave us grief for not having electronic controlled handsinks.  Place beside us, a 100 seater that just got approved, was doing their dishes outside, under the sun in a dirty wash tub--the same one they used to soak (local idea of defrosting) raw chicken.  No handwash sinks in the kitchen, no ventilation system. One reach in fridge, raw meat kept on ice in the ice machine at the server's station.  Right next door to us, Go figure. 


But the "wet markets" there were unbelievable.  This was mid 1990's, no refrigeration required for pork, poultry, or meat, sides of mutton hanging under naked 100 watt lightbulbs in the open air, fish butchers in shorts scratching thier legs, smoking, and taking money while gutting fish.  I heard  that in 2001 they made it mandatory to refrigerate pork, but nothing was said about other meats.....  Same inspectors inspect the 5 star hotels, all the big ones are there, Hyatt, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Pan pacific, etc, etc.  State of art equipment and layout, minor fines for things like knives not being hung on magnets, and there's total chaos on the wet markets.  Go figure....


Meh, smile and nod.  If you know you're right, and can prove it, speak up.  If not (sanitizer in buckets with a rag, vs sanitizer in spray bottles), smile and nod, and totally ignore what they say. 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #6 of 15

My local HD's "Mobile Unit" is a joke. They delayed my food truck opening by 2 months because they told me "All the commissaries are full." They said one of them "Might have one parking spot left." They went and inspected this commissary 3 times in those 2 months but couldn't figure out how many spots were left because of all the trucks coming and going. (Of course they won't send someone there at night when all the trucks are parked.) Even though they have a list of all the trucks in operation at that commissary.


When they finally approved me, they told me the same thing... That I got the last spot.  In the next month after I opened, 2 more new food trucks showed up to start business!!!!  This place really was a clusterf**k when I showed up. Now, with these 2 "extra" trucks, I could barely fill and empty my water 2 or 3 times a week. (That was the biggest concern with the HD was filling and emptying water.) When I should have been able to do it every day. 


Meanwhile, the entire time I'm trying to open and after I start business, there is another commissary that is trying to get approved to accept trucks. They only had carts. The HD put them through the ringer over the most trivial stuff. Made them spend thousands of dollars on renovations only to have another inspector come in and tell them they didn't need it or the new modification was unacceptable for so and so reasons. I could give examples if need be, but there were 4 or 5 things they did this with.


I was trying to start my business in that second commissary but the HD wouldn't let me for above reasons. I started up at the first commissary and they were hosing me the entire time. Strong-arming me into buying overpriced house-marked up product. Making me buy $25 of ice everyday, even though I didn't need it, and we never discussed this when I initially asked "Is there any additional costs?" when discussing rent.  So, the entire time I was in business at the first commissary I was trying to get the HD to approve the second one for me to move over.


After a debacle involving a health inspector not approving the garage bay I was supposed to move into, without any given reason. I had enough... I wrote the directors of the HD a letter telling them what was going on about the previous trivial reasons to not approve the commissary and 'the debacle'. How this first commissary was fleecing everyone. How it was their responsibility to approve new commissaries to do business in order to avoid monopolization, overcrowding and the failure of food truck business' in SLC. After I wrote the letter, the garage bay I was trying to get approved at the second commissary was approved! I was able to move in right away and it was the only real good thing that happened to me while owning my food truck business.


I brought over one of the new food trucks that I mentioned started in the next month after me at the first commissary. He's a good guy; felt the same as me, that he was going to go out of business if he stayed at the first one. Fortunately, he is still in business.     

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Ahh foodpump the frozen dishes. My oldest kid ended up working in Alaska at a resort. They had a freezer just for test tubes and they would take samples of food all day long. She sent me tons of pics of the frozen test tubes because she had never seen that before.


Vic Cardenas. I dealt with hell 3 years ago when I wanted to change the layout and the equipment of my line and prep area (some of my equipment was 17 years old). No real construction, just adding a few new outlets, install a new Ansul system with all new piping, replace the lighting under the hood, and replace the 2 natural gas lines from the Ansul cut offs down.

I wanted 3 six gallon kettles, 40 gallon tilting skillet, new steam table, 6 burner / stove, 6 burner / flat top / double stove / salamander, add double door reach in on the line and move a stacked double oven from one side of the prep line to the other.

Took them the planes with copies of the scope of work from the 2 contractors I was planning on using. There biggest issue was I had a prep table under the ventilation system. Then they wanted me to go with 2 reach in's because they thought I might have cross contamination between the prepped vegetables for the salad side of the line with the prepped vegetables for the sandwich side of the line and thought it; well who knows what they thought.

So after I got them to sing off on it and get all my other paper work done they decide I will need to get a health inspection done before I reopen, because they think it's a major remodel. The work started at midnight and had everything done at 3 am the next morning. Only issue was grease build up behind the old lights and the contractor shut the job down for 3 hours so they could get a hood cleaning truck to show up and clean the hood system.


post #8 of 15

when i was at culinary school we used to have them running around with there lame thermometer putting it into everything to check the tempurature fair enough they need to learn it somehow.


On the other hand at the restaurant i work at, it really depends on who comes to inspect, some are really large and have a basic understanding of whats going on in a professional kitchen others flip out at grease spot, hidden in a corner in almost spotless kitchen.

But personally, I think its good that restaurants are checked out by people from the outside, so you're always on your toes, our health inspectors have the authorization to demand certain chances in the kitchen, to give an example our bakery has to get new tables, painting  before next inspection our they will get penalties, so goes for our kitchen.

which is good so we can get new equipment instead of working with things from before i was born!



post #9 of 15
Originally Posted by NickonDK View Post
 so we can get new equipment instead of working with things from before i was born!



Does this mean that you wouldn't work with me?!!!??? I imagine that I am definitely a thing from before you were born.bounce.gif

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #10 of 15
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

Does this mean that you wouldn't work with me?!!!??? I imagine that I am definitely a thing from before you were born.bounce.gif

Cheflayne im all ears if you are willing to pas on your experience, i would be very ignorent not to :)

post #11 of 15

Hi there - hope it's ok to bump this thread. I am working with a new Social Enterprise for the hospitality industry to produce a humorous health and safety book. 

Health and Safety in the workplace can often get on everyone’s nerves, despite a few obvious benefits like reducing accidents/costs and saving lives! However, we're looking for contributors with examples where health and safety or food hygiene enforcers go over over the top in pursuit of safety. This is to be brought together into a new book for the Hospitality Industry. If we use your example we'll credit you in our centrefold Roll call of honour.


EHO: "Why aren't you wearing a hairnet?"

Chef: "I'm bald!"

I would be very grateful for any other examples you may have come across.

post #12 of 15

Want to give them a hard time? Next time he goes to put thermometer in something tell him he can't its Kosher. Also between testings all they do is rinse it under water this could cause cross contaminaion. He should not be in the kitchen in street clothes(should have a butchers coat on)

Anything he touches should be done with gloves on. He should not be allowed to put his book on any kitchen table either. Most of the health laws are good others are not practical. And there are good inspectors and total idiots just like in any other business. They are supposed to point out things to help not hurt you.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...


Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

post #13 of 15

Meh, it doesn't pay to P--- them off.  Take for example and "incident' that happened about 8 years ago.


We purchased a clapped out uh..."ethnic" restaurant.  It was a mess and the agent wanted too much, so one of my subjects was to get a current health inspection.  It passed, but it shouldn't have. While the fire suppression system hadn't been inspected in well over 10 years and it had no grease trap to speak of, the dishwasher was rusted out, heck, the garland 4-eye range and oven were rusted out,  the sinks had been cobbled together from all kinds of scrap and "farmer welded" together, paint was flaking off the ceiling and falling on our heads, naked overhead lightbulbs, etc. etc.


To make a long story short we bought the place and pumped a fair amount of money into it for our catering business.  New wiring, new plumbing, drop ceiling, brand new walk ins and freezers, all of the fire and safety stuff up to code,  AND a 22 page haccp plan.  All we needed was the health inspection.   The (deleted) (deleted) wouldn't pass us.  The reason?  Our brand new Hobart pass-thru hi temp dishwasher was one degree off in the final rinse. No amount of diplomacy could change her mind.  Finally I whipped out pictures of the place the day she inspected and passed it  last time and pointed out all of the health code violations.  I even snuck in a picture of the previous. owners only source of refrigeration-an ancient 3 door reach in that looked like a prop from an old episode of the "X files". She grimaced and walked out.  I called up her boss and asked him to inspect.  He did.  Two hours later he walked in, glanced around, whipped out the forms, signed on the spot, and walked out.  Never even went near the dishwasher............

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #14 of 15

We have a small (>800 sq. ft) coffee, juice and smoothie bar. We serve no meat, and the only dairy is milk for the coffee and yogurt for the smoothies. Nevertheless, we station 6" lexan 1/3 pans with sanitizing solution and a bar towel at the juicer/smoothie station and the espresso station. We use them for wiping down spills of  coffee, steamed milk, fruit and veggie bits from the juicer.

On our last inspection our only violations were 1) no exhaust fan in our bathroom and 2) that we had not labeled the sanitizer pans as such. Our inspector said that one could confuse the contents with something else.

Excuse me? Confuse a soapy pan of water with a towel floating in it for what? Something to put in a smoothie? Steam it and put the foam on a latte?


Also, there is one other person besides me that works the shop-my husband and partner. We have the same set up everyday with one of the two of us working.

Does she think I'm a complete idiot?


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #15 of 15
Something similar happened to me one time. We use a white sauerkraut bucket for our sanitizer and its not labeled. The HD was going to write us up for it not being labeled as sani. I explained to the inspector that there are only a few of us working there and that none of us are idiots. After I convinced her that we were not idiots and that none of us would mistake a bucket with rags in it that smelled like bleach for anything else but a sani bucket, she decided not to write us up for it.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Professional Chefs › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Chefs › Health department stupidity?