Seems Chicago is undergoing the same media sanitation nightmare that L.A. underwent a few years ago... we had an investigative team from a local station
that had hidden cameras in kitchens of some of the more well known places around town. Unfortunately they captured some really rotten health violations
(one place in particular had guys scratching themselves and eating the food
they were preparing all in glorious close up) and created a huge furor and public outcry. The station ran this footage every day for weeks along with a listing of restaurants who had been cited for violations and it became a big thing to tune in at 6:00 to see who had been shut down.
It caused an entire restructuring of the Health Dept. along with many new codes- all for the public good, I well admit. We now have an alphabet system based on a score of 100 pts. A is 100 -90, B is 89-80, etc.
These scores are posted at the entrance of every restaurant - failure to post is a fine. What makes it difficult for operators is that the violations keep changing, as the code becomes more strict. Things that were never an issue
(let's say milk crate in the kitchen) now is 2 pts. off your score.
If the inspector shows up when you're particulary slammed, and the cream's at 44 degrees,your sanitation buckets P.H. is off (I know that one Kuan), there's mold at the bottom of the drain of the ice machine, and at the bar, a fruit fly was found in the 3/4 empty bottle of 99 Bananas that hasn't been touched in 6 months, you're now looking at a B rating.
And now word gets around town that you're an "unsanitary restaurant" all thanks to the media which has heightened the awareness. The Health Dept. dosen't consider you unsanitary, but the public does, and most people here have issues going to a B restaurant.
It's a two edged sword -public health is utmost in our minds and chefs and operators spend a lot of money to comply. But I also feel in this germaphobic, antibacterial media frenzied society, people are losing their grip on what's real and important out there. The fact that most people would rather eat genetically altered, chemically enhanced, irradiated food rather than a nice plate of roasted peppers that had been sitting out for an hour, or an unpasturized, artisinal cheese, bugs the s**t out of me!
I will tell a funny story though. A few years back, I was in NYC at a little pastry shop on the Lower East Side. Having recently taken my 8 hr food certificaton course in L.A., I had to inquire about the cheesecakes that were sitting out, unrefrigerated, uncovered on the counter. "Excuse me" I said to the counterman, "how long have these cakes been sitting here?" He looked at me like I was nuts and said "Forever - that's where we always keep the cheesecakes!"