Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Risky Business

Spotted at the Waterpark Office Complex in Santa Monica.

I almost didn't see the abysmal rating until I overheard two women who had made a beeline for the exit when they saw the "C" rating. You have to be awfully hungry and lacking for choice before you sit your ass down for a Cobb Salad at a place that has barely earned the right to keep their doors open.

Getting a "C" is not like getting a "C" in Geometry because you momentarily forgot the Pythagorean Theorem or a "C" in English because you dangled a participle. The restaurant grading system is far more lenient. In the name of commerce it has to be. In reality an "A" is "B", a "B" is a "C" and a "C" is "let's go eat somewhere else, somewhere free from vermin infestation."

I know this because I paid my way through college, and a few misguided years after college, as a short order cook/saucier/line cook/ and chef apprentice. I've seen the inside of restaurant kitchens and if you've seen what I've seen, you'd opt for a Swanson's HungryMan Meal 7 days a week.

Before I entered advertising, I was the Head Cook and Kitchen Manager at a steakhouse in West. LA.

In addition to the great ribs and steaks, we catered wrap parties for movies including PolterGeist and the original Twilight Zone. On one particular weekend, the delivery guys had just dropped off a month's worth of dry goods: linens, condiments, and non-refrigerated produce. That afternoon I ripped open a 50 lbs. box of extra-large Idaho baking potatoes. As I tore the cardboard flap open, a potato-sized rat darted across my hand and scurried out into the restaurant. I didn't know what the hell had just happened. It was like a potato had sprouted legs and sprinted from the box like Carl Lewis.

I almost had a heart attack. At the ripe age of 23.

For the next hour, Valentino, Abel, Fernando, Paco and I, with broomsticks in hand, chased that wily rat to no avail. In the following weeks we were to find out the rat was not only wily, but pregnant. In two months time we had more rats than we had customers. They were behind the drywall. On the ceiling. One even bolted across the dining room floor, in the middle of Happy Hour.

Which didn't make anyone happy.

The restaurant, like most restaurants, didn't last much longer.
But through it all, we never had a Health Inspection rating lower than a "B".

1 comment:

Jeff said...

My wife is a trained chef (in fact she's cooked at the James Beard Foundation, just sayin'). After hearing some of her stories, I completely agree ignorance is bliss when it comes to restaurant kitchens. But I also think sometimes the grade doesn't accurately reflect the conditions. I remember a sign I saw on an unbelievably great taco stand on Olvera Street:

- Health Inspector Rating Chart -

$5 for a C
$50 for a B
$500 for an A