Dave Kim had to throw out $4,000 of sliced meats that failed to survive Superstorm Sandy at his Shalom Cafe. A week later, a city inspector returned to help the first-time restaurateur recover losses from his insurance company.
Health inspectors like Brian Wnek have been on double duty since the big storm: not only protecting the public from eating spoiled food but also aiding eatery operators like Dave Kim so they, too, can recover.
To do that inspectors have been signing formal certification forms of product destruction that restaurant operators like Kim must submit to insurers.
“We’re here to protect the public but also the operators,” said city Environmental Health Director Paul Kowalski.
After the skies cleared post-Sandy, Kowalski suspended the regular restaurant inspection routine and declared a new all-hands-on deck schedule for his staff. All three eatery inspectors, Wnek, Roslyn Hamilton, and Shellie Longo, joined forces with the city’s lead inspectors and the bosses, including Kowalski. Their mission: to cruise around the areas where power was out to make sure that spoiled food was tossed and not ultimately served to the public.
Kowalski estimated that his team, working evenings and through the weekend, checked up on or coordinated with several hundred operators.
From the franchise fast food joints to one-of-a-kind places like Shalom Cafe, inspectors visited restaurants to make sure procedures were being properly followed. They often visited eateries several times.
(Scroll down in this story for specific results from the final spate of inspections done in the period right before the storm.)
Bleach To Ward Off Dumpster Divers
The rule: If refrigeration is lost for three or four hours, absolutely everything in the refrigerator must go. As staffers drove about darkened neighborhoods, they distributed copies in English and Spanish of the toss-out requirements.
Sandy’s main effect on food purveyors was a cut-off of power. Had flood waters washed over products, even sealed ones, then absolutely everything would have had to be thrown out.
That’s even the case when the water is clean and pouring out of a fireman’s hose to put out a blaze.
“Once it goes under water, everything goes,” Kowalski said.
If a food operator has tossed food and it’s not smelly yet, Kowalski said, another job of the inspectors is to protect people who might come by to salvage it: “You pour bleach on it because some people take stuff out of the garbage.”
Sandy spared items like bread and food that is in bottles and cans, but took a huge toll on fresh foods.
Business Brisk at Shalom Cafe
When Brian Wnek arrived at Kim’s Shalom Cafe on Wednesday after the storm, he found a new restaurateur who is by training an engineer. Kim had made preparations.
After the sliced meats were tossed, Wnek turned his attention to other products that Kim was hoping to save.
In anticipation of the storm, Kim had transferred his more precious meats and other products into his walk-in refrigerator and walk-in cooler, which he had loaded up with lots of dry ice. Even though the seal is firm, Wnek told him those products had to be tossed if the electricity did not return by Friday.
“The power came back Friday morning. I play it safe. I don’t want my customers to get sick,” he said.
Between Wednesday and Friday, with his place empty, Kim said, he saw a opportunity: “I sanitized all my refrigerators” and his other equipment in the hope that he could reopen.
Now he has. Last Thursday business was brisk in the cafe, which offers breakfast and lunch to employees and clients of the not-for-profits, government agencies, and businesses at 1 Long Wharf Dr.
“I’m thankful he’s my health inspector,” Kim said of Wnek. “I tossed a lot of stuff.”
Kim says that his engineering training sometimes makes him want to retire to a cubicle. But with a steady base of 200-300 customers, he has trained himself to smile, a lot. When customers ask how the storm treated him and how he’s faring, he replies, “Terrible, but I’ve got insurance coverage.”
So far his company has given him a claim number only; he hopes that will be the beginning of payment for his loss of products and loss of five days of business. They’ve told him that his business is not deemed essential and that “I’m the last car on the train,” he said.
Then Kim smiled and went back into his busy kitchen.
The Pre-Storm Inspection Scorecard
In the Oct. 23 to Oct. 26 period before the storm, health inspectors paid their surprise visits to 35 food establishments. Of these 31 passed and four failed.
These were routine inspections by which city sanitarians inspect all of New Haven’s restaurants, groceries, bars, and any establishment that serves food between one and four times a year. Establishments that score less than 80 usually have two weeks to make the recommended corrections. The health department can also close a restaurant regardless of its score if the sanitarians suspect an immediate danger to public health.
Of the 35 restaurants between Oct. 23 and Oct. 26, these 31 received passing marks:
10/23/2012: J.P. Dempsey’s, 974 State St., Score: 85; Cedro Bananas-J.W.M Enterprises, 99 Laura St., Score: 99; Roma Apizza, 43 Main St. Annex, Score: 80; Best Mini Market, C-34 Cinque Green, Score: 83; Onofrio’s Ultimate Foods, 35 Wheeler St., Score: 98; The Quinnipiack Club, 221 Church St., Score: 80;Omni New Haven Hotel, 155 Temple St., Score: 84; Temple Grill, 152 Temple St., Score: 94; Pizza House, 89 Howe St., Score: 89;
10/24/2012: Three Corner Grocery, 451 Huntington St., Score: 86; ESLMS Engineering Science, 804 State St., Score: 95; NHPS Food Service Department, 75 Barnes Ave., Score: 89; Riverside Academy, 560 Ella Grasso Blvd., Score: 97; Cerda’s Market LLC, 209 Shelton Ave., Score: 86;Truman School, 114 Truman St., Score: 94; Ross/Woodward Public School, 185 Barnes Ave., Score: 93; US 1 Farm Market, 690 Ella Grasso Blvd. Score: 85; Edible Arrangements, 936 Chapel St., Score: 89; Starbucks Coffee, 896 Chapel St., Score: 94; New Haven Academy, 444 Orange St., Score: 96
10/25/2012: Barcelona Wine Bar, 155 Temple St., Score: 87; United House of Prayer Catering, 100 Dixwell Ave., Score: 91; United House of Prayer, 100 Dixwell Ave., Score: 91; Mory’s Assoc, 306 York St., Score: 84; Marionette Manor, 289 Quinnipiac Ave., Score: 93; Lori’s Cafe, 325 Peck St., Score: 93; Toad’s Place, 300 York St., Score: 90
10/26/2012: Beecher School, 100 Jewel Ave., Score: 99
The 4 Needing Improvement
During the Oct. 23 to Oct. 26 period the following four failed their inspections:
603 Orange St.
Due: 2 Weeks
• Damaged walls, ceiling, not clean
• Missing light shields on overhead bulbs
• Damaged table, bare wood
• Clean floors under and behind equipment, shelves
• Chipping paint on cement floor
• Bare wood storage shelves
• Provide covered trash in toilet room
• Stained ceiling tiles, missing tiles in toilet room
• Eliminate all unnecessary articles in basement
• Floor/wall juncture missing
• Thorough cleaning throughout necessary
• Refrigerator gaskets not clean, broken gaskets
• Clean around fan and ceiling in walk-in cooler
• Rusty shelves in walk-in cooler, not clean
• Food containers stored on floor
• Utensils inside food product during storage
• No paper towels at hand sink
• Wiping cloths on counter, must be in sanitizer
• Hand sink must be used for hand washing only
• Rusty shelves under stainless table
• Stained, pitted cutting boards
• Outside of dry good bins not clean
• Leaking faucet
• Container used as scoop, provide scoops with handles
• Overhead fan and attachment not clean
• Defective shelf covering
• Cleaning necessary of all equipment, shelves, etc
• No reuse of single service articles
• Provide thermometers inside all cold holding units
• Stained ceiling tiles
• Overhead vent grates and ceiling snot clean
• Uncovered food product
• Broken plastic inside pizza refrigerator
• Broken glass on cold case unit
• Food product out of original containers not labeled
• Clear sink in front of prep/service area
• Employees must wash hands, provide liquid pump soap, paper towels, holder at all hand sinks
• Store utensils handles up
• Eliminate damaged equipment
• Uncovered bulbs in cold units
• Complete a complete separation of toxic items and food products
• Properly store toxic items
• Properly store cleaning equipment, hang up mops and brooms
• Food product out of temperature, hot foods to be held at more than 140, cold less than 45 degrees
• Adequate hair restraints
The Naked Oyster
200 Crown St.
Due: 1 Week
• Minimize hand contact with ready to eat foods
• Cover exposed food products
• Label food products not in original containers
• Don’t store food products on the floor
• Fix and clean defective ceiling tiles,wall board, junctions, wipe wallboard, clean vents
• Don’t line shelves with tin foil, touch up and clean shelves
• Clean baffles on hood system, clean exterior of equipment
• No drinking from an open uncovered container in a food prep area
• Store wipe cloths in sanitary solution
• Need thermometers in warmest location in coolers holding prepared hot foods
• Touch up walls
• Need consumer advisory on “Cocktail Eatery” menu
• Wipe inside of coolers and freezers
• Clean tracks on slide doors
• Hollow straws on bar not protected
• Before putting on new gloves, employees must follow proper hand washing procedure
• Fruit flies in liquor bottles
• Invert single serve containers
• Don’t store utensils sheathe-style
• Follow label instructions on products that state “Keep Refrigerated After Opening”
• Touch up and clean defective floors and under and around equipment
• Fix defective gaskets on doors, clean gaskets on doors
• Fix cracked ceramic on urinal in men’s bathroom
• Need paper towel at hand sink
• Leave hot water in bathroom between 110 to 115 degrees (now 136)
• Seal gaps on exterior, that is, side door
Amarante’s Custom Catering
62 Cove St.
Due: 2 Weeks
• Mold inside ice machine
• Fruit flies
• Inside microwave not clean, can opener not clean
• Black mini straws at bar not individually wrapped, main building
• Flies and fruit flies present
• Jumbled utensils in drawers
• Hand sink in cook line not clean
• Wall behind utility sink, walk-in fans moldy
• Mold in refrigerator door tracks
• Shredded rubber gaskets on refrigerator
• Plastic containers of granular
• Dishwasher temperature dials not working
• Bag of frozen shrimp thawing in one bay sink by unclean hand sink by stove
• Box of old coconut soil oil/ sauce sitting on cellar floor
• Remove unnecessary items in cellar (that is, Coke machine, etc)
• Missing documentation of food worker training logs
Pan Del Cielo
523 Ferry St.
Due: 2 Weeks
• Missing hand washing soap at hand sink
• Plastic squirt bottle of liquid missing label
• Empanadas queso at 126 degrees, empanadas pollo at 150 degrees
• Remove foil on shelf in reach-in refrigerator
• Hand sink blocked in sandwich prep area
• RAID in basement food prep area. No RAID for restaurant or food establishments
• Containers of food on walk-in floor
• In toilet room missing covered waste basket
• Container of pooled eggs in basement refrigerator
• Missing designated Alternate QFO documentation
• Missing food worker training logs