“Aw HELL naw!” was the cry from our guest so the story goes. She’d been standing at the front counter waiting on a dish of ice cream and spotted a creepy crawly who chose to show himself at the wrong time. “Cancel that. Refund please!” were her last words before her money was returned and she left the store. Possibly for good.
We immediately called our pest control service and had them come out for a re-treatment. They service us monthly anyway and like most companies if you happen to see any activity between treatments they’ll return at no extra charge to target whatever unwelcome guests you may encounter. Fruit flies, roaches, mice, and ants can cause embarrassing situations and we highly recommended you start a treatment or two before you even open and maintain a routine thereafter. It’s usually under forty bucks a visit and for what’s it’s worth we’ve had the best experiences with local, family run outfits.
Before anyone gets on a high horse about kitchen cleanliness let’s agree this is nothing new and all dwellings be they restaurants or residences can receive a visit from these unwelcome guests. Pests enter a restaurant via produce and other food deliveries, from neighboring businesses (especially in a food-court setting) and lo and behold even guests. That’s right, roaches will hitch a ride in a jacket, purse or backpack and be brought in by the very people who will lambaste you on the internet about it. While as a patron it may be “horrifying” to see a bug give the operator the benefit of the doubt. I know an insect on a plate of food can be a deal-breaker but it can happen, from casual eateries to the fanciest establishments with one hundred year old histories. In another life I was a medical sales rep. Our new-hire class was taken to a high-end Boston restaurant for lunch one day and the food was delicious and the service impeccable. We were enjoying the atmosphere of the private room and celebration of finally completing our training but as a dessert was served all was interrupted as Ursula let out a shriek, pointing a finger at the maggot dancing atop her strawberry shortcake. With lightning speed another server suddenly appeared and deftly whisked the plate away with a firm yet sincere “apologies.” We continued on and that was that.
That’s all one can do, isn’t it?
Another time our sales district had a meeting at a renowned seafood restaurant. It was midsummer and record heat that year on the east coast. Our district manager, with good intentions, had scheduled our two-day meeting at a cool waterfront locale on Long Island. The dinner was a hit that evening but at the next morning’s meeting half of us kept getting up every fifteen minutes, running back to our rooms with cases of (the most polite way I’ve heard it described) “loose motions.” Our conclusion was the previous day’s fresh catch must’ve sat on the pier too long during that infamous heat wave. Despite a pitcher of ginger-ale being brought in for us to sip it got so bad the meeting was cancelled with everyone driving back to their respective boroughs, hoping not to crap their pants while on those cumbersome New York expressways. It’s one of those rare things that can happen and honestly I’d still return to the restaurant.
When you come across TV shows that expose a filthy, vermin-infested kitchen please believe they are the exception. Most health inspectors visit a minimum of every six months and more frequently if a kitchen has consistent violations. Every restaurant is given an opportunity to correct any violations it receives and the consequences of non-compliance range from fines to revocation of licenses and even closure. Like people’s homes, you can get a fairly decent snapshot of a restaurant’s cleanliness by first visiting their bathrooms beforing comitting to ordering food if you so choose. Another good thing is many layouts today feature the kitchen practically spilling into the dining room anyway so a direct look-see behind the scenes is often the norm.
That’s what happened to us. The hot line is practically in your lap with the pantry and walk-in cooler about five giant steps behind the counter and to the left. Far enough to be out of sight and sound but close enough for a critter to make his way to the front. It could always be worse. We’ve heard a story where a raccoon had actually made its way from a restaurant’s attic and determinedly trotted through a dining room during dinner service. Not funny at the time but certainly worth a laugh later.
On behalf of foodservice people all around the world we are sorry if a guest has joined your table uninvited. We are clean people. We promise!
Melon with Orange and Rum
1 large Cantaloupe, Honeydew or Muskmelon
1/2C orange juice
3T rum (dark)
Cut melon into cubes. In bowl mix ingredients. Add melon cubes and chill.