Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rule Makers

We had a visit from the state health inspector this week at work. Our reaction to his report always results in one of two things...rage, or giggles. This time we giggled, which is a good thing.

We run an extremely clean restaurant and have never had a food-born illness. Inspectors won't admit it, but we all know that they MUST find something wrong to write on their report. The cleaner your restaurant and the closer you follow food safety rules, the deeper the inspector has to dig to find an infraction. This year our infractions included:

We must have lids on employee's coffee mugs and water glasses. Whatever....we've always kept our personal drinks on a corner of the counter that's far removed from a food prep surface. We spill our drinks maybe once a year, and immediately clean up the spill with bleach water. Since the inspector's visit, Boss and I have been drinking out of narrow-bottomed, covered travel mugs...which we have spilled 3 times! Yes, liquid DOES spill out of that little drinking hole when you knock over a travel mug!

We didn't have an "Employee Illness Journal". Huh? Whenever an employee calls in sick, they must write about the nature of their illness in this journal upon their return to work. If the illness involved vomiting or diarrhea, the employee can't return to work until 3 days after their symptoms disappear. Yeah, like THAT'S gonna happen! IF the state is willing to pay me for those 3 additional days off, I'll comply. If not...screw you! We will comply with filling out the journal, so the inspector has something to read next time. We also plan on having a lot of fun describing our illnesses. Graphic snot and sputum descriptions will abound!

The inspector also "suggested" that Boss replace the kitchen wallcovering...
Boss: Are the walls clean?
Inspector: Yes.
Boss: Do the walls show any sign of wear? Is anything chipping of the wall onto a food prep surface?
Inspector: No, but we'd "like" to see stainless steel on all kitchen surfaces.
Boss: I installed the vinyl tileboard wallcovering 5 yrs ago, when you "suggested" that you didn't like our cleanly painted walls. We also installed rubber molding to replace the painted wood molding you didn't "like". The new cupboards we installed were also approved for restaurant use. I spent $50,000, 5 yrs ago, to follow your "suggestions"!
Inspector: I know, but....NOW, we like to see stainless steel.
Boss walks off on inspector.

I know that, somewhere in the metro area, there is a panel of Rule Makers. I'm also certain that these RMs make close to a 6-figure income. Job security demands that they change the rules often enough to make their jobs look important. I seriously doubt that ANY of the RMs have EVER worked in a restaurant! Here is a prime example of their ever-changing rules...

25 yrs ago, at the end of the day, we dumped leftover gravy, soups, etc. into gallon jugs. We immediately placed these jugs in the walk-in cooler, with the lids off. When the food cooled, we placed the lids on the jugs.

NEW RULE: EVERYTHING must be covered in the walk-in, including hot foods. OK, but your previous rule stated that hot foods must be cooled as quickly as possible.

Next visit from the inspector....NEW RULE: Hot foods must be placed in lidless containers on the kitchen counter until they have cooled enough to cover and place in the walk-in. Okey-dokey, whatever you say....

Next visit, another NEW RULE: Hot foods shall be cooled in their original vessels, in an ice bath, while being constantly stirred until the foods have reached the temperature of 45F. Then the food can be placed in a lidded container in the walk-in. This rule resulted in one of the few times Boss had a face-to-face argument with the inspector:

Boss: Just WHERE do you want me to put the ice for this ice bath?
Inspector: We suggest a stainless-steel kitchen sink.
Boss: You mean like the 3-section stainless-steel sink you made me remove from the kitchen LAST YEAR, to make room for the hand-washing sink you insisted upon?
Inspector: *nervous laughter* Yeah, I guess so.
Boss walks off on inspector.

Since we didn't have an ice machine at the time, Boss totally disregarded this New Rule. I seriously doubt that many restaurants followed this rule. Paying someone to stir the food in the ice bath is quite costly!

Next visit from the inspector...guess what?....NEW RULE: Please desist in cooling foods in an ice bath. We have found that water from the ice bath MIGHT contaminate the food. Please place hot food, uncovered, in your cooler, and cover when the temp has reached 45F. WTF?! Isn't that what we were doing to start with?

MN law states that restaurants shall be inspected on a yearly basis, preferably twice yearly. Guess what? We once went 5 YEARS without an inspection! We have also had many times when we haven't seen an inspector for 2 years at a time. The state's excuse for this is that they don't have the money to hire enough inspectors. I suggest that the state fire the overpaid Rule Makers and hire more inspectors. ESPECIALLY meat plant inspectors, since this is where most of the food-born illnesses originate!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Digging Out

Vancouver Voyeur wanted pictures, so I felt obliged to snap a few photos on Saturday morning before the snow started melting.

Last Wednesday, we managed to clear our driveway in 2 hours by playing "tag-team snowblower". The wind was still blowing 25 mph, so we could only blow for 30 minutes before becoming walking snowmen. L went out first and made the first paths through the drifts. We couldn't believe that the snowblower went through the 4 ft bank, left by the snowplow, in just one pass!
The above picture shows how high the drifts were. You have to click on the picture, to make it bigger, to see the top of our grill sticking out of the bank.
Here's our front sidewalk after Z shoveled it. The snowbanks were up to Z's shoulders, so shoveling required a LOT of lifting.

Saturday's forecast called for temps in the 40s. L wanted to clear the path to our fuel-oil tank and birdfeeder before it settled into a solid block of ice. Since the snow was over the top of the snowblower, L had to knock the drifts down with a shovel before he could blow.

It's unbelievable how bi-polar our weather has been. Last Wednesday night, our low temp was -28F. Saturday thru Tuesday, we had highs in the mid 50s. Half of our snow has melted in the past 4 days! Our entire driveway is now snow and ice free for the first time since December. Spring has started, with all the accompanying mud and slop.

The seagulls arrived on Sunday. According to local legend, we always have 3 more snows after the seagulls return. Hopefully those snows won't be 19 inch blizzards!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Snow Day

I'm writing this post while waiting for daylight. We got 18.8 inches of snow, accompanied by 35 mph winds, in the past 24 hours. Yesterday they said we would break the record for snow if we got 10 more inches. Looks like we broke that record.

Boss called last night and told me not to come in unless she calls me. We're supposed to cater a meeting today. The people attending the meeting are coming from all over the US and Canada. I have a feeling the meeting will be canceled. All of our restaurant supply trucks come from the western part of the state and have been canceled, so we'll be running a limited menu.

From what I can see by the light of our front porch light, we have a 4 ft high snowbank extending 6 ft into the mouth of our driveway from the snowplows. It's currently -6F with a -30F windchill. The forecast is calling for -25F tonight. You know you're in trouble when Jim Cantore is in your vicinity. Well...Jim is in Duluth and can't, or won't, make it any farther north....we're screwed! Our camper and BBQ grill have totally disappeared into the snow drifts. The drifts in the back yard are 6 inches higher than our 3 ft high steps. Hairry was up to his neck in snow when he went out this morning!

Warm temps the past few days have created a solid sheet of ice beneath the snow in our driveway. L got the car stuck on the ice trying to get to work yesterday. We had to hire someone to push it onto a spot where we could get traction enough to back it into the garage. It was snowing and blowing so hard that we had to blow out the driveway twice while waiting for our rescuers. The snowblower could barely blow the snow over the top of the banks surrounding our driveway. We're simply out of places to put the snow!

It will probably take us most of the day to clear the driveway. L and I will tag-team with the snowblower. One of us will blow snow until we're too snow encrusted to continue. While our snow suit and face mask are drying in the dryer, the other one will continue blowing snow. Z will be breaking apart the taller banks with the scoop shovel so the snowblower can get through.

Wish us luck!