Friday, October 10, 2008

A Total Lack of Journalistic Integrity

I just received this email from one of my most favorite restaurants. It pains me to see one of our esteemed (I'm being sarcastic here in case you can't tell) local journalists attack locally owned, small family restaurant that is passionate about what they do & strive to give their customers an experience they can't get elsewhere. Read this & then email that hack who calls himself a reporter Here's his email address:

Hello Everyone!
You may have heard that recently Napa Cafe received a 69 on the health inspection and I want you to know what a bogus score it is. We have always scored in the high 80's or low 90's. The critical violations were: front door was open (while the servers were setting up the outdoor tables), the butter was at room temperature (softened for the table bread), and our dishwasher came in from outside and did not go straight to the sink to wash his hands-( he stopped to pick up the empty lettuce box that the cook had just emptied). These 3 deductions resulted in 15 points! The other points deducted ranged from no label on the pecans( in clear ziplock bags )to brooms stored on the floor and not hanging. The inspection was conducted 15 days ago and they reinspected only to bring it to an 85 which is the most they could possibly give me with the system they have in place. I want to assure you that we take health regulations very seriously not because of a score but because I want a safe and healthy environment for all of my employees and all of my customers.
The inspection process has always been unsettling. The inconsistencies are alarming to put it mildly. The rules change without notice and each inspector has their own interpretation of these rules. I have to admit that it wasn't until this recent score did I decide to get proactive.
I received an e-mail from the Memphis Restaurant Association yesterday regarding the meeting they are having with them today. The inconsistency is such a huge problem regardless if a restaurant fails or not.
And to add fuel to the fire Bill Lunn from Channel 5 could not wait to report that an East Memphis upscale restaurant was going to be on his segment. He did not contact me for a statement.
I appreciate your business very much and if you have any questions please contact me.
*The e-mail sent by the Memphis Restaurant Association.*
Dear MRA Restaurant Member,

Wight and I will be meeting with the Health Department this Friday, October 10th to discuss inspection procedures and regulations. We would like to have feedback from you about your recent experience with your Health Inspector to take into our meeting. All input is welcome (positive and/or negative). What was your overall impression of your most recent inspection? How does it compare with past inspections? Do you have specific suggestions as to how future interactions with Health Inspectors can be improved upon? Rest assured that your anonymity will be protected.

Please e-mail me at with your feedback.

Warmest regards,
Eli Cloud
Memphis Restaurant Association
Member Relations Director


Benito said...

I've always wanted a local news organization to perform restaurant-style inspections on home kitchens around the city. I've known people who would never go back to a restaurant after a single low score, but their own refrigerators are full of rotting food, meat not wrapped properly, cleaning agents stored dangerously close to food, etc.

Not to mention the freedom of children and pets to wander in and out of the kitchen. How many dog or cat owners have had to wipe a stray hair out of a skillet before cooking dinner? How many kids run their grubby hands through the fridge without washing their hands first?

Obviously restaurants should be held to a higher standard due to the number of potential victims (just look at Typhoid Mary), but much of the inspection process is ridiculous.

Andrea said...
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Glassesnotpasses said...

Hi Michael,
Thanks for this posting. It is indeed unfortunate and unethical that a local media outlet can create a half-baked blurb and potentially affect a reputation or even the bottom line of a locally owned establishment.

We must acknowledge, however, that most journalism in Memphis (and surely elsewhere) is devoid of integrity at worst and laziness at best. Sensationalism and ad revenues drive the media, of course. My suggestion to Napa would be to not advertise on any media owned by the parent company of WMC which may include newspapers as well.
Also, the question should be asked why is the restaurant industry subject to this type of assault? Where are the reports on ill-qualified doctors and lawyers and so on.
Keep up the good work, Michael. Yours is the best food and wine blog, not only because of your knowledge, but also due to your lack of pretensions and that "I am smarter and more sophisticated than you, you rube" attitude that is so prevalent in the blogosphere and among food lovers everywhere. I refuse to use the word foodie...
It is only food and wine, after all. Even the unsophisticated like to eat and drink every now and then!

Michael Hughes said...

Thanks for adding to the conversation guys! It is unfortunate that in this harsh economic climate a so called journalist would fore go doing any research & attack a locally owned business. Its unforgivable. This is the kind of thing that can close a family run restaurant. We cannot stand for this. What they were marked off for is utterly ridiculous!