All About Health
You eat a bad oyster at a local seafood place and you're sick all night. You visit your favorite Mexican dive and see two cockroaches doing the cha-cha under the table. What to do? The city's Health Department receives three to four calls a day from customers lodging complaints about food poisoning and unsanitary conditions against local restaurants. Does it do any good? Absolutely, according to Jack Breslin, assistant director of the Bureau of Environmental Health Management, who says inspectors are sent out promptly upon receipt of consumer complaints. If the health inspector determines that corrective action is needed, the restaurant is given five days to fix unsanitary conditions or 30 days for structural problems. Noncompliance with Health Department regulations can mean the restaurant's permit is suspended or revoked. In the event of a serious health hazard -- Breslin once saw a restaurant continue preparing food as raw sewage from a sewer-line break seeped through the floor of the kitchen -- the place is shut down immediately. San Francisco has about 3,000 restaurants, plus 1,500 other food preparation establishments (grocery stores, hot dog carts, etc.) and 1,700 places selling packaged food products. Each of the city's 25 health inspectors has 300 establishments under his or her domain and visits each three times a year. Unannounced. Eighty to 90 percent of restaurants inspected, says Breslin, need some type of corrective action. The largest number of citations, he explains, are for infestation problems. "Vermin control is really a problem in San Francisco, especially during drought years when the rodents breed in the sewers. The rule of thumb is the rodent population is equivalent to the human population." That means 750,000 rats in San Francisco. To become a health inspector, you must take required college courses and train with the county Health Department. Once certified, you take the state licensing exam, followed by the civil service exam. Salary for health inspectors, says Breslin, starts "in the high 40s to low 50s."
From Haute to Hot
Liberte finally gave up the ghost. Employees were told earlier this week that the downtown restaurant, owned by the Kimpton Group with Elka Gilmore as executive chef, will close its doors today. Bill Kimpton and Gilmore were unavailable for comment at press time. Dish can report that Gilmore is busy test-marketing her Elka Burritos, available at Costco. (Yes, burritos. At Costco.) Kimpton reportedly will try to place Liberte staffers at other Kimpton Group restaurants in the city (he has more than a dozen).
By Barbara Lane