Monday, January 23, 2012

[Lifestyles] Grade Pending

Listen close and you will hear a story of great woe. Just like the fairy tales of old, this tale begins with the phrase used so many times before with once upon a time in a little place called Canarise Brooklyn. It was a quiet night in which a BOY traveled to and fro in search of a great meal. With his stomach growling he entered a place called Fortune Cookies Chinese Restaurant. As the BOY entered the tiny little shop, he did not notice the NYC Health Department “Grade Pending” sign in front, because if he did it would have warned him of the troubles to come. The BOY gave the female shop keeper his order of lo mein with fried chicken and started to count the minutes before he can quench his hunger. As he sat and waited, one of the workers came into view. He was very slobbish, covered in dirt, grease and grime. Like clouds in the sky, the BOY could see patterns form on the workers apron. The BOY shuddered a bit. The worker placed a mop in his hand to the side so he could close a trash bag overflowing with rubbish. It was quite a difficult task. He took his bare hands to push everything inside so he could be able to seal the black bag. Once finished, he pulled the bag out and dragged it into the street for the garbage men to come pick it up in the wee hours of the morning. Once he returned, he entered the kitchen, dipped his hands in the container of lo mein noodles and threw it into a wok. The BOY gasped at this sight. The man, who he just seen taking his bare hands pushing down garbage, was now, cooking his meal without washing his hand. Sicken to the core, the BOY fled in hopes to never return, but he had realized one thing too late. He had eaten from this same place several times before…

The moral, if you can call it that is…


Of course there is more to this story. A while back, I wrote a blog called: B is for Failure, in which I talked about a Subways restaurant on my block that had a B-rating from the Health department. After seeing that rating, I went on the health department’s website and did my own little research about other places in my neighborhood. Many places had sever violations and it made me really wonder had these places can get away with this. In this little adventure, I did my research once again on the placed named above and was shocked to what I had discovered and the loop holes used so that the public is not aware of this travesty. On the NYC health department website you can find out how they score and grade plus there latest and previous inspections. It’s quite simple really. The age of technology is just a wonderful beast at times.

When you are on the website, you can either enter in the eatery’s name you want to find or the zip code, which in this case 11236, and it will pull up the place or all the restaurants within that area. After filtering based on cuisine type (American, Bakery, Caribbean, Chinese, etc…), I found Fortune Cookies had a “Not Yet Graded” as their current grade (When I first did the search it was actually a C grade, but it has since changed). While going through the inspections on the left side of the screen of their most recent I disgusted by what I saw. To put things in perspective here is the how the health department score violations…

From the “How we score and Grade” PDF:

The points for a particular violation depend on the health risk it poses to the public. Violations fall into three categories:
 A public health hazard, such as failing to keep food at the right temperature, triggers a minimum of 7 points. If the violation can’t be corrected before the inspection ends, the
Health Department may close the restaurant until it’s fixed.
A critical violation, for example, serving raw food such as a salad without properly washing it first, carries a minimum of 5 points. 
A general violation, such as not properly sanitizing cooking utensils, receives at least 2 points.
In September of last year, Fortune Cookie was graded 3 times. Once on the 10th which added up to 62 violation points, the next on the 13th which added up to 32 points and lastly on the 14th with only 3 points. Lucky for the public you can actually see what they were violated for. This is a screen shot of the September 10th list violations:

Click on image to expand size.

Personal cleanliness… does that creep anyone else out like it did me? I have to assume as a person looking at this, that it only received a 3 in there last inspection because of the city threatening to shut them down and they hired a crew of elves to come in and do there magic… maybe one of those Sookie Stackhouse fairies as well perhaps.

I began to wonder why in the hell did this place have a “Grade Pending” on its store front window when it clearly wasn’t making the grade at all. Everything was kind of confusing until I reread the PDF document. There is a part that I want to make EVERYONE aware of. Towards the bottom of the first page and the top of the second there is this:

“A restaurant has two chances to earn an A in every inspection cycle. If it doesn’t earn an A on the first inspection, it’s scored but ungraded. An inspector goes back to the restaurant unannounced, typically within a month, to inspect it again and the re-inspection is graded. If the grade is a B or C, the restaurant will receive a grade card and a grade pending card. It can post either card until it has an opportunity to be heard at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings Health Tribunal. 

Until a restaurant has a graded inspection, it is listed as Not Yet Graded on the Health
Department website”

I underlined the most important part. A place can either post the grade they had received OR a Grade Pending sign. Establishments, unless they are shut down, can hide their score from the public!!! Ain’t that some shit right there… I was ready to let Facebook, Foursquare, Google and anyone that could hear me from my soapbox about this place. That’s another reason to love the technology age. I started to comb the internet for some reviews and frankly there were very few expect for this one Yelps. Here is the screenshot:

Click on image to expand size.

A disclaimer though… While the place reviewed was actual ANOTHER Fortune Cookies restaurant in Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights area, the review mentioned a place called Chopsticks which is right down block and provides a better service than Fortune Cookie, so I knew that she might’ve made a mistake in placing the review there. I also felt that the first review was also talking about the Fortune Cookies restaurant as well, but I am not 100% sure about that.

After being sick for months and unable to stomach even the sight of food. It is disappointing that places like this exist and even shameful that people pack them without doing any research. A few minutes can avoid hours of throwing up or much worse. I suggest that everyone out there takes a moment (especially if you live in the New York area) to review some of the fast food places that you go into everyday. What you might learn may surprise you and save your life.

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