I spent years working in the food service industry and the one thing that never failed to put a kitchen into a tizzy was a visit from the health inspector. I was generally lucky enough to work in places where the managers cared about hand washing, keeping foods at a proper temperature, keeping out the vermin—you know, the little things. I’ll never forget the epic battle Dishwasher Dude waged in one kitchen to get the ancient equipment, affectionately referred to as Scum Queen, up to the right temperature. Apparently she needed a lot of sweet talk and just the right amount of soap to reach the magic number of 160 degrees. Dude finally managed it while the inspector was watching, but we were all holding our breaths. Of course, the kitchen lost a perfect score anyway because there was a cracked tile in the salad prep area. Still, a 98 isn’t the end of the world. That would be anything below 80.
I can live with just about anything above a 92 but below that, it gets dicey. Down into the 80s is someone not washing his hands, food prep happening too close to cleaning materials or chicken thawing in the cooler over a vat of salad greens. I don’t even want to think about what goes on below 80. I look for those lovely yellow inspection reports before I order anything and I’ve been known to walk out of a place after finding a low score. This has made for some on the fly dining choices at times but now I can plan better because the DeKalb County Board of Health now has the reports available on-line. Take a peek for yourself and choose “Restaurant and Facility Inspection Scores” from the menu on the left side of the screen. It’s a little fun, a little terrifying and goes a long way to helping me relax about the food I order.