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Sensational Journalism: Health Violations Exposed

It's pretty safe to say that almost all restaurants, especially sizable ones, will accrue some health code violations now and again. Any chef will tell you they are sometimes unavoidable. However, because health violations freak out diners and make great fodder for sensational 'journalistic' investigations, they often come up in the media. With that in mind, we present the Inside Edition special report airing tomorrow "How Clean Are Top TV Chef's Restaurants."

According to the press release the show's investigative unit 'poured over' inspection records for the restaurants of Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay, Todd English, and Paula Deen. On the one hand they seem to make a big deal out of common violations. However, on the other they do encounter a plastic wrapper in a salad at Todd English's Fig AND they get footage of "vermin" at BLT Fish.

The show might give these chefs a fair shake, but from the press release, it looks like they're out for blood. The full summary:

New York, NY – April 29, 2008 – A special report by INSIDE EDITION’s Investigative unit, airing Wednesday, April 30th, looks into the cleanliness of several celebrity chef restaurants.

INSIDE EDITION investigators poured through hundreds of pages of inspection reports
from the restaurants of some of the biggest chef’s on TV including Gordon Ramsay, Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and Paula Deen. INSIDE EDITION uncovered many of these restaurants were cited for serious health code violations that could make patrons sick.

At Emeril Lagasse’s namesake restaurant in Miami Beach, INSIDE EDITION found health inspectors had cited the eatery for 13 critical violations on its last inspection.

Mark Garrison, who runs the website, and his team analyzed the inspection reports and tells INSIDE EDITION why critical violations are a concern.

“You should care if a restaurant has a critical violation because it means something has gone wrong in the restaurant that could make you sick.”

INSIDE EDITION also found grill master Bobby Flay’s two critically acclaimed New York City restaurants, Bar Americain and Mesa Grill, barely passed their most recent inspections.

On its last inspection Bar American had a hefty 27 violation points, four of which were critical and included evidence of insects or live flying insects. The facility was also cited for not being vermin proof. Mesa Grill had a total of 26 violation points on its most recent inspection, four of which were also critical.

Chef Gordon Ramsay, star of the hit show Hell’s Kitchen, was hit with 21 violation points on the most recent inspection at his restaurant in the exclusive London Hotel in New York City. Three of those were critical violations, including one for food held at unsafe temperatures.

Another of Ramsay’s eateries, Cielo, located in Boca Raton, was cited for employees touching ready to eat foods with bare hands and not washing their hands after touching a bare body part.

Another high profile TV Chef, Todd English, has a number of restaurants in Boston that have failed prior health inspection reports. Although Fig’s, located in Boston’s historic Beacon Hill passed its most recent inspection, health inspectors failed the restaurant on a previous report in xx 2007 and cited it with 43 violations. When INSIDE EDITION visited the eatery for a meal, producers were severed a salad with a plastic wrapper in it.

One of English’s other restaurants, Kingfish Hall, also passed its most recent inspection but has failed five inspection reports since January 2007.

Chef Laurent Tourondel’s seafood eatery BLT Fish in New York City received 20 violation points on its last inspection report, including five critical violations for evidence of insects and conditions condusive to vermin. In the segment airing tomorrow, INSIDE EDITION’s cameras caught vermin running around the restaurant’s dining room floor after hours on two different occasions.

Paula Deen, one of the most popular chefs on The Food Network was the only celebrity chef whose restaurant was immaculate. Her eatery, The Lady and Sons in Savannah, Georgia, did not receive a single violation from health inspectors on its most recent report.

Restaurant Responses:
Emeril Lagasse

Emeril’s corporate office sent a statement saying, “Food safety and sanitation is our top priority?As with most restaurants, violations do occur from time to time; however we make every effort to correct them while the inspector is present, or as soon as possible thereafter.”

Bobby Flay

No comment.

Gordon Ramsay

No response.

Todd English

Representatives for Todd English said, “We work within the guidelines established by the city of Boston to immediately address any areas of concern in a timely manner.”

Laurent Tourondel

Representatives from BLT Restaurant Group said, “We have been vigilant regarding such issues,” and “we are surprised as anyone by the video.”