The restaurant industry is buzzing with an intriguing rumor started by an article in Sunday’s New York Post. It claims that Chef Mario Batali has installed a system in all the restaurants he owns with partner Joe Bastianich that’s designed to thwart overzealous health inspectors who show up unexpectedly and levy whopping fines for everything from food being held at improper temperatures to proximity of a sink to the workstation.
Here’s how it (supposedly) works: When Department of Health inspectors show up at any of the restaurants (Babbo, Lupa, Del Posto, Eataly, Manzo, Esca, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono and Otto Enoteca)a button at the hostess stand triggers a buzzer in the kitchen. Before inspectors can enter, all the food that’s currently being cooked is thrown away and the chefs go on break. If no food is being cooked and no cooks are in the kitchen, health inspectors have a lot less to work with because lots of their levied fines stem from improper temperature of food that’s being prepared.
There’s just one problem with this accusation: It’s most likely completely false. “I don’t know where that story came from,” a manager at Babbo told us when we gave them a call. “It’s completely preposterous.” Also, a deeper reading of the article reveals that even if the system has been installed, it’s never been used. However, “restaurant insiders” told the Post that completely shutting down a restaurant to avoid inspections is becoming increasingly common, even though a DOH spokesperson told them that evading the inspectors like that would most likely result in a failure.