We last heard from Elizabeth Meltz, food safety and sustainability director for Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's restaurants, after the hurricane hit and she was trying to salvage the Grana Padano wheels at Babbo. (The cheese was thrown away.) Because it's her job to ensure the restaurant group's cooks are keeping the cured meats cool and everything's in compliance with Health Department nitty-gritty, you can imagine Meltz was perturbed by yesterday's breathless New York Post "Exclusive" that alleged Batali's nine restaurants were wired with an "alarm system" designed to be triggered at the hostess stand whenever an inspector walked in. Here's what she had to say about it all.
Five years ago, Mario and Joe created my position — Director of Food Safety and Sustainability — in order to ensure that our restaurants are as safe as they can be. To achieve food safety, restaurants must operate in accordance with Health Department standards. Unlike the phantom alarm system, my responsibilities are very real.
Mario and Joe tasked me with developing HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) plans, which make us (NYC Department of Health, correct me if I am wrong here) the only restaurant group certified in the preparation of cured meats in the entire city. They enlisted me to create and maintain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), conduct internal mock health inspections, renew restaurant and food handling permits, and go to scheduled meetings and appearances with the DOH if and when the occasion arises. I am responsible for making sure all of our chefs, sous chefs and managers are certified food handlers and on top of that, I teach quarterly food safety classes in each restaurant. In short, our team works together to do everything required to comply with all of the DOH rules and regulations and to maintain transparency at all of our restaurants. Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich might even be the only Chef/Restaurateurs to have such a position on their payroll.
The NYC DOH expects of us exactly what Mario and Joe expect of me and of our restaurants: 100% compliance, 100% of the time. This makes my mandate simple. (no bells or whistles.)
From Elizabeth Meltz - Dir. of Food Safety & Sustainability at BBHG [Mario Batali/Facebook]
Earlier: Does Mario Batali Really Have a Secret Health Inspector ‘Alarm System’?
Related: Babbo Chef Frank Langello Lost His Home During Hurricane Sandy