WHAT KIND OF FOOD LANDSCAPE ARE EHOs TRYING TO CREATE?
I am raging, properly blood boiling raging. Working across Ireland with restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels, it now almost a weekly occurrence where an owner will declare ‘but the EHO says I can’t do that’ ‘but the EHO says I have to buy it in prepared’ ‘but the EHO says no one makes anything from scratch anymore’ and ‘I don’t want to upset the EHO’.
The tipping point into boiling was the following text received from a former student who is running a wonderful café in the southwest. It is being used with her permission.
A friend of mine has a bit of a conundrum. He has recently opened a food truck and he has a really small menu consisting of fish and chips, calamari, a veggie burger and a beef burger.
He uses all local ingredients, and he prepares the food in the truck in the morning, cleans and then opens for service at 5pm. He breads the fish himself; he also weighs out the meat balls, stores them and they’re ‘smashed’ into the burger shape on the fryer so the handling of them is minimal. The truck is a decent size, a small commercial kitchen on wheels. He had an inspection from two EHOs yesterday and the said they couldn’t believe that he was preparing the burgers himself, they said that all food trucks are either getting them from the butcher or buying them frozen. They said he can prepare the fish, but he can’t weigh out the meat for his burgers and must buy them in. He gets really good quality mince from the local butcher who hasn’t the staff to weigh up the meat balls for him.
I have had trouble with EHOs myself trying to insist that we buy in our baking instead of making it ourselves, when our home baking is what our customers come back for. It is so frustrating when you’re trying to be self-sufficient and all they want you to do is buy in the mass-produced stuff that you can get anywhere.”
“They told me that I had to give pH level of where the fish was from, and the supplier wrote back a letter saying they were from the sea”.
“They stopped another food truck I know from producing their own burgers last year, I am now worried that they will try to prevent me making our sausage rolls which customers love”.
“We’re having similar issues with our EHO too. We are a scratch restaurant and have had an EHO on our back for nearly a year now. The conclusion I’ve come to is that the EHO system is not set up for restaurants like ours that make everything and no matter how hard we try we don’t fit into their box. We have to trace every product that we buy through the kitchen, issuing a batch code to every product we make, and be able to trace it back to a supplier. The EHO will come in and pick a random item from the fridge and demand paperwork to show when it was delivered, cooked, cooled, frozen, defrosted, reheated/cooked and served. With a decent sized menu this is pretty much impossible. If, however we were to buy in everything pre prepared and frozen it’s a simple matter of – order frozen food, re heat and serve. I think the problem is that the EHOs don’t trust that trained chefs are doing their jobs in a safe and systematic manner, without reams of paperwork backing it up”
Is it possible that there is a link between the pressure that is being daily heaped on owners to buy it all in ‘prepped’ and the rapid slide in food quality across the island. Is it possible that owners are throwing in the towel and just opening up the catalogue. We all know that food safety is essential and anyone flouting this needs to be sanctioned for the good of everyone.
The word quality is not a word that you will hear mentioned by an inspector. It doesn’t appear anywhere on the food safety authority website. Surely, when an inspector encounters a business that has committed to using the best ingredients, sourced locally and seasonally which is directly supporting local producers and farm families – that business needs extra support to comply while still using those very ingredients.
Is it not the function of EHOs to support restaurant owners to produce the best quality food possible and in turn support the extraordinary food producers we have and in turn support local economies and in turn become an ally those in business and not a constant adversary to be feared. Why should hard working entrepreneurs creating jobs, taking risks, stressing about paying wages and complying with the daft burden of countless legislative bodies be so disrespected. It’s disgraceful.
The level of disrespect shown by some EHOs to restaurant, café and pub owners in this country is shameful. Keeping food safe is your job, it is also your job to SUPPORT those trying to be the best they can be while complying with the law. There are not enough words to describe the anger that people in industry are feeling about this.
What kind of food future are we building here?
Perhaps EHOs are completely unaware of the reputation they have within our industry.