Do you think this is an unusual health code regulation?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by Jonathan K, Oct 16, 2018.

  1. Jonathan K

    Jonathan K

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    In South Carolina, the Department of Health and Envionrmental Control (We call it D-HEC) is responsible for ensuring restaurants meeting standardized health code... it may be called something different in your state.

    A friend of mine has a commercial kitchen built in his house (which is larger than most). I've known him for 8 years and have never seen him use that kitchen for commercial purposes. But since he has a modest restaurant rig in it (came with the house when he bought it), D-HEC tells him they must inspect it. Again, this is in his private home. Does this seem bizarre? Or is this normal?
     
  2. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    Its seems a little odd. Health departments typically frown on home kitchens used for commercial purposes regardless of what's in the kitchen. Then there's the zoning for the house itself. Perhaps the house was zoned commercial at one point and has never been re-zoned back to residential? Who knows?

    But, it is rather curious that a health department would take such interest in a home kitchen and insist that it must be inspected. Health departments don't typically go around looking for extra work. So, they must have a reason for wanting to inspect the kitchen. Perhaps your friend has not given you all of the information?

    Either way, my guess is the health department has been given a reason to believe that your friend's kitchen is being used commercially. Otherwise, why would they make such a fuss?? I don't think having commercial equipment in the kitchen by itself is enough to warrant an inspection. I have commercial equipment in my kitchen and the health department has never asked to inspect it. But, I don't live in South Carolina either.

    I think there is some important information missing here. :)
     
  3. halb

    halb

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    You say that it came with the house when he bought it. Perhaps the previous owner had a catering business or something like that and was subject to inspection back then. So it's on the HD radar. But the story is still fishy. If that's the case, he's been there for 8 years, why now? I think he's been doing something he isn't supposed to and somebody turned him in.
     
  4. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Code word: commercial kitchen.

    Pretty straightforward to me, if it’s commercial, the health boys have every right to inspect it, regardless if the owner does business in it or not.
     
  5. Jonathan K

    Jonathan K

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    Thats what I was mainly wondering.

    They've been inspecting him for some time now... he simply lets them look around. I probably should have said acquaintance rather than friend lol. Being a curious cook, the conversation came up when someone else told me that his house was outfitted with pro gear and I asked him about it.

    I understand... my question was if it was the gear in it, or the actual usage that typically makes it considered 'commercial'.
     
  6. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    I don't know if you are in the US or not, but, here, most jurisdictions determine if a kitchen is commercial or residential by how its used, not by the equipment. So, its very unlikely that the presence of commercial equipment is the trigger that has caused the HD to take an interest. :)

    However, I agree with you 100% that if its being used commercially, the HD has every right to inspect it.
     
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  7. Tyler520

    Tyler520

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    as an architect who specializes in restaurant design, i agree with halb; that it was in the house before he moved in is probably the biggest giveaway. I presume that the previous owner used it for catering or such; now that it is registered with the health department, they will automatically trigger regular inspections. they will often make arguments to the effect of, 'since it is there, it provides him with opportunity to run a commercial practice.

    That being said, it should be fairly easy for him to contact them and put an end to it. probably some paperwork, but it would (or i guess i should say, 'should') be unreasonable for them to make a big issue of it.
     
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  8. foodpump

    foodpump

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    It’s not the equipment, it’s the infrastructure that makes a commercial kitchen.

    That is to say, a grease interceptor, handsinks, ventilation system, fire suppression system, etc. This infrastructure needs to be installed per commercial code, which is dictated by the local municipality, and inspected by that municipality.

    Tyler 520, I have two architects in my family, and tolerate more “artichokes” than I want to at family weddings and other gatherings. I have never heard of an architect who specializes in restaurant design. I know of many interior designers who specialize in dining room design. I know of many mech. engineers who specialize in ventilation systems, dealt with many structural engineers who are familiar with restaurant codes, dealt with plumbers who specialize in floor mounted grease traps, but have never yet experienced an architect who actually knows the various codes necessary for a commercial kitchen, and is competent enough to decide where a 12’ hood should go.
     
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  9. Tyler520

    Tyler520

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    not necessarily, because a home owner has every right to install those things without operating commercially, if they wanted

    by universal definition, 'commercial' means, and only means, selling to the public, and what you cook dictates what equipment you must use, which in turn, dictates what infrastructure you need to go with said equipment - that is to say, it isn't just infrastructure and it isn't just equipment - it's all of the above; now that being said, there probably would be certain things that might have to be maintained even if they agree to nix the inspections. for example, if a grease interceptor or type I hood was installed, you'll have to continue to maintain it because they'll get disgusting and become a liability; but to the contrary, things like a fire suppression system could be abandoned or uninstalled.

    as far as architecture goes, we do everything but engineering in-house due to liability; lots of research and experience in how a restaurant needs to operate from both the customer and operator perspective - very 'holistic' so to speak, to make a successful restaurant: how do servers come and go from the expo line or drop off dirty ware at the dish pit; how a bartender needs equipment laid out for proper flow; where to place a bar to entice people to come in in the first place, where bathrooms should be located to be unobtrusive, how many bathrooms are needed and how big? triangulating prep, cook and cold lines; how to queue customers;

    we do entire layout and design down to nuts and bolts

    we work with some major chains for (re)branding, and several restaurant concept branding companies around the country
     
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  10. halb

    halb

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    I don't think so if you want to maintain any kind of fire insurance or even the smart thing to do. Just because the under-hood appliances aren't used for commercial purposes anymore doesn't mean they are any less apt to cause a fire. You may not be subject to HD inspections but your insurance company is going to want it maintained just the same as it was when it was commercial- unless you abandon the whole thing and disconnect the gas. They may even want you to remove the appliances from the premises.
     
  11. Tyler520

    Tyler520

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    maybe...maybe not. all depends on what equipment is there. after all, you dont "have" to have fire insurance for a residential kitchen.

    in any case, it was a general hypothetical example, and the original post is about mandatory health inspections, who do not care about fire suppression systems.
     
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  12. jcakes

    jcakes

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    The acquaintance has been having regular visits from the BoH over the years so there has to be some kind of permit to sell food to the public in effect that triggers the health inspection. The health dept requires a kitchen used to prepare food sold to the public to have specific types of equipment that are defined as commercial (versus consumer). Think of ventilation - the hood over the average homeowner's run-of-the-mill oven is like a hand-held fan compared to what we have in our restaurant/bakery/catering kitchens.
     
  13. Tyler520

    Tyler520

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    they do require certain equipment...but sometimes consumer grade products are acceptable; and sometimes there isn't a difference. it all depends

    in any case, if he isn't selling product and has no plans to do so, he shouldn't have troubles making them stop, regardless. unless he's selling product, there is absolutely no reason for them to continue coming.
     
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  14. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Nah, health dept. doesn’t care about fire suppression systems. But if you don’t get the system inspected and cables re-tightened periodically, you could find yourself cleaning up a nasty mess one day. Of course, you could just shove a 1/4” bolt in the trigger mechanism of the bottle so it’ll never go off—which is what 99% of the, um, “ethnic” restaurants do here on a daily basis....
     
  15. halb

    halb

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    It's part of your homeowner's insurance. You don't have to have homeowner's... unless you have a mortgage.
     
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  16. Jonathan K

    Jonathan K

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    Interesting discussion so far! He's had a very successful career in the medical field and I'm pretty sure he has no plans to start a catering company lol.

    I just thought of this... if he has a private/personal chef come in and cook for his family, then that person uses the kitchen, does that count as commercial use?
     
  17. halb

    halb

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    No, but he shouldn't get carried away. We had a topic here recently where somebody had a personal chef and was inviting from 30 to 100 people for four day stays. As long as it's for family- and a few friends once and a while that's normal family life.
     
  18. Seoul Food

    Seoul Food

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    I wouldn't think so. Unless the chef is cooking the food there and then selling it to the public and the public is not connected to the gathering the owner has in any way then yes. Anyone can have a chef come into their home and do a private event and not have to have their kitchen inspected by the state. Unless the state can prove the kitchen he owns in his private residence is part of some food service business that is supplying food to the general public, I would say they have no right to inspect a private residence kitchen.
     
  19. allanmcpherson

    allanmcpherson

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    What strikes me as bizarre about this situation is that it would appear that the inspections are triggered by an address and nothing more. Not by a company name, not a registered "cottage" business, nothing. I mean you have to pay a license fee to get registered as a commercial kitchen, the inspections are a part of that licence. I would be shocked if the permit renewal period would be greater than the 8 years you say this has been going on for.

    If the license file is remaining active (based on the assumption that the previous owner ran some kind of food business out of the place) that is hinky as well. I mean, if nothing else its a massive fail on the part of the realtor / property lawyer that handled the sale to not notice that a registered business is listed as operating out the property, and no action was taken on that at the time of sale.

    You could always look your friend up and see who they are doing, at any rate:
    https://apps.dhec.sc.gov/Environment/FoodGrades/
     
  20. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    With this issue, the devil lives in the details. The detail at issue here is the term "commercial" in description of this person's kitchen as opposed to the term "industrial."

    The health laws in all 50 states deliberately define the term "commercial". Although the language used is different from state to state, "commercial" is generally defined as any operation that involves the preparation, production, storage, or service of food items to the public. This includes not-for-profit and religious organizations, even if food is part of a business where meal(s) are included as part of the services rendered. The exception, of course, would be if the food provided is ordered from a separate restaurant or catering service.

    The health codes are specifically written in this general way to close the potential for any loopholes. For instance, if the equipment in the kitchen, and not how the kitchen is used, formed the basis for an inspection, what's to stop a restaurant or any other operation from using all residential equipment in order to sidestep the health department altogether? To take the matter one step further, many states allow for home kitchens to produce certain "low risk" foods for sale to the general public such as candy, cookies etc. In such cases, an exemption can be applied for that would essentially do away with the health inspection requirement and allow the kitchen to produce these limited food products commercially. Again, its not the equipment that defines the term "commercial". Its the use. In other states, a home kitchen is not required to be inspected if the gross sales of certain food items are less than a certain amount. If I'm not mistaken, South Carolina has such a law. But, don't quote me.

    On the other hand, an "industrial" kitchen is simply a kitchen that has "restaurant" grade equipment. As far as the law is concerned, any residential home can have a kitchen comprised of all "restaurant grade" equipment, including vents, grease traps, coolers, freezers, dry storage, sinks etc. etc. not be required to be inspected. The home owner's insurance company may have a thing or two to say about it, but, as far as the health department is concerned, they don't care until that kitchen's use meets the definition of the term "commercial."

    Now, if a person were to own such a kitchen, its entirely possible that the home owner's insurance company may require an inspection for liability purposes as part of the insurance policy. We all know the hazards of grease traps and industrial grade stoves and the importance of fire suppression systems and so do insurance companies. I am sure those risks will be amply reflected in the insurance premium. But, as long as that kitchen's use does not meet the definition of "commercial" under that state's health code, the law would not mandate an inspection.

    Like I said, its very likely there are key details missing from the OP's account of the situation. Having said all this, its pretty much 100% guaranteed that if the HD is knocking on this guy's door telling him that his kitchen is due for an inspection, that kitchen was or is being used as part of some sort of commercial operation. Otherwise, how would the HD even know the kitchen has industrial grade equipment? The only other plausible explanation is someone reported him to the health department for one reason or another.
     
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