Written by Heather Clemenceau
Hello dear readers, and welcome once again to our version of the Occupy movement, on Queen Street West in Toronto! A couple of recent protests with a smaller number of advocates in attendance have proven to be about as pleasant and soothing to the nerves as trying to shit in a public bathroom when the stall door lock is broken and you have to keep it shut with your hand. La Palette co-owner Shamez Amlani no doubt feels that when our attendance is in smaller numbers, he is free to resort to douchebaggery, and when the numbers are larger (more witnesses?) he retreats inside where his only offense is to scowl determinedly from behind the bar.
One recent attempt to get under our skin consists of having someone stand out in front
of the resto with crackers and a plate of horse tartare – uncooked horsemeat. While some may not appreciate this tactic, it personally bothers me very little – you know what they say about “loss leaders.” Each sample of horsemeat that Shamez hands out free on the street is one that he cannot sell. If I were going to recommend another tactic that works equally as poorly, I’d suggest he also start using Groupon, which has been shown to be an ineffective acquisition tool for customers, primarily because curious, cost-conscious people try a service once, and never return. IMO, freebies and deals like Groupon don’t work for restaurants because while you’re devoting your time servicing a discounted customer base, any people willing to pay top dollar for any service are often left unaccommodated. I’ve no worries that Shamez would ever follow my business advice, because if he did he would have gotten out of horsemeat for all the reasons I’ve accounted for in previous blogs.
“I run a small India restaurant and we were busy right after the groupon, but very few of the customers came back to eat. Plus, those that did visit spent the minimum and barely tipped our staff.”
Returning for the moment to the wisdom of offering uncooked meat to anyone who passes by – any meat, including horsemeat of course. I wonder how many people were initially aware that they were eating raw meat, since this information wasn’t being provided to passers-by who took a sample? This info might have been even more meaningful in the context of La Palette’s failure to achieve an unconditional pass from the Toronto Board of Health – Dine Safe Program. Toronto Public Health also offers an advisory on food handling, particularly as it concerns raw meat and cross-contamination. IMO, the serving of raw meat should not be allowed anywhere, and municipalities are beginning to crack down on this practice, because there will always be people who are determined to treat their bodies as a garbage dump, at least until they come down with a parasitic infection, as evidenced by this comment from a foodie freak on a food blog:
“Until we fight the battles necessary to establish the fact that what ever we decide to put into our bodies regardless of perceived risk, is our decision and our right, the battles will never end. There will always be a new perceived risk with the psychopaths in government there to save you from yourself. Even if they kill you in the process. If you continue to fight each of these issues as an unique event, and try to argue the unique merits of a practice you will still fighting new battles that the system creates when the end of time arrives. Asserting your rights to what you put into your body and your absolute right to contract, is the only sane tactic and the only way we are going to win in the long run.”
Raw meat glorifies food porn and features terrible food safety. Caveat emptor, dumb-ass. And it’s not a “perceived risk” either, there is a quantifiable risk on several fronts. From an expert:
“Raw meats or undercooked foods leave you at risk of infection of parasites or a slew of other illnesses,” says Dr. Michael Mansour of the division of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.
According to NYC’s Department of Health, restaurants must notify diners when food isn’t cooked to required temperatures — either verbally or by printing this on the menu. Basically, it’s buyer beware — though the DOH says it will investigate complaints of people getting sick from eating raw food.
Of course, New York isn’t Toronto, and despite my trepidation with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), I give high marks to Toronto Public Health. Toronto Public Health
received the Crumbine Consumer Protection Award, consisting of a bronze Crumbine medallion and engraved plate, at the Annual Educational Conference of the National Environmental Health Association, on June 19 in Columbus, Ohio. This was the first time in its 56 year history that the award was presented to a local food safety jurisdiction outside of the United States. As a Crumbine Award winner, Toronto Public Health joins an elite group of local public health agencies that have demonstrated “unsurpassed achievements in providing outstanding food protection services in the community.”
The selection jury noted that they were particularly impressed by:
➢ Innovative and new ideas in the realm of consumer protection with technically savvy items like a phone application for consumers
➢ Transparency, with daily website posts
➢ Internationally recognized program with strong impacts felt across the United States and elsewhere
Toronto won for its restaurant inspection disclosure system – red, yellow, green signs on the doors. La Palette is acutely aware of how this system works.
And congrats on that, because on the 10th anniversary of its groundbreaking restaurant inspection disclosure program, Toronto Public Health has become the first non-U.S. health department to win a prestigious award for “unsurpassed achievement in providing outstanding food protection.”
The city’s health department will receive the 56-year-old Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award for DineSafe, an internationally recognized program that posts inspection results for Toronto eateries online and in their front windows.
So while Shamez is busy handing out the pharmacological version of Canadian horsemeat on the street (the EU will decline to accept American and Canadian sourced horsemeat come August 1, 2013, but it will still be good enough for his customers) I’ve been busy promoting this blog and the concept that horseslaughter and horsemeat are poor consumer and humane choices. Case in point – this blog, at the time of writing, has received over 2,000 hits on La Palette related subject matter only, not including Facebook penetration or hits on the individual images. Some of my La Palette blogs rank higher in Google than the restaurant website itself, depending on search terms and the geographical area of the searcher. It’s the Queen Street West version of the Occupy movement. Social media plays a huge role in shaping the views of society on a myriad of issues, and those media are also playing a role in shaping people’s opinions of dining establishments. Social media has dramatically changed the world of protesting.
“Things like spreading a message and amplifying a message to lots of people are really effective when done online,” said Matt Stempeck, a research assistant at MIT’s Center for Civic Media.