"Dishwasher Confidential: Food Poisoning" is the story of one Vintage Aficionado's survival in the culinary underbelly of one small college town. This rant contains harsh language and intense descriptions of bodily functions. "Dishwasher Confidential" is a frank, honest and genuinely disturbing account of filthy restaurants and the desperate employees who work in them. Do Not Read This Rant If You Are Easily Offended or Grossed-Out! Read this rant at your own peril!

Dishwasher Confidential: Food Poisoning


Eric Renderking Fisk - March 4th, 2008  Bookmark and Share


2008 WinterMy goal for 2008 was to write two rants a week and a review of SOMETHING. Anything, from a movie, a music album, a book, or a restaurant review as part of "Dishwasher Confidential."

One of the reasons why I wanted to do a website is to have a place where Vintage Aficionados and Classic Film Fans can discuss topics that are also beyond our favorite subjects and deal with issues that effect us with our unique perspective. The first rule in hosting a website is to constantly put up fresh and new content, and sometimes that means going "off topic." This is so a far off "The Map," you need a GPS device to find "home." The only ways I can tell you it's relevant to The Fedora Chronicles is to tell you that it's a true story about a guy wearing a fedora (me) and this is a warning not to let the genuine vintage fixtures or retro style betray you. You're free to walk out of any restaurant at any time if you think it's unhealthy... even when you work in it.

Meanwhile, I have three restaurants I want to review for you. I have all the pieces ready to go and be put together - but I just can't yet. I want to give shouts out to them, I just don't dare to because I don't want Google to catalog their names with an article with the words "Food Poisoning" in the title. I don't want them to be punished through guilt by distant association, which happens in this rant to other restaurants.

Trust me - there's going to come a time when I'll write a good review here. Just not now. I'm working to hard to not throw up.

This is obviously a rant about how one bad experience can ruin your appetite for a long time, and can do damage to other restaurants at the same time...

First, Three orders of business.

The first is about my plug for Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. This is a book I want all food lovers to read because it's funny, poetic and gross at the same time. It's the perfect reason why you should learn to pick your restaurants better or learn to stay home and cook for yourself. I stole the idea for this column from Mr. Bourdain and I think he deserves credit. You'll keep seeing a link from his book until he tells me to stop, he writes a sequel, or every member of The Retroverse has a copy and has actually read it.

Second: I got two types of reactions for "Dishwasher Confidential: New Year's Special." There are those who read it and loved it, and those who hated it because they didn't read it or understand it. Here's the cliffnotes: I ranted about why going out to eat on New Years is a bad idea. OK, I'm sorry - I'm wrong. I apologize for that generalization: It's a HORRIBLE idea if you pick the wrong restaurant. I wrote it from the perspective of someone who was actually at one of the horrible restaurants that you shouldn't go to on New Years. Or any other day out of the year for that matter. Nights are a different story if you're only there to drink. 

You might want to re-read "Dishwasher Confidential: New Year's Special" to get the general idea of the location of where this story takes place, and some of the characters involved.

Third: This is a rant about people throwing up and becoming violently sick. If you already have a sick stomach or are easily squeamish, read  something else.

With that said, on to my rant... My bout of food poisoning this past weekend jogged my memory of the first brush with this time of culinary induced illness back in in the early 1990's.

Third: This is a rant about people throwing up and becoming violently sick. If you already have a sick stomach or are easily squeamish, read  something else.

With that said, on to my rant... My bout of food poisoning this past weekend jogged my memory of the first brush with this time of culinary induced illness back in in the early 1990's.

Hepatitis Scare: Flashback to Yesteryear and The Valdez Fields...

The Fedora Chronicles DineIf you can imagine, as impossible as it might seem - for a short time there was a worse restaurant then The Valdez Fields in that college town. It was a Middle Eastern Deli that was ran by some genuinely sketchy people. [Spare me your hate-mail. The restaurant wasn't a pit because it was run by Middle Eastern people, it was a pit because the people were dirty... they just happen to be Middle Eastern.] In The Bennington Building on the ground floor there was space for a dinner and lunch counter-style restaurant. The Architecture was right out of the 1920's and 1930's and the previous owner kept it up quite well. You would have thought that I would have loved to go there, but the fact is... after my first visit I avoided it like the plague. Which it actually had.

My first (and only) visit there was when I went to grab a quick bite to eat from some place other then The Valdez Fields. I had 45 minutes before I had to report and I thought that I would order something off the Deli Style lunch menu and do something ethnic.

First, I had to answer nature's call and went to the bathroom. I went in and I'll never forget the sight. The walls were all painted this weird Royal Blue, but the color was fade and chipped. There was something about the smell that was intensely vulgar. And there were two hand prints over the toilet, and two on either wall of the stall...

Looking down on the floor looked to be some blood, another male bodily fluid, and excrement. It looked as if there was some consensual Male-On-Male sensual violence. In the next stall on the walls, excrement was spread on the wall as if someone was desperate and ran out of toilet paper. Which, wouldn't you know it... there was none.

I was now no longer hungry nor had to use the bath room. I went to my apartment, (which, sadly enough, was also in The Bennington Building) showered and changed my clothes and put the ones that I had worn in a plastic bag with a knot to seal the top.

By the time I arrived at The Valdez Fields, I told my manager Ray what had happened and what I saw and explained to him why I was late. I kid you not, there are few times in my life I have heard grown men gag from a description of what someone else had seen. Ray was about the second, I think he really vomited in his mouth.

Flash-Forward a couple of weeks later, and the Health Department shut down the restaurant across the street because one of the cooks was tested positive for Hepatitis and a string of complaints (which came first, I have no idea...) Serious stuff. I've never actually seen what a quarantined restaurant looked like until then. There was some official looking paper with the door kept closed with a pad-lock someone else put there... nobody, not even the owners or workers could enter. It was that bad.

This is where the story should end... right? I mean, the place had a really bad reputation and I don't know of anyone who actually ate there.

The Fedora Chronicles DineOh! Wait! I forgot one. There was actually one person who actually had eaten there. One after noon between the lunch rush and the dinner rush, Stephanie, one of the waitress's who worked at The Valdez Fields got a wrap of some kind. She ate half of it and threw the rest out for reasons that were both mysterious and curious. When a waitress runs down to the bathroom, washes her hands, then runs the street to the drug store and buys mouth wash and then goes back to the restaurant's bathroom to wash her mouth out three times (I didn't count, but I think Turtle did...) you know something really bad happened. She bit into something that was either vulgar, unsanitary, or still moving and tried to crawl away after being bitten in half. (I forgot to mention, The Bennington Building had a bad case of cockroaches.)

I remember some one (maybe it was her) screaming "Oh, My God! Oh, My God! Oh, My Gaud!" over and over again... and not in the height of ecstasy, either.

Ike was the first guy I had ever known who was into World War II re-enacting. He was about 10 years older then I was, always war Military colors like Khaki or Olive Drab and had authentic Horn-rimmed glasses. He also had a real dry and sick sense of humor. He said in a rye tone: "She got a bad dose of something, I'll bet'cha!" We all looked at him at the same time with varied reactions.

Ray, the manager locked the door and put the "Closed" sign up, and yelled at Turtle to get his kit and clean the bathroom. Everyone loved to yell at Turtle, the only guy ever to work at The Valdez Fields and never get out of washing dishes. I was there for two weeks and had already moved up to making salads, pasta dishes and prep-work. Years later and just after I finished with school in the area, I went to say good-bye to the folks at The Valdez Fields. Turtle was still wearing the same Irish news-boy cap and the filthy apron while working the dish machine and juggling loads of dishes that were too overwhelming for him.

Turtle went down to the bathroom, we hared muffled screaming, and he came back up stairs: "She's brushing her teeth, and throwing up" he said with his tale between his legs.

There was just this long, weird silence... the wait staff, the kitchen crew, and the management sans Billy Presley Hazelwood who was on the phone with Ray on our end. Ray gave Hazelwood the story... three times. I don't think he got it.

Ray came up to me and asked: "You didn't eat at that restaurant, did you?" I looked at him square in the eye and told him no. I asked if he wanted me to rehash the whole story, and he shook his head: "That's not necessary..."

Once the screaming from down stairs stopped, and someone drove Stephanie home for the night, The Valdez Fields opened for the dinner croud as if nothing happened. It wouldn't remain so for long.

Move On To Part 2:

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