The Curmudgeon had occasion to stumble across this article recently while searching for useful allies in his bid for world domination and was slightly taken aback. Granted, The Curmudgeon is used to hearing about extremely stupid food-related stories out of New York City, generally involving “telling the citizens what’s best for them”. But still, at first The Curmudgeon was not sure whether to think this was a real article or something that had been mistakenly copied from The Onion’s front page.
It’s difficult to tell anymore.
The Curmudgeon actually started reading this article to Mrs. Curmudgeon, and got almost 2/3rds of the way through the article before she believed that it was real and not just some crazy satire viral intartubez Jimmy Kimmel thing that those meddling kids read in between X-fueled twerking sessions. Mais, non. It is indeed quite real. Real, and so incredibly stupid that The Curmudgeon is rethinking his plans to visit NYC anytime in the near future. But perhaps a line-by-line is in order to show just how ridiculous government oversight of food has gotten.
CBS 2 Investigation: Underground — And Illegal — NYC Dinner Parties
Clandestine Gatherings Popping Up All Over — And Are Completely Unregulated
Seriously, the headline is straight out of a supermarket tabloid, something that would be found next to this year’s Bat-Baby or whatever underage sallow-chested manchild Demi Moore happens to be humping this week. The worst kind of sensationalism. Unregulated dinner parties! God forbid! They probably drink the blood of inner-city babies at these parties! Or maybe even worse — unpasteurized milk!
As you sit down to dinner, this story illustrates eating out like you have never experienced before. We are talking about super-secret, illegal dining experiences hosted in homes.
To reiterate what the writer is talking about here: Dinner Parties. Not dinner parties eating hand-clubbed baby seal. Just regular, everyday, ordinary dinner parties. What makes them “illegal”? That people chip in some money to pay for the food. Because no one has ever done this at a church potluck, or a college tailgating party, or anything else ever. THEY MUST BE STOPPED.
CBS 2 investigative reporter Tamara Leitner went undercover to see firsthand how this underground world works.
It may look like a dinner party, but it’s really an underground supper club.
The diners are a mix of New Yorkers and tourists. CBS 2’s undercover cameras captured one experience — eight people who didn’t know each other eating a meal in a stranger’s home.
Think proving that they’re strangers means anything in a court of law? Is this sounding completely insane to anyone else yet? Satire article, right? At this point, you may be starting to ask yourself just how this reporter managed to get her head so far up her own ass.
That hostess, Naama Shafi, writes about food but is not a chef. Leitner found her through a website, which connects amateur foodies and professional chefs in 20 different countries with people who want unique dining experiences.
Sacrilege! The hostess isn’t even a professional chef! Noooooooo!
Clandestine dinner parties like the one Leitner attended have become more common in New York City. And insiders told Leitner they are completely unregulated.
Allow the Curmudgeon to fill you in on how these “insiders” told the reporter these parties are unregulated.
“Hey, is this dinner regulated?”
“I mean, does anyone from the health department come here and inspect these dinner parties to make sure they aren’t violating code?”
“Hahahahahahaha! Um, no. Why would they?”
“Well, wouldn’t they fall under the health department’s jurisdiction?”
“You’re funny. I like you.”
“So nobody’s inspected these?”
“…oh mercy, you’re serious. I…I’m so sorry. Were you dropped on your head as a baby?”
“So that’s a ‘no’, then?”
When asked at the dinner, “do you ever worry about getting caught?” Michael Patlazhan responded, “I definitely do.”
Patlazhan is a professional chef who also hosts underground supper clubs. He cooks with blow torches, nitrogen and even a vacuum machine to create unusual meals.
“That’s the things with supper clubs, they’re in a sense illegal just because they are underground no one knows about them. So if the Health Department did come they would obviously shut it down. So there’s always a little bit of worry,” Patlazhan said.
Why? Why would the health department care? Why do they care what eight people may or may not pay someone to do IN THEIR OWN HOME?!?!
This is the point at which The Curmudgeon considers starting his own supper club just to spite the morons who think this sort of thing needs regulation. Maybe he’ll even put out a giant cellar of salt in the middle of the table. Maybe serve drinks in glasses larger than 16 ounces. Maybe he won’t even tell his diners what the calorie counts of the foods are! Maybe he’ll even light some pipe tobacco where the diners eat!
But some critics have concerns about these unregulated dinner parties.
Who? Who would have concerns about such a thing? The Curmudgeon is dying to know.
“It definitely falls into a gray area,” said Leon Lubarsky, owner of Letter Grade Consulting.
Lubarsky’s staff of retired New York City health inspectors advises restaurants on health regulations.
There’s nothing that needs to be said about this, right? Readers of this site are smart enough to put two and two together on this one. Yes? Yes, of course. And I’m sure that this consultant would never come in to a location that’s received violations, take some money, and then “mediate” with his old buddies down at the health department to make those code violations just go away, would he?
Of course not.
When asked if the underground restaurants should be regulated, Lubarsky told Leitner, “Yes, they should be regulated by the same system that regulates every restaurant in New York City.”
Translation: “I want to get paaaaaaaiiiiiiiiid!”
The Health Department refused to discuss the issue on camera but in a statement told CBS 2: “In New York City, people who offer meals to the public for money are considered food service establishments and need permits. The city does not allow meals to be served to members of the public in someone’s home.”
Oh, well that clears it up. You can’t serve a member of the public in someone’s home. Wait, who is “a member of the public”? Oh, right. EVERYONE! So you can never, ever serve food in your own home to anyone else. ‘Cuz it’s illegal. ‘Cuz you might make someone sick or something. So that neighborhood BBQ The Curmudgeon is planning, where people he’s not met from the area will be invited, and will chip in a few bucks to defray the cost of the meat, is breaking the law. I bet when you started reading this article you didn’t know you were on the blog of a hardened criminal, did ya? That’s right. Maybe next week this space will discuss the wanton destruction of mattress tags!
So, Leitner went back to ask Shafi about the dinner parties.
Leitner: “You guys are breaking the law by serving people meals and charging.”
Shafi: “Yeah. The reality is they are here and people really love them.”
In the meantime, foodies like Shafi and professional chefs like Patlazhan continue to host these covert supper clubs.
“I want to do it as much as possible so my goal would be to do it two to three times a week, so kind of like a restaurant on the weekends,” Patlazhan said.
But if caught hosting an underground dinner party, the hosts could be fined $2,000 and ordered to shut down.
Blah, blah, blah. What a horrible thing to have happen. I’m assuming that, by showing concern about this subject, New York City is admitting that it has completely eliminated all other crime in the city? No murder, assault, robbery, even a car accident where someone got injured? Not even a new Anthony Weiner tape?
The price to get into one of these underground supper clubs ranges from $40 to several hundred. Some of the hosts say they are in it simply for the love of food, while others hope to turn a profit.
Does anyone else hear the absolute and utter disdain just dripping from the author’s prose at that last sentence? How dare someone try to make money by serving others food they really want to eat. How dare you. Maybe everyone everywhere should stop cooking altogether and just let the government serve all the meals! I’m sure that would be delicious.
Look, here’s the thing. There’s a lot of idiotic regulation on food, and little of it — if any — does anything to protect the consumer. The Curmudgeon hasn’t yet found time to write about how crazy some of the health department’s antics are, but this is a good starting point because it’s so obviously moronic. It’s sort of stretching the idea to its logical breaking point. Soon you can start to see the idiocy in sending actual SWAT teams to raid Amish dairy farmers and steal their raw milk from them, or shutting down church potlucks, or telling charities they can’t feed the homeless, or demanding teeny tiny farmers pay ungodly amounts of money to get their meat butchered at some mega-huge packing plant just because it meets some asinine regulation that has nothing to do with safety. Remember the last several foodborne outbreaks have all happened at government-inspected plants, with raw vegetables, most of them organic. So when you hear about those stories, remember this one.
Because this is stupid, right? Everyone knows it’s stupid. And if you don’t, you’re an idiot. The Curmudgeon means that from the bottom of his cold, blackened heart.