This morning I was surprised when a friend that I used to work with informed me that the job that I left in February of this year finally made channel 2 news (wsbtv) for their extreme nastiness.The sun pierced through the clouds and the angels began to sing. Now people can really know what kind of “fine dining” they are buying into. I am liberated from the job now so I can drop a few names and speak on what I know to be true due to my experience with the company…. Cafe Intermezzo in Atlanta’s Hartsfeild-Jackson International Airport was designed to be a calm piece of heaven in the midst of the busiest airport in the world. Structurally and design-wise it lived up to that goal. The menu is actually pretty good too. The ambiance was beautiful. The designer cakes and crystal chandeliers always attracted many fliers, especially celebrities. We would often serve guest like, Terrel Owens, Andre 3000, and even Kevin Hart to name a few. However, behind those swinging doors to the kitchen, it was a totally different story.
This news report brought back a quick flash of memories. I recognize the sandwich that the customer ordered. It appeared to be a turkey and swiss sandwich on tomato-foccacia bread. This particular sandwich is usually pre-made overnight and sold in the front deli case located between the bar and the to-go section (I used to be responsible for restocking the items in this case). The report states that the customer ordered the sandwich one morning earlier this month before taking a work related flight out to Miami. This is a customer who frequents the airport for business travel quite a bit. What he thought was Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of the sandwich proved to be otherwise. The cheese started moving. He then took out his phone and recorded the horrifying footage that you just saw. This fresh sandwich was garnished with maggots.
As I read the article, I was appalled to find out that the restaurant management completely denied having anything to do with the customer finding maggots on his sandwich. Instead of taking ownership and looking at obvious issues plaguing the establishment, they blamed the bread vendor stating that the maggot-bread came from them. What is interesting about this is that the restaurant would receive a bread order every other night. The bread always came fresh and wrapped up. In my time of working for the company (nearly 3 years) I never once seen a received shipment of bread that wasn’t up to par. In fact, it always smelled like it just came out of the oven and was soft. You could smell the bread through the bags that it came in. I bet money that Cafe Intermezzo never got rid of the embarrassing fruit fly infestation that was taking over the restaurant. It got to a point where the fruit flies were so bad, they would literally bite the employees, especially me. I used to itch and have small bug bites all over from scratching so bad. It got to a point where I would leave the job on some days feeling disgusting and depressed.
This Cafe Intermezzo is indeed affiliated with the popular Atlanta chain however, this one is ran by a concessions company located in the airport called Airport Retail Management (ARM). This cafe was the company’s first attempt at crossing over into food from the retail world. During my time with the company, I have witnessed many changes such as: mixed up management and huge turnover rates. ARM offers one of the best benefit packages in the airport but when you look at some of the things that you have to endure (especially if you worked in the cafe and not an actual retail store), it just wasn’t enough. The original Cafe Intermezzo was founded by Brian Olsen in Atlanta in the 70’s. Since it’s birth, more restaurants have been added and the name has grown. Cafe Intermezzo is one of Atlanta’s best kept European cuisine secrets. Out of all of the restaurants, this one is the most poorly operated one and the fact that it is located in the airport does not make it any better. The airport is not strict enough on their guidelines for their restaurant inspections, granted you would think so considering how strict the airport is about other things. I have been through numerous inspections and at the end after everyone has flexed-up, I couldn’t help but think, “How in the world did we get an “A”. I will never understand how we would get inspected and the inspectors never noticed the fruit flies. Employees would literally have to shake out their clothing and bags before they left the premises. If you failed to do so, you could very much transport them to your home like roaches. That’s just how out of hand the problem grew to be. That is why this situation does not surprise me. Granted, I have been gone from the company for nearly six months but given the past history of how the company operates, I know this customer’s complaint is the truth.
What makes it so bad is that, this has nothing to do with kitchen management at all. The kitchen management for the restaurant is pretty solid. It is the surrounding chain of command that is the issue. In relation to restaurant operations, it is completely messed up. You have to go through way too many people to get something done and the Big Whigs that you often times have to ask repeatedly for assistance, do not care. The main focus is the money rolling in. This is why there has been such a high turnover rate since the restaurant opened in the airport in December of 2009.There is no sense of urgency in relation to operations and to be honest, you can tell that none of the higher ups have ever really worked in the restaurant industry (your college days do NOT count). The AC in the kitchen broke late last spring. It took this multi-million dollar company until the end of the summer to replace it after things nearly got to be too real and threats of getting Osha involved were made. Employees were losing weight and customers began to complain before this simple issue was rectified.
In concluding this article, I will say this:
You can’t trust the scores that you see for any inspection at any food establishment. It does not matter how pretty the building or food looks. When it comes down to your health and safety and someone else making your food, you have to literally look at everything. If you notice flies, don’t patronize. If you notice it is too hot, don’t patronize, if you notice that the employees look like they absolutely loathe being there even if it is a fancy establishment, DO NOT PATRONIZE. I thank God that this customer did not eat this sandwich.
The Clayton County Board of Health informed the customer that they found no citable violations at Cafe Intermezzo after they inspected it DAYS LATER after this complaint was made. Come on now, do you really think that they wouldn’t try to cover any tracks made? I have not worked in the airport since the end of February but I can say this: Those restaurants were not inspected once a month. My jaw hit the floor when I read that. This matter is an issue that falls on the hands of ARM’s upper management and The airport. Someone is lying.