City Paper is not for tourists
Fig & Olive has repeatedly refused to answer questions from Washington City Paper about its salmonella outbreak, food preparations at a commissary in New York, and price increases. Today, the fine dining restaurant chain released its first statement to City Paper. (It continues to decline our interview requests.)
A Freedom of Information Act request by City Paper to the D.C. Department of Health revealed that the restaurant pre-prepared nearly 200 dish components—from risotto to ratatouille—at a central commissary in Long Island City, NY.
As City Paper initially reported, the commissary was closed in September. “It was always the company’s intention to close the commissary as we ramped up our in-house food preparation capabilities,” the statement reads.
The statement does not, however, address the timing of the commissary’s closure, which took place only about a week after the health department shut down the CityCenterDC restaurant because of a salmonella outbreak. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration had hoped to test food samples at the commissary for salmonella but never got the chance because production was suspended.
The statement goes on to say that Fig & Olive’s new corporate executive chef “has taken the lead in streamlining our food preparation process to ensure that we are able to create all sauces, dressings, etc. in house.” The statement does not say whether “etc.” includes things like desserts or breads, which were prepared at the commissary and would likely require a lot of additional space to make in-house.
“In addition, we have reduced the number of menu items and made additional changes in offerings, and, at the same time, we have intensified the training of our chef de cuisine at each of our locations,” the statement reads.
Some of the dishes that have been removed from the menu were removed at the behest of the D.C. Department of Health because they were linked to those who were sickened with salmonella.
Fig & Olive says in its statement that it used its commissary “to ensure consistency in food quality and service.” Many chains do indeed do this. But Fig & Olive operates upscale eateries that tout local farms and “genuine taste and seasonality” at the top of its menus. And as the response to our story has shown, most diners expected that the food was being made fresh, from scratch, on-site, especially for the high price point.
The statement claims that the truffle risotto was never frozen. However, Fig & Olive’s own master recipe book for its commissary, obtained by City Paper, lists the final step for the truffle risotto as such: “Transfer the rice onto sheet trays and spread in a thin layer, place the sheet trays in the blast chiller as soon as possible to avoid overcooking.”
Fig & Olive does, however, admit to using Hellmann’s mayo in its truffle olive oil aioli. “Mayonnaise made in-house may pose a safety risk of raw egg. Using commercial mayonnaise was recommended to us by one of our food safety consultants,” the statement reads. Fig & Olive also says that its croquettes “need to be frozen regardless of where they are prepared in order to be shaped and fried.”
The statement does not address the reason for Fig & Olive’s recent price hikes.
Rather than address the City Paper‘s reporting directly, Fig & Olive publicist Aba Kwawu says the company’s CEO will talk to the Washington Post. We look forward to reading that story. And if Fig & Olive’s CEO should decide to answer our questions as well, we’re still here waiting.
UPDATE: And here it is! Read the Washington Post‘s Q&A with Fig & Olive president Greg Galy here.
Here’s Fig & Olive’s statement in full:
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