In George Orwell's 1933 debut roman a clef novel "Down and Out in Paris and London", the author asserted that the more high-class an establishment in Paris, the more disgusting its kitchen could be counted on being. We certainly don't feel that holds true today, but the New York Times has a piece this morning about the closure of Brasserie la Côte Basque in the wake of the health scandal that stemmed from a rat rodeo in a West Village Taco Bell. The widely publicized downtown event resulted in the firing of at least one health dept. inspector and the closure of dozens of restaurants that were quickly re-evaluated.
It's interesting that the offical name of the city's health dept. is the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, because the closure of his Brasserie seems to have been the equivalent off city officials arriving one day and disrupting chef-owner Jean-Jacques Rachou's mental mise en place, which is not just a chef's workstation, but can also signify a way of life. The restaurant passed its latest health inspection three weeks ago, but Rachou seems unable to muster the will to re-open.
“When this happened, I was really destroyed,” Mr. Rachou said, standing outside the restaurant, which was dark, its bentwood chairs stacked on tables.
“I would say in the city, my kitchen is one of the 10 best,” Mr. Rachou said. “If not, it would go against my rules. They made an example of me.”
He added: “I don’t deserve it. Maybe I deserve it. I don’t know.”
While he waits to decide what to do next, approximately 40 employees are out of work, and it is said that the restaurant is foregoing $100,000 in revenues every week it remains closed. The article fleshes out all of the story's details: an imperious chef too busy to be bothered by an inspector under the gun to adhere to the letter of the law in the wake of a scandal, leniency removed from a system that attempted to accomadate well-meaning proprietors in the past, and a life-long restaurateur who seems to have lost his desire to run a kitchen and dining room in a few short months. The folks at food-blog Eater have a whole timeline of links, including what looks to be the online version of a coup de grâce.