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Salmonella, My Old Friend ...
By Thomas Emmon Pisano
US Correspondent

Salmonella: a rod shaped bacterium found in the intestine that can cause food poisoning, gastroenteritis, and typhoid fever.

When I took on this project back in March of 2007 I thought I would go back to New Orleans, have some fun and good food, and study the restoration and the effects it was having on the city; instead I found that there was a certain amount of chaos boiling in the kitchens of some of the worlds most famous restaurants and booze hot spots.

One such joint is COOP'S PLACE in the 1100 block of Decatur Street, in the heart of the French Quarter; it holds the reputation for being the place to go for any holiday including Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras, which attracts millions of people to New Orleans for the food and the fun, yearly.

The owner, Jeff Cooperman, holds prestigious awards and credentials as a restaurateur, he has been a local business man here in this city for the last 23 years, he has done quite well I might add.
In April 2007 I went to Jeff Cooperman, after seeing a help wanted sign, I asked him for a job working in his kitchen, I secured the dishwashing position.

After a quick orientation and a brief lecture on some of the basic kitchen procedures I was the lone dishwasher in the place. This was hand dishwashing with four sinks in a row and one off to the side. I cannot begin to describe to you the hellish environment, which was created by this kitchen the situation was a nightmare to say the least. I was slipping around in mud, grease, and food, and to make things worse I was the only one who was working the dishwashing station so the total burden of cleaning the kitchen was upon me. The cooks were yelling and throwing dishes and the waiters and bartenders were screaming at me for this and that, along with the other things that make this kitchen even more of a place, which seems like the seventh level of hell. After nine hours of this madness you are ready to kill something and then it ends with the chore of cleaning up the mess that every one has made, it is all up to the dishwasher to make every thing clean again, but the job is too overwhelming for just one person.

Usually the task of carrying heavy bus trays and bringing food to tables was just part of the job required of kitchen help at Coop's Place, of which there are usually three helpers in the scullery that help with the prep and an assortment of other food related jobs were necessary to keep the kitchen running properly and cleanly. The whole point of this article is the observations I made while I was working at this food service place; the kitchen was filthy, literally it was a pigsty. There just was not enough help there to do the job properly, and when there was enough help the help that was hired was inadequate at best lacking in effectiveness and determination. The kitchen was filthy and had been so for quite a while and as far as I know remains filthy to this day.

During the day the prep for the kitchen is done outside and under less than sanitary conditions, in fact the food preparation technicians are in their own right filthy and of a slovenly nature; long haired, bearded, drug addicts (I literally mean drunk or stoned to the point of incompetence) who are most of the time either stoned or drunk during working hours. Many times during the shift we would all stop and have shots and beers or smoke some pot to help get through the shift. I have even seen on many occasions many members of the kitchen staff snorting cocaine. On several occasions Jeff Cooperman would pass a joint around to the staff during the shift, everyone though seemed to be happy and the food was produced basically with out a problem.

Many times I have observed food cooling outside uncovered and unattended while flies and cockroaches sample the cooling food. The floors are the worse of the conditions, which should be examined at Coop's, and a systematic change should be made before this place should be allowed to continue to operate.

Essentially, I have found that New Orleans is still a dirty little city with its hand out and is more interested in drunkenness than savoring the goodness, which is fine dining, the drunken rabble who sample Coop's fare would not know a Cream Brule from Cream Fresh. Really, if you stop and think of the situation you will be wasting your time trying to fix these little problems with the Cuisine here in this wasteland of booze and sensationalism, no one really cares. The only thing these people really care about is getting drunk for a reasonable price and filling their stomachs on food that does not cost too much. There are the standards like shrimp and oysters, which are really hard to make a mistake with, but if you put a lot of potatoes and Jambalaya with the dishes no one notices the inadequacies in the fare.

As I look into the blurry eyes of the people who are living and visiting here I have discovered that the visitors want, as a rule an easy drunk and spend a few days out of their minds. And when they wake up from their stupor they want to eat their fill of something good. While you take that into consideration you must figure that they will in a sober moment want to sight see some of the local historical sites, but drunkenness and eating is really all the average person wants here in New Orleans. That's right twenty-four hour drunkenness and nothing more than cheep booze and a safe place to get plastered. Where is the dignity in that?

I am of the opinion that New Orleans is not ready for the serious epicure or any of the cultural avenues which distinguish most cities like Paris or New York, right now New Orleans is still going through the 'Party, Party, Party,' phase of its development.

I was asked by some of the prominent people here in New Orleans not to be too hard on this city with my articles, that the recovery depends on the tourist dollar in order to survive, but I will tell you this; the actions that drunkenness and drug use spawn are close to being criminal. The city has also attracted an assortment of undesirables including 'skinheads,' 'grunge groups' and homeless from all walks of life.

The facts are that this city of New Orleans is letting a few things slide in the name of recovery, but from where I am sitting this kind of purposeful oversight is dangerous and will be hard to rectify in the future.

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Mr. Thomas Emmon Pisano, an electronics-engineer-turned professional writer, serves as US correspondent for The Seoul Times. A New Jersey native he has lived in California. He has started his writing career in 2003 and has authored four books including “No Murder Too Small” and Big Crimes Small Miracles.”






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