MOUNT VERNON — Chen’s Buffet and Grill is once again open for business after the decision to reinstate its food operations license was announced Tuesday by the Knox County Board of Health. The local Chinese buffet received a license suspension on April 27 by the board of health after numerous health and sanitary violations were noted. The suspension was extended on May 25 when adequate improvements were not made within the initial 30-day suspension period.
Reinspection was conducted June 10 by sanitarian Suzanne Dapprich and environmental health director Nate Overholt to determine if the violations were corrected to the point where Chen’s could conduct business safely.
“We did find a couple violations,” said Overholt. One violation was a rice scoop sitting in a dirty container. “We notified them of that, and they corrected that immediately,” said Overholt. Secondly, the sushi bar didn’t appear to be working properly as it was reporting temperatures at 45 to 48 degrees when it should be 41 degrees or below. “I believe it’s the equipment that’s faulty,” said Overholt. “So we told them that they can’t use that equipment until we approve that it’s holding acceptable temperatures. Sushi should be on a ‘made to order’ deal until we can verify that it (equipment) can hold good temperatures.” He reported that the hot bars were all holding good temperatures and that the overall cleaning has improved.
Attending Tuesday’s hearing for Chen’s Buffet were Shu Chen and Chen Hui Chen. Working with the Chens as a translator was Yawen Lin. Overholt said that a 19-page document of standard operating procedures was submitted by the Chens from a Serv-Safe course instructor that he is currently looking over. He was assured that the procedures were to be translated to Mandarin Chinese so that the Chens could fully understand all the proper procedures.
When asked by Dr. Keith Plocki if he thought that the Chens have a better understanding of the regulations and implementation of them, Overholt stated, “They’re making vast improvements.” Dapprich added, “They are making the effort.”
Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller then recommended that Chen’s license suspension be lifted with the following stipulations:
•It continues to show progress with no violations.
•Inspections be conducted weekly for one month, every other week for another month, and monthly for four more months.
•No sushi can be on the buffet until the cooling unit can maintain a temperature of 41 degrees.
•An English-speaking staff person must be available during all business hours.
All inspections during this period will be unannounced.
Yawen Lin, who has been working with the Chens as a translator, is reportedly moving away soon, but a replacement translator is being sought.
The board then gave its approval for the reinstatement of Chen’s food operations license, at which time Knox County Assistant Prosecutor Chip McConville returned it to the Chens.
“You can now open for business as soon as you are able to do so,” Miller told the Chens. “We hope that things will progress as they have done so far.”
“We want you to succeed, but we also have to look out for the health and safety of the people in Knox County,” said Dr. Scott Harmon to the Chens. “We were not trying to punish you in particular, we’re just trying to protect our citizens. We hope that you can go back into business and do a wonderful job.”
The Knox County Board of Health will next meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 22.