Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wave 3 News Response

As with anyone who has followed the chain of events over the past couple of days you are probably aware of the Wave 3 news investigative report conducted by Eric Flack about the cleanliness of food trucks.  The link to the report is at the bottom of this post but the idea is that trucks are not as clean as brick and mortar establishments.  This was "proven" by Louisville Metro Health Department Representative, Connie Mendel laughing on camera when asked if she ate at food trucks (No, really.  She was that unprofessional), by the undercover filming of a temporary mobile food vendor using tubs of dirty water to wash utensils and by the owner of French Indo Canada doing a poor job of articulating his use of his 3 compartment sinks.  Let's address each of these:

#1 - A representative from the Health Department publicly damning mobile food operations is completely irresponsible and unprofessional.  Sure, established food truck customers know better but what about the people that just aren't sure?  This confirmed their suspicions.  The real question that should be asked though is that if the Health Department doesn't think we're safe to eat from then why are they continuing to issue permits?  Aren't they there for the sole purpose to protect public health?

#2 - They chose to highlight a BBQ vendor that operates on a 14 day permit.  In case you're not familiar with the difference, these types of operations do not have legal plumbing and therefore are not eligible for the Statewide annual permit that most of the food trucks you're familiar with have.  Now, this doesn't make them bad.  There are plenty of wonderful, safe, mobile vendors that work on temporary permits HOWEVER this was obviously not who they chose to film.  This gross, sensationalist tactic resulted in giving the viewer the impression that all food trucks operate in this manner.  Simply not true. Statewide Annual permit holders are required to have a licensed master plumber draw up and install their plumbing systems which costs somewhere to the tune of $2000+; not the $20 worth of bus tubs the vendor in the clip was using.

#3 - The entire food truck community let out a collective groan each of the 35 times we've seen the clip and heard Rob Ross of French Indo Canada explain how he did not use his sinks.  I make no excuses for anyone but if you've ever spoken to Rob for longer than 5 minutes you know he is just not always very well spoken.  I know for a fact that any trucks I have ever boarded or spoken to use their sinks.  I mean, why wouldn't we?  What Rob failed to explain was that the 3 compartment sinks (for washing dishes) are typically not in use during service.  Why?  Because we're busy serving during the 3 or 4 hour window we're open and leaving people at the window who are trying to order to take a 'dish washing break' just doesn't make sense.  What does make sense?  Bringing extra of everything so that if something does fall or become contaminated you can quickly take it to the sink and start using a fresh clean one without breaking stride.  And of course, if something needs to be washed we immediately wash it.  Again, why would we make a $2000 investment into sinks and just defiantly not use them and run the risk of making customers sick?  We wouldn't.  That's stupid.  So no, we don't typically find ourselves in need of using our 3 compartment sinks during service but we do use them after service to clean the things we used during service.  Make sense?  Good.  Let's move forward.

After a huge public outcry on Twitter and Facebook Mr. Flack decided to do a follow up story.  Trucks were given the impression that this follow up would show both sides of the story.  I requested to be contacted for this but was not.  The follow up was nothing more than Councilman Kevin Kramer explaining that the health department was going to start issuing the same letter placards for food trucks that restaurants already have and it was presented almost as if we had better watch out; as if it were a punishment.  Had Mr. Flack bothered to do his research he would have learned that we have actually been pushing for this to happen anyway.  Do you know how much of an uphill battle it is to prove to the uneducated consumer that we're clean and safe?  We got 100% on our last inspection.  I'd be thrilled to be able to post that big letter A.  This also makes each truck more accountable for what they're doing and their safe practices because it ultimately and very publicly will affect their business and sales.  So, don't threaten me with a good time, Kevin Kramer!

In the end I realize these sensationalist stories are all about getting ratings.  I don't fault Eric Flack for doing the story but I do fault him giving so much weight to someone as obviously biased and ignorant as Connie Mendel.  I also think the focus on the clearly, strategically chosen mobile vendor they decided to highlight was unfair.  Grind alone on Twitter earned them tons of completely undeserved ratings last night for this foolish story and had it resulted in a more fair follow up story I might have been alright with it but since it did not - here we are.  We along with all the legally permitted food trucks in this city, excuse my language, bust our asses trying to do it all and be it all for our customers.  There is not one food truck owner in this city that hasn't fully thrown themselves into their business financially, creatively and emotionally.  These trucks pay our bills, help us take care of our families and give us an outlet to be creative in a way that most people don't get the opportunity to do.  I can only speak for Jesse and I (and as you all know we've been and are very public about how we got to where we are) but we have over $30,000 invested in this business and I couldn't even begin to tell you how many hours.  We have worked over 2 years building a brand that we're exceptionally proud of and for one woman from the health department and one guy from a news station to tarnish that for ratings, I take issue.  So I encourage you to do what you've been doing since the beginning.  Support your local trucks that you love and defend us the way you have been and how I've heard you defend at our windows and events to the haters and don't let this nonsense get us down.  Last night we proved that we're an army and we won't stand for bullying or unsubstantiated claims.  Keep on truckin'

Liz Huot



  1. You go girl!! I am re-tweeting this and will send daily tweets to Eric Flack, The Mayor and the Health Department until this is fixed. As I have posted all over, the licensed trucks are cleaner than most restaurant kitchens I have been in.

  2. This right here is an epic counter statement. Well done.

  3. The fact that we haven't had a grind burger in a while has NOTHING to do with fear of the food trucks. It's scheduling (and yes, we're jonesing hard for a Grind burger). In fact, because of the increased exposure, I trust most of the food truck owners I know more than the brick and mortar restaurants. Let me ask you, how many times have you seen the kitchen of a restaurant? Usually you can't. It's walled off and not visible to the public. You know how often I see the kitchen of the food trucks? Every single time I order. Everything is visible and if it doesn't look clean / sanitary, guess what, it's right out there where you can see it. That being said, I think it's time for a pork-belly burger.

  4. As someone who's really not obsessed with the food truck culture, I'll say that this report did nothing to make me avoid them. They promote "ARE FOOD TRUCKS DANGEROUS?" Then show me some guy grilling under a tent, operating out of a travel trailer. That's a fail. Also, the owner of "French Indo Canada" seemed like he was just being sarcastic to the news-tard, anyway. I'll still come to the events and enjoy all of the great burgers, tacos, "Q", fries and dogs!

  5. I've walked into restaurant dining rooms that would make Jabba the Hut vomit that had 98% on the door. I love Grind and the people who run it. I love this response from Liz and Jesse and I support them whenever I see them. It's unfortunate that we accept the congealed, overdosed products the fast-food chains toss out their windows to us instead of seeking out local, inspired, unique foods made by people we know and trust. Just because it's regulated by the government doesn't make it safe or sensible.

  6. Well said, Liz. My family loves Grind and will continue to support yours and the other trucks who consistently put out tasty food. Keep it up!

  7. Well said! Kudos! I think we should all boycott Wave3.

  8. Brilliant retort Liz. Your food and your truck are of the highest quality. That will remain a constant and that is the reason for your success and community support.

  9. I've eaten from the trucks many times and have never gotten ill from the experience and will continue to do so when I have the chance.

    It would really be nice if the media would report the news instead of trying [unsuccessfully] to make it.

  10. Very well said! I will continue to support Grind & other food trucks as much as I can. I found it interesting in Wave's follow up that they compared food trucks without letter grades to fast food chains (that advertise on Wave) with As in their windows. Given a choice, I'd chose Grind & other food trucks over fast food chains. Thanks for your excellent product & eloquence

  11. Brava! I am incredibly disappointed in the troll reporting of Eric Flack did in his incredibly biased piece trying to shape a news story into what he wanted it to be instead of reporting honest findings.

    I am completely disgusted with the remarks by the health official Connie Mendel. If she didn't think food trucks were safe I would expect her in the official capacity to shut them down not make snide remarks. I have written an email of complaint and I advise others do the same.

    But I would like to commend the small busines owners in this community who have invested themselves in providing us with delicious mobile food options and adding to the diverse food scene. I appreciate the time and effort you put forth.

  12. The safety regulations are mostly silly in B&M restaurants. For the most part, they privilege chain restaurants, who often receive advance warning from their colleagues at other locations and can quickly clean the store. I just watched the story and found it quite problematic, especially the way they seemed to begin their story insinuating that food trucks are less cleanly, even though there were absolutely no documented cases of people getting sick. Personally, I'd rather have my utensils cleaned by someone with an actual investment in the business rather than some young punk hidden in the back of a restaurant who could give a shit whether customers get sick.

  13. I love Grind burgers... it puts a smile on my face whenever I see your truck at one of our events!!

  14. You tell them Liz!! The whole thing reeks of manure!!! I tell everyone I know to try the food trucks and there is no risk to trying the legitimate food trucks! YOu all hustle and do a lot to support each other and other small local business!!

  15. If you expected Wave3 to give a fair and accurate reporting that isn't just pandering to get readers then you are fighting the wrong battle here.

    Can someone please tell me what "Cheese sauce at hazardous temperatures" means?

    "Cooks without hairnets" sounds like a band name.

    Apparently Louisville city code requires not only a hand washing sink but a 3 compartment sink also?

    I'm sure with almost 50 new food trucks opening this year not everyone is installing these $2000 sinks.

    Honestly though if you don't like what you see in that video as a foodie you might as well never eat out again because many places are much worse at brick-and-mortar restaurants.

    1. Actually, with the $2000 - that's absolutely true. I may have been unclear when I said it was for the sinks. It's for the installation of the sinks. A master plumber has to be registered and permitted to be licensed as such. This runs between $1800 and $2300 typically. I'm not aware of any statewide permitted truck that has not paid this. It includes the initial riser diagram which must be approved by the state plumbing board and then once it's installed the initial inspection must be done with the master plumber there. If anyone got around this then they committed major fraud.

      Also, yes, you must have a hand washing sink and 3 compartment sink for doing dishes since most of us use our trucks as our commissaries.

  16. Wave3's "investagative" news isn't any better journalism than the National Enquirer. Frankly even their regular news is as bad, full of opinion with a sprinkling of facts and a light sprinkling at that. It amazes me that anyone watches any local news casts on any channel. More than that I abhor attacking someone's livlihood or life merely for the sake of sensationalistic filler and ads to get people to watch, I do not cut Eric Flack any slack because being a party to this type of "journalism" shows a total lack of integrity.

  17. really interesting post. I agree with you andrew. I love burger also.

  18. Hello, I am in Arizona. I had a health inspector tell me "I hate food trucks I just close them down". Awesome, as the owner of a food truck I really enjoyed that comment. Recently I had another run in with him, my permit expired and he told me I was closed. It was a computer error and when I confronted him about that he said " I wouldve shut you down anyway" Why I asked "You looked out of compliance, it didnt look like your water was running" Mind you he didnt get out of truck to inspect me, he couldnt see into my truck, and at the time i was actually washing dishes, with running water! So like anyone whose had enough I reported the inspector to the county. We just had a nice meeting, I understand hes getting more training, I am now allowed to do things like have knives on my truck which he had said i couldnt, and I can now have a fair inspection, which I never have had. Anyway reason for my commenting, I was asked at that meeting to help the county with their revised health codes, I cannot tell you how angry I was when I saw all the restrictions we face because we are a mobile kitchen. Some are fine like all food truck cooks must wear gloves, not true with brick and mortar kitchen staff but whatever. Others were just vague, food must be prepared so minimal prep happens on the truck, whats that mean, can I cut a cucumber or make a sauce? And though Im in the desert, we can only have 12x18 inch self closing service windows, really? 2 weeks out of the year we have flies. Anyway, sorry to hear your inspectors arent much better! Someday maybe people will realize we are commercial kitchens, we may have wheels, but we are still fully stocked with NSF equipment, and as we clean our vehicles, and empty our refrigerators everyday, we may actually be cleaner than most brick and mortars.


We look forward to hearing your feedback and comments. Remember though, this is a public forum so let's keep it clean and let's keep it nice. Thanks! Jesse and Liz