Licensed to Fry, a Regulatory Forewarning

Here's a taste of what the great nanny state of California has been up to in its last legislative session -- in lieu of passing a budget.  Beware.  If California really is one step ahead of the rest of the nation, this is a glimpse of the regulatory silliness we all have to look forward to.

Last week, in the midst of a routine visit to our restaurant by our intrepid health inspector, she asked us what we planned to do about complying with the new Food Preparer Safety law.  It seems that our super-hero governor had just signed a bill requiring all persons involved in preparing and serving food to pass a food safety course and obtain a certification card good for three years.  This bill passed the legislature with only 2 dissenting votes.  It had the support of our restaurant lobby group, the California Restaurant Association.  With their cover, Republicans apparently felt free to vote for yet another absurd and expensive regulatory measure.  Legislative "analysis" deemed the bill as tax neutral. 

Right.  A quick calculation puts our share of the costs -- fee for class and test, time required on the clock -- at between $2,500 and $5,000 off the bottom line, depending on how the bureaucrats define food preparation and service.  

Worse is the creepiness of requiring every person involved in a particular enterprise to carry a license in order to work.  Surely, even at the height of the Soviet bureaucratic regime, the boys in the Kremlin basements peeling beets for the borscht didn't need a certification card to ply their trade.  A party card, sure. A card for peeling beets? Doubt it.

2011. A restaurant kitchen somewhere in California.  Breakfast shift.  A man with a clipboard enters:

"You, in the apron.  Step away from the range.  Do you have a permit for that spatula?"


"Whoa, Amigo.  Easy now, drop the knife.  Slowly with your left hand, show me your license to chop lettuce."

I have been in the restaurant business for 38 years.  I've been a dishwasher, prep cook, line cook, busboy, waiter, bartender, sommelier, assistant manager, general manager, bookkeeper, and owner, master of my domain.  Now I need a state certified permit card to scramble eggs? 

As they say, one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.  But, hey, at least the weather's nice.

In any case, this time next year I will be: Kevin Boss, Restaurateur -- Licensed To Fry (with trans-fat free oil, naturally.)