Award winners meet gold standard for restaurants
Less than 200 of the county's roughly 1,200 food establishments share a distinct honor.
Their owners are recipients of the 2008 Golden Plate Award from the Yavapai County Community Health Services department.
That means that people like Alan Grimley and Linda St. Thomas not only serve good food, but they also do it in a clean environment.
Grimley is co-owner of the Lone Spur Café at 106 W. Gurley St.
He quietly plugs away in a kitchen with a couple of other guys preparing 350 to 700 dishes on Sundays.
"It's a pretty small kitchen for the volume it does," he said.
This is the third consecutive year Grimley's restaurant appears on the list.
Grimley gives the credit to the guys and gals he works with.
"It's the employees - they're pretty well-trained here," he said.
Grimley says employees log temperatures on all equipment and food daily.
The kitchen crew began their training as dishwashers before becoming prep cooks and cooks.
A total of 179 food establishments ranging from popular food chains to community centers and schools got the honor, which is in its fourth year.
The establishments have and implement a food safety plan; have someone in charge with a current manager-level food safety certificate; and got through 2008 without a citation of a critical food-handling violation.
Cecil Newell, manager of the environmental health unit for the Yavapai County Community Health Services, says a critical violation is any violation that is likely to cause a food-borne illness, according to scientific studies.
Newell said examples of that include a cook or chef who fails to wash his hands before preparing a meal or someone who touches raw meat and then handles food on a plate.
Newell said other critical violations include failing to keep hot foods above 135 degrees Fahrenheit and cold foods at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Eight county inspectors visit the roughly 1,200 food establishments with a checklist of 28 different critical violations, according to Newell.
"It's really an accomplishment," he said. "It's not easy because your manager and owners have to be on the ball as well as your employees.
"There's a lot of things that can go wrong, especially when you're in a restaurant and it's busy."
Linda St. Thomas and her husband, Bruce, own Dad's Drive-Up Diner at 8617 Florentine Road in Prescott Valley. "I think it's because we're owner/operators - that's one of the reasons why we win that award so many times," she said. This is the second straight year Linda and Bruce received the honor.
Linda says that she and Bruce never compromise on their food quality and cleanliness.
That means they constantly on top of things at their restaurant and coming in on the weekends to clean.
"You're either waiting on customers, preparing (food) or cleaning constantly," she said.
Click the related story link below for the complete list of Gold Plate Award recipients.