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This week’s 5 head-spinning moments: Reviewed and rated


Our popular recount of the week’s restaurant highs and lows includes a special feature this time around: a A gauge of each tidbit’s propensity to turn heads and drop jaws.  The mixed collection calls out for those warning labels, ranging as it does from rat relations to homes inspired by a famous chef. Added spice comes from a peek at what unionization means for one of the few fast-food chain to have units organized, along with a little-noticed twist to the industry’s bizarre bun crisis.

Read on, fully warned this time. The items are arranged by their potential to strain necks, from least to most

5. Burgerville adjusts to union life, with some aggravation
(Rating: 2 head spins)

The industry’s attention has been focused on the regional quick-service chain since the Industrial Workers of the World succeeded recently in organizing two of the brand’s 42 stores, with a game plan to unionize at least four more. This week, Burgerville provided the start of an answer to the pressing question: What happens now?

The outcome of the first round of contract negotiations: an agreement to meet at least four more times, and ground rules for how those get-togethers will proceed, Burgerville revealed.

Butthe brand also noted that its high-road response to the unionization efforts hasn’t spared it from attack by labor advocates. The Pacific Northwest chain set up a website where it can defend itself against false accusations that it fired union sympathizers, hired goons to intimidate pro-union staff, and bitterly fought the IWW. Even though it welcomed the organization of stores, an attitude that perplexed the industry, it’s still being bashed.

4. Turning the other bun
(Rating: 4 head spins)

A full-fledged supplier crisis erupted for the industry this week, with three chains yanking bread products from their Texas stores, or shutting down the units altogether, because the baked items had an off taste. The bold moves by In-N-Out, Whataburger and Raising Cane’s generally drew praise from the public, who saw the response as an affirmation of the brands’ commitment to quality.

However, compliments weren’t exactly heaped upon the restaurant that figured into a fourth bun-related development. Indeed, health officials reportedly shutthe establishment, a Burger King in Wilmington, Del., after seeing videos of the store’s buns being trampled by multiple rats.  By that time, the rat infestation was at least a week old; a passerby saw the vermin scampering inside a bag of buns and posted it on social media, where it was brought to the attention of authorities.

3. The week’s other short-term name change
(Rating: 4.5 head spins)

IHOP’s temporary change to IHOb set social media afire this week, but the impending adoption of another short-term restaurant alias holds far more head-spinning potential. For selected nights this summer, starting June 23, a farm team of the New York Yankees will pay homage to restaurant vermin by changing its name to the Staten Island Pizza Rats.

For the sake of those who may not have seen the videos: Twice, about two years apart, New Yorkers spied a rat lugging a complete slice of New York-style pizza through a public place. The spotting were memorialized in much-watched YouTube postings. Hence was born the Pizza Rat, now as much of a celebrity as the mayor.

It gets weirder: Tthe Pizza Rats name was actually suggested by fans of the team. They voted overwhelmingly to adopt that alternate I.D.—but back in 2016. Hmm.

Meanwhile, the baseball team has introduced a line of garb that carries the Staten Island Pizza Rats logo and name.

2. The danger lurking in kitchen towels
(Rating: 5 head spins)

Walk into any full-service restaurant’s kitchen and you’re more likely to see an all-purpose white towel than a fork. The cloth wipes are used for everything from sopping excess sauce off a plate to wiping a sweaty forehead. Turns out they also serve as homes and buffets for hordes of dangerous bacteria.

At least that’s what the University of Mauritius, an African institution, found after testing 100 towels that had been in use for a month. Forty-nine of the rags tested positive for potentially harmful bacteria, including E.coli and staphylococcus.

The experiment focused on residential-kitchen towels, but the reasons behind the contaminations carry over to the ones used in commercial kitchens: use for a variety of functions (leading to cross-contamination), and not being kept as dry as possible.

1. Celebrity-chef mania passes another milestone
(Rating: 5.5 head spins)

Awed fans can’t get enough of some celebrity chefs. They’ll read their cookbooks, buy knives and cookware stamped with their names, and pluck their licensed products off grocery shelves. But that’s nothing compared to the advance in culinary worship that was made possible this week. Now foodies can live in a home inspired by one of their gods.

Ground was broken this week for the first residences to be named after the sushi luminary Nobu Matsuhisa. The Nobu Residences, as they’re officially called, will be part of a Toronto complex that also includes a Nobu Hotel and a Nobu Restaurant.

The whole complex, called Nobu Toronto, will rise 45 stories above a landmark former glass factory in the Canadian city.

The 660 planned residences have all been sold already, according to the announcement.

Robert De Niro is also a partner in the project.


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