In the News: Jay-Z’s Blueprint for Disaster?

Jay-Z's restaurant/club relaunch got everyone's attention--but not in a good way

It’s been a big year for Jay-Z so far, what with the much-publicized birth of his baby with Beyonce, a Billboard Chart hit, and the grand re-opening of his recently renovated 40/40 Club. Incidentally, the reopening of 40/40 also takes the cake for the biggest celebrity gross-out in the past couple of weeks, since the New York Department of Health shut it down just one day after the rapper held a star-studded, A-list relaunch party last week, with the likes of Russell Simmons, Spike Lee and (random!) Warren Buffett.

Jay-Z and Warren B. had to regulate. (via

Apparently, Jay-Z had 69 problems, but irony ain’t one. After he lavished $10 million on a floor-to-ceiling renovation of his fancy lounge/eatery (loungery?), it appears there wasn’t enough in the budget to upgrade the kitchen’s walk-in fridge or train the staff on basic food safety, which resulted in 69 health code violations. Sixty-nine!! That’s probably the only context in which that number lacks any appeal whatsoever.

According to the New York Post, the violations included the following (hold your gag reflex until the end, please):

1) A worker was seen mixing salsa with bare hands.

2) There were five pounds of cooked mashed potatoes left out at 89 degrees Fahrenheit; while 10 pounds of cooked rice and 50 cooked turkey burgers were kept at 67 degrees. All hot foods must be stored at a minimum of 140 degrees.

3) Fifty pounds of raw chicken wings, 5 pounds of raw shrimp, and 100 raw turkey burgers were kept in a fridge at a lukewarm 60 degrees instead of 41 degrees. Would you like a side order of e. coli with that?

Jay-Z’s reps were quick to clean up the mess and pin blame on a malfunctioning refrigerator that just happened to go on the fritz when the health safety inspector dropped by for his spot check. The club reopened shortly after.

But even a blitz kitchen scrub-down wasn’t enough to make the club’s current “C” grade disappear immediately. The grade will be reconsidered at a city hearing next month.

That’s all well and good, but doesn’t change the fact that before the club closed for renovations last year, it had racked up 39 health code violations, including unsanitary conditions and improper food handling. A restaurant would need to “score” 28 points or more to qualify for the “C” grade, which is the lowest a restaurant can get before being declared a biohazard area. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

Salmonella rave party. You don't want an invitation, trust me.

The whole 40/40 story got me thinking back to a New York Times story I read last year about whether the average home cook’s kitchen would pass a health inspection.

I remember it freaked me out a bit, because there were a few things going on in my kitchen that would definitely raise red flags with a health inspector, like a cracked cutting board (I’ve since thrown it out), washing my hands in the kitchen sink (honestly, who has the time to run up to the bathroom several times after handling certain foods while cooking?) and having a damp kitchen towel hanging on my oven door handle.

The last thing any home cook wants is to sicken his or her dinner guests, and the possibility of unwittingly serving up a dish a la Typhoid Mary  is a constant fear. (That, and having one of my many long, black hairs fall into a lasagna or a cake, even though I always tie my hair up. ::shudder::)

Typhoid Mary had a little lamb...and accidentally killed a bunch of people after serving it. Sad face. (via

I guess people will probably forget about the 40/40 snafu and Jay-Z will continue to make bank off it. But would you dare eat at a restaurant that has had such a bad health-inspection track record? Hindsight may be 20/20 for the HOVA and his kitchen crew,  but until the club consistently cleans up its act, I’m thinking the answer, for now, would be:

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