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Friday, June 5, 2009

Health Department Temporarily Shuts Down Skillet

Posted by on Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 11:30 AM

King County health officials shut down Skillet Street Food earlier this week after inspectors found a whole bunch of problems in the big silver Airstream trailer.

Operating without valid food business permit or plan approval
Potentially hazardous foods at unsafe temperatures
Inadequate facilities to control temperatures of potentially hazardous foods
Handwashing facility not working
No available hot water

This is a big step back for Skillet, which was temporarily shut down in 2007 for similar violations. Skillet chef Josh Henderson is working with rogue chef Gabriel Claycamp to set up a street food festival this summer, but they're going to have to sell the city and health department on the idea in order to get permitted. It seems a bit like Claycamp—who's gained infamy in the local food scene for breaking more than a few rules and health regulations—might be rubbing off on Henderson.

I've got a call in to Henderson and the health department to find out when Skillet will reopen.

UPDATE: Henderson says Skillet is back open and was only closed for about two hours.

Skillet was running an unpermitted trailer at a Mariners game when a King County health inspector stopped by. Skillet's normal trailer had some problems, Henderson says, and the new one didn't have a fridge or the proper permits. "We are under contract with the Mariners and we had to roll the dice," Henderson says. "Unfortunately we rolled the dice on the wrong night. We made a choice, we made the wrong one."


Comments (63) RSS

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Simac 1
It's annoying to see reports of temperature issues like this: ANY self-respecting chef or cook knows what the proper temperatures are for storing and keeping food hot and cold and INHERENTLY wants to comply out of a sense of professionalism and quality of work and knows EXACTLY what to do to achieve this. So when you hear about food operations where temperature problems exist, you know that the chef involved is not truly committed to professionalism and quality--to say nothing of customer safety.

Even in an Airstream, there are ways to manage food temperature and food safety fully and easily. My take: stay away from any food that these folks are responsible for, because they're not taking their craft or public safety seriously.
Posted by Simac on June 5, 2009 at 11:38 AM · Report this
heywhatsit!? 2
And what's with not having a food business permit? That's just basic, common sense. These guys are just stubborn or stupid or something.
Posted by heywhatsit!? on June 5, 2009 at 11:47 AM · Report this
David Schmader 3
Just last night, Skillet was parked outside a condo open house at 19th and Yesler. I wanted to go, but I also wanted to sit down someplace where someone would bring me a margarita, so El Gallito won out. Looks like maybe I lost my chance with Skillet...
Posted by David Schmader on June 5, 2009 at 11:48 AM · Report this
Does anyone know about the silver pig parked in the lot on 2nd and Pike. I didn't have time to inquire. It smelled great! I can actaully see it from my office window.

I assume it's BBQ (because of the pig snout attached to the front). There is a line right now. Anyone for lunch?
Posted by CommonKnowledge on June 5, 2009 at 11:54 AM · Report this
Man, I'm going with stupid over stubborn. No hot water? No handwashing? Unsafe temps are pretty serious. This ain't doing much for the future of street food in Seattle.

I do like their condiments though, the mouse poop/black pepper mix is out of this world.
Posted by gloomy gus on June 5, 2009 at 11:54 AM · Report this
christopher575 6
@4 the pig has pulled pork and is owned by Beecher's
Posted by christopher575 on June 5, 2009 at 12:01 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 7
Maybe this street food idea is just a stupid idea in the first place. I wouldn't go but I'd love to watch all you other suckers puke/shit yourselves after you dine with them.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on June 5, 2009 at 12:01 PM · Report this
kid icarus 8
Wow, that's really awful news. What were they thinking?

@4 - Maximus/Minimus. Pulled pork sandwiches from the Beecher's people. GO NOW.
Posted by kid icarus on June 5, 2009 at 12:03 PM · Report this
CommonKnowledge: Here's the scoop on the pig:
Posted by kristinpotpie on June 5, 2009 at 12:04 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 10
and the roach coaches & taco trucks DO comply? jesus, hipsters, get it together.

you are supposed to be able to take a hot shower in a functioning airstream so it's supposed to have a heater tank. fix it maybe?
Posted by Max Solomon on June 5, 2009 at 12:06 PM · Report this
Cracker Jack 11
Seriously, Seattle! If you don't expose yourself to some food-borne contaminants and diseases every one in a while, you'll never build up a resistance. Here in NYC we eat pistachios, peanuts, spinach, etc. with abandon because we know that our street food prepares us for ANYTHING!
Posted by Cracker Jack on June 5, 2009 at 12:07 PM · Report this
@11, maybe my sister's immune system was weaker than a NYC native, but her guide to street food when she lived there sounded pretty good: if they fry the shit out of it, you're going to be OK.
Posted by Westside forever on June 5, 2009 at 12:12 PM · Report this
When I read about temperature issues I get all worried about increased risk of food toxicity. However, after years of the LCB throwing their weight around Capitol Hill inappropriately, I'm forming a healthy distrust of the motives of our government regulators. Jonah would you break this down for us or have Golob weigh in? How serious are these infractions? Are there conflicts of interest or other sinister motives at play?
Posted by lyric on June 5, 2009 at 12:16 PM · Report this
slogbuster 14
hmmmmmm what day were they shut down because i seem to remember seeing them on 34th street in fremont yesterday and i think they were open for business there was a big line in front
Posted by slogbuster on June 5, 2009 at 12:17 PM · Report this
We heard back from Josh quickly and he says they're open.
Posted by Tracy @ WSB on June 5, 2009 at 12:21 PM · Report this
w7ngman 16
#4, I really wish I had read this before I went to fucking Qdoba.
Posted by w7ngman on June 5, 2009 at 12:24 PM · Report this
I decided I would never eat at Skillet no matter what the kewl kids said after they were shut down the first time. Seriously, if they can't be bothered to wash their hands or refrigerate their ingredients, they want me to get sick. So fuck 'em.
Posted by Tlazolteotl on June 5, 2009 at 12:25 PM · Report this
@14: They were shut down on the 1st, and according to King County Public Health they haven't been cleared to re-open. So, if they were operating yesterday, it may have been in defiance of the law.…
Posted by Henry on June 5, 2009 at 12:25 PM · Report this
Jeffo 19
I find this stuff alarmist. I have eaten street food in other countries and...gasp...survived. @7, You really think people are going to piss and shit themselves to death because Skillet let their Tom Kha get a little too cool? @1, This "any self respecting chef" snipe is really not even accurate, as some foods when served for optimal taste actually fall into the Health Dept.'s "danger zone", (medium rare burger, raw egg, creme fraiche). BTW I was not clamoring for the last bottles of Purell during the recent (imaginary) viral epidemic. Toughen the will live longer.
Posted by Jeffo on June 5, 2009 at 12:28 PM · Report this
w7ngman 20
Medium rare ground beef is optimal taste?

That's a new one.
Posted by w7ngman on June 5, 2009 at 12:34 PM · Report this
Thanks christopher, kid and kristin. That line is still a good size, it must be pig-alicious!
Posted by CommonKnowledge on June 5, 2009 at 12:37 PM · Report this
w7ngman 22
"unfortunately, we had an issue with the one trailer, and had to in an emergency use a trailer that is finished being built, but not approved."

Wow. Fuck these clowns.
Posted by w7ngman on June 5, 2009 at 12:40 PM · Report this
playswithknives 23
I've cooked in Seattle for 10 years, working my way up from line cook to cafe owner, and have found the majority of health inspectors to be hostile nitpickers and the health code to be as indecipherable as the tax code. You can have a perfectly safe kitchen and still get shut down.
Posted by playswithknives on June 5, 2009 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Jeffo 24
@20, Really? I am surprised that is what you chose to mock out of my post. I guess you disagree with me, but is it really "a new one"? Guess you don't talk food much.
Posted by Jeffo on June 5, 2009 at 12:43 PM · Report this
" Cato the Younger Younger
Maybe this street food idea is just a stupid idea in the first place. I wouldn't go but I'd love to watch all you other suckers puke/shit yourselves after you dine with them."

Hey "Cato", i see you haven't lived much in cities, or been in other countries before outside of the tourist zones. The best street food, while not necesarily obviously sketchy, is always a risk. The rewards, however make it worth it.
Posted by way to be snotty on June 5, 2009 at 12:48 PM · Report this
"Medium rare ground beef is optimal taste?

That's a new one."

No, it's not. Health codes require many foods be cooked for far longer than they ought to taste-wise. I'm not going to assume that you're one of those that only get well-done everything, but you surely don't have much experience with fine dining and ingredients.
Posted by .o. on June 5, 2009 at 12:50 PM · Report this
Cochise. 27
@20, I would say YES!
Posted by Cochise. on June 5, 2009 at 12:51 PM · Report this
leek 28
I can't speak to the Skillet folks' attitude and choices, but everything I've had there has tasted great and has never made me sick. Sounds like they need to be smarter about the way they go about things, tho.
Posted by leek on June 5, 2009 at 12:54 PM · Report this
Too bad, especially since they had a decent write-up in today's Wall Street Journal (part of a long piece on high-end roach coaches).
Posted by Toe Tag on June 5, 2009 at 1:01 PM · Report this
derrickito 30
i just saute'd some onions, red peppers, and fresh garlic then threw in some scrambled eggs with fresh khmer cambodian pepper, jack cheese. i put that cooked on toast, added some adobo spiced sour cream, diced avocado, tomatillo salsa. finished with a side of black beans.

then i ate it all.

i made it all in a skillet.
Posted by derrickito on June 5, 2009 at 1:04 PM · Report this
erin 31
@23 word. a little bit of 41 degree mayo won't kill you, but it will get you shut down. that's generally the level of stuff we're talking when restaurants get shut down, not shitting on your hands and then rubbing it on the baguette. unless you're the wild ginger, maybe.
Posted by erin on June 5, 2009 at 1:05 PM · Report this
@20- I agree. Medium rare is overcooked for a burger. Black and blue, or as grandma used to say, "slap its ass, wish it luck, and send it on in."

As for the comments about the unsafe temps--there are a lot of health department codes that are overkill. You don't need to refrigerate butter or eggs generally, just like your parents and grandparents and their parents didn't do for years. Ditto with ketchup, mustard, pickles, kraut, etc. And unpasteurized milk and cheeses have been consumed for thousands of years. Just because the health department wants to eliminate every possible source illness, regardless of the effect on the end product, doesn't mean that not adhering to their temp requirements is something to worry about.
Posted by pablissima on June 5, 2009 at 1:10 PM · Report this
lark 33
That's a shame. I just read a positve review of Skillet in today's Wall Street Journal under the article "Food Truck Nation":…

Scroll down to Seattle. I would have patronized it.
Posted by lark on June 5, 2009 at 1:11 PM · Report this
Good Grief 34
Their stuff is unbelieveably expensive *and* they can't be bothered to run a safe operation? WTF -- I had been thinking of going some day when I felt like splurging, but now I don't think so...
Posted by Good Grief on June 5, 2009 at 1:24 PM · Report this
Seriously people. There are literally hundreds of millions of people who eat street food every single day and you rarely hear about significant outbreaks of food-borne disorders cropping up - I'm sure they do, but they're minuscule compared with the number of consumers who partake. And even 20 years ago or so, I'd be willing to bet general restaurant health regs in this country weren't nearly as stringent as they are today. That most of you are even here would seem to be some testament to the fact that people can safely consume restaurant food prepared in less-than-optimum (according to the Health Dept.) conditions and not suffer any ill-effects.

And my guess is, even if a place like Skillet is getting shut down for Health Code violations, it's still probably about 1,000% more sanitary than some of the street vendors I've purchased meals from in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Mexico, Belize, Germany, or Ireland.

What doesn't kill you will make you stronger, and all.
Posted by COMTE on June 5, 2009 at 1:27 PM · Report this
Please see for reply from Skillet.
Posted by Marco on June 5, 2009 at 1:33 PM · Report this
@COMTE: I'm biased, but the food safety standards in Germany are at least as high as those in the US.

Marco from Germany
Posted by Marco on June 5, 2009 at 1:37 PM · Report this
Yeah, that "unsafe temp" thing is up for debate (maybe).

But you still defend it even though there was a lack of hand washing facilities and hot water..?

Just so we're clear:

Clipping toenails in public is disgusting, but preparing food after taking a shit and not washing you're hands is a-ok? Good to know.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on June 5, 2009 at 1:44 PM · Report this
w7ngman 39
#24, I wasn't mocking, but if you have a better suggestion as to which part of your post should have been mocked feel free to share :)

I'm well aware people like their burgers medium rare, just trying to be playful. I grew up eating medium-well burgers, and they always tasted great, plus I never really heard of this pink ground beef thing until I moved to Seattle. Y'all natives are some classy bitches, I'll give you that.

I do like steak medium rare, but I never thought of it as a taste thing so much as a texture and tenderness thing. Which isn't so much of a problem with ground meat as all the fibers have been thoroughly eviscerated.

Undercooked ground beef just weirds me out, ultimately. I'd be fine with it if I saw my butcher grind it in front of me, but I don't really trust random restaurant X to have safe ground meat.
Posted by w7ngman on June 5, 2009 at 2:09 PM · Report this
leek 40
P.S.: Their food is by no means "unbelievably expensive." The most expensive thing on the menu is $10 and most things are around $8. They seem to use high-quality ingredients and they don't cheat you on the amount either (several months ago they did a seared trout and you literally got half the dang fish as your entree).

Again I'll say yeah, stupid decisionmaking, but I've had great experiences with their food and it is by no means over the top on price.
Posted by leek on June 5, 2009 at 2:12 PM · Report this

Restaurants, no doubt. But there were plenty of sketchy-looking "doner-kebab" carts just about everywhere I went.
Posted by COMTE on June 5, 2009 at 2:13 PM · Report this
StillNon 42
I am so over this Skillet shit that the Stranger plugs every fucking 5 minutes
Posted by StillNon on June 5, 2009 at 2:23 PM · Report this
stinkbug 43
Some of you are pretty clueless when it comes to violations. Lots of "good" places get dinged for minor stuff. Skillet just happened to get dinged for a bunch of things at once. Look up a few of your favorite places via the following link and chances are they've been cited for various infractions:…
Posted by stinkbug on June 5, 2009 at 2:51 PM · Report this
Good point stinkbug, but let me say this again- I find the inability of workers to wash their hands after going to the bathroom to be a pretty egregious offense.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on June 5, 2009 at 3:26 PM · Report this
leek 45
Erm, do we know that there's a usable bathroom in their Airstream?
Posted by leek on June 5, 2009 at 3:37 PM · Report this
w7ngman 46
Hand-washing station isn't just about going to the bathroom. I imagine it's required due to the handling of raw meat as well.

Either way, it's pretty gross.
Posted by w7ngman on June 5, 2009 at 4:02 PM · Report this
When I was still living in Toronto, they required all restaurants, bars, etc. to post city-issued signs out front (usually next to their menus) indicating whether they'd passed or failed inspection.

You learned pretty quick to avoid places with a big red sign on their front door that said FAIL, no matter how of-the-moment they were.
Posted by arts&letters on June 5, 2009 at 4:31 PM · Report this
Isn't is amazing how everything Gabe Claycamp touches turns to shit?
Posted by meredith on June 5, 2009 at 4:33 PM · Report this
It's unbelievable that they would decide to take this kind of a gamble. Food poisoning can kill you. It killed one of the most awesome professors I ever had, Michael Rogin. And it can kill you, too. Happens all the time. Yes, I eat street food. I take that chance with my stomach. But I would never decide to run a restaurant without a place to wash hands. That is taking chances with with other people's health. For profit. Big difference, and very wrong.
Posted by SouthSeattle on June 5, 2009 at 4:41 PM · Report this
wilbur@work 50
w7ngman - dood, you must be from Vulcan or something, as every carnivore worth their salt likes their meat bloody. Like, not really dead yet. Ecoli Roulette is just part of the game.
Posted by wilbur@work on June 5, 2009 at 4:42 PM · Report this
wilbur@work 51
and, Skillet rocks. Their burger is bomb-diggity... They are leading the street food revolution, and we need them back.
Posted by wilbur@work on June 5, 2009 at 4:45 PM · Report this
litlnemo 52
"You don't need to refrigerate butter or eggs generally, just like your parents and grandparents and their parents didn't do for years."

When I visited the UK last year, I was surprised to see that the shops there sold eggs unrefrigerated. Then thought about it, and realized that it made sense.
Posted by litlnemo on June 5, 2009 at 5:15 PM · Report this
Before we get too carried away, it looks like the good ole' Times took the initiative to get the real story:…
Posted by soberlarry on June 5, 2009 at 5:28 PM · Report this
too bad they got shut down..but if they cannot play by the rules (and they should figuring how much they charge per tasty meal) then so be it. i'll avoid them for 6 months and see what else happens--i suggest everyone else does the same. its a lot of compliance to do but its for the benefit of all. Hopefully their roaring success will inspire others (and it looks like it has) to do it better, safer, and cheaper.

Whoever made that comment last week about tipping them $1 max.....well you must be well-off as well as being fucking generous. Give your money to those that stay in compliance--or rarely stray. Skillet does not deserve to be rewarded for this, you trendy-ass yucks.
Posted by out of the skillet on June 5, 2009 at 6:57 PM · Report this
Urgh it's too bad Josh and Co tried to cut corners, but I'm glad they're getting it together and can reopen.

The health department is incredibly picky -- and random -- and what they enforce and who they inspect. I once handed out cake at the Seattle Wedding Expo and we nearly got shut down because our hot water dispenser had a button you had to push and hold instead of a hand-free faucet. Keep in mind this was in a booth at a convention hall and we were handing out cake with gloved hands. I'm just saying...

I also don't get why people are so up in arms about Skillet being "trendy. Josh used his head, came up with a good idea, and makes yummy, clever food in an intriguing way. I'm like it when people take the seriousness out of good food and make eating fun again.

Here's hoping Skillet can get all it's ducks in a row and keep bringing a little joy and a lot of good taste to Seattle.
Posted by magpiegirl on June 5, 2009 at 10:22 PM · Report this
fourfingersdown 56
ZOMG !!! !!!1!!!ONEQ~~!!!!! We're all gonna die~!!!!
Come on Seattle, stop embarassing me. You all sound like people who go to a foreign country and eat at McDonalds or Denny's. Plus you think Dick's tatstes good. "i'd love the burger with lettuce that has been sitting in a hot box for 20 minutes"
Posted by fourfingersdown on June 6, 2009 at 7:53 AM · Report this
Here's the difference between the Stranger and the Times:

"We signed a contract with the Mariners for the season, saying we'll be out in that lot." It was a choice between not operating and potentially having a breach of contract."

The Skillet trailer opened at 5 p.m. Monday evening and closed at 6, according to Henderson. "We didn't even serve any food. We went back on Tuesday and operated as normal with a permitted truck, and Wednesday they came back and re-inspected us and gave us the official go-ahead."

That's called a whiff in the big leagues Stranger. And given the temperament of Sloggers I'm sure you've done this guy some damage. Still love you tho...
Posted by fag on June 6, 2009 at 8:22 AM · Report this
Greg 58
@39: Medium-rare burgers aren't just weird, they're a vector for E. coli infection. The whole reason why you can eat steaks cooked rare, or hell even just seared if you're into that, is because E. coli contamination is typically just on the surface. If you grind up that same surface-contaminated meat into hamburger, now you've got bacteria distributed all over. Cook it medium-rare (internal temperature less than 160 F) and you could still have bacteria living in that pink part. That's what happened at Jack in the Box back in 1993. Three children died and the outbreak sickened about 450.

Not that everyone who eats contaminated meat gets serious food poisoning, but it's a risk, and one that's potentially fatal for children, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system.

Oh, and just to add to the whole street-food conversation, I have a coworker who eats lunch at taco trucks in the valley about once a week. He also gets stomach complaints and misses work about one day a month.
Posted by Greg on June 6, 2009 at 8:30 AM · Report this
Am I the only one that noticed the comment "Josh is working with Gabriel Claycamp" doesn't that say it all. If these tools feel like they are above the law what is it going to take before the public does something. I have been to Skillet many times and have enjoyed it very much. The timing of them having this happen and the owners chosing to work with gabe is unfortunate. He ( gabe) should not be allowed in food service of any kind. His tactics and beliefs are bringing down another business, how sad.
Posted by gabrielclaycampshouldjustgoaway on June 6, 2009 at 5:12 PM · Report this
Health regulations: 9 times out of 10 or 99 out of 100 or 999/1000... I don't know what the figure is but... Yeah, most of the time violating the regs results in no measurable badness. One time, many people get sick and some die. Fuck Skillet.
Posted by BLUE on June 7, 2009 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 61
It takes a whole slew of flagrant violations to get shut down. Heath department regulators aren't on a mission to shut down businesses. So when it happens, it's serious.

Comte, speaking as someone who worked in restaurants 20 years ago and has a part time job in that industry now, I think the regs are pretty much about the same.
Posted by Matt from Denver on June 7, 2009 at 12:52 PM · Report this
@52, eggs are processed differently in the UK. here, the protective coating is washed off, so the eggs must be refrigerated.
Posted by darlingash on June 8, 2009 at 10:40 AM · Report this
evolume 63
i eat there almost every monday and will keep going back. never been sick, just stuffed. it's just too good to pass up.
Posted by evolume on June 8, 2009 at 11:12 AM · Report this

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