Christopher Gross: What's in a name?


Check out what Maricopa County's Environmental Services had to say about much-ballyhooed Frenchified grub-shack Christopher's Fermier Brasserie last month on November 21: "Sufficient water supply not available"; and, "Sewage present in establishment." No wonder the inspector immediately suspended Christopher's license to operate, shutting them down for an entire day, until they finally got their act together on 11/22, and reopened with a Silver Award for the restaurant, Gold for the catering service.

In a less august eatery, such a suspension might not be news, but Chef Christopher Gross is a James Beard Award-winner, and a favorite of Howie Seftel, the AZ Repugnant's food critic. Rumor has it that the great man is even working on a memoir of sorts, spliced with recipes.

Environmental Services flack Johnny Dilone explained that the inspector arrived the morning of 11/21, went to wash her hands, realized there was no water, and immediately closed the establishment. When she returned that afternoon, according to Dilone, she discovered that the drains were backed up near the dishwasher, which falls under the category of "Sewage present in establishment." Like, uh, gross.

The restaurant remained closed until the following day, when the place still managed to rack up another violation, involving the potential for cross-contamination with raw salmon placed on a shelf above Brussels sprouts. This was "corrected at time of inspection," and Christopher's was finally allowed to reopen.

Reading this report online gives me flashbacks of my review for Christopher's when I was restaurant critic for this rag. Read it for yourself: "Reality Check," June 30, 2005. As you'll see, I had a few issues with the place.

Gross's partner and ex-wife, the lovely Paola Embry gave me a call to explain that the reason Christopher's was closed down 11/21 was because the inspector happened to show up on a rough day, when the establishment had to shut off the water so a plumber could work on a busted dishwasher. There was "water all over the floor," according to Paola. Perhaps the problem wasn't as bad as Environmental Services' jargon makes it seem.

Beside the phrase "Sewage present in establishment," there's the explanation, "Noted drains backing up in food area," which only sounds a little better by comparison.

Hey, either way you phrase it, the report's true to Christopher's surname. Rimshot, please!


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