Note: This is an encore post from 2006.
Nicholas “Nick” Schwegel (sometimes misspelled Schwegal), the city’s new restaurant inspector, issued a report to the Board of Health that left officials sick to their stomachs—so ill, in fact, that one board member asked that the report be tabled until they were feeling better. However, Mayor Harper insisted in pursuing the matter, having recently returned to work from a bout of food poisoning.
Schwegel said he inspected 424 restaurants in April and imposed $200 in fines, ordered 62 restaurants to clean up their kitchens, and seized and destroyed 70 pounds of meat, six chickens, 30 pounds of sausage, 9 pounds of cheese, a half-box of lemons and canned fruit.
He noted: “In many of the kitchens which I have inspected I find ceilings and walls so very unclean that it is impossible to prepare clean food. I also find toilets but a few feet, if not immediately adjacent to a range, ice boxes or closets in which foodstuffs are kept.”
In addition, inspection revealed that three or four beds, intended for sleeping, were kept in some of the food preparation rooms and that the kitchen help had faces and hands covered with sores.
Finally, Schwegel noted, uneaten food, known as “comebacks,” was reused: leftover meat was made into hash and sausage, and bones from patrons’ plates were thrown into the stock kettle to make soup.
In one June restaurant inspection, Schwegel noted:
“Many white people, who were eating in the [Japanese restaurant] thought they were getting a Japanese dinner and made no complaint because they thought the taste of the [rotten] meat was due to some kind of Japanese sauce.”
In August 1907, Schwegel was taken before the Civil Service Commission on a complaint by M.E. Sayles, a former assistant restaurant inspector whom Schwegel fired. Sayles accused Schwegel of favoring German restaurants and those businesses operated by an alliance that backed Mayor Harper.
“Chef Wolf, of the Windsor restaurant, testified that Schwegel doesn’t understand the first principles of restaurant inspection. Wolf keeps some Mexican hopping beans in stock. Schwegel came into the kitchen, saw the beans hopping about, thought they were maggots and wanted to have the place pulled. Wolf is certain that Schwegel is no gentleman, or he would know the difference between a maggot and a slant-eyed bean,” The Times said.
However, Schwegel mounted a strong defense, citing his campaign against reuse of “comebacks.”