Pissing In the Wind?

Pee Gate: Feast chef denies health inspector urination charge, wonders how it became TV big

Pee Gate: Feast chef denies health inspector urination charge, wonders how it became TV big

News_Feast, exterior
Heralded by the New York Times in 2009, popular nose-to-tail restaurant Feast is reeling from a surprise health inspection in August. Photo by Shannon O'Hara/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

A busy Thursday night in the middle of Houston Restaurant Weeks is an unfortunate time for a surprise visit from city health inspectors . . . and no establishment knows that better than the owners of Feast, who are still stinging from a list of Aug. 23 health violations ranging from improper plumbing installations to the chef urinating behind the building.

Though the acclaimed nose-to-tail establishment resolved the issues within 24 hours, KPRC Ch. 2 reporter Amy Davis refused to let go of the outdoor pee break during her Aug. 30 Restaurant Report Card segment, which lauded a local Arby's and a west side Honeybaked Ham for A+ cleanliness.

"I certainly wasn't out back urinating. It was way too busy that night in the kitchen," says chef and owner James Silk. " It could have been anyone back there."

"We really were broad-sided by this last week, when Channel 2 showed up in front of the restaurant and started accosting my wife," chef and co-owner James Silk tells CultureMap. "I don't know where they're getting their information. We corrected everything on the health department report and there was never any mention of someone urinating."

While the official city report obtained by CultureMap clearly notes "chef urinated in bushes the back of establishment," Silk is rather miffed by the inspector's observation.

"I certainly wasn't out back urinating. It was way too busy that night in the kitchen . . . The bushes are about 40 feet from the building and only our valet people are ever in that area," he says. "It could have been anyone back there."

Patrick Key, chief of the city's Bureau of Consumer Health Services, says an exterior sweep of a food establishment is common practice to ensure that waste is being properly disposed. He stands by the report.

"Not only do we focus on the interior, but we also make sure they keep the premises clean," Keys says. "The re-inspection conducted the following day was much better, although the report does mention finding a dead possum behind the building." (The official report notes the possum issue was corrected on-site that same day.)

After a steady stream of Restaurant Weeks business, Feast is currently planning for a forthcoming benefit dinner for Barrio Dogs, a Houston nonprofit dedicated to proper animal care. Though deeply upset by the KPRC report — which he calls a "non-story" — Silk says he's trying to move past the health inspection incident.

"This whole thing is a load of nonsense," he says. "We're a small business and this is our livelihood. Things like this affect us very directly."