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BY LEE HERNANDEZ -- Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar on Paradise has come under an immense amount of scrutiny after the Southern Nevada Health District shut the restaurant down for health violations.
As many as 200 diners may have contracted salmonella after eating at Firefly. The Southern Nevada Health District has confirmed 16 cases of salmonella.
Questions still remain as to whether a single food item caused the outbreak. Firefly owner and Chef John Simmons says it might be impossible to tell.
“We know less and less, it seems to me. What the health department has intimated is there really is no rhyme or reason. Every kind of thing they tried to track down has been a dead end,” Simmons says.
Since the outbreak occurred, Simmons has fielded a lot of bad press from food critics, but he insists he took immediate action after patrons got sick.
“We already have our food safety specialists on premise and training,” Simmons says. “In fact, all of our chefs and our managers and our key employees and kitchen employees are being ‘serve-safe’ certified, and in fact a couple of our key people are taking a masters class in food safety and will be certified instructors, so we’re going to have a couple of food safety professors on the premises.”
ServeSafe is a certification program in food safety operated by the National Restaurant Association.
Simmons says ensuring his kitchens do hourly food line checks, accurately keep cooling logs and execute proper temperature checks has always been a priority at Firefly and previous “A” grades on food inspections are proof.
According to the Southern Nevada Health District’s report, during the inspections at Firefly there were a number of observed violations that could have contributed to the outbreak. They included employees not washing their hands properly, employees using bare hands to handle ready-to-eat foods, improper food storage that included raw animal products stored above ready to eat foods, improper storage of in-use utensils, and inadequate cleaning and sanitizing of preparation surfaces.
Simmons does acknowledge those mistakes were made at Firefly on Paradise and he places the blame on himself.
“It’s our responsibility to serve people safe food and have my employees work in a safe environment. A few of my employees got sick, my daughter-in-law got sick and this has affected everybody, the community, our business and our customers and it’s my duty to provide a safe environment for people and I failed in that respect in this particular instance.”
Questions as to whether Firefly can bounce back from this incident have been raised, but Simmons says he thinks he and Firefly can regain public trust.
“I actually have a lot of faith in the community. I think we’ve built up a pretty good reservoir of goodwill through the years and it’s going to be hard for some people to trust us again, but I think that all we can do is all we can do. I know that there’s not going to be a safer kitchen in town and there’s not going to be anybody working harder to make sure that that happens,” Simmons says.