Andy's Rest. Scorecard: Chef Kelly English, plus scores as of 8/2/09

By Andy Wise - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

A Midtown Memphis chef with New Orleans roots is one of the top new chefs in America, according to Food & Wine magazine.

But before I introduce you to him, two popular fast-food joints have locations that won't be making anyone's top ten list this week.

The Fox Meadows Checkers, 6000 Mt. Moriah, failed its Memphis-Shelby County Health Department inspection with a 68.   The inspector's report cites three critical violations and 13 non-critical violations:

"No toilet tissue" in the female employees' restroom

"Cup used as a scoop in cheese in walk-in cooler"

"Mop sink stopped up"

Spicy chicken at "potentially hazardous food temperature"

"The spicy chicken had fallen below the regulated temperature because it had already been cooked," said Checkers' Mt. Moriah Manager George White.  "Everything else has been taken care of. We have been re-inspected, and we received an 82."

Health department spokesperson Nicole Lacey-Hall confirmed the restaurant did receive an 82 on re-inspection.

Sonic Drive-In's Frayser location at 3332 Overton Crossing failed its inspection with a 64:

"Roaches seen crawling around hamburger freezer"

"Food spillage on floor in front of cook"

"Eating-drinking in food prep. area/not a good hygiene practice"

Sonic Drive-In restaurants don't typically show up on the wrong side of the Scorecard.  Bobby Solberg's franchise managers typically run a tight ship.

Solberg's contacts at Sonic's corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City insisted on a corporate response.  Here it is in its entirety:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your question regarding the recent health inspection of the Sonic Drive-In located at 3332 Overton Crossing in Memphis, Tenn.

At Sonic, taking care of our customers is our No. 1 priority. Sonic franchisees and operators value the special relationships they share with their customers and are committed to serving only the highest quality products. 

Local Health Department officials play a critical role as partners in the food service system through their independent inspections of our restaurants.  The owner of the Sonic Drive-In on Overton Crossing in Memphis was made aware of the findings immediately following the inspection.  The owner promptly corrected the deficiencies identified at the drive-in and awaits re-inspection.

Some corrections implemented include:

  • Ø Labeling soap and chemical bottles as such
  • Ø Increased training on proper food handling procedures

As stated earlier, the violations were promptly addressed, have been corrected and the restaurant is awaiting re-inspection.

Every Sonic Drive-In is audited twice each year by a third-party vendor for adherence to Sonic's food safety standards, which meet or exceed all local, regional and national food safety standards. 

We're proud of our tradition of providing our customers quality food and friendly Carhop service, and look forward to serving our loyal customers in Memphis for many years to come. 

-- Christi Woodworth, Director of External Communications

THIS WEEK'S BIG TIP:  Chef Kelly English, Restaurant Iris, 2146 Monroe Ave., Midtown Memphis, (901) 590-2828,

New Orleans, born and raised.  Ole Miss-educated.  New York-trained in the culinary arts.

But Kelly English is the least pretentious executive chef you'll ever meet -- the guy you share a beer with at the ballgame (along with a basket of his Natchitoches Meat Pies!).

His niche in French Creole cuisine and his eye for elegant atmosphere earned him one of Food & Wine magazine's 2009 Best New Chefs nominations.

"(My staff and I) are passionate about everyone feeling special when they leave the door," English said.  "Most of the stuff that we cook is stuff that I saw my father or my grandmother cooking, and every dish we do here, there's nothing I wouldn't serve my mama!"

English's menu is full of his family's Cajun Creole masterpieces, and it's constantly changing.  He said it's not uncommon to come for dinner Friday for one menu, then come again Saturday to find all new fare, supplemented by fresh produce and ingredients from the Memphis Farmers Market.

"I call it a 'positive karmatic flow,'" he said with a sly smile.

Regular customers say you can't enjoy English's style or flare anywhere else in the Mid-South.

"In terms of sophistication and service, it's really impeccable," says Gabor Tigyi of East Memphis, an European immigrant who says English's food is just like the old country.

WHAT ANDY LIKES:  Natchitoches Meat Pies, Gulf Amberjack, New York Strip stuffed w/Fried Oysters and Blue Cheese

For all of this week's Memphis-Shelby County restaurant scores, click here.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.