A Bay Ridge chef is cooking up a fight against the city’s regime of restaurant health-codes and fines, which he says strangles a vital part of the local small-business sector.
Vincent Tropepe, who recently opened the borough’s first restaurant consulting business is in his home ’hood of Bay Ridge, said has long wanted to help fellow restaurateurs fight back against what some have called a largely arbitrary system.
“This is something that I always wanted to do” said Tropepe. “I feel that there is no foundation to what is being written during some inspections.”
Tropepe was dubbed the “American born Gordon Ramsay” by Edible magazine for his work reforming struggling restaurants — and for a forceful personality not unlike the high-volume British chef — and in his new consulting business, Tropepe will rewrite menus, redesign restaurants and write business plans.
But a large part of what Tropepe will also do is stand behind restaurant owners in the city’s court system that handles violations by restaurants and food service establishments.
Last month Mayor DeBlasio made good on a campaign promise to reform the restaurant-inspection system to reduce fines and ensure that the process focuses on keeping the public safe rather than raising revenue for the city — which had been a common complaint from restaurateurs about the process.
Tropepe was not formally involved in lobbying for the reform, but said he had several discussions with elected officials regarding the inconsistencies in fines handed down by the Health Department.
“I was vocal in demanding the change” said Tropepe. “I saw on a daily basis the effects of the system on the city’s business owners.”
In 2013 Tropepe helped fellow restaurateurs get slightly more than $300,000 in violations dismissed and help secure about $110,000 in refunds to business owners.
A few times a week Tropepe finds himself in a courtroom and going up against agencies such as the Department of Health, Environmental Control Board, and State Liquor Authority that have hit restaurants with fines and violations. Tropepe closely reviews the violations and effectively cross-examines the inspectors before the case examiner.
Tropepe has his own experience as an entrepreneurial restaurateur — in 2011 he opened his own restaurant in Bay Ridge, a French bistro called Saint Germain. He closed Saint Germain almost a year and a half ago, because he wasn’t able to expand the restaurant in that location, but when asked if he hoped to open a new eatery in the neighborhood, Tropepe simply replied “something’s brewing.”