By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
The Fort Edward Chamber of Commerce cancelled this weekend’s ninth annual Chili, Chowder and Brews Festival, citing Department of Health edicts too stringent to impose on the community members who typically provide the food.
“Apparently, there is no allowable way for folks to prepare food in their homes and serve it to the public,” Fort Edward Chamber president Adam Devoe said in an e-mail. “As a result, we will have to cancel Chili Fest this year.”
The event was planned for this Saturday, Oct. 24, at Rogers Island Visitors Center.
“We’re very disappointed,” Mr. DeVoe elaborated in a conversation with The Chronicle. He said they’d first been contacted by the Department of Health two or three years ago.
“Our understanding was that it was treated like a covered dish supper, when people make food at home and share it. We don’t charge for the food. We just ask for a donation at the door.
“But they don’t consider it a covered dish, they said. That’s limited to private groups or churches. Because we invite the public, there’s no way to make food to share with people at home.”
Mr. DeVoe said the Fest typically raises several hundred dollars for the chamber, “Last year we had 20 chilis and 20 chowders, and beers from local breweries.”
He said, “This was a big community thing. Hundreds of people attended, and it was nice that it was at Rogers Island, so it exposed people to that place.”
“I tried,” said Mr. DeVoe. “It’s hard to explain yourself to the Health Department. My establishment (King Smiley Billiards) has a commercial kitchen, and our vice president is Neal Orsini at The Anvil Inn, so we understand.
“We have thermometers and gloves and everything there, but apparently it doesn’t matter. The food has to be prepared in a commercial kitchen, and the forms they sent us for people to fill out were very extensive.”
He said, “This is supposed to be a fun thing. It just didn’t seem feasible to ask all of the people to fill out these forms and get them in a commercial kitchen.”
Mr. DeVoe aded, “I can’t bad-talk the Health Department. They do a tough job. But it is a bummer….I’m a supporter of the Health Department. I eat at restaurants and I want to know that my food is safe. But events like this, I think people know what they’re getting into.”
Mr. DeVoe said the chamber might try to revive the event next year. “I’m not sure how we can have the public participate, even if we could find a public facility for everyone to use. It’s unfortunate.”
An email message to the Department of Health was not answered by press time.
Required: 2 sets of Health Dept. forms
The Department of Health required two sets of forms for the Fort Edward Chamber’s Chili and Chowder festival, which it categorizes as a Temporary Food Service Event.
The presenter must fill out a three-page document, asking for a menu of foods and beverages to be served, plus documentation of water sources, hand-washing facilities, storage and sanitation equipment, among other items.
“All foods must be commercially prepared, prepared on-site or at a regulated New York State food service facility.”
The second form is an Application for a Permit to Operate a Temporary Food Service Establishment, that each individual cooks must complete.
It requires a $30 fee, payable by certified funds or money order, as well as “appropriate” Workers Compensation and Disability Insurance forms.
That second application must be submitted 14 days prior to the event.
It lists 10 requirements for food safety, including specs for hygiene practices, disinfecting methods, water sources, and food temperatures. All ingredients must be purchased from a commercial source, says the DOH. Unapproved food sources are prohibited.
The seven-page document again asserts that no home prepared foods are allowed, and requires each “owner/operator” to list food items, ingredients supplier, and where and how foods will be prepared and stored.
There are also sections for caterers and temporary mobile vendors, Workman’s Comp and Disability Insurance certification, listing of corporate partners and officers, and other business-oriented information.
— Cathy DeDe
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