Roaches, blood on food, earn Knoxville restaurant unusually low inspection score

Mandarin House on Downtown West scored a 37 out of a possible 100 in their latest health department inspection.
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Knoxville (WVLT) - A Knoxville restaurant gets slapped with one of the lowest health inspections ever in Knox County. That's according to the County Health Department.

Mandarin House scored 37 out of 100 during last week's inspection.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy's has the latest.

With a score so low, why didn't the Health Department just shut the restaurant down?

State law won't let them just based on a inspection score. The Health Department inspected Mandarin House after someone filed an anonymous complaint about food illness from there. The restaurant says it's working hard to clean up.

Chuck Cartmell leaves the Mandarin House with leftovers in tow.

"Very good time. Service was good, food was excellent. I have no problems," Cartmell said.

But The Knox County Health Department says other customers did.

"It's a little shocking, I'll be honest with you," Cartmell said.

After an anonymous complaint of food illness, health inspectors checked out the West Knoxville eatery last week. What inspectors found is in the this report. It lists enough violations to give the restaurants a score of 37 out of 100."

"Very seldom do we see a score this low," Ronnie Nease from the Knox County Health Department said.

Among the 29 violations, the report says inspectors found: "Excessively dirty" kitchen floors, an employee trying to cook chicken after it fell on the floor, fried food was dripped with chicken blood in the freezer, also inspectors found more than 10 cockroaches behind loose dishroom siding.

"We were pretty well shocked and devastated that we could do that. We felt we let people down," Mandarin House employee Jon Schofield said.

Jon Schofield's a server. Management asked him to talk to us because he speaks better English.

"We just had a particularly terrible rush. We hadn't had any time to clean up. We were in the process of starting that," Schofield said.

Eight of the 29 violations were critical items. Those require a follow-up inspection within 15 days.

"The state law of Tennessee, which we enforce, doesn't allow us to shut them down because of a score," Nease said.

That takes either a sewage backup in the floors or a lack of water. Those didn't happen.

"They are improving since we've been there," Nease said.

"We're still dedicated to bringing you the freshest ingredients and the best food," Schofield said.

Cartmell recommends the restaurant...

"Because for me, this was a very pleasurable experience," Cartmell said.

Mandarin House says it's trying to keep it that way.

The Health Department gave employees food safety training Tuesday. Language has been a bit of problem. Many of the employees are Latino and the chefs are Chinese, but the Health Department's using interpreters and says the classes went well.

A new manager took over about eight months ago. Since then, the health department says mandarin house scores required extra inspections, once before.

Health inspectors will be back at the end of the week.

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