MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - Rookie mistakes cost a Southwest Memphis soul food joint its first health inspection.
Big Mama's Homecooking, 456 W. Peebles Rd., failed its Nov. 13 health inspection with a 66:
"...self closure has been removed from the front door," creating an entrance for insects
"utensils are stored on the handsink"
"no paper towels in the (women's) restroom"
"dishwashing liquid is stored on the food prep table"
spaghetti and chitlins at "potentially hazardous" food temps
"the owner is drinking from an open cup...in food prep area/placed pie in a to-go container without washing her hands."
"(The inspector told me) you know that's germs or whatever," said Big Mama's co-owner Sherry Miller. "I was, like, 'Oh, I didn't know.'"
Miller's new to the restaurant biz. Big Mama's had been opened just three weeks when it failed its very first health inspection.
"We're new owners," said Miller. "We're trying to learn. We want to learn, like we told the health department."
Miller and her father, Antonio, quickly got down to business. They fixed the front door so that it would "self-close," plus they added a fiberglass screen.
"So no bugs or anything could come in," Antonio said.
They conscientiously made a checklist of the things the health inspector recommended and knocked them out one by one. Within 10 days, their re-inspection boosted them 23 points -- to an 89.
"We want to get this done right," said Sherry Miller with all sincerity.
She's on the right track.
THIS WEEK'S BIG TIP: Rayford's All-N-One Hot Wings, 1890 Berryhill Road, Cordova, TN, (901) 754-7188, www.rayfordshotwings.com (site under development)
Kevin Rayford's special hot wing recipe is what keeps his customers lining up at the counter.
Few of them know just how grateful he is to see them come through the door. Ten years ago, it wouldn't have been possible.
Ten years ago, Rayford was hitting rock-bottom. A drug charge sent him to prison. The single father lost his freedom and his two boys, Marco and Kevin, Jr.
Then Rayford discovered his faith, a residential felon-to-work program and an aptitude for running a restaurant.
"I applied God to my life," he said. "And God started blessing me, opening a lot of doors for me."
He got his boys back. Now they work side-by-side with him in the kitchen -- or now with his wife Latrice.
Both treat their customers with the same kind of grace that gave Rayford his second chance.
"They treat me like I'm the only customer here," said long-time loyal customer Stephanie Benson of Southeast Shelby County. "They have dynamic customer service."
"They make you feel special," said Lynn Street of Cordova.
Their hot wing recipe is special, too -- shades of the sauce most Mid-South wing places use, but something more.
"Everything's all in the seasoning," said Rayford, who mixes the wings, the sauce, the seasoning and the vegetables together. "And I ain't telling, Andy!"
That's cool. Let's keep the secret -- and keep the great food and service coming!
WHAT ANDY LIKES: Hot Wings (all kinds of flavors, too!), Fried Catfish, Fried Bologna Sandwich, Wonderfully Friendly Staff & Atmosphere!
For all of the most recent Memphis-Shelby County restaurant scores, click here.
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