Restaurants Receive Top Honors
Karen Pilson was elated when 195 American Fusion restaurant in Southern Pines recently won the Diamond A Award under the Moore Healthy Dining Program.
"It's a huge honor to be recognized out of all the restaurants in Moore County," said Pilson, co-owner of 195. "We've always aspired to have extremely healthy food. It's been a priority ever since we opened the restaurant almost two decades ago."
Pilson credited Chef Prem Nath for securing the distinction.
"He has played a large role," she said. "He is extremely dedicated to food quality and presentation. He scrutinizes every plate before it reaches the customer.
"He's also really creative in coming up with new items for the menu."
Chef Warren's in Southern Pines and Lady Bedford's Tea Parlour & Gift Shoppe in Pinehurst were the other two Diamond A Award winners. They are the only restaurants to have won the award every year since the Moore County Health Department established the innovative program in July 2008.
The three restaurants were recognized earlier this month for having a 97 percent unadjusted sanitation grade, providing a smoke-free environment and offering clearly marked healthy menu items.
An unadjusted sanitation score is a score that does not include the two extra points for completing a Serve-Safe food handling course.
The program was started to reward local restaurants and food service establishments that meet high standards in nutrition, food safety and nonsmoking seating.
In addition to this year's Diamond A Award winners, 21 establishments received Platinum A awards and 88 garnered Golden A awards.
"Food safety is an important public health issue," said Dr. Sharon Nicholson Harrell, who chairs the Board of Health. "The CDC (federal Centers for Disease Control) estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans gets sick from food-borne illnesses.
"These establishments have made food safety a top priority and have provided a valuable contribution to the prevention of food-borne illnesses in our community."
Warren Lewis, head chef and co-owner of Chef Warren's with his wife, Marianne, said the award confirms their commitment to the health and well-being of their guests.
"Every day, we're sourcing new products - tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, bison, fish - that are organic, hormone-free and antibiotic-free," Warren Lewis said. "These are foods that I feed my child, so why wouldn't I use them to feed my guests?"
Lewis said the wait staff is also trained to cater to guests' dietary needs, especially those with food allergies, medical concerns or special diets.
"Ninety percent of what we prepare we can alter to fit a guest's dietary needs," he said. "A guest should be comfortable asking for what they need. We're in the hospitality business, and we want our guests to feel at home.
"That's why Marianne and I do this."
The Lewises also grow 20 to 25 varieties of herbs and about 70 different vegetables at their Southern Pines home for use at the restaurant, which has been nonsmoking since it opened in 1998, well before the state law banning smoking in restaurants took effect.
Warren Lewis said Health Department inspectors deserve similar recognition for their dedication.
"I think they did an excellent job, especially since the county's regulations have changed to follow the national food code," he said. "Inspections are taking twice as long as they used to, so our inspectors are putting in more hours. Kudos to them."
Marian Caso, owner of Lady Bedford's, said she was surprised there were only three Diamond A Award winners.
"I think it says a lot, especially since there are more than 500 restaurants in Moore County," Caso said. "To me, there should be more winners. Every restaurant should strive to earn this award.
"Customers ask about it when they see the Diamond A plaque on the wall."
Lady Bedford's offers breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea every Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It also hosts special occasions such as baby showers, bridal showers and bridal luncheons.
Its healthy menu items include the Scottish breakfast - fresh fruit, yogurt and granola parfait - and the Duchess salad for lunch.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com.
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