Allegheny County health inspector shuts down Tartan Express
The Tartan Express food truck at Legacy Plaza was stamped with a notice by the Allegheny Health Inspector for health code violations last Thursday. Campus was abuzz with students’ rumors as to why the truck closed.
Ranging from the realistic, to the completely absurd, students may not know which rumors are fact and which are fiction. Health services can assure students that the violation was a small issue, of which even the vehicle’s operator was unaware.
In an interview with The Tartan, Director of Dining Services Pascal Petter placed a small hose atop his desk. “[There] is a hose that’s underneath the food truck which supplies water to the water tanks. This was kinked...which didn’t allow us to have the correct amount of water pressure coming out of the sinks themselves,” Petter said.
The Allegheny County health inspector on the scene decided to close the truck Wednesday night, and left shortly thereafter. Carnegie Mellon Facility Management Services repaired the hose the same day, but the inspector was already gone. “As a follow up, I reached out to the same inspector on Thursday, to have him reinspect the truck that day, but I unfortunately did not hear back from him until late Thursday afternoon, as he was in the field. He came out Friday, midday, to re-inspect the truck, which of course passed the inspection,” Petter said.
The only issue that the school’s food truck had with the health inspection was the hose itself. The truck opened back up on Friday afternoon, and its operators conducted business as usual, except they decided to work later than typical Friday hours. “We then opened up at 4 p.m. that same day, and saw an increased flow of traffic from students,” Petter said. Petter notes that this is evidence to students’ confidence in the food truck’s ability to follow food safety requirements.
The Tartan Express food truck itself is managed by the owners and operators of Lulu’s Noodles on Craig Street and Asiana in Newell Simon Hall.
As for the health safety concerns for the truck, the school oversees a majority of its vendors. “We do on a fairly regular basis have our own food safety inspection that we conduct at food locations. That is to support our vendors; This is not to take place of Allegheny County Health Department regulations, or their inspections, it is to support our vendors’ food safety efforts and to ensure compliance,” Petter said.
As for what students think, many are more concerned not with the truck’s food safety, but its food quality. “It always smells like instant ramen when you walk by the Tartan Express,” junior business administration major Kenny Zheng said. Remarking on the food quality immediately prior to the close, sophomore physics major Marcel Legros said the food was “really salty, and too spicy for my tastes.” This is unrelated to the food truck’s food safety, and does not speak at all to its customer service, which the administration took into account when designating operational duties for the truck.
Carnegie Mellon’s Asiana restaurant has been on campus for almost a decade now, and its operators’ further impact on campus seemed a logical step for dining services, as the organization wanted an Asian dining experience more centralized on campus.
The inception of the food truck came about in the spring of 2014, after several meetings that Petter had with students revealed students’ overall desire for more diversity in their food choices. Now, with the food truck, students do have a convenient and diverse choice of foods on campus; it just depends on which foods they want to eat.