Ria’s goes from failed health report to reality TV

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How do you overcome a failed health inspection? If you’re lesbian restaurateur Ria Pell, you make the most of an appearance on “Chopped.” (And you pass your re-inspection with flying colors.)

That’s the hectic life of Ria Pell, the lesbian chef behind restaurants Ria’s Bluebird and Sauced in Atlanta: Watch with surprise as a Futon health inspector fails Ria’s in September, host a Pants Off Dance Off anniversary party in October, not surprisingly watch as you pass a re-inspection a few weeks later and, on Tuesday, join a national audience as you appear on the Food Network hit “Chopped” and throw a big watch party.

“The first round was the quickest 20 minutes of my life,” Pell says in a prepared statement about competing for the Chopped Champion title on the cooking elimination show.

Contrast that to how slowly the minutes ticked off the clock on Sept. 19. That’s when Ria’s, which Pell has owned for 12 years, failed its health inspection with a grade of 64. Food storage issues were cited in the report, though the problems weren’t a threat to diners. The report came more than a year after the restaurant passed with an 86.

The problems cited in the inspection, first reported by What Now Atlanta, were quickly addressed, including an extensive rebuilding of the restaurant’s walk-in refrigerator. A re-inspection about three weeks later earned the restaurant a passing score of 91, says Pell’s partner Kiki Carr.

“You go and correct whatever it is,” Carr says. “A lot of it is pretty technical stuff. Everything has been addressed and we’re happy to have the issues resolved.”

Now, it’s time to party. Sauced is hosting an outdoor “Chopped” screening on Tuesday, complete with a 10-foot screen, DJ, food from big names in Atlanta’s culinary scene and a competition of its own with guests voting for their favorite bites. With an event like that, it’s no wonder that Ria’s made it a tough competition for Bestest Brunch in the recently-wrapped Bestest of the Best of Gay Atlanta.

Pell can’t even hint at how she performed on “Chopped’s” “For Sake’s Sake” episode, thanks to the terms of her “arms-length confidentiality agreement,” she tells the GA Voice.

The episode she appears in, though, features ostrich tenderloin, sable fish, hot dog buns and, yes, sake.

“It was fast and furious,” Pell tells the GA Voice. “It was like I was on a spaceship on hyperdrive. I really was like, ‘Oh, my god.’ It’s really as stressful as you see on TV. It keeps you on the edge of your seat.”

READ MORE | Crowd watches chef Ria win ‘Chopped’ (photos)

WATCH | Ria Pell’s 11 best moments on ‘Chopped’

Photo via Flickr by Robin Henson


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