“Fig & Olive is about passion for the best olive oils, flavors, and cuisine from the Riviera & Coastal regions of the South of France, Italy and Spain.” That’s from the section of the restaurant’s website titled “Philosophy,” and, damn, does that sound like an elegant way to dine. It sounds so appealing and luxurious and fresh and like their truffle risotto (which made a graceful exit from the menu) totally wasn’t made in an industrial-sized kitchen 3,000 miles away in Long Island before being frozen, shipped out, then re-fired and freshly garnished in house. Mmmm, just like they do in the French Riviera.
And if you ever thought you detected notes of brown-paper-bagged-sandwich nostalgia in their “truffle olive oil aioli”—that’s because it’s made with Hellman’s mayo.
These details recently came to light in an investigation launched by the Washington D.C. Department of Health following a massive salmonella outbreak, which included the upscale mini-chain’s location in West Hollywood. Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by The Washington City Paper, all the kitchen details were made available to the public. The salmonella culprit was thought to be truffle oil provided by a third party, whom Fig & Olive parted ways with shortly after the outbreak. Fig & Olive did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
UPDATE 12/15 6:28 p.m.: A representative from Fig & Olive responded with the following, “Commissaries are routinely used by upscale restaurant groups that serve a high volume of customers to ensure consistency in food quality and service. We had a commissary that was utilized for specific items by our New York outposts and selectively nationwide, which we closed in September 2015. The vast majority of ingredients served at our restaurants are locally sourced from vendors and farms. Currently all of our dishes are prepared in house at each location.”
“In fact, the commissary supplies Fig & Olive restaurants with nearly 200 dish components, including soups, sauces, purees, dressings, desserts, breads, ratatouille, ravioli, crab cakes, pre-cooked chicken tagine, pre-cooked paella, and more.
Fig & Olive representatives declined to comment, but a Freedom of Information Act request to the D.C. Department of Health reveals new details about how the restaurant sourced and prepared food linked to a salmonella outbreak this fall. Fig & Olive diners from D.C. to California suffered from the potentially fatal bacterial infection, which forced DOH to shut down the new CityCenterDC restaurant for six days in September. You can read all about the outbreak and its aftermath in a recent City Paper cover story.
The D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences tested 84 environmental and food samples from Fig & Olive, but none tested positive for salmonella. That said, DOH Director LaQuandra Nesbitt stated that it’s rare to isolate a particular ingredient in an outbreak. DOH did, however, home in on truffle oil as a common ingredient among many who got sick, and the restaurant removed all dishes with truffle oil from its menu after it reopened.”