For the last 18 months, Alex Salvant, owner of La Mia Restaurant on Northwest 72nd Avenue in Medley, quietly brewed and stewed.
La Mia, a longtime hometown restaurant located just a block north of Medley Town Hall, had been awarded the contract in 2010 to handle the food distribution for Medley’s Hot Meals program, which serves and feeds all of the Medley Lakeside Retirement Park residents Monday through Friday of every week.
But the Town of Medley council went in a different direction in March 2012, and Salvant felt slightly betrayed.
Latin American Grill was awarded the contract back then and, even though the contract was not due to expire until March, 2014, complaints by the Lakeside residents in writing (60 signatures) were brought to the council’s attention. The item to discuss the situation was placed on the agenda by council member Susanna Guasch for the monthly Medley council meeting on Sept. 3.
In the end, a very happy Salvant left the building knowing he’s going to get another shot, but not before there was plenty of debate about the issue with plenty of people chiming in.
Before any debate could even begin, the council asked newly appointed town attorney Stephen Helfman to look at the fine print on the contract with Latin American to see if there was any kind of escape clause. Helfman eventually confirmed that the town could get out of the contract provided it gave Latin American a minimum 60-day notice of termination of services.
But Salvant still had a big hill to climb, with his biggest obstacle being Councilman Jack Morrow.
“The handling of food is a real issue here,” Morrow said. “I have seen how he delivers his food and it simply is not done properly and not in the proper containers. It’s very unprofessional-looking. You need the proper equipment.”
“That’s not a problem,” Salvant quickly countered to Morrow. “It’s simply a matter of going out and spending approximately about a hundred dollars to obtain the proper containers.”
A number of Lakeside residents then took to the podium to voice their displeasure over the quality of the Latin American food.
“I just started on the program recently and have been very disappointed,” said Dale Blank. “Many times I found the rice virtually unedible and would eventually have to throw it away. When I attended some of the Medley Chamber of Commerce functions and La Mia was doing the catering, I thought the food was absolutely delicious and I would urge the council to bring La Mia back.”
Earlier in the meeting, Fathima Fuentes had gone before the council and, after serving as the director of the Hot Meals program on an interim basis, was unanimously approved by the council to have the interim tag removed.
Soon after, she was called back up because the council wanted to hear her version of food quality.
“I just want to make it known that I have no preference one way or the other,” Fuentes said through an interpreter. “It seems like whoever we use, we’re always going to get complaints. We have residents from many different backgrounds, so you’re probably never going to make everyone happy.”