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NYC offers classes, help center to assist with upcoming trans fat ban

NEW YORK The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene here partnered with the American Heart Association to launch the Trans Fat Help Center in an effort to smooth the upcoming required transition to trans-fat-free oils and shortenings for New York City restaurateurs. The Help Center will be located in the New York City College of Technology, which boasts an esteemed culinary training program.

Beginning in June and lasting through December 2008, restaurant operators can sign up for free classes taught by culinary specialists that focus on cooking and baking without artificial trans fats as well as creating more healthful versions of ethnic cuisines. Officials said classes will be offered monthly and in a variety of locations.

The Help Center also offers a free telephone help line and a website,, in multiple languages. Restaurant operators can call 311 and ask for the Trans Fat Help Line if they have any questions about going trans fat free. The help line is staffed by culinary specialists Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Agroup of local and national culinary experts will act as technical advisors to the program. They include: Chris Giarraputo, executive chef, B.R. Guest; Keith Cook, purchasing director, Tom Cat Bakery; Michael Romano, chef/partner, Union Square Cafe and Blue Smoke; and Andy Yeung, general manager, Shun Lee Restaurants.

"We want to make it easy for any restaurant that is still cooking with artificial trans fat to make the switch," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "There are many alternatives to trans fat, and the Help Center will provide guidance and resources."

On Dec. 5 New York became the first city in the nation to restrict the use of artificial trans fats in restaurants. The city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene gave the city's 24,000-plus foodservice operations until July 1 to switch to oils, margarines and shortenings that contain less than 0.5 grams of artificial trans fat per serving. Restaurant would have until July 1, 2008 to replace all remaining menu items with items containing no more than 0.5 grams per serving.

The Health Department currently offers training for foodservice workers to learn about trans fats as parts of the required food protection course.

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