Good Tuesday Morning,
Personal note: Your friend and humble narrator is expecting his second child to arrive any day now, so there may be an interruption to Family Meal for a week or two soon. Will keep you posted.
Disclosure Du Jour: After a year of having his conflicts of interest (justly) picked apart in public, SF Chronicle critic Michael Bauer was finally compelled to add this disclaimer (first spotted by not-quite-the-biggest-Bauer-fan John Birdsall) at the bottom of his 2016 top 10: “Full disclosure: My partner is involved with the IfOnly website featuring chefs from In Situ, the Bywater, Leo’s and Playa.”
Dim Sum delirium: Yes, the Michelin-starred (in HK) and relatively cheap Tim Ho Wan finally opened in Manhattan on Friday. But Robert Sietsema describes a brutal opportunity cost – you could be going on a dim sum crawl to several other great places in NYC – in EaterNY: “An accomplice went at 4:30 p.m. to secure our place… The line extended from 10th Street to 11th Street along 4th Avenue. After a further wait of 50 minutes… we finally reached the front door, where a woman with an iPad stood. She was very nice, but told us that our further wait would be 2.5 hours.”
Holiday Reading List: Eater is out with The 24 Best Longform Food Stories of 2016. Open a new window, and prepare to open 24 new tabs.
Sadist reading list: The most brutal restaurant reviews of 2016. Featuring Pete Wells on Per Se, Ryan Sutton on Vandal (NYC), Tina Nguyen on Trump Grill, Craig LaBan on Aqimero (Philly), Besha Hall on Otium (LA), Jay Rayner on Gino D’Acampo (London) and more…
Prime Real Estate Alert: Want a flashy place to set up shop (basically) next door to Daniel Boulud and David Chang? DC’s City Center development has an opening now that Mango Tree has closed…
Those pesky paychecks: Charleston institution Hyman’s Seafood is paying $1M to settle a wage theft lawsuit, while over in the UK, former MasterChef host Michael Roux Jr. has also agreed to try to compensate staff for unpaid wages after being publicly shamed for his behavior at 2-Michelin-star La Gavroche. Seems cooks are no longer satisfied with subbing “the experience” for an honest income…
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Arrival: New Benoit exec chef Laetitia Rouabah has a profile in GrubStreet worth reading, especially since “The 33-year-old Rouabah is the rare unknown quantity in New York, a city where chefs tend to arrive with a cannonball mentality”
Don’t get burned: Turns out POS maker Toast has been signing up restaurateurs as “independent sales agents” to help resell their system to others in the industry. Nothing wrong with that, but the company is now under fire from one such rep, who alleges he not only didn’t get paid for his work, but the company’s product and support were so bad it was tough for him to work at all. Could be one man’s sour grapes, but it’s a good reminder about the importance of due diligence, especially if your compensation involves stock.
Sherwood Forest Dispatch: Possibly coming to Miami soon (and looking for celeb chefs to help promote it), one Spanish priest’s Robin Hood concepts are using the proceeds from paying customers’ breakfast and lunch tabs to serve free dinners to the needy. “To get served by a waiter wearing a nice uniform and to eat with proper cutlery, rather than a plastic fork, is what gives you back some dignity.”
It’s not just the job: In the Post-Dispatch, star St. Louis chef Michael Randolph tells the all too common tale of a successful chef’s decent to rock bottom. The reason I highlight this particular telling is because it explicitly rejects the idea that merely working in a high-pressure restaurant causes alcoholism. (With appearances by Andrew Zimmern and pastry chef Matthew Rice.)
#ChoppedCheese: The internet is once again outraged that anyone other than a non-Manhattan bodega is selling chopped cheese sandwiches for anything other than the agreed upon price of $4. This time, it’s at Whole Foods for $8. If you are unfamiliar with this sandwich or the controversy surrounding its “discovery”, here’s a primer.
Glory Days: A quick shoutout to this great NYT piece / slideshow on the joys, and hopefully not final days, of traditional Kentucky Country Ham. It features my favorite food-writing paragraph of the year: “The ham won out.”
And finally, a recommendation: For your last-minute impossible-to-shop-for list, give a gift subscription to a favorite local and/or national news source. The Family Meal is a paid subscriber to the SF Chronicle, LA Times, Washington Post, New York Times, New Yorker, Washingtonian (our local monthly mag), and several more. They are all great value, and make great gifts!
And for a random act of holiday kindness, next time you share an article you liked, try to tag the author and let them know you liked their work. Even the biggest names get a kick out of it, I promise.
Also: Rate that podcast you like! It takes 2 seconds. Do it now.
See you Friday – MAYBE. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and send tips and/or your favorite food writing of the year to firstname.lastname@example.org.