The Family Meal – Friday, March 31st, 2017

Hello Friday, Family Meal is back!

Many, many apologies for the extended absence. We are back from Cuba and ready to get back into it.

Here we go…

Runners up for the World’s 50 Best are out – Official list here, and Eater has this helpful roundup: “A number of prominent venues unexpectedly dropped off the main list. Fäviken fell from 41 to 57. Cape Town’s Test Kitchen plummeted from 22 to 63; it was the only restaurant on the list located in Africa. And New York’s Estela… fell from 44 to 66.” Also of note: A lot of folks were rooting for “World’s Best Female Chef” Dominique Crenn to make the top 50, but there Atelier Crenn is at (a respectable) 83, sandwiched between Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (82) and The Restaurant at Meadowood (84).

Top 50 come out next week, with awards ceremony in Melbourne on April 5th. Link for the livestream is here, if you’re into that, and can keep a tab open till then…

Tell Front of House – Critics are unimpressed with all the questions. Some poor server recently asked WaPo’s Tom Sietsema, “Thoughts? Questions? What’s going on in your mind when you chew?” Pete Wells says it’s happening to him too, and “It’s time to turn this train around.” All in one tweet and reply, here.

Tell Management In the Washington Post today: “After ‘classy’ N.C. restaurant [Caruso’s in Moorseville] bans kids, critics fume — and reservations surge… The ban… has led to a dramatic increase in reservations… from about 50 per day to around 80.”

Landmar(C) Marc Murphy and the Major Food Group guys have settled their lawsuit, with MFG dropping the “Landmark Rooms” name from its reboot of the old Four Seasons, and just calling the two spaces The Grill and The Pool. Of course, as critic Ryan Sutton notes, “on the mean streets of midtown Manhattan people are just gonna call it the new Four Seasons.” (Design fans: Thursday’s NYT has two preview pics of the new bar, here.)

Bourdain’s NYC Market CEO out – Eater has word that Stephen Werther (Suprema Provisions) recently stepped down “to pursue a new business.” There is also still no signed lease for the SuperPier project, which is supposedly slated for opening in 2019…

Le Cirque files for Chapter 11, loses head chef – “The Chapter 11 filing says they owe between $500,000 and $1 million to up to 100 creditors,” according to Page Six, and Mauro Maccioni said they went the bankruptcy route to make sure they didn’t lose their NYC leases in the midst of “a short-term cash-flow issue.” Unfortunately, they did lose Tom Valenti after just 3 months in the top job.

California Land Grabs: Last week, meal-kit leader Blue Apron bought Bill Niman’s BN Ranch in a vertical-integration deal that also brings him onto the company’s team, and E. & J. Gallo bought the showpiece Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa because they could (and because they were already buying lots of grapes there).

QUICK NOTE: In lieu of advertising in this Family Meal, I want to remind D.C. readers that today is the last day to get $20 off Dine N Dash tickets! The event supports José AndrésWorld Central Kitchen. It’s going to be great. I’m going, and you should too. Tickets here.

Munchery money – Bloomberg reports SF’s delivery-only restaurant (with a meal-kit option on the side) “has raised more than $5 million to stay afloat, practically eliminating the stakes of the company’s founders and departed employees, according to a person familiar with the matter.” Don’t ask me how that works. All I know is they’ve been in business for 7 years, gone through $120M in cash (their last round raised $85M in 2015) without much to show for it, and are not getting great press so far this year.

Update: TechCrunch got some rebuttal comments from the Munchery folks. They say “revenue grew by about 60% year-over-year last year, and that the company expects to see similar growth this year.”

But really, this old Fortune article summed it up best: “Silicon Valley is learning the hard way that the food business isn’t as simple as it seems.”

Meanwhile: NYC’s Dig Inn just raised a $30M round and continues to expand…

Profile of the Month – The NYT’s Kim Severson checks in on Paula Wolfert, and I highly recommend it, especially if the name doesn’t ring a bell: “It would be hard to overstate the importance of Ms. Wolfert’s work, which introduced couscous and other classic Mediterranean dishes to generations of cooks… She made Alice Waters fall in love with chicken cooked with preserved lemons and olives in a tagine, and primed America for.. Yotam Ottolenghi, who remains a fan. The British chef Fergus Henderson chose her cassoulet as his favorite recipe of all time.” Now, Severson writes, Wolfert is living with Alzheimer’s, and “the woman who once marched up to the French chef Jean-Louis Palladin and told him a dish didn’t have enough salt can no longer taste the difference between a walnut and a pecan, or smell whether the mushrooms are burning.”

Update: The SF Chronicle has their own piece on Wolfert now too, with a great pic of her possibly dressing down the aforementioned French chef.

Runner Up: This NYT profile of Ella Brennan (Miss Ella) at 91 is worth the click for for the headline shot of her presiding over dinner – served up by a fleet of her Commander’s Palace staff – at home. The rest of the write-up is pretty good too…

The pride of Iceland, flooded in NYC – A construction worker burst a water pipe above Restaurant Agern, and they’re closed until they can dry out. Looks like Gunnar Gíslason will be doing some popups in the meantime.

For Design Fans – This week’s NYT Magazine has a beautiful little rundown of some of the top ceramicists supplying high-end restaurants in Paris. (With a flashback link at the bottom for a similar take on Danish ceramicists from November.)

For Food Writing Fans – Today is the last day to nominate folks (or yourself) for the “Food Writing That Is Good Awards” being organized by food-Twitter star @shitfoodblogger and his ilk. LA Weekly even wrote up the awards this week: “One of the prizes is some candy. Another prize is some beans.”

And finally, want to know how much power this industry has? Check this headline: “The entire coal industry employs fewer people than Arby’s” I’m not saying Arby’s should be making policy, but Trump is taking lots of advice from mining CEOs these days…

That’s it for today. If you’re working this weekend, I hope you close out March with some very big checks, and the tips that go with them…

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and send tips and/or bcc’d emails nominating me for shitfoodblogger’s awards to If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at!

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