Hello, Houston. Damn. Won’t pretend I have a lot to add reporting-wise here, especially if you’re in the thick of it there, but FYI: Yesterday afternoon the Houston PD put out this tweet: “We are looking to buy more meals for our stations; any restaurants available please provide name & contact info.” If you’re nearby and lucky enough to have some spare resources, maybe that’s a start.
It’s hard to tell exactly who’s affected, but Justin Yu says Theodore Rexflooded (he is safe and drinking champagne), and Chris Shepherd, who was just on an episode of the Eater Upsell podcast expounding on his love for the city (skip to 8:28 for his part), is working on keeping Underbelly and Hay Merchant serving neighbors. Highly recommend his Upsell interview if you are unfamiliar with Houston.
In related news to the west, a fire at Franklin Barbecue early Saturday morning “is estimated to have done $200,000 worth of structural damage and $150,000 worth of content damage.” Aaron Franklin says he thinks it was caused by unusually strong winds in the smokehouse, and “it will probably take us a few weeks to get this thing fixed up.” Video of an unflappable chef nonchalantly discussing the loss of his restaurant is in Austin360: here. Video of the actual fire raging: here.
And still further west, a fire shut down Bestia in L.A. during dinner service Thursday night. No one hurt, but not sure when they’ll reopen either.
The Wish List – In the NYT, Pete Wells has a wish list for new restaurants out today that is basically one word long: Diversity.
The Non-Compete – In NYC, EaterNY reports, “The judge in a heated lawsuit between the Williamsburg Hotel and rising star chef Adam Leonti banned the chef from working at any restaurant in New York City until the spring — a decision that his current employer Sessanta plans to appeal in hopes of moving forward with a fall re-launch for the restaurant.” The hoteliers claim “they spent more than $2 million turning Leonti into a ‘celebrity chef’” while waiting for the hotel’s Harvey to open. Could have saved a bunch of money if they’d just sued eachother earlier and gotten all this free publicity… (Note: If you are looking to invest $2M in an up-and-coming celebrity, I’m available at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
And speaking of acrimonious departures, Eater NY also has it that “Following a contentious lawsuit between Ichimura owner Idan Elkon and big-name sushi chef Eiji Ichimura, Elkon has rebranded the restaurant and hired a new chef… Derek Wilcox.”
This Family Meal is brought to you by Add Passion and Stir: Big Chefs, Big Ideas, a weekly podcast about inspirational people who are changing the world. In each episode, Billy Shore, the creator of the No Kid Hungry Campaign (www.strength.org), brings together prominent change-makers and guests from the culinary world to discuss how food is at the intersection of social transformation.
Guests on the podcast include James Beard Award-winning chefs who have amassed a host of Michelin Stars, joined by leaders in the public and private sectors who are making profound positive changes in the world: Chef José Andrés, U.N. Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin, Shake Shack CEO Danny Meyer, Chef Traci Des Jardins, and many more. Listen, Subscribe, Rate, and Review: here.
Reservation Wars – OpenTable is obviously under all out assault, and today the New York Times basically handed Tock, Resy, Reserve, and Yelp an entire article to make the case that its days are numbered. Ouch. On a more positive note, David Barber does give the old guard a way forward: “Having a baseline product that comes close to what OpenTable does and then allows some customization, that’s what the restaurant business wants.” Unfortunately, he does it while plugging what they use at Blue Hill – Reserve.
The IOU – After weeks of ridicule on social media (culminating in a Change.org petition signed by nearly 8k people), Toronto chef Susur Lee has finally apologized and reimbursed employees for his system of docking their tips for mistakes (spillage, breakage, etc.) in the form of “IOUs” at Frings. It was all brought to light by instagram account ChefGrantSoto, who took particular umbrage with the Lee’s kids, Kai and Levi, and their conspicuous consumption in the face of tip thievery.
For (you) obsessives – No need to be interested in tea to read Jonathon Kauffman’s fantastic profile of eccentric collector David Lee Hoffman in the Chronicle. It’s really a tale of obsession with ingredients, and I’m guessing a lot of you can relate… “As the 10-year mark approaches, the aromas of dried tobacco, camphor, dried fruit and incense overcome the flowers and vegetal notes. Every year adds to the tea’s smoothness and depth. The best puer [tea] can linger in the throat and flush the chest and forehead, occasionally to a psychotropic degree. It is almost impossible to fall in love with aged puer without wanting to collect it.”
Last and least – I am very late to this party (this article from 2014 is getting recycled on social media), but in case you missed it too, Gordon Ramsay has a low sperm count and blames it in part on standing in front of hot stoves all day. SNOWBALLS, a “scientifically backed cooling underwear that was conceived as a natural fertility aid for men” would like to help. They’re using Ramsay’s candor to highlight their unique product line: “We’ve got a better solution for you overheated chefs. Protect your fertility by getting a couple pair of revolutionary Snowballs Underwear.” You’re welcome. (NB: This is not a sponsored post, but this is a good time to point out that Family Meal does have a big industry audience, charges reasonable rates for advertising, and would not turn down money from testicle-cooling technology. Hint, hint, Snowballs.)
And that’s it for Tuesday. All my very best thoughts go out to folks affected by this flooding, and all those doing what they can to help. I’m off to figure out what I can do now.
See you Friday for next Family Meal.
PS – Just one more thing about Houston before I go: I don’t want to pick on anyone, but if we’re going to keep proclaiming that “food brings us together” and “food tells the story of who we are” and whatever else we declare every time someone implies food is frivolous entertainment, maybe websites reporting on restaurants and food can try to add a little more value when crisis hits? At last look, Eater has an ode to tater tots running above any mention of Houston. I know I’m no better, but you guys do maps and have Vox!