The Family Meal – Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Hello Tuesday,

Lots to get to today, so let’s get to it…

Conscious uncoupling – Per “Alon Shaya is one of New Orleans’ most prominent chefs; so is his longtime partner, John Besh, a co-owner in Shaya’s three successful New Orleans restaurants: DomenicaPizza Domenica and Shaya. Now, it appears that the high-octane, James Beard Award-winning partnership is coming to an end. On Monday (Sept. 18), Shaya told | The Times-Picayune, ‘We are in negotiations to purchase Shaya restaurant from the Besh Restaurant Group. And I hope that a deal can be done soon.’ A spokesperson for the Besh Restaurant Group confirmed that Shaya and the company are ‘parting ways.’ The spokesperson said Domenica and Pizza Domenica are not part of the negotiation.”

The Critics – LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell has moved home to Melbourne, and left us with a goodbye piece this morning: “Is it odd for me to thank a whole city for sharing itself with me, for being such a huge and important part of my life? I hope not. Thank you, Los Angeles. It’s cold here in Melbourne, and the tacos suck. I miss you like hell already.”

And in London, The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin is moving to The Sunday Times to take over AA Gill’s old post. Eater London has the right take: “Rumours have been spreading in the industry about who would replace Gill. This news paves the way for the rumours to now circulate about who will replace O’Loughlin at The Guardian.” (Will Bill Addison finally end his non-stop America tour in… London???)

Foie Gras Faux Pas, Again – “‘The champagne corks are popping,’ said David Perle of [PETA].” On Friday, a panel of judges concluded that California’s statewide ban on the sale of foie gras, blocked by the courts since 2015, can be reinstated, but “the unanimous decision by three judges won’t immediately take effect, giving farmers and a restaurant time to seek further review.” Full story here.

Noma 2.0 delayed because Europe is old – From the noma site: “A few months ago, while crews were performing construction on the space that will house the new noma, they stumbled upon an ancient stone wall buried in the ground. These things are fairly common in a city that is over 900 years old, but we dutifully brought archaeologists out to the site to inspect the wall and determine its origins. After a couple months, they declared the finding to be insignificant, and work resumed, but for that reason, we are delayed until mid-January with the opening.” Classic “ancient stone wall” excuse, René. In America, we just say “permit problems.”

The Profile Treatment – Somehow missed Charles Phan’s winding, refugee-to-top-chef story from writer Alex Witchel last week, but definitely worth the read: “By the time Phan was 16, he was attending Mission High School and working four nights a week as a bar back and busser…. He enrolled at Berkeley in 1982 but dropped out in his third year to protest a steep tuition increase. He helped his family with a sewing shop they opened to service local designers. Phan also designed his own clothing line and owned a retail store before going bankrupt in 1992. ‘We got too big, and a lot of people didn’t pay us,’ he said. He briefly sold software, courted his dream of a crepe shop and, once thwarted, found the space that would become the Slanted Door.”

The Bar Business – Derek Brown and his Drink Company won best cocktail bar in the country (Columbia Room) at TOTC this year, but all anyone talks about in D.C. is their theme bars. First it was just an outrageous amount of Christmas decorations, then some Mario props here and there, lately a Game of Thrones treatment, and next up is Halloween (link goes to the video trailer(!) for the bar). Turn up your nose all you want; there’s gold in them thar themes.

Although… might need to call an Intellectual Property lawyer before you try it yourself. Netflix has forced the Chicago pop-up bar based on the Stranger Things show to close. “You’re obviously creative types, so I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s important to us to have a say in how our fans encounter the worlds we build.”

In lieu of advertising today, I want to remind all my D.C. readers that Chef’s for Equality is tonight at Dock5, and tickets are available. Highly recommend, and hopefully see you there!

The Private Chef Business – Not sure when this first came out, but Salon just reposted this “The Lonely Hour” podcast episode with Kat Turner describing her wild (but lonely) ride as a chef to the stars, starting with Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. Definitely worth a listen if you’re interested in that world. She doesn’t get into a lot of specifics, but she does get into the reasons she can’t get into a lot of specifics, so there.

For design fans – Check out SF’s “Villon, the newest Mid-Market dining hopeful within the Proper Hotel.” Don’t quite know what to make of it yet, but there is something about this shoot’s shadowy daytime lighting that makes it look like a newly discovered, long-abandoned space. Cool, but those triangle-backed chairs should probably remain abandoned…

When the city pays your stage – A new program in NYC aims to use one chunk of public-private funding to kill two birds by paying stagiaire wages for New Yorkers in need of an opportunity, and thereby training chefs for restaurants in desperate need of talent. Tejal Rao’s NYT piece profiles one of the students: “Ms. Merced, who goes by the nickname Ginger…  is one of 22 people who enrolled this summer in Stage NYC, a new 12-week city program that recruits young, out-of-work New Yorkers and prepares them for restaurant careers with a mix of culinary classes and paid, on-the-job training in prominent kitchens like MareaDel Posto and Bar Boulud.”

For the bar – Apparently driven by a consumer retreat from high-end varieties, the total number of beer SKUs available at retail dropped 3.4% this year – 12,786 on August 31st, down from 13,238 at the end of 2016 – with craft SKUs in particular minus 5.7%. This is the first time they’ve gone down in over five years. “Are we finally past peak SKU?” Details here.

For the somm – Two tips from this great Dave McIntyre WaPo story on some Chilean wineries rediscovering their roots: 1) If you are building a new winery, you absolutely must include a hidden alcove to be discovered much later by your future heirs. It’s like creating a fancy trust to skip the estate tax. Do it. 2) Don’t let a wine writer take your picture without asking to approve the results.

And that’s it for today! Hoping to be at Chef’s for Equality in D.C. tonight, so maybe see you there?

Definitely see you back here Friday for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and send tips and/or candid photos of a surprised wine writers counting things to If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at!

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