And welcome to December.
Let’s get to it…
Just in … The Critics – In the UK, The Guardian has announced that Grace Dent will be their new restaurant critic (replacing Marina O’Laughlin who replaced AA Gill at the Times).
The (latest) Allegations: “Two pastry chefs and two externs — an unpaid position that often requires the same time commitment as full-time employees — who reported to [celebrity pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini] between 2009 and 2011 described in interviews with Mic a work environment in the Jean-Georgespastry kitchen that was rampant with incidents of sexual harassment.”
Flashback to a 2003 profile in NY Mag: “If the Jean Georges kitchen is a temple of haute cuisine, Iuzzini regularly desecrates it with constant pranks and lewd banter… He also has pictures of the time he hog-tied one of his cooks, crowning him with a Krispy Kreme deli hat. Sous-chefs who mouthed off got locked in the freezer. Others got rolled in rubber floor mats, which Iuzzini and crew then jumped on, elbows first, like WWF champions. His favorite form of torture is actually a French tradition. On a chef’s last day, it is customary to ambush him and douse him with the grossest thing you can find. ‘For one guy,’ says Iuzzini, ‘we threw him in a garbage can in the walk-in and covered him with egg whites, beet soup, and horrible-smelling fish juice.’”
P.S. – The Washington’s Post Maura Judkis tweets a reminder: “A reminder! @emilyaheil and I are still seeking restaurant sexual harassment stories that 1. took place in famous restaurants or, especially, 2. were committed by famous chefs. DMs open. Please share!”
The Conversation (tell PR): If you have a compelling female chef you can’t get publicity for, now’s the time to pitch the editors in (and writer of) this Esquire article: “Food Media Is Dominated by Women. So Why Aren’t We Writing About Female Chefs?”
Michelin Season – Hong Kong / Macau 2018 is out, and much to the chagrin of Amber’s Richard Ekkebus, the three-star list remained unchanged. In Hong Kong, “Bo Innovation, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Lung King Heen, 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo-Bombana, Sushi Shikon, and Tang Court retained their three stars, while Amber, Pierre, Caprice, Ryu Gin, Shang Palace, and Tin Lung Heen kept their two-star rating… Duddell’s and Ming Court dropped from two stars to one.” The eight new single-stars are Arcane, Imperial Treasure Fine Chinese Cuisine, Kaiseki Den by Saotome, Rech, Tate, The Ocean, Yee Tung Heen, and Ying Jee Club. PDF of the full list here.
Side Note – The South China Morning Post learned that while much has been made of local tourist boards footing the bill for Michelin Guides in new cities, the HK and Macau guides are apparently privately sponsored by a group including “Melco Resorts & Entertainment (a Macau hotel and casino operator), Robert Parker Wine Advocate, Mercedes-AMG, online restaurant reservation system Chope, water brands Badoit and Evian, and Nespresso.”
Michelin VP Claire Dorland-Clauzel tells it straight: “Our brand is very famous in the world so it has a price.”
That licensing $$$ – And speaking of branding for a price… if you’re dreaming of putting your face on frozen lasagna, Siobahán Brett has a piece in Eater this week about those “Big Food” deals. It’s mostly anecdotes from Jet Tila, Wolfgang Puck, and the like, but has a few useful details: “It’s not as though you’re selling a t-shirt… Star Wars, for example, could get 12 to 14 percent from a t-shirt. In food, you’re looking at 3, 4, or 5 percent, and 5 percent is really high in food.” Tight margins in food? I am shocked.
The Suits – “Mario Batali and his upscale Italian restaurant Babbo is being sued over alleged wage violations by dogged restaurant world attorney Maimon Kirschenbaum — again.” A busser claims he was paid the tipped minimum despite doing lots of non-tipped work. No word of other employees piling on yet, but last time they did, Batali and crew wound up settling for $5.25M. Details in Eater NY.
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The Chains – At Chipotle, CEO Steve Ells “said on Wednesday he would step aside after failing for two years to rescue the burrito chain’s sales and reputation from a string of food safety lapses. Investors welcomed the move, sending Chipotle shares up more than 5%.”
The Media – Welp, looks like LA Weekly’s strategy of not hiring a full time restaurant critic after Besha Rodell’s departure was part of a larger strategy to start over from scratch in general. The paper’s anonymous new owners just fired almost their entire staff, including food editor Katherine Spiers. Sparse details on Twitter from Hillel Aaron, one of the few staffers spared: “For what it’s worth… I still work at LA Weekly. We’re still putting out a paper next week. It’s super weird. Maybe something good will come out of this. Maybe not. New owners are 12 or so people, their names should be released soon.”
Over in Chicago, Joseph Hernandez announced he’s taking over the Deputy Food Editor position at the Trib.
The Mental Health Check – Pastry chef Maya Okada Erickson (Langbaan) has a personal history in Taste that is definitely worth sharing: “While alcoholism and substance abuse among chefs and restaurant workers are well documented, eating disorders remain under the radar for the most part—harder to trace and harder to parse. In some ways it makes sense: We as chefs obsess over food; it consumes all aspects of our life. One incredibly common sign of anorexia is pouring massive amounts of energy and time into making elaborate meals for other people as an excuse for you yourself to not eat anything. When you can put all of yourself into a meal meant for somebody else, it’s easy to hide your disorder behind that.”
Food Hall Fever – Before you sign that contract, read Elizabeth Dunn’s New Yorker piece on the Food Hall business, including the story of Caroline Fidanza’s short-lived Little Chef: “There were unexpected charges for dishwashers and staff to receive deliveries… an anticipated license to sell wine and beer never materialized.… Although Little Chef was doing almost all of its sales around lunchtime, [the] contract… required her to stay open for eight consecutive hours each day, in order to give the market a vibrant appearance…. After four months, she closed down. ‘It was absolutely soul-crushing,’ Fidanza said. ‘It was the saddest four months of my life.’”
Last and least – TAKE THIS, HATERS: It’s Dominique Crenn and her Pastry Sous Mark Lieuw doing some end of service dancing to Kanye’s Stronger. “But I really enjoy dancing.” – Elaine Benes.
And that’s it for today. Dat dat dat dat dat don’t kill you…
See you here Tuesday for next Family Meal!
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