Lots to get to, so let’s get to it…
First, some sad news – 57 year-old “Lowell Hawthorne, who emigrated to the US from Jamaica and founded [the Golden Krust] franchise chain with 120 locations in nine states, committed suicide Saturday night in his Bronx factory.” Details in the NY Post. The Daily News suggested he was struggling with debt and a lawsuit, but whatever the cause of the pressure, a reminder from The Root’s take that there are resources out there if you need them:
If someone you know is suffering from depression or has expressed suicidal thoughts or ideations, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or the National Alliance on Mental Illness for support in your area.
And for industry folks, Chefs With Issues has a page full of links and resources here.
The Law – After rumblings for months, the Dept. of Labor has formally introduced its tip pooling rule change, basically rescinding 2011 language banning the practice in most cases. The new rule wouldn’t force any changes on businesses, but the most aggressive reading will obviously rattle some nerves: “Crucially, the rule doesn’t actually require that employers distribute pooled tips to workers. Under the administration’s proposed rule, as long as the tipped workers earn minimum wage, the employer can legally pocket those tips.”
I didn’t quite get that message from the DoL’s summaries, which refer specifically – if not exclusively – to the possibility of sharing tips with “employees who do not customarily receive tips, including restaurant cooks, dishwashers, and other traditionally lower-wage job classifications.” BUT if you want to get wonky and read up for yourself, the full document is a minimum wage and tip credit history lesson, going back to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, jumping to amendments and Supreme Court battles in the 1960s and 70s, and ending with 2011’s “then-existing view that the statutory conditions in section 3(m) of the FLSA require that tipped employees retain all of their tips, except for those tips distributed through a tip pool limited to customarily and regularly tipped employees, regardless whether such employees work for an employer that takes a tip credit. See, e.g., § 531.52.” Have fun.
Public comment will be open for 30 days from publication (today). Here’s the main USDoL page for the change, including a “fact sheet,” FAQs, and link for comments.
The Move – Per the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Chef Marc Vetri has followed business partner Jeff Benjamin out of the door at Urban Outfitters — two years after selling the bulk of the Vetri restaurant empire to the Philadelphia-based retail giant.… Vetri declined to comment further on his resignation, but did say that chefs Jeff Michaud and Brad Spence, who were instrumental in creating the Urban-owned restaurants, would remain with Urban.”
The Expansion – Over in SF, “Michael and Lindsay Tusk have a new project in the works. A Type-41 license application for 528-550 Washington Street was filed earlier week by the Tusks, who run four-star Quince and Cotogna nearby on Pacific Avenue.” Details in the Chronicle.
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The Departure – In Chicago, “Nicole Pederson, founding chef of 5-year-old Found Kitchen and Social House and 1-year-old The Barn, both in Evanston, is leaving.” She and owner Amy Morton told the Trib that the split is amicable. No word on what’s next for the chef, or who’s next for the two kitchens she leaves behind.
The Conversation – In Edible Manhattan, Emily Ziemski has a powerful piece about the verbal / written abuse that forced her to leave her career as a pastry chef: “I’ll be the first to point out that no one ever laid a hand on me. But they didn’t have to. Words are a vice grip unlike any other. Numerous pieces have been circulating around recently to the tune of: ‘If you’ve done any of these, it’s harassment.’ Pay attention, because it’s true.”
The Bill – With all due respect to Michael Pollan, Tamar Haspel says he and other farm bill reform advocates are wrong about the root cause of disparity in food prices: “The idea that wholesome foods are expensive and junk foods are cheap because of the system of subsidies in the farm bill pervades the conversation about food policy. But that idea has one very big problem. It’s false…. Here’s the key overlooked fact: Produce is inherently much more expensive to grow than grains, and that difference dwarfs the difference in subsidy levels.” Details, including some numbers to back up her claim and fair time given to Pollan, are here.
Last and Definitely Not Least: The History Lesson – This is a lot of fun (and – hint hint – definitely replicable in other cities for both bars and restaurants). Lou Bustamante traces the roots of modern Bay Area cocktail culture back to 1992, and takes us on a journey from there to here. To give you a sense of his scope, there are starring roles and cameos – in order of appearance – from: Marcovaldo Dionysos, Jonny Raglin, Jeff Hollinger, Thad Vogler, Jennifer Colliau, Erik Adkins, Richard Mazzera, Jessica Maria, Dylan O’Brien, Scott Baird, Julio Bermejo, Brooke Arthur, Carlos Yturria, Dominic Venegas, Phil West, Scott Beattie, Jon Santer, Neyah White, Martin Cate, and Benjamin Cooper. And references to establishments: Enrico’s, Absinthe, Comstock Saloon, Dosa, Nopa, The Slanted Door, Bar Agricole, Trou Normand, Camino, Jardiniere, Beretta, Heaven’s Dog, Coachman, Wo Hing, César, Chez Panisse, Hotsy Totsy, Prizefighter, Trick Dog, Tommy’s Mexican, Smuggler’s Cove, Rickhouse, Loló, Whitechapel, Range, Treasury, Cyrus, Cantina, Bourbon & Branch, Local Edition, Rickhouse, Tradition, Pagan Idol, Ginger’s, Rye, Brass Tacks, Third Rail, Forbidden Island, Tonga Room, Trader Vic’s, Jungle Bird, Ramen Shop, the Saratoga, Maven, the Sea Star, 54 Mint, Dirty Habit, Wildhawk, PCH, Miminashi, Duke’s Spirited Cocktails, and the ABV Over Proof pop-ups.
Phew. (Side note: Food media is rightfully doing some soul searching about representation of women in pieces. Editors should be on the lookout for missed opportunities like this: “Wildhawk, for example, is a powerhouse of female bartenders mixing up potent classics and innovative drinks.” If they’re powerhouses worth highlighting, name them!)
And that’s it for today. If you have to swim in a tip pool this week, I hope it’s of the McDuck variety.
See you here Friday for next Family Meal!
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and send tips and/or deeply reported histories of the “beer and a shot” special to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!
P.S. – A couple of web celebs got into a variety of fights at Barley House, a big bar in Cleveland, so they naturally took out their phones and started live-screaming one-star Yelp reviews into the ether (read: millions of subscribers). Too bad for them, the bar’s owner apparently has a digital team, and created an amazing 15 minute long True Crime video breakdown of all the events as captured on his security cameras. I share this for two reasons: 1) Dear god social media stardom is insane, and 2) May be a good time to check in on your NestCams (#notsponsored) and make sure you’ve got all your bases covered…