The Family Meal – Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Hello Friday,

Quick heads up before we start: There will be no Family Meal this Tuesday, as I’m taking the day off to watch my kids break new toys. This is the first “conscious” Christmas for my three year old, and I am especially excited to witness the waves of emotion that crash over him as he first unwraps gifts, and then learns he has to share them with his baby sister.

Speaking of sharing: You should share this newsletter with your friends, and if you got this as a forward, you should sign up for yourself at

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, all!

And now, let’s get to it…

Grace is gone – The star Chicago restaurant closed suddenly and permanently on Wednesday. Kim Severson had the scoop in the NYT: Chef Curtis Duffy and his partner Michael Muser “had explored the possibility of a purchase that would give them complete financial and creative control of Grace, their spokeswoman said. But a new investor pulled out and the transaction did not happen. Through a spokeswoman, [owner Michael Olszewski] said Wednesday night that there had been other problems with the two men. Mr. Duffy had quit in May, but returned to the restaurant in September. Although Mr. Muser announced his departure on Wednesday, he confirmed through a spokeswoman that he had actually been fired on Dec. 1. Mr. Duffy’s last day at the restaurant was Dec. 18…

“Mr. Duffy is working with a legal team to determine where and when he might be able to open another restaurant, said his spokeswoman, Janet Isabelli. But nothing will likely be what Grace was to him… The word meant so much to him, he gave it to one of his daughters and to his restaurant.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually his restaurant.

Speaking of what’s in a name – Per the Times-Picayune, Alon Shaya has given up trying to buy his namesake restaurant from the Besh Restaurant Group, and is now suing for control of his own name.

With Shaya and Grace on her mind, Amanda Kludt has some sound advice on Twitter: “Just don’t name your restaurant / bar / café / whatever after yourself (or your kids), ESP if you have partners but even if you don’t.”

The Media – Great news in D.C.: The District’s alt-weekly Washington City Paper appears to have been bought / saved by a wealthy local investor, who has also gathered an advisory board including José Andrés and a slew of other conflicts of interest. WCP produces some of the finest local food reporting in the country (link goes to their Food section).

And over at Eater, they’re announcing new roles and titles all aroundLesley Suter (previously LA Mag) is the new Travel Editor, Matt Buchanan moves from Features Editor to Executive Editor (his old Features Editor job is up for grabs), and Managing Editor Sonia Chopra is now Director of Editorial Strategy. “In other Eater masthead news: Milly McGuinness is our new Engagement Editor; Meghan McCarron is our first-ever Special Correspondent; and Stephen Pelleterri joined us last month as Supervising Producer.”

ATTN PR Dept: Not included in the above article, but especially pertinent to Family Meal readers: Hillary Dixler announced on Twitter that her new title at Eater is Restaurant Editor: “If you want to send any news/tips; if you want to tell Eater about restaurants that are opening, closing, kicking ass, or just doing things differently, let me know!”

This Family Meal is brought to you by GoTab: Split, Tip, Pay, and Go. GoTab is the fastest, safest, and easiest way to pay your tab right from your phone at any bar or restaurant. Find out more at

Accusations at the bar – Have to echo the warning at the beginning of this Neat Pour story: the article linked below contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence. The alleged perpetrator is “power broker of the Los Angeles bar scene” Marcos Tello, who has been accused on the record (including a criminal complaint filed with the LAPD) of multiple instances of sexual assault and rape. “Responding through his attorney, he categorically denied the accusations, declaring them false.”

The Conversation – One of the single most powerful pieces I have read about the current moment in professional kitchens (and bars, and beyond) – “super-continental, Pangaea-level shit” – was published yesterday in Food & Wine. Nashville pastry chef Lisa Donovan (City House, Buttermilk Road, Husk) was set on an anger-induced mise-en-place tear by a seemingly innocuous Facebook post, and couldn’t figure out what set her off. Spoiler alert: she figures it out. You should read it (especially if you’re a guy who thinks he is already doing all the right things).

And two new Vice pieces this week take the conversation to new, important places. Korsha Wilson flashes back to Mark Bittman’s dismissal of a question at Stone Barns last month, and describes “The double bind of being a woman of color in the food world”, while John Birdsall looks at the current industry environment for queer people, and ends with a rallying cry: “I’ll say it now: The best way to protect queer workers is the oldest one we know—by unionizing, and fighting discrimination like a bitch.”

Gone Brick and Mortar – “It’s been a little more than three years since chef Alexander Hong, a veteran of the Quince kitchen, and his business partner Brennan Spreitzer started their supper club, Sorrel.” Now the SF Chronicle says the pop-up is going permanent, moving into the former Nicospace on Sacramento.

For design fans – Here’s Eater LA’s photo spread for newcomer Inko Nito. I like the use of tiles on some of the columns and beams, and that copper pipe on the hood, but let’s be honest, authentic or not, beyond the bar: stools suck. And over in SF, here’s “True Laurelthe cocktail-focused bar from Lazy Bear’s chef/owner David Barzelay and partner/bar director Nicolas Torres.” There are… a lot of lines and solid colors? Sorry, that dark blue gloss and mustard combo is throwing me off.

Good gig – Also in Eater LA: “There’s a new name stepping into the kitchen at MajordomoDavid Chang’s forthcoming Chinatown restaurant: Jude Parra-Sickels. He’s in as executive chef… On the other side of things, Christine Larroucau is in as general manager.”

The Virus – Eater has a big multimedia package out this week called “Going Viral”. It’s several “chapters” of case studies and tips on how to hitch your restaurant to the social media stars: “The success of Juniper’s buzzworthy new brunch was no coincidence. Behind the scenes, social media marketing expert and professional Instagrammer Jared Zuckerman masterminded the menu’s popularity from its conception… As a hired gun, he boasts that every dish he’s created and marketed for a client has been a hit. ‘I actually don’t know if any dish that I created has not gone viral,’ Zuckerman says.”

Last and not least – If you need last minute gifts, please consider giving subscriptions in support of the people who write these stories. Links here to the gift subscription pages of some of the newspapers I subscribe to in service of this newsletter: The Washington PostThe SF Chronicle, and The New York Times all do great food journalism. I also subscribe to the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune, but they don’t make it easy to buy gift subscriptions (LAT Guild folks reading this, please tell the owners it’s Christmas 2017!). And if you’re feeling extra generous, share stories you’re reading on social media, disable your ad blocker, and tell people to advertise in your favorite newsletter…

And that’s it for today. If you have to work the holidays, I hope you make outrageous amounts of money while you do. Outrageous amounts.

Take care, and I’ll see you one week from today for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and send tips and/or your poorly reasoned defense of stools to If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at!

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