A very happy 3rd birthday to my son, and – equally impressive I’m sure – a very happy 40th anniversary to the Inn at Little Washington, which “served its maiden dinner, for $4.95 on Jan. 28, 1978, in tiny Washington, Va.” under one Mr. Patrick O’Connell. “Over the decades, the brand has grown from an auto garage to occupy 21 buildings in the hamlet. The inn, decorated by a British stage-set designer, has also fed a host of luminaries, including ‘three queens and a king,’ O’Connell says of the inn…. (For crown counters, the royal guests were the queens of England, Jordan and Spain and the king of Spain.)” The Washington Post has a look back, a schedule of festivities, and a great little video that includes the moment earlier this year when O’Connell got his Michelin call.
The Suits – “Famed New York City seafood restaurant Le Bernardin was sued on Wednesday by a former server who said female employees are subjected to sexual harassment and that management ignores their complaints or shames them for coming forward.” Both Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert are named as defendants (“While [the server] did not allege harassment specifically by Ripert, she accused Le Coze of ‘body shaming’ for mocking her pregnancy-related weight gain.”).
Ripert told Reuters: “My reaction is very simple. All of these allegations are completely false, completely, all of them… I am looking forward to defending our position in court.” His day in court may get more complicated if the server’s attorney (some lawyer by the name of Maimon Kirschenbaum…) has his class action way and can get more staff to join the suit.
Don’t call it resignation… but, on Thursday, Tom Colicchio announced on Instagram: “It is with equal parts sadness and appreciation that I am announcing my resignation from the board of Food Policy Action, effective today.” He says he’ll keep up the good fight in other ways, and the accompanying picture leaves lots of room for a “Colicchio 2020” over the American flag just in case.
The Critics – The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Craig LaBan was out yesterday with an article straightforwardly titled: “It’s not my job to pass judgment on a chef’s character.” Worth picking through for nuance, but here’s the gist paragraph: “Short of any hard evidence, the proposition of judging a restaurant or chef on anything other than the dining experience itself is a dodgy pursuit fraught with blurry borders. At what point along the continuum from garden variety jerk to infamous scoundrel does a personality now incite a critic to penalize a restaurant (along with its many innocent, hardworking employees) from receiving the rating it might otherwise have earned, to tone back praise for its good flavors, to subtly ramp up the complaints, or even to decline to do a review itself based entirely on unsubstantiated whispers, hearsay, or intuition about a chef’s character and integrity? … We definitely don’t want known sexual abusers winning Beard awards. But the door to those other feelings marked ‘concerns’ has suddenly been opened a crack.”
LaBan does say that when it goes beyond ‘concerns’ and into convictions, a line can be drawn. He would not, for instance, have glowingly covered recently sentenced (last week; sorry I missed this) child molester Alex Capasso (Blackbird Dining Establishment, Crow and the Pitcher) had he known about the chef’s crimes at the time.
A long, worthwhile rebuttal thread from the New Yorker’s Helen Rosner is characteristically pointed: “Critics do not just reflect and amplify culture, they shape it. Crying ‘not my responsibility’ when it comes to character assessment in a character-driven industry is disingenuous at best, and a massive, dangerous abdication of responsibility at worst. If you don’t think this is part of your job, you’re bad at your job.”
Some sad news – Not so sure about this lede in the Toronto Star obit, but: “If there was a Forrest Gump of Canada’s culinary scene, John Bil would have fit the profile. The co-owner of Honest Weight seafood restaurant and seafood counter in the Junction, who was involved in one way or another at some of the best restaurants in the country, has died. Bil died early Wednesday morning at his Toronto home at the age of 49 after being diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in late 2013. He leaves a legacy of helping to open some of Canada’s best restaurants and championing the country’s sustainable fisheries.”
For design fans – The new Eris Brewery & Cider House in Chicago is using what look to me like old radiator ends as bannister bars, and I like it. Nice shutters(?) on the upstairs interior windows too. But I guess you can play around with some extra money when you live in a city where you can buy a huge, detached, former masonic temple for… $34K? Can someone from Chicago tell me if I’m reading that wrong? Assume it was a city-backed investment deal or something?
The Comments Section – This Eater NY article is wonderfully self-aware on several levels: “Teen Chef Doesn’t Care That People Think He’s Too Young to Run a Restaurant. Though technically a legal adult at 19-years-old, chef and restaurateur Flynn McGarry still gets qualified by the epithet ‘teen chef’ whenever he makes the news. This week, it was for the announcement of his new LES restaurant Gem. When asked about some of the internet hate he received upon the announcement, McGarry tells Eater he’s used to it. ‘It’s always going to be a thing,’ McGarry says. ‘There’s nothing I can do about it at this point. It took a long time for me to understand that there’s always going to be someone in, for example, the Eater comments sometimes that’s not happy with it.’”
PR lesson for the young chef: Never give people directions to the cave where your anonymous detractors live.
The (actual) Oscars of Food – “Thomas Lennon’s documentary about a Cleveland restaurant that employs formerly incarcerated individuals, Knife Skills, just received an Academy Award nomination in the category of Documentary Short Subject. This 40-minute film chronicles the opening of Edwins, a French fine-dining establishment that’s staffed by stipend-earning students who are beginning their careers in the restaurant industry after stints in prison.” Details and trailer on Eater.
The Profile Treatment – James Syhabout is having quite the rollout for the new book he wrote with John Birdsall: Hawker Fare: Stories & Recipes from a Refugee Chef’s Isan Thai & Lao Roots. He’s been all over the place lately, but finally made the big time (IMHO) with a spot on NPR’s All Things Considered this week. “As a kid he remembers asking his mother, ‘Why do you cook Lao for us at home and Thai for the restaurant?’ Her answer involved perception, saying, ‘They’ll probably say it smells bad and it’s too spicy and it doesn’t appear appetizing — like, “look, it’s murky green, this thing looks like a bowl of swamp.”‘”
Burger money – Single location managers at In-N-Out make an average of over $160k according to the California Sun. That number sounded familiar… From the Grace debacle in the Chicago Sun-Times: “[Michael Muser] and [Curtis Duffy] signed 10-year contracts with Grace in December 2012, with starting annual salaries of $90,000. Olszewski says he gave them raises, to $160,000 a year, two and a half years ago. The men were to get two weeks of paid vacation every year after the first year.” This industry. Damn.
Last and least – I have been avoiding unnecessary coverage of “Salt Bae” but this video of Nusret Gökçe’s latest creation at his NYC restaurant Nurs-Et is… special. No clickbait: You’ve probably seen it. There’s meat, Kraft Singles(?), asparagus, more Kraft Singles, and, of course, salt. I think Angela Davissummed it up best: “After all that hype, he came to the US to make Tasty videos.”
And that’s it for today. I hope you feel one one-hundredth of the confidence Salt Bae feels while he’s unwrapping cheese slices for his mise.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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