Let’s get right to it…
The James Beard Foundation has a new CEO (starting February 20th): Clare Reichenbach. “Unlike [previous CEO Susan Ungaro], who was the editor in chief of Family Circle, a magazine that featured food, Ms. Reichenbach, 44, admitted to having no culinary experience beyond that of ‘a deeply impassioned home cook.’ She is the founder of CJJR Consulting in New York, whose clients include New York Public Radio and Samsung. Before that, she was with AMC Networks and BBC Worldwide.”
Michelin goes soft? – If you were thinking of “giving back your stars” as a PR play, beware, Michelin could call your bluff: “The Michelin guide allowed a top French restaurant to bow out of its listings Tuesday after its chef said he no longer wanted to cook under the ‘huge pressure’ of being judged by its inspectors. It is the first time it has ever allowed a restaurant to withdraw from its pages. Sebastien Bras, whose Le Suquet restaurant in the rural Aveyron region has held the maximum three-star rating from the gastronomic bible for 18 years, told AFP in September that he could no longer put himself through the ordeal of knowing that one below-par dish could cost him his reputation.” Details via AFP in Yahoo!.
The Bots – The NYT’s big exposé on a Twitter “Follower Factory” called Devumi included shout outs to both Michael Symon and Paul Hollywood for buying huge chunks of “fans” to pad their numbers. “Records reviewed by The Times show Mr. Symon bought 100,000 Twitter followers from Devumi in September 2014, and another 500,000 in November 2015. An earlier tranche of bots appears to have been purchased in early 2013… ‘I thought it would drive traffic,’ said Mr. Symon. ‘I thought it was going to be influencers and people in my field. It’s embarrassing.’” #humbled.
Drought prep – FYI CA menu planners, per SF Gate: “At the start of the week, statewide snowpack averaged just 30 percent of normal for the date, not far from the 25 percent logged at the same time in 2015, a record-low year.” Ugh.
Very Big Beverage – JAB Holdings, the private equity folks who bought Keurig a while back, are now merging it with Dr. Pepper Snapple, consolidating a massive collection of coffee and drinks brands, plus some restaurant chains, and – if you count Mondelēz’s 13-14% stake in this whole thing – a ton of snacks. Think: Everything Keurig and Green Mountain, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Panera Bread, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee Company, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Espresso House (“the largest branded coffee shop chain in Scandinavia”), Intelligensia, Stumptown, Mighty Leaf Tea, Breugger’s Bagels, and a bunch of old school soda brands (Schweppes, RC, Squirt, IBC, etc.) previously under the Dr. Pepper Snapple umbrella.
Also – please sit down – they own Clamato. I have reached out to ask about product integrity. I know we are all concerned.
Brick and Mortar – In SF, the RTB Fillmore pop-up from Rodney Wages is “growing up from its hastily conceived roots, evolving into a permanent restaurant by the name of Avery with backing from a team of fellow fine-dining pros: partner and general manager Matthew Mako (Benu, Saison), sommelier Daniel Bromberg (TrueSake, Les Clos), and chef de cuisine Kristina Compton (Atelier Crenn, Plum).” Eater SF has the details.
The Profile Treatment – “The voice of America’s food culture”, Mr. Francis Lam, who some people like, got himself a glowing write-up in the Washington Post a few days ago: “His literary career began almost by accident. As a student at the Culinary Institute of America in New York’s Hyde Park in 2002 and 2003, Lam wrote lively emails to friends describing his kitchen adventures. Friends passed the messages around. One day, out of the blue, an editor at the Financial Times who had read Lam’s emails called and asked whether he was interested in writing for publication. Yes, he was.” With cameos and cookbook shoutouts from Ruth Reichl, Alex Stupak, Austin Bush, Kris Yenbamroong, Toni Tipton-Martin, Chrissy Teigen, Sam Kass, Ronny Lundy, and of course, Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
For design fans – All I see when I look at the open atrium style and vaulted ceilings at Spike Gjerde’s new D.C. Line Hotel concept, A Rake’s Progress is high utility bills and negative space for tables. But, hey, a hotel group is paying for it, and he’s got the contract for all banquet business on property, so… massive church organ chandelier it is.
The Critics continue to grapple with how to deal with restaurants whose profits flow to men accused of – and admitting to – sexual assault and harassment. Up next: Jonathan Gold tries out a new balancing act in his review of April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s The Hearth & Hound. After throwing out a string of questions he says are “better suited to philosophers than restaurant critics” he settles on shrugging his shoulders and moving on: “I have friends who refuse to set foot in the place, and I respect their values. I think it may be more important that Bloomfield’s talent is heard. But I’m a white dude — this line is not mine to draw. And whichever side of the question you lean toward, it is hard not to feel queasy at the result. The Hearth & Hound is a handsome place…” Then he ends with a recommendation for banana bread.
What, no cinnamon rolls?
The Media – Carrie Schedler on Twitter yesterday: “So, some personal news: As of today, I’m a senior editor at Chicago Mag, and I’ll be running our dining department! Please pitch me everything at email@example.com”.
Side note: speaking of Chicago Mag, they’re out with a huge, color-coded spreadsheet purporting to break down the good and bad of restaurant week deals there. It makes some big assumptions, lacks details, and gets pretty subjective (“You can get a bad deal at dinner without trying that hard, plus I’m not a huge fan of the restaurant”), but … here you go.
Goodbye Gangway – The “oldest gay bar in San Francisco” is closing, and the Bay Area Reporter has a history / eulogy for the Gangway Bar here. Favorite anecdote: “By the early ’70s ‘Lithuanian’ had become a synonym for ‘gay’ in the bar, with Bay Area Reporter columnist Sweet Lips using it in this item from 1971, two months after the paper started: ‘Seems as if the Gangway is attracting the stars – Burt Lancaster was there last Thursday – I didn’t know he was Lithuanian!!’”
The Conversation – And in particular, the conversation you should have with your staff… Elise Kornack, who shuttered her very successful Take Root in part because of harassment by customers, has a column in Food & Wine both telling her own story and advising others to take action: “If you are a restaurant owner reading this and reason your staff has not experienced this kind of mistreatment, I suggest you check in with them all: bartenders, bussers, servers, and receptionists. Ask them if because of their gender, race or identity they have been subject to exploitation or hurt simply because of who they are, then urge them to share their story. By including the employees in the conversation and defining what is considered harassment we will alleviate misunderstandings and move towards a more tolerant future.”
Last call – Reminder that Top Chef Season 16 casting calls start this week with Chicago and Detroit on Thursday, February 1st, NYC and Nashville on the 5th, Philadelphia and Houston on the 7th, Miami on the 10th, and SF on the 11th. It’s last minute, but applications aren’t due till the 17th, and they specify raw video only (“do NOT edit, add music, transitions, titles or voiceovers to your video”), so you don’t have to worry about dressing things up too much. Application and contact info here. The iron is hot.
And last and least – Avert your eyes, children. THE BESH IS YET TO CUM… was the headline on one of Krewe de Vieux’s floats Saturday night in NOLA. The menu plastered on the side was equally… distasteful (scroll to page 3 of this pdf for a fully legible version). “Reservations anticipated”.
And that’s it for today. Is there a Top Chef for cocktails yet? I’m grabbing a bottle of Clamato and heading off to work on my audition tape. #sponsored #drpeppersnapplekeuriggreenmountainJABholdingslocalcraftbeveragecompany.
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter – or don’t, I couldn’t care less, apparently you can just buy followers and I’m fine with that – and send tips and/or Clamato-based pastry recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!