The Family Meal – Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Hello Friday,

Fair warning: Today’s Family Meal is heavy on critic and media news. If that’s not your thing, I apologize. If it is your thing, I don’t.

Let’s get to it…

The Critics – Tampa Bay Times writer Laura Reiley, nationally famous for 2016’s Farm to Fable exposé, is ditching anonymity. She says she wants to do more non-critic reporting and needs to be “present” with her subjects, but on camera it sounds like she just wants to hang out publicly with Ina Garten and judge chili cook offs…. Her reasoning, along with a current picture and a video interview to send around to your Florida staff, is here.

The Critics Too – At the very end of this week’s Eater Upsell podcast, I loved hearing Robert Sietsema’s very hot take (recorded right outside the restaurant after the meal) on Nusr-Et in NYC, but it’s probably a bit too soon (current?) for casual Fentanyl overdose jokes (28 minute mark). Also: “I don’t care if some Turk wants to throw salt all over the room, I mean, that to me, I got better things to do.” Italics (read: cringe) mine.

And while we’re critiquing the critics: After all his writing about kitchen culture, did Pete Wells review any restaurants owned or run by women in January?

The Media – The American Society of Magazine Editors is out with their list of finalists for the 2018 National Magazine Awards for Print and Digital Media (better known as the Ellies). If you want to butter up a food editor, now is the time. Nods for the folks I follow, here:

Nominated for “General Excellence in Service and Lifestyle”: Bon AppétitEaterSaveur, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

In the “Leisure Interest” category there’s Bon Appétit for “A Simple Roast Chicken,” by Amiel StanekNew York for “The Encyclopedia of Vegan Food,” by Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite; and Texas Monthly for “The Golden Age of BBQ,” by Daniel Vaughn.

Bon Appétit also got a nod for a Design award, alongside GQ, and another for their “Starters” section.

Congrats, all!

Some sad news – Nobuyoshi Kuraoka, the first restaurateur to bring a sushi bar to New York City at Restaurant Nippon, died on January 13 at 86 years old. Kuraoka was also the first chef to legally serve poisonous blowfish in the United States, invented negimayaki, or grilled beef rolled around scallions, and pursued an obsession with soba — all pursuits that led to the Japanese government honoring him for ‘outstanding contributions to the promotion of Japanese culture through Japanese food.’ Kuroaka’s assistant declined to confirm his cause of death, though said it happened ‘peacefully.’” Brief obituary in Eater NY.

The Grifter – In Chicago, “A former bookkeeper for both Blackbird and Avecrestaurants is being sued for allegedly stealing $609,574 from the restaurants over six and a half years.” Crains has the details.

For TV Fans – There’s a pastry season of Chef’s Table coming out on April 13th. Its quintessential CT trailer is on Facebook, complete with a crescendo toward a Christina Tosi cake that failed to impress the comments section. Sample take: “Oh… so this is what people are calling dessert these days? Look at this #BettyCrockerHomeBasic bullshit.”

Speaking of pastry – In Chicago, “The Publican pastry chef Dana Cree will open Pretty Cool Ice Cream, her own company with a flagship shop in Logan Square, partnering with Bang Bang Pie & Biscuit owner Michael Ciapciak… Cree will leave her pastry duties with the four Publican brand restaurants and Dove’s Luncheonette at the end of March.”

The Estimate – Remember back in December when the US Dept. of Laborsaid they couldn’t estimate the effects of their plan to rescind Obama-era anti-tip-pooling regulations – a plan that could in theory allow employers and management to keep tips for themselves? Turns out they tried, but didn’t like the results: “Labor Department leadership scrubbed an unfavorable internal analysis from a new tip pooling proposal, shielding the public from estimates that showed employees could lose out on billions of dollars in gratuities, four current and former DOL sources tell Bloomberg Law.” Reported yesterday. Public comment ends Monday. Think they work weekends?

The Suits – “Mission Chinese is being sued by four former employees for unpaid wages and for being ‘a hotbed of racial discrimination’ — the staffers allege that black people were treated badly and that management retaliated against employees who spoke up about discriminatory behavior and poor working conditions… The restaurant, along with chef-owner Danny Bowien and managers Jane Hem and Adrianna Varediare named in the suit, which the former staffers aim to make class action.” You’ll never guess who the plaintiffs’ lawyer is. Spoiler: Maimon Kirschenbaum. Details of the alleged abuses in Eater NY.

The Suits Two: Supplier Edition – Per Food Business News: On Tuesday, “US Foods and Sysco Corp., two of the largest food service distributors in the United States, filed antitrust lawsuits against Tyson FoodsPilgrim’s PrideSanderson FarmsFoster Farms and other companies. The lawsuit… alleged the companies illegally ‘propped up chicken prices during periods of rapidly falling input costs by, among other means, coordinating supply restrictions and manipulating one or more broiler price indices.’”

For design fans – SF’s Del Mar opens in the Marina tonight, and I am going to use this opportunity to ask an important question: Are swings really a smart use of space? Am I the only one who hates this swing seating trend?

The festival circuit – Looks like LA Weekly’s The Essentials food festival will go on, despite threats of boycotts after the magazine’s staff was purged a few months ago: “A Ticketfly page for the March 25 evening affair is already live, and shows the party scheduled to take place at the California Market Center on Ninth Street. Listed restaurant participants include EatalyAnimalWoodspoonThe Mar Vista, and Park’s BBQ, among others. Some shown on the event’s landing page as confirmed — names like Gracias MadreHinoki & The Bird, and Kato — have separately told Eater that they won’t, in fact, be serving at the event.”

Last and definitely not least – If you have time for some longform (or just want to open a new tab and let it hang out for a while), I highly recommend this fantastic Stewart Resnick profile in California Sunday called “Kingdom from Dust.” It starts out like this:

“On a summer day in the San Joaquin Valley, 101 in the shade, I merge onto Highway 99 past downtown Fresno and steer through the vibrations of heat. I’m headed to the valley’s deep south, to a little farmworker town in a far corner of Kern County called Lost Hills. This is where the biggest irrigated farmer in the world — the one whose mad plantings of almonds and pistachios have triggered California’s nut rush — keeps on growing, no matter drought or flood. He doesn’t live in Lost Hills. He lives in Beverly Hills. How has he managed to outwit nature for so long?”

And it just gets better.

And that’s it for today. If anyone out there wants to play bass in my new band The Mad Plantings, let me know. We’re opening up for Nut Rush at Kern next weekend.

I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or my missing Ellie nomination to If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at!

P.S. While I’m on the subject of media, a while ago I asked why Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport had suddenly disappeared from Twitter. He kindly got back to me with this simple explanation: “Personally, spent way too much time checking it all day. Also, found it an increasingly unpleasant place to be. No one interested in conducting a dialogue, just shouting down.” Fair enough.

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