If you are just waking up, Rex Tillerson is no longer the Secretary of State. But that’s someone else’s beat.
Here’s the industry news since last Family Meal…
Human Resources – You probably already saw Eater’s report on HR at Union Square Hospitality Group. It came out right after Friday’s Family Meal, and alleges a decidedly off-brand employee environment that occasionally protected known bad actors and dismissed credible accusations. Danny Meyerdidn’t comment, but the company has apparently been “cleaning house” since fall.
Good for them, but NYT critic Pete Wells raises a bit of a bad-priest problem in this (read: every) industry: What happens if no one says anything when a known harasser, or even assaulter, moves on to a different company with a new staff and a new clientele? Case in point: Here’s one of the accused / reported, Eric Korsch, getting a softball interview in Grub Street upon his arrival at a new restaurant. Fun game: How many times can you rephrase, “Why in the world would someone leave a career institution like USHG to work in this little bistro?” without realizing you’re asking the wrong guy?
Threats on threats on threats – There are a lot of disturbing new details in the San Francisco Chronicle’s latest reporting on Charlie Hallowell’s misconduct at Pizzaiolo, Boot & Shoe Service, and Penrose, but two stood out. First, on top of all the harassment and assault allegations pertaining to Hallowell himself, there’s this: When one of his employees came to him with a credible allegation of rape by a coworker, she says “he said nothing for a split second, and then there was raucous laughter.”
And second, at least one supporter of Hallowell thought the best way to defend him against these allegations was to threaten reporters and staff with doxxing or digital retaliation. Fellow Chez Panisse alum Samin Nosrat posted the threats against her on Twitter, alongside an explanation of her role in the article, and the New Yorker’s Helen Rosner replied with this: “a few weeks ago I made some extremely tiny forays toward reporting a particular aspect of this story. Maybe 3 people knew I was working on it. Within a few days I received a long, anonymous email with incredibly detailed victim blaming.” The same emailer (a “Napoleon S. Cook”) apparently tried to threaten SF Chronicle editor in chief Audrey Cooper.
Oh yeah, and: “Additionally, 10 women have told The Chronicle that [Hallowell’s business partner Richard Weinstein], 68, who took charge of the restaurant group when Hallowell stepped away, also subjected them to inappropriate touching, propositions and lewd remarks.”
Full story by Tara Duggan and Karen de Sá here.
The (new) media – Per The Hollywood Reporter: “Majordomo Media, which [David Chang] is launching with business partner Christopher Chen and former Wired editor-in-chief Scott Dadich, will serve as the umbrella for a podcast, television development slate and editorial platform… Former Conde Nast Media Group president Lou Cona has been appointed chief of business and strategy and revenue… Mary Melton, former editor-in-chief of Los Angeles magazine is joining. Also joining her to establish the voice of the brand are Robert Capps, head of editorial at Godfrey Dadich and former Lucky Peach editors Chris Ying and Rachel Khong.” Dadich says Majordomo will “push the boundaries of what a media brand can be.” Gosh!
Quick international congrats to the Toyo Eatery team in Manila for their 50 Best “One to Watch” win. They look possibly posed, but genuinely ecstatic, and I’m a sucker for up-and-comer awards.
This Family Meal is brought to you by World Central Kitchen‘s Dine N Dash event in Washington, D.C. On June 6th, join hosts José Andrés, Andrew Zimmern, and more for a tour of some of the District’s best restaurants. All proceeds support World Central Kitchen’s mission of creating smart solutions to hunger and poverty and providing chef-driven disaster relief. Tickets and more information here.
Lists I like – All of the “Most Anticipated Restaurants of the Spring” are up on Eater now, some a few days older than others. City by city: Atlanta; Boston; Charleston; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Las Vegas; London; Miami; Montreal; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Twin Cities; DC.
TV Watch – Now that we’re five days out from air time, I assume it’s no spoiler to congratulate this season’s Top Chef winner… Chicago’s own Joe Flamm. Flamm, “Spiaggia’s executive chef, bested [Adrienne Cheatham] — a Hyde Park native who lives in New York and worked at Red Rooster and Le Bernardin. Flamm, who counts chef Tony Mantuano as a mentor, wants to take the $125,000 to open his own restaurant.” Succinct, food-focused recap in Eater; much more fun version on Grubstreet.
The Profile Treatment – For the somm: The Chronicle’s Esther Mobley has this fantastic write-up on “The Unsung Hero of California Wine”, a winemaker with no vineyard, no production facility, and no employees: “If you know about Edmunds St. John, you know. Most people don’t. Beyond industry insiders and a core of devoted fans, few drinkers are aware that a Berkeley winemaker named Steve Edmunds has been producing some of California’s most soul-stirring wines for the last 33 years under his Edmunds St. John label. He is, for California at least, the ultimate winemaker’s winemaker.”
For design fans – Here’s the spread for Somni by José Andrés in Los Angeles. All I see is ten chairs, two seatings, and a big math problem (“rumor is the stove itself cost in the millions of dollars”), but you might also see a much sleeker Minibar West with a lot more minimalist work space and some brightly colored faux taxidermy for good(?) measure. Photographer Wonho Frank Lee said: “This place, as soon as I entered, made me feel like I was part of an art exhibit.”
And also in LA, here’s the redesign of Crustacean in Beverly Hills, which not only stole your old window unit air conditioner and put it in the ceiling for some reason, but also wants to add some intimacy to the evening by forcing guests to ask their seatmates to help push the couch back when they need to go pee.
Tips on tips – The NYT has two tipping articles out this week. First is a longform piece with testimonials from servers and staff across the country. The quotes and video will, unfortunately, not blow your mind: “The indignities pile up, shift after shift. A server in San Diego, Angela Hoover, said she was standing at a table when a man came by, shoved his hand down her sweater and grabbed her breast. ‘I just kind of stood there shocked,’ she said. ‘I felt something — I was like, “What the heck was in my bra?” — and it was a dollar.’”
Second is an editorial picking apart excuses for the tip credit. Raising the tipped minimum will kill restaurants? Nah, California did it, and “even the National Restaurant Association projects that, over the next decade, employment in the industry will grow by 10.6 percent in California and 6.1 percent in New York.” People will tip less? “There’s no evidence to back up that claim.” It hasn’t happened in states without a tip credit. Inequality between BoH and FoH will get worse? “Don’t fall for it. Restaurants that are actually concerned about the welfare of their back-of-the-house employees could pay them more and improve the grueling conditions under which they work.”
And speaking of those employees, sorry I missed this fantastic Amanda Shapiro piece in Bon Appetit (with video) about Le Coucou line cook Nana Araba Wilmot. It masquerades as a simple “day in the life” article, but actually has a lot to say about working and coming up in the industry in general. Hats off to the Le Coucou team for letting it happen so honestly.
And Last and least – That painting of Sean Brock’s tattooed arm stretching out over a pile of the vegetables depicted on said arm is finished. Does Larry Gagosian read this? Two words: finder’s fee.
And that’s it for today. Quick note to David Chang, if you guys need a newsletter… (Cue music): I am the very model of your Majordomo Media.
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal!
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or Napoleon S. Cook’s license plate number to email@example.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!