The Family Meal – Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Hello Tuesday,

Lots to get to. Let’s get to it…

The Suits – “A black bartender at Ethiopia-born celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s Harlem restaurant is suing the Red Rooster for alleged racial discrimination, claiming he was abruptly fired after taking time off to care for his sick mom.” He says he was the only black male bartender there, and they wanted him out. NY Daily News has the response from Samuelsson’s lawyer: “The claims of discrimination are baseless and quite frankly, ridiculous. Marcus Samuelsson Group is minority owned and operated and the majority of staff is African American men and women.”

The bartender’s lawyer? Maimon Kirschenbaum, of course.

The Fallout – In DC, Eater has already started de-listing Mike Isabella’s restaurants, while WaPo critic Tom Sietsema says they’ll go “case by case”, but always include caveats in coverage. And Washingtonian critic Ann Limpertsays they’re “still figuring that out while we wait to see what happens with the legal situation. And while we wait to see who sticks around his restaurant group and who, if anyone, leaves, which will could affect the restaurants’ quality and consistency.”

Big news on that latter point: “Michael Rafidi, the chef behind Spanish restaurant Arroz and French restaurant Requin, is parting ways with restaurateur Mike Isabella.” Washingtonian has the details. I don’t want to impugn anyone’s journalistic integrity, but good luck getting positive coverage if you take over those kitchens!

Oh, ¿Que? – Per Eater SF: “Thomas Keller appears to be opening a new restaurant in Napa, posting a job listing for a chef de cuisine who ‘specializes in Mexican’ cooking for a ‘new restaurant concept.’ The listing was posted [Friday].”

The (nearly tragic) Profile Treatment – Highly recommend Jonathan Kauffman’s Friday longform in the SF Chronicle. The tease: “Here he was: 29, a sous chef at Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown, a cook and skateboarder, dead and alive again. His teeth hurt. There weren’t enough of them. Same with his memories of the last three days… It’s hard not to read what happened to Eric Ehler — his improbable cardiac arrest and recovery, the way the restaurant industry rushed to cocoon him in support and money — as a parable for professional cooking in San Francisco today, with its tectonic stresses and the friendships they forge. Even today, Ehler’s co-workers and friends are combing over the sequence of events, hunting for some moral.”

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 AndrésAndrew Zimmernand 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.

For design fans – Bloomberg’s Kate Krader has a great little look this week at several showbiz designers / stylists who also do restaurants, including David Korins (Hamilton and Bond 45), Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch (Zoolander and Le CouCou), and Kris Moran, who brought some of the styles she used on Wes Anderson films like Moonrise Kingdom and The Darjeeling Limited to her project reinventing Floyd Cardoz’s Paowalla: “Paowalla’s transformation to the Bombay Bread Bar would be notable under most circumstances, but that it happened in a week—the amount of time it takes most restaurateurs to settle on a paint color—is astonishing. It’s also extremely cost-effective. Moran hung the homemade, lotus-printed paper on the walls herself, added blue walls… and put bright oil cloths on tables. A two-day painting project was done overnight. Costs clocked in at around $70,000; a typical New York restaurant build-out can easily hit, and surpass, $1 million.” Pics included.

Petty cash – Restaurants say they’re making extra cash renting out bathrooms on LuluApp, daytime table “desks” on KettleSpace, and bag storage on BagBnb. Manhattan’s “Pennsylvania 6 pulls in about $2,000 a month from storing people’s bags for a few hours or for the day, according to [manager Chelsea Feldcher]. About 25 percent of those customers end up grabbing a drink or meal at the eatery before they catch their train, she says.” I am very skeptical that the added management effort will make the payoff worth it for most places, but… The NY Post reports, you decide.

Closing – In NYC, “Keith McNally‘s critically acclaimed Lower East Side restaurant Cherche Midi will close in June, according to a state notice… The notice says that Cherche Midi will lay off 46 employees” on June 11th, for “economic” reasons (read: rent). And in Chicago, “A prominent restaurant space along Logan Square Park is about to be vacated as Dunlays on the Square has closed after 13 years.”

Opening – In LA, “After years of anticipation, star chef Mei Lin is finally ready to reveal her next project: Nightshade, an upscale casual new dinner spot opening in the heart of the Arts District.” Details in Eater.

Brigadon’t – The LA Weekly Essentials food festival finally succumbed to boycott and cancelled Sunday’s festivities. Tickets will be refunded; the magazine’s pride will not.

Last and least: Hey there, sports fans – Am I the only one who didn’t know that Major League Baseball is putting on an (already sold out) food festival next month, with one item from each ballpark? Lots of classics on the menu(Red Sox lobster rolls, Chicago dogs, SF’s crazy crab sandwiches, etc.), plus some now classic curveballs like LA’s Cheeto-Lote, and Seattle’s toasted grasshoppers. Shout out to my hometown Gioia’s Hot Salami Sandwich! And shout out to a world in which stadium food is worth the price of admission.

And that’s it for today. Send that Eric Ehler story around if you can. Could be a wake up call to someone who needs to take care of themselves, or a reminder to never take anyone for granted. Either way: worth it.

See you here Friday for next Family Meal!

PS – Folks on the Mister Jiu’s team reading this: Would love to hear more about the CPR initiative you guys are working on. Please reply with details if you can. Thanks!

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

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