A late and short travel-day edition this afternoon. Been mostly offline for the past few days, so just catching up myself.
Here’s what I missed…
(Off key) Redemption song – “When he’s not in Rwanda feeding starving refugees, this celebrity chef is dreaming of an early retirement on the Amalfi Coast – or perhaps a comeback.” That’s not the actual headline from yesterday’s NYT piece on Mario Batali and his rush to as yet unearned redemption, but it’s pretty close. If his team’s plan was to float some PR balloons and see what worked (as some suspect), they got everything they could’ve wanted from this article.
To be fair, they also got a bit of this: “[Christine Muhlke] a former editor at The New York Times Magazine and Bon Appétit, said her advice to any accused chef would be the same: ‘Leave the field,’ she said, ‘and let us do the work needed to build something better.’” And this: “‘Retire and count yourself lucky,’ said Anthony Bourdain.”
But the social media comments section has been brutal. Most pointed response thus far comes from Eater editor in chief Amanda Kludt, who tweeted: “Based on what women have told me, his second act should be jail.”
The Media – Meanwhile, in the run up to its annual Top 100 list, the SF Chronicle food team is publicly airing their internal debate re: “whether the Chronicle should recommend restaurants owned by men who have been implicated in sexual harassment investigations.” Coming down on the side of a firm NO are editor Paolo Lucchesi, wine critic Esther Mobley, and food writer Jonathan Kauffman. Hanging onto a mushy “but Tosca is a nice restaurant” is food critic Michael Bauer. All four are worth a read, even if you hate the one. (“When I wear my critic’s hat I’m not evaluating what happens behind the kitchen door. I’m writing about what comes out that door.” #farmorwherevertotable)
Energy clog – I hope everyone gets where they need to be when it comes to drugs and alcohol, but man, Sean Brock is not making sobriety sound easy in this Bon Appetit interview: “I also get acupuncture, reiki, and intuitive energy work therapy once a week, and I do NST, which stands for neurostructural integration technique. It’s like a combination of Reiki and massage, working with your nervous system and muscles through your connective tissue to unblock the energy that gets stuck.”
For the somm – Funding alert: “Robert Mondavi Winery, in partnership with the James Beard Foundation, has created a five-year scholarship for the advancement of wine education in the U.S. From 2018 to 2022, the James Beard Foundation Robert Mondavi Memorial Scholarship will award $10,000 annually to an aspiring culinary or wine professional to further their wine education at a licensed or accredited culinary school, hospitality institution, college or university of their choice.” Details here.
For the somm too – The trade war hit Napa yesterday, when China levied a 15% tariff on U.S. wine exports. The NYT has a good rundown on the impact this morning, including some interesting numbers from folks like winemaker Michael Honig: “His most popular cabernet goes for around $25 a bottle wholesale, and he sends more than 500 cases of it every year to a plucky Shanghai importing business started by two brothers with dual citizenship. With existing tariffs and value-added taxes mixed in, the total charge tacked on to California wine was already close to 50 percent. After the importer factors in shipping, takes its cut and passes the bottles to a hotel or retail store, which takes its cut, the Napa red ends up selling for the equivalent of around $100. An extra 15 percent charge would be brutal.” Full story here.
A good get – In Houston, “When UB Preserv makes its debut, Nick Wong, a chef that cut his teeth under the tutelage of Momofuku chef David Chang will be in charge the kitchen. In an instagram post, the forthcoming restaurant from Chris Shepherd announced that Wong will serve as chef de cuisine at UB Preserv when it debuts later this month.” Via Eater Houston.
And last and least – This turns out to be a bit of a sad story, but let’s take a step back and appreciate this wonderful headline: “‘She didn’t want the ham:’ Woman lit meat on fire in hotel — and then it exploded, Alabama cops say.” She didn’t want the ham.
That’s it for today. A short one, as promised. Here’s hoping people respect your ham-related wishes this week. I, for one, will.
And I’ll see you Friday for next Family Meal.
P.S. – Even with everything that’s been published about 50 Best in the past, things like this still blow my mind. The head of World’s 50 Best, posing with this year’s (and the last four years’) Asia’s 50 Best winner, and tagging the picture: “Energy + Heart + Crazy but not that crazy + Family, memorable!” #objectivity