There was an event yesterday. Let’s get to it…
The 2018 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards were last night in Chicago and the winners are… listed below in two scrunched paragraphs, or on the JBF site in a more readable format if that’s your thing. Of note (via the NYT’s early roundup): “In this year’s culinary categories (excluding service, design, wine and so forth), 11 of 15 awards went to chefs who are women, or people of color, or both.”
Outstanding Chef: Gabrielle Hamilton, Prune, NYC — Outstanding Restaurant: Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham — Best New Restaurant: JuneBaby, Seattle — Outstanding Restaurateur: Caroline Styne, The Lucques Group (a.o.c., Lucques, Tavern, et al.), LA — Rising Star Chef of the Year: Camille Cogswell, Zahav, Philadelphia — Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dolester Miles, Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham — Outstanding Bar Program: Cure, New Orleans — Outstanding Service: Zuni Café, SF — Outstanding Baker: Belinda Leong and Michel Suas, B. Patisserie, SF — Outstanding Wine Program: FIG, Charleston…
Best Chef Northeast: Karen Akunowicz, Myers + Chang, Boston — Best Chef New York City: Missy Robbins, Lilia, NYC — Best Chef Mid-Atlantic: Jeremiah Langhorne, The Dabney, D.C. — Best Chef Southeast: Rodney Scott, Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Charleston — Best Chef Midwest: Gavin Kaysen, Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis — Best Chef Great Lakes: Abraham Conlon, Fat Rice, Chicago — Best Chef South: Nina Compton, Compère Lapin, New Orleans — Best Chef Southwest: Alex Seidel, Mercantile Dining & Provision, Denver — Best Chef West: Dominique Crenn, Atelier Crenn, SF — Best Chef Northwest: Edouardo Jordan, Salare, Seattle.
About last night – There will be plenty of reactions to winners and losers published today, so I’ll touch on the event itself instead. The Beard Foundation is still shooting for “Oscars of food” status with these awards, complete with the red carpet treatment and a three person live coverage team this year that included Francis Lam and Jaymee Sire doing commentary, and Access Hollywood’s Alex Hudgens handling interviews. Unfortunately, at times it didn’t seem like Hudgens knew some of the nominees – which is fair, but something more polished production and a working earpiece would normally cover up – and the format of consistently cutting away to Lam and Sire during the ceremony left some viewers frustrated. Host Carla Hall certainly brought the energy, though it was hard to tell online how well her jokes were landing in the hall. There was no doubt with José Andrés‘s acceptance speech for Humanitarian of the Year.
Ratings-wise: Twitter shows 2M total viewers checked in on the show over the course of 4 hours. I saw a peak of about 6k at any one time. The whole shebang is still on Twitter TiVo-style.
Headline – In the Washington Post: “Mike Isabella settles federal lawsuit with employee who alleged sexual harassment” Financial terms are confidential, but “‘in settling this case, [Chloe Caras] met one of her central goals, which was to have [Mike Isabella Concepts] enter into a binding agreement obligating it to take corrective measures, including robust training, and to adopt policies to encourage a work environment free of sexual harassment,’ Debra Katz, the attorney for Caras, said in the statement.”
“Corrective measures” sure makes it sound like there was some admission of fault from Isabella and crew, who had until now strenuously denied even the possibility of a problem. Nothing like legally binding confidentiality for a mildly honest soul search.
Some sad news – “Renowned Chicago chef Judson Todd Allen died of a suspected heart attack Saturday morning at age 36, according to his family. A finalist on ‘The Next Food Network Star’ television series, Allen also was the culinary lead at the West Loop restaurant Taste 222, which issued a statement on twitter about his passing.” Full obit in the Sun-Times.
And on a personal note, a friend who recently made the plunge into ownership lost his young business partner this week. Kaeley Annaliese “KK” Brady was just 23 years old, and had recently co-founded Cowbell Kitchen in Leesburg, VA (just outside DC) when she succumbed to pneumonia last week. Her friends have set up a non-profit and a gofundme in her name. DC folks, please check it out.
That Fast Casual (cash) $$$ – Via Market Insider: “When Shake Shack’s newest New York City burger outlet opened in October, it followed in the footsteps of many other hip restaurant chains in going completely cashless. But after receiving complaints from furious customers who wanted to pay with their hard-earned legal tender, the burger chain is reversing course and adding cashiers to cashless locations going forward, its chief executive officer told analysts on a conference call Thursday.”
The Chains – “Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group Inc. announced an agreement on Monday to acquire Barteca Restaurant Group for $325 million… Barteca is parent to the Barcelona Wine Bar and Bartaco chains.” Lots of interesting numbers in this NRN article, including this math: “Barcelona Wine Bar has 15 units and Bartaco has 16 units across 10 states and Washington, D.C. Both chains are growing. Barteca generated $127.9 million in net sales in 2017 and $31.7 million in restaurant-level earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, representing a 24.8-percent margin, the company said.”
P.S. Keep your eyes on the Del Frisco’s Grilles and Sullivan’s Steakhousesin your neighborhood. Some of those locations will be open for new leases soon…
TBFTGOGGI (There but for the grace…) – “At the time, ‘I thought it was a good plan,’ Valentino Luchin, 54, of Lafayette, said of robbing the bank. ‘But it was not.’ Luchin was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of robbing a Citibank in Orinda of about $18,000.” Luchin was exec chef at SF’s Rose Pistola before heading out on his own to open Ottavio in Walnut Creek, running into serious financial trouble, and hatching a bad plan. Details in the East Bay Times.
“Here’s Why” – Last Monday, two years after the fact, chef Jenn Louis (Lincoln Restaurant and Sunshine Tavern) shared her side of an infamous incident in Portland on Medium: “On April 29, 2016, I was charged with domestic violence and arrested. I was pressed against the back of a police car outside my restaurant, handcuffed, and booked in the downtown Portland jail around 10pm. I punched my husband in the face and he called the police. We were in the midst of a difficult divorce and we were working together at our restaurant. There was an error in the kitchen and upset and intoxicated he stormed the pass. My chef de cuisine stepped in for me and expedited, but my husband wouldn’t relent. He was cursing and chasing me around the back of house — I was terrified for myself and my staff. He pinned me in a corner. His face directly in front of mine; his rage palpable. I took my chance. I hit him in the face. And I ran…”
The (beverage) Media – Tell PR: Jason Diamond is the new Deputy Editor at Punch.
For design fans – Here’s the photo spread from Barbette in West Hollywood, where founders Jared Meisler and Sean MacPherson have “brought on chef Robert Flaherty from New York City (White Gold Butchers) to execute the vision, a sort of new-meets-classic melding of French possibilities.” I’m still undecided on the new-meets-classic interior touches, which include midcentury splashes like these sputniks in the midst of early century style. (No collusion!)
Last and not least – Back to the Beards: For me, hands down the most important comment of the night came when Gabrielle Hamilton accepted her big award and said: “It would make me so happy, I would be so grateful, if I didn’t read tomorrow that the only reason I got this is because I’m a woman.” Let’s make her – and all the winners from previously underrepresented groups – happy. Please.
And that’s it for today. Whether you won, lost, or were never in the running, I hope your hangover today is mild at worst. You deserve it!
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.