The Family Meal – Friday, May 11th, 2018

Hello Friday,

First, a shout out to the owner of a major American restaurant group who read the news of Del Frisco’s buying Barteca for $325M last week, and accidentally replied here: “For sure- I read the one you sent over. I wouldn’t mind selling out one day for that amount :)”.

FYI – Dine Brands (Applebee’s and IHOP) is on the hunt for a fast casual chain to buy this year… It’s not selling out if it’s your dream!

If you got this as a forward, don’t hit reply. Sign up for yourself.

Let’s get to it…

The Debate: “Battle Escalates Within D.C. Restaurant Industry Over Tipped Minimum Wage Vote. One side predicts peril for the D.C. restaurant industry. The other is fighting for justice for marginalized workers.” – From Laura Hayes in the Washington City Paper. This is a pretty comprehensive run down on both sides of Initiative 77, and well worth a read beyond the District. Tip credit questions are not going away, and (with apologies for the cliché) if you fail to study the current battles, your side – whichever that is – will lose the war.

The big problem for the status quo side in D.C.: Imagine you’re an average voter who has never heard of the tip credit, and tell me you wouldn’t vote for this actual ballot language: “If enacted, this initiative will… gradually increase the minimum wage for tipped employees so that they receive the same minimum wage directly from their employer as other employees by 2026.”

P.S. If I were on the anti side of this, I’d want a serious post mortem on the lobbying / legal / voter-engagement strategy from RAMW (the local restaurant association) leading up to this referendum. If I lived outside D.C., I’d want to know how my area’s association was prepping for our turn.

The Opinion: “Restaurants Should Not Be Allowed to Add Surcharges to Checks” – By Ryan Sutton, Eater’s critic in New York, where, “recently, more than 200 members of the New York Hospitality Alliance, a group that lobbies on behalf of restaurants, sent a letter to mayor Bill de Blasio ‘imploring’ him to give culinary establishments the option of adding a clearly disclosed surcharge. That fee would range from 3 to 5 percent to offset rising labor and real estate costs.” Sutton argues America is drowning in hidden fees, from his recent West Elm couch purchase to all the indecipherable charges tacked when you order delivery via Caviar. Come for the argument your guests will be reading, stay for the amateur, angry math your guests are doing in the comments section.

The Suits – Via Eater NY: “Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich are close to finalizing a settlement on yet another wage violation lawsuit. Batali, Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich, along with five of their NYC restaurants, have agreed to pay out about $2.2 million after a former busser at Felidia filed a class action suit late last year…. About 1,300 front-of-house staffers at Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group restaurants FelidiaEscaBeccoDel Posto, and Babbo are eligible to get paid from the $2,150,000 settlement, which has not yet received final approval from a judge.” Maybe this was the final hurdle for the long, long goodbye Batali seems to be giving the company?

Michelin Season – The 2018 Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo guide is out this week: “Chef Felipe Bronze‘s Oro in Rio de Janeiro… was awarded its second star. In São Paulo, chef Ivan Ralston led Tuju to two stars…. [and] AlexAtala‘s D.O.M. retained its two stars in this year’s edition as well. Both in São Paulo, Ryo Gastronomia and Tangará Jean-Georges join the ranks of the country’s one-Michelin-starred restaurants, bringing the total to 15…. 33 restaurants were given the Bib Gourmand designation.”

The (coming) TV Show – KCET in LA is giving Roy Choi his own show. “He is the new host of a new social-minded original food series produced by KCETLink and Tastemade called ‘Broken Bread,’ slated for broadcast in early 2019.” It’s “a quest for goodness,” and he is open to pitches: “If any of you out there know of anyone doing good things against all odds send them my way. DM me… I want to bring the camera to them and tell their stories so we share more positivity and goodness.”

The (potential) Podcasts – Opportunity knocks: Gimlet Creative, whose Why We Eat What We Eat show (made in partnership with Blue Apron) won IACP’s podcast of the year and was shortlisted for a James Beard Media Award, is hosting an open “Casting Call” for hosts and concepts. Winner gets to produce their own show. Details here. Audition tapes due May 21st.

The (homogenous) Critics – After this year’s relatively diverse James Beard AwardsNikita Richardson wants to know: “Where are all the black restaurant critics?” Chef JJ Johnson “points to the Times’ three-star review of JuneBaby, an honor that feels unique, since ‘The last black chef to get three stars was Marcus Samuelsson in 1995. It’s been 20 fucking years.’ It’s impossible to believe that there wasn’t another black chef of note and considerable talent in those two decades… but it is easy to believe that chefs like, say, D.C.–area chef Morou Ouattara or Atlanta’s Darryl Evans might have received more national recognition if a major media outlet had been run by a black editor.”

The SF Landmarks and Institutions Update – First: “Cathay House quietly closed this spring. Now the Yeo family, who currently own Straits Restaurantand Sino in San Jose, is taking over three of the building’s four floors and reopening as two separate restaurants, Cathay House and 601 Dupont.” Second: “After more than a decade as a favorite hangout for locals, tourists, rap artists and Golden State Warriors players alike, Tanya Holland’s iconic West Oakland soul food spot, Brown Sugar Kitchen, will soon cease to exist in its current form. Holland told Inside Scoop the restaurant will close on May 18 and re-open on June 6 as Brown Sugar Test Kitchen. She plans to use the concept as a dinner pop-up space where she will also test recipes.”

Shoulda got the air rights –The landlords at LA’s US Bank Tower Buildingare shopping the space on their 72nd floor around for a potential restaurant: “It’s a breathtaking space that a world-class restaurant operator could transform into an international dining destination. There isn’t anything like it on the West Coast.” Yes, except, as Farley Elliot notes in Eater LA, “there is something like it already on the West Coast. It’s 71Above, and it’s just a floor down.”

For design fans – I don’t really have anything to say about the photo spreadfor Adam Perry Lang’s new APL Restaurant in LA except: Wow, that’s a lot of grout!

And last and not least – While he was only one of several men up for takedown on Full Frontal last weekend, Samantha Bee did call Mario Batali a “Festering hemorrhoid on the ass of the entertainment industry,” and said if he is thinking of his second act, “his next step will be grabbing that second act without consent.” So… Rwanda?

And that’s it for today. I’m off to work on my podcast audition. My current best idea is a show called “Are there enough podcasts?” in which I attempt to answer that question via podcast. Stay tuned for the follow-up newsletter. Same theme but with newsletters.

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

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

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