The Family Meal – Friday, June 8th, 2018

Hello Friday,

Writing to you from Hanoi tonight, raising a very cheap beer to each and every one of you. And pouring one out.

Sad news – “Anthony Bourdain, a gifted storyteller and writer who took CNN viewers around the world, has died. He was 61. CNN confirmed Bourdain’s death on Friday and said the cause of death was suicide…. Bourdain was in France working on an upcoming episode of his award-winning CNN series ‘Parts Unknown.’ His close friend Eric Ripert, the French chef, found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room Friday morning.”

To the many friends of Tony who read this newsletter: I am so very, genuinely sorry. What follows below is just another Family Meal. If the tone is as pithy and snarky as always, please know that that is not in any way intended to minimize the above news. I’m sure there will be lots more said about that in the coming hours and days, and I will cover it all as best I can soon. In the meantime, Eater is rounding up reactions from friends and peers here.

And if you or someone you know needs help, Chefs With Issues has a useful resources page here. They also have a Facebook group for industry folks who want to talk.

Some of this is me playing catch-up from my week away (sorry!), but let’s get to it…

The Split between April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman is apparently complete. Eater has the breakdown: “Bloomfield will own and take full control of the group’s West Coast restaurants, Tosca Cafe in San Francisco, and the six-month-old Hearth & Hound in Los Angeles. She also remains the chef at the two restaurants in New York City’s Ace Hotel, the Breslin Bar & Dining Roomand the John Dory Oyster Bar… In the dismantling of their restaurant group, both Bloomfield and Friedman had already left Salvation Taco.” (Alex Stupakis stepping in to operate that spot.) Friedman is left with White Gold and The Spotted Pig. No word on plans for either yet, but guessing there will be more uncomfortable investor calls to come…

Some (more) sad news – I’m sure you’ve already seen the headline: “Ella Brennan, renowned New Orleans restaurateur, dies at 92.” But if you haven’t had time to read the obits yet, I recommend scrolling about halfway down the announcement and getting straight into the history: “After Ms. Brennan graduated from Eleanor McMain High School in January 1943 and decided she didn’t like secretarial school, her brother Owen put her to work at the Old Absinthe House, a Bourbon Street bar he owned, to do clerical work and banking and to collect rents from his tenants. Ms. Brennan moved into the restaurant business in 1946, when Owen and their father bought the Vieux Carré Restaurant at Bourbon and Bienville streets… The menu offerings – trout meuniere, chicken, veal and lamb, to mention a few – were boring, Ms. Brennan wrote, and the restaurant was losing money. After hearing her repeated complaints about the bill of fare, her brother said, ‘You think you’re so smart? Well, go fix it, smarty pants,’ she wrote. ‘My career as a restaurateur was launched.’”

Midwest Moves – In Chicago, “Mike Bagale has announced his departurefrom [Alinea] after almost six years as executive chef. He broke the news [May 27] via his Instagram account. Bagale congratulated Alinea chef de cuisine Simon Davies in that Instagram post, and Alinea’s Nick Kokonas confirmed that Davies, who’s been at Alinea for nine years and started as a 19-year-old intern, is Bagale’s replacement.” Next step for Bagale: “TBD”.

A Good Get – DC’s own “Marjorie Meek-Bradley, who’s been on the road for the past several months, is the executive chef at Stephen Starr and Joe Carroll’s forthcoming DC steakhouse, St. Anselm.” Details in the Washingtonian.

The Profile Treatment – The NYT has a fantastic little profile of Maguy Le Coze, co-founder and co-owner of Le Bernardin. Mixed in with the ups and downs of their restaurant history (“The Le Cozes returned from the fish market one morning and saw a sign on the restaurant window offering the contents for sale: They had failed to pay their taxes, and the government stepped in.”) and her personal history (“Friends say she never totally recovered from the shock” of her brother Gilbert Le Coze’s death at 49) is “the Maguy you don’t know”: “Ms. Le Coze claims to have been entirely different during those Paris days — going out to nightclubs, dancing on tables and banquettes. Her lifestyle would have stunned the staff of today’s Le Bernardin, she said.”

The Profile Treatment too – The entire profession of NYC Health Inspectorsalso got an NYT profile of sorts this week. You might not learn much you didn’t already know, but it does put a bit of a human face to it. “The application requirements… were simple: 30 college credits in a biological or physical science. The hard part was the training. Inspectors must attend months of classes, covering everything from how to write violations to the science of food safety.” FYI: While “the sight of his distinctive black Casio G’zOne flip phone, the kind issued to inspectors, often sends restaurant staffs into a panic, even when [inspector Fayick Suleman] goes as a civilian…. He has since switched to an iPhone.”

With a cameo by Wilson Tang (Nom Wah Tea Parlor), who “also owns a restaurant in Philadelphia, where ‘it’s almost laughable how much more lax it is’”. (Guess who just made it to the top of the list at the Philly Health Dept. for June-forever?)

P.S. There’s also a handy by the (2017) numbers feature with total restaurants subject to inspection (26,101); total annual inspections (40,700); A Grades (22,185); B Grades (1,256); C’s (315); closed by inspection (1,019); and so on.

For (office) Design Fans – Nick Kokonas tweeted out a picture of the new Alinea Group / Tock offices this week. Don’t get too excited. It’s a big room with lots of computers. I hear the first time workers showed up, everyone had their own little cubicle, but as soon as they sat down, Grant Achatz set all the walls on fire and they were revealed to be nothing more than thin paper. When the smoke cleared and the barriers had disappeared, chef asked, “What is an office?” and the room erupted in cheers.

This story is unconfirmed, but pretty sure it checks out.

And last and least – Headline in the NY Daily News: “Celebrity chef Adam Harvey arrested for poisoning seven-story maple tree blocking his solar panels.” Poor guy was so used to working industry hours he didn’t expect neighbors to be awake and recording him as he mixed chemicals and drilled holes in a tree in broad daylight. Ouch.

And that’s it for now. I hope you have some time to spend with your loved ones today, this week, or soon. I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.