The Family Meal – Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Hello Saturday,

Greetings from just outside Beijing, where I am unimpressed with the traffic, and my VPN is unimpressed with the hotel WiFi.

Excuses, excuses, Family Meal is a day late. Forgive me.

Let’s get to it…

To Prune a Pig – There is no good way to announce you are partnering with a recently accused / partially admitted serial sexual harasser and assaulter to save his business for him, but Gabrielle Hamilton and Ashley Merriman put on a masterclass in PR malpractice this week through a series of brutal interviews declaring their intention to work with Ken Friedman at The Spotted Pig.

It started on Wednesday, with Hamilton telling the NYT: “Everyone gets so excited when José Andrés goes into these natural disasters and helps people… They ought to be happy that these two women are going into a man-made disaster to help make things right.”

She then doubled down on that apples-to-apples in a statement to Eater, and Merriman followed that up with her own poorly reasoned analogies in an interview with Eater (“I’ll just say I really don’t believe in capital punishment”).

If it seems like they’re having a really hard time explaining why this partnership is a good idea, it’s because first, as Hamilton told Eater, “We are not working with any PR team, and have no spin, no crisis PR team, no lawyered-up responses.” And second, it is not a good idea.

My Q: What is Friedman’s actual ownership stake in the Pig right now?

P.S. – In SF, “Chef Charlie Hallowell, who has been absent from his Oakland restaurants since December after dozens of employees accused him of sexual misconduct, is making plans to return to work, according to restaurant management.”

Check your sources – The Associated Press went above and beyond to bust NY-based seafood provider Sea To Table for not living up to it’s purported standards, and when I say above and beyond, I mean: “As part of its reporting, the AP staked out America’s largest fish market, followed trucks and interviewed fishermen who worked on three continents. During a bone-chilling week, they set up a camera that shot more than 36,000 time-lapse photos of a Montauk harbor, showing no tuna boats docking. At the same time, AP worked with a chef to order fish supposedly coming from the seaside town. The boat listed on the receipt hadn’t been there in at least two years.” Full story here.

“Peace Out” – L.A.’s Roi Choi dropped this little announcement on Instagramyesterday: “Today is bittersweet as I must announce that the relationship between Sydell Group and my company, 10 Grand Hospitality, is coming to an end at The LINE LA.”

The Profile Treatement – Tejal Rao covered Pim Techamuanvivit’s road to the kitchen at Bangkok’s Nahm for the NYT this week. It’s that classic silicon valley to food blogger to Michelin star story: “Ms. Techamuanvivit left Bangkok to attend graduate school at the University of California, San Diego, where she studied cognitive science… She worked in Mountain View, Calif., building collaborative work tools for Netscape, and later for Cisco Systems in San Jose. As she traveled more to Europe for work — often following engineers around their network operation centers with a notebook in hand — she looked for meaningful distractions after hours. That’s how Ms. Techamuanvivit found herself dining alone, in excellent French restaurants, documenting the experience course by course with a pocket-size Sony camera.” Logical next step from there: Kin Khao.

The Vote – D.C. voters go to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether or not to end the tip credit in the District. In a sign of how confusing this issue still is, the Washington Post produced a video in which José Andrés talks about how important it is to get the language right about Initiative 77. The video opens by saying 77 will make sure tipped workers get paid minimum wage like everyone else. They already do.

The Suits – Michael Mina’s Mina Group has been hit with a class action alleging they have failed to pay meal and rest breaks to employees since 2014. The Chronicle’s Justin Phillips says damages weren’t specified, but “The lawsuit comes on the heels of a recent decision by the state’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement to cite seven Bay Area restaurants for more than $10 million in stolen wages. A focus in the aggressive crackdown was Daly City’s Kome Japanese Seafood, which according to the state denied 133 employees $5 million in minimum wage and overtime pay over several years.” Innocent until proven guilty, but either way this won’t be cheap.

The Fallout – Fresh off his settled sexual harassment lawsuit in D.C., Mike Isabella is closing the Virginia outpost of his Graffiato concept, and being sued for $700k in back rent on a different location. He told the Washingtonian, “I thought I was invincible, and I’m not.” True fact.

Midwest exports – “Chicago’s celebrated Girl & the Goat restaurant is coming to Los Angeles next year. The award-winning Boka Group [and Stephanie Izard] will bring its flagship dining star to the Arts District in 2019.” Details in Eater LA.

Some sad news – In SF, “Jan Birnbaum, who opened EPIC Steak (then Roasthouse) in 2008, died early Tuesday morning according to representatives for the restaurant. He was 61.”

For the somm – NYT wine writer Eric Asimov was invited to a dinner / tasting commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Rothschild family’s purchase of the Lafite. Wine folk will be jealous: After an initial burst of merely fantastic bottles, “came only wines worth dreaming about. First 1982, a great vintage marking the end of some difficult years and inaugurating the current era of Bordeaux as a luxury good… Next was the 1961… then the 1945, a legendary vintage from the end of World War II… Two more were to come. First, an extraordinary 1905… Then, finally, the 1868, 150 years old.” Full story, including tasting notes by year, here.

Last and least – “Meet the White House Chef Who Sculpts Ice, Decorates Cakes, and Bench Presses 700 Pounds.” That would be Andre Rush and his just slightly above average 24 inch arms. I could probably outrun him.

And that’s it for today, but some quick belated and advance notes before I go: Happy Pride! Eid Mubarak! Happy Father’s Day!

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

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

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