The Family Meal – Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Hello Wednesday,

Blue sky in Beijing this morning, and a bright waxing crescent over the Susu courtyard last night. As far as this weekend tourist who didn’t look below the surface at all can tell, it’s a lovely little city when it wants to be. Mr. Xi, if you’re reading this, I humbly ask that you please approve the 10 year visa I’ve been applying for. I’d like to come back.

Let’s get to it…

The Canary on the Gratuity Line– D.C.’s Initiative 77 referendum on eliminating the tip credit won yesterday, meaning employers will now be on the hook for directly paying all employees a $15/hour minimum wage by 2026, regardless of how much customers contribute. The local restaurant association (RAMWvowed to fight on, and there’s a fair chance the city council might overturn or change the law, but whatever happens next, it’s worth noting that the high profile anti-77 (read: pro keeping the credit) campaign from José Andrés and many, many others lost by nearly 10 points to Restaurant Opportunities Center and a group of lesser known activists and econ policy types. Bring on the post mortems! Your city may be next…

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is out, but before the results, some of my favorite disclaimers (most from 2015) in no particular order:

1. The Daily Beast (“Critics decry a voting system that is shrouded in mystery, rife with conflicts of interest, and, above all, inept at actually selecting the best restaurants.”)

2. The Telegraph (“’It’s all about the money,’ says [co-founder Chris Maillard]. ‘The awards have now become a massive international revenue-generating machine’.”)

3. Eater (“This is precisely what the 50 Best folks want: Ample publicity for their own product and tales of financial windfalls for the victor distract from a larger and more troubling narrative.”)

  1. And The New Yorker (“The list might more accurately be called The World’s Hottest 50 Restaurants, or 50 Restaurants We Enjoyed During the Past Eighteen Months.”)

And now, the results, whatever you may think of them. Top 10:

1. Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy)
2. El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Spain)
3. Mirazur (Menton, France)
4. Eleven Madison Park (NYC)
5. Gaggan (Bangkok)
6. Central (Lima)
7. Maido (Lima)
8. L’Arpege (Paris)
9. Mugaritz (Errenteria, Spain)
10. Asador Etxebarri (Axpe, Spain)

Diversity-wise, it was a typical 50 Best. Only one restaurant from all of Africa made this year’s cut (dead last at #50: Cape Town’s Test Kitchen), the list’s “Best Female Chef” Clare Smyth apparently does not actually lead a top 50 restaurant, and there was this in Eater: “’It’s all about girl power tonight,’ said Mark Durden-Smith, one of the announcers. It was an unfortunate comment not just because of his use of the word ‘girls,’ but because only two of the restaurants on the list, Nahm and Hiša Franko, are run without male co-chefs.”

Whatever you do, please do not blame the list’s shortcomings on their premier, triple-vibranium sponsor (and my #1 choice for non-alcoholic, tropical-essence refreshment): Coconut-flavored Lacroix. Thank you.

Drain the swamp! – After seven years as global director for the Michelin Guide, Michael Ellis will step down this September to take on the newly created role of culinary director at lux hotel firm Jumeirah Group. Successor to be named soon. I accept.

“I incorrectly believed she was interested in me,” – Headline in The Globe & Mail: “Canadian winemaker Norman Hardie accused of sexual misconduct… investigation reveals a wide-ranging pattern of alleged sexual advances and sexual harassment by Hardie, a major player in Canada’s food and wine industry.” The reporting is meticulous, detailing now familiar allegations and excuses. Interestingly, fallout seems to have been happening long before the article was published, with David McMillan of Joe Beef saying he cut all business ties with Hardie since he first got wind of allegations earlier this year.

Plastic or plastic – Mr. Hospitality, Danny Meyer, posted a LinkedIn blog (as one does?) announcing plans to go cashless at more of his restaurants, though he says they’ll accept cash on a “case-by-case” basis (what could go wrong?). He particularly zeroes in on staff safety as a concern, but offers no evidence to back up that rationale. Googling “Shake Shack robbery” mostly surfaces articles about their stock being overvalued…

The (pictorial) Profile Treatment – The NYT sent a photographer to Craft to shoot Tom Colicchio’s team in action. Check out Leksi Bunnell’s NYC skyline in a chef’s knife tattoo.

That PR hustle – José Andrés and Ferran Adria announced they were opening an Eataly style food hall in the Hudson Yards development well over a year ago, but this week we learned it will be named Mercado Little Spain, so swing that spotlight back around, people! A friendly reminder to lay your cards out slowly for maximum effect…

The Critics – New criteria? In an otherwise pretty positive review, the NYT’s Pete Wells laid into Legacy Records for being “eager to suggest that it has local roots — so eager that it has essentially ginned up a history for itself that brings together sloppy research with a superficial tribute to black culture. It’s not a combination that will appeal to everybody.” Still: Two stars.

Grieving out loud – Two podcasts worth listening to in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s death last week. First, David Chang spends an episode of his eponymous Ringer show talking about his own struggles with mental health, in the hopes that it will remove some stigma and shed a little light on the difficulties in finding, paying for, and getting value out of good care. If you’ve been considering professional help, this may help nudge you to make that first call.

Second, this mini-episode of Carbface for Radio is striking, not because of what Laurie Woolever (show co-host and Bourdain’s longtime collaborator and co-author) says about “Tony”, but because of how honest she is about grief and grieving, especially when it relates to a public figure so many felt they knew so well. Her mix of emotions toward fellow grievers in varying degrees of closeness to herself and the deceased are extremely relatable, and rarely discussed so openly.  Also, there is candy.

Last and least – Where are they now? A little known broadcast television actor (from the third golden age of TV) named Patrick Duffy is opening a bar in L.A. called The Broadwater Plunge. Coolest design features: Ponytail(?), half-stubble goatee, and pinstripes. #dreamy.

And that’s it for today. Happy belated Juneteenth! (Had no idea there were so many traditional/symbolic foods involved. The more you know…)

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

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