And a quick shout out to everyone reading Family Meal down in New Orleans! Big day for Tales of the Cocktail, as the TOTC Foundation allocates its first $250k worth of grants this afternoon at the Hotel Monteleone.
Let’s get to it…
Bauer bounces – On Friday, after 32 years at the paper, critic Michael Bauerannounced his last day with the SF Chronicle will be sometime in September. He’s “not calling it retirement.”
The Chronicle ran a glowing goodbye piece for him, with a long resume stretching back to his first gig as a features writer at the Kansas City Star in 1975 before moving on to restaurant criticism at the Dallas Times Herald and eventually San Francisco, where he started Inside Scoop, the wine section, and more. It’s definitely worth a read to see just how much influence he’s had and how many publications he’s inspired / launched, but as a huge fan of the Chronicle food section, I was really disappointed to see that it reads like a rosy family obit (so, opinion?) and fails to utter that simple, key phrase…
His tenure was not without controversy. The most damning public accusations came from Rebecca Flint Marx’s two year old piece in San Francisco Magazine, “The Trouble with the Michaels,” in which she breaks down the many conflicts of interest brought on both by Bauer’s boyfriend Michael Murphy’s job at IfOnly, and the couple’s closeness with so many of the people that at least one of them was supposed to be impartial about: “San Francisco is a village, one that’s full of chefs who have spent their entire career under a single critic and have been conditioned to please him and to not, with very few exceptions, ask any questions. It’s a place where you can go to a party at the home of that critic, look around at all of the chefs in attendance, and realize, as one past attendee of one Bauer-Murphy soiree did, that ‘if you dropped a bomb on the house right now, the food scene would be done.’” Cc: The Swamp.
There are a bunch more accusations large and small, fair and unfair, both in that article and elsewhere, and it would be impossible for me to go into all the details here. But I really hope the Chronicle food section gives it a go themselves. They say they want to look to the future of criticism in the Bay Area. Hard to do that without first having a frank discussion on the past, and I think they owe it to their loyal readers (me) and subjects of criticism (many of you) to examine (critique!) the Bauer era openly.
And looking to the future… Food editor Paolo Lucchesi says they’re conducting a nationwide search to replace Bauer with “someone who has fresh ideas about what is next, and the restaurants that truly matter (and don’t matter) in 2018. We want someone who loves to examine the politics of caviar as much as the virtues of sourdough. Readers, we want to hear from you. Chefs, servers, cooks, bussers, restaurateurs: We want to hear from you, too. And future Bay Area restaurant critics: We definitely want to hear from you… Email: email@example.com Twitter: @lucchesi.”
He’s already heard from Daniel Patterson, who has some thoughts on who could step in to fill the role (and how), but I’ll save my own suggestions and guesses for now, and must respectfully ask that Mr. Lucchesi refrain from further solicitation. I can’t be your critic, Paolo. Too famous.
And now, the rest of the news…
The scratch – The NYPost reports that at Three World Trade Center, “Plans for a 7,000-square-foot casual dining spot from Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm, of Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad fame, have been scratched.… Meanwhile, Hawksmoor — an acclaimed steakhouse with seven locations in Britain that was supposed to open a 14,000-square-foot jumbo at Three World Trade last year — is ‘now looking at a different location uptown,’ a source said, ‘near Park Avenue South.’”
The profile treatment – This Tim Carman profile of pitmaster Rodney Scottand his journey to prominence is fantastic. It touches on the value of hard work, good press, solid mentorship, selective business partnership, and a whole lot of optimism and ambition, and then hits on the deeply personal struggles that often come with defining and achieving success: “Rodney Scott’s successful migration from country to city has come at a cost. The locals in Hemingway, Scott says, sometimes give him an earful about leaving them behind. They accuse him of selling out and selling out his own family. But the situation seems much more complex. Those close to Scott…say that father and son no longer talk. It’s a classic case of son transcending father, one person says, and the jealousies that come with it.… Scott quotes T.D. Jakes, the pastor behind the Dallas megachurch, the Potter’s House, when asked about his father. ‘T.D. Jakes told a story that not everybody you encounter on your journey is meant to be with you when you get to your destination… Sometimes your journey is to go past that person. That person may be your brother, sister, mother, father, uncle, whomever. . . . My life is just like that.’” Full story well worth a read.
The interview treatment – If you need a fresh Bourdain fix, Popula published a 20,000 word interview with Maria Bustillos on Sunday.
The moves – The big news in DC this weekend was Frank Ruta and Aggie Chin leaving Hakan Ilhan’s Mirabelle, due to what management called “an inability to consistently meet food and labor costs.” The Washingtonian reports, “Keith Bombaugh, a protege of Boston’s Barbara Lynch who went on to become a sous chef at Chicago’s famed Alinea, is [now] leading the kitchen.” Zoe Ezrailson will take over pastry duties from Chin.
In SF, “Chef Josh Even, formerly the head chef of Tosca Cafe, has joined the team at Tofino Wines, the Laurel Heights wine bar and bottle shop.”
The media – A few non-Bauer, food-related media notes: The EIC of SF Magazine, Jon Steinberg is leaving for Epic, Eater NY is looking for a full-time reporter, and Eater National is hiring a Social Media Manager.
For design fans – “Here’s Hippo, James Beard Winner Matt Molina’s New Highland Park [LA] Secret” which looks a bit like a camp cafeteria, but in a good way? And then there’s Manhatta, Danny Meyer’s new 60th floor spend at 28 Liberty Street, ManhattaN. It’s pretty safe stuff design-wise, but if you like classic looks against outrageous views, you’re welcome. And finally, back to LA for the new Chateau Hanare at the Chateau Marmont, where the chairs look like they’ve been covered to keep guests from ruining the real fabric, but I’m a sucker for a restaurant with a mix of wildly different dining room styles.
And last but not least – Warn your beverage director: Not sure this is going to go according to plan… Via the South Bend Tribune: “Will beer names bring the right kind of attention to new Lakeville brewery? With titles including ‘Flint Michigan Tap Water,’ ‘Black Beer Matters,’ ‘White Guilt’ and ‘Mass Graves,’ Jon Duncan and Rodney Chlebek acknowledge the names are likely to create a reaction from people. But, according to Duncan, at least people will be talking about current issues… The stout will be called ‘Black Beer Matters’ because, according to Duncan, stouts and porters are the least popular of all craft beers. But ‘they are good beers and they matter,’ he said.” #ally
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Friday for next family meal.
P.S. For over 3 years in my youth, I spent nearly every working day walking in literal minefields (as in landmines), but I have never tread more carefully than this past week spent housesitting an ornery tomcat. I don’t know how you cat people do it, but his owners got back last night, and I’m off to bash around my apartment with the confidence of a man wearing steel-toed boots in a dandelion field. Hope you have a great day too.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or your bets on the next Chron critic to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!