Quick programming note to start: If all goes well, Family Meal will switch servers on Tuesday and begin coming to you from Substack as opposed to Mailchimp. Reasons for the move: Substack is free for me, and it lets people who want to contribute contribute. Don’t worry, there’s no pay wall on the horizon, and you shouldn’t notice any major changes.
Let’s get to it…
Replacing Michael Bauer – Over the past few days, I’ve asked a national cross-section of food writers and editors for their thoughts on who might or might-should get one of the most influential food writing gigs in the country when the restaurant critic role at the San Francisco Chronicle opens up in September. My longish notes on those conversations are at the very bottom of the newsletter, so as not to overwhelm less interested readers. Scroll down past the sign off if you’re in a rush.
And below those, you’ll find a quick Q&A with writer Julia Turshen, who was kind enough to provide an update on her Equity At The Table (EATT) online directory / community for “women/gender non-conforming individuals… focusing primarily on POC and the LGBTQ community.” It’s the site Daniel Patterson highlighted in tweets about his hopes for the next Chronicle critic. Some media folks privately criticized those tweets as: A) laughable because a chef was trying to lead the conversation about who should be his critic, and B) more of Patterson’s “non-stop virtue signaling” (“his heart is in the right place”), BUT no one disagreed that EATT would be an excellent resource for the Chronicle’s selection committee. So look out below for an update on that, and users / true believers should definitely hit up their Patreon page.
The (other) critics – “In perhaps the most anticlimactic Chicago moment since Geraldo Rivera pried open Al Capone’s vault,” the Tribune’s longtime critic Phil Vettel has revealed his face and is ditching the anonymity he worries has “created an uneven playing field, giving an advantage to restaurants clever enough to recognize me and smart enough not to let it show… And, to my readers, it’s more honest. I’ve always made a point of disclosing in my reviews when service took a suspicious VIP turn, but I suspect I’m being recognized more often than I realize.” (Yes, critics at major outlets, I suspect anything less than #prettymucheverysingletime is probably an underestimation.)
Some sad news – In Manhattan, EV Grieve reports, “Jim Moffett, the owner of the 35-year-old Great Jones Cafe on Great Jones Street, died last week… A friend said that Moffett was 59.”
Awards Season – Congratulations to Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken: “The pair will be the first set of partners and the first women to receive the Julia Child Award, which was previously awarded to chefs Jacques Pepinand Rick Bayless, and restaurateur Danny Meyer. The award will be presented to Milliken and Feniger on Nov. 1, at a gala for Smithsonian Food History Weekend at the National Museum of American History.” Details, anecdotes, and a bit of the profile treatment via Maura Judkis in the Washington Post. Appropriation watchers will be interested to see Bayless, Feniger, and Milliken on such a short list…
(Alleged) A-hole Whack-a-Mole – Also from Judkis: “Someone Else’s Problem” is a painful accounting of six women seeking justice from D.C.’s Mindful Restaurant Group (Aqua al 2, Ghibellina, La Puerta Verde, etc.). Spoiler: They didn’t get it. Un-spoiler: You have to read through to her kicker to understand the full extent of the run around. And you should.
Arrested at TOTC – “A well-known Chicago mixologist was arrested in New Orleans early Wednesday (July 18) on a third-degree rape charge in connection to a 2015 accusation, according to court documents. The man who reported the rape told police he was visiting New Orleans from New York for the 2015 Tales of the Cocktail and went to a party hosted by Adam Seger, 48, according to Seger’s warrant. After having ‘numerous’ alcoholic drinks, the man said he fell asleep in a poolside chair. When the man woke up, Seger was performing unwanted oral sex on him, the warrant states.” Details on NOLA.com.
UnChef’d – The meal kit company that partnered with celebrities and celebrity chefs (Dominique Crenn, Duff Goldman, Matty Matheson, Simon Majumdar, Susan Feniger, Wolfgang Puck, among others) to let fans cook their recipes at home shut down this week. This, despite lots of supposedly good news recently: “Last month, Chef’d announced it would sell its meal kits in 30 Duane Reade and Walgreens locations in New York. In May, Chef’d announced it would be partnering with Byte Foods to stock meal kits in the company’s smart fridges. Last year, the company raised $35 million from Campbell’s and pork producer Smithfield Foods.” Big food companies that were eager and/or pressured to get in on Silicon Valley VC style bets are learning some tough lessons… Details in Business Insider.
The Gall – Thailand Edition: Quite the interview here from Jason Bailey of Paste Gaysorn in Bangkok. He criticizes new Nahm head chef Pim Techamuanvivit (of Kin Khao SF fame for some) for “being an import” (she was born and raised in Bangkok, he’s Australian) and “in essence a blogger” (she won a Michelin star in SF) and for forsaking pure art and scholarship to instead “get all the press contacts [and] network.” Techamuanvivit did not take it quietly.
The Fallout – In DC, “Two Mike Isabella restaurants have closed in recent months, and now it looks like a third could be in danger. The landlord of Graffiato, Isabella’s first eatery, is suing for more than $28,000 in alleged unpaid rent and other fees.” His reaction to the Washingtonian’s questions: “‘Don’t know what your talking about,’ Isabella said via e-mail about the eviction lawsuit, which was filed in DC court on June 29.” Which either means he’s still having problems with honesty, or his investors have another, larger problem.
Lists I like – Eater is out with their Young Guns 2018 list of up-and-coming talent. And this year’s 18 winners are: Amelie Kang (Co-Founder of MáLà Project and Tomorrow, NYC); Caitlin McMillan (Exec Chef of Goldie, Philadelphia); Chelsea Gregoire (Bar Manager at Hotel Revival, Baltimore); Christine Larroucau (GM at Majordomo, LA); Daniel Alvarez (Pastry Chef at Union Square Cafe and Daily Provisions, NYC); DeVonn Francis, Chef / Founder of Yardy, NYC); Gabe Barker (Chef / Owner of Pizzeria Mercato, Carrboro, NC); Kaitlyn Caruke (Head Somm at Walnut Street Café, Philadelphia); Kate Kavanaugh, (CEO of Western Daughters Butcher Shop, Denver); Laura Johnson (Owner of You and Yours Distilling Co., San Diego); Lena Sareini (Pastry Chef at Selden Standard, Detroit); Nico de Leon(Sous Chef at Lasa, LA); Niels Brisbane (Culinary Director of Canlis Research Kitchen at the Bread Lab, Burlington, WA); Nite Yun (Chef / Owner of Nyum Bai, Oakland); Sahil Rahman and Rahul Vinod (CEOs of Rasa, DC); Shota Nakajima (Chef / Owner of Adana, Seattle); and Sumi Ali (Co-Founder of Yes Plz, LA).
The whole package is definitely worth looking around, not least because Eater managed to get a murderers’ row of writers to do the profiles.
For the somm – Per the Chronicle, “Kosta Browne, the acclaimed Sebastopol maker of Pinot Noir, has been purchased by Duckhorn Wine Co. of St. Helena.”
And some sad news with a full obit in the NYT, “Auguste Clape, a pillar of the northern Rhône Valley wine region whose sturdy yet remarkably soulful wines awakened interest in the little-known Cornas appellation, died on July 13 in Valence, France. He was 93.”
And last but certainly not least – As anti-straw mania engulfs the industry, there are occasional mentions of what banning them means for disabled people. Honestly, I never quite got it until I read this piece from Alice Wong: “I refuse to apologize or feel shame about the way my body works and how I navigate in the world. Everyone consumes goods and creates waste. We all do what we can to reduce, reuse, and recycle. We should recognize that different needs require different solutions.” Bonus: It ends with perfectly reasonable and manageable solutions.
And that’s it for today. Stay tuned below for the Bauer replacement rumors and a quick update on EATT. I’m off to launch my kickstarter for a new documentary short titled “Replacing Michael Bauer”. At the $10k level, you can join me for a private screening in The French Laundry kitchen garden, followed by a trip to the Napa County lockup.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
Replacing Michael Bauer
Before we start, two things: 1) I want to be clear that I am 99% passing on thoughts here. It should be clear where my own views come in, so please save your cheering, heckling, and/or eye-rolls for your fellow readers. 2) I don’t want to be in the business of publicly judging writers too harshly, so I may be holding back some places. So be it.
And now, at the risk of pissing everyone off….
The name that came up most frequently was Tejal Rao (“TAY-jull with a hard j, as in jam. And rau, like the acrimonious quarrel”, FYI, SF PR). Folks noted she has basically everything the Chronicle could want (at least from an out-of-towner): A long resume of criticism at the Village Voice and Bloomberg News (with two James Beard awards for her trouble), and a solid mix of frivolous lists, deeply reported stories, profiles, and recipe writing at the New York Times.
Her website is an easy place to poke around her work, and includes a link to this interview in Tiffin if you want to get to know her better. “Born in London to Indian émigré parents, she grew up, variously, in London, Khartoum, Kuwait, Paris, and Atlanta, in between extended summer sojourns with grandparents in Nairobi and Pune.” There’s a lot to get to know…
BUT, several people noted that besides the personal pros and cons of a cross-country move, there’s the question of what’s going on at NYT Food. Pete Wellsis coming up on seven years as head critic in November, longer than any of his recent predecessors Sam Sifton (two years), Frank Bruni (five), William Grimes (four), and Ruth Reichl (six). If Rao is next in line, how long will she have to wait, and will she?
(So many people suggested her that I actually forgot to reach out to her for her thoughts. Guessing it’ll be a polite “no comment”, but will let you know.)
The second name that came up most was Soleil Ho of the Racist Sandwich podcast. Consensus is she has the restaurant chops and writing skill to write about all corners of the industry, but some wondered if the critic role would be too confining for someone who wants to write about broader issues.
Other current critics mentioned were:
Tim Carman at the Washington Post – someone said he might add a bit of a Jonathan Gold lens to the Bay Area – but Carman’s another white man, and that doesn’t seem to be where the conversation is at right now. (Ditto Tom Sietsema, though no one I heard from expects him to give up his spot in DC anytime soon.)
Bill Addison at Eater (and previously a critic at the Chronicle) has the same demographic strike against as Carman, and word is he might be happy to end his life on the road in Wells’ job too…
Devra First – May be ready for a move from the Boston Globe?
Hillary Dixler Canavan – Eater’s national restaurant editor, who ironically(?) just moved from SF to LA.
Luke Tsai – Food editor at SF Magazine, and former critic at the East Bay Express with the local cred.
Rachel Khong – One of the top choices out of the Bay Area, but maybe she’s got the taste for novel writing now?
Stephen Satterfield – Another Bay Area favorite, but may want to keep his focus on Whetstone and other projects.
Hanna Raskin at the Charleston Post & Courier, who is a sharp enough critic that she tends to get banned from places.
Besha Rodell – Now covering Australia for the NYT. (Actually, I suggested Besha might be missing California, but someone told me they thought there was no way she’d make that move again.)
Then there’s the in-house moves, but for reasons purely of inertia it’s hard for me to imagine anyone leaving their current roles. Esther Mobley just expanded her portfolio with the new Press section, and Jonathan Kauffman seems to have a good gig moving his focus around wherever his interests take him. Not sure who else would make the move?
And more suggestions in no particular order:
Kate Krader – Current food editor at Bloomberg, after 20 years at Food & Wine.
Korsha Wilson – Lots of great writing in her name, and does A Hungry Society podcast. Recommended multiple times.
Khushbu Shah – Food features editor at Thrillist.
Pryia Krishna – Probably pretty busy with her cookbook, but when has that ever stopped anybody?
Osayi Endolyn – Great writing all over the place.
Tunde Wey – Could he make the switch from performance art / activism / broader writing to restaurant criticism?
Patty Unterman – Bauer’s predecessor at the Chronicle, who went on to spend 20 years at the Examiner and co-owns the Hayes Street Grill. A homecoming?
And that’s what I’ve got so far. It’s an incomplete list FOR SURE, and you’re right if you think it needs some editing. But I thought I’d put it out there and see what you think.
What do you think?
P.S. – If anyone wants to play the “What’s next at NYT Food” game with me, I’m in: Sifton moves to Cooking full time. Wells up to editor. Rao in as critic. I take over newsletters, on-location tropical features, and cheese. Everyone else holds firm. Done and done.
Some Q’s for Julia Turshen re: Equity At The Table. What’s happened so far, and what’s next?
Hi Julia! Equity At The Table (EATT) has been online for just over three months now. How has the project been going so far? Any interesting successes or unexpected outcomes you can share?
It’s going great— we have new members joining all of the time and I frequently hear from editors and other gatekeepers that they’re using EATT. The most delightful outcome so far has been a community email that I’ve been sending to members…it’s a place to share community news, job openings, and more.
A lot of the focus I see has been on EATT’s role as a directory, but you also describe EATT as a community. How is the community aspect playing out on and/or offline?
It’s playing out through our Instagram feed (run by Meme!) and through my regular emails to members. We’re currently exploring ways for it to play out offline. I have a lot of hopes for ways people can engage with the site and the members on it can engage with each other and my favorite measure of success is knowing that members have personally connected with other members and are getting to know each other. Community is everything.
Daniel Patterson recently shouted EATT out in his Twitter conversation with Chronicle EIC Audrey Cooper, citing it as a good place for them to hunt for a replacement for Michael Bauer. This feels like the kind of moment EATT was built for.
I’m delighted to know it’s being put to use— that is definitely the point of EATT. It’s a tool. It’s a resource. It’s evidence that marginalized voices are not a monolith and we all have very distinct skills and stories to share. As Advisory Board member Shakirah Simley said the day we launched: “No excuses.”
What’s next for EATT? (Please feel free to break news or spread gossip!) And what do you need from the public to help make it happen?
To continue being a valuable resource and to keep finding ways for us members to connect with each other. The more people who are eligible to join that join, the better. The more people in positions of power who bookmark EATT and keeping coming back to it, the better. The more people who might want to pledge a little bit financially to help us pay our part-time employee and to support offline opportunities, the better. Thank you for asking.
Thank you, Julia!