The Family Meal – Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Hello Friday,

After a few weeks of travel messing with send times, we are now back to our regularly scheduled program. (Shout out to everyone who hears John Leguizamo any time they read “regularly scheduled program”.)

Let’s get to it…

The Final Word – Eater’s Ryan Sutton adds another beauty to the cannon of World’s 50 Best criticism, with point after point about shortcomings (and worse) in every aspect of both the ceremony and the list itself. He ends by asking, “Is this a party you want to be a part of?” If yes, at very least the serious diversity problems beg a follow-up: Who’s your plus-one?

The protest – Despite loads of initial reports to the contrary, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was not actually shouted out of D.C. Mexican restaurant MXDC this week. As the Washingtonian’s Jessica Sidman explains here, after 15-20 minutes of chanting, protestors were surprised the cops hadn’t shown up and decided to leave on their own. Nielsen left after that. Cooler heads prevailed. It’s a distinction worth noting as big city restaurants think about what they would do in a similar situation. Stephen Starr, you got a good plan at Le Diplomate?

The mirror – In the wake of Gabrielle Hamilton’s announcing her partnership with Ken Friedman, Portland’s Naomi Pomeroy (Beast) takes a hard look at both Hamilton’s decision and the accommodations Pomeroy feels she made to get ahead over her own career. “Sure, I worked my ass off to make my own place, but I also got there by acting like the men around me, even men whose behavior I knew was wrong. A lot of other women did, too. We thought we had to… We partied with them, let some of them slap us on the ass. We learned that the real way of handling it and getting ahead was maintaining (if not even creating) the bro code. Sometimes WE started slapping people on the ass. And it was working. We were getting ahead! … I look back on that time with real sadness. ”

P.S. Pomeroy echoes something Jen Agg has talked about on Twitter as well: Just how much money is Friedman paying Hamilton and her wife Ashley Merriman to help salvage his reputation? Pomeroy says “presumably, a lot”. Agg is “Throwing out some guesses… between 2 and 4 million (1 million’s an insult and 5 seems too eager). I mean what’s the going rate for redemption?” Place your bets?

Leaving the institution – “After seven years as executive chef at one of New Orleans’ most storied fine-dining institutions, Michael Sichel is making moves. The chef at Galatoire’s… has been appointed executive chef at Hotel Bennett, a new luxury hotel opening this fall in Charleston, SC. He’ll be leaving Galatoire’s at the end of June.” No word on who’s taking over on Bourbon Street.

For design fans – So close. With nearly every single brewery-bar concept still eerily copying high school lunchroom layouts, it feels like the design team behind this Artisinal Brewers Collective spot in L.A. almost achieved escape velocity and were all “Back-lit art wall! Cool chairs! Black marble! 5+ corners!” but then they took a deep breath and said, “OK that’ll be a small side room, for the rest let’s have a big open space with plain wood tables and office chairs, but like, nice, modern ones.” (Before you write: Yes, I understand that brewery equipment is expensive. Still think the creative minds who made America care about limited edition gose can design cooler places to taste it.)

For design fans too – The new La Vie in D.C. is a lot to look at, and I’m concerned about the long term stability of two main things: First, those banquette tables and their roots. Second, yet another cavernous luxury spot in this part of town. I know some folks are bullish on The Wharf, but…

For the somm: The Profile Treatment – From zero-English immigrant at 16 to CIA grad to Eleven Madison Park server to Level 2 somm cert to Beverley Hills’ MaudeLA Mag says “Andrey Tolmachyov is 26 and, in the parlance of Instagram, living his best life… As the team was getting January’s inaugural Rioja-themed menu off the ground, Tolmachyov traveled with [Curtis Stone] and a few colleagues to Burgundy—specifically the town of Beaune in the Côte d’Or—where they spent their days traversing the storied terrain of Chablis, Puligny-Montrachet, and Meursault, selecting the wines he’s now pouring alongside chef Justin Hilbert’s escargot and oeufs en meurette.”

They just want to kelp (not sorry) – Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, the prominent Chicago-based restaurant company known for restaurants like RPM Steak and R.J. Grunts, plans to phase out the use of plastic straws by Oct. 1…. More than 100 Chicago-area restaurants and bars have made similar commitments as part of the Shedd Aquarium’s ‘Shedd the Straw’ campaign. … Lettuce plans to transition all of its 120 restaurants in nine states to alternatives, including paper, hay and even biodegradable plastic straws, though customers will be encouraged to not use straws at all.” Details in the Tribune.

That TV $$$ – Per Deadline: “Fresh Off the Boat author and restaurateur Eddie Huang is partnering with Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens’ Propagate to produce Cash Only, an original unscripted series exploring race, identity and multiculturalism through immigrant kitchens.” If you had the exact same idea for a show, I encourage you to join my new class action.

Last and least – I initially ignored this article because it’s about Bon Jovi hawking rosé with his son, and good for them, but… so? So… turns out the interview is a really fun read. I learned about Jovi’s marketing prowess (on why they named the wine Hampton Water not Hamptons Water: “You see, that’s where the mastery comes in”), his media savvy (“Bon Jovi [to his son]: That’s The New York Times and she just jammed you! She just cut you!”), and his personal brand (“Classic and timeless is always what I do. Classic and timeless.”). Last one checks out.

And that’s it for today. Your love is like bad medicine, but bad medicine is what I need, so I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or million dollar insults to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!

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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.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or contact info for whoever’s in charge of marketing in the Lacroix coconut division to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!

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 andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!

The Family Meal – Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Hello Tuesday,

There are only two items in my twitter feed right now: the Singapore Summit and Anthony Bourdain.

The menu for the former has been released. Meh.

The tributes and obits for the latter keep rolling in, but if you deal with death like I do, you may want some comic relief before we get started on those. Won’t you please join me in the comments section for a moment?

My top picks so far –

Eyes of the world: “Tony had a true disdain for the Grateful Dead, he was a headbanger from the get go. Nonetheless, I admired him.” – dhil.

On demand: “I just like the guy…the TV guy. Never read his book.” – Boregard.

The final concession: “Apparently I have missed something about eating. As I have aged (pushing 82) I have simplified my diet by consuming Safeway sandwiches instead of cooking for myself. And such sandwiches contain meat, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and bread. Seems like a complete feed to me. And then I have been seeing more of this Bourdain fellow eating and drinking on TV, taking up space for other stuff that I would like to watch. Apparently he was a nice guy and I’ll give him that.” – Jim.

Film buff to film buff: “If Anthony Bourdain were to have replaced an Hero in any Movie, it would be this Movie. [Link to the trailer for Steven Seagal’s ‘Under Siege’]” – Peter.”

Honest Sue: “I was terribly attracted to him.” – Susan.

Heroic empathy regardless: “I had no idea Bourdain came from a wealthy background, I thought he was a working class kid. Regardless, condolences to the family and may he know peace.” – Lynn.

The view from Bryn Mawr: “Huge blow. Don’t see many Vassar students trying to do what he did.” – Anthony.

And finally, who was Anthony Bourdain, really? “Anthony Bourdain was to food as Lou Reed was to music.” – AMH. “He was the Socrates of the culinary world.” – Olga. “You were the David Bowie of the culinary world.” – Bertie. “He was the best person to come out of New Jersey.” – VLB from Pennsylvania.

Ok, let’s get to it…

The tributes – Many, many writers and friends have published their personal takes on Tony and his passing. A small sample: Helen Rosner (“Write this down: I’m a fucking feminist.”); David Simon (Did you know he and Bourdain had shopped around a CIA in the Cold War series together that never got network backing?); Tim Carman (“I wasn’t a friend to Tony, but he was always friendly to me.”); Mallika Rao (“Anthony Bourdain Was the Best White Man”); Daniel Patterson (“For cooks all over the world, this one hurts.”), and finally Rose McGowan “on behalf” of Asia Argento with a piece that sadly makes it sound as if Asia is nervous people will blame her somehow, and also includes this difficult detail: “I know before Anthony died he reached out for help, and yet he did not take the doctor’s advice.”

In the physical world: Fans turned the old Les Halles on Park Avenue into a makeshift memorial, while at Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune, mirrors were covered and the receipts read “RIP To Our King” this weekend.

The non-Bourdain food news was understandably slow over the weekend, but…

That hotel $$$ –  In Sonoma, Geoffrey Zakarian “is playing a pivotal role in the sprawling, nearly $20 million redesign of one of Wine Country’s most historic properties — the MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa.” He got the contract to “coordinate the opening of three separate concepts at MacArthur Place by 2019: an upscale Mediterranean restaurant called Layla serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; the Bar at MacArthur, which will have a lounge vibe with cocktails, beers and a simple all-day menu; and a coffee bar and marketplace called the Porch.” Details and design renderings in the Chronicle.

The Lists – The World’s 50 Best org is out with their runner up list again this year. Eater says stateside, “The U.S. saw two restaurants join the 51-100 list: Le CoucouDaniel Rose and Stephen Starr’s fancy French hotspot, debuting at 85, and Single ThreadKyle Connaughton’s ambitious tasting-menu spot in Healdsburg, joining the list at 91.” Meanwhile Atelier Crenn – last year’s #83 – is conspicuously missing from this lower half of the list…

P.S. Congratulations to 50 Best premier sponsor (as far as you know) Coconut LaCroix on another refreshing PR coup!

The Media – Eater SF is looking for a part time restaurant reporter.

More sad news – “One of the founding fathers of Miami’s cocktail scene, New York native John Lermayer (Sweet Liberty) forever changed the landscape of South Florida bars when he opened the Delano’s Florida Room.” He died last Wednesday at 45.

The departure – In D.C., Rob Rubba has left Hazel, the restaurant he founded under Neighborhood Restaurant GroupPer Eater DC, “Rubba says he’ll do some traveling this summer — noting that he’s working with chef pals on ‘some exciting pop-ups around the country.’” So… off to talk with some investors?

And last but not least – For my media readers: If you wrote something about Bourdain and said that his big break came when he “sent an unsolicited manuscript” to the New Yorker and they accepted it, you are doing readers a disservice. According to the guy who published that manuscript, the full truth is Bourdain’s mom, Gladys Bourdain, who worked as a copy editor at the New York Times, personally passed on his now famous “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” essay to her co-worker Esther Fein, who passed it on to her husband, New Yorker editor David Remnick, saying, “Do me a favor and be polite to Ms. Bourdain.”

That fact does not / could not in any way lessen Bourdain’s work or success, and I’m not saying it needs to be shunted into every last piece about his career path, but it is an important detail to include for the many struggling writers – and cooks – out there attaching .doc lotto tickets to emails every day. People get little legs up in life. Let’s be honest about them.

And that’s it for today. Phew.

I’ll see you here Friday for Family Meal.

P.S. I’m headed to Beijing tomorrow and grateful for recommendations if you have them!

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or comments on my comments section comments to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!

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 Nola.com 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.

The Family Meal – Friday, May 25th, 2018

Hello Friday,

Quick programming note before we get started: I’ll be on planes from Hong Kong to D.C. most of Monday, so there’s a good chance there will be no Family Meal this Tuesday. (Thanks so much to everyone who sent in tips on where I should spend my time in the District next week. Recommendations – especially on the cocktails side of things – still welcome!)

And now, the (industry) news…

The Hike – In NYC, Major Food Group’s The Grill turned one this month, and Eater NY’s Ryan Sutton has a look at some pretty impressive price increasesfor year two. Biggest climbers: “The famed mushroom omelet, flipped tableside by a tuxedoed waiter, has leapt from $24 to $38, a whopping 52 percent hike. The pheasant Claiborne with black truffle, once $45, has increased by over twenty dollars to $69. And the triple lamb chops, once $59, are now $92.” So… permission to throw an extra buck or two on your sides?

For TV Fans – ABC has cancelled The Chew, and this is certainly a sad day for all the Carla Hall fans out there, but maybe they can hold back the tears long enough to chuckle at the fact that lovers of All My Children, which was cancelled seven seasons ago to make way for The Chew, held their grudge so long that they took time to rejoice in the latest cancellation on Twitter. We humans truly are the superior species in every way.

The media – FYI, Southern food writer / scholar John T. Edge was involved in a serious car accident outside Athens, GA on Wednesday, but left the hospital yesterday and is at least well enough to tweet thanks to well-wishers. We wish you well, John T. Edge!

The media too – Career path detour? “Attention kitchen geeks! Reviewed is seeking a full time Staff Writer with you in mind. You’ll be… creating daily content about kitchen gadgets, the ‘smart kitchen,’ and other home goods. Your work will be read across the USA TODAY Network and beyond…. This is an ideal position for someone with a deep and abiding love of kitchen gear, home goods, and home design.” Upside/downside: Based in Cambridge, MA.

The Closures – In Chicago, “Despite all-star bartender Jim Meehan’s presence, Heisler Hospitality has pulled the plugs on Prairie School and Regards to Edith, their neighboring bar and restaurant in Fulton Market inside Google’s 1K Fulton building. The last day of service for both will be Saturday after staying open for eight months.” In LA, “Longtime Hollywood restaurateur George Abou-Daoud has closed what was perhaps his most personal restaurant to date: Farida. The final night of service was [Tuesday].”

That Hotel $$$ – Philadelphia’s own “Greg Vernick, six years into the acclaimed Vernick Food & Drink near Rittenhouse Square, will go the seafood route with his second restaurant, opening this fall on the street level of the Four Seasons Hotel at the new Comcast Technology Center, on the 1800 block of Arch Street side.” A Mr. Jean-Georges Vongerichten is also opening a location in the building. Details on philly.com, including this: “Meanwhile, Vernick’s next major project… is a second daughter with wife Julie, expected in September.”

The Survey – (Included here because I’m genuinely interested in the results.) The folks behind the Racist Sandwich podcast have put out this request: “Hey food friends! We’re really curious about your thoughts on the food media, so we put together this anonymous survey for you. THE [chili emoji] MUST FLOW!! BRING THE [fire emoji]!” Survey here. VERY short. Sample Q: “Of all the food media outlets and publications you experience, whose coverage do you consider the best and why? The worst?” (Please don’t call Family Meal the worst. Thank you.)

The Critics – A reminder to SF bar owners from Chronicle Food editor Paolo Lucchesi: “The Drink Up column (the Chronicle’s weekly bar review) is now in the hands of three talented voices”.. and (easily google-able) faces: Emma Silvers (Facebook photoTwitter profile), Maggie Hoffman (Twitter profile), and Esther Mobley (heard of her?).

Last and least – Here’s an excerpt from David Chang’s upcoming book IDGAF, A Cherished Life in Hospitality: “The truth is, I don’t give a fuck about the friends and family that eat at the restaurant for soft opening… So the first night of friends-and-family at Majordomo, without telling anyone else, I asked the GM, [Christine Larroucau], to take down the POS system during service at 8 o’clock. I said, ‘I want you to unplug it, and I want you to turn the circuit breakers off in the northeast side of the restaurant. And I want you to overload the reservation book at 8 o’clock. And I don’t want you to tell me how many people, because I’m gonna help expedite and I don’t even wanna know.’… It was total fucking pandemonium and chaos. And I liked it, because it allowed us to take note of who makes decisions well under duress, who is calm, cool, and collected… And that’s what I cherish most about friends-and-family.”

(Actually that’s from his most recent Dave Chang Show newsletter, but I can’t find a web version to link to. Happy to fwd mine if you want it.)

And that’s it for today. Here’s hoping I run into you at my local (Boundary Stone) or that great new cocktail bar (you tell me) in D.C. next week. I will be the one drinking exactly what Anthony Bourdain would be drinking, exactly the way Anthony Bourdain would drink it. As usual.

See you here next week for Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or Four Seasons Philadelphia loyalty points to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!

The Family Meal – Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Hello Tuesday,

And happy birthday to Buddha (and my older sister)!

Let’s get to it…

The 60 Minute Treatment – Anderson Cooper sat down with some of the women who have accused Ken Friedman and Mario Batali of sexual assault and harassment. Most of the allegations will be familiar to anyone who read December’s Eater story on Batali and NYT report on Friedman, but hearing them from the mouths of victims and witnesses is incredibly powerful.

Anderson Cooper: You have no doubt you saw Mario Batali
Jamie Seet: No doubt. Absolutely–
Anderson Cooper: –sexually assaulting an unconscious or semi-conscious woman.
Jamie Seet: Yeah, no doubt at all.

The Batali Fallout: 60 Minutes also reported that Batali is under criminal investigation in NYC, and the Times followed that up with this: “The New York Police Department is investigating a second sexual assault complaint against the celebrity chef Mario Batali, a person familiar with the matter said Monday. In that complaint, which has not been previously reported, a woman told the police on March 15 that Mr. Batali drugged and sexually assaulted her in January 2004 at his Greenwich Village restaurant Babbo. The woman told the police she had been drinking at the bar and went upstairs to use the bathroom, according to the person familiar with the complaint, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Her next memory was waking up as Mr. Batali was raping her.”

Batali does not deny he was at times a jerk, but “‘vehemently denies’ any allegations that he engaged in non-consensual sex.”

The Friedman Fallout: At his Tosca Café in SF, the Chronicle reports “Josh Even, who has been the chef since 2013, is leaving his post. His departure coincides with the exit of the restaurant’s business manager, Dana Katzakian.” They tried to buy the restaurant after Friedman was accused, but couldn’t come to an agreement with his partner April Bloomfield. Bloomfield, who doesn’t come off very well in the 60 minutes piece herself (“I didn’t go to April, because I didn’t trust her with this either… I know other people went to April, and she did nothing to make them feel safe.”) says she is in the “final stages of severing her partnership” with Friedman too.

Dropping it – Per Reuters: “A former server at Le Bernardin ended her lawsuit accusing the famed New York City seafood restaurant of ignoring sexual harassment complaints or shaming people from coming forward…. ‘there has been no settlement or waiver’ of any claims, her lawyer, Maimon Kirschenbaum, said in a letter filed in the federal court in Manhattan.”

The Lists – Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs 2018 is out. And the winners are: Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer (King, NYC); Kevin Tien (Himitsu, D.C.); Katianna Hong (The Charter Oak, St. Helena); Liz Johnson (Freedman’s, L.A.); Michael Gallina (Vicia, St. Louis); Kate Williams (Lady of the House, Detroit); Jonathan Yao (Kato, L.A.); Julia Sullivan (Henrietta Red, Nashville); Diana Dávila (Mi Tocaya Antojería, Chicago); and Brady Williams (Canlis, Seattle). Congrats, all!

P.S. – F&W also put out a compilation of Every Best New Chef Since 1988, including a video detailing the process behind the selections with a bit of behind the scenes.

A quote: “You know, the idea of someone looking at the magazine and seeing that there are people that look like them, you know, at like the top of the industry is something that’s really compelling because we want to encourage more and more people to enter this field.” – Jordana Rothman.

A note: There are no black chefs on this year’s list.

Some sad news – “One of North Carolina’s most beloved chefs and restaurant owners, Mildred Cotton Council aka ‘Mama Dip,’ has died, her daughter said Monday.” Obituary (including a great “still in the kitchen at 85” local news video) on WRAL.com.

And in Eater LA, the “Founder of West LA’s iconic breakfast spot John O’Groats has died. Robert Jacoby opened the Rancho Park restaurant in 1982.”

The close – In Chicago, “Mexique, chef Carlos Gaytan’s pioneering West Town restaurant that fused Mexican and French cuisine, closed over the weekend ending a 10-year run.”

The step away – In NYC, chef John Fraser (LoyalNarcissaNix) “is stepping away from Dovetail, the restaurant he opened on the Upper West Side in 2007…. Mr. Fraser sold it to his partners in the restaurant, who plan to keep it open. The chef de cuisine is Stanley Michalski, who started four years ago.”

The (niche) protest – As voting day approaches for the bill that would eliminate the tip credit in D.C., a coalition against Initiative 77 is trying to draw attention to its cause by charging more and delivering worse service at a pop-up bar of sorts. Hope they have a plan for the crowds!

For pastry – There was a wedding in the UK this weekend, and E Online has the details on Claire Ptak’s cake. Congrats in advance on getting the call for every billionaire’s wedding from now on, Claire! Raise those rates!

Last and certainly not least – He made it public, so as long as you are not asking for anything and this isn’t part of a PR ploy or whatever, it is probably OK to congratulate Washington Post Food editor Joe Yonan on getting married this weekend.

Congrats, Joe! You deserve nothing but the best and I’m glad you found it. Speaking of the best, I really think your audience would appreciate learning about a new product I’m launching next week. Under serious embargo. DM me for details.

That’s it for today, but a final request before I go: After six months away, I’m headed home to D.C. for the first week of June. If you’ve got off-the-media-beaten-path recommendations, please send them my way: andrew@thisfamilymeal.com.

Looking forward to seeing some of you there!

And I’ll see everyone back here Friday for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or invites to protests involving discounts and better service to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!

The Family Meal – Friday, May 18th, 2018

Hello Friday,

First: Ramadan Mubarak to some! And a reminder to the rest to be conscious of staff who may be observing. You might be surprised who gets inspired to fast any given year. Make sure everyone’s getting plenty of water on the line.

This concludes our annual Ramadan staff health tip.

Let’s get to it…

Note from Canada: I hear she’s a real closer – After 10 years in Toronto, last service for The Black Hoof is set for August 20th. Jen Agg made the announcement on Instagram: “I’ve never approved of closing a busy restaurant, (seems crazy, tbh) but we’ve said all we have to, and ten years in this business is a LONG FUCKING TIME.”

Critic Chris Nuttall-Smith gave an early eulogy on Twitter: “The opening of The Hoof was a turning point in [Toronto] restaurants: when the youngs took over, when formality went to shit, when fun became the most important goal of going out for dinner.”

Agg and her husband, Roland Jean, also recently ended their involvementin Agrikol, the bar they founded with some local celebrities (read: Arcade Fire) in Montreal. She says that split was amicable and only due to the difficulty of Toronto–Montreal commuting, but if she weren’t usually such a nakedly open book about her life and thoughts, I would wonder what was going on with her and/or her company.

Strike that: I still kinda wonder.

Awards season – The 2018 Association Of Food Journalists Awards Finalists list is out, and here are all the writers and editors you should remind PR to congratulate in pitches. Congratulations, all!

Speaking of food writing – Huffington Post Food & Style Exec Editor Kristen Aiken tweets: “I’m hiring freelance writers for HuffPost Food & Drink! Reach out to me at kristen.aiken@huffpost.com if you’re interested and I can send you more info. Here’s hoping you all have lots of fun/weird/great ideas! SPREAD THE NEWS.” Done and done.

The critics – FYI, CA: Eater’s Bill Addison appears to be on his way west to plan an Eater Guide to California, “roaming from Sacramento to San Diego, zigzagging for as many stops as possible until early June.” Last chance to make your case…

Food hall fever – Tom Colicchio is throwing his weight behind a food hall in Kansas City. Actual words he said to Restaurant Hospitality: “‘Food halls are extremely popular right now… I think it is the future of dining. I thought it was about time we dipped our feet in that pool.’” #vision.

The Interstate – Per AL.com: “South Carolina barbecue pitmaster Rodney Scott, who just last week won the James Beard Foundation Award for best chef Southeast, has partnered with Birmingham restaurateur Nick Pihakis of Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q and the Pihakis Restaurant Group to open another location of his Charleston restaurant Rodney Scott’s BBQ” in Birmingham, Alabama.

The (3×2) profile treatment – “The Female Couples Remaking the Restaurant Industry” in the NYT profiles the work/life partnerships of Rita Sodi and Jody Williams (Via CarotaBuvetteI Sodi); Deborah VanTrece and Lorraine Lane (Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours); and Jocelyn Guest and Erika Nakamura (White Gold Butchers). Not much new stuff in here, but the kicker made me smile: “Nakamura recalled an afternoon last fall when a father brought his young daughter into White Gold. Beaming, he waved a hand at the butchers behind the counter. ‘Look!’ he said. But what did he want his child to see? Two women, smiling, holding knives. Two women with power, who know how to use it.”

Cobblestone hutong – Per the NY Post: “London-based Aqua Restaurant Group quietly signed a lease at the end of last year with Vornado Realty Trust for an 18,750-square-foot spot in which to install its Hutong concept eatery [in the space previously occupied by Le Cirque]… Aqua was founded 15 years ago and now has 25 venues across Hong Kong, London and Beijing.”

For the bar – Shot (beer): “Melvin Brewing has fallen into a #MeToo-style storm, with Seattle bars boycotting its products after a sexual-misconduct allegation in Bellingham, complaints of offensive content on its website and overall ‘bad-boy’ culture.”

Chaser (cocktails): Wine Enthusiast spirits editor Kara Newman got an advanced copy of the next Dead Rabbit cocktail / comic book and was unimpressed: “Takes until page 84 for any of the women to appear fully clothed… If you look at the photo, the ‘rabbit’ is paying these women. They are literally depicted as whores…. Who thought this was OK”? She goes on: “A more horrifying revelation: I’m now recognizing many of the faces throughout the book. Are these scantily-clad women all women in the bar industry?” Answer: Probably. Side note: “whores”?

For design fans – Here’s the photo spread for Dushan Zaric’s new Downtown LA bar Rick’s. No rooftop bars are more impressive than their views, and this is no exception, but I will fight you for the wicker throne.

And that’s it for today. A short one, I know, but better that than clickbait. Right, #anthonybourdaineatscarrotsHOW???

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

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or visionary considerations on the future of food halls to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!

The Family Meal – Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Hello Tuesday,

Lots to get to. Let’s get to it…

All The Zeitgeist And Glamour – Joe Warwick and Andrea Petrini’s World Restaurant Awards have officially launched, “boasting an unrivalled judging panel of celebrated restaurant industry figures, including Yannick AllénoElena ArzakAlex AtalaMassimo BotturaDavid ChangDominique CrennHélène DarrozeDaniel HummRené RedzepiAna Roš and Clare Smyth, alongside an intercontinental selection of the world’s most-travelled and best-informed members of the culinary press.” You can play who’s who in the group pic here. (It would seem Andy Hayler was not invited.)

The awards finally have a date: February 18th in Paris, and in case you were in doubt, organizers would like to make clear that this will not be “the Nobel Prize for food but rather our take on the idea of an Oscars for the restaurant world, with all the sense of zeitgeist and glamour that implies.”

P.S. – There are a lot more details in this Food and Wine Gazette article from December, including categories, format, etc. (though the author appears a bit confused on dates). Best part: Without irony, Petrini, who is now earnestly promoting the Oscars of food, tells his interviewer that the restaurant world needs a new awards show because 50 Best “was fun when it was not commercial [but] now it has lost its soul becoming a bit like a circus.”

Death throes – Seven years and $125.4M since its founding, meal delivery startup Munchery is shutting down operations in NYC, LA, and Seattle, cutting 30% of staff, and hunkering down to focus on San Francisco.

Death throes too – Blue Apron is bringing on Chrissy Teigen. (#CashNotStock, @chrissytiegan!)

Prefecture dispatch – Chihana, a renowned Michelin three-star restaurant [in Kyoto], caught fire on May 12, with the blaze destroying its second floor and spreading to six nearby buildings.” Details here.

The Decision – In Austin, “Kyoten Sushiko chef-owner Otto Phan… has decided to move to Chicago to further pursue his lofty food goals… ‘The goal has always been to be the best sushi chef in the world, and I know the pathway is a lot shorter if I move on,’ Phan said. ‘It was going to take LeBron James a long time if he stayed in Cleveland to get that first championship’” NB, Austin: LeBron came back…

Classics closures – Sad news for some local favorites this week. In Boston (well, Watertown), “There’s no soft-pedaling it. After more than 30 years, Strip-T’s is closing.” In D.C. (well, Alexandria), “After fourteen years it is bittersweet to relay Restaurant Eve will be closing her doors. Our lease has concluded and Saturday, June 2 will be our last day of service.” And in Dallas, “After six years as one of Dallas’s most beloved restaurants, chef Matt McCallister’s FT33 will close its doors this summer.”

The Tabloids – (I’m sorry, but…) Per The Sun: “TV chef Heston Blumenthal weds his young lover in secret ceremony just weeks after their love rift. Heston, 51, and Stephanie Gouveia, who is about 20 years his junior, tied the knot in the Maldives in a surprise holiday wedding.” Congrats, young lover(s)!

It’s so good to be in [your state here] – Every film/TV production gets subsidies, but before you pitch your tourism office on Top Chef, know that Kentucky’s Courier-Journal says the price is still going up: “In 2013, New Orleans paid $375,000 to sponsor the show… And in 2017, Colorado’s Office of Film awarded the show up to $1 million in rebates on production expenditures made in its state. In Kentucky, the state’s film office has offered ‘Top Chef’ up to $3.5 million in production rebates.”

Michelin Season – And speaking of tourism boards dropping some serious cash… “Following the very first 2018 edition of The MICHELIN Guide dedicated to Bangkok, Michelin today announces the extension of The MICHELIN Guide’s reach to Phuket and Phang-nga, with a new 2019 edition: The MICHELIN Guide Bangkok, Phuket, and Phang-nga 2019, to be released at the end of 2018.”

For blueprint fans – In NYC, “Chef James Kent, who spent nearly a decade working under Daniel Humm, has partnered up with Del Posto manager Jeff Katz for the massive new project at the historic Art Deco tower at 70 Pine St., at Pearl Street. The two will be operating restaurants on the ground floor of the property, as well as on the 62nd, 63rd, 64th, and 66th floors.” Details and basic floor plans here.

The Media – As far as I can tell, Eater appears to have disabled comments across its sites. Editor in Chief Amanda Kludt did not immediately respond to a 4:30AM email inquiry. What are you hiding, Kludt?

UPDATE: Kludt got back to me at a reasonable hour. She said an IT error has taken city level comments offline temporarily, but they’ll be restored ASAP. “That said we are keeping comments off on the national eater.com site. The rare comments we got on the national level tended to land in the spectrum of unhelpful to toxic.” Ah, Bartleby-anon. Ah, humanity.

And last and least: Thrush paté, anyone? – This short, 1973 video from the BBC Archives confronts changing tastes among British consumers, and is simply marvelous. “Then there’s the problem of what to put on your lettuce, or of course, your Mediterranean prawns. Don’t just say ‘salad cream’, say ‘mayonnaise’ and cough up 32 pence a pot.” You fancy, huh?

And that’s it for today. I know there are World Restaurant Awards judges reading this, and without having read any of your rules or bylines, I just want to say: Voting for yourself is, and will always be, just fine.

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

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or all the zeitgeist and glamour to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!

The Family Meal – Friday, May 11th, 2018

Hello Friday,

First, a shout out to the owner of a major American restaurant group who read the news of Del Frisco’s buying Barteca for $325M last week, and accidentally replied here: “For sure- I read the one you sent over. I wouldn’t mind selling out one day for that amount :)”.

FYI – Dine Brands (Applebee’s and IHOP) is on the hunt for a fast casual chain to buy this year… It’s not selling out if it’s your dream!

If you got this as a forward, don’t hit reply. Sign up for yourself.

Let’s get to it…

The Debate: “Battle Escalates Within D.C. Restaurant Industry Over Tipped Minimum Wage Vote. One side predicts peril for the D.C. restaurant industry. The other is fighting for justice for marginalized workers.” – From Laura Hayes in the Washington City Paper. This is a pretty comprehensive run down on both sides of Initiative 77, and well worth a read beyond the District. Tip credit questions are not going away, and (with apologies for the cliché) if you fail to study the current battles, your side – whichever that is – will lose the war.

The big problem for the status quo side in D.C.: Imagine you’re an average voter who has never heard of the tip credit, and tell me you wouldn’t vote for this actual ballot language: “If enacted, this initiative will… gradually increase the minimum wage for tipped employees so that they receive the same minimum wage directly from their employer as other employees by 2026.”

P.S. If I were on the anti side of this, I’d want a serious post mortem on the lobbying / legal / voter-engagement strategy from RAMW (the local restaurant association) leading up to this referendum. If I lived outside D.C., I’d want to know how my area’s association was prepping for our turn.

The Opinion: “Restaurants Should Not Be Allowed to Add Surcharges to Checks” – By Ryan Sutton, Eater’s critic in New York, where, “recently, more than 200 members of the New York Hospitality Alliance, a group that lobbies on behalf of restaurants, sent a letter to mayor Bill de Blasio ‘imploring’ him to give culinary establishments the option of adding a clearly disclosed surcharge. That fee would range from 3 to 5 percent to offset rising labor and real estate costs.” Sutton argues America is drowning in hidden fees, from his recent West Elm couch purchase to all the indecipherable charges tacked when you order delivery via Caviar. Come for the argument your guests will be reading, stay for the amateur, angry math your guests are doing in the comments section.

The Suits – Via Eater NY: “Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich are close to finalizing a settlement on yet another wage violation lawsuit. Batali, Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich, along with five of their NYC restaurants, have agreed to pay out about $2.2 million after a former busser at Felidia filed a class action suit late last year…. About 1,300 front-of-house staffers at Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group restaurants FelidiaEscaBeccoDel Posto, and Babbo are eligible to get paid from the $2,150,000 settlement, which has not yet received final approval from a judge.” Maybe this was the final hurdle for the long, long goodbye Batali seems to be giving the company?

Michelin Season – The 2018 Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo guide is out this week: “Chef Felipe Bronze‘s Oro in Rio de Janeiro… was awarded its second star. In São Paulo, chef Ivan Ralston led Tuju to two stars…. [and] AlexAtala‘s D.O.M. retained its two stars in this year’s edition as well. Both in São Paulo, Ryo Gastronomia and Tangará Jean-Georges join the ranks of the country’s one-Michelin-starred restaurants, bringing the total to 15…. 33 restaurants were given the Bib Gourmand designation.”

The (coming) TV Show – KCET in LA is giving Roy Choi his own show. “He is the new host of a new social-minded original food series produced by KCETLink and Tastemade called ‘Broken Bread,’ slated for broadcast in early 2019.” It’s “a quest for goodness,” and he is open to pitches: “If any of you out there know of anyone doing good things against all odds send them my way. DM me… I want to bring the camera to them and tell their stories so we share more positivity and goodness.”

The (potential) Podcasts – Opportunity knocks: Gimlet Creative, whose Why We Eat What We Eat show (made in partnership with Blue Apron) won IACP’s podcast of the year and was shortlisted for a James Beard Media Award, is hosting an open “Casting Call” for hosts and concepts. Winner gets to produce their own show. Details here. Audition tapes due May 21st.

The (homogenous) Critics – After this year’s relatively diverse James Beard AwardsNikita Richardson wants to know: “Where are all the black restaurant critics?” Chef JJ Johnson “points to the Times’ three-star review of JuneBaby, an honor that feels unique, since ‘The last black chef to get three stars was Marcus Samuelsson in 1995. It’s been 20 fucking years.’ It’s impossible to believe that there wasn’t another black chef of note and considerable talent in those two decades… but it is easy to believe that chefs like, say, D.C.–area chef Morou Ouattara or Atlanta’s Darryl Evans might have received more national recognition if a major media outlet had been run by a black editor.”

The SF Landmarks and Institutions Update – First: “Cathay House quietly closed this spring. Now the Yeo family, who currently own Straits Restaurantand Sino in San Jose, is taking over three of the building’s four floors and reopening as two separate restaurants, Cathay House and 601 Dupont.” Second: “After more than a decade as a favorite hangout for locals, tourists, rap artists and Golden State Warriors players alike, Tanya Holland’s iconic West Oakland soul food spot, Brown Sugar Kitchen, will soon cease to exist in its current form. Holland told Inside Scoop the restaurant will close on May 18 and re-open on June 6 as Brown Sugar Test Kitchen. She plans to use the concept as a dinner pop-up space where she will also test recipes.”

Shoulda got the air rights –The landlords at LA’s US Bank Tower Buildingare shopping the space on their 72nd floor around for a potential restaurant: “It’s a breathtaking space that a world-class restaurant operator could transform into an international dining destination. There isn’t anything like it on the West Coast.” Yes, except, as Farley Elliot notes in Eater LA, “there is something like it already on the West Coast. It’s 71Above, and it’s just a floor down.”

For design fans – I don’t really have anything to say about the photo spreadfor Adam Perry Lang’s new APL Restaurant in LA except: Wow, that’s a lot of grout!

And last and not least – While he was only one of several men up for takedown on Full Frontal last weekend, Samantha Bee did call Mario Batali a “Festering hemorrhoid on the ass of the entertainment industry,” and said if he is thinking of his second act, “his next step will be grabbing that second act without consent.” So… Rwanda?

And that’s it for today. I’m off to work on my podcast audition. My current best idea is a show called “Are there enough podcasts?” in which I attempt to answer that question via podcast. Stay tuned for the follow-up newsletter. Same theme but with newsletters.

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

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or podcasts about podcasts to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!