Beard season, A Longway low, Arrington closes, Rodell on the move, MAD for all seasons, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, March 15th, 2019

Hello Friday,

If you’re new to Family Meal after Tuesday’s Michelin story, you have found your way to a definitely niche, vaguely influential, ostensibly fun little twice-weekly newsletter for and about the restaurant industry. Your fellow readers include thousands of restaurateurs, chefs, FOH, BOH, somms, suppliers, designers, realtors, PR types, food media folks, et al., and their fans. Your narrator is a fan at heart.

Let’s get to it…

Beard Season – Yesterday, the James Beard Foundation “announced that Patrick O’Connell, a multiple James Beard Award winner, three-star Michelin chef, author, and owner of The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, VA, has been named as the recipient of the 2019 James Beard Lifetime Achievement award; and Giving Kitchen, the non-profit organization providing stability for some of the most hard-working and vulnerable members of the food service community, has been named the 2019 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year.” Full announcement here. And separate announcement here for this year’s Design Icon award recipient: Canlis in Seattle. Congrats all!

On a totally unrelated note, social media tells me there’s at least a handful of American food media folks in Las Vegas right now…

The Spotlight – From Brett Anderson on “2018 was a banner year for John Sinclair, professionally speaking. Longway Tavern, the New Orleans bar and restaurant where he was the executive chef, received widespread acclaim for its food since opening last May, including laudatory coverage in | The Times-PicayuneEsquireFood & WineUSA TodayThe Wall Street Journal and Eater. On Tuesday (March 12) Sinclair was abruptly fired, after Longway Tavern’s owners became aware of details from a New Orleans police report of the chef’s arrest last March for domestic abuse.” NB: They “became aware” because Brett Anderson told them about it.

The Program – This week, René Redzepi’s MAD symposium group “announced its most ambitious project to date: building a permanent educational center in Copenhagen. With funding from the Danish government for research and planning, the group will open the center, tentatively called the Gastro-Akademi. Its immediate goal is to teach chefs from around the world how restaurants can become more humane, responsible and sustainable… Although a brick-and-mortar academy is years away, pilot programs will start this year.” Full story from Julia Moskin in the NYT. Stick around for the photo of what I presume is an exhausted David Chang refusing a third round of fermented puffin meat as a curious Alex Atala looks on.

The Consideration – Headline in the NYT: “For Larger Customers, Eating Out Is Still a Daunting Experience. Restaurants have been slow to recognize, much less meet, the needs of plus-size Americans. But there are signs of a new activism and awareness.” One guest told Kim Severson, “It’s this weird thing where people are really nice when they realize what’s going on, but in my experience very few hostesses are aware ahead of time… Restaurants want to be able to serve large-bodied people, but I think they don’t know they have inadvertently created environments that are difficult for us.” The solution: Staff awareness, and a few design tweaks that surprised me. (FYI: “The bar stool with the curvy back just isn’t going to work.”)

The Profile Treatment – Maybe you already know a lot about Hong Thaimee (of NYC’s Thaimee Table and Thaimee Magic), but it’s still incredible to read about someone who made a mid-career switch to professional kitchens based on the old, “I always loved cooking, and every time I cooked people liked it.” … and actually succeeded. Bret Thorn has that write-up in Restaurant Hospitality.

The Close – “After a year and a half, Nyesha Arrington will close her Santa Monica restaurant Native. The last night of service will be Sunday.” A disappointed Arrington gave LA Times writer Jenn Harris the familiar list of reasons: “Minimum wage has gone up, and our rent is crazy and it’s just hard to turn a profit and consider it a business when it’s so much overhead.”

The Critics – A cryptic tweet last night from NYT’s Australia critic Besha Rodell came after NYT Food editor Sam Sifton’s visit to the Sydney bureau: “Last column for a while...not done at NYT, just hitting pause to TRAVEL THE ENTIRE GLOBE for a top secret project. More on that later.” So… Watch out, ENTIRE GLOBE!

The Media – On Wednesday, Food & Wine launched a new, weekly podcast called Communal Table, where “senior editor Kat Kinsman talks with hospitality pros about how they manage their business, brain, and body for the long haul. Some of our very special guests include Samin Nosrat, Angie Mar, Seamus Mullen, David Chang, Pete Wells, and more.” No time to listen yet myself, but Nosrat’s episode is live on iTunes here.

P.S. Communal Table is also the name of an F&W “first-person voices” column (this week features some strong self-reflection by Ashley Christensen) and they “encourage restaurant and bar workers and owners to write in and share their experiences here:”

For Design Fans – You can get a look at some of the restaurants opening in NYC’s Hudson Yards development via Eater photo spreads of José Andrés’s Mercado Little Spain here (in these shots the industrial ceiling looks so utilitarian it only serves to emphasize a windowless basement vibe, plus I’m a little surprised a clean cookstoves enthusiast like Andrés is rocking that huge live-fire pit?), and David Chang’s Kāwi here (scroll to the last picture to remind yourself of that magical feeling diners get when they emerge after a lovely dinner to the sweet caress of florescent lighting in a mall). BUT, much more fun would be to witness NYT architecture critic Michael Kimmelman pull apart the whole Hudson Yards experience in this very cool mixed-media piece (full monitor recommended).

Best quote is the kicker (spoiler): “Up in the sky, Hudson Yards’ observation deck may also become an attraction… I got a preview the other day. It’s one of the most amazing vistas over the city. I gazed north toward Harlem, gaped at the Empire State Building, and took in Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. New York is awesome, I thought. Then it occurred to me. From that deck, you can’t see Hudson Yards.”

A food writer who went to the opening last night told me, “It was the opening of a shopping mall. Frankly, I felt kind of like a rube for showing up.”

And last and least: International Edition –  Cool crosses borders and gets all turned around in this Craig Williams piece explaining how a Scottish malt liquor got big in the boot: “The strange case of why Italy goes daft for Tennent's Super Lager. It's incredible to think that the beer with a reputation as Rab C Nesbitt's favourite swally is popular with the fashionistas of Milan and Rome.” (With apologies for the tiny Rab C Nesbitt hole you’re going to go down if you, like I, had to google him.)

And that’s it for today. If your establishment recently took delivery of shamrock-based window decorations, I am sending you only my best thoughts this weekend.

Survive it, and I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.

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