Family Meal - Friday, September 25th, 2020
Per usual, Tuesday’s email for paying subscribers is copy/pasted below. If you want to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…
Let’s get to it…
Awards Season – Reminder that whatever is left of the 2020 James Beard Awards “will take place [today] Friday, September 25 at 6:30 P.M. CT via Twitter.” The official site says the virtual event will “celebrate previously announced honorees and will shine a spotlight on many of the restaurant and chef nominees and be a night of storytelling surrounding the historic challenges this community faces and how we can work together to rebuild a stronger and more equitable restaurant industry.” Neat and all, but that’s 7:30AM Saturday morning here in Hong Kong, so if someone could send me the highlights, I’d appreciate it…
Meanwhile, in Charleston on Tuesday, the Post and Courier’s Hanna Raskin announced “the first-ever Dr. Leon Banov Banners of Distinction.” A new award given to “nine restaurants that have demonstrated the utmost concern for the health and safety of their employees and customers.” Anyone seen anything like this elsewhere? Raskin bemoans the “regrettable number of restaurants in the Charleston area that still aren’t doing anything beyond what’s legally required to control the spread of COVID-19” and contrasts those with Banov Banner winners 843 Korean BBQ & Sushi House, Edmund’s Oast, LowLife Bar, Babas on Cannon, Nana’s Seafood & Soul, NICO, The Royal Tern, and San Miguel Mexican Grill & Bar. Congrats, all! (And… thoughts?)
The Accusations – Dateline, Chicago: “In August, with no warning or public announcement, Acadia seemingly shuttered… It soon appeared that Acadia might be following a pattern… Restaurant workers, shut out of their jobs, channel their frustrations onto Instagram and Twitter, revealing stories of difficult and in some cases harrowing workplace environments… In response, chefs and owners apologize (or not) and walk away, or shut down their COVID-19-stricken business entirely. Acadia’s story, however, has diverged from that familiar one. On September 14, a Cook County judge granted a former Acadia server an emergency ‘no-contact’ order against chef/owner Ryan McCaskey after the worker accused the chef of a campaign of harassment that includes impersonating the worker’s dead brother using social media and email.”
The original allegations against McCaskey, detailed in this piece and corroborated by staff who spoke with Eater Chicago’s Ashok Selvam will not shock you (sadly), but it definitely takes a weird turn in the retaliatory phase. Server Cody Nason, who admits to posting accusations anonymously on The86’d List Instagram, says someone then created CodyNason.com, which (until it was taken down last week) “described Nason as a pedophile, a child rapist, and a convicted sex offender, and claimed that Nason worked for convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. It was also littered with homophobic and racist language, including a link to the KKK, and photos of Nason and his deceased older brother.”
The Accusations Too – A couple of months ago, Danny Bowien went on his ex-wife Youngmi Mayer’s podcast in part to talk about long-standing accusations around the work environment at Mission Chinese. On that show, there was a lot of finger pointing at a particular staff member who was ID’d in all but name. Now that Mission Chinese in Manhattan has closed, there is apparently no more need for anonymity, and Mayer publicly called out (no surprise) Angela Dimayuga in a long Twitter thread late last week. Meanwhile, Joe Rosenthal saved a story to Instagram with a deeper dive into the names and allegations — mostly from anonymous sources, so I’ll tread cautiously there — that also resurfaces a number of breathless profiles and pieces on Dimayuga from years back. A lot of food media has been concerned with correcting the record on awards (should Mario Batali still have all those Beards?), but does a headline like “Angela Dimayuga Is Here From the Future to Save Us All” need an asterisk now?
The Vote – FYI: World Central Kitchen is launching Chefs For the Polls, a non-partisan effort to “to serve warm meals on early voting days and Election Day, November 3. [They’ll] be stationed by polling locations around the country, targeting those with historically long lines, predicted massive turnouts, or limited facilities, sharing meals with anyone – no questions asked.” If you have a restaurant or food truck, want to volunteer or partner, whatever, details and contact info are here.
Some Sad News – In Lyon, “Pierre Troisgros, the legendary French chef and head of the country's greatest gastronomic dynasty, died on Wednesday aged 92, his restaurant told AFP. The chef and his brother Jean helped found the nouvelle cuisine movement, with their signature salmon with sorrel dish copied the world over.” Troisgros son Michel and his family now run the restaurant in France, and “Pierre Troisgros' two other children are also both restaurateurs, his son Claude in Brazil and his daughter Anne-Marie in Bordeaux in southwest France.” Full obituary in France24 via the AFP. Many more in French media if you can read French.
And last but not least: The Border and The Bellwether – I know this is going on all over the US right now, but it is still mind-blowing to read paragraphs like this one from Eve Batey in Eater SF: “While restaurant dining rooms in San Francisco remain dark, folks in SF who want to enjoy a sit-down, indoor meal can still do so: they just need to cross the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County, or venture south into San Mateo County. Both regions have reopened for indoor dining in recent days, after their COVID-19 rates moved them from the ‘widespread’ infection risk level into the ‘substantial’ one.”
Asked about the obvious holes in this plan, one local authority brushed off my skepticism and told me, “Now, Lancelot, Galahad and I wait until nightfall, and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the virus by surprise…”
And I definitely don’t want to make light of any closings, but could The Onion have crafted a more perfect headline for our time than this one in Eater LA? “‘No Way For Us to Move Forward,’ Says the Bellwether in Announcing Closure.”
That’s it for today.
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday for next Family Meal. Last Tuesday’s is below.
(Oh yeah, and next Friday is a holiday here in Hong Kong (Mid-Autumn!), but I’ll see what I can do for everyone else.)
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or warm meals on early voting days to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!
Last Tuesday’s Family Meal starts here. If you want to receive Tuesday’s on Tuesdays from now on…
American lobbyists, UK curfews, Beard secrets, and more...
Let’s get to it…
The Lobbyists – To my mind, one of the most interesting stories that will come out of this time in the restaurant industry will be what happened with all the lobbyists. There are the big new groups like Independent Restaurant Coalition and… B.I.G. working on larger relief packages (though haven’t heard from the latter on their lawsuit to force business interruption insurance payouts in a while…), and then there are the established, local restaurant associations, which are apparently suddenly influencing life-or-death policy (both in the human health and restaurant business sense) around the country.
Re the former, I’ve been trying to ask IRC reps how much they’ve raised so far and what they’re spending it on, but so far the best I’ve gotten is: “The IRC hesitates to disclose figures solely because it's too easy for people to see a number and take it out of context or lack the reference to compare it. We saw this happen over and over when PPP numbers were released with little else to go on.” Fair enough, but as a 501c4 organization, their numbers (if not their donors) will out eventually (by law), and I’d personally go with transparency now if I were trying to build future trust. Thoughts, Mr. Colicchio?
Re the latter, most recent case in point on local lobby influence: The potential reopening of indoor dining in San Francisco, as reported by Eater’s Eve Batey Friday, “Speaking with Eater SF, Laurie Thomas, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, says that ‘on September first, when the city wasn’t ready to announce an indoor dining reopening timeline, we leveraged’ relationships with City Hall ‘to arrange additional high level meetings to discuss the critical and immediate need for clear reopening criteria.’ Those negotiations bore fruit this morning, as [Mayor London Breed’s] office released a statement saying that when San Francisco reaches the ‘orange’ stage of reopening, with a ‘moderate’ risk level for infection, restaurants can reopen their dining rooms at the ‘red’ rate.”
A confusing win, but a win nonetheless for the pro-indoor lobby (which I’m sure involves more players than GGRA, but still).
The Curve – Meanwhile a reminder from the UK today that all re-openings remain tenuous: Only a few weeks after the government spent millions on subsidizing guests’ tabs to help get customers back into restaurants, the country is taking a step back again. Per the Guardian’s Rebecca Speare-Cole and Sean Morrison, “Pubs, bars and restaurants in England will be ordered to close by 10pm each night from Thursday under tough restrictions set to be announced by Boris Johnson.”
The System – After last week’s newsletters re all the “Burn It All Down” takes, it was great to read this Devita Davison interview by Brenna Houck in Eater. Recommend her thoughts on current issues in the restaurant world (pandemic and otherwise) both for the rare use of nuance(!), and a focus on the referees and playing field. Sample quote re gentrification: “It’s complicated. Because by the time we see an artisanal coffee shop or farm-to-table restaurant or an Italian mercado, or even Whole Foods, for that matter, enter in some of these neighborhoods in the city of Detroit, we need to understand that there were policies already put in place behind the scenes long before you saw that development in your community… Yes, we see it now. But [what] we see now was in the works 15 [or] 20 years ago… You talk about the role of restaurateurs [but] restaurateurs should not bear this burden alone. It takes active participation and involvement with the community.”
Beard Season – Sigh. Pete Wells is out with another article about the Beard awards confusion, this time explaining that the Foundation sent an email to design award winners to tell them both that they had won and that “the Beard Foundation will not be publicly announcing the awards.’ Nonetheless, the winners were told they could, if they wished, mention the distinction ‘as part of your own office P.R. efforts.’” OK. Sure. Then a week later the foundation wrote back to say that actually the awards would be announced at the ceremony on September 25th, and could everyone please keep quiet until then. And then, “On Monday morning, in response to questions from The New York Times about the design awards, an official at the foundation said in an email that the honorees would be announced later in the day.”
That announcement appears to be a single bullet point on the Awards page saying, “Together with the James Beard Awards Design Committee we've announced the 2020 Outstanding Restaurant Design honorees: Heliotrope Architects for design of Rupee; Klein Agency and ORA for the design of Auburn; and Lori Chemla for the design of Carissa's the Bakery.” Congrats, all!
P.S. – Having poked around the team pages for each of these firms and restaurants, I think it’s fair to say these awards were not not not released because they help with overall diversity in the winners circle…
And anyway, the big news here is that in a twist I did not see coming, the James Beard Foundation has finally decided to award Family Meal with their prestigious 2020 Newsletter of the Year Award! CEO Clare Reichenbach tells me that due to the current media climate, she will be forced to deny this award publicly, but I am honored nonetheless.
The Media – In the LA Times yesterday, reporters Meg James and Daniel Hernandez published a long exposé on… the LA Times. Scroll down about halfway for the Food section stuff. Almost didn’t include it here, as it mostly rehashes already public facts of the case surrounding Peter Meehan’s departure, but note that one of the most prominent voices is (again) restaurant critic Patricia Escárcega, who only a week ago tweeted that she was researching lawyers and wanted her employer (presumably the LAT) to know that “the bullshit rancid whiff of discrimination is burning my nose worse than these terrible fires right now.”
And last and least: The Big Tent – Ooo boy. Over the weekend, my Google alert for “Restaurant Lawsuit” pinged this gem of a New Hampshire story from Todd Bookman on NHPR: “‘Transsexual anarchist Satanist,’ who’s also a GOP nominee for sheriff, joins mask lawsuit.A self-described transsexual anarchist Satanist recently nominated by the Republican Party to be on the ballot for Cheshire County Sheriff while running on a ‘F--- the Police’ platform, along with a minister who also serves as a Bitcoin ambassador, and the owner of the Pho Keene Great restaurant in Keene, have joined together to sue Gov. Chris Sununu and the City of Keene over its mask ordinance and other emergency measures related to the ongoing global pandemic.”
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
If you’re signed up for Friday’s only and want to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or a a minister who also serves as a bitcoin ambassador to email@example.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!