50 Best bends, World Restaurant Awards confuses, L.A. Law, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, January 18th, 2019
Lots to get to, so let’s get to it…
The 50 Best(ish) – On Wednesday, ‘Group Editor’ William Drew of The World’s 50 Best List announced the “creation of a new programme called ‘Best of the Best’. All restaurants that have topped the annual poll of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants… over its 17-year history will now ascend into this group. They will be feted as all-time greats, and will no longer be eligible for the annual ranking… The restaurants that will be promoted to the Best of the Best group from June 2019 include the now-closed el Bulli, The French Laundry, The Fat Duck, El Celler de Can Roca, Eleven Madison Park, current No.1 Osteria Francescana and the original Noma. The new incarnation of Noma, opened in February 2018 with a new concept, location and structure, will this year be eligible for the first time.”
First of all, phew. René Redzepi has been spared obscurity.
Second, huh. There are a few reasons this is weird (not least: Is number one still really number one, as much as it ever was?), but what happens if one of the Best of the Best has a “the lady had dropped her napkin” kind of year? Will they be, if not removed per se, asterisked somehow?
Third, big congrats to (my) 50 Best sponsor Coconut LaCroix for another PR coup. These new rules ensure many banner years to come for the world’s greatest zero-calorie, coconut-flavored, non-alcoholic, sparkling beverage. Cheers!
Awards Season – The brand new World Restaurant Awards released their category by category short lists this week. A quick sample:
Arrival of the Year: Angler (SF), DaGiorni (Bologna), Inua (Tokyo), Kjolle (Lima), Virtus (Paris). Enduring Classic: Elkano (Bilbao), Hyotei (Kyoto), La Mère Brazier (Lyon), Paul Bocuse (Lyon), Peter Lugar (NYC). And of course, Tattoo-Free Chef: Alain Ducasse, Clare Smyth, and David Thompson. (Currently drafting official letter to ask that Ducasse’s eligibility be placed under formal review.)
There is also a “long-form” journalism category where for some reason two of the three finalists are decidedly norm-form obituaries (Jonathan Gold on Anthony Bourdain, and Helen Rosner on Jonathan Gold), and an Instagram account category that somehow thinks lots of pictures of Matty Matheson that don’t include food qualifies as a top three food insta. #ShouldaSubmittedMyMaydanShots.
The Points Guys – Per Deanna Ting at Skift Table, “Beginning [yesterday], U.S.-based members of OpenTable’s loyalty program can redeem their OpenTable Dining Points for discounted hotel stays on sister company, travel metasearch site Kayak. For example, an OpenTable user can redeem 2,000 OpenTable Dining Points for a $40 discount on hotel bookings made on opentable.kayak.com.”
Tomales Bay PSA – “Hog Island Oyster Co., whose oysters and other shellfish are served at Zuni Cafe, State Bird Provisions and several other celebrated San Francisco establishments, issued a voluntary recall of its [Tomales Bay] oysters this month, when reports started coming in that people had experienced symptoms of food poisoning. As of Thursday, 43 people had reported becoming sick after eating the oysters, according to the California Department of Public Health. In four cases, the people tested positive for norovirus.” All the oysters from the affected sites have been taken off menus and are out of stores. Here’s hoping all parties recover quickly. More on the recall from Erin Allday in the Chronicle.
L.A. Law – “In an effort to minimize the already lengthy approval times for alcohol licenses, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning is hoping to develop a new Restaurant Beverage Program that will aim to ‘reduce processing times and costs for certain sit-down restaurants who wish to serve alcoholic beverages at their establishments.’ That’s per Lauren Alba, spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, who points Eater to an open public hearing on the matter set for January 31 in Van Nuys. The open forum is meant to allow public feedback (and hear support for) the program, which — if approved by the City Council — could reshape the way restaurants acquire and activate their expensive liquor licenses.” Details via Mona Holmes here.
The Collective – Now expanding to DC, per Eater’s Gabe Hiatt: “Tasting Collective started in New York in 2016 and has branched out to Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Austin in the past year or so. The company sells annual memberships for a $165 fee… Members can access tickets to events in which chefs offer a six-course meal and interact with the crowd at a price of $50 per person ($35 at brunch) plus tax and tip. That model, Tasting Collective founder and CEO Nat Gelb says, ensures that restaurants receive $45 of every $50 ticket. His company makes up its end on the memberships, and the other $5 from events goes toward paying a company representative at each meal… Gelb says the company is up to nearly 2,000 paying members in New York.”
The (Youths) Opportunity – Applications for The S. Pellegrino Young Chef Competition and Awards will open February 4th. “To qualify, chefs must be 30-years-old or younger and have at least one year of experience working in a restaurant as a chef, sous chef or chef de partie.” No links yet to the new categories / rules. Watch that space?
The (Media) Opportunity – Reminder: “The UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is offering ten $10,000 postgraduate Food and Farming Journalism Fellowships in a program established by Michael Pollan… Aimed at early and mid career journalists, the Fellowship presents an opportunity to report ambitious long form print and audio stories on the full range of subjects under the rubric of food systems.” Applications due March 15, 2019.
The Critics – Atlanta-Journal Constitution critic of four years, Wyatt Williams, published a public goodbye in Atlanta Magazine this week: “Somewhere along the way, I lost my appetite. Even on the days when it does come fleetingly back, I tend to regard it with skepticism. For some time now, I’ve been dreading the meals I review. I suspect it’s not uncommon in this industry to come to a point where you stop enjoying food, or stop loving it the way you once did, though I haven’t met many who admit it. A lot of people stay in bad marriages, too, for one reason or another. In that way, I’m walking away right now while I still can. I’m writing this so I can’t come back.” There is a hard sadness throughout the piece. I wish him all the best.
The Threads – Two interesting Tweet strands to follow this week. First, if you are having trouble following the discourse around culinary cultural appropriation, writer Charlotte Druckman has helpfully collected a list of useful articles to catch you up here. Second, a bit of backlash against the whole “ugly fruit” narrative (wherein tons of fruit is supposedly being wasted because consumers don’t like the way it looks) is brewing in this persuasive thread from Sarah Taber which has almost 3k retweets as of right… now.
For Design Fans – In the District, restaurateur Ashok Bajaj replaced Nopa with Olivia, and photographer Evy Mages’s Washingtonian photo spread makes Olivia look very beautiful, but... On the one hand, I actually think it’s kind of great that someone just went into an art museum gift shop and grabbed as many medium-sized prints as they could handle. On the other hand, I’ve never wanted to dine beneath 25% of Guernica. I do, however, want to dine in that Hermes booth, especially with someone chic enough to call Hermes furniture a “fun touch” (Anna Spiegel!).
And last and least – At the risk of devastating all of you and ruining the rest of 2019, I regret to inform you (via reporting from WKYC in Cleveland): “Country band Rascal Flatts has withdrawn its name from a restaurant chain project that would have added its second location to Cleveland's Flats East Bank. The band announced its decision to part ways with the restaurant developer on Twitter.” The band’s message begins, “Hey Flattheads,” which makes me wonder if their fanbase has a friendly rivalry with Wilson Phillips stans?
And on that amazing screwdriver / dad joke…. that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal. That is, if you can hold on just one more day.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or early 2000s country music restaurant tips 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! Most archives at thisfamilymeal.com for now.