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Family Meal - Friday, June 2nd, 2023
And hello to the many new subscribers who joined over the past few days! I have no idea where you came from, but I’m glad you’re here.
This is Family Meal, a niche little newsletter for and about the restaurant industry. A bit New York-centric today, but so it goes.
Let’s get to it…
Beard Season – Headline in the NYT (plus a push notification!): “James Beard Foundation, Whose Awards Honor Chefs, Is Now Investigating Them.” Reporters Brett Anderson and Julia Moskin say Beard finalist and Lexington, KY chef Sam Fore was recently contacted by a Foundation-hired PI to get to the bottom of what Fore said was “an Instagram post…. that was part of a domestic-violence awareness campaign, and others related to her advocacy for victims of sexual violence, including ‘vague tweets’ about people the posts did not name.”
Fore, “the daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants,” and “in many ways… the kind of chef the retooled awards are meant to recognize more fully” joins Alabama’s Timothy Hontzas on the list of self-outed / potentially-disqualified finalists this year. And because the Foundation doesn’t announce it’s DQs (good?) without self-outing, we’ll never know who is actually bad and still on the list, and who is maybe not that bad(?!) and still not eligible.
This stuff is tricky. This shit is a mess.
And…. If you’re in Chicago this weekend for the Beards — and not, as one former judge said, “ready to picket” the awards — Eater Chicago’s Naomi Waxman has a list of events and happenings here.
Have fun, all!
P.S. - If you liked the memory lane photos in that NYT piece (Beard Awards in the The Rainbow Room way back in 2017!) check out Food & Wine’s look back at their Aspen Classic over the years. I spy a young man on the left in 1996, now Insta-famous at 87…
The Fallout – From reporter Talmon Joseph Smith on Twitter yesterday: “OK quick update: so in response to our [January] NYT investigation's findings [that fees paid by restaurant workers for ServSafe certifications went to the National Restaurant Association, which lobbies against wage increases for some of those workers] California senators created a bill - SB476 - that passed the CA senate 30-9 this week: it will require that *restaurants* now pay for employee certification & the time to complete safety & handling training...”
Can’t seem to shake the feeling that this might be the midpoint of a cascade of unintended consequences in the making, at the crux of which is: “Wash your hands.”
The Bloom – Check out the comeback article some of you can only dream of — so good PR sent it around to make sure it got spread all over in places like… this newsletter — via Elizabeth G. Dunn in the WSJ: Mistakes were made, friendships were forged, and, as on a hoped-for ship cresting the horizon at the end of a dark day, at last: Sailor. “It’s a project that [two friends] have arrived at following periods of personal and professional turmoil. For [April Bloomfield]: the high-profile dissolution of a business partnership with Ken Friedman and the closure of their seven restaurants together. For [Gabe Stulman]: a global pandemic that vaporized half of his restaurants and, as he puts it, ‘unplugged the treadmill’ he had been sprinting on for the whole of his adult life….
“Despite running restaurants blocks apart in [NYC’s] West Village for over a decade, Stulman and Bloomfield knew each other only in passing until 2018, when Stulman reached out with a gesture of support at a moment when Bloomfield’s world was in tumult…”
Congrats, (PR and) all!
Some Sad News – In NYC, “The [local legend] pizza chef Andrew Bellucci died suddenly [Wednesday]. According to his business partner Matthew Katakis, the chef came into their Astoria shop, Andrew Belluci’s Pizzeria, around 7:30 p.m. yesterday… when he suddenly collapsed… The chef was eventually pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital; he was 59 years old.” A rollercoaster of a life led to a rollercoaster of an obituary in Grubstreet by Chris Crowley.
And last and least: The Tape – The other story from Lexington, KY this week is a reminder that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. In this case, Kentucky.com’s Taylor Six reports a restaurateur accused of wage theft was secretly recorded in a meeting and “quoted saying the Kentucky laws are ‘stupid,’ and… ‘It’s f----- up. I would not — no wonder there’s a whole bunch of inbreds going on in the western side of that state.’”
Jury selection is going to be a blast.
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see you all back here Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or a whole bunch of inbreds going on to email@example.com. If you’d like to sponsor this newsletter, send me a note! And if you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!
P.S. - As far as I can tell from the internet, solutions to this Beard mess are three:
1) Stop this woke shit and make it only about the food!
2) End awards!
3) Work together to make it through this difficult time and find a nuanced approach that appropriately spreads the spotlight while taking into account humanity’s naturally flawed state and trying to avoid throwing the last cup of pasta water out with… the rest of the pasta water.
I mean, I haven’t actually read number 3 anywhere, but if listening to my dad play 1988’s Moody Blues classic album Sur la Mer on road trips across the Midwest of my youth taught me anything, I know it’s out there somewhere.
Or… End awards! Whatever works.
But I am genuinely very curious if you’ve read this far: What’s YOUR solution?