DC after Trump, Delivery ceilings, Wells's Chang, Roux gone, and more...
Family Meal - January 8th, 2021
Gosh. I have just had the MOST productive week. Like, non-stop getting stuff done. Kind of feel sorry for my to-do lists, honestly, thrown aside like so many hanging chads. Sure we’re all on the same page. Big congrats to us!
Let’s get to it…
The Capitol – With everything going on in Washington right now, allow me to indulge in three quick (hopeful, non-pandemic) thoughts on what’s coming to DC soon(ish).
First, though there are definitely pro-Trump restaurateurs and staff, Madame DC is a Democrat, and with Trump and a bunch of his most famous friends out of town and/or power, maybe we’ll see less of some of the (already rare) scenes of angry encounters between staff / guests / outside protestors and politicians trying to eat. Great.
Second, the (soon to be vaccinated) incoming administration is already posing for selfies and tagging dining spots (see Kamala Harris and Doug tagging Floriana on Instagram Tuesday), which hopefully brings a little jolt of energy to a hurting scene.
And third, DC’s own real-life-Kendall-Jenner-with-a-Pepsi José Andrés (perfect hyphenation, imperfect metaphor, no further questions) will now have a real opportunity to use his growing national clout to help effect actual policy in a friendly federal government. Many chefs — celebrity and not — have worked on food policy before, but Andrés has pushed the World Central Kitchen humanitarian / activist parts of his image way above his ThinkFoodGroup side at this point, and that at least appears to make him a different beast from the usual “You may know me from Top Chef, but I’d like to talk for a moment about SNAP.” We shall see.
Penny for your thoughts, District readers!
The Caps – While delivery apps prepare to push CA Prop 22 replicas across the country, keeping their benefits floor low by avoiding full-time staff labor laws for delivery workers, they’re having a much harder time propping their per-order revenue ceiling up. In MA this week, Eater’s Terrence Doyle reports that alongside a new $20M grant program, the “legislature also voted to approve a 15% fee cap for what third-party delivery companies like Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats can charge restaurants. Legislatures in Chicago, New York City, Portland (OR), San Francisco, and Seattle have all passed similar fee caps on third-party delivery companies.”
The Grapple – Those unsatisfied by the response to “Hannah Selinger’s long essay for Eater about her time working for David Chang,” will probably be left feeling the same after reading Pete Wells’s take in the NYT this week. Though he says Selinger’s essay is “hard to shake off,” Wells ends on the same mixed conclusion many have come to about the current state of Chang’s career: “Among his talents, Mr. Chang has a gift for spinning pain into gold — both his own pain and the pain he caused other people. All his confessions have only added to his fame. He does deserve credit, though, for opening up about his mental illness.”
Fine. But I think we won’t really see where this winds up until post-pandemic, when Momofuku launches new projects and editors and critics are forced to decide how they describe Chang between the commas after his name. Shouty Chef is taken.
P.S. – For media readers, maybe the most shocking thing about this piece is that the New York Times both cites and links to the Eater story that prompted it in the very first sentence. Now, do they have the courage to link to the newsletter that linked to the piece that linked to the story it linked to last month? TBD.
Some Sad News – “Albert Roux, the French-born chef whose London restaurant Le Gavroche was the first in Britain to earn three Michelin stars, died on Monday. He was 85.” Some fun details in his NYT obituary from Christine Hauser, including that some of the original funding for Le Gavroche came from the Queen’s horse trainer (who Roux cooked for after a stint as the sous chef at the French Embassy in London).
In The Guardian, Jay Rayner writes, “The roll-call of names that passed through [Le Gavroche] is the classic who’s who of the culinary cheffing firmament. It includes Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, Pierre Koffmann, Phil Howard, Marcus Wareing and Rowley Leigh, each of whom in turn passed on what they had learned from Albert to so many others.” They live on crumbs of humble piety. Tough on the teeth, but what the hell.
The Media – On the beverage beat, Dave Infante (of Fingers “boozeletter” fame) is joining VinePair to write about the beer industry. Bar PR: Infante put a pitch guide of sorts beneath his tweet announcement here.
And FYI: Growing food magazine “Whetstone is seeking an editor to launch an all new vertical on South Asian food history and contemporary food culture. The job is remote and part-time... for an experienced editor with deep knowledge of South Asian food culture and cuisines who can launch and lead editorial projects in print and audio.” Details here.
The Step Away – In Vegas, “Hubert Keller, who earned national acclaim for his San Francisco restaurant Fleur de Lys, informed his staff on Wednesday that he would not return to Burger Bar at Mandalay Place and Fleur at Mandalay Bay. Both restaurants remain temporarily closed.” Story from Susan Stapleton in Eater. No word on “next chapter.”
The Opportunity – NB: The James Beard Foundation’s F&B Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans has announced it’s accepting applications for its $15k grants from 3PM ET on January 11 to 3PM ET on January 22. FAQs, criteria, etc. here.
And for women-led restaurants, there’s a growing group / festival in LA called RE:Her that looks like it has potential to spread to other cities (possibly via its connection with the Let’s Talk group). Sandra Cordero, Sylvie Gabriele, Bricia Lopez, Mary Sue Milliken, Kimberly Prince, Dina Samson, Heather Sperling, Lien Ta, and Brittney Valles are leading the effort. They’ve already gotten good press, and Samson tells me there’s still time to get involved before the Jan 21 kick off. Official site here.
And Last But Definitely Not Least: The Discord – Always hate to end on a heavy note, but I got a message from a Mid-Atlantic restaurateur this morning that jolted me out of my more general pandemic pessimism. Heads up, it’s about suicide prevention: “Had to talk an old fellow-food biz owning friend off a cliff today because all their restaurants are about to go under because of COVID. I almost killed myself after my business folded, as did my partner. We felt so alone, and later learned we weren’t. We just couldn’t talk about it, because nobody does. I decided to start a Discord server for food biz owners only where we can all talk, either under our real names or anonymously. Just for community. It’s so, so lonely when your world collapses and you’re left with nothing but debt and failure, and I really wish someone who understood had been there for me all those years ago.”
Got too late to ask the sender if it was OK to share the link here, but happy to send privately if you know someone who could use a place to talk.
Stop The Steal spoilsport Mitt Romney infamously said corporations are people. Maybe not, but on the small business side there is a lot of truth to that.
And that’s it for today.
Paying subscribers, I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal. Everyone else, until Friday, unless you…
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PS – Linked to the English version last time, but shout out to Eater Chicago and Ariel Parrella-Aureli for translating their piece on $3.4M in remaining Southern Smoke Foundation funds into Spanish. Presumably very helpful, and here if you need it.