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Fairlie gone, DiSpirito back, Firefly still here, Sotto closing, Food hall fever, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, January 25th, 2019
Heads up that there may be some disruption to Family Meal next week, as a very special little boy is turning 4 on Tuesday, and in an expression of selflessness and courage possibly unequaled in human experience, I will be spending the day at Hong Kong Disney.
Let’s get to it…
First, some sad news – Scottish chef “Andrew Fairlie died Jan. 22 at his home near Perth at 55…. A working-class kid who left school to wash glassware in a Perth hotel, Mr. Fairlie became a culinary artist blending classical French cuisine with Scottish ingredients including Highland beef, venison, lobster, seaweed and other saltwater vegetables. He was one of the first chefs anywhere to tell his customers the exact provenance of ingredients, a practice now commonplace in top-class restaurants… In a 2012 interview with the Financial Times, Mr. Fairlie was asked whom he would employ for his dream kitchen. He listed several of his French mentors before adding, ‘Gordon Ramsay would be on pot wash.’” Highly recommend the full obituary from Phil Davison in the Washington Post, which begins with a M. Jacques Chirac eating his own words.
The Profile Treatment – “For more than a decade, the same question has followed the celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito: What happened? Is he, as some have posited, ‘a supernaturally talented chef who squandered his gifts in the scattershot pursuit of fame?’ Is he possibly still ‘the most talented American chef alive at this very moment?’ Or is he simply ‘obsessed with becoming famous?’” Now that he’s coming back to run the kitchen at NYC’s Standard Grill, “Those who know DiSpirito best for his appearances on QVC or Dancing With the Stars may wonder if he can pull this off. But here he is, cooking in a professional kitchen for the first time in a decade and a half, and now there’s a new question that follows him: Will he be able to reclaim his former glory, or will the detractors who wrote him off during his 15-year hiatus turn out to be correct?” Full profile via Hugh Merwin in Grubstreet.
The Profile Treatment Too – “Anita Lo was born in Detroit and raised in Birmingham, Mich., the daughter of Chinese immigrants. How she became one the most prominent chefs in New York with her restaurant Annisa, which held a Michelin star for nine consecutive years, is a great story.” In the hands of Alex Witchel in WaPo, it really is. (As long as you’re comfortable with tragic beginnings.)
The Profile Treatment – Restaurant Edition: In San Francisco, “Firefly became one of the city’s capital-H hot restaurants when it opened in November 1993. Within a few months, The Chronicle named Brad Levy one of its Rising Star Chefs. His class included Wendy Brucker (Rivoli), Traci Des Jardins (Jardiniere), Michael Mina (Aqua) and Loretta Keller (Bizou), all of whom were forced to pose on ladders holding oversized kitchen tools. And then, hey, well, a quarter-century! The earnest, underachieving San Francisco of the 1990s became a city with more Michelin three-starred restaurants than New York, where journalists stalk young chefs before their places open and then forget them until their restaurants close, and where every meal might earn a cook Yelp stars or sniping over some tangential flub. Levy’s fellow Rising Star, Traci Des Jardins, opened side projects around the city; Michael Mina opened even more around the country. Firefly stayed the course.” Lots of fantastic detail in this great Jonathan Kauffman piece.
The Close – Per Matthew Kang at Eater LA, “In a rather stunning last-minute announcement, Sotto, the beloved Italian restaurant in the southern stretch of Beverly Hills will close this week on Saturday, January 26…. Reached by phone, Steve and Dina Samson, who have been mainly in charge of operating Sotto for the last few years, stated that they were sad to close the restaurant but did not do so because of a lack of revenue… The Samsons declined to provide a further reason for Sotto’s closure.” Secrets, secrets are no fun; secrets, secrets… force the media to keep digging when you could’ve just said “the numbers weren’t adding up for us anymore” or whatever.
And in DC, headline in Eater: “Game-Changing Proof Will Close After More Than a Decade in Penn Quarter.”
Everything Will Be Televised – FYI, if you are so inclined, you can watch a livestream of the Bocuse d’Or next week on the 29th and 30th, courtesy of Fine Dining Lovers in Lyon. Check my time zone math, but looks like winners will be announced at 1PM U.S. East Coast time on Wednesday.
Some Things Will Be Redacted – Apparently, enough people questioned “the inclusion of Pizzaiolo, a restaurant in Oakland owned by chef Charlie Hallowell — accused by more than 30 women of sexual harassment — in the recently released [ethical-practices guide] book ‘Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery,’” that while the restaurant remains listed in print, it has been de-listed from the website. Here’s the WaPo breakdown by Sarah Henry wherein the publisher sets the bar for whether or not the restaurant should be listed at Hallowell’s level of “day-to-day involvement”. They’re investigating. I’ll give them a head start: He owns the restaurant.
That Hotel $$$ - In London, Sophie Witts reports, “Claridge’s has finally confirmed that the team behind Eleven Madison Park in New York are to open a restaurant at the hotel this year. Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara will launch Davies & Brook, named for the two streets the hotel sits on, this summer.”
Food Hall Fever – DC has a final tenant list in hand for La Cosecha, a “20,000-square-foot space dedicated to the vibrancy of Latinx culture, in the heart of the nation’s capital, in the midst of this unwelcoming political climate. While the president wants to build a wall, the developer Edens is building a plaza.” A vendor tells WaPo’s Maura Judkis: “It’s not partisan. But it’s timely.”
At the same time, NYC can look forward to “Two massive new food hall developments in the works in Manhattan, according to the Post. The biggest, at 35,000-square-feet, comes from Legends Hospitality and will open at 28 Liberty St. in the Financial District. Meanwhile, food hall empire builder Urbanspace will debut on the west side with a new complex taking over a 11,500-square-foot space at 152 West 52nd St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues.” Links go to the individual articles in the Post. Roundup as quoted via Eater here.
The Suits – Per Page Six’s Julia Marsh, “Celebrity chef Cat Cora [just won] a $565,000 judgment against the shuttered Manhattan restaurant Fatbird for unpaid consulting fees. The former ‘Iron Chef’ sued the restaurant company in October 2017, claiming that its owner, Charissa Davidovici, hadn’t paid a dime of a $400,000 fee required to use Cora’s name, likeness and recipes for the Southern-themed restaurant.”
For the somm – Going to take a rare step here and recommend another newsletter. Are you reading Esther Mobley’s “Drinking With Esther” emails from the SF Chronicle? If you like wine, and can handle a strong dose of Napa / Sonoma business news on top of it, this is your newsletter. Sample from today: “Speaking of climate change, it seems to be having some eerily positive effects on German wine, according to the New York Times. Elsewhere in the Times, Eric Asimov finds an improved wave of retsina, the Greek wine style that's infused with pine resin. (I confess I still find retsina hard to love, but I'm keeping an open mind.)” Let me know what you think!
And last and least – I’d just like to doff my hat to Carla Vianna and the folks at Eater NY, who got this headline “Troubled Vegan ‘It Girl’ Sarma Melngailis Says She’d Revive Her Raw Food Restaurant” out of this NY Post article: “‘Vegan Bernie Madoff’ Sarma Melngailis dishes on relationship with attorney”. Read the latter and let me know if your main takeaway was Pure Food and Wine…
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here next week for next Family Meal.
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