Flyfish's 14, Brown Sugar's close, Pernetti's long year, lists and scenes and more...
Family Meal - January 14th, 2022
Quick reminder that Family Meal goes out to paying subscribers on Tuesdays and Fridays, but I copy/paste Tuesday Family Meals underneath Fridays’ so that no one misses out in these tough times for the industry.
If you want to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays (and help your independent narrator keep the restaurant / food media world way up on its tippy toes)…
Went a bit long on the NFT thing this week (sorry), but so has a good chunk of Al Gore’s decentralized internet, so…
Let’s get to it…
The Funge – There are a handful of articles out there right now treating VCR Group’s “World’s First NFT Restaurant,” Flyfish Club, as if it wasn’t announced months ago, but if you want some useful information about this new crowdfunding strategy, head to Lisa Jennings interview with co-founder/CEO David Rodolitz in Restaurant Hospitality, where you will hear a bit of an NFT restaurant SWOT analysis that goes something like:
STRENGTHS: Free money. “I brought in a little bit north of $14 million on my NFT drop, not including (10%) royalties on the secondary market. Every time it trades hands, I make money. And there’s been over $14 million as it gets traded on the secondary market over a couple weeks (including the smaller private launch in December).” Assuming that’s the royal “I” (meaning the partners?), but the NFT-buyers have zero equity beyond their membership. Those members have just given VCR fourteen million American dollars and are hoping/trusting for the best!
WEAKNESSES: Non-dining NFT traders. “This is a private dining club and I need to make sure the club is full [of members paying for food]... I’ll give a drastic example, but if people who bought [membership tokens] originally all live in China and are just doing this for a quick speculative investment, we could have 1,500 token holders and end up with an empty restaurant.” The partners have held back a number of tokens they can release selectively later, but that might obviously piss off current owners who value the supposed rarity.
OPPORTUNITES: Rich people. “Some people spend $20,000 to do an idle wine tasting with [co-founder Gary Vaynerchuck]…. Companies pay [co-founder] Josh Capon $10,000 hour to do a virtual cooking class.”
THREATS: Crypto rollercoaster. Memberships are bought and sold via Ethereum tokens. “And, as it happened, on the day [the NFT] dropped, Ethereum was down a bit. It would have probably been a couple million dollars more if Ethereum pricing was from two days earlier. But that’s the volatility and some of the exposure that we have, but it’s all been calculated already.”
Always a little wiggle room in the biz plan when a bunch of strangers hand you $14M for a pocketful of mumbles (such are promises)!
That Secondary Market – Meanwhile, there exists a world in which restaurant guests trade access passes without a middleman… Headline in Eater from Luke Fortney: “Diners Turn to Reddit to Sell Their $1,500 Reservations During Omicron.” Peer-to-peer ticket resale. Brave new world.
The Lists – Both Vogue (via Kat Odell) and Robb Report (via Jeremy Repanich) are out with more Most Anticipated Restaurants of 2022 lists this week. Congrats, all! Plus big congrats to those making both lists, including: Brochu’s Family Tradition (Savannah); Kono (NYC); Bar Spero (DC); Marigold Club (Houston); Little Saint (Healdsburg); and Philotimo (DC).
And congrats also to folks getting featured in the upcoming season of PBS’s Migrant Kitchen series, including: Jon Yao of Kato in LA, “Bonnie Morales of Portland’s Kachka, José Enrique of Jose Enrique Restaurant in San Juan, Chris Williams of Lucille’s and Jonny Rhodes of Indigo, both in Houston, and Brooklyn’s Jenny Kwak of Haenyeo and Sohui Kim from Insa.” Announcement details and show trailer from Eater’s Madeleine Davies here.
Runnin’ Down a Scene – Also lists of sorts… NYT Food is apparently spending these slow January days putting out roundups of cuisine scenes city by city. Brett Anderson and Christina Morales had a photo heavy look at Miami’s baking world on Tuesday, which comes after Tejal Rao sang the praises of LA’s sushi masters last week. (Nice to see Miami food getting national attention for something other than New York chain restaurants moving there these days.)
The End of an Era – In Oakland, “After nearly 15 years in business, Tanya Holland’s game-changing restaurant, Brown Sugar Kitchen, has closed the doors of its last location for good.” Berkeleyside’s Eve Batey has the obit (including what feels like a bit of a gift to Bay Area crime hawks?): “Like many other restaurants, including well-funded chains like California Pizza Kitchen, Brown Sugar Kitchen filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last May, a last-ditch attempt to save her business… But still, it wasn’t enough. ‘We were undercapitalized from the beginning,’ Holland said. Add to that high rents and increasing crime in Oakland, and ‘It was all too much,’ Holland said. ‘Safety. Car break-ins. Murders. A reduced police department...’”
And last but not least: The Longest Year – Hate to end on a downer, but this COVID story, from the Miami Herald’s Carlos Frías, shook me a bit: “Everyone thought it odd when Nino Pernetti called the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2020, to say he was skipping the annual New Year’s Eve dinner at his landmark Coral Gables restaurant of more than 30 years, Caffe Abbracci. He injured his ankle while playing his daily round of tennis, he told his friends, family and staff... ‘We should have known better,’ his ex-wife Marlén Pernetti said… Days later, he would be transferred to the COVID-19 ward at Mercy Hospital, where no visitors were allowed… More than a year later, Nino Pernetti has not returned home… He is fighting for his life.” Pernetti turned 76 in the hospital last summer.
And that’s it for today. Except of course for Tuesday’s Family Meal which is copy/pasted below as usual.
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else on Friday for next Family Meal. If you’d like to get Tuesday’s on Tuesday…
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or a little bit north of $14 million on my NFT drop, not including 10% royalties on the secondary market 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!
Here begins the Family Meal that went out to paying subscribers on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022:
CIA DEI, Yangban blues, Media moves, and more...
And hello to paying subscribers only! If you got this as a forward and wish you were getting Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays too…
A media heavy Family Meal for you today, in this, the January of our discontent.
Let’s get to it…
The Optimism – After noting last week that a refill of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund looks unlikely, a restaurateur / reader in Hawaii noted he had read a few more optimistic takes, including this “flicker of hope” piece from Peter Romeo in RBO. I love some good hope! And the Independent Restaurant Coalition did get a handful of American mayors to sign a letter asking congress for help, but… Ted Cruz et al are banging an “inflation bomb” drum, and I’m not sure even targeted spending can escape that messaging beat this election year?
The Next Exposé? – Reading both Chris Crowley in Grubstreet this week (“The Restaurant Industry Has Always Treated Sick Workers With No Remorse; Will anything change because of Omicron?”) and Judd Legum in Popular Information (“Red Lobster workers say they are forced to work sick”), I’m wondering what impact a potential “This Indie Restaurant Is Serving While Infected” story will have, and who it will be about…
The Profile Treatment – Sorry I missed this when it came out on December 27th, but I had no idea that during the pandemic, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park hired its “first female Black chef instructor”?! In Albany’s Times Union, Abbe Wichman has a profile of chef Roshara Sanders, who came back to teach after coasting into culinary school the easy way a decade ago: “She was accepted by the CIA in 2007 but couldn’t afford the tuition, so she joined the military. ‘Just to get back to the CIA on the GI Bill,’ she said. Two deployments later, one in Iran and one in Afghanistan, the veteran returned to the school in 2011 and graduated in 2014.”
So… Is the CIA suddenly a case study of solid DEI progress? “Sanders points to a growing number of Black hires in both the front of the house and in the kitchen at the CIA and notes the CIA’s nine-week extracurricular course: ‘The Cuisines of Africa and its Diaspora in the Americas,’ developed in collaboration with Dr. Jessica B. Harris… ‘The school is really doing what it needs to do in regards to diversity,’ says Sanders.”
The Profile Treatment Too – In the LA Times, Jean Trinh has a long look at Yangban Society, a new project from Katianna and John Hong. It’s a deli / minimart with a bit of an upscale side (“Customers will be able to buy canned cocktails and bottles of Hite beer or Krug Champagne to pair with their meals…”) and would sound like a classic COVID pivot-to-grocery story except the two say they started dreaming it up in 2019.
My warm and fuzzy side liked the intertwining journeys of personal cultural acceptance (Korean-American style in this case), and the industry career love story: After meeting at Mélisse, “Katianna and John were still only colleagues when she moved on to work at Christopher Kostow’s The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa, where she eventually became the first female chef de cuisine at a Michelin three-star establishment in the United States. She convinced John to join her, and they eventually began dating and moved up the ranks together. Katianna went on to open Charter Oak, Kostow’s second restaurant in Napa, and John became Meadowood’s chef de cuisine.”
My business details side is happy to know: “They funded Yangban by partnering with Sprout L.A. — the restaurant group that oversees spots like Bestia and République — through a random connection, John explained.”
And my design side learned both that: “Shin Irvin, the founder and creative director of Folklor, notable for his work with the Line Hotel and Gjelina, helped design the space.” And that Shin Irvin’s blue paint dealer is now very rich.
The Media (Moves) – I put all this in a tweet on Friday after details came in too late for that Family Meal, but wanted to include again here… ATTN PR: There’s a big hire-and-shuffle going on over at Eater this month: Stephanie Wu started as Executive Editor last Monday. Lesley Suter is moving from Travel to edit “Special Projects.” Matt Buchanan is moving to a new role handling larger stories as "Enterprise editor," with Jesse Sparks joining that Enterprise team as Senior Editor. Jade Stewart took over as editor in Seattle yesterday. Brittany Britto Garley starts as editor of Eater Houston on 1/18, which is the same day Paolo Bichieri officially becomes an Eater SF reporter. And Nat Belkov is joining as Design Director on 1/24.
The Media Too – Maybe omicron is “mild” for most people, but mild is relative, especially for food folks. NYT Food’s Kim Severson tweeted yesterday that she recently joined her colleague Tejal Rao in (hopefully temporarily) having lost her sense of taste and smell. Severson asks (as far as you know) that PR pitches now first wish her well, before tying totally unconnected restaurant news to her illness in a deeply insensitive way. Good luck, all!
The Media Three: For the Somm – Editor Serena Dai says, “The [SF] Chronicle’s food and wine team is thrilled to announce our new wine reporter: Jess Lander, a seasoned Wine Country journalist who has covered topics ranging from the impact of wildfires on wine to the unique parenting challenges of women winemakers.” If you haven’t seen Lander around Napa, the Chronicle’s official press release has a full bio and headshot here. NB: Landler’s Instagram handle is “WillWrite4Wine,” so if you need good press, try bribes?
And last but not least: The Critics – You wild ones went and freed Britney and now she’s a restaurant influencer! Recent restaurant review on Instagram (via Mona Holmes in Eater LA): “I immediately go to the bathroom… holy crap !!! I wanted to stay in that bathroom forever !!! It was so beautiful and the lady in there offered me candy !!! I declined…. Then I went to my seat and was given the menu. First up… the salad. HOLLLLLY WOWZA !!! Is God food??? … I failed to mention I had my first glass of red wine in 13 years !!! I felt more sexy in that restaurant than I ever have in my entire life… I cried over food in this beautiful restaurant.”
She has 38.7M followers, folks. Get her in for a comp.
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or canned cocktails and bottles of Hite beer or Krug Champagne 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!