Four Seasons succumbs, Gyulai returns, Esca burns, Cámara profiled, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Quick shout out to the duo in LA who are apparently trying to score free meals by impersonating Eater’s Matthew Kang and Farley Elliott. If you’re reading this, I have a couple free drinks waiting for you at the bar at Majordomo. Just ask for me. Name’s Grumpy Dave.
Lets get to it…
The Profile Treatment – From Julia Moskin in the NYT: “Gabriela Cámara, of Contramar and Cala, is on the brink of global culinary fame. But first she’ll return home to Mexico to advise the country’s president on food policy.” Cámara’s story is definitely worth a read, but there is some missing nuance worth pointing out. Here’s Moskin in the second paragraph: “Her San Francisco restaurant, Cala, has established her here as both an eloquent translator of modern Mexican food and an advocate for social justice: She provides health insurance and other benefits to all full-time employees, many of whom are recruited through job programs for the formerly incarcerated.”
Great! But here’s Cámara at the 18 minute mark on the Dave Chang Show last week: “To pay somebody really well in San Francisco, it’s impossible to run a restaurant. And we came up with the idea of hiring people with a conviction history or people coming out of jail that the city was already helping in terms of housing or in terms of some kind of subsidy to get back on track. So it’s sort of a means to get back into the work force, and it’s worked out well.”
Yes to hiring previously incarcerated people! But if you’re hiring them because you can pay them a little less while the city subsidizes some other part of their lives, that deserves more context than “advocate for social justice”.
P.S. – That, plus the glowing (literally) photos in the piece reminded me of this Pete Wells tweet I’ve been going back and forth on lately: “Seemed obvious to me that one conclusion from #metoo in food was ‘don't make chefs into heroes.’ But for a lot of food writers the conclusion seemed to be ‘we need new heroes.’” To be discussed...
P.P.S. – Re: Contramar: “On any given day… its patrons may include the city’s mayor, its biggest telenovela stars and enough power players to make it the equivalent of New York’s Four Seasons in its heyday, only more fun, and with much better food.” Which brings me to…
The Close – “Less than a year after the Four Seasons Restaurant opened in its new location on East 49th Street in Manhattan, it is shutting its doors. The restaurant once known for the power lunch will close after lunch service on Tuesday.” Florence Fabricant has the statements and details. If you ask me, it happened as soon as they left the Seagram Building (and a younger, hotter group took over the space and all but called their conquest “the new Four Seasons”…).
The Close too – Headline in Eater Philadelphia: “Mike Solomonov’s Charitable Restaurant The Rooster Is Closing For Good.” Rachel Vigoda quoted a statement from the owners as saying, “for well over a year we have been funding losses out of pocket in an effort to buy time for The Rooster to find its footing. For a restaurant whose fundamental premise is to generate funds for our non-profit partner, this has become an untenable and counterproductive situation.”
The Close three – Chicago restaurant group Element Collective has closed its last two restaurants Nellcote and RM Champagne Salon. Eater’s Ashok Selvam reports, “In recent years, many Element Collective employees have said the company failed to pay their workers on time or in some cases at all. A group of them are considering filing a lawsuit against the company. There have been complaints at Nellcote, Kinmont in River North, and at Mezcaleria Las Flores in Logan Square. Workers told Eater that 20 to 30 employees are owed money in amounts that vary from $500 to thousands of dollars. Chef Jared Van Camp… said he left the company about two weeks ago: ‘It was time to move on,’ he said.” Indeed.
The Return – “Five months after his arrest in Spain, a Chicago restaurateur who left the country amid a burgeoning fraud scandal was ordered released on house arrest to face criminal charges that he looted his popular West Loop restaurant Embeya of more than $300,000. Attila Gyulai hasn’t been seen in Chicago since traveling overseas in 2016… On Tuesday, Gyulai stood in a federal courtroom in Chicago dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit as prosecutors argued that he should be kept in custody pending trial because he poses a flight risk.” Full story via Jason Meisner in the Tribune.
The Hearings – “The New York City Council has scheduled an oversight hearing on the stiff fees charged by Grubhub and other food delivery apps — setting the stage for a possible government crackdown on the sites’ operations throughout the city, The Post has learned.” Kevin Dugan and Lisa Fickenscher report, “[Bronx Councilman Mark Gjonaj] said he was holding the hearing following The Post’s reports since May on how Grubhub — which also owns Seamless and Menupages — has been charging restaurants bogus fees that have soared into the thousands of dollars for a single month… The hearings are believed to be the first of their kind in New York, and will also look into how other companies, like DoorDash and Uber Eats, are charging restaurants for their services.”
Zagat Elite – FYI, PR: Starting with NYC, Zagat is launching a new program called “Zagat Curators” which appears to be a formal way to blow smoke in the direction of its traditional crowdsource sources. “When you become a Curator, you’ll join a select group of locals whose restaurant insights will power the future Zagat platform. You’ll have a front seat while we’re building the new Zagat, with exclusive access to early design concepts and idea sessions.” More info and “application” (read: personal data collection survey), here.
The Fire – Renovations at Esca were undone by fire Sunday, some of which was caught on camera by NBC4’s Pei-Sze Chang. Eater’s Carla Vianna has the details: “There was no one in the restaurant, which has been under renovation since a change in ownership in May, according to owner Victor Rallo. One civilian sustained a minor injury, the NYC Fire Department tells Eater… The fire, which caused ‘superficial’ damage, has set [Rallo and chef Dave Pasternack] back to a mid-July opening.”
Some sad news – “Jiggs Kalra, a food writer who helped elevate Indian fine dining, and a gastronome who threw the spotlight on little known chefs, making their recipes accessible to generations of home cooks, died on Tuesday at a hospital in New Delhi. He was 72… He was ‘one of the pioneers of the Indian food movement,’ Floyd Cardoz, a New York City-based chef from Mumbai, wrote on Twitter.” Full obituary from Aisha Kahn in the NYT.
For the Somm – In his first piece for SF Chronicle wine, Mike Dunne explores an Amador County phenomenon: “By California vineyard standards, Shake Ridge Ranch is an adolescent, starting to yield fruit only in 2005. In just 14 years, however, it has gained an uncommon stature among the state’s vineyards… Few vineyards, and probably none as young, account for as many wines on the wine list of Napa Valley’s acclaimed restaurant the French Laundry — 11.”
For Design Fans – Here’s Louise Palmberg’s photo spread for the new Pastis in NYC. Looks pretty familiar, and not a lot to add on my end, but a Mr. Jay McInerney tells Eater’s Beth Landman, “It’s bigger, it might be nicer and you can’t smell the meat packing anymore.” So there’s that.
And last but certainly not least – Sorry to end things on a heavy note, but June 8th was the one year anniversary of Anthony Bourdain’s death, and social media was a flood of remembrances all week. Maybe the most poignant I read was this Saturday tweet, from LA Times Food editor Peter Meehan: “A year and a day ago I went to sleep thinking about killing myself. I woke up to news I couldn’t believe. If you need help, get it, any way you can. Tell someone. You’re worth the effort and you will find a network of people who will be there to support you when it’s dark.”
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
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