Gaggan's final days, Fall previews galore, The somm scandal revisited, and more...

Family Meal - Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Hello Wednesday,

Apologies for the postponement yesterday. Please blame Labor Day weekend, one of several annual holiday stretches when much of American food media pivots to home cooking and publishes almost no restaurant stories.

Bah humbug.

Let’s get to it…

Gaggan’s Final Days, According to Gaggan – By total coincidence, my trip to Bangkok the weekend before last overlapped with Gaggan shutting its doors for good. I reached out to the chef for an interview, and he wound up driving me to the airport Monday morning, casually unwinding his side of the story on the record. I’m making that story available now for paid Family Meal subscribers. Everyone else will have access starting Friday, when I’ll post it here for free.

The Tease: Almost exactly one year before he was scheduled to close his restaurant for good, chef Gaggan Anand and 65 of his staff abruptly resigned from the business that made him rich and famous. Here’s what happened, according to Gaggan.

No clickbait: The article is basically just a tick tock of negotiations between Gaggan and his partners, so there’s no reason not to wait until Friday to read it. This is simply a good opportunity to say thank you to those of you who have chipped in to support Family Meal financially. (If you want to chip in too, here’s that link.)

Thank you!

Lists I Like – Eater’s useful “Most Anticipated Restaurants for Fall 2019” lists are out, with a summary intro from Hillary Dixler Canavan here, and city by city links here divided by dashes to help guide your thumbs: AtlantaBostonCharlestonChicagoDallasDenverHoustonLas Vegas — Los AngelesMiamiNashvilleNew OrleansPhiladelphiaSan FranciscoSeattleTwin CitiesWashington, D.C. Worth noting the one restaurant mentioned in Canavan’s summary, but not included in an Eater city page: “Michael and Tara Gallina, the couple behind 2017 Eater Best New Restaurant Vicia, [are] opening their second St. Louis restaurant, taking over the longstanding Winslow’s Home restaurant and making it their own.”

Tis the Season – The NYT is also out with a fall restaurant preview, with at least 14 different articles under the umbrella headline: “49 Good Reasons to Make a Restaurant Reservation.” They include Florence Fabricant on “Fall’s Biggest Openings”; a profile on Victoria Blamey in her new role at Gotham Bar and Grill from Priya Krishna; Fabricant again on some “veteran chefs… [stepping] back into the spotlight” (think: Alfred Portale, Larry Forgione, Shaun Hergatt, Bill Yosses, and, at 84, Jean-Jacques Rachou); and more.

Some sad news – “Biba Caggiano, a seminal figure in the Sacramento food scene whose midtown Italian restaurant bearing her first name put the state capital on the culinary map, died Thursday morning... Caggiano was 82 and had lived with Alzheimer’s disease in her final years.” Full obituary via Marcos Bretón in the Sacramento Bee.

The Profile Treatment – Known spoon thief Iliana Regan and her Milkweed property are getting a lot of attention lately, but if you’ve got room for one chef profile this week, highly recommend this one from Julia Bainbridge, where black and white blur in Heated: “She felt confident when she emailed Jeff Gordinier, then a staff writer for the food section of The New York Times, to tell him that she thought she was doing something special and that he should come see it. Throughout our interview, though, she tugs at the sleeves of her sweater. She can be shy, she says. Regan can have a Michelin star and also be wracked with worry over her ability to manage her employees. She can learn to loosen up, trusting her chef de cuisine to run the restaurant while she’s opening her new inn and also carry her espresso spoons close, for fear that they might get stolen (again). Perhaps the reason so many describe her as a mystery is that she’s knowingly — and publicly — living the truth we’ve been taught to deny, that life is a constant seesawing between success and failure, joy and pain.”

The (Pastry) Profile Treatment – In Food & Wine, Andy Wang has a fun write up on Mac Daniel Dimla, executive pastry chef of L.A. fine-dining restaurant Providence: “Providence’s pastry prodigy has a reputation for being a man of few words. (‘He talked to you?’ [chef and co-owner Michael Cimarusti] asks incredulously when I tell him that Dimla and I had a good conversation.) When I interview Dimla, I start by asking him to help me understand how he got in his position at such a young age. I tell him we can begin with the short version if he wants. ‘My whole career is the short version,’ he says with a smile. ‘I’m 23, you know.’”

For the Somm: “Testing Times” – This week on Australia’s goodfood website, Attica wine director Jane Lopes gives her first person account of the cheating scandal that voided the results of the Court of Master Sommelier’s September, 2018 exam. Lopes, who says she won’t sit the exam again, gets into both the personal toll and the details as she now knows them: “We discovered that an email had been written the morning of the tasting exam by a senior Master Sommelier, who was a member of the Board of Directors. The recipients were blind copied, but we found first-hand that there were three recipients, with rumours of one more. The email revealed the identity of two of the six wines in the blind tasting exam: a pinot grigio and a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The Board stated publicly that they had received the information about the breach on October 5, 2018. They also stated that they made their decision concerning the invalidation of the exam and the subsequent stripping of titles on October 8. And, somewhere in there, they claimed thorough investigation and painstaking deliberation took place. All the decades of dedication that led to those credentials being achieved were cast aside in three days and two Board meetings.”

For Design Fans – I’ll go see this one in person and report back ASAP, but as far as I can tell from this Mitchell Geng photo spread in The Spaces, Julien Royer’s new place in Hong Kong, Louise, is a beaut. A bit confused by the ceiling fixtures in the first picture (do 30 separate flush mount fixtures a chandelier make?), but love the Thonet chairs and jungle carpet. So much focus on fun wallpaper these days, whither all the funky rugs? Plus, I’ll take two of those sculpted hand lamps please, and whatever guesses on budget you may have…

And that’s it for today. Paid subscribers, please let me know your thoughts on the Gaggan piece when you can! My editor is in love with long sentences and sprinkled commas. He needs help…

I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.

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