General relief, Canlis CVs, Humm suits, Yelp standards, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, January 15th, 2021

Hello Friday,

And… whoops. I accidentally sent Tuesday’s paying subscriber Family Meal to everyone! If you got it by mistake and were all like, “This is nice!” and you have the means to keep that feeling going…

Let’s get to it…

The Relief – Welp. The bones of Biden’s stimulus plan are out, and while there’s lots in there to make individuals happy(ish), if you’re scouring the $1.9T worth of bullet points for something like the RESTAURANTS Act, I have some bad news. There is $15B in “flexible, equitably distributed grants” for “1 million of the hardest hit small businesses,” and some hoped for additional support via the USDA’s Community Credit Corporation, but that’s definitely not the same as the $120B just for restaurants that IRC and others had hoped for.

Still, José Andrés, Share Our Strength, and others have to be happy about the inclusion of the FEED Act (though I don’t see a price tag attached): “The FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act will leverage the resources and expertise of the restaurant industry to help get food to families who need it, and help get laid-off restaurant workers across the country back on the job.”

And also of note for the industry: “The president-elect is calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and end the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.” But as NYT’s Ezra Klein noted on Twitter, “Do Senate Democrats want to keep the filibuster or do they want to pass a $15 minimum wage? I don't see a way they can do both.”

The District – Speaking of the Senate… Send a little extra love toward the DC industry this week if you can. What should be a cash cow party is turning into a nightmare. As the Washingtonian’s Jessica Sidman put so succinctly in her newsletter: “Inauguration is going to suck for DC restaurants this year.” The map of road closures and metro station shutters is already brutal, and this isn’t a one-day event, it’s now till Wednesday at least. Good luck, all!

The Next Step – In Seattle, Mark and Brian Canlis announced via Instagram on Tuesday: “In two months, [head chef Brady Williams] will leave Canlis to build and open his own restaurant.” Per Seattle Met’s Allecia Vermillion, “His last day at Canlis is February 27; he promises he’s staying in Seattle proper, not absconding to Bellevue or Bellingham or some nearby island.”

FYI, Canlis says: “Over the next few months we’ll be searching for the right chef to join us…. If you think you’re up for the job, email us at

The Suits – Per Chis Dolmetsch and Kate Krader in Bloomberg, “Chef Daniel Humm says boutique hotel operator Sydell Group stiffed him out of almost $2 million after he agreed to give up control of the food and beverage operations at its NoMad hotels in New York and Los Angeles… Humm… says in a lawsuit filed in New York state court late Monday that the company agreed to pay him $1.89 million last February to resolve a dispute over almost $6 million in outstanding management fees and reimbursable operating expenses.”

And on the more blue collar side of reimbursable operating expenses… the SF Chronicle’s Carolyn Said reports, “Controversy over [California’s] Proposition 22, the gig-work measure that keeps Uber and Lyft drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, didn’t end when voters passed it in November by a margin of 59% to 41%. Labor unions, along with ride-hailing drivers and a passenger, sued Tuesday seeking to overturn the new law on the basis that it undermines the California Constitution.”

The Suits Too ­– Meanwhile, restaurants in NY State are actually winning injunctions against indoor dining bans. The Buffalo News’s Patrick Lakamp says a State Supreme Court justice returned Erie County to lesser “yellow zone” restriction levels after finding no evidence the state had a “rational basis” to designate it “orange.” The judge also “said the restaurants ‘have also demonstrated that the orange zone designation has caused loss of revenue, unemployment, potential foreclosure and hardship upon Erie County residents.’”

The Mutant – Those wins may be short lived though… Headline in the NY Daily News on Wednesday: “First two cases of U.K. strain of COVID identified in NYC… The U.K. strain of COVID is here.” That’s the same highly infectious “mutant” strain that I noted California officials were citing to clamp down on open air public seating earlier this month. This at a time when Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot is talking about opening indoor dining there, and NYT critic Pete Wells is writing columns about “The Season of the Yurt.” TBD.

The Standards – “Starting [Tuesday], Yelp will display if users observed, or did not observe, the enforcement of social distancing and staff wearing masks.” And according to their corporate blog, they’ve “also added new service offerings and health and safety practices, including ‘heated outdoor seating,’ ‘1:1 sessions available,’ and ‘disposable or contactless menu’ to help businesses communicate how they’re continuing to adapt amidst changing health orders and consumer expectations.” Judging by reactions online, many restaurateurs would appreciate a 1:1 session with Yelp.

The Media – I am listed as only “another writer” in this Grubstreet interview Chris Crowley did with Joe Rosenthal, owner of “The Instagram Account Holding America’s Restaurants Accountable,” but it is worth a read if you’re interested in the man behind the anonymizing curtain. “If Rosenthal’s name is familiar, that’s because he’s the self-proclaimed ‘food antagonist’ who also first blew open Sqirl’s moldgate scandal, and who has, over the past year, built a rabid Instagram following by tracking racism, abuse, and privilege within the food world. But who is Rosenthal?” Another writer.

The (Media) Opportunity – Dallas Observer food editor Taylor Adams announced Wednesday that she will be leaving at the end of the month for “local politics,” and attached the ad for her soon to be open position at the bottom of her farewell note: “The Dallas Observer has an immediate opening for a journalist with a sophisticated understanding of food and the skill to write about it in an engaging way.” You?

P.S. (cc: PR) – Eater Chicago put out a call for mapmakers this week too, and Eater travel editor Lesley Bargar Suter says she’s looking for “cool ways food and culture intersect to provide insight and perspective on a place — international or otherwise. Send to”

Some Sad News – Headline in the LA Times: “Rafael ‘Ray’ Vega, who owned celebrity favorite Casa Vega Mexican restaurant, dies.” Full obituary from Jenn Harris: “Vega, who helped introduce and popularize Mexican food in the San Fernando Valley, died from complications of COVID-19 on Saturday at age 86, according to his daughter, Christina ‘Christy’ Vega. He had been battling dementia and Parkinson’s disease for the past 15 years.”

And last but not least: The Self-Cancel – “Taking his most drastic step yet in response to public criticism, celebrity chef Thomas Keller took down his Twitter account on Tuesday after almost a year of blowback. The departure from the social media platform comes after many critiqued him for Tweeting praise of [right wing billionaire Sheldon Adleson].” You can get that backstory from Janelle Bitker, but I just want to take a totally unnecessary moment to recognize the fact that Mario Batali, who has been credibly accused of serious sexual harassment and assault, arraigned on charges of indecent assault and battery, fired from his TV show, bought out of his restaurant empire, and basically gone hermit somewhere in northern Michigan (I guess), has outlasted both the President of the United States and the founder of The French Laundry on social media.

Anyway. Parler?

And that’s it for today.

I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday for next Family Meal, and everyone else on Friday. If you’d like to get Tuesday on Tuesday…

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