Goodbye Leah Chase, Michelin CA, New Pride guide, A Shanti profile, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, June 4th, 2019
It’s June 4th, and about 1200 miles north of where I sit in Hong Kong, absolutely nothing happened 30 years ago today.
Let’s get to it…
First, the sad news – Legend Leah Chase died Saturday. She was 96. Here’s President Barack Obama on Twitter: “What a life. American history has always been driven by visionaries like Leah Chase—and all the men and women who worked and ate at Dooky Chase’s over the years—folks who serve up progress one bowl of gumbo at a time.”
Obama followed that up with a link to Kim Severson’s obituary in the NYT for “Leah Chase, 96, Creole Chef Who Fed Presidents and Freedom Riders.” At 6:20 in the accompanying video, there’s this from Mrs. Chase: “You know I tell people all the time, I don’t know if I’m such a great Christian or not, as much as I pray, because I’m so afraid to die. And that frightens me. And one priest told me, ‘I don’t know what you’re afraid of,’ he said, ‘Don’t you know that you’re doing everything that Jesus liked.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I am? And what does Jesus like?’ He said, ‘Jesus loved to eat.’” Fact check: True (Mark 2:15-17).
For more obituaries and stories of Mrs. Chase, here are Aliya Semper Ewing in The Root, Stacy M. Brown in Black Press USA, FNR TIGG in Complex, Ian McNulty in The Advocate, John Pope on Nola.com, the AP take in the LA Times, Becky Krystal in WaPo, and some roundups of social media tributes on Eater; Nola.com, and Grubstreet. RIP.
Michelin Season – In the LA Times last night, Andrea Chang declared: “The Michelin guessing game is over. Two months after announcing that it would once again evaluate the dining scene in Los Angeles, the prestigious but unpredictable Michelin Guide awarded stars to 90 California restaurants on Monday, including 24 in L.A… As was the case when Michelin published L.A. guides in 2008 and 2009, the city was shut out of the three-star category... Two-star winners in Los Angeles were n/naka, Providence, Somni, Sushi Ginza Onodera, Urasawa and Vespertine… Eighteen L.A. restaurants received one star: Hayato, Cut, Dialogue, Kali, Kato, Bistro Na’s, Le Comptoir, Maude, Mori Sushi, Nozawa Bar, Orsa & Winston, Osteria Mozza, Rustic Canyon, Q Sushi, Shibumi, Shin Sushi, Shunji and Trois Mec. Taco Maria in Costa Mesa also received a star. All told, there were 69 one-star restaurants in California.” (Italics mine.)
There were no new three star restaurants anywhere, but in San Francisco, the Chronicle’s Justin Phillips called it like this: “The Bay Area, with all seven Michelin three-star restaurants listed in the guide hailing from the region, remains the state’s fine dining mecca… In the two-star realm, Campton Place made the jump from one to two stars. Val Cantu’s Californios in the Mission District kept its two stars. Baume, the small Palo Alto operation with only two employees, Christie Chemel and her chef husband, Bruno, also maintained its two stars. Local restaurants Acquerello, Coi and Lazy Bear all earned two stars, as did Oakland’s lone contribution to the book — James Syhabout’s Commis.”
Of note in SF: “Saison, which has had a perfect Michelin rating every year since 2014, dropped from three to two stars this year. It’s a change in rating that coincides with Saison’s transition under new chef Laurent Gras.”
Elsewhere, Sacramento, whose tourism board started the discussions for a statewide guide, got one Michelin star for their trouble – at The Kitchen – while San Diego’s Addison and Mendocino’s Harbor House also earned a star.
The wonderfully angry LA takes and calls to arms were probably best summed up by New Yorker Ryan Sutton on Twitter: “Los Angeles Michelin: Not a single three-star restaurant, in this dining capital of America, no Korean spots with stars, no Filipino with stars, no Thai, and just a single starred-Mexican spot. No food hall stalls or trucks with stars. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”
But in the end, I also liked seeing this nuance from Eater LA’s Matthew Kang (no fan of the guide, and persona non grata at the big event): “At a time when the LA Times critics aren’t awarding stars, or when trust in Yelp is at a low water mark, local diners are looking for recommendations and suggestions. The Michelin Guide put some big spotlights on beloved local places... And six LA restaurants that received two stars get to try and aim for the coveted three star award… It means more tourist dollars in Los Angeles, bolstering jobs, careers, and reputations. And finally, it places LA on the international dining map. Cooks, chefs, and front-of-house professionals can now compare their experiences to the rest of the world. Angeleno diners can check the list and see how it compares to their own favorites, but they will ultimately spend their dollars where they always have — at taco stands, noodle spots, Korean barbecues, and fried chicken shops that reflect the colorful intersection of flavors and cultures in LA.”
Michelin’s announcement and full list are here. Moving on…
The Pride Guide – FYI: Jarry, “a biannual print magazine that explores where food and queer culture intersect”, is gearing up to launch, “EAT QUEER: a community-driven directory of queer food & drink establishments that will serve as a free travel and culinary resource.” They’re accepting submissions for favorite queer food and drink establishments here.
That Take Out $$$ – In Eater D.C., Adele Chapin looks into “Why Fast Food-Style Takeout Windows Are Showing Up at Trendy D.C. Restaurants; Bantam King and Momofuku CCDC are among the places catering to customers on the go…. ‘It’s not like it’s constant money,’ [Bantam King chef Katsuya Fukushima says, but]… ‘Even if it doesn’t kill it, it gives buzz to the restaurant and makes people still talk about Bantam King.’”
The Baltimore Ban – Per Lillian Reed in the Baltimore Sun last week, “A Maryland court ruled in favor of Baltimore’s ‘300-foot rule’ for food trucks, effectively reinstating a ban on mobile food vendors conducting business near brick-and-mortar restaurants… [City Solicitor Andre Davis] said the city does not plan to recommence enforcement of the ban until after the lawsuit has run its course. Food truck operators will have the chance to seek further consideration from the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. ‘It will certainly be a gentle enforcement,’ Davis said of the ordinance, adding that the city does not wish to chase away businesses.” A gentle enforcement.
The Profile Treatment – Chef Ashleigh Shanti was trying to road-trip her way to self when, “John Fleer, chef and owner of Asheville’s Rhubarb reached out at the urging of Derek Herre, chef de cuisine of Rhubarb who knew Shanti from his work at Vivian Howard’s Chef and the Farmer. Fleer… past executive chef of Blackberry Farm, wasn’t looking for a new project when investors approached him. But the notion of developing a restaurant for the Foundry Hotel, part of Hilton’s upscale historic brand, piqued his interest. The hotel was located in the Block, a prosperous hub for African Americans following the Civil War that had lost vitality in recent years... Fleer, who is white, saw that new real estate development would further ongoing gentrification in the area… ‘These African-American neighborhoods were centers of creativity, they are critical to the story of Asheville.’ [Freer said,] ‘If I can tell this story, I’m happy to do this restaurant.’” Now Shanti is CDC at Benne on Eagle, and her story is on Eater, from Osayi Endolyn.
For Design Fans – A Mr. Ken Fulk got the gig redesigning Saison in SF this summer (just in time to try to get it back to three stars). The Chronicle’s Justin Phillips says no date has been set for final service before a planned two-month pause, but reservations are open through July 31.
And last but not least – Was there a spontaneous second-line for Leah Chase last night? Of course there was. “Edgar Chase III watched the second-line stream past from his front porch, just down Orleans Avenue from the family restaurant. He said his mother would have appreciated the gathering. ‘She would’ve liked it. She would’ve been right here waving to everybody,’ Chase said. ‘I think she would’ve been honored.’” Video of the Big 6 Bass Brand doing their tribute thing included.
Do you know what it means…
And that’s it for today. Happy Pride! Eid Mubarak! And, FYI, Friday is Dragon Boat Festival day in Hong Kong, so if you don’t hear from me, I apologize, but… too. much. zongzi.
I’ll see you here soon for next Family Meal.
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