Grubhub cap?, Cliff House contract, Pinkney help, Arrington moves, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, August 16th, 2019

Hello Friday,

Quick plug before we get started: A few months ago, Nyesha Arrington came to Hong Kong to do a pop-up dinner, so we got dim sum together and I asked her a ton of questions, and now some of her answers are in Eater.

The thing I did not know and still can’t get over is the first time Top Chef called Arrington, she turned them down: “I was at a kitchen called Cache, which was my first chef de cuisine position ever, and I had just come out of the Robuchon kitchen [in Vegas], so I was not right in the head. The hostess came up to the kitchen and said, ‘Chef, someone’s on the phone for you.’ I pick it up and she asks me, ‘Are you interested in the show?’ This was 2009. Food media was a different space. I basically told her on the phone, ‘Don’t ever call this fucking restaurant again. It’s Friday night, and we’re about to go into dinner service’ — verbatim, and I hung up.”

Three years later, they called her back.

Let’s get to it…

The Delivery Wars – It’s official: “The New York State Liquor Authority says it wants to prevent third-party food companies from charging more than 10% commission for delivering food or for helping to generate orders — unless they become partners on the state liquor license. If the proposal goes into effect, it could seriously cut into the profits at Grubhub because it is NY state’s largest food ordering company. It could also affect Seamless, which Grubhub owns, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates and other food ordering and delivery services that can charge as much as 30% per order.” The NY Post’s Kevin Dugan reports, “Grubhub shares closed Wednesday down 7%, to $60.90, a 52-week low.” (Helpful conversion for NY Post readers: 52 weeks is equal to one year.) They’re down even lower today…

The Opportunity? – In San Francisco, “For the first time in decades, someone new could assume control of the Cliff House’s restaurants, including the formal Sutro’s, the more casual Bistro and the cafe at the nearby Lands End Lookout visitor center. The National Park Service, which oversees the Cliff House inside the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is now accepting applications for the next operator. The transition would occur by fall 2020. In 2018, the Cliff House’s total food and beverage sales totaled $14.3 million, according to the National Park Service. It’s also entirely possible that Dan and Mary Hountalas, who have operated the Cliff House’s restaurants since 1973, will be awarded another contract. Mary told The Chronicle they plan to reapply.” Details, deadlines, and links are in the Chronicle, courtesy of Janelle Bitker.

The Reruns – These stories seem to come out every few months now, but if you need a refresher on the state of the industry, here’s the NYT this week on “The Rise of the Virtual Restaurant” (ghost kitchens / cloud kitchens / delivery only) and the LAT on “Why it’s harder than ever to run a restaurant in Los Angeles” (rent / labor / food costs). Some rent numbers from Jenn Harris in the latter for reference: “In Santa Monica, commercial real estate is leasing for $7.50 per square foot, up from $4.50 in 2010, according to real estate firm CBRE. In Koreatown, during that same period, prices doubled to $6 per square foot; in downtown Los Angeles, they rose to $2.95 from $2.19 per square foot.”

Some sad news – In an LA Times obituary posted Tuesday, C. Pete Lee reports, “Nobi Kusuhara, an edomae sushi master who founded Sushi Sasabune in West Los Angeles, died Aug. 4 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.”

The Fundraiser – “One of Chicago’s most beloved restaurateurs, Ina Pinkney, needs help with her medical bills and more than 20 local chefs have rallied together for a fundraiser in September… In December, Pinkney broke her thigh after a fall and injured the same leg already affected by polio, a disease doctors diagnosed her with as a child…. Pinkney spent the last nine months rehabilitating her leg and is bound to a wheelchair. While healing, bills (including mortgage and medical costs) have built up.” Details from Ashok Selvam in Eater. Pinkney’s GoFundMe here.

The Media – FYI: Former SF Chronicle bar and drinks writer Maggie Hoffman has found her way to Epicurious in NYC, where she’ll be a senior editor starting September 16th. Good get!

That Hotel $$$ – Per Caleb Pershan in Eater SF, “After two years working with celebrated chef Mourad Lahlou to open a new restaurant in the former Aziza space, Louis Maldonado is departing for a new post: executive chef at Gibson [inside the Hotel Bijou]. Their long-planned — and long-delayed — restaurant, called Amara, will proceed without him.”

For Design Fans – In Wallpaper, Helen Cathcart has a few photos of London’s Moncks of Dover Street, which is all kinds of classic and I almost didn’t include because… what was there to talk about? But then I saw that two-tone upholstery on the wrap-around booth and chairs in the front section. It’s kind of jarring the more I look at it, but also… great? Tell me I’m wrong?

And last and least – After Tejal Rao retweeted an animated video of a person made of salmon(?) doing pushups on four sushi rolls, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole on 3D artist Marc Tudisco’s instagram. To ease yourself in, start with this slideshow of various dancing food-baby videos. Tag yourself. My favorite are the cookie kids, who look like the axe gang from Kung Fu Hustle dancing to the Mission Impossible soundtrack, but, you know, as miniature babies made of cookie.

And that’s it for today.

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

P.S. The place Nyesha Arrington had her pop up here is the same place Kwame cooked when he came to town last year. It's run by a guy named Vincent Mui who uses it as a space to showcase international chefs to Hong Kong audiences and tourists. He offers airfare and room/board for chefs to come spend a week in HK and do a four or five night dinner series. Obviously, there needs to be at least a little name recognition to make it work, but he's definitely worth talking to if you're interested: NB: I have absolutely no financial relationship with Vincent or Test Kitchen. I just want more people to come cook in Hong Kong!

Let me know when you book your flights.

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