Horses, Beards, Bears, and more…
Family Meal - Friday, May 19, 2023
And hello from somewhere in the skies just east of Bangkok. Please excuse typos. I am in a middle seat on an airline that wouldn’t let me bring my airport coffee onboard because of their theater-style “no outside food and drink” policy. Fun!
This one feels almost like a (sad) blast from the past…
Let’s get to it…
The Horses – A rough one from Noah Goldberg and Stephanie Breijo in the LA Times (after lots of teasing on Twitter): “A chef of popular Los Angeles restaurant Horses accused her husband and business partner of killing the family’s cats in a divorce filing in which she also asked for a domestic violence restraining order. Elizabeth Johnson filed the request in November to keep Will Aghajanian away from her out of fear that he might hurt her or someone else. She alleged he assaulted her on numerous occasions.”
The full allegations in the filings, which The Hollywood Reporter published here, are as bad as you’d imagine, with Aghajanian also making some big counter claims, and… the whole thing sounds awful, including for staff.
P.S. – Some follow-on consequences per Eater’s Melissa McCart in NYC: Chumley’s, “has been on track to become a new venture called Froggy’s, with chefs Liz Johnson and Will Aghajanian at the helm… Following their now public divorce filings… ownership in the project, as well as the name, is in transition.”
P.P.S. – Feel kinda bad sharing this, but because we’re all adults here and understand the difference between well-reported facts and unverified rumor… Here are some of the (expectedly awful) unverified rumors.
P.P.P.S. - There appears to be a bit of media jousting around who had this story first, but Aghajanian — chef at what was arguably the hottest restaurant in LA; the one involving Ken Friedman! — apparently “stepped away” from the kitchen back in November, so… I think the answer is: No one had their finger on the pulse here.
The Volunteers – Headline in Bloomberg: “Sexual Harassment Claims Spurred Shakeup Atop José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen.” Reporter Sophie Alexander details allegations against chef and Director of Emergency Response Tim Kilcoyne, and cites members of the board on the record saying former CEO Nate Mook was ousted last July as a result of a “review into the internal processes and procedures in place” that seemed to fault his inaction or worse, and not, as Mook still insists, because: “the WCK board and I had differences over the CEO role.”
The Beards – “Alabama chef Timothy Hontzas has been disqualified from this year’s James Beard Awards after allegedly violating the organization’s code of ethics, a ruling that has prompted one judge to resign from the national awards committee and two of the chef’s friends to accuse the Beard foundation of hypocrisy and scapegoating. One longtime friend [John Currence, chef and founder of City Grocery in Oxford, Miss.] a mentor to Hontzas, even destroyed his own Beard Award in response.” Details via Tim Carman in the Washington Post.
Southern judges Todd Price and Vishwesh Bhatt both resigned from their Beard committees in protest (Price is the one Carman mentions as resigning from the national committee).
Seems supporters of Hontzas are frustrated by both the standard to which he was held (mostly yelling?) and the process by which he was disqualified (one interview and not much chance at rebuttal?).
All still a little they-said-they-said, which is kind of the problem. Something like this was bound to happen when the Beards started putting in ethics clauses and trying to sort morally good from morally not-good-enough on their own. No good deed…
And my understanding is it isn’t the last one that will become public this year. We shall see.
The Charges – Be prepared to defend those fees… In LA, the LAT’s Cindy Carcamo reports: “The city attorney is examining whether Ten Five Hospitality — the group that operated [five restaurants in question: Mother Wolf, Ka’teen, Mes Amis, Bar Lis and the Terrace] at the time of the allegations — violated an ordinance for allegedly keeping the entirety of the 5% service fee they charged to customers instead of distributing it to workers.”
NB PR: “It is unclear whether the star chefs most associated with the restaurants named in the city’s letter — including Evan Funke at Mother Wolf, Wes Avila at Ka’teen and Lincoln Carson, formerly of Mes Amis — were aware of the workers’ concerns or attempted to resolve their questions. Funke and Avila, two of the best-known and admired chefs in L.A., did not respond to multiple requests for comment.”
The Media – Keep your eyes out for all the writers announcing their work is getting included in this year’s Best American Food Writing anthology. They are ready to be congratupitched! And heads up: Eater’s Jaya Saxena announced on Twitter that she’ll be taking over editing the series in 2024. Previous editor Silvia Killingsworth tweets, “Send her your pitches for next year's edition at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Some Sad News – “Michael Rubel, a towering figure in Chicago’s bar industry who mentored local bartenders and helped redefine how the rest of the country sees the city’s cocktail scene, has died. Rubel played a significant role in launching groundbreaking Chicago bars including the Violet Hour, Billy Sunday, Big Star, and Estereo.” He was 54. Naomi Waxman has an obituary in Eater.
And last but not least: For TV Fans – The full trailer for The Bear season 2 is out, and… I am glad it doesn’t get my hopes very high. My hopes are now low. Good. I’m sure the show will be OK! I’m rooting for the writers!
And that’s it for today! I’m off into the heat of Bangkok. If you know a good place with cold drinks, lmk…
I’ll see you all back here on Friday for next Family Meal.
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