Izard CRA, Miami imports, Wolf warrior, Esquire bars, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, May 28th, 2021
Before we get started, two programming notes: First, as usual, Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy / pasted below for those who missed it. If you missed it, and wished you got Tuesdays’ newsletters on Tuesdays…
And second, Monday is Memorial Day, which means almost all of food media will be focused entirely on grilling or hard seltzer or whatever, so there will be no Family Meal this Tuesday. If you miss me here, find me on Twitter or Instagram or send me angry hot takes via email (email@example.com). I’ll miss you.
Let’s get to it…
That Consultancy $$$ – Restaurant people get consultancy deals with tech companies all the time (don’t give your industry insights away to VC-funded “startups” for free, folks!), but this c-suite press release reads special: “DoorDash Welcomes Stephanie Izard as Chief Restaurant Advisor.” Per Chief Revenue Officer Tom Picket, “Stephanie will work in an integrated advisory role, acting as a ‘Voice of the Industry’ within DoorDash and as an influential liaison between DoorDash and the restaurant industry.” Presumably Izard put a decent price tag on that extra pressure — Voice of the Industry! — and presumably DoorDash is aware of the risks of putting that kind of pressure on one person’s reputation. But maybe this is a win win win? A quick point / counterpoint:
Point: Having chefs inside the belly of the beast could be a key way to effect positive change!
Counterpoint: Rasta don’t work as no CRA.
The Media – Tammie Teclemariam — the food / wine writer best known for first posting the Adam Rapoport brownface photo that formed a crucial early piece of the snowball that swept away a good chunk of Bon Appetit and eventually smashed into media covering the snowball as well — announced on Twitter yesterday: “Beyond excited to say I'm going to be the food critic (or something) at Gawker! Shout out [Gawker EIC] Leah Finnegan who promised to teach me how to be mean in more than 240 characters and I look forward to having a lot of fun!!”
NB: The new Gawker will be launching sometime later this year, and the first thing that comes to mind for restaurants is that famous quote from… The Fly.
Cc Miami – Per Eater’s Olee Fowler, “Uber ritzy Bal Harbour Shops is stepping up its restaurant game with three new eateries coming its way in 2022 including Italian import Sant Ambroeus, New York favorite Felice, and Chicago mainstay Aba. All three eateries have followings of their own.” I’ve said it before, but feels like Miami right now is giving off a big Vegas vibe that tells outside restaurateurs: “Why rebrand? We’ll call it [Famous Restaurant From Elsewhere]-[Local City Name]. Checks please.” Is it fair to say a good amount of the energy and excitement around the city lately is being translated (money-wise) into just importing established concepts? Tell me I’m wrong, Miami readers!
The Profile Treatment – Baltimore’s Cindy Wolf got a full NYT write-up from Brett Anderson this week. It’s mostly focused on her having never left the heat, unlike almost all famous chefs these days: “She cooks in Charleston’s kitchen nearly every night, as she has since the restaurant opened 24 years ago. Her decades-long mission to refine her blend of French and Southern cuisine has earned her nine nominations for the James Beard award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, a record for a chef (tied with Peter Pastan) in a category they have not won. ‘Just give it to her already,’ Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post food critic, wrote in 2017, after she received her sixth nomination.” Not a ton new there if you know her work, but on a personal note: Charleston was my last real fine dining meal before the pandemic, and it made my cold heart say, “Oh, white tablecloth. Well, that can be very nice indeed…” (But also, my cold heart does not think it’s “selling out” to leave the kitchen if you want to, FYI.)
The Beef – Headline in the SF Chronicle: “Sustainable meat darling Belcampo admits to mislabeling meat at a Southern California location.” Big echoes of Willows Inn here, with a disgruntled employee posting an ingredient fraud exposé on Instagram that begins “I apologize to all the customers that I lied to the past two and a half years…” Belcampo says this was an isolated one-off and has been fixed, but… Damn. Five years ago, reporter Laura Reiley was sending fish samples to DNA labs, trudging out to farms, and stalking Sysco trucks for her big 2016 Farm to Fable feature in the Tampa Bay Times. Now staff are just… ‘graming it out.
The Walkout – In DC, “Del Mar, one of Washington’s buzziest restaurants, closed to the public over the weekend after a group of servers and bartenders walked out to protest a myriad of allegations including toxic management, incidents of racial bias and insensitivity, and complaints over the tipping structure. The glitzy Spanish restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Fabio Trabocchi (Fiola Mare, Fiola, Sfoglina) hung a sign on its door telling would-be patrons that the dining room was closed ‘due to staffing shortages.’ Since then, nine front-of-house employees have resigned.” The Washingtonian’s Anna Spiegel has the details.
For the Bar: The Lists – Esquire’s Best Bars in America, 2021 is out, and twenty-seven places deep! Congrats to: Watchman’s (Atlanta); Fadensonnen (Baltimore); Ministry of Brewing (Baltimore); Lazy Bird (Chicago); Comfort Station (Cincinnati); Tender Mercy (Dayton); Noble Riot (Denver); Thunderbolt (LA); Trouble Bar (Louisville); The Crooked Ram (Manchester, VT); White Limozeen (Nashville); The Elysian Bar (New Orleans); 67 Orange Street (NYC); Double Chicken Please (NYC); Decibel (NYC); Hunky Dory (NYC); Viridian (Oakland); Con Alma (Pittsburgh); Scotch Lodge (Portland, OR); J & Tony’s… (San Diego); Phone Booth (SF); Kona’s Street Market (SF); Roquette (Seattle); Vaquero Bar (Solvang, CA); Valley Bar + Bottle (Sonoma); Tiki TNT (DC); and Serenata (DC).
Oh, and: Design fans don’t skip that list! Some very cool spaces I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen yet, including Ministry of Brewing’s church pub, Comfort Station’s pisser exterior, J & Tony’s… Pee Wee aesthetic(?), and more.
And last and least: For Font Fans – Please help. I have been staring at the lowercase g in the new Sweetgreen logo for like ten minutes and can’t tell why I think it was the wrong choice. The aggressively curvy loop? The alignment of the ear with the r? Pandemic-produced pedantry? Last and least.
And that’s it for today. Except of course for Tuesday’s paid Family Meal, which is copy / pasted below as usual. If you want to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…
A reminder that there will be no Family Meal Tuesday on account of the holiday weekend, so I’ll see everyone here Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or a voice of the industry to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!
Here begins Family Meal from Tuesday, May 25th, 2021:
The Reckoning, Vaccine flair, NYC - BOS, TikTok Food, and more...
Let’s get to it…
The Results – Headline in Eater / Civil Eats: “There Is No ‘After’ the Reckoning for Restaurants. One year after Instagram flooded with callouts against racist, sexist, and toxic restaurant work cultures, what’s actually changed?” Writer Jaya Saxena runs through a handful of case studies (Fat Rice in Chicago, Submarine Hospitality in Portland, OR, and the Tatte bakery chain), critiquing what they have and haven’t done after varying accusations against management. Fat Rice closed, but should Abe Conlon also be in therapy, donate money, and feed protesters? Submarine has made all the right noises, but the editor of Portland Monthly took down a positive story about those noises a few weeks ago, concluding, “I do not believe in giving air to mere promises of change… Six months to a year from now, a story centered on the voices of employees and observers, instead of those of the company’s leadership, will be better able to evaluate how those changes had been implemented.”
In other words, a reminder: Whatever (public) hopes you had or promises you made during the pandemic are long-term fair game for food media follow up, and good intentions may not be good enough. Even when Saxena notes Tatte has done pretty well cleaning up their mess, an employee caveats praise of that success with: “They did everything they could do… Short of dismantling capitalism, I mean.” Which… seems a reasonable standard for this stage between Late Capitalism and Revolution known as “Improved HR”?
The Discourse – Meanwhile, at the same time Civil Eats was publishing her “Reckoning” piece, Saxena was also promoting an Eater interview on Twitter: “Remember last year during the protests in Minneapolis when a Bangladeshi restaurant burned down and the owner was like ‘let it burn, justice needs to be served’? His name is Ruhel Islam, and he rules, and I interviewed him.” I remember Ruhel Islam, but more as the man behind this fall headline about his restaurant: “GandhiMahal got famous for standing with protesters, but former workers say it’s toxic for women.” Eater was apparently unaware of that when they ran the interview, which is not to pick on anyone’s work, but more to say… always a lot of nuance out there, folks (short of dismantling capitalism, I mean).
Pinned – Sorry to cramp your style, Master Somms, but per Nick Kokonas on Twitter this weekend: “While not requiring vaccinations, The Alinea Group will provide vaccination lapel pins to any employees who voluntarily choose to show proof of vax. Those employees will not be required to wear masks per CDC guidelines, and guests can identify them via the pin.” Kokonas added that were it not for “ambiguous legal direction from local and federal governments,” he would make vaccines mandatory. (Not sure how TAG staff feel about all this, but asked for reaction, a Bye Bye Birdie cast member told me, “I heard they got pinned? I was hoping they would. Now they’re living at last!” So there’s that.)
PS – I assume that’s a picture of the pin design included in the tweet? Just my kind of niche, COVID-era collectible… Save one for me, Alinea readers!
The Tips – Headline in Eater SF: “Comal, Former No-Tipping Leader in the Bay Area, Brings Back Tips. In a striking reversal, the restaurant group is switching to tip pooling as it expands its fast casual offerings.” Context via Becky Duffett: “Comal was one of half a dozen restaurants that made headlines around 2014, for switching to a no-tipping model, around the same time as Bar Agricole and Trou Normand in San Francisco, as well as Camino and Duende in the East Bay. Bar Agricole and Trou Normand returned to tips after less than a year, and have since closed during the pandemic, Camino closed in 2018, and Duende is the only one remaining to reopen this spring. ‘We were one of the few places left standing,’ [owner JohnPaluska] says. ‘Whatever wave there was [in no-tipping restaurants], it dissipated quickly. We thought there would be strength in numbers, but it didn’t happen.’”
The Yankees – Per Janelle Nanos in the Boston Globe, “After a lengthy landlord-tenant dispute that ended with the closing of three high-profile restaurants in the Commonwealth Hotel, the real estate group UrbanMeritage announced it has new tenants for the venues formerly occupied by Kenmore Square stalwarts Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and the Hawthorne. New York-based Blue Ribbon Restaurant Group will bring in brasserie, seafood, and sushi concepts in the coming months.” Fun fact: Apparently Barbara Lynch helped seal the deal with effusive praise of Blue Ribbon founders Eric and Bruce Bromberg, which is rough because, “Lynch and [Garrett Harker] were once business partners; after a falling out, Harker went on to open Eastern Standard…”
NB: This means Blue Ribbon’s new Boston hotel restaurants will be about a mile away from Major Food Group’s new Boston hotel restaurant. Time for another round of local culinary handwringing (remember this 2018 Devra First piece)?
The Media – Some news from Ashlie D. Stevens on Twitter: “Professional update: I'm thrilled to say that today is my first day as Deputy Food Editor at Salon I'm ecstatic to be working in food media full-time and that I now get to work with other writers! Pitches, tips, dog pics and words of encouragement welcome at email@example.com.”
And last but not least – Highly recommend: “TikTok, the Fastest Way on Earth to Become a Food Star.” I think the piece makes it all sound a bit too easy for young creators (Flynn McGarry must be spitting out his dentures reading this stuff), but there is definitely some gold in them thar hills. Take it from the earnest 18-year-old who told the NYT’s Taylor Lorenz: “TikTok is the biggest thing that happened to me in my career, and honestly the reason why I am where I am today.”
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or ambiguous legal direction from local and federal governments to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!