JBF Hall, JBF waffle, MPS suits, Columbia death, Sexy Fish, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, February 4th, 2022
A very short one for you today as I come up for air from a surprisingly busy Lunar New Year holiday here in Hong Kong, where dinner at restaurants is still banned, bars are still closed, Zoom school is on, travel is nigh-impossible, and all the conversations I’ve had lately go something like, “Happy New Year! Are you guys moving away too?”
Spins my head to read heartbreaking emails from industry people in the US who are living in relative freedom but digging deeper into debt just to “enjoy” it. Ugh.
Here’s hoping the grass is actually greener where you are. It may be a while yet.
Let’s get to it…
Tired: Bourdain Market. Wired: – “In an unexpected twist to NYC’s ever-expanding stable of food halls, restaurant industry nonprofit the James Beard Foundation is throwing its hat in the ring. The national foundation and restaurant awards machine has teamed up with Jamestown — the seasoned food hall operators behind Chelsea Market and Brooklyn’s Industry City — and Google to launch a new food hall with over a dozen vendors at Pier 57 in Chelsea, opening in fall 2022.” Scant available details via Erika Adams in Eater NY.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to reach out to JBF with questions before sending this newsletter. I have several! About the business setup (licensed name / paid consultancy?); conflicts of interest (awardees as employees again?); reputational risk (wages, tipping policies, sourcing, etc etc.?); and more. Will let you know what I hear back.
Awards Season – And speaking of the Beards… At their 2021 no-awards awards ceremony, Tanya Holland teased a possible change to future awards that might have moved us away from the “Best Chef” concept: “It is past time for the JBF awards to admit that the pinnacle culinary accomplishments are never the work of one person… Food is a collaborative medium, the James Beard Awards of the future will shine more light on everyone in the kitchen not just the person at the top.”
Now, Allecia Vermillon, vice chair for the Beards’ Restaurant and Chef Awards is out with an essay on the foundation’s site explaining that won’t happen this year: “One idea we discussed was changing our regional Best Chef awards—perhaps honoring regional restaurants rather than individual chefs. This could cast an award’s shine across all the people whose talent and effort create the runway for this recognition.” But after some objections from people in the discussions: “In the end, we decided to not rush any decision on our regional awards and will revisit the topic this summer, armed with the learnings of our first post-audit Award cycle.”
That essay about not changing just yet is incongruously titled “Change is never easy, but necessary” and begins (I kid you not): “Call it the waffle principle.”
The Suits – That group of restaurants that sued the city of Minneapolis to stop the vaccine mandates has lost round one in court. Per David Schuman and WCCO Minneapolis, “They argued that the mandate required them to hire and train new employees to check vaccine cards and tests at a time when they were already struggling to hire workers. There would also be lost profits from patrons who refused to comply with the mandate, they said. But the judge found the plaintiffs’ evidence of economic harm to be ‘speculative,’ and said in part that they are already required to check cards of patrons to confirm they are old enough to drink alcohol. ‘This is simply another card to be checked,’ the memorandum reads.”
For the Bar – “Columbia Room, one of the most ambitious and revered cocktail bars in DC and around the country, will permanently close on February 11. Taking over the Blagden Alley space is another legendary bar—New York’s Death & Co—which inspired founder Derek Brown before he opened his original drinking den 12 years ago.” Per the Washingtonian’s Jessica Sidman, as he moves away from strong drinks and bar management, “Brown is now studying positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and working as Director of Education for Spiritless, a company that produces a zero-proof bourbon called Kentucky 74. He also just released a book on no- and low-alcohol cocktails called Mindful Mixology and plans to continue educating people on that topic—in whatever form that ultimately takes. One thing he doesn’t have planned, however, is another bar.”
For Design Fans – I don’t know how it’s possible that I’ve never seen a picture of the interior of Sexy Fish in London before, but now I’ve also seen pictures of the new Sexy Fish in Miami (via Ken Hayden in Eater) and… as much as that photo of the dining room sends my Wes-Anderson-meets-The-Shining heart into a pitter patter of whimsically surreal horror warmth, the moment I saw those blue vs. pink bathrooms, the spell was broken, and I was dumped into a bad undersea version of the Rainforest Café. Even for people very-on-drugs, feels like a little subtlety could go a long way there.
Over-the-top designers, juxtaposition is your friend! Let that gorgeous, marble(?) octopus invade a less in-your-face space than that all-blue men’s piss-palace, and watch it truly take over the room!
But stick with the mermaid and pink theme in the ladies room. All ladies love pink and mermaids. Known fact.
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else on Friday for next Family Meal. If you want to get Tuesday’s on Tuesday…
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