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Joe Beef's Booch, Simone's Blind Spot, World Restaurant Awards, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, February 22nd, 2019
Let’s let Sean Brock ease us on in to the day with this tweet: “STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING and READ THIS. Each morning we are given an opportunity to start fresh, build resilience, make amends and try to make the best decisions we can with what we are working with.”
Too much, too early?
He’s talking about this Bon Appétit piece by Joe Beef’s David McMillan*, which describes a rock bottom defined by the excesses of “the show”, and most interesting, what happened to his restaurant when he quit drinking: “As I started taking care of myself, the staff started mimicking me. All of these young cooks who came to cook at Joe Beef, who look up to me and Fred [Morin], saw, well, David’s not drinking anymore, and he’s going to bed early, and he’s talking about what’s cool on Netflix. Then my staff was going to bed early and watching Netflix. My comptroller said staff drinking is down like crazy. We have the numbers. We used to give out 30 or 40 glasses of wine at the end of the shift, and it’s down to 10, and half the staff is drinking kombucha.”
*EDIT: An Update to this appears in the May 21, 2019 Family Meal. McMillan was not entirely truthful in the above piece, as evidenced by this follow-up by Hannah Goldfield in the New Yorker.
50 Best’s Fils – The first-ever World Restaurant Awards were held Monday night in Paris, with Wolfgat of Paternoster, South Africa taking home Restaurant of the Year. Full list of winners and a critic’s description of the night itself from Sono Motoyama on Eater: “The organizers initially ballyhooed the event as being ‘the world’s first televised restaurant awards ceremony,’ where the restaurant industry would be joined by ‘stars of stage and screen,’ though neither really materialized.... French entertainer Antoine de Caunes, tasked with emcee-ing the event, moved it along at a brisk clip with a sort of Gallic Borscht Belt humor that at times didn’t translate (he proposed a ‘toast’ by pulling out a piece of toast; he made a joke about his wife).”
The Critics – On Wednesday, Korsha Wilson, NYC food writer and host of the A Hungry Society podcast, used an unsettling trip to Major Food Group’s The Grill as a jumping off point to explore what restaurant criticism might look like if it included the perspectives of more people of color, and specifically black people. Well worth a read: “The implied comfort critics found at the Grill, juxtaposed with their discomfort — or disregard — of [J. J. Johnson’s Henry] highlights the existing critical establishment’s overwhelming whiteness, and how its gaze favors restaurants that speak to that experience.”
The Critics Too – Anyone who says anonymity is dated and dumb should fire up this tough Bill Addison take on Jessica Largey’s Simone in LA. The brand new LA Times critic was made to wait standing in a hallway-which-happened-to-include-a-bar for 45 minutes despite a reservation... “The restaurant designates no space for people forced to linger inside. Every bar seat was filled; there was no place we could stand where we didn’t feel trapped in the center of foot traffic. The staff handled our displacement awkwardly, not sure at first whether to even take a drink order, or to give us glasses of water once they did, or how to put a check and pen in my hand with no place to put my glass while I signed the bill (with no offer to transfer the tab to the dinner check). If I hadn’t been on the job, I’d have scrawled my signature and left to eat elsewhere.” His night doesn’t get much better for staying.
The Critics Three – In the Bay Area, they don’t have any major critics at all, and former Eater SF critic Rachel Levin says it’s… weird: “‘It feels really awkward,’ says Anthony Strong, chef-owner of Prairie, which opened in the Mission in mid-October. ‘Daniel Patterson was in for dinner and he was like, “Dude, you’re so lucky — you don’t even have to worry about being reviewed!” I said, “Am I?” I think I’d rather be getting raked over the coals for some exposure.’”
Brace yourselves, Soleil is coming.
The Allegations – Late to this, but last week, after what appeared to be sexual harassment allegations from several women who previously worked with Chicago chef Ian Davis began circulating through a series of anonymous, now-deleted Instagram accounts, the chef lost his job running the Entente kitchen (as co-exec with Brian Fisher). Davis denied the allegations and went to court this week to try to get a protective order, accusing “two women he said he was ‘sleeping with’ of ‘willful deprivation,’ ‘harassment,’ ‘interference with personal liberty,’ ‘intimidation’ and ‘stalking.’” The Tribune’s Christy Gutowski has the full story here.
That Hotel $$$ – After leaving Mission Chinese in late 2017 and moving on to take a job as The Standard’s creative director of food and culture early last year, “Angela Dimayuga Is Opening a Gay Bar in the East Village”. Details from Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya in Eater NY.
Some sad news – Death comes to us all, but… sit down: “The shocking cancellation of the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne summer charity gala — revealed by sources and first reported on nypost.com on Wednesday — stunned and saddened leading food world professionals,” according to Steve Cuozzo. Quote from one shell-shocked past attendee: “Everything has a natural life cycle and it’s good to leave the party when it’s at its height.” Brutal.
And last but not least: An Origin Story – The first twenty minutes of last week’s This American Life podcast are about the beginnings of the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome myth that scared some people off MSG for decades. There are twists and turns, and… pauses in-between. I… recommend… it.
And that’s it for today. Please give my regrets to South Beach this weekend if you’re there. (I gave Jonathan Cheban my ticket. He begged and begged for a free one. It got sad.)
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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P.S. PSA – Sorry to leave you on a sad note, but here’s a food safety PSA from the Telegraph this week: “A Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain has closed while authorities investigate the death of a woman who ate a dish of mushrooms that can be poisonous if not carefully cooked. María Jesús Fernández Calvo, 46, ordered a rice and morchella [‘true morel’] fungi dish at RiFF restaurant in Valencia on Saturday… She died on Sunday morning.”