Lobby Hobby, Asia's 50 French, Beards undecided, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, March 24, 2020
For a time when everything is shut down, there is… a lot going on. I’m still sorting through all the resources and links people have been sending (keep them coming!), but will figure out how to incorporate them ASAP. For now, there are a few quick top-level and lowbrow things we should get to. A wordy one today, but…
Let’s get to it…
First, The Plans – Still trying to wrap my head around what, exactly, various lobbying coalitions of indie restaurants (defined loosely) are asking the federal government for right now. Please, help:
Most prominent in my media consumption have been Tom Colicchio and the efforts of the “Independent Restaurant Coalition,” which is now proposing the following three points on saverestaurants.co and across social media:
1) 6-month income replacement program valued at $440 B, conditioned upon full and continued employment of all restaurant staff, payment of rents to landlords, and ongoing payables to suppliers.
2) An income-replacement grant program that allows us to pay our suppliers will empower these businesses in turn to pay their own, with a protective effect immediately felt up and throughout the supply chain.
3) No size limit eligibility attached to this income grant relief as many seemingly large restaurant groups are comprised of dozens of smaller operators, all facing the same catastrophic effects of closure due to COVID-19.
OK, got it. (I mean, number two sounds like it’s just the reasoning behind number one, and number three is more of a caveat, and not sure how tipped workers figure into all this, but… mostly makes sense.)
So that’s $440B direct to functioning independent restaurants and restaurant groups. Check.
BUT Colicchio’s Crafted Hospitality and others in NY State have also signed up to an “8 point plan” from a Change.org group called Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants (ROAR), which aims to (among other things): Double the state unemployment benefit immediately for all furloughed or laid off workers, provide rent abatement for the duration of the administrative closure, suspend state sales and payroll tax through end of year, and require business loss insurance to cover COVID-19 closures for hospitality businesses.
OK. Complicating things a bit for New Yorkers, but sure.
AND on top of that, Colicchio and others have been pushing out the link to a recent Food Policy Action blog post asking congress to amend one of the acts kicking around the Senate to include restaurant loan forgiveness, new low-interest loans, SBA streamlining, etc.
AND on top of that, José Andrés is calling for a program called America Eats Now (improbably unrelated to his DC restaurant, America Eats Tavern), which is a national works program wherein restaurants and restaurant workers would run federally funded feeding centers for Americans in need. This would ostensibly kill two birds (unemployment and hunger) with one stone. The stone would cost $54B or more (a number picked for comparison sake because it’s the dollar amount being contemplated for a potential airline bailout).
In a Twitter exchange with Andrés, he seemed to imply that this America Eats program would be separate and on top of the Independent Restaurant Coalition plan, though obviously there would be some confusing overlap.
Meanwhile the NRA is asking for $325B. And all these proposals are in line behind a hundred other non-restaurant lobbyist projects, some more legit than others (check out “Coronavirus Stimulus Package Spurs a Lobbying Gold Rush” in the NYT).
So… good luck, all! And if you have insider info on any of these and how they’re going, please get in touch!
A(wk)wards Season – If you’re up for a trip down an uncanny valley of normalcy, the 50 Best team announced their Asia list via green screen today. Just for old times’ sake, I pulled the headline descriptions from each of the top 10 restaurant’s individual pages on the 50 Best site. Turns out fully half of Asia’s top 10 lean French (and of the other five, one is German, and another is “modern barbecue” from an Australian chef). Félicitations, Asia! Félicitations, all! Full list here.
Top 10 here: 1. Odette, Singapore (“A stunning modern homage to French gastronomy using umami-rich Asian ingredients.”) 2. The Chairman, Hong Kong (“Vibrant Cantonese cuisine featuring HK’s best ingredients.”) 3. Den, Tokyo (“Innovative Japanese dining with a large helping of humour.”) 4. Belon, Hong Kong (“Dynamic Parisian neo-bistro inspired by Asian ingredients.”) 5. Burnt Ends, Singapore (“Luxury ingredients meet the kiss of smoke at this buzzy, wood-fueled eatery.” 6. Sühring, Bangkok (“Modern German food in a beautifully restored townhouse”) 7. Florilège, Tokyo (“Rising star chef stands out from the crowd with creative French cuisine”) 8. Le Du, Bangkok (“A tour round Thailand with a Gallic slant from Chef Ton.”) 9. Narisawa, Tokyo (“Innovative Satoyama cuisine from the world-renowned Japanese chef.”) 10. La Cime, Osaka (“Dynamic contemporary French with strong Japanese roots.”)
Beard Season – Out of pedantic curiosity, I asked James Beard Foundation chief strategy officer Mitchell Davis whether the Beard Awards short lists that were due to be announced tomorrow (but have been delayed indefinitely) have actually been finalized or not. Short answer: No. Long answer: “Getting to the next level, i.e. balloting from the nominees to the winner, has been put on hold and will require more work both on the committee and judging side once the process is picked back up. The field has to be fully vetted for our moral code of conduct and for the media awards, there is a certification process that the committee must go through. So there’s a lot to do when the time is right.”
In other words: Keep your noses clean, folks, and we could all still win some awards when this is over!
P.S. – Davis adds an unvetted plug for more pressing JBF efforts: “To be honest, right now our focus is on our multipronged approach to support the industry, by helping to ensure the stimulus package(s) include special provisions for independent restaurants, which operate so differently from other small businesses and need special provisions (see IRC website saverestaurants.co), and in raising money for our immediate emergency relief fund to help individual restaurants across the country get through this incredibly difficult time (jamesberd.org/relief).”
The Pictures – Photographer Gary He has been running around NYC documenting this strange time for Eater, with some fantastic (if depressing) results. Here’s his big photospread from the days surrounding the initial dining out ban in the city, a selection of pics from the final (forever) service at Gotham Bar and Grill, and his work documenting one very bad night for social distancing at Major Food Group’s Carbone, when “according to a representative for [delivery app Caviar] the restaurant got so many orders that the algorithm for timing out the alert to pick up the food went haywire.” NB: Caviar likes its clients popular, but not too popular.
And last and least: The Discourse – Would never recommend going into a comments section looking for hope, but the debates happening beneath that Carbone photo piece make for a particularly bleak collection of American thought right now. Scroll down for conversations about racism, class, science, public policy, and social responsibility, peppered with spectacular use of adverbs in name-calling (“Not only are you a viciously basic asshole…”), typos-make-it-harsher mic-drops (“Take your own advice. Shit the fuck up.”), and Hallmark channel friendly rejoinders from alleged adults (“I’ll jump off the cliff right after you. You go first donkey”). Ringo Star voice: You may say I’m a donkey, but I’m not the only one…
And that’s it for today. Trying to keep this thing relatively normal and light in the face of things. Hope that works! Reading the rest of the food news feels like skimming a worn copy of Chicken Soup for the Restaurant Soul while Chopin’s funeral dirge loops in the background. But maybe that’s just me.
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
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