Media Beards, DoorDash COVID comedown, Dallas dreams of Austin, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, April 29, 2022
And hello from day four of mandatory Hong Kong quarantine in the beautiful Cordis hotel in Mong Kok, where I am the reigning Connect Four champion of room 3018, and my seven-year-old son is learning hard life lessons about not being very good at Connect Four.
Has anyone written about the creeping (and creepy) invasion of hotel bathroom space into hotel bedroom space? Because I thank my stars every day that the designers of this Cordis embraced that trend only half-heartedly, and deigned to include blinds in the window between toilet and bed. A quarantine miracle.
Let’s get to it…
Beard Season – Nominations for the 2022 James Beard Media Awards came out Wednesday morning. The full list of publishers, editors, producers, podcasters, and writers you can butter up is available on the official site, and Eater has all this year’s Restaurant, Chef, and Media nominees on one helpful page here. Way too many media types to highlight in a newsletter, but congrats, all!
Some quick takeaways on the industry side:
For bar folk, the Beverage with Recipes books nominees are: Death & Co Welcome Home: A Cocktail Recipe Book by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan with Devon Tarby and Tyson Buhler (Penguin Random House); The Japanese Art of the Cocktail by Masahiro Urushido and Michael Anstendig (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes by Julia Momosé with Emma Janzen (Penguin Random House).
And for restaurant folk, the Restaurant and Professional list this year goes: Mister Jiu's in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food by Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho (Ten Speed Press); Modernist Pizza by Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya (The Cooking Lab); and Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy's Greatest Food by Missy Robbins and Talia Baiocchi (Ten Speed Press).
A bunch of other chefs and industry types were nominated elsewhere too, including Marcus Samuelsson for his book The Rise (with writer Osayi Endolyn); Gregory Gourdet for Everyone’s Table (with JJ Goode); Kwame Onwuachi for a Food & Wine “three-part video series” that somehow counts as a column (with Joshua David Stein); and David Chang for his microwave cookbook (with Priya Krishna).
That last one is especially interesting because also nominated this year is the December 2020 Eater essay by Hannah Selinger headlined “Life Was Not a Peach” wherein, after reading Chang’s memoir, former Momofuku employee Selinger decides: “While Chang believes that he has learned from his errors, he appears to have missed the full lesson: He was abusive — at the time, unapologetically so — to his staff.”
If the Beards are now vetting nominees the way they say they are, it seems they have come down on the side of: Chang has — by this time, apologetically so — changed.
Full disclosure: I put Family Meal up for a “Columns and Newsletters” Beard and it did not make the list. In fact, no newsletters made the list, which begs the question: How does that committee sleep at night?
That (Dropping) Delivery $$$ – Yesterday, while turning over what Kristen Hawley’s Expedite newsletter was saying about a post-ghost kitchen world — “Delivery isn’t just a utility for existing restaurants, it’s a platform on which others are building platforms and still others are injecting themselves in order to pull a percentage of the profit.” — I clicked the link to a Rob Wile NBC story that rang my opening bell (sorry). Headline: “Food-delivery apps lose steam as people return to in-person dining.” Results in the market: “After hitting a high of $246 in November, DoorDash shares have plunged 62 percent to $89 a share. Over the same period, Uber shares have fallen 29 percent, from $45 to about $31.” Ouch.
Want to see a graph of a pandemic profiteer?
That Food Truck $$$ – In Texas, D Magazine’s Brian Reinhart tweets, “The biggest Dallas food news of the year is here: Dallas has finally freed the market on food trucks, trailers, & carts.” Reinhart’s explainer thread links to a fully reported piece on the changes where his colleague, Matt Goodman says, “Dallas was in the Dark Ages when it came to regulating what it has termed ‘mobile food units.’” Food carts had to pay more in fees than trailers or trucks, and trailers had to get a new permit for every event. “Food entrepreneurs couldn’t convert a trailer or a vehicle; they had to buy one that was commercially manufactured to serve food. The city blocked trailers from operating anywhere other than a permitted temporary event. It even regulated what type of food could be cooked and how. Fish and chicken had to be breaded and go directly from the freezer to the deep fryer… None of it made sense.”
Both Reinhart and Goodman clearly have their eyes on an Austin model, where Goodman notes, “Distant Relatives was nominated for a James Beard award—and it operated out of a trailer next to a brewery. Dallas’ previous code basically prevented that sort of innovation and achievement from happening here.” And Reinhart says, “Maybe we'll finally begin to grow an Austin- or Portland-like street food scene... Here we go. A revolution is about to take place… This law has effectively legalized street food. Truly historic.”
Good luck, all!
Some Sad News – Headline in the SF Chronicle: “Adam Richey, longtime bartender at Original Joe’s and North Beach fixture, dies at 51.” Full obit from Sam Whiting, including this great sendoff: “‘Nobody that young should die, and nobody who lived that well should die that young,’ said former Mayor Willie Brown. ‘You’ve got to assume that the Lord was looking for a maitre d’.’”
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Wednesday’s (should have been Tuesday’s) paid edition, which is copy/pasted below as usual.
Thanks again for bearing with me during this (somewhat) tough time. If all goes well, we’ll be back home Tuesday morning, and Family Meal should be back to its reliable old self again. If all goes well.
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else on Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or an Austin- or Portland-like street food scene to email@example.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!
Here begins the Family Meal that went out to paying subscribers on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. It usually goes out to paid subscribers on Tuesdays, and if you’d like to get it then too…
Beard time, Food Hundreds, 50-50 Candy, Michelin trickle, and more..
And hello to paying subscribers only. Welcome to a rare Wednesday morning edition of Family Meal. Very sorry it’s a day late!
After about six hours of travel and five hours of COVID-related testing / document processing in the Hong Kong airport yesterday, my seven year old son and I finally made it to our quarantine hotel around 9:30PM last night.
My goal was to finish up this newsletter and send it your way once I got some dinner in the kid and put him to sleep, but the unprofessional truth is… I fell asleep too. Warm Cup Noodle, excessively chilled hotel room, thick comforter, snoozing child cuddling me; lay blame where you will (on the kid).
Let’s get to it…
But first: Beard Season – Quick reminder to be gentle with your food media friends and useful contacts today, as the James Beard Foundation will announce “all category nominees for Book, Broadcast Media, and Journalism” this morning at 9:30AM EST via live tweeting from NYC.
Awards are stupid, and I definitely didn’t put Family Meal forward for this round, unless it is nominated, in which case, awards are a nuanced good, and there is no shame in putting yourself forward for them. Good luck, all!
The Fashion – In the LAT, Stephanie Breijo has a good, long rundown of all the ways fashion and food are collaborating with (and profiting off of) each other in LA. Sample list: “Designer and sneaker head Jon Buscemi partnered with longtime friend and fashion marketing expert Paulie James to launch sandwich shop, Uncle Paulie’s (now with  locations), where the snapbacks, tees and sweatshirts draw long lines and inspire Pete Davidson and other celebrity customers. DTLA chef Josef Centeno of Orsa & Winston and Bar Amá hand-dyes fabrics using rhubarb, gardenia fruit and other natural ingredients for his small-batch clothing line, Prospect Pine... One year, Evan Funke’s Venice trattoria Felix linked with the Hundreds to produce a five-panel cap that centered the restaurant’s signature ‘F’ in the brand’s iconic bomb logo. Another year, Blondie Beach designed a tee for Dulan’s sporting an image of the restaurant’s soul-food plate, labeled with the precision of an anatomy textbook.”
Reading it, I flailed between “Kinda cool!” and “Remember when people cared about ‘selling out’?” and nothing captured both of those quite like seeing so much about The Hundreds’s Family Style food / fashion festival, which the article did not mention is sponsored by DoorDash (and Crocs).
The Credit – Headline in Eater: “This Restaurant’s Menu Shows It’s Not Just One Chef in Charge. Dirt Candy is synonymous with chef and owner Amanda Cohen. Now, other chefs behind the scenes will get some of the spotlight.” The piece gave me the impression Cohen was going to tell Bettina Makalinatal that she’s finally letting the public know which team members have been helping create Dirt Candy dishes all along, but when I got to the interview part, what I actually read was: Fourteen Years After Opening, Chef Finally Allows Sous to Contribute Dishes to Menu (Within Specific Guidelines).
Makalinatal: “What was your menu development process like before [you started giving credit to others on the menu], and how was it different this time?”
Cohen: “In general, I would do most of it on my own: come up with the ideas and the vegetables that I wanted to use and test a lot of it by myself. Sometimes people would come up with things to add on to it or we’d go back and forth, but the initial idea and the initial testing started with me. This time, I knew what vegetables we were going to use for spring, and I had a general idea of what I wanted the dishes to be. I told each of my sous chefs [to choose] a vegetable/dish, gave them a general outline, and they ran with it. There was a lot of back-and-forth because it’s still Dirt Candy-style so it all has to be of a piece, but they did most of the testing and they came up with a lot of the ideas. Whereas before I would say 95 percent of each dish was me, this time I would say [it was] more like 50-50.”
But, like, 51-49 if lawyers are asking.
Michelin Season – Not sure what to make of this new Michelin system of dribbling out information throughout the year. For Washington, DC’s 2022 book, they teased a few new inclusions back in December, and then another batch a few weeks ago. Then on Monday, they put out the news that four of those previously released new inclusions will be Bib Gourmands, dashing dreams of stars for restaurants that had already been told they’d made the book on some level. (All links go to Eater DC explainers about each tease.)
Eater quoted international guides director Gwendal Poullenac as saying, “By revealing some of the new additions made by our inspectors throughout the year, we enhance our digital tools to further strengthen the ties that bind us to food lovers.” But I feel like all this haphazard teasing just highlights the guide’s weaknesses in a digital age? Holding back a restaurant’s final ranking for a book that won’t come out for several months is obviously an odd game to play these days, but if they release ratings piecemeal throughout the year, would it all be just a bit too regular-old-newspaper-stars? I’d bet we’d find out the answer to that sooner if tourism boards weren’t paying for print…
(Side note: Congrats to Instanbul’s tourism board!)
And last and least – News that Just Eat Takeaway is exploring a sale of Grubhub has been popping up again over the last week or so, but I haven’t included it here because key investors have been calling for this since at least last fall. That said, you can read a good rundown on the potential sale from Ryan Browne on CNBC, and with Elon Musk buying Twitter this week, I would like to put this out there too:
Danny Meyer stop launching fast casual brands and buy Grubhub, you coward.
And that’s it for today! I’m behind on responding to some of you, but still… I’m stuck in a hotel room, so send me new emails! News! Gossip! General feelings about the industry or whatever that you’ve been wanting to get off your chest but don’t know where to send!
I’m very good at keeping secrets. Just ask Mario Carbone.
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 fabrics using rhubarb, gardenia fruit and other natural ingredients to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!