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Meehan out, Edge stays, Critics stay home, Blackbird closed, Velez moves, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, July 3rd, 2020
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – On Tuesday, “less than four hours before the Paycheck Protection Program was scheduled to end with more than $130 billion in loan money unspent, the Senate approved extending the application period until Aug. 8.” The NYT’s Emily Cochrane reports all 100 senators agreed on the extension, which now goes to the House and then the President for approval.
The ReClosures – As expected in New York: “With the coronavirus spreading rapidly in other large states like California, Florida and Texas, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that New York City would not resume indoor dining at restaurants next week as anticipated.” Details via Jesse McKinley and Luis Ferré-Sadurní in the NYT. And sticking to the coasts… in LA, Farley Elliott had the scoop for Eater LA with this headline Wednesday: “Gov. Newsom to Order Immediate Closure of LA Restaurant Dining Rooms for Next Three Weeks” and then followed it up with details post-announcement: “The news means that restaurants and bars in nearby Orange County, Riverside County, Kern County, San Bernardino County, Ventura County, and Santa Barbara County must all close for dine-in service immediately, though restaurants may still offer outdoor dining as well as takeaway and delivery. Business with bar-only licenses must close completely, unless they have partnered with an approved and licensed food vendor to serve food along with drinks.”
For state by state details on what’s opening and closing, check out this nifty NYT interactive map, including COVID stats and graphs around the effects of stay-at-home orders. A stats and visuals interpretation of the nightmare.
What Guests are Reading – A ton of critics and food writers have come out with stories this past week or so, all saying more or less the same thing: I don’t think it’s safe to go to restaurants. Bon Appetit’s Joseph Hernandez collected several in a handy twitter thread, and I hope he won’t mind me cribbing that here to give you direct links to the takes from: Tejal Rao, NYT (“I’m Not Ready to Go Back to Restaurants. Is Anyone?”); Hanna Raskin, Post & Courier (“If you’re on the fence, your best bet is to hop off, head home and order takeout.”); Soleil Ho, SF Chronicle (“I’m still just cooking at home.”); Ryan Sutton, Eater NY (“Stick to takeout. I make that suggestion with a heavy heart… COVID-19 wrecked my body — I lost 10 pounds in a week.”); Bill Addison, LA Times (“I thought about our server at Mastro’s in his face shield, and the ethics of him potentially risking his life to serve me a steak… I stopped making more plans to eat in restaurants.”); and Andrew Ross, Portland, ME Press Herald (“As much as I trust Maine chefs and restaurant owners to be vigilant about their hygiene and safety practices, it’s customers who have me worried.”).
For the more pro-go note there was Tim Carman in the Washington Post (“[Restaurants] give us license to eat too much, drink too much and, somewhere along the way, reconnect with the better angels of our nature. We just need to make sure our better angels wear a mask, keep their distance and tip our servers well.”). But that was a week and a half ago, and the graphs they keep a changing…
The Media – Tweet from (now former) LA Times Food editor Peter Meehan on Wednesday: “I’m leaving the LA Times. Tweets Monday alleged a number of things I don’t think are true, but they also compelled my staff to speak out. In my tunnel-vision commitment to making the best thing we could, I lost sight of people and their feelings. That is a terrible failing on my part. I offer actual sincere non-PR apologies to all of them and to anybody who my approach to editing and management hurt.”
As for the staff speaking out, at least two people who have worked under Meehan have now posted allegations of their own on Twitter. Writer Rachel Khong, who worked with him at Lucky Peach, cited “lack of boundaries, casual racist and misogynist comments, psychological abuse” and more, while Ben Mims, cooking columnist under Meehan at LAT Food, called Meehan’s apology “an embarrassment,” and described “the culture of fear, intimidation, and retaliation that traumatized our whole team.” And on Facebook, Noelle Carter also pointed a finger at managing editor Kim Yoshino for not taking complaints about Meehan seriously.
Meanwhile, at the Southern Foodways Alliance… Not stepping down this week is John T. Edge, who responded to Kim Severson’s Monday NYT piece aggregating calls for his resignation with his own post on Twitter, saying he promises to “listen, absorb, reflect, and act,” and make “a future change in SFA leadership.”
FYI: Tunde Wey and Stephen Satterfield, two prominent voices calling for Edge’s resignation, will be joining a Black Book Zoom talk on “De-colonising the food industry: Food News, Media & Magazines.” July 5th, 8:30AM EST. See you there.
The Media Too – On a more positive note, the Washington Post has hired Daniela Galarza as a staff writer. A win for Joe Yonan, and I hear she is accepting pitches on soft-lens profiles of newsletter writers you know, so win win win?
The Move – In DC, a big get for Rose Previte as pastry chef Paola Velez announced last night that she was leaving Kwame Onwuache’s Kith/Kin to become exec pastry chef at Compass Rose and Maydan. Velez brings with her both growing name recognition and lots of organizing talent, having recently raised over $1.8M as part of the Bakers Against Racism group she co-founded while furloughed. (Close readers of her departure tweets can see if they notice anything missing, and please tell me why they think that might be…).
The Close – ICYMI (like I did), the big news from Phil Vettel in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday: “The coronavirus claimed its highest-profile Chicago restaurant victim to date, with word that Blackbird was closing for good after more than 22 years as one of the area’s finest restaurants.”
The Opportunities – Just posted the screenshot for this on twitter, but at some point during Tom Colicchio and Eric Rivera’s tête-à-tête on IG live earlier this week, John Tesar jumped into the comments to say re the current climate: “I have already been offered landlord funded second generation spots with landlord funding for cash flow.”
Anyone else getting similar offers? The spoils of plague, I suppose?
And last but not least: For Design Fans – With few restaurants opening lately, it’s been a while since we checked in on design! I know some restaurant critics are saying we shouldn’t mention anything negative during these difficult times, so I’ll just say: I love the curving patterned floor at The Flamingo in Vegas, in part because it’s somehow very busy, and still not busier than the walls… And speaking of walls, I like that the sliding concrete door that matches the bare cinderblock walls at Provender Hall in Dallas appears to have just enough room under it for me to slide beneath as I escape whatever danger is surely going to occur in that stripped brick room “out back” (no idea actual location, but “out back” fits)… And speaking of floors and bricks, shout out to whoever decided on those white stripes on the brick floors at Mírame in LA! Genuinely a fan of the way it both brightens things up, and lets its more natural floormates shine.
See, I can be positive!
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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