Meehan's boundaries, Beard's rule 14, Outdoor's risks, Eater's fonts, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, August 25th, 2020
A quick reminder that if you are not yet a paying subscriber, this will be your last Tuesday Family Meal unless you:
You’ll still get Friday’s FM no matter what (with Tuesday content copy/pasted in), but if you like Family Meal and can make it happen, I hear twice a week delivery is a nice little treat…
And thanks so very much to everyone who has chipped in already!
Let’s get to it…
The Media – On Friday, Eater published Meghan McCarron’s long, deep dive into the case of former LA Times Food editor Peter Meehan. You can read it a few different ways. First and foremost, it’s a listing – and fleshing out – of the allegations against Meehan that had until now been more or less loosely catalogued on social media. Second, it’s a mini-history of a handful of glossy corners of food media, tracing a series of intersecting lines (and crisscrossing careers) from the NYT, through to Lucky Peach, LAT Food, and Majordomo Media, with side notes on Adam Rapoport, Bon Appetit, and Eater itself. And third, it’s a commentary on the idea that there is a “necessary price” to be paid for the privilege “of working with a hard-driving auteur” with a “transgressive vision.” (And I guess a fourth read might focus on the dangers of mixing booze and bosses, and the general usefulness of professional boundaries — the piece is called “The Boundary Pusher”…)
But on that third point, LAT restaurant critic Patricia Escárcega posted an alternative theory on Twitter this weekend: “Peter Meehan is/was a well-connected rich white guy who was on TV once, not a troubled genius or visionary. Being a well-connected rich white guy remains a potent superpower.”
Awards Season –Eater’s Elazar Sontag found out why at least two names were removed from the list of James Beard Award finalists recently: Jessica Koslow withdrew her own name in late July, and “Paul Bartolotta of Milwaukee-based Bartolotta Restaurants… who was a finalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category, told Eater in an email that he withdrew his name from consideration because of ‘anonymous accusations directed toward myself and the Bartolotta Restaurants organization that have been sent to the James Beard Foundation.’ Bartolotta claims to have received no detailed information about the accusations, and that ‘no complaints have been filed either internally or with any outside agencies.’”
In other words, that’s Rule 14 — “Allegations of criminal or unethical behavior, or behavior determined to be detrimental or contrary to the integrity and fair perception of the Awards, are causes to be disqualified from consideration and removed from the nominating ballot or final ballot” — in action.
Awards Season Too – Michelin announced its Taiwan stars yesterday, and I mention it in these difficult times because I can’t find the words “pandemic” “COVID” or “coronavirus” anywhere in the official release, so… congrats, all! But most of all… Congrats, Taiwan!
The Outdoors – Headline in the NY Post: “NYC restaurant owners fear cars crashing into outdoor diners” Details from Melkorka Licea: “After [NYC] restaurants were allowed to offer outdoor seating in June, owners scrambled to throw up dining rooms on the streets and sidewalks.But a dangerous side effect has emerged. There have reportedly been at least four incidents of drivers smashing into outdoor seating areas throughout the city — causing injury to eight people.” Story includes a scary video of one crash in Brooklyn, followed very quickly on auto-play by: “Chubby dog’s epic food fail is a ‘treat’ to watch,” which did lower my stress levels, but overall: Meh. The dog ate the food.
The Profile Treatment – In the Chicago Tribune, Grace Wong has a profile of Malcolm Hilliard that goes in depth into his struggles as a black chef trying to make it in fine dining, including a number of specific allegations about his time at The Alinea Group and Sixteen at Trump Tower. It’s a tough read — at Sixteen he says “he found his locker broken into and his chef coat covered in urine” — but Hilliard’s message is a version of “it gets better” directed toward other black chefs. (Kind of: You shouldn’t have to go through this stuff, but if you keep going you might find somewhere that works...) “His current role as sous chef at LondonHouse Chicago is the best he’s had yet, and he said executive chef Elizabeth Sweeney’s leadership has been both generous and inspiring.”
NB: Per the story, Hilliard got in touch with TAG two months ago to share his complaints, and to their credit, “Following the conversation, The Alinea Group said it interviewed all employees who were in management positions at the time, and had several senior business leaders speak with Hilliard by phone, including the equity partner on the Diversity and Inclusion Board…. Hilliard said he had positive discussions with Stephen Bernacki, COO and CFO, and that Bernacki committed to working toward changes in kitchen culture.”
Not sure what, if any, changes will come of those conversations, but wild to think we can probably draw a direct line between the murder of a black man in Minneapolis and the COO of Alinea picking up the phone to discuss an old HR complaint (and take diversity suggestions) from a low-level former employee who’d been with TAG all of two months before quitting voluntarily.
Some sad news – In New Orleans, chef Leon West, the first executive chef of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, “never owned his own restaurant, and as chefs became more high-profile in popular culture, his role remained largely behind the scenes. But his legacy is sweeping, and his reputation among fellow chefs is legendary… West died Friday, Aug. 21, at age 74…. West was on the job at the time, working in the kitchen at Messina’s when he collapsed and was brought to University Medical Center…. The cause of death has not been determined.” Ian McNulty has a full obit on nola.com.
For Design Fans – A neat little typography note yesterday on the Vox Media design blog: “Recently… the editorial team [at Eater] reached out regarding their Vietnamese travel guide that was being held up because the site’s typography didn’t contain Vietnamese diacritics.” Says designer Mina Shoaib (who is hereby never, ever, ever, ever allowed to criticize a copywriter’s lack of brevity), “We ultimately landed on Bold Monday’s Bilo as our display face and Adobe Original’s Garamond Premier for body copy…. Both typefaces came with a range of language support, allowing Eater to create more expansive content.” Cül.
And that’s it for today. After a few weeks without dinner service — and at least one day of single digit new cases — we’re going back to a 9pm last call starting Friday here in Hong Kong. Anyone got plans?
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
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