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Michelin CA, Batali NA, Tunde Wey, Resy sells, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, March 8th, 2019
Back from Malaysia, where we mostly ate… Indian food. Highly recommend.
Let’s get to it…
“Michelin to Launch California Guide” – Per the press release, “Launching in partnership with Visit California, this will be the inaugural statewide edition for the Golden State, and the first regional guide for the United States… In addition to the previously covered San Francisco Bay Area and Wine Country, the new MICHELIN Guide California—the first regional guide of the United States—will include restaurants in greater Los Angeles, Monterey, Orange County, Sacramento, San Diego and Santa Barbara.”
Considering all that is California, that is ambitious to say the least!
There are a lot of fine takes on this, some of which may have been sitting in drafts for the last few years, but nearly all of them make some reference to the guide coming back to CA – and LA specifically – because it is so obviously a great food region. Nah. I think it is so obviously because Visit California has about a $120M annual budget, and a few crumbs of that for a Michelin Guide “partnership” is money well spent.
Side note: Of the $112M in revenue Visit CA took in via assessments (taxes) on the tourism industry in 2017 (its most recent public filing), only $6.4M came from restaurants and retail. $60M – more than all other categories combined – came from rental cars.
The Divestment – “The 20-year partnership between the celebrity chef Mario Batali and the Bastianich family of restaurateurs was formally dissolved on Wednesday, more than a year after several women accused Mr. Batali of sexual harassment and assault. Mr. Batali ‘will no longer profit from the restaurants in any way, shape or form,’ said Tanya Bastianich Manuali, who will head day-to-day operations at a new company, as yet unnamed, created to replace the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group… Mrs. Bastianich Manuali and her brother, Joe Bastianich, have bought Mr. Batali’s shares in all the restaurants. They would not discuss the terms of the buyout.” Full story from Julia Moskin in the NYT.
Pete Wells tweets: “This is the first day in all the years I've been writing about food that New York hasn't had a Mario Batali restaurant.” Molto bene.
The Profile Treatment – “Perhaps you're looking for a story about how Food Brings Us Together. About how even in These Dark Times, we can always gather around The Table to experience the healing Power of Food. If so, I'm sorry.” The story of a man who says that if white people at his dinner want one whole hot chicken and sides, they “must donate the deed to a property in North Nashville,” is not going to be an easy ride. For GQ, Brett Martin chronicles “The Provocations of Chef Tunde Wey.”
Fun fact: Before she got the job herself, I asked Soleil Ho who else she thought should be considered for the SF Chronicle critic role. Her two-word, all-caps reply: TUNDE WEY.
The Profile Treatment Too – In the NYT, Alan Richman has a great long-read on Costas Spiliadis. “All his restaurants are named Milos, and they are famous for their impeccable seafood, extravagantly displayed on ice and, at prime dinner hours, extravagantly priced. But his obsession with perfection is wide-ranging and merciless, not limited to fish. It encompasses all that he sees, tastes or possesses.”
My favorite quote: “ Do you know how many shrimp we have to sell to pay for the flowers?”
The Sale – “The restaurant reservation startup Resy, a high-end competitor to OpenTable, is about to be sold, multiple sources tell [Theodore Schleifer and Jason Del Rey of] Recode. Resy is in late-stage, serious sale talks with a potential buyer, according to people briefed on the matter…. Possible buyers for Resy could include Booking Holdings, the conglomerate that bought OpenTable in 2014. Resy’s closest relationship has historically been with Airbnb, which led a venture capital-style $13 million investment in the young company in 2017.”
(NB: I hear from a good source that Tock was going to buy Resy, but they messed up the paperwork and didn’t come out of the kitchen to greet Resy when it showed up to sign the deal. Looking forward to hearing more from Tock CEO Nick Kokonas on this as it develops.)
The Law – Yesterday, “Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to ban cashless stores. The Wall Street Journal reports that as of this July, most retail stores in the city will be required to accept cash — restaurants included.” Summary via Monica Burton in Eater. (I don’t have a WSJ subscription, sorry!)
The Close – The Eater LA headline says it all: “Top Chef’s Marcel Vigneron Closes Both of His Melrose Restaurants. Next up: Catering and Coachella.”
The Fire – “ Popular Atlanta barbecue restaurant [B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque] was destroyed in an early-morning fire Wednesday in northwest Atlanta.” Details, pictures, and a brief interview at the scene with owner Brian Furman are on the local WSB-TV Channel 2.
The Explosion – FYI, SF: Headline in the NYT - “Thousands of New Millionaires Are About to Eat San Francisco Alive. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and Pinterest plan to go public. California’s newly minted rich will be hungry for parties, houses, boats, bikes — and ice sculptures.… They want cars. They want to open new restaurants.” Renegotiate that long-term Bay Area lease while you still can? Or hitch your wagon to a risk-hungry young investor’s star?
Lists I Like – Eater cities are posting their “Most Anticipated Restaurants of Spring 2019” lists this week. Don’t think they’re all out yet, but so far I found: Atlanta; Boston; Charleston; Chicago; Las Vegas; London; Philadelphia; Portland, OR; Seattle; and Washington, DC.
For Design Fans – Wanted to include this Eater photo spread on Moongate Lounge above Mister Jiu’s in SF’s Chinatown last week, but the daytime pics confused me, especially that tease of partially finished ceiling. Now that I’ve seen these night / action shots in the Chronicle, I get it, and love it. A framing of finished ceiling gives way to raw beams and vents, but those are overwhelmed by the central moon, which drops down out of the negative space to light the room. Neat trick!
For the Somm - Speaking of Moongate Lounge, their wine list there is being overseen by one Louisa Smith of Lord Stanley, whose unwavering commitment to natural wine caused the Chronicle’s Esther Mobley to ask “Is Louisa Smith S.F.’s most radical restaurant wine director?” this week. Maybe… “‘I’d rather drink a wine that had a little bit of mouse’ than a processed wine, Smith says.”
And last and least – If you must read about the petty little feud between Nick Kokonas and Cat Cora last weekend, at least read Tim Carman’s take in WaPo, which comes up with a plausible reason for the original issue. No good reason for the rest of it.
And that’s it for today. If you’re working in Austin this weekend, I hope the startup young spend a ton of money, the VC’s pay for it, and everyone tips like crazy.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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P.S. - California food media readers: Not certain about this because of Visit CA’s quirky mix of non-profit / government body / tax assessor status, but sure seems like an enterprising journalist with an org behind them could argue it’s in the public’s best interest to know how much Visit CA paid Michelin for the new guide. California Public Records Act rules seem pretty requester-friendly? Thoughts?