Michelin CA's $600K, Overtime admin, Affiliate $$$, Nakayama behind the screens, and more...

Family Meal - Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Hello Tuesday,

Let’s get to it…

Michelin CA? $600k – After mentioning on Friday that someone should ask Visit California for details of their partnership with Michelin, I sent them an email myself. To their credit, President & CEO Caroline Beteta answered almost right away. Full responses to my nine questions are here. Some highlights:

The Price Tag: “Visit California is investing $600,000 as part of its ongoing culinary program to underwrite the hard costs of expanding the presence of Michelin inspectors throughout the state.”

The Prep Work: There was no discussion of an estimated total cost for creating the guide, and they made no estimate of its potential economic impact either. But, Beteta notes, “Visit California research shows that ‘foodies’ are among the highest-spending travelers. Having a statewide Michelin Guide means more of these valuable travelers will be inspired to visit California.”

How it all started: More than a year ago, “The effort to expand Michelin’s presence on the West Coast started with Visit Sacramento. As the discussion grew to encompass the entire state, Visit Sacramento brought Visit California to the table.”

So there you have it: Sacramento started it. Visit CA paid for it. And ROI for the state is anyone’s guess.

The Profile Treatment – In LA, Niki Nakayama’s original blueprints for n/naka called for an open counter between the kitchen and the dining room… When the health department rejected the plan, she installed a pair of traditional shoji screens, set on sliding tracks, which, during service, she keeps closed. ‘The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s better that people can’t see me,’ she said. ‘I’m probably not aggressive enough to be, like, Hey, look, this is who I am, this is what I do, it’s me, me, me.’ She went on, ‘If you don’t look at us, we’re allowed to just be who we are, and what we do comes through so much more easily.’” Guess the New Yorker’s Helen Rosner averted her eyes, because this write-up is a beaut.

The Profile Treatment Too – Headline in the Washington Post: “Soleil Ho is a young, queer woman of color who wants to redefine food criticism.” Full profile from Maura Judkis: “Soleil Ho is here, and not everyone is happy about it. The backlash to her first reviews began shortly after they were published, when people latched onto her criticism of Chez Panisse… When Chez Panisse founder and chef Alice Waters read the review, ‘my friends called to say, “I hope you’re not worried about that,”’ Waters said. ‘I knew, certainly, the old writer, who’s a good friend of mine.’” (Weird. Michael Bauer doesn’t mention their friendship in his last couple four star reviews of Chez Panisse. Must be new pals?)

Some Sad News – In Toronto, comedian, screenwriter, and social media satirist Taylor Clarke, known to many in the industry as Chef Grant Soto on Instagram, died this weekend of an apparent overdose. Restaurateur Jen Agg and chef Matty Matheson mourned his loss in various posts, and are spearheading efforts to help with memorial costs on gofundme. Unfortunately, his Instagram page is private, but if you are unfamiliar, this September 2017 interview in Toronto Life will help catch you up.

The Overtime – Back office PSA: “The U.S. Department of Labor issued a long-awaited proposal on Thursday to extend mandatory overtime pay to a million more workers, far fewer than an Obama administration rule that was struck down by a federal judge. Currently, salaried workers are automatically entitled to overtime pay only if they earn less than $23,660 a year, a figure set in 2004. The proposal released on Thursday would raise the threshold to $35,308.” The Obama admin had asked that the threshold be set at $47,000. Full story via Reuters.

The Affiliates – Food media has been getting pretty comfortable with affiliate marketing lately, generating kickback revenue from links to certain products and sites. Eater’s “Shop the Restaurant” column and “Add to Cart” newsletter come with a disclaimer at the bottom assuring readers that affiliate partnerships, “do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.” Fine. I believe it. Make that money. But the New York Times (and possibly others) has a new(?) one that feels off: Commission-based OpenTable reservation links alongside reviews. The problem: OpenTable charges more for reservations made directly through its site, which is where the NYT links go. Why should NYT and OpenTable make extra money off of a restaurant that got a good review? Why not just direct readers to the restaurant’s website as before?

The Critics – On a related note… Tejal Rao’s first California review for the NYT is out. It’s El Jardin in San Diego, and if you’d like to make a reservation, there’s an OpenTable link at bottom. Or you could go straight to the restaurant’s website here.

For Design Fans – An opulent one for you via Tierney Plumb and Rey Lopez in Eater DC today. Here’s the Punjab Grill in all its “150,000 hand-laid mirrors… 40-foot, 12,000-pound piece of solid sandstone… Hermès dishware… solid hand-carved marble legs… Polished granite, leather, and solid brass tiles” glory.

And last and least – When was the last time you read a perfect metaphor? This one from Will Sommer in The Daily Beast is so 100% on target it’s like when bad guys shoot at good guys in movies: “In a move reminiscent of the ‘Green Book’ guide that listed safe establishments for African-American motorists in the South, hyper-vigilant Trump supporters are trying to build their own guide to MAGA-friendly businesses. Trump supporters who want to grab dinner but are terrified of getting punched by an antifascist ‘antifa’ activist can pull up the app, ‘63red Safe,’ and find a list of Trump-friendly businesses—or at least ones that don’t discriminate against conservatives.”

And that’s it for today.

Stay safe out there, and I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.

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