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Michelin France giveth & taketh, Bloomfield closes Hearth, Munchery gone, Kuleto discounts, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019
Bit of a wordy one today, but the payoff for some of you will be having Oasis stuck in your head for the rest of the morning. You’re welcome.
Let’s get to it…
Michelin Season – Michelin France came out this weekend, with some surprising demotions per the dramatic language of Le Point (as translated by Sergey Brin): “There is no easy way to give up your third star. The loss of the Grail is a deep and eternal pain. This is the one felt by Marc Veyrat, Marc Haeberlin and Pascal Barbot learning from this weekend that they were downgraded from 3 to 2 stars in the 2019 edition of the Michelin whose winners will be announced Monday afternoon in Paris. The heads of La Maison des Bois in Manigod, the Auberge de l'Ill in Illhaeusern and the Astrance in Paris are no longer part of the summit of the Red Guide…
“Michelin also downgraded six chefs from 2 to 1 star: Alain Dutournier at the Carré des Feuillants in Paris 1st; David Bizet at Taillevent in Paris 8th; Guy Lassausaie to Guy Lassausaie in Chasselay; Alain Montigny at L'Oasis in Mandelieu-la-Napoule; Nicolas Decherchi at La Paloma in Mougins; Thierry Drapeau at La Chabotterie in Saint-Sulpice-sur-Verdon.”
Of note, Veyrat’s Maison des Bois held its three stars for just one year, and Le Point says, “Never in its history, the Michelin had been disappointed so quickly.” Cue a lot of serious pep (or “pep”) talks in newly starred kitchens around the world…
There was also good news for two new 3-star additions: Mirazur in Menton, and Le Clos des Sens in Annecy. And five new 2-stars: AM by Alexandre Mazzia (Marseille), La Maison d'à Côté (Montlivault), David Toutain (Paris), La Scène (Paris), and The Shellfish (Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes). Plus 68(!) new single stars. Full list here.
Back Beat – The word is on the street that the fire in the hearth is out: “The Hearth & Hound, the Hollywood restaurant opened by the chef April Bloomfield and the restaurateur Ken Friedman in 2017, closed after dinner service on Saturday night. Ms. Bloomfield, who made the announcement on the restaurant’s Instagram account, had acquired Mr. Friedman’s share of the Hearth & Hound last June, when their decade-long partnership was dissolved in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal that engulfed the business.” The NYT’s Julia Moskin and Tejal Rao report the Instagram post went up Saturday night while the restaurant was packed and “fires were still blazing in the open kitchen, where Ms. Bloomfield was cooking in a blue shirt and apron. She paused occasionally to greet regulars; as diners hugged her, she teared up and wiped her eyes.”
That Delivery ($$$) – The SF Chronicle’s Carolyn Said is reporting that after eight years and $125.4M in funding, meal delivery startup Munchery is out of business: “Munchery was among a crop of on-demand food delivery services that tried to do it all: make chef-prepared meals in their own kitchens, handle delivery and create their own brand names. But they couldn’t match the economics of companies like UberEats, DoorDash and Postmates offering deliveries from existing restaurants that already had kitchens, chefs and brand awareness.”
The Critics – In the NYT’s California Today newsletter, Jill Cowan interviews new NYT California critic Tejal Rao on how she’s settling in and handling the vast bounty of CA. A few key points: First, she’s looking for tips on where to go and what to eat at email@example.com. Second, NB, she makes a point of saying she hopes “more restaurants work to be, not just technically accessible, but more attentive, warm and welcoming places for diners with disabilities — with more inclusive designs and more comprehensive training for staff.”
And third, a quote that should probably go in the Marketing & PR Strategy section of every investor pitch from women and POC looking to start a restaurant anywhere: “While I love reporting on the spaces that women and people of color are increasingly building for themselves, often without outside investment, I’m interested to see what happens when more major investors pay attention and fund their projects.”
“Market Price 2.0: How surge pricing became the restaurant world’s scariest — and possibly smartest — new idea.” That headline in Grubstreet is a little misleading, because what writer Clint Rainey actually lays out is less a case for surge pricing than for off-peak discounting. He cites several big name proponents of this strategy, including Nick Kokonas, whose key insight came one year on Superbowl Sunday (“Around 12 p.m., Kokonas says he tweeted, ‘Don’t care about football tonight? Come eat at Alinea instead.’ They repriced tickets — $165, or 35 percent off — and wound up doing 74 covers that night, worth $23,800 in sales and service), and Leonid Shutov of Bob Bob Ricard in London, who reports afternoon discounts “doubled the crowd during their slowest hours, and claims diners don’t really spend less, either… the guests getting the deal instead chose to ‘reward themselves’ with more caviar or champagne.” In other words, frame it so your prime-time prices are normal, and everything else is a great deal. Not least because that’s probably true.
The (Solo) Profile Treatments – Maybe I’m being suckered by the read-aloud British accent in my head, but I found each one of these four, first person narratives in the Guardian (as collected/edited by Killian Fox and Holly O'Neill) totally charming. “Going Solo: Four chefs tell of the ups and downs of doing all the cooking by themselves” includes UK chefs Anna Tobias at P Franco, London; Simon Bonwick at the Crown, Burchetts Green; Ben Crittenden at Stark, Broadstairs; and Bruce Rennie at the Shore, in Penzance. Here’s Bonwick: “Cooking alone is all positives. There’s nothing negative about it whatsoever. Even the lonely moments have upsides, because I’ll be listening to music, which is very important to me. I like that Michael Nyman guy. His strange music resonates with the hard week’s work, the slog, the battle, the arduous task.” (Bonus: Here’s Nyman’s score from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover on YouTube. Knives out!)
For (Real Estate) Design Fans – The Napa Valley estate of SF restaurateur Pat Kuleto is for sale at the bargain basement price of $6.15M, down from $8.5M in May! “As you can imagine, the kitchen is extraordinary. The 1,000-square-foot restaurant-size space features a handcrafted madrone countertop made from trees cleared to create space for grapevines on the 40-acre property. The Wolf range is commercial grade and massive, and the indoor grill has a revolving spit. Dried herbs hang from the beamed ceiling. There's a pizza oven inside and another one outside the French doors leading from the kitchen to the garden.” Details and slideshow via Amy Graff and Peter Lyons in SF Gate. Get those bids in, folks!
And last and least – I’m a sucker for a good, ol’ fashioned, side-eyed Foodgod (Jonathan Cheban) profile like this one from Jenn Harris and Andrea Chang in the LA Times, but truly feel awful for Pete Wells this week, as he is undoubtedly devastated. “Old-school restaurant critics, Foodgod argues, are just not relevant. ‘It’s all, like, “It was dry, while the kitchen was backed up heavily during the maitre d’ running around while the fish was not fully cooked with ratatouille on the side,”’ he says derisively of professionally written, thoughtful and reported restaurant reviews. ‘Like ratatouille: Are you serious? No. I want to know about how far the cheese pull was that day in the restaurant. No one cares about the texture of food.’ As far as Instagram is concerned, Foodgod might be onto something. In comparison with Cheban’s 3 million, Pete Wells of the New York Times, widely considered the most powerful restaurant critic in the world, has 35,100 Instagram followers.”
And that’s it for today. I’ll light a candle for you, Pete. It’s been a good run.
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 dry fish with ratatouille on the side and a solid cheese pull 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! Most archives at thisfamilymeal.com for now.
P.S. GoFundHim – Culinary historian / writer Michael Twitty is asking for support for his third annual pilgrimage to West Africa with Roots to Glory. This year, they’re filming the trip for a broader audience and “taking James Beard Foundation award and grant winners (including Chef Kenyatta Ashford), Gullah/Geechee Chef B.J. Dennis and young up and coming community chefs from Los Angeles, Detroit and Madison on an unforgettable mission to reclaim our culinary heritage and make connections with new family.” He was just over a third of the way to his $10k goal as of publication. Over to you.