Michelin inspects, Everyone pays, PST news net 30, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, August 14th, 2020
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – Guess this’ll be our last relief update for a while, because per Ben Casselman and Emily Cochrane in the NYT: “The Senate adjourned on Thursday until early September, and House members had already left Washington. The departures all but end any chance of a quick agreement on sending stimulus checks to American taxpayers, reviving lapsed unemployment benefits and providing billions of dollars for schools, testing, child care, small businesses, and state and local governments.” And re that $400 unemployment supplement Trump announced Saturday: “The program called for states to chip in a quarter of the cost. Governors from both major parties balked... So this week the administration offered new guidance: Rather than adding $100 a week on top of existing unemployment benefits, states could count existing benefits toward their share. In other words, unemployed workers would get an extra $300, not $400.” Bah. Who needs an extra hundred bucks right now anyway?
What guests are reading – Headline in the NYT: “The Nation Wanted to Eat Out Again. Everyone Has Paid the Price. Governments and restaurant owners wanted to get back to business. But bars and restaurants have become a focal point for clusters of Covid infections.” Story from Jennifer Steinhauer (in the Health section): “Across the United States this summer, restaurants and bars, reeling from mandatory lockdowns and steep financial declines, opened their doors to customers…. But the short-term gains have led to broader losses. Data from states and cities show that many community outbreaks of the coronavirus this summer have centered on restaurants and bars, often the largest settings to infect Americans.”
Key quotes from…
Restaurateur Daniel Patterson in CA: “I think one of the factors behind the quick openings is that our society sees restaurants as disposable and those who work in them as disposable, so in general, people are less concerned with restaurant worker safety than they are with their own needs. They want a taco and a cold beer when they want it.”
Bar Tonique GM Mark Schettler in New Orleans: “Bars specifically, and our industry more generally, have been made both the crash test dummies and the scapegoats.”
And bartender Jennifer Welch in Baton Rouge: “I 100 percent felt forced back to work at the bar. Even though I have an immunocompromised 1-year-old and, at the time, my 58-year-old father was in hospice for Stage 4 small cell lung cancer.”
The Other Side – NY Post Steve Cuozzo headline August 8th: “NYC will die if we don’t allow indoor dining in Midtown ASAP.” NY Post Steve Cuozzo headline August 12th: “Avra Estiatorio signs 16,500-square-foot lease in Midtown.”
Details in the latter: “Talks for the space were first reported by The Post in February. But many real estate and restaurant-world insiders assumed the deal was dead when the coronavirus emptied out much of Midtown… The Post in recent weeks has reported on other big NYC bets, including a tower on 125th Street, a major new food hall on East 14th Street and big office leases for Facebook and AIG.”
NB: I am in no way using these quotes to say things are good. But the big picture is complicated, and from time to time I have to force myself to look beyond the incredible pain being inflicted on indie restaurants and small groups. Through the seeing-stones I see the stock market continue to rise while the likes of Facebook lease gobs of prime office space at a presumably excellent discount. I get angry and confused. And then I look away very, very quickly, lest Sauron be looking back (Hi, Mark! Hi, Karp!).
The Profile Treatment – For Heated, Julia Bainbridge checked in on Geraldo Gonzalez, “The Chef Who Traded Manhattan for a Smaller Island to Open Up His World… His reasons for leaving El Rey were not as uncomplicated as they might have seemed, and, in moving on to Lalito too quickly, he started to fall back into old habits. He drank. And whether it was the pressure of a new restaurant or the luck of the draw, his boyfriend left him. Gonzalez cried in his apartment. He cried on the Bowery. By the end of 2017, he was clocking in and out of the restaurant, indifferent. ‘That’s not me,’ he said. Is there a New York chef who hasn’t dreamt of disappearing? At a hotel like Palm Heights, there could be protection, even anonymity, plus benefits and a decent salary. It could be a less combative life. Gonzalez didn’t disappear, though; he withdrew… Withdrawal, like hibernation, is temporary.”
My kingdom for temporary.
The Departure – Missed this last week, when Phil Vettel reported in the Chicago Tribune that “Perry Hendrix, chef at Avec for the past seven years, has been named executive chef at Pacific Standard Time. The move comes as a result of the dissolution of the partnership between the One Off Hospitality Group and PST operating partners Erling Wu-Bower and Josh Tilden. Pacific Standard Time is now fully owned by One Off.” Good follow up from Naomi Waxman and Ashok Selvam in Eater Chicago here, where they talk to staff who also missed the big news… “The move happened more than a month ago, but employees were left in limbo until last week when ownership at One Off Hospitality Group made the announcement.”
Michelin Season – In the July 24th Family Meal, I mentioned that a rep for Michelin in California told me inspectors were not visiting restaurants there. That rep said, “Out of an abundance of caution and respect to local health and safety guidelines, our inspectors have not had an opportunity to visit California restaurants.” But this week, Eater’s Gary He asked the same question in NYC and got this answer from a Michelin North America spokesperson: “Inspectors have resumed restaurant visits in some areas, including establishments in the New York selection.” Congrats?
The World Wide Web – Now joining Charleston Food & Wine in going virtual are the September Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and the Southern Foodways Alliance 2020 Fall Symposium. For the latter: “Instead of staging talks and meals over one October weekend in Oxford… our 23rd fall Symposium goes multi-media. We broadcast filmed presentations and menus over four Saturdays in October, with digital and print companions, podcast amplification, and local gatherings to complement.” Details on the official SFA site. (No mention of the Founding Director, in case you were wondering.)
P.S. – Seems Hanna Raskin’s big LA Times exposé on food festival finances last year (an article sponsored in part by SFA) has had some effect on policy and messaging for festivals going forward. Making the first paragraph of the Atlanta F&W press release: “One hundred percent (100%) of ticket sales from the digital seminars will benefit the talent and 70% of ticket sales from the chef experiences will go back to the restaurants.”
The World Wide Web Too – For those of you with spare time on your hands (willingly or unwillingly), Paula Forbes’s fantastic Stained Page News newsletter (all about cookbooks; highly recommend if you love them or want to write one) has this pro research tip on Wednesday: “After decades of work, food historian Barbara Wheaton launched the Sifter, an open-access, searchable database of cookbooks and other historical food documents. The database contains over 5,000 documents, mostly in European languages, although they are hoping to expand beyond Europe. Wheaton presented the website at the digital Oxford Food Symposium this year. Food historian Rachel Laudan discusses the history of the project here, while Bee Wilson wrote about it for the New York Times Magazine in 2015.”
Some sad news – In Portland, OR: “Cameron Addy, a chef who helped open restaurants like Ava Gene’s, La Moule, and the restaurants at the Hoxton Hotel, passed away of a sudden cardiac arrest last Wednesday. He is survived by his wife, Linda Schleis Addy, and their daughter Ella.” Alex Frane has a brief obituary in Eater Portland, including a link to the Gofundme set up for the family.
And in NYC: “Carol Brock, a food writer who helped women advance in the male-dominated culinary world by starting an organization called Les Dames d’Escoffier New York, died on July 27 in Manhasset, N.Y. She was 96.” John Leland has a full obituary in the NYT.
And last but not least – Eater has launched a huge “How To Help” guide across most of its cities, with links to charities, mutual aid orgs, and more. Unfortunately, their “Who do you want to help?” filter fails to include an obvious possible choice — “ME” (meaning “you,” “us,” … you get it) — but the guide can still point you in the right direction if you’re in need of some support.
And that’s it for today. I hope everyone’s getting the support they need! Special shout out to any parents facing virtual school right now. It’s all so very difficult, BUT my five year old’s Australian principal pronounces “webinar” as if it rhymes with “debonair.” So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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