Michelin paused, Beards cut, 50 Best Next, Cakebread gone, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, October 16th, 2020
As usual, Tuesday’s paid-subscriber Family Meal is copy/pasted at bottom for those who didn’t get it. If you want to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…
And if reading about everything going on with awards makes you want to drop your phone in the grease trap, maybe just skip this one (sorry, news is news).
Let’s get to it…
Beard Season – On Tuesday, Eater published a first person account of the mess that was (is?) the 2020 James Beard Awards from Midwest region judge Bonjwing Lee, and it… aims for clarity: “I believe that, motivated by the desire to keep sponsorship and donor money flowing, employees of the foundation violated its own longstanding ethics and procedures to avoid a possible public backlash over the award winners. Rather than trying to devise an equitable path forward, these employees attempted to manipulate the results after the fact, hoping to create a superficial appearance of diversity and wholesomeness without doing the work of achieving this in a meaningful way. As a result, the foundation disenfranchised committee members, voters, and restaurants… and corrupted the integrity of the awards.”
Lee also included a link to 34 pages of correspondence between himself and JBF leadership. Seems he’s a good man. And thorough.
Michelin Season – Official update: “The Michelin Guide has paused the announcement of Stars, Bib Gourmands and Plates from the 2020 California selection. This decision was determined after speaking with chefs and listening to feedback from restaurants severely impacted by COVID-19 and tragic wildfires across the state.” Instead, they’re hosting a virtual “Family Meal” event (I’m suing, I’m suing) with some usual-suspect chefs “for an evening of cooking and conversation highlighting support, sustainability, innovation and the future of the industry at large.” So if panel discussions are your thing, all that info is here.
And if you prefer to get your Michelin news from a very convincing half-body automaton modeled after international guide director Gwendal Poullennec, here’s that on YouTube too.
And for a longer look at the pros and cons of Michelin’s decision making this year, writer Chris Dwyer interviewed industry types around the world for CNN this week, including some who say the show must go on: “Gal Ben-Moshe, chef-owner at Prism in Berlin, says his restaurant faced a potentially disastrous loss of bookings as Germany went into lockdown earlier this year. But, he says, Michelin's decision to award Prism a star quickly reversed his fortunes. ‘When the star was announced, the restaurant just filled up in a matter of minutes, for the next month,’ he says. ‘It was crazy.’”
Meanwhile – In more bullish awards news, 50 Best has announced a new, unranked “50 Next” list aiming to celebrate “young people who are pushing boundaries at every level of the food chain.” Deadline to apply is November 12th, and the list will be announced in February. Official site, chock full of details and stock photos, here.
FYI: Applicants must be 35 or under, or have less than three years experience in the work they’re citing in the application. It’s open to everyone — farmers, suppliers, chefs, bartenders, even writers! — so you can nominate yourself, and you can nominate me. Name: Andrew Genung. Age: twenty-six-as-far-as-you-know.
Also… While 50 Next is tied to Bilbao via some sponsorships there, 50 Best announced this week that it will hold their (in-person) 2021 list reveal in Antwerp, Belgium on June 8th of next year. NB: If you read the 50 Best press releases on these awards, they’ll always call the host city “Antwerp, Flanders” because EventFlanders (and not EventBelgium) is the sponsor. And so, in my best Wolfe Tones: “Come out ye 50 Best, come out and cook food like a man. Show your commis how you won medals down in Flaaaaanders.” (I’m so sorry.)
For the Bar – Eater launched a huge Drinking in America package this week, with stories about everything from trendy drinks (eg the Fauci Pouchy in DC) to longreads on specific places like Skinner’s Pub in Saint Paul. I have not read through enough of it yet, but assume if you poke around the main page you’ll find some nuggets of helpful truth in there. Good luck!
The Worst Fear – Headline in Eater SF: “Woman Killed, Seven Others Injured When Driver Slams Into San Jose Outdoor Dining Spot.” The story includes a twitter video of the incident showing the driver jumping multiple medians and curbs (apparently after losing control) on Sunday, before plowing into the Dynasty Chinese Seafood Restaurant tents set up in a parking lot, so this is not the same as an on-street parking spot incident. But still, for all the (important) talk of government support for heaters and winterization, are there any cities distributing serious traffic barriers for the new outdoor dining setups? Presumably that’s one resource they actually have on hand?
Some Sad News – “Dolores Cakebread, the co-founder of Cakebread Cellars and one of the matriarchs of Napa Valley’s modern wine industry, died on Oct. 2 of natural causes. She was 90.” I must admit that before I read this Esther Mobley obituary in the SF Chronicle, I had no idea that Cakebread was the founders’ last name. A truly awesome legacy (both the hugely successful winery, and all those descendants who get to run around this world calling themselves Cakebreads).
For Design Fans – Here’s a Rachel Leah Blumenthal photospread on the new Atlántico in Boston, which does two things for me: First, it makes me wonder what color will be next after the deep greens and pink pastels of other places, and the blue and gold combo here (which is still a solid combo, though the chair frames may be one step too far toward trend). And second: It teaches me that double-height windows call for only one solution — individual bottom and top blinds. Perfect.
And last but not least: The Politics – Heads up for those interested: “Stef Feldman, Policy Director, Biden for President,” will be hosting a “Virtual Conversation on the Restaurant Industry: Priorities for a Biden Administration to Build Back Better,” with a Mr. José Andrés this Tuesday. Fair warning: It’s a fundraiser (restaurant workers: $25; co-hosts: $25K), and in the interest of equal time, if Trump does something similar, please lmk…
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday for next Family Meal. Everyone else, until Friday. Unless, of course, you…
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or young people who are pushing boundaries at every level of the food chain 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!
Here begins a copy/paste of Family Meal from Tuesday, October 29th:
Meadows's funeral, Commander Bickford, Peyraud gone, Ghost influence, and more...
A bit thin on new restaurant news with the holiday yesterday, but let’s get to it…
The Relief – I’m not the broken record, I’m the speaker. But re any chance at passing the $120B RESTAURANTS Act… here’re Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Seung Min Kim in the Washington Post: “Senate Republicans and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised intense objections Saturday to a new $1.8 trillion economic relief proposal from the Trump administration, greatly dimming prospects for a coronavirus relief deal before the election. On a conference call Saturday morning with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, multiple GOP senators denounced the proposal, attacking the price tag as too big, questioning the overall direction and criticizing individual proposals…
“The opposition was so fierce that Meadows told the group at one point, ‘You all will have to come to my funeral’ because he would have to take their message back to PresidentTrump.”
The Optimist – NYT science writer Donald G. McNeil Jr., who admits to having made gloomy (though accurate) predictions of the pandemic early on, now says, “I have become cautiously optimistic. Experts are saying, with genuine confidence, that the pandemic in the United States will be over far sooner than they expected, possibly by the middle of next year.” You may not think that this dragging on for another seven or eight months is optimistic, but I highly recommend hearing him spell it all out either by listening to his spot on last Wednesday’s Daily podcast, or reading his piece in yesterday’s paper.
NB: He still thinks short term the situation is grim, and specifically calls out restaurants as a risk — “indoor dining, in-classroom schooling, contact sports, jet travel and family holiday dinners may all drive up infections, hospitalizations and deaths.” — so the light at the (distant) end of the tunnel won’t take the spotlight off bar seating any time soon.
Speaking of which: The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner danced around her personal thoughts a bit in her latest column on “The Uncertain Promise of Indoor Dining in NYC,” but was less opinion shy on Twitter, telling her 135k followers yesterday, “I’m going to get shit for this but I don’t think it’s ~up to you~ to decide whether you feel comfortable eating at a restaurant right now. You shouldn’t do it.”
The Move – Big news in New Orleans: “For the first time in almost two decades, Commander’s Palace has a new chef. For the first time in the famous restaurant’s long history that chef is a woman. Tory McPhail, executive chef since 2002, has resigned and is moving to Montana…. His successor at Commander’s Palace is Meg Bickford, who was previously executive sous chef.” According to Nola.com’s Ian McNulty, “McPhail, and his wife Britt, a local wine professional, are moving to Bozeman, where McPhail will work with a local company that runs three restaurants — Revelry, a breakfast restaurant called Jam! and Dave’s Sushi.”
The (Personal) Brands – A food tech newsletter out of Singapore hit me over the head yesterday with one obvious future for ghost kitchens: All these commissaries tied to delivery will make it much easier for celebrities / influencers to jump in and out of the “restaurant” game. The NYC startup featured in Akshay BD’s Superfood isn’t operational (or even funded) yet, but their concept is simple: “We’re able to let any influencer open a virtual kitchen with our turn key solution and be up and running within a matter of days to weeks. These virtual brands will come and go with seasonal changes, ebb and flow with influencer popularity, etc.”
So, yeah, it’s just whitelabeling. And to a certain extent this stuff has already been happening (think celebrity meal kits, things like that Bon Appetit concept in Chicago last year, and on a more traditional level, McDonald’s rap collabs). But still, this cooked food version feels different than licensing deals of old. Before ghost kitchens, putting your name on a “restaurant” concept meant you had to partner with and/or put your name on an actual restaurant, right?
Asked for her thoughts, Expedite newsletterer Kristen Hawley had this smart take: “Remember that these businesses — virtual restaurants — are perceived to have good returns (and some do!) but are built on top of another business (third party delivery) that's more than likely bleeding money. This makes me question their long-term sustainability. Conversely, you could look at something like Trejos Tacos in LA that does great business and is generally awesome and extrapolate that a virtual version of that could be even easier to scale than a great taco place in southern California. Does a celebrity who wants a restaurant concept prefer to partner with a technologist or a restaurateur? Not sure, but I can tell you which of the two does a better job of telling the celeb what they want to hear!”
The Media – Heads up Bay Area / CA wine country: New SF Chronicle Food editor Serena Dai is on the Extra Spicy podcast this week with hosts (and Chronicle colleagues) Soleil Ho and Justin Phillips. Not a lot of new ground broken, but a good chance to get to hear from Dai as she takes charge of restaurant coverage at the paper. Bonus: The attached article has a big new headshot for your host / takeout stand.
Some Sad News – “Hostess extraordinaire Lucie "Lulu" Peyraud, matriarch of Bandol's Domaine Tempier and a cook whose Provençal cooking inspired great chefs, died Oct. 7 at age 102…. Domaine Tempier's reputation traveled across the Atlantic, and in the 1970s, the food writer Richard Olney introduced the Peyrauds to California chef Alice Waters. Waters credits Domaine Tempier as the inspiration behind… Chez Panisse. On the wine side, Tempier became the flagship winery of American Kermit Lynch's then-budding import company. He continues to represent the winery today.” Gillian Sciaretta has a full obituary in Wine Spectator.
And if you want more colorful background, check out Steve Hoffman’s personal essays about his time with Lulu: This one from yesterday in Food & Wine, and this one a couple years back in the Washington Post, which includes a fun detour into the unspoken French food influencer rivalry between Olney and Julia Child.
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
If you got this from a paying subscriber and you want to receive Tuesday Family Meals on Tuesday…
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or contact sports, jet travel, and family holiday dinners to email@example.com. 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!