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Noma (original location), Beards (original sins), Paley's Place (closing), Gigs (regulated), Miami (no discount), and more...
Family Meal - Friday, October 8th, 2021
An unexpectedly wordy one today, which is hopefully OK because we’re heading into a three day weekend and there will be no Family Meal on Tuesday.
This past Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy / pasted below as usual for non-paying subscribers. If you’re one of those and you have the means…
Let’s get to it…
Awards Season – To no one’s surprise, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Sponsored by Water named Noma number one on their big list this week, with fellow Copenhagen spot Geranium taking second, and the rest of the top 10 in order from three to 10 looking like: Asador Etxebarri (Spain); Central (Lima); Disfrutar (Spain); Frantzén (Sweden); Maido (Peru); Odette (Singapore); Pujol (Mexico); and The Chairman (Hong Kong).
In the US, Cosme (NYC) came in at 22, Benu (SF) at 28, Single Thread (Healdsburg) at 37, Atomix (NYC) at 43, Le Bernadin (NYC) at 44, and Atelier Crenn (SF) at 48. Dominique Crenn also won the “Icon” award.
If you’ve been following criticism of the list’s composition over the years, you will note that nothing has changed. It’s still laser-focused on restaurants in Europe (over half), restaurants that cook European food (33 of the 50, I think?), and restaurants led by “western” chefs (a lot). Nothing in India made the list, Africa’s toehold is 50th (last) place, the new 50 Best MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region came up empty handed, and mainland China is represented only by French digital projector enthusiast Paul Pairet. The “World’s Best Female Chef,” Pia Leon, doesn’t have a solo project on the list. CNBC’s Shubangi Goel has a decent breakdown here.
Reminder: Per the rules, having been crowned number one, Noma will now be removed from contention for future 50 Best lists and retired to a separate “Best of the Best” category with past number ones El Bulli, The French Laundry, The Fat Duck, El Cellar de Can Roca, Osteria Francescana, Eleven Madison Park, and, of course, “Noma (original location)”.
And if you’re still confused about why “Noma (original location)” and “Noma (current location)” count as two totally different restaurants and can therefore each top the list separately, here’s what 50 Best’s William Drew told me back in 2019:
“We looked at whether it had a new name; Noma doesn’t. Whether it had a new chef; this one doesn’t. Whether it had a new concept, and whether it had been closed for a significant period between the two.’ He said simply moving a restaurant wouldn’t work, but, ‘with Noma, it was such a fundamental reinvention. The whole idea is completely different.’”
Got it? Good.
If you ask me, “Two East Twenty-Fourth” has big EMP 2.0 vibes, Mr. Humm.
Awards Season Too – For a deeper dive into awards processes and problems, Hanna Raskin’s new Food Section newsletter goes “Into the awards void” this week. The former Southeast region rep for the James Beard Awards Restaurant and Chef Committee is very skeptical that the Beards new(ish) “social justice focus” will do much to solve the problems it’s trying to address, especially when it comes to geographic diversity.
First, she asks, “How expensive is the fight for social justice?” If a small restaurant sponsors a youth soccer team in the rural South, will it get the same plaudits as an NYC group that raises millions for charity (or “mutual aid”)?
Second, the Beards’ requirement for written / video statements disadvantages those who aren’t polished or can’t pay for (PR) polishing. (And if media are required to sign or make pledges, is it ethical for journalists to even apply?)
Third, it’s just plain easier to meet sustainability requirements and publicly promote social justice issues in some places than others. There’s a big difference in the effort it takes to reduce food waste “in a place where city vehicles swing by for compost pickup, as opposed to [those where you have to pay] a private company to pick them up,” and while “in a perfect world, nobody would hesitate to post a Black Lives Matter sign… solidarity requires acknowledging the legitimate reasons why, in this world, somebody might.”
The Gigs – In CA, “Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 286 into law on Tuesday. The bill, which takes effect on Jan. 1, requires delivery companies to disclose an itemized cost breakdown of every transaction to restaurants and their customers. It also bans these companies from charging customers more than the prices restaurants list on the apps… The full amount of tips for for delivery orders must go to the person making the delivery, and tips on pickup orders must go to the food facility.” Details via Elena Kadvany in the SF Chronicle.
Meanwhile, in NY, “New York City agreed not to enforce a new law requiring food-delivery services to share customer information with restaurants while a legal challenge from DoorDash Inc. plays out in court… DoorDash claims the law, which requires delivery companies to share with requesting restaurants the names, phone numbers and email addresses of customers who’ve ordered their food, violates its customers’ privacy.” Chris Dolmetsch has more in Fortune.
The Gigs Too – Diving deeper into “The Fight to Rein in Delivery Apps” in the New Yorker, Helen Rosner has an excellent interview with “Moe Tkacik, a former journalist who now works on delivery-app regulation.” It includes reference to this gem of an old comment from Collin Wallace that I hadn’t seen before: “I was the former Head of Innovation at Grubhub... Sadly, I invented a lot of the food delivery technologies that are now being used for evil. … COVID-19 is exposing the fact that delivery platforms are not actually in the business of delivery. They are in the business of finance. In many ways, they are like payday lenders for restaurants and drivers. They give you the sensation of cash-flow, but at the expense of your long term future and financial stability. Once you ‘take out this loan’ you will never pay it back and it will ultimately kill your business.”
Probably fair to add: Depending on your business model. If that’s comforting?
Anniversary Season – The SF Chronicle team is out with their big package on the 50th anniversary of Chez Panisse. It’s got reader memories, critic memories, questions about the future, alumni tributes, sci-fi about the future, photos, recipes, and more, all collected here for ease of navigation. (I’m a softy, but my favorite photo is probably Alice Waters’s daughter Fanny Singer, passed out in a mixing bowl in front of massive slabs of beef and what I think is a trash can full of lobsters(?).)
That Miami Money – If you’ve been eyeing the energy in Miami for a new location, check out this (obnoxiously undated) Zagat piece from Chris Mohney: “What It’s Like Renting A Restaurant In Miami Right Now.” Sample quote among a ton of numbers and details (from people with agendas, but still): “‘I’ve never seen Miami with no second-generation restaurant inventory,’ [F&B broker Felix Bendersky] laments. ‘Every broker, if you go on Facebook chats, is asking for the same thing. “Does anybody have a second generation, 1,000 to 1,500 square feet with a hood, with an updated grease trap?” That’s like saying, “Hey, have you seen my unicorn lately?”’”
The End of an Era – In Portland, OR, “After 26 years in Northwest Portland, Vitaly and Kimberly Paley plan to close their award-winning restaurant Paley’s Place and retire after Thanksgiving service, the couple told The Oregonian exclusively Monday.” That scoop is behind the paywall, but a follow up from Brooke Jackson-Glidden on Eater Portland is free for all: “It’s hard to overstate the impact Paley’s Place had on the local dining scene. Famous Portland chefs often spent at least some time in the Paley’s Place kitchen, be it Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon), Kristen Murray (Maurice), or Ben Bettinger (Laurelhurst Market). Vitaly Paley championed the use of local mushrooms… and Oregon coast seafood, and also brought a style of French cooking to Portland that remains some of the city’s best... Kimberly Paley performed a style of service… that eventually became the norm at Portland’s fine dining restaurants.”
The Media (Opportunities) – FYI: “The Post and Courier is looking for a writer to cover the robust food scene for its Free Times entertainment publication in Columbia, South Carolina.” Plus, Eater Seattle is looking for a full-time editor, and Eater SF is looking for part-time reporter.
I would do the latter, but it will probably conflict with the SF Chronicle critic job I expect to be offered yesterday.
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s Family Meal, which is copy / pasted below for those who missed it.
If I don’t get swallowed up by these rains, I will see everyone back here Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or 1,000 to 1,500 square feet with a hood, with an updated grease trap to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!
Here begins Family Meal from Tuesday, October 8th, 2021. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays from now on…
Google up, Sheldon down, Andrés JAM-on, Stewart to the strip, and more...
The view from here: Restaurants in Hong Kong are getting temporarily shut down left and right for social distancing infractions. A row of bars and restaurants near my house was almost entirely ordered dark after 6PM for two weeks recently, which is rough considering most residents are all but banned from leaving (21 day self-paid hotel quarantine on return!) no tourists are allowed to come in, and there have been no local COVID cases in I don’t know how many days. Or is it months?
Life in this COVID-free bubble still has lots of rules.
Let’s get to it…
The Fallout – Per Janelle Bitker in the SF Chronicle, “Lowell Sheldon, the Sebastopol restaurateur recently accused of sexual harassment and creating a toxic work environment, is no longer an owner of any of the Wine Country restaurants he founded.” Worth noting again that the exposé that finally pushed Sheldon out came two years after the group says it conducted an internal investigation, suspended Sheldon, and eventually removed him from day to day operations…
The Keymasters – “Virtual restaurant company Kitchen United announced Monday the acquisition of ghost kitchen developer Zuul for an undisclosed amount. This is Kitchen United’s first acquisition and will support the company’s ghost kitchen network growth in New York City.” Details via Joanna Fantozzi in Restaurant Hospitality.
Reminder: Two of Kitchen United’s three funding rounds were led by GV, the investment arm of Alphabet Inc. formerly known as Google Ventures. Does that mean Google has a stake in placing Kitchen United restaurant options above yours in “delivery nearby” search results? Well, that’s almost exactly the kind of behavior that led the EU to fine the company 2.4 Billion Euros a few years ago, but I’m sure Google has learned its lesson.
Big tech companies always learn their lessons.
The New Media – “José Andrés… the owner of ThinkFoodGroup… has launched José Andrés Media, a company that will produce unscripted and scripted television series, books, podcasts, and digital short- and mid-form content with a focus on food-related stories and characters, and the culture of food.” According to Variety’s Brian Steinberg: “The outlet’s first project will be a six-episode series produced in association with documentary production company Nutopia that is set in Spain and currently being developed for Discovery Plus…. Sam Bakhshandehpour, the president of ThinkFoodGroup, will serve as president of José Andrés Media. Richard Wolffe, a journalist, author and former MSNBC executive who is co-author of Andrés’ cookbooks, will serve as the company’s managing director.”
Sounds like their next hire should be some kinda cool, creative outsider…
The Media Moves – Sorry, just found this stuck in my outbox from two weeks ago! (I send emails to myself as part of a proprietary media filing system I call “Gmail Search Will Save Me Later.”) So… ICYMI, back on September 21st, NYT Food editors Emily Weinstein, Patrick Farrell and Sam Sifton were “happy to announce that Yewande Komolafe, Genevieve Ko and Eric Kim will become cooking columnists for The Times. Yewande and Genevieve’s columns will appear monthly in the Food section... Eric, who has done fabulous work filling in on the Eat column for The New York Times Magazine, will officially join the monthly rotation there.”
Asked if the Times has considered pulling a reverse-Substack and poaching Family Meal from the clutches of food newsletter stardom, Sifton (as far as you know) pulled out a cross between a floodlight and a condenser mic and began crooning In Dreams. Weird dude.
The Media Opportunity – FYI, MI: Eater Detroit has partnered with “the Race and Justice Reporting Initiative / Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL)… to support independent journalists of color to cover equity and justice issues in Detroit’s restaurant industry.” Together they’re putting out a “Call for Pitches: Eater Seeks Stories About Equity and Justice in Detroit’s Restaurant Industry.”
And FYI, MN: “Eater is looking for an experienced reporter and editor to oversee Eater Twin Cities, one of its marquee publications.” Listing here. The fine print: “This is a permanent, part-time position.”
And last but not least: The Big Deals – I don’t usually include “coming soon” projects, but had to note this: “Martha Stewart’s First Las Vegas Restaurant Is Coming to the Strip in 2022.” Per Eater Vegas’s Bradley Martin, “Now confirmed by a construction permit filing, celebrity entrepreneur, TV personality, and culinary tutor Martha Stewart will debut her first restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip at Paris Las Vegas sometime in 2022.”
Personally, I think a unique challenge for the design team would be to only use the patterns and materials showcased in 1984’s Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvers. But maybe you’re not up to a challenge, Martha? Backyardheritagechickensayswhat?
And that’s it for today.
Wanted to add a brief review of the new Dave Chang Hulu show here, but my FoodFilm pass expired before I could get to episode two, “Restaurants.” The description reads: “COVID accelerated an upheaval that was a long time coming for the restaurant industry. So what comes next? And will the future be more equitable for all? Featuring: Kwame Onwuachi, Helen Rosner, Corey Lee.”
Will the Good Eats-esque talking microwave device that taught me about sushi in episode one also fill me with hope for the future of an entire industry?
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 a construction permit filing, celebrity entrepreneur, TV personality, and culinary tutor to email@example.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!