NYT CA, Pok Pok close, Hallowell unwelcome, organic uncertified, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, August 14, 2018
First, a quick housekeeping note – Heading to Taipei for the first time on Friday, which means two things: Next Family Meal will almost certainly be late, and I am in desperate need of your recommendations for the city and its food (and drink): email@example.com. Please and thank you!
Bit of a slow news weekend, but let’s get to it…
The Critics – NYT press release: “Tejal Rao Named First California Restaurant Critic.” I might have added “New York Times” between “First” and “California”, but I lack the confidence of their headline writers...
After lots of speculation about Rao replacing Michael Bauer at the SF Chronicle, or maybe even taking on Jonathan Gold’s old job at the LA Times, NYT Food Editor Sam Sifton circled the wagons and decided there were readers in them thar hills. Reaction from fellow food writers has been uniformly positive, not least because: A) Rao is well liked and respected, B) This puts a woman of color in a top critic position, and C) With all the news of shrinking payrolls in journalism, a genuinely new writing role is a welcome development.
As far as the NYT goes: “Pete Wells will continue to be chief restaurant critic of The Times, and will review restaurants in New York and further afield, including occasionally in California. Ligaya Mishan and Besha Rodell will continue to write restaurant reviews in New York and Australia, respectively. Tejal will start as the dedicated California critic in the fall, after moving west to Los Angeles.”
CA industry folks can brush up on all things Tejal Rao (“TAY-jull with a hard j, as in jam. And rau, like the acrimonious quarrel.”) on her website, and if you need a photo for your host stand, there’s a large, zoom-able pic of Rao and Sifton at a 2016 NYT Insider event here, and Eater NY has an older photo here.
The Close – “After more than six years in Brooklyn, Pok Pok Ny will be closing on Sept. 2, according to the chef and restaurateur Andy Ricker, who also has six restaurants in Portland, Ore.” Details in the NYT. He wants to spend more time at his home in Chiang Mai. You and me both, kid.
The Fallout – An exposed chef goes shopping at the Berkley Farmer’s Market, but… the community says no. “It was a comeback that was stopped short, as community backlash prompted [Charlie Hallowell] to tell The Chronicle that he has decided to ‘give it some more time’ before he makes the market part of his routine again. While some farmers welcomed him back, other vendors and chefs were upset at his return to the market — a public place where, several said, he regularly exhibited crude and inappropriate behavior.” According to the Chronicle’s Tara Duggan, Tartine Manufactory chef – and former Hallowell employee – Christa Chase drove there specifically to confront him. “She told him that, in her opinion, he was no longer welcome at the market.”
For the bar – “Jesse Friedman has left Almanac Beer Co., the internationally-distributed brewery he co-founded with Damian Fagan, Almanac’s CEO, in 2010.” Friedman tells Eater SF the split was amicable.
For the somm – FYI, if your guests read Bon Appétit, they saw this yesterday: “A sommelier opens up about the shady business practices that are behind the rise of watery, terrible rosé.” Victoria James explains, “Someone straight-up offered me $5,000 to feature their watery, tasteless rosé for the summer season… The deal was that they would give me a couple thousand in cash to be an ambassador, and I would have to buy their rosé to pour by the glass for the summer. If I needed to make better margins, like making $10 off a glass of rosé versus making $5 off a glass of rosé, they also offered to drive by and drop off a couple of cases of free product. Horrified, I turned down the deal.”
NB: Obviously that entire article is about Jon Bon Jovi’s Hampton Water brand. Reached for comment, he was clearly hurt by the accusation, and sent this defiant statement through a rep: “You see, I’ve always been a fighter. Well, I guess I’m not that good anymore, but… Take a look at my face, there’s no price I won’t pay.” (No clickbait: Link goes to the video for Always. You’re welcome.)
The Perk – Mr. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is advertising for an exec chef at his Bay Area (San Mateo) Wursthall restaurant, with a novel caveat – “we are a No Yelling kitchen.” – that he hopes catches on. Potential?
The Anti-Perk – Fooditor’s Michael Gebert has the practical take on the never-ending Grace lawsuits in Chicago, and what they mean for owner/litigant Michael Olszewski’s recruitment efforts as he builds two more restaurants in town: “Some people will see their chance here and I don’t fault anybody for taking one, but the market for top restaurant talent in both front and back of house is insanely tight. This action is a huge disincentive for his prospects of attracting talent that’s not desperate. I mean, what are the choices? Boka Group has a benefits package that lets you work out at different health clubs… Rick Bayless takes his staff to Mexico a couple of times a year… Michael Olszewski will hunt you down in court for the rest of your life if you do a Beard event in another city. Gee, where do I sign up?”
Farm to (Organic) Fable – The NYT’s Priya Krishna has an exposé of sorts on restaurants claiming to serve organic food without actual USDA certification (and often without actual organic food). Main storyline courtesy of one Gil Rosenberg, who discovered his go-to “organic” burger spot’s ground beef was only 75-80% organic, and… “At this point, the typical customer would have just stopped eating at Bareburger. But Mr. Rosenberg was intent on making change: He went through the restaurant’s trash and found containers for mayonnaise and tomatoes, neither of which had the organic seal. He started distributing fliers outside some outlets that asked, ‘Is Bareburger REALLY organic?’ He called Bareburger’s food suppliers to tell them that the restaurant was misrepresenting itself.” Damn, Gil.
And last and least – The recent NYT Magazine profile of Gwyneth Paltrow and her GOOP brand got a lot of attention for good reason. If you haven’t read it – and you have the time for a longread – I highly recommend it. But if you want a quick wellness hit, here’s the guy who popularized Bulletproof Coffee saying he expects to live to 180 years old by subjecting his body to unproven “body-hacking” technologies, and proclaiming his desire to make these technologies available to the huddled masses via personal trainers in Santa Monica. My question: Does the word “hero” go far enough?
And that’s it for today. Please do send recommendations for Taipei or Taiwanese food in general if you have them. My travel research brain is shot. Do you know how many Hello Kitty themed AirBnB’s there are in that town? I’ll be at the hotel.
And I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
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