PPP Flex, JBFA Media, OT negatives, Tunde policy, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, May 29th, 2020
Wish I had anything smart to say about what’s going on in the US, but we’re sitting here in Hong Kong, wondering if we’re allowed to say anything at all.
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – “The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act passed 417 to 1 [yesterday] on the House’s second day of a new proxy voting system developed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Per the Washington Post’s Erica Werner, “Under the House bill, the original eight-week timeline for businesses to spend their loan money on payroll for it to be forgiven would be increased to 24 weeks. A June 30 rehiring deadline would be extended to Dec. 31. A requirement that 75 percent of loan money be spent on payroll would be reduced to 60 percent. And employers would be given more leeway on loan forgiveness if they can show they were unable to rehire people or reopen to business in a way that complies with safety standards.”
All this still has to get through the Senate, where Republicans may try to move it closer to similar legislation they were working on last week: “The bill [Marco Rubio] is pushing in the Senate extends the rehiring deadline for 16 weeks instead of 24. His office highlighted several objections to the House bill, including the provision that would make it easier for businesses to get loan forgiveness even without rehiring workers. Rubio had hoped to pass his legislation last week in the Senate, and it is unclear what the timeline might be for reaching a compromise.”
We shall see.
Beard Season – The James Beard Media Awards were announced Wednesday, and the big news is that no other newsletters won at all. Sorry, suckers! Full list of winners here. Don’t forget to congratulate the writers and editors who might cover you someday. (Congrats, all!) A restaurant focused sample selection:
Josh Niland won both the ‘Restaurant and Professional’ category and ‘Book of the Year’ for The Whole Fish Cookbook: New Ways to Cook, Eat and Think; Roy Choi won ‘Outstanding Personality/Host’ for his show on KCET; the ‘Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award’ went to Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl of Mpls. St. Paul Magazine; the NYT’s Pete Wells took home the big Craig Claiborne critic honors; The New Yorker won ‘Food Coverage in a General Interest Publication’; and Amy Brittain and Maura Judkis of the Washington Post won ‘Investigative Reporting’ medals for their story about a chef who continued to work in DC restaurants during and after his sentencing for repeated sexual assault.
The Less Negatives – Headline on CNBC: “Restaurant bookings data show U.S. economy is starting to revive after Covid closures.” Seems OpenTable PR (I presume) is sending some “optimistic” numbers out to media now that there’s, uh, light at the end of the tunnel? “Statistics provided by OpenTable for May 26 show that the number of seated diners at its restaurants nationwide are down 85% compared to this time last year. But that’s still better than the 100% decline observed as recently as earlier this month and throughout April.” Unfortunately, given my understanding of the context around those relative declines, my excitement over US reservations data is still down 98.6%.
What Guests are Reading – I really wanted to like this “Is Takeout and Delivery Food Safe?” article from Amelia Nierenberg in the NYT, not least because the answer was pretty unequivocal on the food side: Yes, it’s safe. And when we finally gets past all the evidence that there is almost nothing to worry about in terms of end product, she asks and answers: “What should I be worried about, then? Be concerned for the safety of workers.” Great! Yes! But then she hands the mic to Saru Jayaraman, whose advice is to ask the restaurant if employees are paid minimum wage. OK. Fine. But I hope guests understand the answer to that question will always be “yes,” and correct protocol is to casually slip a note to your server that says: “BLINK TWICE IF OK.”
The Wey – The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner interviewed chef / provocateur Tunde Wey last week, to talk through his much publicized “Let It Die” thinking on the current restaurant industry. If you were looking for some real radicalism, you won’t find it here. Wey shows his bluff almost immediately: “In a way, [the original essay] is euphemistic—only because I know it’s not going to happen, I know the restaurant industry is not going to actually die, so I have the space to be very forceful.” From there on out, it’s mostly a simple argument for structural change, with a seemingly out of character push for lobbying and electoral politics: “If there’s anything I think should be done, it’s that restaurant owners should abandon entirely their pursuit of a bailout specific to the industry, and focus on policy and government programs that support people generally. If everyone had access to health care, housing, leisure, education for their children, education for themselves—all these things I think are rights—and if all these things they had access to were of high quality, I’m sure some business owners wouldn’t even return to ownership.”
Nothing all that new, but he did spur me to wonder: What will the new indie restaurant lobbying groups springing up now do after the pandemic has passed? Will a real counterweight to the NRA stick around longterm?
And last and least – Is Bon Appetit’s Andy Baraghani giving out masturbation tips on BA’s Healthyish Instagram stories today? Yes. Yes he is. Is there anything wrong with that? No! But if we’re going to talk sex on a food feed, let’s at least remember to include a little food. So many options. As the great George Costanza once said, “We’ve got your strawberries. We’ve got your chocolate sauce. We’ve got your pastrami on rye with mustard…”
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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