Relief dries up, Wetzel wiggles, Michelin NYC, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, May 7th, 2021
As per usual, Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy/pasted below for non-paying subscribers. If you’d like to chip in and get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – Official White House numbers on the first couple days of Restaurant Revitalization Fund applications: “186,200 restaurants, bars, and other eligible businesses in all 50 states, D.C., and five U.S. Territories applied for relief. 97,600 applications came from restaurants, bars, and other eligible businesses owned and controlled by women (46,400), veterans (4,200), socially and economically disadvantaged individuals (30,800), or some combination of the three (16,200). 61,700 applications came from businesses with under $500,000 in annual pre-pandemic revenue, representing some of the smallest restaurants and bars in America.”
NB: The NYT’s Annie Karni reports, “[President Biden] said on Wednesday that he expected the current fund to be able to help about 100,000 restaurants and other eligible businesses.” And because we know the first 21 days of the program are reserved for processing applications from businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially / economically disadvantaged individuals, and there were 97,600 of those applicants…. Seems if you don’t fall into one of those groups, this round was not for you.
The Fallout (or not) – In response to Julia Moskin’s NYT exposé on the goings-on under Blaine Wetzel at Willows Inn on Lummi Island, the Inn issued an unsigned statement, saying: “While we want to defend ourselves from what we feel like is a biased mischaracterization of our team and our sourcing practices, it is much more important for us to take accountability for the past and create a better future.” Which sounds good except, again, it’s unsigned, and immediately pivots from “accountability” to how-was-I-s’posed-ta-know: “One point that must be clarified further is that no one on our team has ever reported sexual harassment or misconduct in the workplace to our management team.”
They(?) say the plan is to hire in-house HR (management protectors), provide “leadership, inclusion and diversity” training (CYA edition), and promote a new paid internship for all the young staff dying to put “Costco chickens” on the resumes they send to Noma.
The Great No-Tipping Debate – In NYC, US no-tipping pioneer Amanda Cohen tweeted this week (in a disjointed thread you’ll have to click around) that even though her restaurant Dirt Candy has been held up as an example of a successful no-tip model: “I’ve had to admit that in order to serve my customers, I failed my staff.” So now she’s cutting menu options and raising prices on her core tasting by over 50% (from $55 to $85), and pitching guests on “making this a better world” by paying more for new starting wages ($25-27) and benefits (health, PTO, sick leave, financial advice) in 2021. “I'm serious about this: either this works or Dirt Candy closes.”
Obviously, some context for this announcement is: Mass competition for labor; newly freed high-end guests flush with cash; and a destination restaurant whose clientele presumably lean caring about people and the environment. But still… to watch.
Meanwhile, in SF, I loved that Dianne de Guzman’s SF Gate piece on Zuni Cafe’s new no-tipping model included both FOH voices against the change, and the numbers behind their discontent. You can disagree with them (and some of those quotes will get strong reactions BOH…), but way too many no-tipping articles pretend they don’t exist.
P.S. – Always love to see the real numbers, but watching journalists celebrate the “transparency” of an owner / manager sharing staff salaries is … weird. Show me bank statements for the man behind the curtain. That’s a horse of a different color (with a ha ha ha, ho ho ho, and a couple of tra la las)!
Michelin Season – The 2021 NYC guide is out, with everyone still in business keeping their stars, and seven new one-stars: “Rezdora, Stefano Secchi’s wildly popular Italian restaurant; Tsukimi, an East Village kaiseki venue; Jua, Hoyoung Kim’s modern Korean tasting menu spot; Don Angie, the whimsical Italian-American venue in Greenwich Village; Kochi, a Korean skewer restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen; Vestry, a Soho seafood spot from chef Shaun Hergatt, and Francie, John Winterman and Christopher Cippollone’s French-Italian Brooklyn hangout. The new starred selections are all French, Italian, Korean, or Japanese-leaning venues. With the exception of Francie, they are all in Manhattan….” Those details and more thoughts on who got shafted via Ryan Sutton at Eater.
The (Awards) Media – Some news from 50 Best on Instagram: “Long-standing Academy Chair Mitchell Davis is stepping aside from his role as Academy Chair for USA & Canada (East) in order to effect positive change in the diversity of the 50 Best programme. He introduced us to the brilliant Jamila Robinson, food editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and keynote contributor to our Recovery Summit of last October, with whom we have been building a trusted relationship. We are delighted to welcome Jamila as our new Academy Chair for this region.” Good luck trying to be casual about slipping figure skating talk into table-side conversation, Eric Ripert…
The Young Guns – Eater’s “New Guard” list for 2021 is also out this week. The winners (and their descriptions via Eater editor Hilary Dixler Canavan) are: Salimatu Amabebe (chef, creative activist, founder of Black Feast Berkeley, CA and Portland, OR); Jacob Bindman (director of service operations and co-founder, SF New Deal); Kiani Conley-Wilson (community empowerment coordinator, Soul Fire Farm in Troy, NY); Patricia Howard & Ed Szymanski (owners, general manager, chef at Dame in NYC); Kirsten Kirby-Shoote (urban farmer and cultural food worker in Detroit); Demetrius Milling (assistant farm manager, Love Is Love Farm in Decatur, GA); Kapri Robinson (president and founder, Chocolate City’s Best; co-founder and director of operations, Empowering the Diner in D.C.); Mohammad Salehi (CEO and co-owner, Heray Spice in Chicago); Eric Sze (chef-owner, 886 in NYC); and Brittney Valles (managing partner and owner, Guerrilla Tacos, Gogo’s Tacos, and Tiago Coffee in LA).
Links to the list and profiles of each are here, as is the pledge that the journalists at Eater made these winners sign in order to be profiled. As one does.
The Mentorship – Applications to become a “protégé” under the James Beard Foundation’s “Legacy Network” — connecting “emerging leaders across the culinary industry… with future generations of excellence” — close May 12th. “Advisors and advisees will be introduced starting in June 2021 and will develop relationships across the Legacy Network over the course of eight months (June 2021–January 2022). They will engage regularly on the advisees’ goals and benchmarks, and how to achieve them.” Details here.
The Mentorship Too – And if you’re looking to move into food media, Vox is launching “a no-cost, hands-on training and mentorship program that pairs Vox Media editors and writers with talented people curious about a career in journalism. The workshop is specifically designed for people historically underrepresented in media and is focused on reaching people entering the industry.” Eater staff Matt Buchanan, Monica Burton, Erin De Jesus, Patty Diez, and Ashok Selvam are participating. Applications open till May 16th. Good luck!
For Design Fans – Sorry I missed this Giovanny Gutierrez photospread of Major Food Group’s new ZZ’s Sushi Bar in Miami a couple weeks ago! Designer Ken Fulk says his patio design inspiration was “tiki bar on acid” but I think it’s OK to just say you recently rewatched Fear and Loathing and have never been to a tiki bar or done acid. Also, I definitely don’t recommend doing acid there with ownership, because… whew. Those guys look like they’ve only ever had bad trips.
And that’s it for today! Except of course that Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy/pasted below in case you missed it.
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday for next Family Meal, and everyone else on Friday.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or 186,200 restaurants, bars, and other eligible businesses 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!
Here begins the Family Meal that first went out on Tuesday, May 4th, 2021. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays too…
RRF open, EMP vegan, Terry editing, The Academy f*nnying about, and more...
Let’s get to it…
The Relief (Rollout!) – ICYMI (I doubt you did), applications for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund opened at noon yesterday. Haven’t seen any full debriefs on the process yet, but from what I gather from restaurateur Barb Leung, chef Aaron Hoskins, and accountant Chris Macksey on Twitter, while some of the POS systems (like Square and Toast) got a bit glitchy, the SBA site itself was pretty smooth sailing. Great news! Now we wait to find out how much money was applied for vs. the $28.6B in the fund. Then IRC does some quick subtraction, asks Robert St. John to call Senator Wicker, and yadda yadda yadda…. Refill.
Eschewing Meat Production – Headline in WSJ Magazine: “Daniel Humm’s New Eleven Madison Park Menu Will Be Meat-Free.” Details via Adam Davidson: “When it reopens on June 10, EMP will stop serving meat or seafood of any kind and make its dishes exclusively from plants—from vegetables, fruits and fungi. (Currently, there is only one three-Michelin-star restaurant that serves no meat or seafood: King’sJoy in Beijing.) EMP will not count as fully vegan because Humm will allow milk and honey for coffee and tea.”
Good news: If you would like to read about this endlessly, you can! In their piece, the NYT’s Brett Anderson and Jenny Gross do a good job including past fine dining vegetarian history and add that despite Twitter being angry on her behalf for not getting this kind of media attention for Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen told reporters, “Humm’s decision is significant because he had not been previously associated with plant-based cuisine. ‘It continues to move the conversation forward.’”
And Eater’s Bao Ong talked to suppliers who were apparently blindsided (which is weird because photojournalist Gary He was tweeting about it weeks ago, and I’m told this all felt like an open secret for longer than that). Big shout out to this quote from “completely surprised” D’Artagnan CEO Ariane Daguin: “I admire the boldness of the move… But deep down, I don’t think it will last. Dan Barber, Charlie Trotter, Alain Ducasse…. all tried and then eventually reintroduced meat and fish proteins.” (You’ll be back.)
And it was also covered on CNN, HuffPo, RH, NPR (via the Guy Raz podcast that was apparently first to publish the story), GrubStreet, WaPo, The Guardian, and on and on. Most headlines bowed to 50 Best and called EMP some version of “one of the world’s best restaurants,” but the hometown NYPost went with “NYC’s Bougiest Restaurant,” which was a nice touch.
Reputation and customer base-wise, there is maybe a little risk for EMP (the pressure is on one Mr. Pete Wells), but judging from the stars in the eyes of some who have already reported this move —Raz only seems to tape podcasts with people who are “wow!” “amazing!” but read Davidson’s piece and tell me he and Humm aren’t now “old friends” like he says Humm and his WSJ photographer / EMP business partner are — there will be plenty of people willing to pay the tasting menu price. And if that demand ever tapers off, a pivot back to meat (“we found a carbon-negative duck pond upstate!”) will almost certainly bring the old faithful gushing back.
None of the many half-thoughts on Twitter are worth mentioning here. I look forward to waiting and seeing what the larger impact of this move is or is not. Thank you.
The Media – Big news (and new opportunities) in books: “Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House, has announced the launch of a new publishing imprint with NAACP Image and James Beard award-winning author, educator, chef, and activist Bryant Terry. The new imprint, called 4 Color Books, will collaborate with the most forward-thinking and groundbreaking BIPOC chefs, writers, artists, activists, and innovators to craft visually stunning nonfiction books that inspire readers and give rise to a more healthy, just, and sustainable world for all.” In practice, the press release says that means, “As Editor-in-Chief, Terry will acquire and edit two to three titles per year on a variety of lifestyle topics to include food, art, culture, wellness, and self-care, collaborating with Kelly Snowden, Ten Speed’s Editorial Director, acquiring titles in Food, Beverage, & Wellness areas.”
On that note: I don’t know Terry or Humm, but if someone asked me who is the most influential chef cooking vegetarian food in the news this week, I’d say there’s a good case to be made it’s the guy who has published several accessible vegan cookbooks, added to the national recognition (and presumably growth) of Black veganism / vegetarianism, and who now runs his own book imprint at Random House...
The Media Too – After an acrimonious departure from her role as (co?)critic at the LA Times, Patricia Escárcega announced Monday she’ll be joining The Counter for a one year fellowship, “charting Covid-19 recovery efforts through the lens of food.”
That Museum $$$ – In LA, “On Monday, the [Academy Museum of Motion Pictures] announced details about Fanny’s, a 10,000-square-foot, two-story restaurant that will host small and communal tables for sit-down dining, an Art Deco-style bar and lounge area, and a market section for prepared foods. Curved booths, wall paneling and other design elements will take their inspiration from studio backlots, old Hollywood gathering spots such as the Brown Derby.” No head chef name yet, but the LAT’s Stephanie Breijo reports restaurateur Bill Chait and — no surprise — Wolfgang Puck’s group got the contract to develop the space and lead catering for private events (as Puck has done for the Oscars for years). Obviously I’m looking forward to seeing that “old Hollywood” design, but mostly I’m imagining a classic The (British) Office scene as a BAFTA higher up trying to tell their PA where to make reservations while they’re in town…
NW Moves – Headline in the NYT: “Canlis Hires Its First Female Executive Chef. Aisha Ibrahim will lead the kitchen of the celebrated 70-year-old restaurant in Seattle.” The story is a mix of hiring announcement and profile treatment via Elizabeth G. Dunn: “Before joining Canlis, [Ibrahim] spent two years preparing to open her own fine-dining project in Bangkok, which was scuttled by the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Ibrahim’s partner, Samantha Beaird, will join the staff at Canlis, too, in the newly created position of research and development chef.”
Some Sad News – An update: I mentioned the news of Tequila Ocho cofounder Tomas Estes passing last week, but that was just before the NYT published a full obituary from Clay Risen with some gems: “[His first restaurant in Amsterdam] was an overnight success and became a regular haunt for American celebrities passing through Amsterdam — Mr. Estes liked to tell about the time Debbie Harry waited at the bar for two hours to get a table. But the real star was the tequila.” (To be fair to Harry, stardom depends on what’s your pleasure, a movie or a measure?)
And last and least – Congrats to Daniel Humm on all the media attention, but the owner of Johnny Garlic’s recently signed a “high eight figure” deal with the Food Network. So the moral of this story is…
And that’s it for today.
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 two to three titles per year on a variety of lifestyle topics 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!