Relief unlikely, Feedfeed accused, Eater anticipation, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, January 7th, 2022
And a very Happy New Year to all the non-paying subscribers hearing from me for the first time in 2022!
It has… not been an easy start to the year. But, as I told paying subscribers on Tuesday (copy / pasted below, as usual), I’m still not going to turn Family Meal into a running list of regulations and closures. Sure you’re seeing enough of that elsewhere, and a lot of it moves too fast for a roundup like this anyway.
That said, outside of regulations and closings and the nightmare, it has been a bit of a slow news week, so…
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – First, the bad news you probably already knew. Headline in Restaurant Hospitality: “Another round of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is looking less likely.” Joanna Fantozzi backs that up with some anonymous source reporting from John Harwood and Betsy Klein on CNN — “Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi held preliminary conversations with stakeholders on additional relief… in December… But the talks were shelved before any legislation was introduced and there was no buy-in from Senate leadership.” — and a perceived lack of urgency from press secretary Jen Psaki at around the 34:15 minute mark in Wednesday’s media briefing.
JOURNALIST: Would the White House be open to spending for restaurants — COVID relief for restaurants — or would the President be opposed to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we did a major relief package that included helping restaurants just last year…
Oh, and CNN also quoted a “senior Biden admin official” as saying, “We are not going to write checks to incentivize people to sit at home, and we are not going to bail out businesses if the economy seems strong.”
If a tree gets blight in the forest, but the forest seems strong, does the parks service care?
Lists I Like – It’s time for another round of Eater’s “Most Anticipated Restaurants of Next Season” listicles, which are among the more useful roundups around for those of you keeping track of comings and goings. So far I see Vegas; LA; the Bay Area; Portland, OR; NOLA; Chicago; Atlanta; Austin; Nashville; Boston; and London, with presumably more out there or on the way.
The Media – Not necessarily restaurant related, but maybe some of you tag dishes with #feedfeed on Instagram time to time? Welp, you might should read Tim Carman’s latest in the Washington Post: “Women allege racism, sexism at food media company Feedfeed.” Is there a word in English for “Unsurprising story you’ve read several versions of before but is still important”?
Oh, and since many of you have followed Alison Roman’s ups and downs over the past few years, you should know she just signed a deal for a new show on CNN+, in collaboration with Anthony Bourdain’s old production company Zero Point Zero. I think it’s safe to say she’s made it all the way out of the cancelled box at this point? Though it might still be a while yet before paragraphs like this one stop feeling the need to mention that time she was cancelled.
The Media Too (Opportunities) – Eater DC is officially hiring for their vacant editor position, and Maine’s Portland Press Herald is looking for a Food & Dining reporter. It would be great if no one would apply to the DC job so that Eater EIC Amanda Kludt is forced to email me and ask how many zeros I need to move back home. Thank you.
For Design Fans – I had a whole paragraph ready to go about how I didn’t really like the look of Evan Funke’s new Mother Wolf space in Hollywood, because it felt like it needed another color to offset all those shades of red, and the space looked like it couldn’t decide if it wanted to be fun and busy or staid and neat. But the writing was a bit harsh so I looked back and am now reconsidering my initial call for the walls to be painted in a stripey mishmash homage to Swiss Guard’s uniforms because… I think I love it as is? Even those lamps? You? Photos in Eater LA by Wonho Frank Lee.
And last but not least: The Zeitgeist – Almost didn’t read this Brooks Barnes NYT piece about how “Hollywood Glamour Is Pandemic-Proof at the Polo Lounge,” but it really has it all: A disrupted and flailing industry (film), liberal Hollywood’s inability to stay away from a restaurant owned by a man who literally made gay sex punishable by stoning (the Sultan of Brunei), Harvey Weinstein stench, and a classic old vs new money confrontation for a kicker: “At tables favored by film executives, there is eye rolling and nose upturning about Silicon Valley’s push into entertainment: Apple is spending how much on Martin Scorsese’s next film? And barbarians await at the gate. TikTok creators and Instagram influencers have discovered that the hotel’s lawn makes an interesting backdrop. Mr. Mady, the hotel’s general manager, tensed up when asked about the social media crowd. ‘We’re not proud of that,’ he said. ‘We’re trying our best to curb it.’”
Truly, all the magic of the world happens in and around restaurants.
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s Family Meal, which is copy/pasted below as usual.
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday and everyone else on Friday for next Family Meal. If you’d like to get Tuesday’s on Tuesday too…
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or eye rolling and nose upturning about Silicon Valley’s push into entertainment 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 went out to paying subscribers on Tuesday, January 4th, 2022:
RRF Flushed, TFG LA, NFT pinky promises, and more...
And welcome back to Family Meal!
How is everyone? Great? GREAT. I am doing the exact wrong thing and getting my hopes up via the conversation starting around the 21:50 minute mark on The Daily yesterday, where writer Carl Zimmer explains that — after a lot of pain and some death — this omicron wave may peak in the US as soon as this weekend and that peak could maybe, just maybe, be the beginning of the end of all this.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue to stay away from local COVID-kills-restaurants play by plays here, because I’m sure you’re seeing enough of that on your own. You won’t even see “omicron” in this again until the the very end, but please know that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it — or you.
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – Remember when you got your Restaurant Revitalization Fund application in right away and still missed out? Per the NYT’s Stacy Cowley, maybe it would have been better to file at the last minute… “James Hutton submitted his claim just one minute after the application system opened on May 3, seeking $2.4 million for his business, Players Sports Grill & Arcade in San Francisco. At the end of June, his grant was denied. Rocky Aiyash applied on May 24 — the last day the program accepted applications — seeking $1.8 million for Pazzo’s, an Italian restaurant in Chicago’s financial district. His grant was approved.”
Some of that may have had to do with the lawsuits and rule changes that happened around priority groups, but there’s also this: “A senior [Small Business Administration] official… acknowledged that some late applications had zipped through the system. Myriad technical reasons affected their speed, the official said. For example, claims for large sums faced more extensive vetting, and single-location restaurants were less complicated than chains seeking multiple grants for multiple spots, the official said. Perhaps most crucially for Pazzo’s, Mr. Aiyash applied using Toast, a restaurant sales software vendor that worked with the Small Business Administration to integrate its system, which significantly simplified the agency’s review.
“The agency official compared the very late applications that got funding to a ‘perfect straight flush’ — a wildly unlikely jackpot.”
That Hotel $$$ – “José Andrés and his D.C.-based ThinkFoodGroup are returning to Los Angeles, with plans to open three restaurants and a bar at the Grand L.A., a new retail, residence and hotel development designed by Frank Gehry. Located across Grand Avenue from Walt Disney Concert Hall, Andrés’ restaurants will join a number of shops, apartments and the Conrad Hotel Los Angeles.” Jenn Harris has details in the LA Times. “And similar to the hotel arrangement Andrés had when he first opened the Bazaar at the SLS in 2008, the chef and his team will be responsible for the entirety of the Conrad Los Angeles’ food and beverage program, including room service.”
On a side note: I think there is a solid argument to be made that the two biggest chef winners (depending on your metrics!) over the last year were Andrés and Kwame Onwuachi (both of whom got their clearest career starts in small market / media heavy DC). After quitting his sole successful solo restaurant, Onwuachi is signing endorsements left and right, headlining parties and guesting on shows with A-list celebrities, hosting the 2021 James Beard Awards placeholder, moonlighting as an Executive Producer at Food & Wine, and is set to release his first cookbook into a warm spring shower of positive attention this May. Andrés has all but been beatified by his fans (including some in the media), is opening massive restaurant complexes with design/build credits from Gehry and Philippe Starck in Chicago, LA, and NYC, had board seats more or less named after him (Eat Just), and got Jeff Bezos to cut him a small check for charity.
The biggest losers of 2021 were, of course, birds.
The Crypto-staurants (working title) – The team behind anachronistically named VCR Group, a hospitality company launching the “World’s first NFT restaurant” has officially announced plans to start selling their NFTs / club memberships to the public on January 7th. They promise: “Members will have unlimited access to a private dining room that will span across 10,000+ square feet in an iconic, New York City location. The space will consist of a bustling cocktail lounge, upscale restaurant, intimate omakase room, and an outdoor space.” Which will all sound sweeeeet to some people, but… there is one small caveat per the email announcement from principals Gary Vaynerchuk, David Rodolitz, Josh Capon, and Conor Hanlon:
“We are actively looking for the ideal space within New York City, with an expected opening of early 2023. In anticipation of opening… we will produce physical and virtual events, pop-ups, tastings and culinary experiences exclusively for members.”
Bold 2022 crowdfunding pitch: Be a member of a club so exclusive, it doesn’t even know where it is.
The Media – There are way too many “Most Read” lists out now to include here — highly recommend a quick scan of your local food section / website’s list — but I do want to run through NYT Food’s top 10 (via Sara Bonisteel), as classified by me:
1. One simple trick to master this popular dish!
2. “Best Of” Listicle
3. Easy recipes listicle
4. Bad chef exposé
5. Holiday recipe listicle
6. Easy recipes listicle
7. Easy recipes listicle
8. Regional Food Fight Clickbait
9. White Woman Nice to Black People?
10. Negative Restaurant Review
So… maybe pivot your “Complicated Recipes From My Restaurant’s Pro Kitchen” cookbook to something a little more like: “Le Bernardin? Sheet pan!”
And last and least – If you’d like to jump Through the Looking Glass real quick, here in Hong Kong, an airline worker skipped out on mandatory home isolation and visited a restaurant while infected with omicron just before New Years. That breaks the city’s long COVID-free streak, and now six people who were at the restaurant and have still not come forward for testing are basically on the city’s most wanted list.
“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” - The Red Queen.
And that’s it for today! Thanks for sticking with me while I brush off the dust, and…
I’ll see you all here Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or a wildly unlikely jackpot 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!
P.S. – Serious Q: If you were going to write a Family Meal 2021 winners and losers list, who would you include?
P.P.S. – I was not asked to participate in any “F&B predictions for 2022” lists this year, which is a bummer. But having read a ton of those lists lately, I believe I now speak the language and am happy to contribute my one big bet here:
“While the espresso martini signaled 2021’s misguided hope in a high energy, post-COVID future, 2022 is all about settling for less energy without sacrificing luxury. That’s why the taramasalata cocktail, with its mellow ouzo buzz and rich, creamy, room-temp roe is the drink to watch — and order! — this year. But be warned: Most bartenders only know the umami-forward libation by its insider name, so do like Bourdain always did and ask for a ‘Tar-Sal’ up.”