RRF reversals, SFA revival, NY puritans, Summer spot PR, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, June 25, 2021
Thank you all so much for your many considered (and hilarious) replies to the Family Meal reader survey! I’ll share some choice (anonymous) results soon, but am keeping it live for the next week or so, so if you haven’t yet…
NB: Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy / pasted below for non-paying subscribers as usual (this week underneath an unusually long, but important, last and least). If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – Update: Not great. “On Wednesday around noon, the U.S. Small Business Administration sent grant cancelation letters to an unknown number of previously approved Restaurant Revitalization Fund applicants who were still waiting on their promised grants.” NRN’s Joanna Fantozzi says that’s on top of the almost 3,000 restaurants that were in the approved then disapproved priority group! And on top of both those groups, Fantozzi reported yesterday that: “Later [Wednesday] afternoon, another form letter went out from the SBA that appeared to completely reject an unknown number of applicants’ formerly approved applications.”
Some of the recently rejected have been trying to use the debacle as motivation for an RRF refill push, like this Dreamers food truck in Nashville: “On May 28th, we were awarded a life altering grant from the SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund. One that would have financially erased the fire from having happened... On June 12th, the funding of that grant was blocked… There was never enough money in the original RRF, which is why Congress introduced a bill for a $60 billion replenishment earlier this month. We need them to pass this bill.”
Obviously the anti-priority lawsuits threw a huge wrench in the works, but… remember when everyone was celebrating the fact that the SBA would be in charge of this round?
The Revival – Saw this week that the Southern Foodways Alliance will be back to hosting a big SFA Symposium this October 15-16 in Oxford, MS. Chefs Paco Garcia (FOKO, Louisville), Sarah Grueneberg (Monteverde and Pastifico, Chicago), Ronald Hsu (Lazy Betty, Atlanta), Todd Richards (Soulful Company Restaurant Group, Atlanta), and Caitlin Schumacher (Girl Nextdough, Charleston) are on the schedule. Tickets on sale July 15. And… maybe they’ll announce some leadership changes this year? This Tuesday marks the one year anniversary of “A White Gatekeeper of Southern Food Faces Calls to Resign,” Kim Severson’s NYT piece about the pressure on SFA founding director John T. Edge.
The Recode – Eater and the Recode team are out with a new Land of the Giants podcast mini-series on the delivery wars. Not a lot most of you don’t already know (or haven’t lived through) in episode one, but Amanda Kludt tells me next up is “the history and people behind the apps, including the investors and c-suite types, and their path to profitability. We spend a lot of time with Matt Maloney hearing the behind the scenes story about how decisions got made and how GrubHub lost its place at the top of this ecosystem.” After that it’s delivery workers, CA Prop 22, ghost kitchens, etc. I’m listening…
The Relay – Speaking of Grubhub…. “Resorts World Las Vegas, which [opened] Thursday night, will be the first hotel-casino to partner with mobile food-ordering app Grubhub as its de facto in-room dining platform… guests at the property can order from its 40 food and beverage spots and certain retail shops for pickup, room delivery or to the pool. They can charge the order to their room or credit card.” The LV Review Journal’s Mike Shoro says, “Grubhub first deployed this ‘campus’ location-specific system on universities and colleges. It will replace the traditional in-room dining experience at Resorts World.” Still no details on the deal — or how this might spread to smaller hotels — but hard to imagine RW is paying 30% fees…
The Rescind – Looks like NY has gone the way of PA. Per Luke Fortney and Erika Adams in Eater: “Takeout cocktails, a lifeline for food businesses across the city and one of the most popular policies to come out of the pandemic, will come to an abrupt end this week. At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s state of emergency, which has allowed restaurants and bars to sell alcoholic beverages to-go since March 2020, would be lifted after Thursday, June 24.” Headline in Grubstreet sums up the reaction I’m seeing online: “New York’s Government Is Not Done Screwing Restaurants and Bars Just Yet.”
The Media – “Some news, as they say,” from Plate Magazine’s Chandra Ram on Twitter: “I'm stepping down as editor of Plate June 30. I'll continue as editor-at-large, but am looking forward to some time off to work on other projects. I'm super proud of the work we did in the last 15 (!) years and excited to figure out what's next.” Lot of food media types concurring with the sentiments of that last sentence in the comments section, which is nice!
The Media Too – HR or PR: “Want to Write About Cape Cod for Eater Boston? As summer 2021 begins, we’re looking for some new freelancers to contribute maps and guides highlighting Cape & Islands food and drink.” A very specific ask, sure, but maybe one that restaurants in other summer destination spots around the US could use as an Eater in too?
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else Friday for next Family Meal. If you want to get Tuesday on Tuesday…
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or investors and c-suite types 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 Family Meal from Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021:
Critic knives out, Chicago Style out, Drinks52 in, Peel gone, Wolfgang's shocks, and more...
Let’s get to it…
The Critics – Headline in the SF Chronicle: “Why I can't wait to get back to writing negative reviews.” Reasoning from Soleil Ho: “While I acknowledge the humane aspect of stowing the knives for pretty much anything that occurred in 2020, I think negative reviews get a bad rap… Just letting things slide all the time, without actively doing or saying anything to help the work become better, just facilitates stagnation… Not speaking up is disrespectful of both the creators and the consumers. There have been many cases in the past year where I’ve received terrible food from a restaurant or pop-up, and then received awkward notes from chefs and restaurateurs asking why their projects haven’t been mentioned in any stories or lists. A policy of no negativity just leaves them in the dark about how they can do better. In fact, I think I should be writing more negative reviews once things settle.”
Big caveat: Ho says, “I aim my punches upward, at restaurants that actually have the means to react to my suggestions. If a restaurant seems like it'd collapse with the lightest nudge, I'll probably pass.”
Some Sad News – “Mark Peel, the revolutionary chef who helped pioneer California cuisine and establish Los Angeles as a dining destination, died Sunday afternoon. He was 66. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer only nine days ago, [his daughter] said.” Jenn Harris and Alene Tchekmedyian have a full obituary in the LA Times. In Eater’s version, Matthew Kang cites a 2012 LAT roundup of all the people who came up through Campanile, the restaurant Peel and Nancy Silverton started after leaving Spago. That list includes: “Sine Qua Non winery owner and winemaker Manfred Krankl, James Beard Aware winner Dahlia Narvaez of Mozza, Suzanne Tracht of Jar, Sumi Chang of Euro Pane, Matt Molina of Hippo, Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barnes, and Govind Armstrong of 8 Oz. Burger Bar.”
And in the NYT, Kim Severson has a reminder of one of the wilder twists in Peel’s business life: He andSilverton’s La Brea Bakery eventually “exploded into a multimillion-dollar business that was distributing bread in nearly 40 states. In 2003, the Irish food giant IAWS Group agreed to buy an 80 percent stake in the business for $68.5 million. Mr. Peel and Ms. Silverton personally made several million dollars from the deal and invested it with a Beverly Hills financial adviser, who, it turned out, was sending it all to Bernard Madoff. They both lost most of the money.”
And somewhere along the way, I opened tabs from CNN Money in 2001 (wherein I learned Silverton’s dad bought the Campanile / La Brea location for the couple after their first choice location’s landlord refused to sign a lease while mercury was in retrograde), and Jonathan Gold’s 2012 requiem for the restaurant, where Gold reminds readers both he and his wife, Laurie Ochoa, did cookbook work with Silverton and Peel, adding the parenthetical: “(I did review Campanile when it opened in 1989, before I met the chefs. But I never did write about the restaurant again. Peel and Silverton had that kind of effect on critics.)”
As if in agreement, Ruth Reichl posted a personal photo on Twitter: “I love this picture of Mark. He looks so happy. (The apartment above Campanile).”
For the Bar – Missed this until it came up in Fooditor Michael Gebert’s newsletter yesterday, but apparently in late May, Chicago Style, the cocktail conference founded “to address social problems, including sexism, substance abuse and a lack of diversity” in the bar industry (per 2018 Robert Simonson in the NYT), folded. It collapsed at least in part because the founders say they were “called in” over allegations that they “as individuals and as an organization have faced conflict and caused harm in the past.” We don’t get more official word than that on the site, but former CS advisory board member Ashtin Berry has been expanding on those allegations on Instagram, and… I don’t think it’s quite the “live by the sword” situation that Gebert describes (where the sword is “woke”-ness?), but the whole thing reads like a big mess.
The (Bar) Media – Announcement on Food52 yesterday: “Today marks the launch of our brand-new hub for all things sippable, Drinks52… With the help of our Residents, columnists, and community, we’ll keep you in the know about drinking culture, history, and trends.” Have not had time to confirm this hypothesis, but that sounds like a new place bar types might be able to pitch recipes / articles / ideas? If you know John DeBary (writer, PDT / Momofuku alum, Proteau founder, and “big blue drinks guy”), hit him up? He’s the new “Drinks Resident” there, per Drinks52’s instagram.
The Media (Opportunity) – FYI: “NYT Cooking is looking for a studio manager to oversee a new kitchen space in midtown Manhattan.” I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but this sounds a lot like the kind of job Brad Leone had at Bon Appétit before becoming an on-camera star there? Good luck, all!
And on the editorial side of things: “The Infatuation is hiring an Editorial Director to lead all of its restaurant coverage, overseeing a team of editors and writers across the various cities we cover. [They’re] looking for an experienced editor and manager who is excited about developing The Infatuation’s restaurant coverage during a critical and high-potential moment.” (Now.)
And last and least: The Trailer – Been seeing a few articles about the new Disney+ documentary “Wolfgang” by Chef’s Table / Jiro’s David Gelb. Eater’s headline tied the movie to “the Enduring (Tired) Allure of the Genius Male Chef,” and an LA Times piece went through so much of his life I don’t feel like I need to see the film (which makes sense given its headline was: “Documenting ‘the best documented chef in history’”). But is no one going to talk about Puck starting his commute with a dainty little porcelain coffee cup in the first few seconds of the trailer? What kind of floating car does he drive? Are there no more bumps in his roads?
The man remains a mystery to many (me).
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal, but not before you…
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or the humane aspect of stowing the knives for pretty much anything that occurred in 2020 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!