RRF very dead, Big delivery slightly bruised, Amex down a rounding error, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, May 20, 2022
A reminder that Tuesday’s paid Family Meal (plus a slightly unhinged Francis Mallmann parody?) is copy / pasted below as usual. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays too…
Went a little long on the RRF nail-in-the-coffin vote this morning, because I think it’s important and… well, it’ll probably be the last we talk about it (at least as a potential for new money).
Let’s get to it…
First, The End – There will be no Restaurant Revitalization Fund round two. “Deficit-concerned senators blocked the Senate from considering a $48 billion aid package for restaurants and other small businesses Thursday, likely dealing a fatal blow to a monthslong effort to provide a final round of relief for industries that suffered major revenue losses during the pandemic.” Lindsey McPherson has a great rundown on the political side of things in Roll Call. Even some late amendment horse-trading couldn’t get the bill over the necessary 60 yea mark.
Final tally: 52 in favor, 43 opposed. “The only Republicans to vote for cloture on the motion to proceed were [Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska], Susan Collins of Maine, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.”
Reasons given for voting against the bill were the aforementioned worries about deficit spending (only $5B of the cost was covered by COVID funds on hand), plus new fretting over inflation. Oh, and Rand Paul threw in the fact that $500M would’ve gone to minor league baseball teams for good, pork-barrel measure.
Definitely recommend reading the full article, but the clear-eyed consensus is this is officially the end: “Restaurant and small business aid backers will likely continue to push for relief in other must-pass vehicles, like a stalled $10 billion COVID-19 supplemental… But without more offsets, any effort to spend billions more on pandemic relief — after Congress already appropriated more than $5 trillion toward the effort since 2020 — will be met with GOP resistance.”
RRF champion Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) said: “I’ll look for any opportunity we can get, but I don't want to mislead people. This was our best shot.”
P.S. – In an emailed statement, the Independent Restaurant Coalition, which was created for legislation like this and spent at least $360k on lobbying over the course of the pandemic so far, said: “Despite today’s outcome, the IRC will continue to engage inclusively, collaborate generously, educate tirelessly, and advocate loudly to build a sustainable future for independent restaurateurs, employees, and the communities we support.”
Not sure anyone knows what that’ll look like yet, but I see that IRC has finally gotten its 501(c)6 tax exempt status, which will allow it to operate as a “Business League” (chamber of commerce type operation), going forward.
The Big Comp – Headline, May 12, NY Post: “NYC restaurants yawn at Grubhub’s citywide ‘free lunch’ promotion.” Headline, May 17, The Guardian: “‘This can’t be real’: Grubhub promotion turns New York City restaurants into a ‘war zone.’”
Grubhub claims it emailed restaurants in advance to let them know that it would be covering $15 worth of lunch for all New Yorkers on Tuesday, but not everyone got the memo, and even those that did didn’t quite grasp the implications of such a specific, time-bound window —11am to 2pm, one day only. The Guardian’s Wilfred Chan reports Grubhub was also surprised. A spokesman said “the platform was averaging up to 6,000 orders a minute, which ‘absolutely blew away all expectations [and] initially caused a temporary delay in our system and some users experienced an error message with their code.’”
Buzzfeed’s Kelsey Weekman has a good collection of social media responses to the mess for context, but bad “war zone” analogies aside, the real context here is the delivery wars, where Grubhub is still trying to wean New Yorkers off the Seamless brand (which Grubhub owns), and Grubhub parent company JET is trying to pump up Grubhub’s numbers enough to sell it.
I learned most of that context from Kristen Hawley, who, in her Expedite newsletter this week would like to remind NYC-centric media of another little bit of context: DoorDash was down for like three hours during prime time West Coast dinner late last week! Not a banner May for big delivery…
Anyway, back to using Seamless! And don’t buy Grubhub!
The Big Comp Too – Headline in the NYT (edited for context): “[As First Reported by the Inimitable Family Meal Twitter Account] Noma Chef Won’t Attend Brooklyn Dinner Series. So the Meals Are Free.” Seems Rene Redzepi got COVID (apparently his third time?!), and couldn’t make it to NYC for a fancy, five-night popup. His team still went on with the show, but without the promised star, dinner sponsor American Express had to refund $700pp tickets for all 250 paid guests. Florence Fabricant says diners still got quite the meal, and were all “sent home with a gift bag containing a small bowl by the ceramist Katrine Binzer.”
The Media – Press Release: “Amanda Kludt, group publisher of Eater, Popsugar, Punch, and Thrillist and Eater’s founding editor-in-chief, today announced that Stephanie Wu will be Eater’s new editor-in-chief.” Not a big surprise given Wu has been serving as executive editor since the beginning of the year (while Kludt moved further into parent company roles), but an official changing of the guard nonetheless!
Also at Eater, Janna Karel is taking over Eater Las Vegas after six years at the LV Review-Journal. She goes by jannainprogress on Twitter and Instagram (where there are plenty of selfies and headshots for hosts).
Congrats, and good luck, all!
(Bloomberg NYC, call me...)
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s paid edition, which is copy / pasted below as usual.
I’ll see paying subscribers here Tuesday, and everyone else on Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or a gift bag containing a small bowl to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!
Here begins the Family Meal that went out to paying subscribers on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. If you’re a free subscriber and wish you were getting Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays too…
And hello to paying subscribers only!
For reasons unknown to me, this was the weekend your friend Andrew tried to really understand what the hell is going on with the world of crypto. As you will see from the bottom of this email, I may have also lost the plot…
Let’s get to it…
Michelin Season – ATTN Florida: Per the Miami Herald’s Carlos Frías, “A Michelin spokesperson said the announcement for the new Florida guide will come during a live ceremony June 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.” As a reminder, back in November, Visit Florida “partnered with local tourism boards in Miami, Orlando and Tampa to have the cities included in the new guide. Each pitched in to pay Michelin as much as $1.5 million over the next three years to produce a Florida guide.” Now to reap what they hath sewn… (stars).
Namesake Awards Season – With The Julia Child Challenge on the Food Network and the serialized biopic Julia on HBO, there has been a lot of public considering / reconsidering of Julia Child lately. Maybe the most interesting was the recent “Pinkwashing Julia Child” issue of writer John Birdsall’s new newsletter, Shifting the Food Narrative. In it, Birdsall sheds light on some unpleasant, less public parts of Child’s life (homophobia), just as he did with James Beard in his The Man Who Ate Too Much biography. All of this is to say that naming awards after human beings who lived human lives is bound to end in mixed emotions (at minimum), and that’s how I plan to transition this paragraph seamlessly into Florence Fabricant’s announcement in the NYT that…
“This year the cookbook author Grace Young is the recipient of the annual Julia Child Award… over the last two years, with the rise of anti-Asian incidents, Ms. Young has become an activist. She supports Chinatowns across the country, especially New York’s Chinatown in Manhattan… She will receive a $50,000 grant from the foundation at a ceremony in Washington on Oct. 13, and said she plans to use it to support Chinatowns and their traditional restaurants.”
The Token Hospitality – Something for the NFT-curious tomorrow: “Launching on May 18, Front of House (FOH) is a marketplace for NFTs of digital collectibles and experiences for independent restaurants. Co-founders Phil Toronto (VaynerFund), Colin Camac (former restaurateur), and Alex Ostroff (Saint Urbain) represent a mix of people with backgrounds in digital technology, advertising, and the hospitality industries. Initial clients include Wildair and Dame, with upcoming partners such as Rosella, Niche Niche, and Tokyo Record Bar.” Details from Allen Weiner in The Spoon.
Whether you’re a skeptic or believer, it’ll be interesting to see what this stuff actually looks like, what privileges ownership may promise, and if any of it helps the industry....
For Cookbook Fans – Part 2 of Paula Forbes’s excellent Stained Page News Summer 2022 Cookbook Preview is out. With a quick glance on the restaurant side of things, I see books from “Pastry chef Brian Levy [who] worked under legend Gina DePalma at NYC restaurant Babbo”; Red Truck Bakery phenom Brian Noyes; Alan Sánchez of Gracias Madre in LA; Vishwesh Bhatt from Oxford MS’s Snackbar; Houston chef Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri; and more!
Plus, “Acclaimed chef Clare Smyth gets her big Phaidon chef’s book in Core, named after her three Michelin starred restaurant in London,” and “New York chef Danny Bowien is back, this time with co-author JJ Goode, in Mission Vegan.” (Restaurant scandal watchers will note this means that just over a year after Grub Street’s Chris Crowley described “The Nightmare Inside Mission Chinese Food,” both Bowien and Angela Dimayuga will have published cookbooks with major co-authors / publishers. Cancel culture!)
The Breakup – Headline in Eater NY: “Hit-Making Duo Behind Crown Shy and Saga to Part Ways.” Details via Luke Fortney: “Roughly three years after James Kent and Jeff Katz opened Crown Shy, a stylish Michelin-starred restaurant in the Financial District, the acclaimed restaurateurs are parting ways. Terms of the split are still being negotiated… ‘It’s not particularly dramatic, to be honest,’ Katz said in a statement to Eater.” Big missed opportunity for feud media, guys.
And Last and Least – As mentioned, I went a little metaverse crazy the other day and couldn’t focus on anything of substance, so I decided to take the most logical break I could think of and spent thirty minutes or so writing what I imagined the introduction to Francis Mallmann’s new cookbook might look like. It’s below the break. Enjoy?
And that’s it for today!
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 terms of the split to email@example.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!
Green Fire: Extraordinary Ways to Grill Fruits and Vegetables from the Master of Live-Fire Cooking
An introduction by Francis Mallmann
Americans call lovers, “flames,” and there’s a certain sense to that. I have often said making fire is like making love, which is why I call orgasm the “Maillard reaction” of the bedroom — to taste it is to know ecstasy. Some say you cannot make a Maillard reaction with vegetables, but they are inexperienced in flames and fire.
In the late 1980s I took a lover named Samantha. She was beautiful, but her friend was just as beautiful and so we moved on with one another and her friend became my lover also and we all drank from my wine cellar together, which is a metaphor for freedom. It has little to do with vegetables, but neither did I in the 80s. You understand, of course.
There is a vegetable called asparagus that I am very fond of. I like the look of it, its power. I have known many who believe you can simply lay the asparagus on the grill and it will reach the climax of its flavor, but there is much more to fulfilling vegetables than lathering them with olive oil and manhandling them around a bed of coals.
In this book, you will learn that hard work and finesse are fundamental to great cooking. You may, at some point, be burned. That will be your own fault. When people come to me for an education or lovemaking or a cup of blackest coffee, they accept that risk. If you do not accept that risk, lovemaking may still be on the table, but coffee and an education are not.