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The Zero Star click farm, Grubhub tanks, Foie banned, Onda choppy, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, November 1st, 2019
Let’s get to it…
The Critics – The New York Times sent out push notifications to app users around the world this week, announcing: “Our restaurant critic gives one of New York’s iconic steakhouses zero stars: ‘After I’ve paid, there is the unshakable sense that I’ve been scammed.’” That is, of course, Pete Wells talking Peter Luger on Tuesday (though some of us in Asia were awoken to this key international update at 2:27AM Wednesday morning). You can read the whole thing here, and check the NYT’s separate roundup of online reactions to its own piece here, or see their slideshow of pictures of the restaurant here, and then head over to a companion piece for “13 New York City Steakhouses That Are Not Peter Luger,” and if you want still more shade, they also published an updated roundup of past zero-star takes here. High fives all around! But wait, there’s more. Turn down that Jock Jams CD in the NYT newsroom for a sec, because Wells also wrote about the burden of writing a bad review.
The Critics too – Northern Virginia Magazine’s Stefanie Gans wrote a wonderful little essay about why she’s leaving her current job as the magazine’s restaurant critic, but I can’t get it to open no matter how hard I try, so here’s a link to her goodbye tweet, wherein she adds: “I'm staying in the food and drink world! You can find me at @cookology where I'll run programs and events. So all of the chefs, bartenders, cookbook writers, restaurant owners, brewers, distillers, winemakers, publicists, etc. - stay in touch!”
The Delivery Wars – “Grubhub’s stock plunged more than 40 percent on Tuesday — its worst single-day drop ever— after the food-delivery giant drastically slashed its financial outlook, warning that fierce competition is eating into sales and profits.” As reported by Lisa Fickenscher in the NY Post, Grubhub plans to beat back that competition by “piloting an initiative in recent months to expand its restaurant network without officially partnering with eateries — a strategy that has been used by deep-pocketed startups like Doordash and Postmates.” Italics mine. Cool cool cool.
Key quote: “‘It’s very hard to trick a consumer to pay more than they want to pay,’ [Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney] said.” I don’t know, man. You been to Luger?
The Foie – “The New York City Council overwhelmingly passed legislation on Wednesday that will ban the sale of foie gras in the city, one of the country’s largest markets, beginning in 2022. New York City will join California in prohibiting the sale of foie gras, the fattened liver of a duck or goose, over animal cruelty concerns.” Details via Jeffery C. Mays and Amelia Nierenberg in the NYT.
The Prize – Found on FoodTank: “Apply for the Food System Vision Prize to Envision a Better Food System for 2050… The Prize, launched by The Rockefeller Foundation in partnership with SecondMuse and OpenIDEO, is driven by a central question: ‘How might we envision regenerative and nourishing food futures for 2050?’ Visions can be submitted now through January 31, 2020. Up to 10 Top Visionaries will receive US$200,000 each, for a total prize value of US$2 million… While the prize is open to organizations globally, applications submitted by teams of multiple organizations from across the food system—think a university paired with a city government or a start-up together with a research center joined by a group of chefs—will be prioritized.” Partner up, folks?
The Profile Treatment – Looks like Bon Appétit’s David Tamarkin got a fair amount of access to Gabriela Cámara and Jessica Koslow as they moved toward Onda in the Proper Hotel in Santa Monica. The resulting profile is full of little tensions that have me wondering how many months until Cámara is out of the partnership altogether. It starts with the fritto misto (“Cámara envisioned a classic dish, something like what you’d find at Cala… or Contramar… But ‘classic’ is something Koslow can’t wrap her head around.”), moves on to questions of scale and ambition, and ends with Cámara telling Tamarkin, “‘The reality is that this is more of a consultancy,’ ... There was a hesitancy in her voice, and I didn’t know if it was because she wasn’t sure how much to reveal about her role, or if she was unsure herself what that role is. When I asked if she saw herself doing more consultancies of this nature, she sounded almost pained.”
Key line: “Onda translates to English as ‘wave,’ and Cámara and Koslow are quick to say that the name, in part, refers to them being on the same wavelength. But they named the restaurant before the real work began, before they knew how much they would get hung up over a fritto misto.”
The Big Gig – Per Caleb Pershan in Eater NY, “After serious staff shakeups this spring, restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group is turning to a trusted insider to lead the kitchen at mainstay Union Square Cafe. Chef Lena Ciardullo, who joined the group a decade ago, will take over as the restaurant’s new executive chef in early 2020... Now, the USHG will hire to fill her current role at Marta.”
For the somm – In the run-up to the 2020 release of her memoir — Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America's Youngest Sommelier — Victoria James, beverage director at Manhattan’s Cote, contacted “each of the Michelin-starred and Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants in New York City to ask for the name, gender, and ethnic background of their [wine buyers] and their background for a data survey.” She shares the results, and some choice anecdotes about her time swimming among these statistics, in Eater NY (where the comment section is… oh, boy). A sample: Of the 170 Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants: “86 percent are men, 14 percent are women, and 88 percent are white, 6 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Asian, and 1 percent are black.” And when it comes to 76 Michelin spots: “83 percent are men, 17 percent are women, and 71 percent are white, 24 percent are Asian, 5 percent are Hispanic, and 0 percent are black.” Zero. Percent.
For the somm too – The NYT’s “Wine and Climate Change” series is complete, and ICYMI, all four of Eric Asimov’s articles on the subject are here: How Climate Change Impacts Wine; In Oregon Wine Country, One Farmer’s Battle to Save the Soil; Freshness in a Changed Climate: High Altitudes, Old Grapes; and In Napa Valley, Winemakers Fight Climate Change on All Fronts.
And last and least – Uh, I had to cut the last and least today because it’s a review of Pete Wells’s review and I don’t have a first reader available to tell me if it’s too harsh (or stupid). If you’d like to be that reader, send me a note and I’ll send it your way. Sorry. This must be as frustratingly unhelpful as a trip to the DMV, huh? Wink, nudge, ZING!
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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