ThinkFoodGroup thinks not, Franzia's farewell, Reem reams, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, September 16th, 2022
And hello from the beautiful Denpasar airport. As you read this, I will hopefully be somewhere above one spectacular archipelago or another, en route to three nights of quarantine in a Hong Kong hotel.
If all goes well.
In all my rushing around, Friday’s edition is a bit truncated, so I’ve done away with the usual break between today and the copy / paste of Tuesday’s paid edition. Fingers crossed it all still makes sense!
Let’s get to it…
The Tipping Wars – Per DCist’s Sarah Y. Kim, “The campaign opposing Initiative 82, an upcoming ballot measure that would eliminate D.C.’s tipped wage, got a major fundraising boost from industry titans that include José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, according to recent reports from D.C.’s Office of Campaign Finance… ThinkFoodGroup’s contribution raised some eyebrows as Andrés has called for eliminating tipped wage in New York. Andrés, who is known for his humanitarian work, told the Washington City Paper that he supported New York’s proposal, but not [DC’s last bill aiming to eliminate the tip credit], because the New York plan was ‘more well rounded’ and included a ‘recovery surcharge for restaurants.’”
The arguments for and against the tip credit are definitely not as simple as some pro / anti worker hype, and I sympathize with both restaurateurs and front of house who say the credit is baked into an already shaky business / income model, but TFG and Andrés should explain their thinking here, and, dare I say…. Present a proposed alternative? Maybe even at a national level? What does it mean to be a leader in this industry if you only play a reactive role to every proposal that comes along? (With the exception of PPP, RRF, etc.)
You could even just lay it all out there in favor of the tip credit forever! Unless, of course, you’ve said it’s no good in another city, in which case… Time for a ThinkFoodGroup ThinkTank I think? (Happy to hear you guys out on this. Or, what say you, IRC?)
For the Somm: Some Sad News – “Fred Franzia, the iconoclastic businessman who turned the wine industry on its head with his inexpensive Charles Shaw label, better known as Two-Buck Chuck, died on Tuesday at his home in Denair, Calif. He was 79.” NYT Obit treatment via Priya Krishna, who says, “Mr. Franzia’s unorthodox business practices rattled many in the wine industry. He did not care. ‘Take that and shove it, Napa,’ he said in a 2009 profile in The New Yorker, after selling his 400 millionth bottle of Charles Shaw.”
SF Chronicle wine critic Esther Mobley also has a detailed obituary for Franzia here.
The Small Screen – Normally I wouldn’t tease an upcoming “five to 10 minute” long Buzzfeed short, but Jessica Yadegaran of the Mercury News reports that premiering tomorrow at the Oakland Museum of California: “In ‘Share the Pie,’ [Reem Assil] is juggling a typically frenetic day that begins with an obnoxious food journalist, played by Soleil Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle, and ends with a culinary awards ceremony where she receives an honor — and gives the esteemed panel a piece of her mind.” Obnoxious food journalists and esteemed panels prepare yourselves for… comeuppance!
And that’s it for today! But I will do away with the typical break here and just move right into what paying subscribers already read on Tuesday. If you’d like to get Tuesday’s on Tuesday too…
The Best New – Food & Wine was out with its big Best New Chef 2022 list yesterday, but before we get to the winners, a bit about what they went through to get there (from a footnote):
“Chefs who have been in charge of a kitchen or pastry program for five years or less are eligible… After the chefs are notified of their BNC award, F&W conducts background checks, and requires each chef to share an anonymous multilingual survey with their staff that aims to gauge the workplace culture at each chef’s establishment.”
Quite a little vetting process there! But 11 chefs made it through this year, and editor Khushbu Shah has profiles on each of them at these links: Melissa Miranda (Musang, Seattle); Calvin Eng (Bonnie's, NYC); Caroline Schiff (Gage & Tollner, NYC); Damarr Brown (Virtue, Chicago); Emily Riddell (Machine Shop, Philadelphia); Tim Flores & Genie Kwon (Kasama, Chicago); Ana Castro (Lengua Madre, New Orleans); Warda Bouguettaya (Warda Pâtisserie, Detroit); Rob Rubba (Oyster Oyster, DC); and Justin Pichetrungsi (Anajak Thai, Los Angeles).
And a special congrats to the new Food & Wine Restaurant of the Year 2022: Locust, in Nashville, which Shah says “is open three days a week, for five and a half hours a day. Two hours are dedicated to lunch; the remaining time is for dinner service. On average, there are about six dishes on the menu, plus the occasional special (or three).”
I am very happy to hear that strategy is working for the team at Locust! But I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to go all in on this like Shah does: “If Locust proves one thing, it is that the era of restaurants bending over backward for diners, doing everything to capture every customer possible, is officially over.”
Does it feel over, folks? Officially over?
The Influencers – In the LA Times, Jenn Harris has a long one on influencer marketing for restaurants that surprised me for… how positive it was? Feels like most stuff about influencers leans the way Pim Techamuanvivit puts it in the piece — “Restaurants operate on tiny margins… and you’re asking us to fund your Instagram story content? It’s just not right.” — but this one gives a lot of space to people like Joel Gonzalez, owner of Mariscos Corona in LA. “Gonzalez agreed to pay [influencer Ashley Rodriguez] $1,500 for one video that she posted to TikTok and, later, Instagram. Gonzalez says he spent an additional $40 for her food. ‘If I could tell any other restaurant owner — it was worth it,’ he says.”
P.S. Key quote re transparency: “The general consensus among the half-dozen food influencers interviewed for this story is that consumers don’t care if — and probably assume that — the food is free.” The best scams are when people know you’re scamming and still let you scam them…
The Petard – In Philadelphia, Eater’s Danya Evans reports, “Restaurateur Jon Myerow publicly champions progressive change in the restaurant industry, but numerous former Tria workers allege that he created a work environment defined by angry outbursts, sexualized comments, and workplace relationships that made some staffers uncomfortable.” Familiar details in the piece, many disputed by Myerow. Seems this all has its genesis back in May of 2021, when a staffer was inspired by other people’s similar stories and decided to share an anonymized accusation on Instagram. So… I guess I wouldn’t get too comfy if I’m someone who was called out back then? But at the same time, Eater national’s tweets about this story got all of 8 retweets and just one comment (from someone disagreeing with the reporting), so… these exposés are not getting as much exposure as they used to.
Obviously this time that has something to do with the relative fame of the accused, but we’re also dealing with some kind of general, post-pandemic (and post 2021) weariness / desensitization to these kinds of accusations, right?
And last but not least: For TV Fans – I have some bad news. Doesn’t look like any restaurant or cooking shows won Emmys last night. Top Chef lost Best Competition Show to Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls on Amazon Prime.
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see everyone back here Friday for next Family Meal.
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