Top Chef trouble, RRF over, Resy redux, 80-20 rules, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, July 2nd, 2021
Quick programming note: As usual, when Mondays are holidays in the US, there is no Tuesday Family Meal. Which is helpful on my end next week, because if all goes well I will be on an airplane all day Tuesday for a short trip to St Louis, Baltimore, DC, and possibly NYC, before heading home to Hong Kong for seven straight days sealed in a hotel room (a mercifully short mandatory quarantine compared to the previous 21 day minimum)!
(Related: If you had very limited time in those places over the next few weeks, where would you eat and drink?)
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – That’s all, folks. Per an email from the SBA yesterday, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is officially closed. BUT applications that didn’t get funded (or rejected) will remain in the system should congress pass a refill. So if you’re still hopeful, make sure to make any edits or corrections before the portal shuts down entirely on July 14th. It’s been a wild, $28.6B ride, which an NYT headline writer summed up thusly: “Restaurant Grant Program Ends in a Cloud of Errors and Confusion. More than 100,000 business owners got help from the relief effort, but 265,000 were turned away — some after awards were rescinded.” True.
P.S – If I were lobbying for a refill, this is the kind of article I’d be sharing all over my social media right now: “An 'existential crisis': Pandemic debts hang over Bay Area restaurants,” by Elena Kadvany in the SF Chronicle.
The Thin Tip Line – Speaking of confusion… Seen this one before? In RH, Joanna Fantozzi says the DOL is at it again: “The U.S. Department of Labor proposed a rule on June 21 that would… essentially bring back the 80/20 tipped wage rule, which the Trump administration rolled back last December.” Well, at least this tipping rule will be SUPER easy for the public to understand,
FYI: “The department invites comments from the public on the proposed rule at www.regulations.gov. The comment period closes Aug. 23, 2021.”
The Top Chef Knives – SPOILER ALERT: I don’t watch Top Chef. But Austin’s Comedor chef Gabe Erales won this season last night, and… only hours after the show ended, host Padma Lakshmi tweeted: “As someone who has been sexually harassed, this topic is a serious one and merits openness. We filmed Top Chef in October of last year & were not aware of the allegations now coming out about Gabe. This should be investigated & the network should consider its best action.” And without naming Gabe, judge Gregory Gourdet posted on Instagram about ending the era of the “power hungry, abusive, egomaniac chef.”
So…. not great. First, the idea that Top Chef judges, producers, etc. didn’t know about allegations against Erales is not the win they think it is. Eater’s Nadia Chaudhury reported about his being fired from Comedor back in December for “repeated violations of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values” according to his restaurant partner Philip Speer. And from what I gather from people close to the restaurant, it would not have been hard to find someone to expand on that behavior if a media outlet with the resources of Bravo wanted to truly vet the person they definitely knew months ago was going to win the most famous cooking competition in America.
The r/BravoTopChef Reddit threads are filling up with discussions about this (here, here, and more I’m sure), and many people are linking back to an Austin DailyDot article by Audra Schroeder detailing the original(?) anonymous Instagram allegations back in July 2020 (before filming).
I’m sure a ton more will come out over the course of the day, not least serious questions for Tom, Padma, et al. and I have a LOT of thoughts, but my fastest take is: Any explanation on the part of Top Chef judges, producers, or network types that doesn’t come down to: “At the end of the day, contracts were signed, sponsor checks were cashed, and we just figured we could talk our way into forgiveness later” should be met with extreme skepticism.
The Critics – Ahead of the launch of her new Substack, “The Food Section” (which some have pointed out shares its name with writer Josh Friedland’s old site), former Charleston Post & Courier critic Hanna Raskin is going on a whistlestop tour and… telling everyone where she’ll be when. Braver than me! You can hang out with the (nominally anonymous no more?) critic in Raleigh, Atlanta, New Orleans, Nashville, and Charlotte for various happy hours from July 6-24, at which, she says, “I plan to buy a bottle of something celebratory and share it with whoever wants to talk about The Food Section and its coverage.” (cc PR!) Details here.
The CC – Family Meal friend Kristen Hawley is taking the week off from her Expedite newsletter, but I asked her to guest cover this news while she’s away: “Resy + Amex is moving beyond the yurts. Amex bought Resy in 2019 to offer its cardmembers ‘further benefits and experiences,’ per a TechCrunch article about the acquisition. This week they finally announced some progress with Global Dining Access by Resy for Amex premium card members. Linking an Amex card to your Resy account gives you special privileges like access to primetime tables held at popular restaurants like Osteria Mozza in LA, Carbone in New York, and The Grey in Savannah, and priority notifications when tables open up.”
So, basically Resy (which started out as an app that charged diners for premium tables) has convinced Amex (which bought Resy after it pivoted away from that model because that model presumably wasn’t working) that charging diners for premium tables is great (as long as the charge for the table is hidden in a credit card fee, which basically charges the restaurant — or other restaurants — for the privilege)? Do I have that right?
I’m not good at finance.
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s paid subscriber Family Meal, which is copy / pasted at bottom as usual for those who missed it. If that’s you, and you’d like to receive Tuesday editions on Tuesdays (but not this Tuesday, because I’m off)…
I’ll see you all here Friday for next Family Meal. (But please send your limited time tips for St Louis, Baltimore, DC, and NYC in the meantime!)
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or Global Dining Access 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!
OK, here’s what went out to paying subscribers earlier this week:
Family Meal - Tuesday, June 29th, 2021
JBF DEI, Great Jones heat, Passmore provenance, Fieri's sway, and more...
And hello to paying subscribers only! Quick reminder that this is the last week to get your answers into the Family Meal reader survey. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your time on it! If you haven’t yet…
Let’s get to it…
The Awards – Are (coming) back… As part of the June update it sent out late last week, the James Beard Foundation has published diversity goals (“a Board of Trustees that is 36% BIPOC by 2023” and “50% of all annual new hires are BIPOC across leadership and staff positions”); committed to publishing the results of its James Beard Awards “policies and procedures” audit later this summer; and confirmed that “the first post-audit James Beard Awards will take place in 2022.”
They also say details about a 2021 event “honoring those who have made a significant impact on the industry and in their communities during this crisis” with both “virtual and in-person elements,” will be shared in July. (Please consider my sharing all this news an obvious attempt to ingratiate myself with the newsletter awards committee. Hey, guys! Great stuff!)
Meanwhile… on the media side of things: The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) put out their list of 2021 awards finalists yesterday (alongside a description of the awards that nods to both JBFA transparency issues and IACP’s own past self-dealing perception problems, which is fun). If you need a reason to ping/compliment a food media type, here’s your long list.
The Media Too – A new face for SF restaurants to keep an eye on: Lauren Saria announced on Twitter yesterday that having just turned 30, “I got myself a pretty cool gift: a new job (& a new city to call home). I'm thrilled to have joined the talented Eater team as editor of Eater SF!” She comes (back) to NorCal from The Arizona Republic, where she was Food, Dining, and Nightlife Editor. (Plenty of host stand pictures to choose from on her Instagram, FYI.)
Das Kindness Kapital – There is a lot going on in Anna Silman’s big Business Insider piece about the collapse of morale at Great Jones, the cookware company founded by Maddy Moelis and former New York Magazine / Grubstreet editor Sierra Tishgart (with early investment from industry folks like David Chang, Jessica Koslow, Nicolas Jammet, Claire DeBoer, and a more recent round of “investments from founders and owners of prominent restaurants like Mimi Cheng's, Lilia, Kopitiam, and Konbi”). See Kyle Chayka’s Twitterthread for choice bits if you can’t get behind the paywall, and marvel at the pile on from food media Twitter, where apparently a lot of people who have worked around Tishgart in the past hoped something like this was coming, and are cheering it on (a la former NY Mag staffers E. Alex Jungand Alicia Kennedy).
How much bridge funding will it take a startup built on friendly faces and “earned” media to replace so many burnt bridges?
The Supply Chain Chain – Willows Inn, Bel Campo, and… This weekend from Janelle Bitker’s in the SF Chronicle: “For years, chefs at some of the Bay Area’s most lauded three-Michelin-starred restaurants have proudly worked with a celebrated seafood farm just outside Sacramento called Passmore.”
Can you guess where this is going? “Now, some chefs are severing ties with the farm as its founder, Michael Passmore, tries to explain why much of the fish he sells isn’t actually raised on the farm — and that Passmore hasn’t produced any caviar in more than two years. Instead, the company has been buying the prized cured sturgeon roe from countries like France and China and repackaging it as its own.”
Can you guess how this started? “Allegations about Passmore began spreading in June, beginning on an anonymous Instagram account. These posts inspired some former employees to speak up.”
That TV $$$ – Maybe you missed this? Former somm and Nopa manager turned magazine founder turned High on the Hog host Stephen Satterfield launched an Indiegogo campaign nine days ago, setting a $250k goal to fund a new podcast arm for his Whetstone Media company. $250k didn’t seem like a stretch for someone coming off a huge media blitz around an ostensibly successful Netflix show, but almost halfway to the endpoint, the campaign has only raised 17% of its target number. And at time of writing, there were a total of 411 donors to the fund, while nearly eight thousand six hundred people liked a poem Satterfield posted on Instagram this weekend, which starts: “This campaign teaches me that 2020 love was anomalous. It could not be sustained.” Someone could write an essay about that ratio (and I hope they do).
The (CA) Critics – Are back! After announcing last week that she would be ending her moratorium on negative reviews, SF Chronicle critic Soleil Ho says she surveyed the responses and: “For the most part, readers wanted me to bring it on!” And just south in LA, Bill Addison says he’s returning to regular reviews this week too: “If you have thoughts about what you’d like to see in reviews, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.” (Feel free to bcc me…)
Some Sad News – Tim Carman has what sounds like a real tragic situation in the Washington Post yesterday: “Ari Gejdenson, the D.C. chef and entrepreneur who dissolved his restaurant group last year amid the pandemic, was charged Friday in a Connecticut state court with risk of injury to a child and reckless endangerment following an incident in which police say Gejdenson tried to harm himself and an unidentified child on the railroad tracks about 15 miles east of New Haven.” Here’s hoping everyone gets the help they need there.
And last but not least: The Spokesman – Master interrogator Kara Swisher had Guy Fieri on her Sway podcast this week, and amid some standard Fieri talking points, got him to: Compare workers not returning to the industry to children who won’t eat their broccoli because they’re filling up on Doritos (unemployment Doritos, presumably); say (roundabout) that he wants to raise the minimum wage region by region; decline to support unions; promote ghost kitchens as a net benefit for host restaurants (“At least we’re putting some water through the pond”); confirm his $80M deal with Food Network (Swisher says he should’ve gotten more); and describe his empire as “Restaurants, 173 ghost kitchens, on every Carnival Cruise ship, barbecue sauce, wine company, tequila company, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
Oh, and on a totally unrelated note, he’s hoping some philanthropist in shining armor will drop $50M to build a non-profit delivery app company and save the restaurant industry from DoorDash et al….
Which beggeth the question: Doth our prince have frosted tips?
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or barbecue sauce, wine company, tequila company, blah, blah, blah, blah 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!