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TOTC Awards, RRF reports, Wonder idles, Flyfish POAPs, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, July 29th, 2022
And hello from gorgeous Tribeca, NYC, where the I’m-sure-very-nice-friends-of-friends who own this apartment have absolutely no coffee making devices in their home, and I am weary.
Quick note to new subscribers: In order to keep Family Meal entirely free for readers in the restaurant industry struggling through the pandemic, I send one newsletter out to paying subscribers on Tuesday, and then copy / paste that one below Friday’s free version each week.
If you want to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays (and help keep Family Meal going strong!) please:
Let’s get to it…
Awards Season: Bar Edition – The Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards were announced last night in New Orleans, with international winners this year based either based in London or Sydney, and Ryan Chetiyawardana’s places winning big (Lyaness in London was World’s Best Bar and Best International Hotel Bar, and Silver Lyan in DC won Best US Hotel Bar). Sample US regional winners:
Best US Cocktail Bar: Katana Kitten (NYC); Best New US Cocktail Bar: Happy Accidents (Albuquerque) Best US Restaurant Bar: Jewel of the South (NOLA); and Bartender of the Year: Chris Hannah (Jewel of the South). Full list via press release here.
The RRF Report – Headline in Restaurant Hospitality: “The SBA is sitting on $180 million in undistributed Restaurant Revitalization Fund money.” That’s a relative pittance, and a good chunk ($24M) of it is earmarked to fight potential lawsuits, but that story from Joanna Fantozzi led me to a new Government Accountability Office report that came out a couple of weeks ago, including tons of post-mortem numbers and details on the saga that was the RRF.
Sample roundup from the abstract: “Just over 100,000 businesses received funding (40 percent of eligible applicants). The median award was about $126,000. Most recipients (72 percent) reported they were owned by women, veterans, or members of socially and economically disadvantaged groups. About 43 percent had 2019 revenue of $500,000 or less.”
Side note from the full report: The SBA had expected 70% of applicants to go through their POS partners (Square, Toast, Clover, Aloha, and Oracle), but in the end only 6% of applicants went that route, and “over 4,000 recipients who applied through such a channel have been flagged for suspected fraud or ineligibility, including an alleged fraudster who received $8 million.” A lot of that ineligibility may be due to missing documents in the POS applications (did you include a 2019 tax return?), but presumably next time this happens, these systems will get more scrutiny. Maybe.
The NIMFYs – You know those Wonder vans that idle in suburban driveways while the driver-chefs reheat delivery meals for homeowners? Turns out, suburban neighbors do not like huge vans idling in driveways. The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Berger reports, “In towns like South Orange [New Jersey], peppered with electric cars and lawn signs proclaiming that ‘Science is Real,’ and where gas leaf blowers were banned this summer, the diesel vans aren’t universally welcomed. ‘There’s a stigma of calling the Wonder truck and having them idle outside your house for the decadent purpose of making you dinner in a truck,’ said Will Meyer, a 41-year-old attorney, who concedes the food is quick and tasty. ‘It feels like this is late empire sort of stuff.’”
On the other hand…. quick AND tasty?
For the Somm – The SF Chronicle wine team is out with a big package this week on the state and future of Napa. I have yet to read them all, but there are articles on Napa’s “Disneyland” (read: tourist trap) wineries (think Castello di Amorosa, Del Dotto, Hall, and Raymond); historic wineries (major renovations at places like Clos du Val, Heitz, Robert Mondavi and Charles Krug; “power players” (dudes “Jean-Charles Boisset, Scott Becker, Benoit Touquette, Steve Spadarotto, Juan Pablo Torres Padilla, Andy Beckstoffer, Alex Ryan and Gaylon Lawrence Jr. are all amassing empires”); labor shortage issues; and wine critic Esther Mobley’s big question: “Is Napa Valley Cabernet all starting to taste the same?” which she also discusses on the Chronicle’s podcast Fifth and Mission here.
Some Sad News – 2007 Top Chef finalist “Howard ‘Howie’ Kleinberg, who owned Bulldog Barbecue in North Miami, died over the weekend of a heart attack, his mother, Susan, said. He was 46.” Carlos Frías has an obit in the Miami Herald.
The Media (opportunities) – Despite the fact that nearly everyone in food media I’ve talked to on this US trip so far sounds pretty down on the state of food media, the money behind food media is…. bullish on food media? The Infatuation, which scaled back city coverage at the beginning of 2021 before being bought by JP Morgan Chase later that year, is suddenly using that credit card cash to hire for a bunch of new positions, including editors and writers in DC, Atlanta, and Houston.
Meanwhile, in NYC, Bon Appétit’s digital editorial director Serena Dai says she’s looking for a staff writer, and I see that NY Magazine (Grub Street) is officially hiring a replacement for Adam Platt in their food critic role. I will do it if called, but…
Good luck, all!
And Last and Least: Everybody POAPs – Almost 8 months after minting their first restaurant membership NFTs, the guys over at Flyfish Club still haven’t signed a lease on a restaurant space. But they have started POAPing.
It’s (as far as you know) the hottest new NFT-based craze! Are you the kind of person who occasionally needs to prove you were at an event in the Hamptons? POAPing is for you!
It’s like a digital ticket stub for restaurants (or any kind of event or place)? I guess I can sort of kind of stretch my imagination to conjure a useful use-case where a review site like Yelp requires POAPs to rate a restaurant? But… I doubt I would feel comfortable POAPing at fancy restaurants, especially smaller, more intimate ones. And I’m certainly not going to go running around telling everyone I POAPed at a a “Hamptons Summer Social,” so maybe this one’s just not for 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, New Yorkers on the street, 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 late empire sort of stuff 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, July 26th. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ when they come out on Tuesdays too…
CV La Rue (and sad news too)…
And hello to everyone in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail this week! How’s the mood down there?
We are winding down our visit to DC this morning, and moving slowly toward NYC via NE Corridor train tracks and one night in Baltimore. It has… not been nearly enough time, and if I missed you, I’m sorry!
Was thinking about going to the local restaurant awards — the RAMMYS — on Sunday to try to see a bunch of industry people all at once, but the website said it was black tie, and I didn’t want to deal with renting a tux on vacation. Then I see all the pictures on Instagram and the dress code wasn’t even enforced? Regular old suits at a restaurant awards gala? What are we, farmers?
Let’s get to it…
The CV – A weird one in Dallas: “In media interviews and online résumés, [Carte Blanche chef Casey La Rue] said he worked in the early 2000s at Thomas Keller’s restaurant Per Se in New York, Daniel Boulud’s restaurant Daniel in New York, Ken Oringer’s restaurant Clio (since reopened as Uni) in Boston, and Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas. But representatives from those restaurants told The Dallas Morning News that they have no record of La Rue ever working for them, either as a staff employee or a stage, an unpaid intern. Chefs and staff from the four restaurant groups also said they did not recognize La Rue from photos.”
La Rue responded on Instagram by taking pot shots at the reporting from Dallas Morning News’s Claire Ballor (and DMN’s food section in general), while never actually substantiating his résumé. Not a great PR strategy for someone with supposedly national ambitions. If I were La Rue, I would simply lean in to his more interesting dodge: “When asked about his résumé and told about the responses from those restaurants, La Rue told The News he did work at those establishments, but that he went by a different name at the time, which is why the restaurant groups do not have records of him being there. He declined to provide the alternate name or proof of his employment. La Rue did provide a picture of a W-2 tax document from [Boulud’s] Dinex Group… but the name on the document was redacted.”
Casey! Go all Ayn Rand on these pinko journos! Society’s rules need not apply! Nothing matters but your skill and your mind! Let them wonder: WHO IS CASEY LA RUE?
Awards Season – Ever optimistic, the James Beard Foundation has already set dates for next year: “Mark your calendars! Join us in Chicago for the 2023 James Beard Awards… from June 3 to June 5, 2023.” They also ask that any donations you make this year be earmarked: “Family Meal Andrew Business Class Tickets O’Hare Summer 2023.” Thank you.
Some Sad News– Also in Chicago, per Ashok Selvam in Eater, the city’s “culinary world and French community are mourning the loss of Chez Moi chef Dominque Tougne. Tougne, who opened another restaurant, French Quiche, in 2020, died on Wednesday, July 20 after suffering a heart attack. He was 56.”
And last but not least: Some Sad News Too – “Diana Kennedy, an Englishwoman whose 1972 cookbook “The Cuisines of Mexico” revealed the glories of regional Mexican fare to American readers, died on Sunday at her home in Michoacán, Mexico. She was 99.” William Grimes has a classically biographic NYT obituary, but NYT Food’s Tejal Rao, who spent time with Kennedy for a story a few years ago, wrestles more deeply with Kennedy’s role as a white expat “protecting” and preserving regional Mexican foodways. That piece is definitely worth a read:
“She never backed down from her ludicrous position of dismissing Tex-Mex, California Mexican food and all of the rich, regional cuisines that grew from the Mexican diaspora. She also disparaged creativity and adaptation among Mexican cooks in Mexico who dared to alter classic dishes as she’d recorded them — the most paradoxical of her positions.”
There are many, many obituaries, tributes, and remembrances for Kennedy around food (and other) media this week, including in the Washington Post (from Bonnie Benwick), Texas Monthly (Patricia Sharpe), the LA Times (Daniel Hernandez), the Guardian (Sian Cain), and more.
Best story: Author David Kamp tweeted about the time Kennedy kicked a young Rick Bayless out of her car and made him walk back to town. “He was very brash, and I was getting annoyed, so that was it: I gave him the bum’s rush.”
And that’s it for today.
Baltimore, I’ll see you tonight. NYC, I’ll see you tomorrow. Everyone else, 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 a picture of a W-2 tax document from [Boulud’s] Dinex Group 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!