WCK shakeup, Chicago Trib trip-up, Salt Bae racks up, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, August 12, 2022
Some scheduling news before we get started: There will be no Family Meal next week.
We are winding down this US trip, leaving St Louis for San Francisco today, and starting our long slog back toward Hong Kong quarantine on Monday. There are a lot of logistical nightmares to deal with as we go — Hong Kong still requires negative PCR tests for entry, and if we miss any flights, we could lose our quarantine hotel booking (and with that our chance to make it back in time for the kids’ school) — and as news for Family Meal has been relatively slow recently, this seems as good a time as any to take a quick break.
Fingers crossed all goes according to plan!
And on that note: This is a very short one, as is Tuesday’s paid version, which is copy / pasted below as usual.
Let’s get to it…
The Departure – Restaurant-world-adjacent headline in WaPO: “World Central Kitchen CEO abruptly exits amid nonprofit’s rapid growth.” Tim Carman reports, “Earlier this month, the organization’s board of directors and [Nate Mook] agreed to part ways. The announcement came in the form of a short statement on Aug. 2. The announcement offered no rationale for the change of leadership, and WCK’s press office declined interview requests.” José Andrés and Mook are all gracious goodbyes on social media, but that statement from the board is pretty curt, and Carman suggests they may have been concerned about decisions around the Ukraine effort. In the article, Mook floats the idea that to sustain its work there, “the group may try to secure government funding or perhaps even hand off operations to a United Nations agency.” The latter would be quite a handoff, both logistically, and mission-wise.
Some notes: Mook says WCK is now pulling in $400M per year for its efforts, and the organization will be looking for a new CEO soon. I’ll do it, Big J, but no cold weather disasters. Deal?
The Ask – In Chicago, former critic Michael Nagrant wonders: “Did the Chicago Tribune food editor just use her implicit clout to publicly ask the industry she covers to donate food to a third-party organization that she’s president of to benefit her and 49 other journalists?” The Instagram story Ariel Cheung apparently used to ask, “Anyone know of a restaurant or food biz that would be down to donate food to a Chicago journalism event with ~50 people?” has expired, but media-restaurant relations like this are forever not a great look.
For Design Fans – For a continued sense of this slow news summer… NYT Food’s top story this morning is about the Pina Pro, a trendy new outdoor table lamp some restaurants are into (because Cipriani was an early adopter?). I’m sure they look great on your restaurant’s sidewalk seating, but for the life of me I can’t understand how you make a slender little stem like that and don’t top it with a miniature green banker’s lamp and a tiny brass pull cord. Is cute dead?
And Last and Least: The P&L – How’s your restaurant doing? Good? Great. Well, I regret to inform you that per Tim Kiek in The National, a recent financial filing shows: “The London restaurant of flamboyant Turkish chef Salt Bae made £7 million ($8.55m) in its first four months of [operations], after opening in Knightsbridge in September last year…. The same report showed that Nusret UK made an overall profit of £2.3 million, an impressive figure given the wider travails of the UK restaurant scene.”
Critic Jay Rayner bashed his head against the wall about this on Twitter, but as the saying goes: “A fool and his money are probably having a really great time at Nusret London without you, Jay.”
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s paid version, which is copy / pasted below as usual.
Don’t forget: I am off next week, so I’ll see paid subscribers back here on August 23rd, and everyone else on Friday, August 26th for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or an impressive figure given the wider travails 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, August 9th. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays too…
Croissants shrunk, Tabs "soaring", Unions drip drip, and more...
And hello again from beautiful St. Louis, MO, where for the second time this trip, I have walked in to a restaurant looking for a solo spot at an empty bar, and been asked for my phone number before I could sit. Maybe this has been happening for a while and I just never noticed?
The host at Frenchette in NYC told me they wanted it to link to my Resy profile, and sure enough I got a “Please Rate Your Visit” followup email the next day.
It’s fine. I don’t care. But it does give a bit of an Outlet-Store-Asking-For-My-Zip-Code vibe? And in a non-chain setting, it maybe also kind of spoils the magic of the more surreptitious hospitality guest knowledge that hides reservation notes so well it seems they really are all in the host’s head?
More importantly: WHAT IS IN MY RESY PROFILE?
A quick note on scheduling: On Friday, we head to San Francisco for a few final days of this US tour before flying home to Hong Kong (and its now relatively merciful 3-day quarantine on arrival). Between the slow news of late (as evidenced below!) and all the logistics of kids and travel, I’ve decided to take next week off, so there will be no Family Meal next week.
Wish us luck with the travel. Stick with me. And (after this Friday’s Family Meal) I’ll see you all again on the other side of mid-August.
Let’s get to it…
The Hike – Before the phrase of the week was “FBI Raid” the word of the week was (in food, at least) “Inflation.” As if to follow up on a somewhat viral NYT local headline from yesterday — “$15 French Fries and $18 Sandwiches: Inflation Hits New York.” — NYT Food was out with an explainer this morning: “That Dinner Tab Has Soared. Here Are All the Reasons.” None of those reasons are new for people reading this newsletter (costs up all around!), but the piece does a very thorough line-by-line, year-on-year comparison of expenses at one restaurant, Good Food on Montford in Charlotte, for consumer reference. Might be worth sharing with the balkers.
Final tally from Priya Krishna and Umi Syam, after a loooong scroll through cost increases of anywhere from 1% (case of paper bags) to 1770% (paid job postings): “The restaurant makes nearly $2 million a year in sales; [owner Bruce Moffett] estimates that his profit margin has fallen to about 8 to 10 percent, from roughly 15 to 20 percent before the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the SF Chronicle food team is trying to explain to its readers “how Bay Area bakeries are keeping croissant prices stable despite inflation.” (Caleb Pershan and Yuri Avila report “Starter Bakery, a wholesale operation in Oakland… shrunk the size of its croissants by 20 percent.”)
And back in a world where consumers don’t need nickels and dimes explained via spreadsheet: The LA Times’ Jenn Harris tells them the $74 truffle-topped cheesecake at José Andrés’s new San Laurel restaurant in DTLA’s new Conrad hotel is worth it.
The Unions – are still very much on the march in the coffee world. Per Naomi Waxman in Eater Chicago yesterday: “Pro-union retail workers at Intelligentsia sailed to victory Monday in a union election that allows employees to join Local 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). This election outcome marks IBEW’s second successful organizing campaign in Chicago’s coffee industry, occurring just short of a year after its win at Colectivo Coffee, the Wisconsin chain with five Chicago-area locations. It also falls amidst an ongoing wave of contentious union elections at Starbucks cafes locally and elsewhere in the U.S.”
Some Sad News – In CA, “Jerry Budrick, one of the original waiters at Chez Panisse and a longtime presence as the Berkeley restaurant’s maitre d’, has died at age 78. Budrick died July 24 after a five-year struggle with esophageal cancer.” Full obituary via Mario Cortez in the Chronicle.
And in NY, “Georges Briguet, the bonhomous owner of Le Périgord, who greeted and seated guests by name nightly at that classic haute cuisine French restaurant in Manhattan for a half-century, died on July 26 in Montauk, N.Y. He was 85.” Obit from Sam Roberts in the Times.
And that’s it for today. Another short one and another reason to take some time off next week.
I’ll see you all here Friday for next Family Meal, and after that, will keep in touch on Twitter and Instagram till I’m back here on August 23rd.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or New York legend 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!