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Yelp stats, Miami Vegas, Reopening PR, Cookbook dreams, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, March 5th, 2021
Tuesday’s paid Family Meal is copy/pasted at bottom as usual. If you’re not getting it on Tuesday, and you have the means, by all means…
Let’s get to it…
The Relief – If you’re trying to keep tabs on the $1.9T stimulus package making its way through congress right now, WaPo’s Erica Werner, Jeff Stein, and Tony Romm have a helpful SITREP here. Schumer says the Senate will do whatever it takes to finish the bill this week, and “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has guaranteed the House will pass the Senate’s version of the bill, despite some changes that liberals dislike, including narrowing eligibility for $1,400 relief checks and excluding a $15 minimum wage.” Italics mine.
As part of the debate, Bernie Sanders was on the Senate floor yesterday arguing to eliminate the tip credit and calling out the National Restaurant Association for its opposition. Meh. Call me when Joe Manchin makes that speech.
The Red Flags – “Last week, Yelp released its 2020 trust and safety report and launched a site to support it. Turns out, about a quarter of the 18.1 million reviews Yelp received last year were flagged for suspicious activity by Yelp’s recommendation software.” Expedite’s Kristen Hawley says check your pages: A new update to that software “will cause approximately 177,000 currently recommended reviews at 154,00 businesses to become not recommended.” Also of note per Hawley: “Yelp said instances of what it calls media-fueled incidents nearly tripled in 2020.”
The Snowbirds – In her newsletter a couple of weeks ago, Eater EIC Amanda Kludt mentioned that is was: “Wild to me that in the last month, Osteria Morini, Cote, Uchi, and Carbone all opened in Miami.” Add to that list Keith McNally and Stephen Starr’s Pastis, which Olee Fowler reports is scheduled to arrive next year. Miami: So Vegas right now.
P.S. – That same newsletter has Kludt’s take on some of the necessary nuance in covering the Great Reopening (“Eater whiplash” as I called it), and is worth a read, especially paired with Pete Wells’s NYT Insider piece last month on how his job has changed during the pandemic.
The Good PR – And speaking of the Great Reopening… As cities and states across the country plow forward, I like this Texas-edition revival of the ol’ Safety Protocol PR from the early days of the pandemic: “These Austin Restaurants Still Require Masks and Social Distancing Despite Governor’s Order.” Available in Dallas and Houston too. Protect your staff! Get your restaurant on an Eater list! Win win. (Hey Abbooottttt!)
For Cookbook Dreamers – Per the NYT, “The pandemic has been good to cookbooks. Overall sales jumped 17 percent from 2019.” Great! BUT, according to Kim Severson’s look behind those numbers in the NYT, most of that growth is in the non-restaurant “comfort, speed, and dessert” space: “The news wasn’t as good for cookbooks by restaurant chefs, perhaps a surprise in a year suffused with nostalgia for eating out. Rica Allannic, a literary agent with the David Black Agency, whose roster includes a murderers’ row of culinary heavy hitters, said the category ‘is not ascendant.’ Sarah Smith, another David Black agent, explained, ‘Prepandemic, there was already a move toward cooking that was more accessible and meant to be made at your house, as opposed to extremely composed, cheffy books.’” Definitely worth a read if you’ve been thinking about (or are in the middle of) pitching a cookbook.
And if your heart is still set on a “cheffy” concept, also worth reading through Charlotte Druckman’s interview with Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown co-writer Tienlon Ho in Eater. They get into proposal vs finished product, pushback from the publisher, and how many complicated recipes (“some of them take at least 10 days”) one cookbook can get away with…
And if the pandemic has you looking to move into the home cooking media space, keep an eye on Toni Tipton-Martin’s Twitter feed. The EIC of America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooks Country says she’ll be hiring soon.
For the Bar: Some sad news – DC’s legendary whiskey collector Harvey Fry, whose collection and personality helped shape the city’s whisky scene via Jack Rose in Adams Morgan, has died according to multiple people on Twitter (apparently confirmed by WaPo’s Fritz Hahn). In the absence of an obituary (at time of writing), worth clicking back to this ten year-old profile from Todd Kliman in the Washingtonian: “Harvey Fry: A Fine Madness.”
For Design Fans – I recognize that new cocktail bar Shelby in Detroit is probably not designed for me (not least because my desire to hang out in a basement bar that looks impossible to get out of died on my last trip to Lit Lounge many years ago), but scanning through the photospread in Eater, I did pause on the arched cutouts for the bottle shelves behind the bar. A smart way to keep the bright, backlit look while still limiting some light pollution? Like an aqueduct of lampshades for your display booze? Jury still out.
And last but not least: For TV Fans – “The short-lived Starz sitcom ‘Party Down,’ about a team of misanthropic cater-waiters in Los Angeles, aired in 2009 and 2010 in relative obscurity, then turned into a cult hit in the years since its cancellation. Now, the show will be revived with a six-episode limited series, Starz said on Thursday.” I can’t entirely vouch for the original — great cast / not exactly modern pacing / some of the same bad, homophobic, and variously cringe laugh-lines that doom Waiting — but it’ll be interesting to see how they’ve worked those issues out when I borrow your Starz password for this.
Thanks in advance.
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see paying subscribers Tuesday, everyone else Friday, and those of you on Clubhouse (I have invites, just ask!), Monday at 10:30am ET / 7:30am PT for my weekly news rundown with Kristen Hawley of Expedite.
If you’re looking for last Tuesday’s newsletter, it’s below. Otherwise, until next Family Meal…
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or a team of misanthropic cater-waiters in Los Angeles 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!
Here begins the copy/paste of the Family Meal that went out Tuesday, March 2nd, to paying subscribers. If you’d also like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…
Onwuachi productions, Chu protests, Recipeasly backfires, and more...
And hello to paying subscribers only!
Let’s get to it…
The Big Gig – Per Food & Wine EIC Hunter Lewis, “For his next act, Kwame Onwuachi is joining our team as an executive producer. Together, we'll collaborate on big brand moments and events, including the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, where he'll host cooking demonstrations and events and also serve in a new role as F&W Pro ambassador to the hospitality industry. He'll also help us expand our Best New Chef Mentorship program... And this August in Middleburg, Virginia, he will host The Family Reunion presented by Kwame Onwuachi.” From the Q&A beneath the news, sounds like Onwuachi, now living in LA, is going all brand and content, no brick and mortar, from here on out… Nice work if you can get it!
The Target – A COVID driven labor-relations twist? A union representing workers at (NYC) Chinatown’s big Jing Fong dim sum restaurant is protesting that dining room closure by going after not only the restaurant owner, but also the building landlord. In fact, in their Instagram announcement of today’s planned action, they only mention the latter, giving his business address as the gathering place: “Jing Fong is the only Chinese restaurant in Chinatown that has a union representing its staff. Now the landlord, Jonathan Chu, is trying to force it to close, cut members’ jobs and violate their rights. Join our rally outside of Chu’s business, Eastbank 183 Centre St on Tuesday, March 2nd at 11am.” Chu is a prominent — and controversial — Chinatown figure, but this still feels like a new strategy. Imagine TAK Room staff showing up at Related HQ to protest Stephen Ross?
The Unknown Unknowns – After seeing chatter online about what happened to Spoon by H and the rise in credit card chargeback problems, Nom Wah’s Barb Leung decided to write a Medium post about an incident from last spring that’s worth sharing: “One of my colleagues noticed that we were dinged $641 on Grubhub. The reason? Unconfirmed orders. However, when we clicked through the orders in question, they were all marked delivered—a snag in the system (most likely from our third-party integration that aggregates everything into one workflow) gave Grubhub a loophole to not deliver the funds owed.” After fighting back hard against Grubhub’s 24-hour statute of limitations, Leung successfully challenged the charges, receiving a “one time credit” but no admission or apology from the app. Obviously, delivery apps and takeout middlemen are going to fight like hell to avoid accepting blame (and opening the liability floodgates), but Leung’s parting message is: “Don’t be afraid to challenge these platforms just because they’re bigger than you.”
The Vaccines – According to readers in CA wine country, the Sonoma success story I shared last week (“Nearly 70% of Sonoma County’s Estimated 12,500 Ag and Production Workers Have Been Vaccinated”) requires a bit more nuance. Restaurant industry people say they’ve been frustrated to see winery back-office types apparently getting included as “ag workers” in the priorities scheme, while restaurant staff are being asked to go to Oakland and get in line at FEMA centers there…
Still, the food media push to move industry folks up the list continues. Of late: Miguel de Leon (somm at Pinch Chinese in NYC) had an op-ed in Bon Appétit yesterday — “Restaurant Workers Should Be Prioritized for the Vaccine. Why Aren’t We?” — while in Boston, another anti indoor-dining Eater piece (this time from Terrence Doyle) was headlined: “Dining Rooms Shouldn’t Reopen Until Restaurant Workers Are Eligible for the Vaccine.”
The Media – In Chicago this weekend, Ariel Cheung announced: “Really thrilled to say I'll be the new dining editor at the Chicago Tribune. It's an honor to pick up the mantle from Joe Gray, and to have the chance to work with such absurdly talented food reporters as Louisa Chu, Josh Noel, Adam Lukach, and Nick Kindelsperger. Onward and upward!”
The Opportunity – FYI, Food52 recently launched a new podcast, Counterjam, “A musical dive into the cultural identities behind the plate. Hosted by MOFAD Founding Director and Food Content Lead at Pinterest Peter Kim.” Sounds a little like a cross between All Songs Considered and a chef interview show, and they tell me they’re open to pitches from chefs and/or musicians who have a great cultural story to tell…. You? Send pitches to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Raise – The recent rise in violence against Asians in America is getting more and more attention lately (including this illustrated piece from Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg in the NYT about Jason Wang’s decision to close Xi’an Famous Foods locations earlier to protect staff), and if you’re on Clubhouse and want to support affected businesses, the LA Food Gang group is putting on a fundraiser tomorrow (Wednesday, March 3rd) at 5PM PT, with industry-related featured guests like Ruth Reichl, Wolfgang Puck, Niki Nakayama, Mei Lin, Timothy Hollingsworth, Shirley Chung, Duff Goldman, Esdras Ochoa, Timon Balloo, Matt Horn, Marissa Hermer, Yunnie Kim, Paulie James and more. Funds will go through Off Their Plate to “struggling AAPI restaurants, who will make meals for AAPI community organizations across the country.” Details here.
And last and least: The Misfire – Not really about restaurants, but if you missed the brief, wondrous life of Recipeasly, right this way… At about 4:30PM ET on Sunday afternoon, a software product manager named Tom Redman posted to Twitter: “Some personal news! Two friends and I created a new thing to fix online recipes: Recipeasly.com – your favourite recipes except the ads or life stories.” He then added, fatefully, “Feedback and [retweets] appreciated!”
Apparently, in their product research, the Recipeasly team went all in on customers (readers) but forgot to learn anything at all about the recipe writers providing the product’s products. If they were even remotely in touch with the food blogging community, they would know that one of the biggest pet peeves there is other people’s public peeves about ads and life stories. It’s such a well-known issue that the Washington Post’s Emily Heil wrote about it when Mindy Kaling made a similar criticism last year, and Eater’s Jenny Zhang wrote a satire article the same week to drive home the point.
And so, less than four hours after launch, Redman thanked everyone for “the strong feedback” under the original thread, apologized, and took Recipeasly down.
But I digress. You probably just want the recipe (I always do). To make a shit sandwich, simply place some shit on one slice of bread, cover with another slice, and serve. Recipeasly!
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 some personal news 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!