Image: Cary Grant and Robert Wagner at a movie industry gathering (Hollywood, 1955).
Dearest Gentle Reader, this week the news updates are light in the world of food, but we did manage to pick up the activity on our site. It is a quick read today with James Beard content at the local and national level; some good, some bad. So, shall we proceed?
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Macon – The spot mixing French and southern cuisine has settled in well.
Comings & Goings:
D.C. Dining News
Awards: The good news coming out of the James Beard Foundation award was Oyster Oyster chef Rob Rubba won big as outstanding chef. Like many of his fans we could not be happier for him, but also now dread trying to get a reservation.
Industry: Amanda Michelle Gomez flags a release from the District that DoorDash is donating $500,000 to D.C. to procure and deploy 5,000 dash cameras to DC delivery and ride-hailing workers as part of a public safety initiative.
Gomez also reports that the workers at the former Moon Rabbit have secured recognition for their union. “About 80 hotel workers will be a part of the union, most of whom were servers and kitchen staff of the celebrated restaurant helmed by Chef Kevin Tien. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which operates the hotel, said in a statement that it was ‘pleased’ with the ‘mutually agreeable resolution.’” The voluntary recognition means an NLRB supervised vote was avoided.
Media: We have no insights, and perhaps we missed an announcement, but Washington City Paper has not published a Food section story since May 24th and only one since May 3rd. It published six in April.
D.C.’s as Global City: New Heights is hosting an event for Ukrainian artists: “The reception will be held on Sunday, June 25th, 2023, 2-4pm at New Heights restaurant. 2317 Calvert Street NW. The event is free and open to the public. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and bar available for purchase. RSVP is not required but is appreciated. You can RSVP by following this link: Conflicted Art @ New Heights Restaurant Tickets, Sun, Jun 25, 2023 at 2:00 PM | Eventbrite. Please check out website for the project, from where you can also RSVP to the event:Home | Conflicted Art.”
Odds & Ends: Next time a New Yorker says there is no good pizza… “America’s Hummus Highway, as some people are calling it, starts at Sabra’s mega-factory south of Richmond, passes through Cava’s two plants in the Shenandoah Valley and Laurel, and ends at Little Sesame’s brand-new factory in Prince George’s County. That all adds up to the largest hummus hub in the country.” Don’t tell Zohan.
Wine: Speaking of the war on Ukraine, Asimov does a piece on wine and war and identity.
Spirits: Anna Sulan Masing does the thing she does well to the topic of spirits: “Today, a number of innovative young drinks brands are refocusing on these narratives, and telling the story of their spirits in a way that reveals these hidden histories. In forging a closer connection between soil and sip, they seek to deepen our understanding of sourcing, and situate alcohol not as a placeless commodity, but as a product born of people, trade routes, and landscapes.”
Other Dining News:
A hyped pop-up in Oakland had stated good intentions, but now, after it closed, there are reports of serious problems. S.F. Chronicle broke the story (paywall). EaterSF summarizes. Allegations include “sexual harassment and inappropriate comments from Hi Felicia owner and founder Imana,” bounced or delayed paychecks. The San Francisco Standard added that a “steady outflow of employees” contributed to the restaurant’s closure. Two weeks earlier, when the restaurant suddenly announced the closure after an unsolved burglary, EaterSF reported on the closure oblivious to the yet-to-be revealed drama, instead portraying as a resilient business owner story: “Imana goes on to say that she is taking the lessons learned from Hi Felicia into her next project. ‘I know I could keep going,’ Imana wrote, ‘and keep fighting, but I owe it to myself to honor my feelings, and I know that it is time. When one door closes another opens.'” Related to this is the Beard Foundation process for investigating award nominees for bad behavior discussed below.
How a server went into the industry, what she got from it, and how she left. “At a certain point, I did return to service, to work a few shifts at a neighborhood wine bar. Having now done the two types of work simultaneously, I can say that for me, being told that you need to rewrite a sentence in house style, no matter how rude the tone, carries more dignity than being told that you’re at risk of losing half your income if you don’t get better at cleaning up rich people’s food scraps.”
The Emerging Economy: Jason Furman flags the Atlanta Fed wage numbers that show leveling off consistent with an inflation rate of 4.5%, which is roughly where we are. The Fed target is 2.0%.
Beard Good News: Outside of the local news regarding the Beard awards, some took note that Asian chefs dominated when looking at it cumulatively. Black chefs also did well. It is interesting that most outlets view the awards through geography, but a simple shift completely changes the headline.
Beard Bad News: Tim Carman dug into one rumored exclusion from the awards based on the Foundation’s new procedures to investigate misconduct. In this case it looks justified: “Kueper acknowledged the slap, but equated it to a wake-up call because he said the cook was barely functioning and argumentative. Kueper said the Beard Foundation eventually disqualified him over the incident. He called other allegations a conspiracy against him by chefs who dislike him.” There is a growing consensus that people who are bad and treat their staff egregiously should not be held up as models and receive awards. However, there is also a growing consensus that the Beard Foundation, which has its own problems, is not the best investigative body to do that. As John Birdsall told Carman, “The organization seems to be making a sincere attempt to correct for past sins but with the same lack of transparency as in the bad old days.”
A problem is there is no institution that is well-placed to deal with this. The food industry is not a proper profession like law or medicine with a licensing body (not that recognized professions don’t also have problems). Which puts it back on Beard to police the industry in order to not be embarrassed with revelations about award winners. Journalism, especially local journalists who have covered the industry for decades, could play its traditional watchdog role, but that rarely happens until an issue cannot be ignored, and it would require editors to shift reporters off other important work. National or local restaurant associations might consider stepping in, but we will not hold our breath on that.
Media: This seems like a manufactured poll. “Of those surveyed, 86% stated that they are more likely to trust a brand that publishes user-generated content, compared to just 12%, who are inclined to purchase a product promoted by an influencer.” 98% of those surveyed likely had no idea what those concepts mean or how to tell the difference.
Food & Culture:
Todd Kliman on the first Easter with the girlfriend’s family and the meaning of a slab of glazed ham. “I nod dumbly, and she smiles, and now an altogether different emotion steals upon me—anger and shame that I have assented to being, of all things, a ham-eater; that I have declared myself with them. I watch the slices of ham fall away from the knife, thick and pink and glistening.”
The Gay riot at a Los Angeles doughnut/donut shop in 1959 that can’t be proved. “Even if an uprising happened, no one still contends that it happened at a Cooper Do-nuts. But the city plans to honor the company anyway, as ‘a safe haven for all members of the queer community regardless of gender presentation,’ according to the motion before the council.”
It may say something about the culture of New York and the food industry that a man could re-invent himself after committing a crime (that he did not get caught for until he got famous in the food world), go to prison and come back and find he had changed the pizza world. “Federal investigators suspected that he had fled the country. In fact, he was on Spring Street, stretching dough and giving interviews. Eventually, one of his television appearances tipped off the authorities.” Ed Levine, who wrote a book about pizza, said of Andrew Bellucci, “Nobody was trying to bring respect to pizza. It took a convicted felon to do that. That’s kind of crazy when you think about it.”
Odds & Ends:
Jason Wilson on how small towns make the cut or don’t in travel guides.
“Tens of thousands of fish washed ashore along the gulf coast of Texas starting on Friday after being starved of oxygen in warm water, officials said.”
We promised a quick read, and other than the stray thoughts on investigating chefs we kept it tight this week! We can’t promise the same brevity next week, but you should probably give us a follow to find out. We are on FB, Insta, and Twitter. Click on the icons at the top or bottom of this page to stay up to date.
Stay cool. Enjoy Pride! Be kind.