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How one chef virtually eliminated sexual harassment in her restaurant
Andrew Friedman writes for TASTE about how the West Coast restaurant revolution was inspired by French home cooking rather than French restaurant cooking (which was ascendant on the East Coast). This basically seems like a mini-summation of Friedman's new book: Chefs, Drugs, and Rock and Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits, and Wanderers Created a New American Profession. Emailing about this with my sister, I learned that Judy Rodgers, whose Zuni Café was at the vanguard of this movement, was introduced to cooking because my great-uncle set her up with an internship at Maison Troisgros. You can read more about it in his obituary, which was new to me!
Annaliese Griffin, writing for Quartz, lumps together two recent food scandals, Helen Rosner’s hair dryer chicken and the egg spoon (more on that in a second), and drills into the inherent sexism behind each. I touched on this last week, but Griffin dives into how women can cook, but aren’t expected to be experts. So when they use hacks or expensive devices, the default assumption is that they don’t know what they are doing or are dilettantes. I pretty much missed the egg spoon thing, which the Times rounded up here. I agree that the backlash to both is similar thematically, but I’m not sure I think the egg spoon rose to similar levels of vitrol.
As Angie Lee mentioned on Twitter, forget a hair dryer. Her grandparents’ recipe for chicken calls for hanging it to dry for 4 days. That, and a beautiful story of connecting with her grandfather over making dumplings, in her essay for The Cleaver Quarterly.
In this op-ed by chef and restaurateur Erin Wade, she details how she has basically ended sexual harassment by customers at her Oakland restaurants. Her staff created a color-coding system that removes stigma in reporting and managerial discretion in handling these issues. I think stories and systems like this are critical as organizations figure out how to make themselves more equitable. It’s clear that any time there is a gray area, women end up screwed.
A hotel room, some pepperoni, and a flock of seagulls is just the most wonderful thing in the world. I keep imagining the staff there, who had probably heard rumors of this story for years and never believed it. All of a sudden this guy walks in asking for an apology and leaves a basket of pepperoni.
I was not expecting the King Arthur Flour blog to do the best April fools content, and maybe the best food content, I’ve seen this year. They posted a bunch of photos of their own baking projects gone horribly wrong. I sorta wish every food magazine did this every month.
I knew this New York Times story about Mario Batali would be bad, but it’s even worse than I thought. It’s clear Batali has no remorse about the people he’s hurt and has learned nothing. The piece itself is pretty atrocious. I’m not sure why we need a “second act” story three months after his horrific actions came to light. Also, I don’t know how anyone writes “Several powerful men, in several industries, have had their worlds kicked out from under them as the #MeToo movement has gathered momentum.” No, they’ve been credibly accused of sexual assault! They’ve spend years ruining lives and careers! Finally, an article that quotes Joe Bastianich without mentioning his own part in the Batali thing is both lazy and misleading. I have no idea what the Times, or reporter Kim Severson, was thinking. Jen Agg also does a great job of tearing this piece a well-deserved new one.
Nah, toast is great.
Another week, another angry-and-dead-on critique of some sorta racist food coverage in the New York Times by Gustavo Arellano. The original story, about the avocado trade, is also interesting.
GQ recommends that it’s gin season, and that’s it’s time to rediscover the Gimlet. Must… not… link too… Negroni season. Too late. Someday, this newsletter will just be that link every week.
Buzzfeed rounds up a food controversy on MasterChef UK (which is sorta like Top Chef but with regular people). Contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin prepared chicken rendang for one round. Judge Gregg Wallace complained that the chicken skin wasn’t crispy, and Olpin was eliminated. Chicken rendang is a stewed dish, and the skin has no business being crispy. The racist, sexist, and colonial undertones were not lost on people, up to and including the Malaysian Prime Minister, who commented on the affair in support of Olpin. After typing that all I can’t stop saying “Malaysian Prime Minister” in my head.
Because of a hunger for Western brands and a lack of a legal reciprocity with America, Iran is a hotbed of knock-off fast food chains. Atlas Obscura documents them and goes into more detail to how they came to be about. This is totally worth clicking on to see all the weird knockoff Instagram accounts.
Virginia Willis pens a lovely ode to spring in the south, and to the egg salad sandwiches they sell at The Masters.
Chefsfeed interviews three Atlanta chefs about the portrayal of food in the show Atlanta. While not about food, the show frequently involves food in minor or major plots points. Fun read for fans of the show or for people who have wondered what the true flavor of Flaming Hot Cheetos is (One answer, “irresistible regret,” is poetry.).
Cecile Richards, former President of Planned Parenthood, released a memoir last month. She speaks with Julia Turshen at Grub Street about the role food has played in her life and the history of activism. Interesting conversation, especially about the relationship between food, choice, and women’s bodies.
Julia Turshen has been busy! In addition to the interview, she released a super neat new project, Equity at The Table. At its core is a database of female/gender-nonconforming food writers and influencers, with a slant towards POC. The goal is to provide new sources for quotes, stories, and names.
I wasn’t familiar with Maira Kalman, the famed illustrator and now cookbook author. But this TASTE profile of her, and her new illustrated cookbook, Cake, makes her seem delightful.
I wish this story, about the woman who invented the Yorkshire Pudding, was twice as long. She went to prison twice! She had to auction off her rights to her mega-hit cookbook! There’s a lot more to her life.
Hannah Goldfield writes up the Té Company, a small walk-up Taiwanese tearoom in the West Village. A husband and wife team are serving some of the most thoughtful teas in the city, along with Portuguese and Taiwanese snacks. Goldfield apologizes to those who already knew about the place for blowing up their spot.
Pete Wells visits Claro in Gowanus. Chef T. J. Steele, who splits time between New York and Oaxaca City, has created one of the better Oaxacan restaurants in New York. You can find exquisitely balanced moles and tostadas, fueled by masa that is made in-house. This, combined with some spots in Manhattan, make me think the new elevated Mexican trend we see in Los Angeles is spreading. He awards it two stars.
The Times wanders all over America for a story on the increasing demand for restaurant workers. The explosion of restaurants has left many struggling to maintain talent at all levels. The article focuses a lot on gimmicks and outside programs. I wish this dug into why restaurants don't just pay more.
Eater released their city guide to New York. Their guides are great (I recommend then whenever anyone visits a city) and this one is no different. It’s a bit more of a living document than other city guides, since Eater updates their New York content frequently.
Robert Sietsema visits Le Sia in the East Village. Those that watched Ugly Delicious may know that crawfish boils have exploded in China, and this is the first Chinese-style crawfish restaurant in Manhattan. There are blazingly spicy boiled shrimp, fried meat and vegetable skewers, and something called Chinese Jambalaya. The degree I want to go to this restaurant physically hurts.
Ryan Sutton reviews Her Name is Han in midtown, which he basically calls the new standard for Korean soul food. The modern digs and aggressively-styled photograph-based menu make it seem like a great place to be introduced to the wonders of modern Korean food. He gives it two stars and all I can think of is this.
MC Slim JB visits Bootleg Special in the South End. He mentions that after 6 years of spreading Viet Cajun spots across Boston, it was only a matter of time before one ended up in a fancier neighborhood. If you are interested in eating a giant bag of boiled seafood, you probably know it already. I’m curious if anyone has tried to connect New England clambakes with the Louisiana crawfish boils.
Saltie Girl has won the Globe’s Munch Madness bracket. The Back Bay tinned seafood specialists were a big upset over Flour, but I’m glad. I think it is a criminally underrated restaurant (probably because it’s so hard to find a seat).
Kara Baskin writes about Dairy Joy, a hot dog and fried clams and onion ring spot in Weston. In the Boston area, this is an entire genre of restaurant. It’s a place where high school kids get jobs making sundaes and parents take you after sporting events or beach trips. Baskin’s essay is a lovely ode to this kind of spot, and to eating outside during the first days of spring. Dairy Joy sounds fine, but if you grew up in Massachusetts nothing will match whatever place you are thinking about right now.
Meadow Rue Merrill, writing for the Boston Globe Magazine, profiles Laura Benedict and the Red Barn Restaurant in Maine. Red Barn is an amazing story of a restaurant that was on the edge of closing, but turned itself around by becoming a hub for raising and donating money to causes all over the state. Merrill does a really good job balancing a feel-good story with the issues (self-admitted terrible mismanagement) that drove Benedict to the brink of bankruptcy.
Jolyon Helterman reviews Inman Square’s Momi Nonmi. He gives the izakaya 1.5 stars, urging diners to come for the late night menu, which is more aggressive and closer to what he expected from chef Chris Chung. He makes some great points about the food and the service, but uses a LOT of alliterations.
Charles Lane at the Washington Post pens an op-ed on tipping. Lane does a good job recapping the history, both long-terms and recent, of tipping. He admits that it’s a vexing problem to solve. He also glosses a bit to quickly over how logical it would be to just eliminate the minimum wage and how impossible it would be to making tipping illegal. Still, worth a read to get a different perspective on the issue.
Fast casual Burmese? :ten thousand thinking face emoji:
An important part of every city’s food scene is food truck location regulation. A good spot can make or break a truck. Most cities have adopted a lottery system in the interest of fairness. This year, D.C. changed their lottery regulations so that each company can only apply for a single spot. Food truck owners (at least those with multiple trucks) are up in arms. It sounds like there were legitimate bad actors entering “ghost trucks” to get more spaces, but this could also could cripple larger and more popular food truck groups.
Avery Kleinman, writing for the Washington City Paper, tackles a challenging and complicated issue: What happens when a Busboys and Poets comes to a new neighborhood. The chain, and owner Andy Shallal, is devoted to social justice and diversity. However, the data shows that the opening of a new location is a reliable indicator that a neighborhood is about to be gentrified. It’s a wonderful franchise, but when the name is used in Craigslist real estate ads and marketing materials focused on attracting white people, what does that mean? I really appreciate Kleinman digging into the data and talking to a lot of people here.
The Mike Isabella lawsuit is snowballing, with dozens of current and former employees speaking out about the toxic environment the chef fostered.
We’ve all thought about it. Anyone who worked in a big office in their early 20s has probably assumed they basically lived that way. Tauhid Chappell at the Washington Post actually did it. He lived from Monday to Friday eating only food that he could get for free from office events or hear about in the #leftovers Slack channel. Heroes aren’t born, they are made.
Tim Carman turns a funny anecdote, a guy mistakenly trying to order jerk chicken at Nepalese restaurant Moh Moh Licious, into a teaching moment. He muses on how both Caribbean and Nepalese cuisines have an Indian influence. He goes on to praise the Western-friendly and fantastic dumplings, soups, and curries at Moh Moh Licious.
Tom Sietsema reviews Fancy Radish in the Atlas district. He talks about the amazing vegan and vegetarian menu, the Philadelphia couple behind the place, and how much the District has changed. Even five years ago it would be unthinkable that one of the hottest tickets in town would specialize in plant-based dishes.
In Minna's Restaurant in Belmont Cragin, you can get the kind of authentic street-food dishes I’ve been dreaming about since I visited Mexico City last year. Nick Kindelsperger calls out the flor de calabaza quesadilla and I am obssssesssssed.
Phil Vettel details how opening day at Wrigley field also signifies opening day for a number of Wrigleyville restaurants (well, they will open this season).
Who is excited for the next next next next next best burger in Chicago?
I can’t really do Mike Sula, or his review of Bar Biscay, justice. So instead I’ll just quote him. “Maybe the sense of fluctuation contributes to the hallucinogenic qualities of Bar Biscay, which in some ways attempts to replicate a chic San Sebastián bar where everybody's drinking red wine and Coke, snacking on pinxtos, and rolling on molly.” It’s a damn shame that after just getting back from a weekend in Chicago, I have to turn around and head right back.
Really neat interview of Asma Ahad by Michael Gebert. Ahad is one of the brains behind the upcoming I Heart Halal food and lifestyle festival. It’s a hip and fun event aimed at first-generation Muslim-Americans. One thing I learned reading this is that Tang is hugely popular during Ramadan so people can quickly replenish their fluids and get calories after breaking fast. Time for your Snack Cart obligatory Simpsons reference.
KCRW’s Good Food had some great stuff last week. They interview David Chang about Majordomo and his Netflix series Ugly Delicious. Chang has thoughtful response when pressed about the critiques of how his show represented women. Plus, there’s an interview with the authors of the rogue 99 list.
The LA Times food bowl is coming. This is a legit unbelievable food event every year.
Gustavo Arellano writes a neat feature for LA Taco. He looks at the spiking prices of limes in America, and why many loncheras switch to lemons during the spring (this is similar to the NYT story Arellano critiqued above, so I wonder if there wasn’t some jealousy there). It turns out that lime prices usually spike during Lent, as Catholics drive up the demand for ceviches and soupes. This year, it’s even worse because of a cartel-based lime heist. Why haven’t you clicked already?
If you stalk J. Gold’s Instagram feed and also subscribe to the L.A. Times, you know that the critic has been in Italy for two weeks with a lucky bunch of subscribers (who were willing to shell out like $10k) on a L.A. Times Experience tour. He reviews Officina della Bistecca, Dario Cecchini’s steakhouse above his butcher shop. He muses on the nature of Tuscan cuisine. He calls it un-respected, which I’m not sure I agree with, but he knows a lot more about Italy than I do. However, he’s clearly having fun, and the references fly fast and furious. If anyone would be willing to pay for me to travel with them to Italy I will be happy to start the Snack Cart Experience tour.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
“To beef!” you are surprised to hear yourself hollering back at him.