“100% price transparency, while great on restaurant websites, doesn’t necessarily make for more enjoyable meals. Eating out would be pretty miserable if the price of your hay-smoked squid steak were etched onto the reclaimed driftwood it was served on, if waiters gave lectures on Champagne markups while pouring $75 glasses of bubbly, and if iPads were affixed to each table displaying a course-by-course feed of how much we’ll owe American Express in 30 days.”—That’s from my Eater review of Ma Peche, which shows us how dinner can sometimes be more pleasant when we’re not always 100% clear about prices. The downside of course is that dinner becomes more expensive (Source: Eater).
“Artisanal everything has become somewhat of a Brooklyn stereotype. I no longer ask if the Kool-Aid is locally-powdered and house-diluted when dining out, because I know it is and that the waitstaff is drinking gallons of it.”—That’s from my THREE STAR writeup of Roberta’s, my first review for Eater!
Alinea & Brooklyn Fare are the only two three-Michelin starred restaurants in America that make you pay for the majority of your meal before you eat your meal. But it looks like we’ll get another entry to that category In Europe, at Madrid’s DiverXO, which is moving to the “Hotel NH Eurobuilding” (what a name!) in July. Chef David Muñoz says he’s adopting a ticketing system as NO SHOWS are a problem. Check out the details right over here.
“Unlike past Gelinaz! events which have gotten flack for their lack of female chefs and abundance of topless female servers, this event featured several female chefs in the kitchen including Gabrielle Hamilton, Rosio Sanchez, Christina Tosi, and Ana Ros.”—Props to Eater’s Hillary Dixler for scoping out the female chef scene over at last night’s Gelinaz! event at WD-50. For those who aren’t in the know, Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef at Prune, Rosio Sanchez is the pastry chef at Noma, Christina Tosi is the co-founder of Momofuku Milk Bar, and Ana Ros is the chef at Kobarid in Solvenia. Rock on. (Source: Eater).
That’s one of the more clever reader comments from my Eater column on vaping-while-dining. Of course, for this all to happen, we would need to both legalize marijuana AND overturn the ban on e-cigarettes in restaurants.
“A group of eight of us dined at Per Se a few years ago, and one couple, who are true oenophiles and collect great wines from around the world brought three bottles from their collection. They offered the sommelier some from each bottle, which he gladly enjoyed.. We then purchased a bottle of Per Se’s wine along with some cocktails before dinner. The couple bringing the wine live in Napa Valley and are regular customers at French Laundry, Keller’s other restaurant. Given those parameters, the couple politely asked if perhaps one of the corkage fees might be waived, but a flat “no” was given. So much for negotiating fees.”—A commenter responds to my EATER ARTICLE about Per Se’s new $150 corkage fee, and the assertion that some culinary establishments will waive those fees if one buys a bottle off the restaurant’s list in addition to bringing wine from a private collection. Agree? Disagree? Let us know!
Chef Gavin Kaysen, the talented chef of Cafe Boulud on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, will leave the Dinex Group to open up a restaurant in his hometown of Minneapolis. New York’s loss is Minnesota’s gain; I can’t wait to visit. Kaysen will be replaced by Cafe Boulud’s current chef de cuisine, Aaron Bludorn.
It would’ve been nice for the Michelin-starred venue to have replaced Kaysen with a woman, as there isn’t a single female executive chef at any of Boulud’s 10 restaurants in the U.S. or Canada. Of course, Jean-Georges Vongerichten doesn’t have any female chefs heading up his U.S. restaurants, nor does Stephen Starr nor David Chang nor John Besh nor others.
So technically speaking, Daniel is not an outlier. Carry on.
Women represent only six percent of the head chef positions at 15 prominent U.S. restaurant groups.
WNYC’s Amy Eddings was kind enough to chat with me about my Bloomberg News & Bloomberg Pursuits stories about the lack of female top chefs throughout the U.S. restaurant industry.
Listen through for a proper shout out to Gordon Ramsay. Say what you will about the foul-mouthed Scot, but he’s done a better job at promoting women to head chef jobs than virtually any male chef in America.
These bespoke text-message notifications will exponentially reduce the amount of time you spend hitting refresh on OpenTable. That’s the good news. The bad news is that these alerts might make impossible tables even more impossible by increasing the pool of diners seeking such impossibility. That’s the tradeoff. Or something like that. I’d say pick your poison, but your poison has really been picked for you.
Why Aren't There More Female Head Chefs Taking Maternity Leave -- And Returning?
There’s a curious section about family leave in my Bloomberg News inquiry into the lack of female head chefs.
Most of the restaurant groups I spoke with couldn’t cite an instance where female sous chefs or higher went on maternity leave, while many of the same restaurant groups could recall cases of male sous chefs or higher taking paternity leave.
As Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen told Charlotte Druckman, “There are very few working chefs with children who are women.”
Of course there are exceptions — a female sous chef at The Spotted Pig returned to her role in the kitchen after childbirth, twice. And Barbara Lynch, who runs seven venues in Boston, took about eight weeks of leave after her water broke at one of her spaces, The Butcher Shop.
Now here’s another interesting story, this one from Luke Dirks, managing partner at Gabe Stulman’s growing empire of Little Wisco restaurants. What’s interesting is that the female sous left for maternity, but didn’t return. And the group is now figuring things out with another employee. See below for Dirks’ candid thoughts, which he sent via email:
Luke Dirks: Two years back, one of our female Sous Chefs started a family and she chose not to return to work post-pregnancy, despite our best efforts to try to encourage her to return. She made the decision to be at home with her new child and family. We would have loved to have her back on the team, but we respect her choice…Currently, one of our female Sous Chefs is about to go on FMLA leave to give birth to her first child and she has yet to specify with us what role she wants (if any) to return to in the spring. We are working closely with her to plan her return in a few months and we would welcome her back…We are certainly curious (as you are) how the leaders in this industry approach maternity/paternity leave, and as we grow and encounter these conversations with greater frequency, we want to be amongst the leaders in our practices.
My Bloomberg News editors were generous enough to grant me 2,700 words for my second of two columns on the lack of female head chefs in the U.S. and Canada. And yet I could’ve easily penned 3,500 words, though it’s probably good that I didn’t, because let’s be reasonable, right? Still, I wish there’d been room to talk about Suzanne Cupps, an up-and-coming sous-chef at Gramercy Tavern. I wish I could’ve squeezed in a few quotes from Charlotte Druckman, the author of Skirt Steak. And I wish you could hear my entire conversation with Karen Grieco, the managing partner at Tom Colicchio’s Craft Group of restaurants; her eloquence and candor really helped me see some of these issues in a very different light. She rocks.
Hopefully I’ll be writing more about my conversations with Grieco and others in the coming months.
In the meantime, here are some interesting snippets of the emails and phone conversations I didn’t get to use in my article. Don’t overlook the final paragraph by Jefferson Macklin, the chief operating officer and president of the Barbara Lynch Gruppo. He talks about the importance of the head chef job, and if you understand his thoughts on that, you’ll understand why I’ve been spending so much time writing about the lack of women in that position.* Enjoy:
Andrew Carmellini (Locanda Verde, Lafayette): I have had amazing women on my teams since the Cafe Boulud days. At one point The Dutch was an all female line. We have female sous chefs at all of the restaurants. For me, gender doesn’t matter. Skill and maturity matter. I would hire a female CDC or a male Pastry Chef at any time. (We do currently have a male pastry chef, in Miami).
Jefferson Macklin (Barbara Lynch COO): We tend to like to hire from within. And we tend to try to think about who’s next up, for chef de cuisine roles or sous chef roles. And we’ve had periods where it’s been much more female than male. And we’re in a period now where the people who are ready to step up in the chef de cuisine role for the next round when we do some transitioning are most likely male. We don’t have any women right now who are ready to step up. But I would say that two iterations from now we have another kind of “class” that have joined us there I could see being some potentials.
“When you go back to that original question about what fuels the sociological connections between women and pastry, I think the answer lies here — somewhere amid baking’s being perceived as amateurish and pastry’s being confused with it. I suspect, in our nation, a conflation of these two microcrafts may have triggered the downgrading of the latter specialty to home-style status”—That’s Charlotte Druckman with one of my favorite quotes in recent years. I’m tempted to elaborate on this one — as the quote conjures up images of skilled sugar technicians plying their trade at restaurants, dreams of “mom” removing a tray of cookies from the oven, and visions of a boulangere working her starter dough at some Michelin-starred abode. It’s the type of quote I could tweet but, alas, that’s what Tumblr is for. The source, of course, is Druckman’s “Skirt Steak.”
“This isn’t the traditional business model where the top position is the CEO, and if you don’t have the CEO [job], you hit a glass ceiling. But here, the glass ceiling would be owner of the restaurant, which I don’t want, so it’s like you almost have to create your own reality; you have to create your own ceiling in your own world. And yeah, as you move up, the pyramid gets smaller in any business, in any career.”—Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti opines on question of a glass ceiling in restaurants. The quote comes from Charlotte Druckman’s “Skirt Steak,” a fine opus about women in the hospitality industry.
“Even my investors were like, `Well, you know, if we didn’t know you, we probably wouldn’t have invested in a woman.’ And some of those investors are my family.”—Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen continues to speak the truth in Charlotte Druckman’s “Skirt Steak,” which documents the ups and downs of women in the hospitality industry. Raising capital for a new restaurant can be tough for women, especially since investors often come from the male-dominant financial industry.
“There are very few working chefs with children who are women.”—Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen drops some TRUTH in Charlotte Druckman’s excellent “Skirt Steak.” I’ve been talking to a bunch of chefs about this same topic, and we’ll talk more about that soon. Briefly: Cohen appears to be quite right.
Here’s PART ONE of my Bloomberg Pursuits inquiry into the unusually small number of female head chefs in America. The focus of this particularly piece is on the male-dominant world of fine-dining and tasting menu-only restaurants. The numbers aren’t pretty, and I’ll dive deeper into the data in PART TWO, which I’m hoping to put out later this week.
“You go into Carbone, and the whole thing is so fake…I went for dinner and I was embarrassed to be there”—
Says Sean MacPheron in an interview with The New York Times. He’s the guy behind Waverly Inn, which sells $55 truffled mac & cheese to celebrities. He’s also the guy who’s allowing Tao, a Buddha-themed restaurant that sells $88 Wagyu ribeye to tourists, to open underneath his Maritime Hotel.
So to be fair, the dude clearly knows a thing or two about fake.
When Businessweek asked me to review French fries, I said yeah, sure, no problem, because of all the things that fast food joints get right, it’s usually fries. Right? Wrong. I struggled with my gag reflex to consume the worst frites, and could feel my kidneys tighten as the sodium coursed through my body.
I’ve rarely felt as terrible after eating something as I did after eating these fries, which I did over the course of 24 hours, though I was just sampling a few fries each, not consuming the entire bag.
It’s probably for the best that certain descriptions didn’t make it into the final edit. Of one particularly bad fry, I wrote: "Tastes like someone from the local prison commissary deep fried powdered mashed potato mix and served the result as a form of culinary revenge on the world that had wronged him"
“I think we’ve had a little bit difficulty connecting to the Bolivians, so one of our challenges is to get local diners to frequent us as happily and as often as people who come from Australia or Europe or the United States.”—Claus Meyer, a co-owner at Noma, talks with Eater’s Amy McKeever about the challenges of Gustu, his restaurant in Bolivia where an extended wine-paired tasting menu costs about $130. That’s much less than a $900 dinner at Noma, but a few dollars more than what Bolivians are used to spending (or can afford to spend) on food.
John Mariani is always one of the earlier critics to file his best new restaurants list; I typically publish my top picks in mid-December for Bloomberg. That said, take a look at Mariani’s writeup, which includes Paul Liebrandt’s The Elm, Ludo Lefebvre’s Trois Mec, Eamon Rockey’s Betony and, somewhat curiously, Shaun Hergatt’s Juni.
“There’s almost never a good reason to eat on a plane. You’ll never feel better after airplane food than before it. I don’t understand people who will accept every single meal on a long flight.”—Anthony Bourdain, in a fine piece on how to travel for Esquire.
Her name was Marcella Hazan. She died this morning with her husband Victor at her side. Click through for a fine 2008 New York Times profile of the couple. This was the lady who showed Americans and Brits that Italian cooking wasn’t just red sauce cooking. May she rest in peace.
“Mr. Bouley is setting up a computer system so that diners can get digital images of what they’ve eaten before they even get the check.”—From an amusing article about the downsides of food photography (which we’re in favor of), as published in a January 2013 issue of the New York Times. This Bouley system seems particularly ridiculous.
He marched in the Russian Revolution. He fled the pogroms and moved to the Lower East Side. He eats at fancy joints like Cafe Boulud and David Burke Townhouse. He recently had a fling with a 90-year-old woman. Didn’t work out. His name is Harry Rosen. May he live another 100 years.