Andrew Zimmern Bashes New York Sushi Restaurant and More News
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In today's Media Mix, the perfect Pinterest picture, plus a loaded mashed potato sundae
The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.
Zimmern's Bad Sushi Experience: The TV star writes about a terrible experience at a well-regarded sushi restaurant in New York City. [MSP Mag]
The Perfect Pinterest Picture: A startup has stalked Pinterest and collected data to come up with the perfect Pinterest picture, which, it turns out, is a Paula Deen recipe. [Wired]
Loaded Mashed Potato: A mashed potato, sour cream, and bacon "sundae"? We're sold. [Tasted]
Comedians in Cars with Coffee: Jerry Seinfeld returns to the YouTube scene, this time with Sarah Silverman and more coffee. [Eater]
Giant Halibut News: Check out this 70-kilogram halibut (154 pounds), sold for $1,490. [Grub Street]
Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations
Athens, Greece, is the birthplace of many culinary traditions and Andrew explores the classics from stuffed grape leaves and spanakopita, to moussaka and real Greek yogurt, still made the way folks have done for generations.
Florence, Italy lives up to its artistic reputation even in its food. Andrew Zimmern explores the classics like the rare Florentine steak, thick ribollita soup, the original cappuccino and the world famous frozen dessert, gelato.
In the city of love, Andrew Zimmern explores the delicious delicacies of Paris, France from the indulgent steak frites and the croque monsieur, to the baked croissant and baguette, to the sweet macarons and savory crepes.
London, England is a multicultural melting pot, and Andrew Zimmern explores the dishes that have stayed the test of time from the traditional Sunday roast and Yorkshire pudding, to the classic pies 'n' mash and fish 'n' chips.
American history is illustrious in Boston, Massachusetts and here, Andrew explores its legendary cuisine from New England clam chowder and scrod, to the hotel where Boston cream pie and Parker House rolls were invented.
New York City
New York City is a melting pot of various ethnicities and culinary fusion. Andrew explores the iconic foods from the Big Apple like mile-high pastrami sandwiches, bagels and lox, pizza by the slice and the American hamburger.
New Orleans is a vibrant, eclectic city and its cuisine has been fused with a multitude of culinary influences. Andrew Zimmern explores the classic dishes from po' boys and gumbo, to oysters Rockefeller and bananas Foster.
As the Gateway to the West, St. Louis has built a reputation for homegrown goodness on the backs of its hard-working people. Andrew Zimmern explores such edible icons as St. Louis-style BBQ, toasted ravioli, and gooey butter cake.
Andrew takes us to Barcelona, a coastal city that draws its edible inspiration directly from the mountains and sea. From tapas to crema Catalana, the foods of this Mediterranean city reflect history and culture in every bite.
As the proud capital of Bavaria - and beer-drinking - Munich has built a cuisine around hearty dishes meant to stick to the bones. From schnitzel and spätzle to knöedel and cake, Andrew Zimmern reveals Munich's festival of foods!
Andrew takes us to Zurich, the origin of some of Switzerland's most famous foods. From warm gooey fondue to Swiss chocolate made with a modern twist, this city is home to some of the most indulgent comfort foods in the world.
The city of Hong Kong's seven million residents flock to its many restaurants, street carts, and noodle houses daily. From dim sum to congee to roast goose, Andrew Zimmern finds out just what makes this destination so delicious!
Tokyo is a world leader in everything from finance to technology -- and food! In a spectacular city known for such edible icons as sushi and tempura, Andrew Zimmern explores just what makes this destination so delicious.
Andrew heads to Iceland, the land of fire and ice, complete with glaciers, hot springs, geysers and volcanoes. Look beyond the natural wonders, and you'll find the food is also out of this world.
Get ready to challenge all your pre-conceived notions of Russian life. Andrew's taking a culinary tour through St. Petersburg, the cultural capitol of Russia.
Andrew takes viewers to the place he calls home: Minnesota. From sampling a deep-fried candy bar to eating the Scandinavian delicacy lutefisk, he shows us why Minnesota's traditional cuisine is far from ordinary.
Andrew heads to Guangzhou, the bizarre food capital of China. He finds out why this city earns its reputation as a land where anything that swims, crawls or flies is put on a plate.
From imperial dishes to hot pot street snacks, Andrew eats his way through Beijing, where East meets West and traditional food reigns. He discovers why this ancient Chinese city is home to one of the world's most vibrant food scenes.
Andrew samples the culinary delights of Bolivia, including fish carpaccio, bull penis soup and mochochinchi (aka booger juice). He participates in a llama fetus burning ceremony and watches women flex their muscles in a wrestling match.
Andrew visits Chile, the world's longest country with some of the freshest food. He tries scrotum stew and braided cow intestines. Andrew also learns how important ranching and fishing is to small Chilean communities.
Andrew brings together a group of diverse friends from his travels around the world to celebrate their respective holidays. The eleven guests share their most bizarre ethnic celebratory foods - from the Italian Christmas stuffed pig's leg known as zampone a Native American harvest meal of porcupine and the Thai New Year mixture of sweet potato starch, vegetables and shrimp known as snot.
Join Andrew as he relives some of the best bites from the first season. He'll show you scenes you've never seen before, and revisit those worth seeing again. You'll also get a sneak preview of what's in store for the second season.First up, Andrew explores some of his favorite markets, one of his first stops in any country. In Manila he ate balut, shrimp pancakes, deep-fried duck eggs, and whole baby chickens. Next, a special treat in Taiwan: cock's combs, hen's uterus and unlaid eggs, all in one bag. And finally, cockles and whelks in a market in Wales. Next, Andrew shares some of the disappearing food practices and traditions he's experienced around the world. In the Philippines, it's uok, a giant worm with a very strange taste! In London, Andrew is served a traditional treat: mixed beef pie, mashed potatoes, and stewed eels, all topped with a secret green sauce. And in Tobago, Andrew is shown how to dive for conch, and gets to eat the catch right on the beach!Some of the best stories Andrew finds aren't entirely about the food. Many times, the people he encounters while in search of unusual foods are just as intriguing. Those crazy characters include three guys in Alaska who cooked Andrew's lunch on the engine of their snowmobiles, and a Louisiana man who took Andrew nutria hunting in the bayous. Now for some of Andrew's personal favorite scenes from season one. He begins on the water in Mexico with an octopus diver. After catching enough for lunch, they go back to the diver's restaurant to feast on their catch. Next he heads to Trinidad and Tobago to meet "the original souse king." Andrew samples the souse - pork, chicken, or seafood that has been boiled and pickled in a salty brine of lime juice, cucumber, peppers and onions, then served cold. The Bizarre Foods team shoots hundreds of hours of footage every year, much of which never makes it to the air. Andrew shares a few of those stories you probably never saw. He takes you to New York for a hot dog at the Papaya King, and then to Hanoi for sea scallops, barramundi and crab salad from celebrity chef Bobby Chinn.And finally, a sampling of season two of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern- all new shows with even more freaky food from around the world! Stay tuned!
Andrew visits Goa, India's smallest state, known for its tropical attitude and miles of beautiful beaches. With a mix of Arabic, Portuguese and native influences, this is not the India you think you know, and the food is equally unique.
From a fierce feast with the beautiful people to a meal that feeds the body and the soul, Andrew Zimmern goes deep into one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world: Delhi.
Andrew takes a tour of a tropical paradise and a favorite of travelers from around the world: Phuket. He ventures beyond the stunning beaches to discover the Thais who live in this part of the country embrace life on all levels and feast on all things.
Andrew heads to Hawaii, going beyond the typical tourist destinations to sample authentic Hawaiian cuisine, including poi, octopus, wild boar organs and a local favorite: Spam.
Andrew comes to the South Pacific to explore the food and culture of the Samoan Islands. Andrew is the honored guest at a traditional ceremony where he's served pig organs. He also goes deep-sea fishing and tries the eyeball of the freshest catch.
Surf It Up Special
If it lives in the sea or in the sand and it's edible, then Andrew is ready to surf it up! From sea slugs in Samoa, to mangrove snake in the Philippines, Andrew has tasted some of the strangest creatures to ever come out of the ocean.
Andrew finds out why Paris is known as the food capital of the world. He dines in a classic French restaurant, learns about the science used to create intense flavor in a tiny dessert and watches how snail caviar is made.
Renée Restivo, of Soul of Sicily, guides Andrew around the Italian island, where the people think of themselves as Sicilian first and Italian second. The local cuisine thrives on unique flavors.
Andrew arrives in the fast-paced, star-studded city of Los Angeles where the variety of food reflects the diversity of the people who live there. He takes a food tour of LA, and samples tempura chicken testicles prepared by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.
Andrew travels to Maine where many residents find most of the food they eat right in their own backyards -- literally. There's even a culinary challenge featuring some bizarre recipes made only with ingredients found in Maine. Andrew shares a meal with his dad.
Andrew throws a party for fans of the show, inviting them to try unusual global foods that many people find horrifying. The party guests try baked, tarantula, fresh steer blood and chilled lamb kidney - and share how they've learned about different cultures by being an adventurous eater.
Sexy Foods Special
Andrew explores the connection between food and sex in this special edition of Bizarre Foods. While chatting with experts and laymen on the topic, Andrew reviews the exotic delicacies he's been offered around the world to put the giddy-up in his get-go!
Andrew explores Ethiopia, an African country famous for its cuisine. But the food he eats is not on the menu at your neighborhood Ethiopian restaurant. Watch as he tastes a real Ethiopian delicacy -- raw meat.
Andrew travels to Uganda, known as the pearl of Africa, where the people are friendly and the food is simple. He hunts for a fish that lives on land, harvests flying ants, and sinks his teeth into the meat of a sugar cane rat.
Andrew visits the beautiful East African country of Tanzania where he samples the traditional Tanzanian breakfast called supu. It's a soup made with the lungs, heart and liver of a goat, as well as the stomach, intestines and tongue of a cow.
Andrew heads to Japan, where the people have a passion for food and are willing to eat just about anything. He tries some octopus eggs, fermented sushi and an unusually flavored milkshake at a restaurant where the main ingredient in every dish is mayo.
Andrew travels to Seoul, South Korea, where he feasts on the country's most authentic soups, barbecues and fermented foods. Andrew's Asian adventure goes beyond eating when he makes his first batch of fresh kimchi.
Andrew takes to the wild jungles of Mexico where he learns to live off the land. It's a journey where not only his stomach is tested, but his mind and body. Surviving with only a handful of objects and eating only foods he can forage in the woods, Andrew takes extreme to a new level for 48 hours.
Andrew heads into the Australian Outback where he eats wallaby with Aborigines, samples crocodile cooked on the barbie and makes a meal out of poisonous cane toads.
Andrew goes snorkeling and spear fishing and visits a farm where they "pamper" their cattle. He makes a stop at the Sydney Fish Market where he samples bizarre food he's never tasted before, including Balamain Bugs, Flathead Fish and Spanner Crabs.
Andrew heads to Singapore to experience the diversity of food and culture. The melting pot is seen everywhere, including the hawker stalls where Andrew samples tasty treats.
Andrew visits the Appalachian Mountains to get a taste of the region's culture and its food. The mountain range runs north to south touching more than a dozen states. The people still maintain the traditions and foods that were a part of life for their ancestors.
Andrew Zimmern samples some of the most outrageous food creations at the Texas State Fair, including nitrogen frozen dessert, chocolate bacon and fried alligator. Andrew also gets a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchens at NASA to taste space food.
For Juan Murguia, cooking with his family is a celebration and a time of comfort. He, his parents and his grandmother share a "mutual love for food," and time in the kitchen has turned into an important part of their daily lives.
While his family is close now, 19-year-old Murguia told TODAY's Craig Melvin that it hasn't always been that way: There used to be "a lot of conflict" and "a lot of fighting" in the family, and his parents didn't get along to the degree that Murguia "couldn't speak either of their names in a different household." The family divisions led him to focus on cooking.
"Food is the one thing that'll never turn its back on me," Murguia said. "You get lost in your own world with cooking and it's like something takes your mind away from everything completely. Family left but the food stayed. It's something that's always been there and it's something we've always bonded over."
While the family has come together and "forgiven each other a lot," Murguia said that the experience has left him determined to share his love of food and family with the world. One of his biggest inspirations, chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern, has done exactly that during his career — so Craig and TODAY connected the two.
"You're going to spend some time with Andrew," Craig told Murguia. "You're going to share your dreams with him. He is going to cook with you, eat with you, to hang out."
While the two had to connect over Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic, Murguia and Zimmern had the opportunity to work on a meal inspired by Zimmern's travels with his father. The two served up escargot and pasta while talking about the impact food had had on their lives. Zimmern said that he had also used cooking as a way to cope with troubles in his life.
"When I was 21, 22 years old, and a really messed up kid, I would be cooking in restaurants," Zimmern said. "And all I was focused on was doing the task at hand, and it really helped me."
After the two finished cooking, Murguia said he would love to help Zimmern with any future projects, offering his help as a "sidekick."
"Life has a wonderful way of bringing people together. There are no coincidences," Zimmern said. "You're not going to be able to get rid of me you have a friend for life. And if there's anything that I can ever do for you, that's what I'm here for."
“Tomorrow’s Voices” was created by TODAY with our sponsor and parent company, Comcast, which helped find the students profiled.
Andrew Zimmern is a four-time James Beard award-winning TV personality, chef, writer, teacher and social justice advocate. In 2020, Andrew returns to television with two new programs. What&rsquos Eating America premiered on MSNBC in February and Family Dinner, currently in production, will air on the forthcoming Magnolia Network. As the creator, executive producer and host of Travel Channel&rsquos Bizarre Foods franchise, Andrew Zimmern&rsquos Driven by Food and Emmy award-winning The Zimmern List, he has devoted his life to exploring and promoting cultural acceptance, tolerance and understanding through food. Andrew is the founder and CEO of both Intuitive Content, a. READ MORE
Andrew Zimmern is a four-time James Beard award-winning TV personality, chef, writer, teacher and social justice advocate. In 2020, Andrew returns to television with two new programs. What&rsquos Eating America premiered on MSNBC in February and Family Dinner, currently in production, will air on the forthcoming Magnolia Network. As the creator, executive producer and host of Travel Channel&rsquos Bizarre Foods franchise, Andrew Zimmern&rsquos Driven by Food and Emmy award-winning The Zimmern List, he has devoted his life to exploring and promoting cultural acceptance, tolerance and understanding through food. Andrew is the founder and CEO of both Intuitive Content, a full-service television and digital production company, and Passport Hospitality, a restaurant and food service development company. He is passionate about to his charitable endeavors and sits on the board of directors of Services for the UnderServed, Project Explorer/EXPLR, Soigne Hospitality and Taste of the NFL. He serves on City Harvest&rsquos Food Council and is the International Rescue Committee&rsquos Voice for Nutrition. Andrew is a founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, fighting to save restaurants affected by Covid-19. He resides in Minneapolis.
Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern fired after ‘horses***’ diss
Andrew Zimmern, the host of Travel Channel program Bizarre Foods, has been fired after a comment he made received widespread backlash.
Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern has been fired from the Travel Channel after an offensive comment. Picture: Getty Images Source:Getty Images
Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern has been axed from prime time on the Travel Channel amid the controversy over his assertion that Chinese food in America’s Midwest is being served in “horses **t restaurants.”
The celebrity chef’s Bizarre Foods juggernaut franchise and sister show, The Zimmern List, have been bumped by network owner Discovery, Inc. into a graveyard rotation slot on Saturday mornings to run their course, the New York Post has confirmed.
Filming has stopped on both shows mid-season, sources say, and is not expected to continue further.
Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern has been fired from the Travel Channel after claiming that all Chinese restaurants in America’s Midwest are “horses***”. Picture: Getty Images Source:Getty Images
The move comes after the James Beard Award-winning chef offended the Asian-American community in comments to promote his Midwestern Chinese restaurant chain by saying: “I think I’m saving the souls of all the people from having to dine at these horses — – t restaurants masquerading as Chinese food that are in the Midwest” (watch from the 10.30 mark below).
His comments sparked outrage, with Ruth Tam writing in the Washington Post, “[He] has the noble cause of ‘saving’ white people from eating bad Chinese food. When Chinese people make Americanised Chinese food for white people, Zimmern calls it ‘horses ** t.’ But when he does it, it’s ‘unique.’ ”
Eater also fumed, “Zimmern simultaneously denigrates Philip Chiang … and elevates himself to the position of being the person capable of opening middle America’s eyes to the myriad regional cuisines of a vast, diverse culture.”
Eating humble pie, Zimmern responded, “I am completely responsible for what I said and I want to apologise to anyone who was offended.”
A Travel Channel rep insisted Zimmern wasn’t given the chop because of his insensitive comments, but admitted his remaining episodes have been relegated, saying, “The shows, along with other food content on Travel, will no longer air on prime time, but on Saturday mornings in rotation. This decision came before Andrew’s comments were made.”
It is believed Zimmern’s shows on the Cooking Channel and the Food Network will continue as scheduled.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and has been republished with permission.
The 5 Dishes that Made My Career: Andrew Zimmern
He approaches worms, armadillo, cow-skin soup, and calf’s brains with the same glee as a four-year-old does an ice-cream cone.
He is Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World, and author of the new book Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods.
But how, exactly, does one develop a taste for fruit bats, or end up traveling the world to eat fried scorpions?
To better understand Zimmern’s fascination with the unfamiliar, we sat down to chat about the five transformative dishes that were critical to the development of his adventurous palate as a lad. Spoiler alert: one of them is crispy stringbeans from a Chinese restaurant. So, you never know—even if you don’t think you’re that daring, you might be just a few years away from tucking into a big bowl of wriggling mollusks.
Migrant farmworkers work long hours for less than minimum wage
While the Pacific Islanders will quarantine for a couple of weeks offshore in Tasmania before picking, the travel and the work will put them at greater risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. As the Times put it, the situation is another example of how poor and non-white people run greater health risks in the food economy.
"This is a global story in that it affects everyone BECAUSE it happens almost everywhere," Zimmern said in his tweet. "I've seen it in Brazil, Costa Rica, Namibia, USA, Australia, Thailand, UAE, and a dozen other countries firsthand. There should be a global rights program for food/ag workers."
The New Daily in Australia told the story of a foreign worker who picked fruit for a sub-minimum wage, even on her best week. She also had no choice but to stay at a hostel that took a big chunk of her earnings. The Canberra Times reported that blueberry pickers were paid as little as $3 an hour and in some cases had to work seven days a week. Labor unions in Australia are pushing for an enforced minimum wage for farmworkers.
Zimmern has been giving the more serious side of the food industry more attention ever since his Bizarre Foods shows were canceled. He began work about a year ago on a newsier series called What's Eating America for MSNBC (via The Washington Post).
Ranking Celebrity Chefs & Social Media
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Influential media isn't just about TV anymore. Several celebrity chefs already have their own television shows, but these days, it's what they do off the air that can really make an impact.
Social media analysis firm Klout uses a ranking system for sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn. They've arranged a list of the top ten chefs who use these social media outlets to their advantage (mostly Twitter). The accounts' followers are current as of October 2011.
So, did any of your favorites make the Top 10? Here's what Klout had to say:
10) Tom Colicchio -- The host of Bravo's Emmy-winning reality show Top Chef likes to keep his followers in the loop with the goings-on at his many restaurants along with causes he's passionate about. He frequently responds to questions directly. @tomcolicchio has over 216,000 followers.
9) Mario Batali -- An authentic Italian chef and restaurateur, Batali is one of the hosts of ABC's newest talk show The Chew along with Food Network's Molto Mario. He uses online media to answer specific recipe questions, offer a few cooking tips or pairing suggestions, and share what's going on in his life. @Mariobatali has over 171,000 followers.
8 ) Jay Terauchi -- Terauchi is an expert sushi chef and restaurant consultant who keeps his fans updated on new recipe ideas along with what he's making to honor all sorts of culinary holidays, such as National Chocolate Covered Insects Day and National Mushroom Day. @Chef_Jay has over 9,500 followers.
7) Mark Bittman -- Celebrated New York Times columnist and author of Food Matters, Bittman likes to educate his fans on what's going on in the food world, covering everything from politics to trends. He's not shy about his favorite recipes, either. @bittman has over 189,000 followers.
6) Paula Deen -- She's known as one of the most authoritative celebrity chefs in Southern cuisine, and she's got throngs of fans to prove it. Deen mostly uses social media to promote events for both her and her family. @Paula_Deen has over 545,000 followers.
5) Giada De Laurentiis -- The host of Giada at Home and Everyday Italian lets fans experience an additional glimpse of both personal and professional life through her eyes. She also likes to use Twitter to interact with fans often. @GDeLaurentiis has over 419,000 followers.
4) Anthony Bourdain -- Bourdain is just as entertaining online as he is when hosting No Reservations introspection and dark humor set the tone for extra photographs and videos that Bourdain shares from his life on the road. @NoReservations has just shy of 580,000 followers.
3) Jamie Oliver -- This best-selling British celebrity chef constantly communicates his progress with Food Revolution, shares news on food happenings around the world, and likes to share pictures with his fans via Instagram on his iPhone. @jamieoliver has amassed the highest following yet with over 1.5 million.
2) Gordon Ramsay -- Ramsay is one of the best known celebrity chefs in the business, and he'll use social media to fill in the gaps on shows like Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, and restaurant projects in the works. Fans never lack for quick recipes on the fly, either. @GordonRamsay01 has over 465,000 followers.
1) Andrew Zimmern -- Zimmern is highly active on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, directly replying to many of his fans' questions and comments as they arise. As the host of Bizarre Foods, it's not unusual to see foods like ox tails and pig's feet show up alongside red velvet cake and corn pudding on his ongoing culinary adventures list. @AndrewZimmern has over 260,000 followers.
How Small Restaurants Leveraged Their Pain to Win Stimulus Money
The Independent Restaurant Coalition turned tears into cheers, urging owners to share their angst and use that emotion to lobby Congress.
On July 1, about 100 members of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a fledgling group of chefs and restaurateurs from around the country, ended a video conference call by grieving for Blackbird, a critically acclaimed restaurant in Chicago.
Coming as coronavirus cases spiked across the country, and on the heels of a spring that brought mass layoffs and paralyzing uncertainty in the business, the permanent closing of a landmark restaurant in the nation’s third-largest city was a bleak turn of events.
Sam Kass, a former White House chef and policy adviser to President Barack Obama, sobbed as he expressed his despair over the closing in his hometown. “If Blackbird can be taken out by this, anything can,” he said.
The chef Nina Compton remembers watching what many people called the Blackbird “funeral” from the dining room of Bywater American Bistro, one of the two New Orleans restaurants where she is an owner. The outpouring of emotion, she said, reinforced the urgency of the coalition’s mission — to lobby for legislation specifically to help independent restaurants and bars survive the pandemic. “People were saying, We can’t continue to let this happen,” she said.
Nine months later, the coalition can claim a large share of the credit for creating the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion grant program for small restaurants, bars and restaurant groups intended to stem the tide of closings that, according to the National Restaurant Association, has permanently shuttered more than 110,000 restaurants and bars in the last year.
The fund is part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package known as the American Rescue Plan. It is modeled on the Restaurants Act, a bill introduced in Congress last spring based on recommendations made by the coalition. Speaking of the fund during a news conference this month, Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, said, “Without the I.R.C., I don’t know if it would have gotten done.”
The fund’s $28.6 billion is a small fraction of the $120 billion the group contends is necessary to stabilize independent restaurants. But its creation signals a notable achievement: Owners of smaller restaurants, most of them unschooled in or uncomfortable with legislative politics, came together to make a persuasive case for their businesses and workers.
The effort they organized may give independent restaurants some lasting leverage. Its leaders have vowed to fight for more relief, if necessary, as has Mr. Schumer.
And the coalition’s unusual process — encouraging members to vent and channel powerful emotions, as they did in that early meeting — lifted members up through struggles unlike anything most had ever experienced.
“Given the year we just had, I don’t know if I’d be sitting here today without the people on those calls,” said Robert St. John, a member of the coalition’s leadership committee who operates five restaurants and one bar in Hattiesburg, Miss. In a tearful meeting last summer, he revealed he was permanently closing Purple Parrot, his first restaurant, opened in 1987.
For now, the revitalization money, which the Small Business Administration should start distributing by the end of April, is a much-needed piece of good news for a reeling industry.
“Owners are closing their restaurants, and they’ve been taking on debt,” Mr. St. John said. “This help can’t come soon enough.”
The coalition began a year ago last week, when 18 owners of small food businesses met virtually to share ideas for surviving lockdowns. Members continued to meet in some form nearly every day, growing to about 200 active participants who engage with members of Congress and other elected officials. Leaders say 100,000 supporters have registered on the coalition’s website.
While plenty of independent restaurateurs belong to the National Restaurant Association, the industry’s primary voice in Washington, many were reluctant to join in political action until faced with the prospect of their own demise.
Lawmakers say the National Restaurant Association’s influence helped create support in Congress for the amendment to include restaurant relief in the stimulus package. But early in the pandemic, many owners of small restaurants concluded that the influence of corporate chains in the association made it necessary to create an advocacy group focused more specifically on their own interests.
Sean Kennedy, the association’s executive vice president for public affairs, said in a statement that his group “has worked tirelessly for the restaurant industry over the last 12 months — especially the independents that are the cornerstone of every community across the country.” He added that the association’s board is chaired by an independent operator.
On Monday, the National Restaurant Association announced the hiring of a new executive to improve communication with all members, including small independents.
Still, Caroline Styne, an owner of four restaurants in Los Angeles, including A.O.C., said that “the impetus behind the I.R.C. is that no one is going to take care of us if we don’t take care of ourselves.” She and her business partner, the chef Suzanne Goin, said they had been reluctant to get involved in politics, for fear of alienating potential customers or misrepresenting the views of their staff.
“But there are times you can’t keep your mouth shut,” Ms. Styne said. “This was one of those times.”
Political activism is more common in the restaurant business than it used to be, particularly since the #MeToo movement took hold in 2017. Amanda Cohen, the chef and owner of Dirt Candy, in New York City, was publicly condemning sexual harassment, discrimination and pay inequities in restaurants well before 2020. She said the coalition’s formation provided an opportunity for chefs and independent restaurateurs to exert influence by uniting around shared values.
“We were a bunch of businesses that did the same thing, but we didn’t really find a unifying voice” before the pandemic, Ms. Cohen said. “The reality is that the way to make change is like this, through policy.”
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is meant to compensate restaurant and bar owners for revenue lost during shutdowns, and the money is reserved for businesses with 20 or fewer locations. Grants of up to $5 million for single restaurants, and up to $10 million for restaurant groups, will be made through the Small Business Administration.
What to Cook Right Now
Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the coming days. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.
- Do not miss Yotam Ottolenghi’s incredible soba noodles with ginger broth and crunchy ginger. for fungi is a treat, and it pairs beautifully with fried snapper with Creole sauce.
- Try Ali Slagle’s salad pizza with white beans, arugula and pickled peppers, inspired by a California Pizza Kitchen classic.
- Alexa Weibel’s modern take on macaroni salad, enlivened by lemon and herbs, pairs really nicely with oven-fried chicken.
- A dollop of burrata does the heavy lifting in Sarah Copeland’s simple recipe for spaghetti with garlic-chile oil.
Coalition members are quick to point out provisions intended to benefit marginalized communities. During the first 21 days grants are issued, the Small Business Administration will prioritize applications from businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans. Some $5 billion is set aside for businesses — including food trucks, food stalls and catering businesses — whose gross receipts in 2019 were less than $500,000.
John Schumacher is an owner of Harold’s Cabin, a neighborhood restaurant in Charleston, S.C., that has been closed since last spring. He said that from the beginning, the coalition set out to help restaurants that don’t have the resources of the group’s members.
“A lot of them don’t know what the I.R.C. is, or what this legislation is,” Mr. Schumacher said. “Those are the ones we’re fighting for the most.”
It was an uphill battle for most of the year. The coalition’s failure to get help for restaurants into the coronavirus relief package that President Donald Trump signed in December was particularly dispiriting. A popular video posted to social media that month, by a California restaurateur outraged over unequal enforcement of Covid restrictions in Los Angeles County, became emblematic of the frustration of coalition members.
“We definitely all had our anger moment,” Ms. Goin said.
Mr. Kass, the former presidential adviser, said coalition members restored morale by reminding one another of the delivery drivers, farmers and other food professionals who counted on them. “Washington does not like to give out industry-specific resources,” he said. “Everyone else gets really upset.”
The coalition’s political strategy was to leverage its members’ public profiles and community connections to compensate for what they lacked in political clout. News-media interviews with group leaders, including the chefs Tom Colicchio, Kwame Onwuachi and Andrew Zimmern, highlighted the economic impact of independent restaurants and bars, which, according to research commissioned by the coalition, employ 11 million people and support another five million jobs in related businesses.
“They are such a vital part of our economy, not only with the restaurant jobs, but the supply chain,” said Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, an early champion of the Restaurants Act. “I don’t think it dawned on people that the reach extends as far as it does.”
Mr. St. John’s relationship with Mr. Wicker, a regular at his restaurants, was crucial in winning early support for the coalition’s cause among Senate Republicans. In the end, no Republican in either house voted for the larger stimulus bill. But the bipartisan support for independent restaurants positions the coalition to become an influential voice in Washington.
Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, said the coalition’s priority is now ensuring that the fund functions as intended. He cited the Paycheck Protection Program, which was ill-suited to the needs of many small restaurateurs, as a cautionary tale.
“We don’t want a situation where people with more lawyers and accountants and connections get in there and soak up all the money,” said Mr. Blumenauer, who introduced the Restaurants Act in the House last year. “That was part of the problem with the P.P.P.”
Bobby Stuckey, an owner of Frasca Food & Wine, in Boulder, Colo., used skills developed in high-end restaurant dining rooms to become one of the coalition’s most effective influencers. He discovered he had a powerful network of contacts dating back to his days as a sommelier at the Little Nell, in Aspen, and the French Laundry, in Napa Valley.
“I could call someone who I met at the Little Nell 25 years ago, who is from Miami, and be like, ‘You don’t know anyone who knows Marco Rubio, do you?’” Mr. Stuckey said. “If you’re lucky enough to be old in this industry, you’ve talked to a lot of guests.”
Members say the coalition’s worth goes beyond lobbying. Soon after the killing of George Floyd last May, Black members, including Mr. Onwuachi and Ms. Compton, were asked privately by leaders if they’d like to address the group.
“They were moved to do something because our industry relies on people of color,” said Mr. Onwuachi, who in July left Kith and Kin, the renowned Afro-Caribbean restaurant in Washington, D.C. “I had to remind them they’re already doing the right thing. They’re fighting for this industry. Racism didn’t start with the killing of George Floyd.”
Those conversations led to a panel of Black chefs, including Mashama Bailey of Savannah, Ga., and Edouardo Jordan of Seattle, discussing race relations in the United States, in and out of the kitchen.
Members said those sensitive conversations were successful because the group had already created an environment where members felt comfortable talking openly about sorrow and depression. Erika Polmar, a Portland food activist who became the coalition’s executive director in June, said meetings regularly functioned as an emotional outlet and source of support.
“There is just so much loss,” she said. “We can’t just gloss over what’s happened.”
Noting the complexity of Zoom meetings, which were not going to quickly produce a reason to celebrate, Will Guidara, a coalition founder, suggested ending each call with remarks from one member, modeled on the pre-meal meetings held in many restaurants just before the beginning of service.
“Pre-meal is the part of the day when a restaurant stops being a collection of individuals and starts to become a team,” said Mr. Guidara, a former owner of Eleven Madison Park, in Manhattan. “I hoped that it would have a similar impact.”
What came to be called the “post-shift” or “send-off” speech in coalition meetings helped set a tone that Elliot Nelson, a restaurateur in Tulsa, Okla., said “wasn’t exactly group therapy, but it was close.”
The most powerful post-shifts, like the one devoted to Blackbird, in Chicago, laid bare the pain of an unbearable year. Donnie Madia opened the restaurant with a group of friends, including the chef Paul Kahan, in 1997. It went on to become the flagship of One Off Hospitality, an influential restaurant group.
“For your first restaurant, you work so hard, it’s very difficult on the mind,” Mr. Madia said of Blackbird’s closing. The post-shift, he said, “gave me the solace to release and to let go, so I could fight for what we have left.”
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