Buzz List for October 30, 2017

Sex-in-the-workplace rules claim a Chicago chef, protesters say a new restaurant kills, Todd bids Tru farewell, Nagrant flips for a burger, Kindelsperger has great ramen and Pollack has words of advice.

Maple & Ash/Facebook
Steak at Maple & Ash

1. THE WORLD OF 2017

As everyone knows by now, Publican chef—and cookbook co-author, as seen in this Fooditor article just a couple of weeks ago—Cosmo Goss was terminated for a 2016 incident in which, apparently, two employees (neither of them Goss) had been a couple, the man took pictures of the woman, which were of a certain nature, they broke up, he showed them off at work—and here it’s not quite clear, but Goss did not react forcefully enough, and didn’t shut it down immediately as a manager should. (Another Publican manager was also terminated.)

At first I felt a little cynicism about the story, in that they were terminating somebody who was already leaving One Off (Goss and Erling Wu-Bower plan to start a restaurant called Pacific Standard Time, which One Off, at least according to some reports, may be an investor in). But now the talk is whether that will have some effect on Goss’s involvement with that as well, or even the project’s future at all, so it’s clearly a serious situation in which a promising young chef, author of a hot new cookbook (which he’ll no longer be touring in support of, we’re also told), may not have a career in the post-Harvey Weinstein environment.

So it’s a new day in the world of restaurants, known for a certain constant level of sexual harassment (if not comparable to Hollywood’s, as we’re finding out). Talking about it to people at the Regalis event Monday night, I heard pretty much the same attitude—you gotta shut that shit down, zero tolerance, Goss screwed up, but at the same time, a feeling that the career death penalty seems too harsh given what he did or didn’t do. But that’s guys talking about it, and I’ll grant women may well feel differently.

What I do know is that there’s worse things out there than nudie pics out in the restaurant world—and as much as it’s getting corporatized, putting policies and manuals in place, it’s still also a wild, reckless, carny side of the work world, full of pretty young people, alcohol and drugs, and hours that make a normal life impossible.

And part of that is what we find fun about it. So we’re getting lectured very soberly right now by some of the same people (starting with a Mr. Bourdain) who’ve been selling us the wild and crazy chef lifestyle over the last 20 years. All I know is, it should be cleaned up, and people who’ve been harassed, not only women (one poll showed 70 percent of women and 50 percent of men had experienced sexual harassment in the restaurant industry), deserve justice. But justice will not be distributed evenly, nor to everyone who deserves it. Accusations of sexual harassment will be a powerful weapon, and we’ve already seen one example of it being used in a business fight—it seems pretty clear that Alon Shaya blew the whistle on John Besh’s behavior in a dispute over the restaurant Shaya. Maybe Shaya was as perturbed by Besh’s activities as he says… but the women Besh harassed were also a very convenient weapon in an employment/trademark dispute.

In any case, this is the new world we’re in. And if you can get nailed for not handling this perfectly in 2016, you can sure get nailed for things that happened in 1987 or 1999. That has to have some people worried… and trying to remember what happened then.

2. THE WORLD OF 2017, PART TWO

A part-Filipino chef with fine dining experience plans to open (with his Korean wife) a casual-upscale place, entrees under $30, in the vicinity of HaiSous and Dusek’s along 18th street in Pilsen, in the empty space of a long-closed clinic. Is this 1) a nice addition to the neighborhood providing jobs for locals, or 2) You’re Hitler? If you were the activists (some apparently from LA) protesting Stephen Gillanders’ S.K.Y. during a friends and family dinner last week, the only possible answer is #2, as DNA Info reported: “‘You’ve inserted yourself into a community that doesn’t want you, without talking to us first,’ one activist says of the restaurant. ‘It’s national news that Pilsen is fighting gentrification, and you still’ came here. When [S.K.Y. manager] Ford asks what he can do to help, one person immediately responds: ‘Get the f— out.'”

Dead Czech-American residents of the now largely Latino neighborhood who sold their property to John Podmajersky in the 1980s could not be reached for comment.

3. CHICAGO-SAN FRANCISCO MICHELIN CONGRATS

Let’s read something happy about restaurants while we’re still allowed to. Congrats to Matt Kirkley, formerly of L2O, who got Coi’s third star this week; one of my favorite interviews ever was this very frank one with him at Grub Street. And to Fooditor contributor Scott Malloy, sous chef (I think) at A Single Thread in Healdsburg, which got two stars in its debut year.

4. IT ALL CAME TRU

Tru was a sacred temple of caviar and cheese carts, of perfect and obsessive service, and (I think) of the very last jacket-required dress code in Chicago. When it was announced in September that the restaurant would be closing, I knew it would be the end of an era,” writes Anthony Todd, and he wasn’t going to let it go out with a whimper. Instead he offers a lovely tribute to a storied restaurant’s farewell: “It’s unlikely that we’ll see anything quite like it again, since this type of corporate, fine-art-encrusted, dress-code-enforcing spot is the antithesis of everything that restaurants are in 2017.” (Chicagoist)

5. LAKE EFFECT

The group behind Longman & Eagle is called Land and Sea Dept., so isn’t it kind of sketchy for someone else to call a restaurant Land & Lake Kitchen? It’d be like opening Cabbage Entertain You… anyway, to judge by Aimee Levitt’s review, it doesn’t sound like anyone’s going to care that much about the new restaurant in London House, which affects a tribute to midwestern modesty: “OK, so the midwest is associated with humility and a lack of pretension. But why do these ideals, especially when applied to food, result in bland, boring dishes? Why can’t midwestern food assert itself proudly, with big, juicy hunks of beef and pork and fresh vegetables, with some of the spices immigrants brought over? My friend was sad about this self-abnegation. She’s from New Mexico. They are proud of their food there, even in the lousiest hotel restaurant.” (Reader)

6. STEAK EFFECT

For the first time since 2013, Chicago mag takes a comprehensive look at Chicago’s steak scene—and, no doubt, their dining budget—to determine which steak joints are the best in town. You can see that here, but the most charming part is the interview with the maitre’d at Gibsons, and the celebrities she’s had to remain unflappable in front of: “Another night, Frank Sinatra and his wife, Barbara, came in. I seated them on the left side. Then in walks Tom Selleck. The whole bar exploded. I took Tom to see Frank and seated them together so I could keep all the chaos in one place.”

7. RAMENYAH-NYAH

It’s the best ramen ever and you can’t have it! But there’s a valid reason for Nick Kindelsperger’s story about a ramen master whose ramen you’ll probably never get to try, which is that the ramen master makes it in his apartment—and has been refining his recipe and chronicling the results on the ramen thread on Reddit, a quintessentially 2017 way to cook: “Along with sharing his results, he also regularly answers questions by other Reddit posters, earnestly addressing issues with ramen that most people on Earth have never considered. For example, what percentage of kansui should there be in tsukemen-style noodles? (He claims 1.2 percent is preferred.) Which raises the question: What the heck is kansui? (Apparently, it’s an alkaline salt that usually contains sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate.)” So you want it? Make it yourself! (Tribune)

8. NAGRANT FLIPS

Michael Nagrant thinks Flip Burger, in the old La Pasadita spot on Ashland with the Snappy Service System tile, rivals current king of hipster burgers Au Cheval: “Is it Chicago’s best burger? Maybe. What’s for sure is it weeps smoky beef juices that mingle with a dollop of lustrous aioli, creating a creamy gravy that drips over a blanket of gooey American cheese and spicy pickle shingles. Each bite of the burger unlocks something primal, channeling—in the same way the Au Cheval burger does—memories of your dad grilling in the backyard.” (Redeye)

9. BARRIO NORTH

Joanne Trestrail’s review makes Barrio sound more like an exhibit on Dining, 2017 than a restaurant: “Provenance and pedigree also are touted: Shredded carrot on the pork torta is not just pickled but heirloom; hand-pressed tortillas are made of macienda heirloom corn. There are shoutouts to local providers, too—honey on the burrata is from Michigan, jack cheese from Wisconsin. It’s an odd tack to take with customers hungry for something fun, filling and Mexican-ish but not for walking a block away to Frontera Grill or Xoco, much less to Topolobampo.” (Crain’s)

10. PENNY, WISE

I mentioned Penny Pollack’s retirement last week, but I bring it up again because Between Bites put up the recording of her 2016 Between Bites appearance, at The Betty, which has a lot of smart and funny stuff about her 30 years of reviewing—including some surprising stuff about the personal toll of dining anonymously. Well worth the listen.

11. BREAKFAST AT TIFFINS

Anupy Singla is a Chicago-based writer of Indian cookbooks; I didn’t know this but she used to be a TV reporter, and gave it up to cook healthier food (and food from her heritage) for her family, as she tells Friend of Fooditor Janet Fuller in this story at Epicurious.

12. TROTTER ON VHS

Wow, here’s a real find, from the “Chicago Restaurants 86 But Not Forgotten” group on Facebook: Charlie Trotter used to ship dinners to a friend with instructions how to prepare them. The friend and he got the idea of making a business out of this (it never took off), and shot a video, which happens to be Trotter’s first cooking video… in 1993, six years before his PBS show. It’s amateurish, and you probably won’t sit through all 38 minutes—but take a look, he and the world of new American cuisine are so young in it.

13. I CAN SEE FOR PIES AND PIES

The site I found this at is fluff, but the pics are cool: this fall, Alinea is doing an American harvest take on Japanese water cakes, by doing a see-through pumpkin pie.

WHAT MIKE ATE

Having eaten at most of HaiSous’s popups over the last couple of years, I wasn’t in a burning hurry to try it out, but I knew I’d get there soon enough, and by the time I was ready to do my part for gentrifying Pilsen, I had a serious jones for the chicken goi ga, chicken and cabbage salad. So of course it’s not on the menu right now. But plenty of other things were, and I was just fine with eating fish sauce and citrus tang in all its permutations—beef, vegetables, noodles. And enjoying the Halloween party at the next table—which consisted of eight or ten princesses and one guy in full beast regalia.

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