1. USTOO

Two tales of sexual harassment in Chicago restaurant companies broke this week—and what’s striking is that, appalling as the original actions were, in both cases corporations that should have known better compounded the crimes by trying to brush them under the rug and let the alleged perpetrator skate with a mild reprimand—if that.

The first was thoroughly reported by Ashok Selvam at Eater. At Cochon Volant in the Loop, manager Joshua Schatan was accused of creating a hostile workplace—and if that sounds bloodless, try this (female names are pseudonyms):

The alleged attack that began at Cochon Volant occurred on May 11, 2018, when Jill had dinner with Schatan at the restaurant. The two first worked together at Cubby Bear, where Jill had been a server, and had dated on and off since 2011. A longtime Cochon Volant server, Linus Coy — who had also been previously romantically involved with Jill — waited on their table. Schatan asked Coy to join them for drinks following his shift, and at around midnight, after the restaurant had closed, Coy took Schatan up on the offer, along with Mandy*, another server. According to Coy, Mandy, and Jill’s accounts, after a few drinks, Schatan asked if Coy and Jill had ever been intimate. When Jill replied that they had, Schatan stood up and began yelling, screaming that she and Coy were both fired. He then threw her bag and phone across the bar.

A brawl ensued. By the time police came, “Jill” was unwilling to press charges but she and Coy both eventually filed for protection orders against Schatan. The owner, Well Done Hospitality, responded with remarkable tone-deafness:

Multiple employees told Eater Chicago that they were unhappy with the way that the restaurant handled the incident. The day after, Jennifer*, a server who worked at Cochon Volant from May 2017 to July 2018, says that she came into work and saw Well Done’s management team, including founders/owners Jonas Falk and Justin Rolls, meeting with employees to discuss it. Jennifer was not in any of those meetings, but multiple colleagues relayed to her that management took Schatan’s side. “They said, ‘We’ve known Josh for years — he would have never done anything like this,’” Jennifer said. “‘He’s so good with our sisters. I would never feel uncomfortable with him being around her. You don’t know the full story — you weren’t there.’”

There is much more, demonstrating both Schatan’s patterns of behavior going back to a long stint at the Cubby Bear, and that Well Done Hospitality tolerated and looked the other way at a great deal of similar activity, leading not only staffers but one administrator to quit over the tolerance of crude abuse. Well Done Hospitality is a small-ish restaurant group—they also have Taureaux Tavern, Francois Frankie and others—but they’re attached to a bigger company, Organic Life LLC, also run by Falk and Rolls, which provides “healthy” lunches for schools and has a website filled with statements of their high ethics. Perhaps some of the parents whose childrens’ schools use their services should ask them about this story.

*  *  *

The second story involves a company certainly familiar on the food scene—Lettuce Entertain You, which opened Bar Ramone in August 2018 under two beverage directors, Ryan Arnold and Richard Hanauer. Arnold, who oversaw wine programs for a dozen LEYE restaurants, worked with a woman named Emily Wong as the publicist for Bar Ramone. According to the Tribune’s story:

Wong visited Arnold’s home to discuss a media query and a trip to New Zealand offered to Arnold and Wong in exchange for adding a company’s wines to Lettuce Entertain You menus… Arnold and Wong talked about the trip over glasses of Champagne at Arnold’s apartment, before dinner at Owen & Engine, where they shared another glass of wine and then returned to Arnold’s home, where Wong had left her keys, the complaint states…

Arnold continued to touch Wong, including forcing his hands inside her jeans and sexually assaulting her, despite at least five rejections of his advances, the suit says.

She left before further actions took place. But it’s what followed that night that would lead to Wong filing a lawsuit. (Disclosure: I worked a little with her during her time at LEYE.)

One of the supervisors asked Wong to speak with Lettuce Entertain You’s head of human resources. Wong was asked whether she thought Arnold should be fired and was told “firing him would be drastic, would an apology work?” according to the complaint. At least three times, Wong was told the prospect of firing Arnold was “drastic,” according to the lawsuit…

On or about Nov. 21, Lettuce Entertain You locked Wong out of her company email and created an automatic reply on her behalf, referring callers to Wong’s supervisor, according to the complaint… Within days, other employees were performing Wong’s job responsibilities, “constructively terminating her position,” the complaint says.

This is the all too typical result of an incident of alleged sexual harassment—the company decides it in favor of the employee they perceive as being of more value to them at the time. Which is nearly always a bad choice practically as well as morally—in both cases the alleged offending employee has been forced to leave the company anyway. And no one seems to reckon on the cost of not only the complaining employee who inevitably winds up filing a lawsuit, but the effect on untold numbers of other employees as they observe where management comes out on these issues, and change their career plans to make their contributions and advancement elsewhere.

2. ALL TOGETHER NOW

Jeff Ruby likes Wherewithall—hey, everyone I’ve talked to likes Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark’s new restaurant, including me. But more to the point, he explains how the constantly-changing-farmer-stuff menu works: “In serving a composition of sweetbreads and lima beans, the kitchen dared diners to confront two potential flash points at once — organ meat plus the source of many a childhood dinnertime argument, together on one plate? But Kim and Clark pulled off the union beautifully, playing the unctuousness of the sweetbreads off the starchiness of the legumes, with sweet-and-sour tomatoes on the side. One bite and you were suddenly thinking, Everyone loves sweetbreads and lima beans, right? And yet, a few days later, the sweetbreads were out, chicken was in, and the lima beans had migrated to the hake dish. The staff must have aneurysms trying to remember everything from day to day.”

3. WONDER BREAD

Nick Kindelsperger kicks off a more serious venture into reviewing (or so he said on Twitter) for the Tribune with a review of Superkhana International, where he says bread is a particular standout: “Superkhana doesn’t focus on one particular region, but it revels in Indian bread. Here you can find textbook dhokla ($11), a soft and fluffy yellow steamed bread that’s, for now, saddled next to a pile of sweet corn. Thepla, a flatbread infused with fenugreek leaves, stands in place of a tortilla in the brazenly fishy sardine taco ($9). Pao (also spelled pav) is an extra fluffy bun that’s split open and stuffed with either a fried potato patty in the classic vada pao ($10) or with braised pork shoulder for the achaari pork pao ($12).”

4. YOU ARE SIZZLING, GOING ON HEAVENLY

John Kessler likes La Mom Kitchen so much he wrote a song about it… well, he wrote a Mad parody of one, anyway, “Sung to the tune of My Favorite Things”:

First get a stir-fry of fresh knife-cut noodles
On top is a chicken, the whole kit and caboodle
Braised necks and legs, breasts, thighs, feet, and wings
These are a few of my favorite things

I’m glad to have more specific recommendations, since my first visit was part very good (the hong sue pork which Kessler also sings to) and part not so good, leaving me wondering how to solve a problem like La Mom Kitchen.

5. STEAKUMMS

Need a steak? More to the point, need a place to eat steak over business? Crain’s surveys the latest in red meat, from Ocean Prime to the slightly reconcepted El Che.

6. ANIMAL CRACKERS

Uptown Oaxacan restaurant Kie-Gol-Lanee has been around a few years—David Hammond wrote about it here for Fooditor—but getting a Bib Gourmand has given it fresh attention, and Ji Suk Yi reveals one of the secrets behind one of its moles: “Maria Mendoza’s popular sweet, salty and spicy red mole takes seven hours to cook and has over 36 ingredients including garlic, spices, nuts, dried fruit, chiles and chocolate. Hoja santa [Mexican pepperleaf], avocado leaves and pre-packaged animal crackers are also included in the toasting, roasting, cooking and blending of the recipe. When I told Maria Mendoza that she may be revealing too many secret ingredients, she laughed, explaining that her red mole recipe would be impossible to recreate given that her technique has been perfected over years.”

7. SZECHWAN FOR THE ROAD

Szechwan JMC was one of my top picks on my Chinatown list earlier this year, and I’m happy to see Titus Ruscitti dive deeper into its menu for more Sichuan peppercorn tingle: “The sleeper hit thus far has been the Chefs Special Stir Fried Pork. I got turned onto this dish by a poster over at LTHforum who mentioned it as his favorite bite from a recent meal there. It’s not listed under the chefs specials but you’ll see it on the larger pictured menu they hand you when you sit down. It’s thinly sliced pieces of stir fried pork with halved peppers of some sort. They were almost like New Mexico green chiles in that some were hotter than others. It packed some pretty decent heat and at the bottom of the bowl is a puddle of dark liquid that was full of umami. It was perfect soaked up in the rice.”

I also bookmarked his guide for what has to be close to the best remaining food city in the U.S. I’ve never been to: Seattle.

8. DEEP, MAN

Steve Dolinsky’s Pizza City podcast turns to Chicago deep dish at last, talking to Marc Malnati about the true origins (he says!) of deep dish pizza.

And in case you haven’t made it to Division Street to watch pasta being made in the window, at ABC 7 he shows you how it happens at Tortello.

9. KAHAN-O-RAMA

Paul Kahan tells the Wall Street Journal about his latest cookbook, Cooking For Good Times, which is more or less an Avec cookbook (Avec chef Perry Hendrix is among the co-authors) but mainly, a cookbook about cooking for big pleasure at home. Hence this hymn to cabbage: “Cabbage has become a center-of-the-plate ingredient in many of our kitchens, especially the one at Avec. In the fall and early winter, when it’s cold and cabbage develops more sugar, we cut a wedge of it and we blast it—almost blacken it on both sides—and then throw it into an oven. We pull it out of the oven and throw on sliced rings of shallots and a knob of butter. I don’t cook with much butter, but I do baste cabbage with it, and it transforms a mundane thing into something luxurious and sweet.”

Mike Sula also talks to Kahan, who sounds like he didn’t have such a good time doing a second book: “‘I feel like I got tricked in the first place,’ Kahan says of the two-book deal he signed. ‘Life’s too short. It’s a lot of work, and there a lot of other things I wanna do. It’s not a clear-cut representation of the creative process I enjoy so much.'”

And… Overserved talks to Paul Kahan!

Finally, he’ll have an event at Read It and Eat on November 6.

10. ANOTHER BRIDGEPORT BUMMER

First Johnny O’s (whether it’s actually closed or not) and now Bridgeport Bakery, a classic paczki and bacon bun spot which served as the gathering point for my Food-I-Tours of the south side last year. The staff is basically all retiring after 47 years in business; the Sun-Times tells more, including talking to longtime customer Kevin Hickey (The Duck Inn).

11. WHITE ON WHITE

Sandwich Tribunal finds a recipe for a true food of poverty—toast sandwiches, bread with a slice of buttered toast for filling. It reads like an April Fool’s post at first, but it soon becomes a philosophical exploration of… sandwichness: “The difference in texture between the untoasted bread and the toasted–and I used different, better bread for the toast than I did for the sandwich–combined with the salt and pepper made it almost taste like something. Almost. There’s got to be something you can do with that toast though, to make it seem more like a sandwich with an actual filling. What can you put on toast that makes it taste like more than toast?”

12. SOCIAL EAT-IA

Friend of Fooditor Brian Eng tried the newest import to Chicago’s Chinatown, a chain called Tanlu.

I went to Bangkok less than a year ago and even I’m jealous of what Kenny Z is eating there. Start here and keep going through his feed for the week.

13. EVENT HORIZON

It’s seemed likelier and likelier that Boka Group’s Balena would not be reopening after its August 2017 fire, and it’s official now (the lease has been running out while the insurance adjusters adjusted, and the decision was made to call it a day). But kudos to Boka Group for the way they’re going out—by holding a “celebration of life” for the late restaurant at their Dutch & Doc’s. Per their release: “From November 1-24, Wednesday – Sunday evenings starting at 5pm, a menu highlighting the favorite dishes from Balena, like the Taglioni Nero with Sea Urchin and Crab and Lemon Kale Orecchiette, will be available from executive chef Chris Pandel at 3600 N. Clark Street (Dutch & Doc’s). Pandel will also be hosting a series of Balena alums through the kitchen during the month-long restaurant takeover, including Joe Frillman of Daisies and Tony Quartaro of Limelight Catering.”

Remember Billy Dec talking about his documentary on his Filipino food roots in this Fooditor piece? He’ll have an event previewing the documentary, pairing food with certain scenes and benefiting the PBS station, WCTE, that is presenting it, at Sunda on October 25, 5 to 7 pm. Tickets (all of which goes to the PBS affiliate) are $100; email [email protected]

Like coffee? Like dogs? If you answered no, the secret police are already on their way; do not attempt to resist. If you answered yes, take your doggo to the Puppy Pop-Up Cafe at Grounds & Hounds Coffee, 676 N. Wabash, from 12 to 4 on Saturday October 19. There will be coffee for you, treats for good boys, and 20% of proceeds from Jonathan Adler (home decor, located next door) will go to animal rescue.

14. HOORAY FOR THE BULLDOG

In 2012, Citizen Kane finally fell to Vertigo on the last Sight & Sound International Critics Poll for the best movie of all time, ending a streak that had held since 1962. I’ve been wondering who might finally knock Alinea off the perch that it has held reflexively for some years, winning the #1 spot on best restaurants lists from the Tribune, Chicago mag and Time Out Chicago (not to mention ranking highest among Michelin, the World’s 50 Best and others). And now Time Out’s The Eat List takes the plunge, giving the top honor to Oriole (which ranked #1 on the latest Fooditor 99, by the way). Of course, I think you want the latest Fooditor 99 when it comes out in a month or so, but this is a pretty good list of what’s to get excited about in Chicago dining right now.

In the meantime, though, you can’t say Grant Achatz isn’t still in the lead in this Game of Thrones…

P.S. Happy 4th birthday to Fooditor. If you’re thinking of getting us a present for carrying on four years of independent food media… get yourself one, too, by supporting our Patreon and getting an autographed Fooditor 99 and more.