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The Restaurant World’s Many Unlikely Power Duos

From the Editor: Everything you missed in food news last week

Chefs Gabriela Cámara and Jessica Koslow stand for a portrait.
Gabriela Cámara and Jessica Koslow
Dylan + Jeni

This post originally appeared on November 2, 2019, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

Have we entered an era of collaboration in the restaurant industry? Onda, the new restaurant from star chefs Jessica Koslow and Gabriela Cámara, opened this week in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Alinea and Lettuce Entertain You restaurant groups, about as heavyweight as you can get in Chicago, announced a parternship to revive one of the city’s most influential French restaurants. In D.C., the cool couple behind Call Your Mother and Timber Pizza Co. will partner with the former Doi Moi chef Johanna Hellrigl and her husband to open an all-day cafe.

And that was just this week’s news. Earlier this year, Keith McNally reopened his beloved Pastis with the operational support of someone who, under different cicumstances, would be considered a great rival, Stephen Starr. In Texas, Aaron Franklin and Tyson Cole are on the verge of opening the second branch of their collab, Loro. Arizona pizza master Chris Bianco has paired up with bread deity Chad Robertson of Tartine to bring his work to LA at Tartine Manufactory and New York at F&F Pizzeria. And in Detroit, four owners of distinct restuarants combined forces to build a new hospitality group called Nest Egg.

As my colleague Hillary noted in her anticipated openings piece last year, pop-ups and collab dinners have long been a staple of this industry, as have chef consultancies, but frenemies and rivals putting actual skin in the game is fairly novel.

When it works — if it’s a true financial partnership — this seems like a very smart way to mitigate costs, lean into specialized talents, spread around the risk, and find scale without having to build an empire on one’s own. As challenges facing indie restaurateurs mount, it’s not the worst idea. Of course, when it doesn’t work, it could be a recipe for tension, crossed wires, and the inevitable public statement saying that one party or another was just “consulting” all along.

Unless it’s all just a gambit to woo cynical investor money, in which case, the more names the merrier!

On Eater

A communal table on the second floor of Nina May
Nina May in D.C.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

This Week on the Podcast

We talk about food in hospitals: what it’s like these days, why it’s so bad, and what some people are doing about it. Then we get into the biggest stories of the week.

Off Eater

This week, I’m just going to dedicate this section to my favorite lines and tidbits from the epically gossippy Intelligencer piece on Condé:

  • Radhika Jones had to cut at least $14 million from Vanity Fair’s 2018 budget.
  • Vogue has a $100,000-a-year membership program offering access to Anna Wintour and parties attended by “Vogue-adjacent celebrities.”
  • One lol piece of evidence of Condé cost-cutting was editors being made to fly business class instead of first.
  • “One executive said openly to me, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, but let’s ride this out, keep our salaries for another couple years, and then, if it falls apart, fuck it.’”
  • “The company’s employees were getting so many offers to post sponsored content on their Instagram pages that this year Condé held a meeting in which it told employees that it needed to broker such deals and would keep a cut.”
  • “A young employee with a large Instagram following recently told a group of colleagues, ‘Once I decided this was my year of selling out, I’ll do anything.’”

I was also going to read through the two ‘Why Don’t We Eat Swans?’ pieces to break down the differences between them, but really, who has the time?