This post originally appeared on May 25, 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.
Joe Beef is an undeniably cool restaurant in Montreal. It’s dark and lively, with a garden in the back and a killer wine list, and I’ve gone on every visit to that city. It’s beloved by many in the restaurant world, and was made famous by Tony Bourdain, who featured the restaurant and its owners, chefs Dave McMillan and Frédéric Morin, on multiple episodes of his various shows. But its lore and its raison d’être were built around excess. It’s where I first heard the concept of “fucking you with food,” aka sending out more than the VIP diner can possibly eat.
The culture of excess seems to have led to a certain amount of abuse, as outlined in Hannah Goldfield’s piece in the New Yorker this week, which centers on McMillan and Morin’s quest for both sobriety and a healthier restaurant environment.
In the New Yorker piece, McMillan says he’s used homophobic slurs and once pressured a cook to drink a glass of chicken blood. He brushes it off as “boys being bad in the kitchen.” He has publicly discussed hitting on female customers and says a winemaker friend objectified women in front of him. A bartender says he hit her butt on multiple occasions (which he denies). Yet he tells the magazine he “doesn’t believe that he acted inappropriately toward women,” because his ex-partner was a server at the restaurant. Last year a former Joe Beef busser accused the chef de cuisine of groping them. McMillan acknowledged the incident but still employs the chef, blaming his own alcoholism for how the incident was mishandled.
McMillan wrote a splashy essay in Bon Appetit earlier this year about his path to sobriety and being a role model for his staff. He discusses the same in the Goldfield piece. But a culture that doesn’t encourage alcohol abuse seems like just the first step in a shift that should/could happen up there.
On a side note, I also wonder why these sobriety narratives in the restaurant world (McMillan, Brock, Solomonov, etc.) so often center on men. Is it that men are more likely to be driven to excess in this industry? Or are women more likely to battle their demons in private?
Maybe men just have better publicists.
Curious as to your thoughts on all of it.
- Intel: Mario Batali now faces criminal charges for allegedly kissing and groping a Boston woman against her will; for the third time in three years, multiple McDonald’s workers filed complaints accusing the company of fostering a culture of widespread sexual harassment; British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver announced his restaurant group has gone into administration (bankruptcy), affecting as many as 1,000 jobs; Oliver competitor Richard Caring tried to capitalize on the news; chef Roy Choi and director Jon Favreau have a new celeb-filled Netflix food show called The Chef Show; Dyafa chef Reem Assil split with former business partner Daniel Patterson to focus on “projects where I have operating control and can prioritize my values”; a kind of fun retro swanky restaurant from a L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon alum opened in upper Manhattan; an upscale Japanese restaurant called Hinoki opened in Philly’s Fishtown; pretty West Hollywood restaurant Barbette closed after less than a year; D.C. talent Erik Bruner-Yang has a new project in the works in a Navy Yard apartment complex; Denver now has a coffee counter called BØH and a counter-service lunch spot called Brutø; restaurants are accusing delivery service GrubHub of charging them for customer phone calls that don’t result in orders; a pool-themed bar opened in Montreal; SF is out of Impossible Burgers; an exciting-sounding (and pretty!) modern Indian restaurant opened in Chicago; Andrew Zimmern signed on to consult on an Atlanta food hall; salad chain Sweetgreen now offers five months of paid parental leave to employees; 20-year-old Dallas restaurant Abacus will close next month, as will 18-year-old London restaurant Providores; Miami star chef Brad Kilgore debuted his latest spot, Ember; Dallas has a new Tex-Mex restaurant inspired by the city’s dining heritage from from the 1950s to the 1980s; Houston’s two-in-one restaurant The Pass and Provisions is closing; Seattle is getting a vinyl record-themed bar; and a new, very wonderful bakery from Sweden just opened in New York.
- The five best cake fails of Nailed It! Season 3.
- To watch: sous vide versus smoking dino ribs with the Prime Time guys.
- To buy: The grills and smokers that true pitmasters love.
- How the backyard grill took barbecue out of the South.
- A photo tour of Houston’s omakase destination.
On The Podcast This Week
This week on the podcast, Daniel and I discussed the week’s biggest food stories, including birds dying in olive fields, milkshakes as a political weapon, brands going too far on social media, and more.
- Toronto has a very exciting, wildly expensive new sushi spot financed by a billionaire and helmed by a true talent who cannot, even in the presence of a journalist, stop himself from saying inappropriate things to the women around him. [Toronto Life]
- Reminder that a chef who beat his wife with a bottle is trying to open a high-end restaurant in Chicago and says the coverage of the battery has “been pure hell for me.” [Block Club]
- New Yorkers, go to this food event for Housing Works. [A Feast for Books]
- Chef Daniel Patterson partnered with many chefs from marginalized communities to give them financial backing and infrastructure. Now many of those partners are walking away, citing tensions. [SFChronicle]
- Pretending you don’t have kids at work isn’t helping anyone. [The Atlantic]
- Mexican food expert Diana Kennedy seems incredibly awesome. [NYT]
- Ask someone what time they eat dinner and you’ll learn a lot about their lives. [New Yorker]
- Alison Roman won’t hire recipe helpers and probably mutes you on Instagram. [Elle]
- The gonzo journalism we really need. [Mel]