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Awards Don’t Matter, But I Would Like Them All, Please

From the Editor: This week in the world of food and restaurants, explained

James Beard Award
Photo: James Beard Foundation

This post originally appeared on April 28, 2018, 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.

Before we get started, I just want to give a big shout out to this guy who got a tattoo of the lead illustration in a piece I wrote two years ago about the lack of maternity leave in the restaurant industry. You Are Cool.

Okay. I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, a few hours before the James Beard Foundation Media Awards Dinner. By the time you get this I will either be reveling in our victory or wallowing in our defeat (Eater is up for four awards). [Update, April 30: Here’s the full list of 2018 James Beard Foundation Media Award winners.] Having been on the judging end, receiving end, and engineering end of various awards — and their complicated cousin, the Best-Of List — I can definitely say… awards are often pretty silly.

Some are decided by a small crew of gatekeepers, some a network of peers collaborating in person, some are decided over email, some are just online forms sent out to hundreds of panelists around the country — or some permutation of the above. I like that the JBF media awards are decided by peers, and judges must weigh in on every single entry. I don’t love that judging is not done in person, so judges can’t argue with one another about the nuances of submissions or raise potential personal biases. Doing it via an online portal must help keep the submission cost low, but happens at the expense of a certain degree of credibility.

Anyway, awards are fickle. But at their best, they spotlight excellent work across the industry that might have been overlooked. They motivate people to put out good work. And they put shy journalists in the position of putting on a blazer and some nice shoes to go stand up in front of their peers and bask in the glory of their adoration and envy. Which is a fun change of pace.

Win or lose, you should check out the work of our nominees:

And if you are in this world or follow food media people, I hope your faves won last night and your enemies lost. (Unless we are your enemy, in which case I, once again, hope we won.)

Opening of the week: Una Pizza Napoletana

Margherita pizza
Photo by Gary He

Who’s behind it? Pizza perfectionist Anthony Mangieri (he of Una Pizza in the East Village and then Una Pizza in San Francisco) and the duo behind Contra and Wildair.

What is it? Una Pizza 3.0., which promises the same obsessed-over pizza but now accompanied by small plates, desserts, and a dining room big enough to seat 72.

Where is it? The Lower East Side, NYC

When did it open? They’ve had some friends and family dinners but it opens to the public on Monday.

Why should I care? He’s the real deal. But don’t trust me. Trust Peter Meehan. Trust Hillary Dixler Canavan. Trust Adam Kuban.

On Eater

Last week on the Upsell

Dan and I talk baseball food. We chatted with Eater’s baseball fanatic Sonia Chopra about the takeaways from her big report on the new trends in stadium dining; Citi Field’s Patrick Schaeffer about cheese pulls and the power of Instagram; Union Square’s John Karangis about how they adapt Shake Shack for the stadium audience; and the Ringer’s Joe House about his strategy for dining at home and away stadiums.

Off Eater

  • I loved loved loved loved loved T’s big package on 36 months in the ’80’s that changed culture forever. First: the essay by Frank Bruni is my favorite thing he’s done in a while. Second: nightlife watchers will love all the cameos by Eric Goode. Third: this line from editor-in-chief Hanya Yanagihara: “One thing that has united every New York transplant, probably since the beginning, is the persistent suspicion that you have arrived just a few months too late, that the circus that drew you to the city pulled up stakes just before you got here.” [T]
  • SF Chronicle critic Michael Bauer released his annual Top 100 list, but none of the editors in the food section are promoting it, presumably because they publicly disagree with his decision to include restaurants owned by bad actors. The editors of the section (who don’t oversee Bauer for some illogical reason) recently wrote op-eds about how they do not want to promote the establishments owned by men accused of sexual harassment and other bad behavior. [SFChron]
  • As The Family Meal pointed out, it is kind of fun to listen to Dave Chang try to sell some mattresses, but I also enjoyed the full episode. As usual, he’s surprisingly honest about his personal failures and struggles and what a restaurateur at his level faces when expanding. [Dave Chang Show]
  • That feeling when you’ve been talking about doing a story for months and then someone else does it and does it really well. Like… it burns. But I’m happy it exists. [The Outline]
  • Ditto this. [New Yorker]
  • If those charcoal croissants from last week didn’t push you over the edge, this deconstructed avocado toast will. Either that or the Avolato. [Twitter]
  • The origins of a West Virginia icon, the pepperoni roll. [Parts Unknown]
  • GQ’s best new restaurants list. [GQ]
  • This great data viz piece about the fact that there are more men named John than women in certain halls of power reminded me of the time I was looking at a food festival’s website to count female participants and noticed the rows upon rows of chefs named Matt. There were 13. And 11 Johns and 8 Adams and 20 Michaels/Mikes. [NYT]

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