The Digest

Changing Restaurant Culture & Other News

15th June 2018

Words: James Hansen


Difficult stories, an infamous cocktail and the joy of queer food culture: this week on The Gannet Digest

Pelin Keskin discusses the importance of letting people tell their stories, on their terms on ‘See Something Say Something’ from Buzzfeed. Speaking about the late Anthony Bourdain and how he put stories before himself, Keskin reflects on the necessary, difficult honesty of telling complex stories. “You can’t talk about immigrant food without talking about deportation in this country … The whole point of showcasing these stories is that it isn’t just there, you need to have the tough conversations, you need to cover the things people are uncomfortable about to understand the full spectrum.”

Alicia Kennedy picks apart the various resonances of the much-maligned Long Island Iced Tea for Edible Long Island. “When the cocktail renaissance gained traction in New York City and began to spread, the Long Island wasn’t part of anyone’s emerging canon. Seriousness and decorum were in vogue, and this drink encourages neither.” Moving past condescending “elevations” of the drink, Kennedy instead spotlights cocktails that iterate its place in culture: “There’s a levity and thoughtfulness in these reimaginings of the cocktail that aren’t present when someone working outside its birthplace makes an attempt to renew it.”

David Simon remembers his friend Anthony Bourdain on his website, The Audacity of Despair. “I was still on the sofa at four in the afternoon, still half-dressed, when I decided that my life could not be complete if I did not somehow become friends with Anthony Bourdain.” Simon succeeds — one of so many touched by Bourdain’s gentleness — and shares with his friend a certainty about the way to approach the world: “creative and personal growth is, for all us, dependent on encounters with The Other, on a journey from the known and comfortable to the alien and disorienting.”

Jeremy Allen covers the evolution of queer food culture at The New York Times. Reflecting on the visibility empowered by Michael W. Twitty’s two James Beard awards for 2018, John Birdsall’s Beard-winning “America, Your Food Is So Gay”  and Julia Turshen’s newly-launched database Equity At The Table, Allen focusses on writers, cooks, chefs and dining spaces that reflect people’s experience of their own queer identities, “industry insiders and outsiders who had largely felt, at one point or another, marginalized by a world that they had begun to reclaim, meal by meal.”

Naomi Pomeroy reflects on Gabrielle Hamilton’s and Ashley Merriman’s decision to partner with New York restaurateur Ken Friedman. Having been immersed in the restaurant behaviour that passed as acceptable, that  “has everything to do with all of us agreeing, back then, that bad behavior was normal.” Hamilton and Merriman’s decision enables the continuation of that culture that should be rejected; Pomeroy recognises that acknowledging complicity is the first step in making change.

“I ran my kitchen with the same mentality. When I felt like I needed to, I yelled at my staff. Sometimes I threw things. Everyone on my team knew I had the power in my kitchen. I got angry when people would criticize my management style. Men yelled and screamed and got fawning profiles. Why shouldn’t I behave the way I saw worked for them? I was one of them, I thought. I look back on that time with real sadness. What were we saying when we told cooks that they needed to be willing to sacrifice family time and work 70-plus hours a week, all while paying paltry wages and belittling them when they made mistakes?”

Image: Sam Falk/The New York Times

Posted 15th June 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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