We certainly hope a spirit of hospitality begins to be pervasive in our culture, but all the evidence is pointing in another direction.
Editor’s Note: In September we announced that Skift was expanding into food and drink with the addition of the Chefs+Tech weekly newsletter.
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The True Meaning of Hospitality
C+T delights in bringing readers the most relevant hospitality and technology news as it pertains to the changing pace of everyday life. Given the current climate in our country, we feel it important to remember some core tenets of hospitality, like warmth, inclusion, and grace. More specifically: creating and facilitating connection with others and cultivating a sense of welcoming. As we move into the holiday season at the end of an admittedly difficult year, it’s our hope that these sentiments will continue to prevail as the industry grows and evolves. Perhaps Danny Meyer said it best in his post-election letter to Union Square Hospitality Group employees: “The root of the word hospitality is hope, and hope is optimistic.” — KH + The Chefs+Tech Team
What Does a Trump Presidency Mean for the Restaurant World
While each day’s newspaper since 11.8.16 has been somewhat more depressing than the next, we are faced with new realities of how our president elect intends to leave his no-doubt indelible mark on this fine nation of ours. The industries he’ll affect, the power he’ll wield — let’s face it, it’s a scary scene. Perhaps no more close to us or deeply relevant industry in jeopardy as a result of the election is the restaurant industry. Built on the labor of immigrant communities and frequently celebrated for its unique ability to bring cultural diversity to the fore, restaurants are sacred places where it matters not where you’re from, but what you serve and how you serve it. Shifts in immigration policies stand to pose a threat to the restaurant industry as we know it. Here’s what’s in jeopardy, according to the duo behind Bon Appétit’s #6 Best Restaurant of the Year, South Philly Barbacoa.
The Moderate Veganism We’ve Come to Love and How It Took Hold
You remember the cousin or that classmate who proclaimed themselves vegan at age 16, bolstered by the ideological underpinnings of animal rights and staunch opposition to moderation of any format? Well, since then the non-dairy, non-meat, non-animal product of any kind movement has tacked back toward shore with a slightly more moderate approach that more closely reflects a trend in the American dietary approach toward less meat in general. (These changes are in no small part thanks to food-tech companies like eggless-mayonnaise Hampton Creek and plant-based protein Beyond Meat, both of which have generated significant attention in tech-savvy circles.) Led by Paul Shapiro, now the Humane Society’s VP of farm animal welfare, and vegan compatriot, Bruce Friedrich, mainstreaming veganism has, after 15 years, really begun to take hold. “Bruce made the point that getting people to eat less meat may be easier than getting people to eat no meat,” said Shapiro in Quartz, “and you could probably spare more animals doing that.” Alongside other high profile vegans like the (embattled) CEO of Hampton Creek Josh Tetrick, their work at The Good Food Institute has begun to truly take hold and lobbies like theirs made a mark in this year’s elections, with initiatives like Massachusetts’ cage-free ballot measure that raised $2.7 million in support.
A Grubbier Hub
Hot off the stove is this important clarification from the loose-lipped GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney, who made it very clear in the wake of the election that those who supported the ideals (or lack thereof) held by the president elect were not welcome employees at the company. While we applaud a leader’s bold assertion of inclusion and attempts to immediate address company morale, one particularly incendiary line — “If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here” — well… hello, lawsuit waiting to happen. But one thing’s for sure: Trump won’t be delivering your favorite pad thai anytime soon. “Had he worked here, many of his comments would have resulted in his immediate termination,” said Maloney in his original letter.
Out of Touch or The Next Big Thing?
Considering robots and AI in restaurant kitchens is one thing, but turning your home kitchen into a connected experience (where “connected” means not having to understand how to cook or do anything besides touch a few screens) is another entirely. But, if you have a spare $1,500 kicking around, the future is here in the form of the June Oven, a countertop “smart oven” that comes complete with cameras, sensors, touch screens, and a mobile app to sense and perfectly cook exactly what it is you’re cooking. It features helpful tools like food recognition (it knows what you put inside it), a top-down camera that lets you watch your food cook (and presumably shoot some fun time-lapse gifs), and a built-in thermometer for meat and other foods meant to be cooked to a precise internal temperature. It’s well-designed (using the same company Apple uses.) Ok, cool.
According to its founder, the oven is perfect for people who are “too busy to invest the time” in cooking, and, of course, can afford to throw $1,500 at the problem (how many UberEats deliveries does it take to reach $1,500?). If it sounds like I’m hitting the price point hard, it’s because I am. The cost of this item, while “stupidly amazing” (according to Gizmodo) is prohibitive to just about everyone, TBH. TechCrunch found the price to be not worth the experience [disclosure: the reporter is a good friend. Hi, Felicia!] FastCo Design feels similarly and compared the oven to Silicon Valley itself, “Boastful yet mediocre. Confident yet wrong.” The piece also makes an interesting point that the oven essentially takes on all of the risk and understanding of cooking. So, it adjusts cooking times as it works (to its detriment, it seems, taking three hours to roast a chicken. It’s a convection oven so…?) — when the data or the cook time is off, the software apparently learns from its mistake… but the home cook just has to wait longer for dinner, perhaps not understanding why. Still, this consumer offering is a big step toward the connected kitchens of the future, the barrier to entry is just too high to justify its awesomeness.
Meal Kits Are At It Again
Speaking of less-labored cooking: those friends of yours who let their Blue Aprons build up so they always have boeuf bourguignon on hand for dinner are fewer and farther between than perhaps you suspected. While we all thought the whole we’ll peel-it, cut-it, chop-it, marinate-it for you fad was just that — a fad — the consumer good and packaged food gurus claim it’s just getting started. To the tune of $650 million in VC capital filling those temperature controlled boxes and coolers these days, the next five years may see a lift from the current 3 percent of U.S. adults who have dabbled in letting someone else do the work. Or at least the venture community hopes so. We hope you keep making pasta from scratch… we all learn how to boil water for a reason, people.
- Watch this crafty little video on how to perfect your kale salad, just in time for post-Turkey Day repentance.
- Eater calls on readers to support immigrants through patronizing their restaurant and food businesses.
- Chef gets social-schooling from PR rep — we’ve all been there.
- Answering the question we’ve all been wondering, “Is Shake Shack killing it?” Well, yes — yes, they are.
Road Snacks: Gone are the days of a sad bag of almonds or some random Nature’s Valley granola bar. Make Thanksgiving travel a whole lot more delicious this year — though you’ll be lucky if these bites make it home, too.
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Photo credit: Exterior of Gramercy Tavern, part of Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group. The restaurateur told his employees to be optimistic following the U.S. presidential election. london road / Flickr