Tom Colicchio, the restaurateur and lead judge on Top Chef, traces his interest in cooking from crabbing with his grandfather to his revelatory discovery of Jacques Pépin’s La Technique as a teenager. From there Colicchio went on to celebrity chefdom and later became a leader in food-policy reform. He describes this journey in FERN's latest piece, published as part of a special food issue with Switchyard, a new magazine from the University of Tulsa.
Americans flooded the supermarket when the pandemic hit in early 2020, creating well-documented spot shortages of staples. But they also patronized restaurants at a steady rate in the early weeks, according to a USDA analysis of sales data, suggesting families at first were stocking up for an uncertain future rather than actually eating at home.
At the start of the pandemic, food delivery apps, including the 'Big 3' — Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash — were hailed as saviors, facilitating a takeout boom meant to keep restaurants and their staffs working. But eateries were quickly confronted by a harsh reality: These Silicon Valley and Wall Street–backed firms, which together dominate 93 percent of the market share nationwide, are designed to scrape money out of local businesses and send it to shareholders. Now, in cities around the country, restaurant owners are fighting back, forming local-delivery co-ops in an attempt to drive the third-party interlopers out.
The Covid-19 pandemic made America’s food-waste problem worse, dramatically so in some cases, forcing the food sector to adapt and find creative ways to limit waste, according to an online panel discussion Tuesday hosted by ReFED, a nonprofit focused on ending waste across the food system.
When Eli Revelle Yano Wilson applied for a job as a server at a white-tablecloth restaurant in Los Angeles, management had plenty of questions for him. “Name three brands of IPA,” he remembers them asking. “How would you explain béarnaise sauce to a customer?” At a webinar hosted Wednesday by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor & Employment, Wilson, now a sociology professor, confessed to the audience, “I still don’t really understand what béarnaise sauce is.“
When the pandemic closed schools and restaurants last winter, Americans went to the supermarket to stock up on food for the stay-at-home weeks. Grocery sales skyrocketed by 32 percent last March and have remained strong, averaging $6 billion a month above pre-Covid levels, said the Census Bureau on Wednesday.
With Americans spending more of their food dollars at the supermarket, the specialty crop sector will continue to adapt to the pandemic and the loss of food-service sales in the new year, said agricultural lender CoBank. "Steep financial losses from the loss of food service contracts will ultimately result in the rationalization of some processing assets and production acreage."
As restaurants around the country close or shift to delivery only, "millions of laid-off ... workers, many who made just $2.13 an hour plus tips — the federal minimum wage for tipped workers — are scrambling to pay their bills and feed their families," as Liza Gross reports in FERN's latest story. (No paywall)
Restaurants and bars in many states and the nations biggest cities started closing their doors on Monday in response to the coronavirus epidemic, threatening the livelihoods of millions of restaurant workers. (No paywall)
With the restaurant industry under fire for allegations of sexual misconduct and other gender-related problems, the James Beard Foundation, a leading supporter of the culinary arts, is overhauling its awards program to increase the diversity of the people and organizations it honors and the transparency of how it makes those decisions.
Four out of five Americans support the federal requirement that chain restaurants list calorie counts on their menus. An even larger majority — 87 percent — say the Nutrition Facts label is useful, said the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Awareness of rampant sexual harassment in the U.S. workplace continues to grow. Now restaurant and food service workers have become the latest to step into the #MeToo spotlight.
On a mostly party-line vote, the House passed a bill that exempts restaurant chains from the menu-labeling law if at least 50 percent of their sales are made off-premises. The bill was then sent to the Senate. Critics such as the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the legislation, titled the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, is a favor to the pizza industry, the leading advocate for the bill.
Fourteen of the top 25 restaurant chains in the United States are telling farmers to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in chickens, compared with nine a year ago, according to the annual Chain Reaction report. “While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.”
Activism around the contentious issue of giving antibiotics to meat animals is moving from the farm to the plate by putting pressure on restaurant chains. Last week, a coalition of 30 consumer and environmental groups pressed the cult California burger chain In-N-Out to change its antibiotics-related buying policy. At the same time, a shareholder group pushed McDonald’s to increase its antibiotic-free buying — and while the measure did not pass, 30 percent of shareholders voted for it.
A state appeals court upheld New York City's requirement for chain restaurants to alert diners to foods that contain more than the recommended daily dose of salt, about one teaspoonful, said The Associated Press. The National Restaurant Association said it was considering its next move on the regulation.
Nearing her 73rd birthday, Nora Pouillon, owner of the first U.S. restaurant to be certified organic, has decided to sell her business and retire, reports the Washington Post. It says the self-taught Pouillon, and the restaurant named after her, inspired "a generation of chefs to shop locally for high-quality ingredients."
Too Good To Go, a food rescue app, has convinced restaurants in six countries to sell end-of-the-day food at a discount to hungry locals in an effort to reduce food waste. The six-month-old app has a major presence in the UK, with a waitlist of 95 London eateries anticipating its August launch, Eater writes.
The Italian Senate passed a law that makes it easier for farmers and processors to donate food to charities and encourages restaurants to send food home with diners in doggy bags, says the Guardian. A sponsor says 1 million tonnes of food per year, or one-fifth of annual wastage, will be saved by the bill, which comes six years after France passed similar legislation.