Seattle’s JuneBaby Named Best New Restaurant at Beard Awards


This year, most went to chefs with relatively new restaurants: Jeremiah Langhorne of the Dabney in Washington D.C., Nina Compton of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, Missy Robbins of Lilia in Brooklyn, and Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis.

Longer-serving chefs include Karen Akunowicz of Myers & Chang in Boston; Abraham Conlon, who improvises new American food with the Chinese-Portuguese-Indian flavors of the island of Macau at Fat Rice in Chicago; Alex Seidel, who runs a farm and creamery alongside his restaurant Mercantile in Denver; and Rodney Scott, of Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston, S.C., long famous for his wood-smoked whole-hog barbecue.

Two standard-setters in California won national awards for hospitality: Zuni Café in San Francisco for Outstanding Service, and Caroline Styne, who runs Lucques, A.O.C., and other Los Angeles-area restaurants with the chef Suzanne Goin, for Outstanding Restaurateur.

The movement away from elaborate meals and European cuisine continued, as high-end destinations like Spiaggia, the Restaurant at Meadowood, Le Pigeon, Quince and Boka were shut out. (Atelier Crenn is a notable exception.)

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Dolester Miles, who has been making desserts for Highlands Bar & Grill since 1982, was named Outstanding Pastry Chef.

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Cary Norton

This year’s roster of winners reflects the forces pushing the industry away from its history of honoring mostly white, male chefs. In this year’s culinary categories (excluding service, design, wine and so forth), 11 of 15 awards went to chefs who are women, or people of color, or both.

In the last year, several journalistic investigations revealed that male chefs and restaurateurs, including Beard award winners, had engaged in chronic sexual harassment of female employees and colleagues.

The foundation has not revoked the awards bestowed on Mario Batali (Outstanding Restaurateur in 2008 and Outstanding Chef in 2005), Ken Friedman (Outstanding Restaurateur in 2016), and John Besh (Best Chef in the Southeast in 2006). However, this year’s judges, about 600 people including past winners, were instructed to “bear in mind that award winners are held up as role models. If you have concerns about a chef, restaurateur or beverage professional, or about the culture around a restaurant or restaurant group, leave the person or business out of your nominations.”

The chef José Andrés was named 2018 Humanitarian of The Year for his on-the-ground work feeding the people of Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Established in 1990, the awards also include book and journalism citations that were presented in New York on April 27. A full list of winners is on the James Beard Foundation’s website.

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Tokyo in Texas: Distinctive Japanese Food Is Thriving in Austin


“Uchi is the starting point of Austin falling in love with everything Japanese,” said Otto Phan, the chef and owner of Kyoten Sushiko, an ambitious sushi restaurant in central Austin.

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The chefs Tyson Cole, left, and Aaron Franklin inside Loro, the Asian smokehouse they recently opened together in Austin. The local critic Matthew Odam calls the chefs “the two biggest names in Austin food.”

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

The food journalist Patricia Sharpe says Mr. Cole is responsible for rewiring Austin’s collective palate. “Had he been in Fort Worth, it might have happened there instead,” said Ms. Sharpe, who compared Japanese cuisine’s popularity in Austin to that of Mexican cooking in the 1970s, when she first started covering restaurants for Texas Monthly magazine.

It is impossible to tour Austin’s well-regarded sushi restaurants without running into chefs who have worked for or alongside Mr. Cole. Some, like Komé and Fukumoto Sushi & Yakitori Izakaya, offer a familiar menu of nigiri, sashimi and sushi rolls. Newer places like Kyoten Sushiko and Otoko, in the South Congress Hotel, are tiny destinations for intricate, expensive omakase.

And now, some kitchens are taking the next step: integrating Japanese cooking with the traditional foods of Texas.

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Mr. Matsumoto, left, and Mr. Aikawa inside Kemuri Tatsu-ya. Mr. Aikawa said the menu answers the questions, “What if there was a Japanese guy in Texas 100 years ago? What would he be cooking at a roadhouse?”

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Takuya Matsumoto and Tatsu Aikawa, chefs and business partners who opened Kemuri Tatsu-ya last year, are the leading lights of this new hybrid cuisine. Mr. Matsumoto, who is better known as Tako, calls the restaurant’s marriage of Texas smokehouse and Japanese bar food “a pretty good representation of us as Japanese Texans. It’s not that much different than Tex-Mex, really.”

Mr. Cole stepped up to the same task in early April, opening Loro, which he calls an Asian smokehouse. His collaborator is Aaron Franklin, the chef and owner of Franklin Barbecue, an Austin landmark where the hourslong lines that regularly form outside are nearly as famous as the brisket served inside.

While Mr. Cole’s restaurants in Austin, Houston and Dallas are based, albeit loosely, on the fundamentals of the Japanese sushi tradition, the menu at Loro is dominated by meat cooked in a hardwood smoker and paired with Asian-inspired sauces and sides. The space is designed in part to resemble a classic Texas dance hall. (Loro is the sixth restaurant operated by Hai Hospitality, Mr. Cole’s company, with a seventh, Uchi Denver, scheduled to open this summer.)

Mr. Cole said the inspiration for Loro flowed from his belief that the signature cuisines of Japan and Texas are naturally compatible. “Slicing the meat to order, serving it directly to the customer,” he said. “It’s so similar to what we do with sushi.”

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The dining room at Loro, which opened in April. The building was designed to resemble a Texas dance hall.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Mr. Franklin said, with a smile, that the restaurant will test Mr. Cole’s theory that Texas barbecue is, as Mr. Franklin put it, “the overcooked, red-meat version of sushi.”

Mr. Franklin, a 40-year-old former rock guitarist, is a partner in Loro as well as its resident barbecue expert. He led a recent tour of the space on South Lamar Boulevard, not far from the original Uchi, along with James Dumapit, 33, an Uchi and Uchiko veteran and Loro’s chef de cuisine.

“We’re definitely not going to stray too far from the central Texas tradition,” Mr. Dumapit said. “We’re not going to rub yellow curry over brisket, for example, because Aaron does brisket obviously very well.”

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Beef brisket is sliced in Loro’s kitchen. Mr. Franklin is revered for the smoked meat at Franklin Barbecue, an Austin landmark.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

The credibility that Mr. Franklin provides Loro is fairly obvious. More complicated is the role that Mr. Cole, a white man born in Florida, has played in making Japanese food fashionable in this trend-conscious city.

Spurred by a passion for sushi that he acquired without leaving the state of Texas, Mr. Cole rose through the kitchens of Japanese-run restaurants in Austin, slowed but undeterred by the fact that he is not Japanese.

“You cannot make sushi because you are white,” Mr. Cole said he was told by the first boss he asked for permission to cut fish. A compromise was ultimately reached: Mr. Cole would roll sushi behind the kitchen’s closed door, where diners couldn’t see him.

After a year and a half, he was allowed to make sushi in front of customers. “But only at lunchtime,” he said. “My tip jar was full every day.”

Mr. Cole is quick to credit the Japanese chefs he has labored alongside in Austin for sharing their expertise. Foremost among them is Mr. Fuse, the chef and owner of Musashino Sushi Dokoro, where Mr. Cole worked for more than seven years, starting in 1993.

Mr. Fuse demanded that Mr. Cole learn to speak, read and write Japanese as part of his culinary training. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for him,” Mr. Cole said of his mentor.

Mr. Fuse is held in high esteem by Austin chefs. Both Takehiro Asazu, of Komé, and Kazu Fukumoto, of Fukumoto Sushi, apprenticed under Mr. Fuse, who is known around town as Smokey.

He is also known to be reclusive. Mr. Fuse did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. Mr. Aikawa, a former pupil, relayed the chef’s response: “It’s not my style. I’m a ninja.”

Musashino, which moved to the city’s West Campus neighborhood in 2016 after 22 years at its original location, is where Mr. Cole developed the convention-busting style that lives on at Uchi. Mr. Cole’s signature dishes — like smoked yellowtail and Asian pear, or maguro and goat cheese — are often built on nontraditional pairings.

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Kayo Asazu operates a number of Japanese restaurants in Austin with her husband, Takehiro Asazu, including Komé and Ni-Komé, a recently opened spinoff.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Kayo Asazu, 42, who owns Komé with her husband, Mr. Asazu, 44, says Mr. Cole made experimentation a distinguishing element of Japanese food in Austin.

“We didn’t see things like that in Japan,” she said. (The couple, who were born and raised in Japan, also operate two locations of the Japanese-style coffee shop Sa-Tén.)

Mr. Cole is not the only non-Japanese chef in Austin who has hitched his star to the country’s cuisine. Mr. Phan, of Kyoten Sushiko, was born in Houston to Vietnamese immigrants. Stacy Chen, who was born in Taiwan but moved to Austin as a child, modeled her new restaurant, Yoshi Ramen, on a shop her Taiwanese grandmother ran in Osaka.

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The dining room at Komé, which specializes in sushi and traditional Japanese cuisine.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Paul Qui, 37, a native of the Philippines, was executive chef of Uchiko when he won the ninth season of “Top Chef” in 2012, a star-making moment for both Mr. Qui and the Austin restaurant scene. He established his own aesthetic — pan-Asian, with a soft spot for sushi and Southeast Asian spices — with the food trucks and restaurants he opened in Austin and, more recently, Houston. (In 2016, Mr. Qui was arrested on charges of domestic violence, an incident that has cast a shadow over his empire and career; the case against him was recently dismissed, after the woman involved declined to serve as a witness.)

Amanda Turner, 31, grew up in Dallas, “watching anime, wishing to go to Japan.” She said she felt she had “hit the jackpot” when she landed a job at Uchi while she was still in culinary school.

Today, Ms. Turner is chef de cuisine at Juniper, an Italian restaurant, but she is looking forward to this summer, when she’ll begin a three-month apprenticeship at the acclaimed Tokyo restaurant Nihonryori RyuGin.

When she returns to Austin, Ms. Turner said, she hopes to open a Japanese restaurant of her own. “There’s a lot of precedent for white men to take possession of another culture’s food,” she said. “I’m a black woman. I’d like to change that.”

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Amanda Turner in the kitchen at Juniper, an Italian restaurant in Austin where she is chef de cuisine. Ms. Turner plans to open a Japanese restaurant in Austin after completing an apprenticeship in Tokyo.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Mr. Aikawa and Mr. Matsumoto, of Kemuri Tatsu-ya, don’t face those kinds of questions around cultural appropriation and Japanese food. Both chefs were raised in Austin’s tight-knit Japanese-American community — Mr. Aikawa, 36, was born in Tokyo, and Mr. Matsumoto, 38, is the son of Japanese immigrants — and gravitated to restaurant work to supplement their income as hip-hop D.J.s.

Both are sushi enthusiasts — they spoke over a platter of plum-mackerel and toro-radish rolls at Musashino, where Mr. Aikawa got his start. But a stint working at Urasawa, the Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif., caused Mr. Aikawa to adjust his ambitions.

“I don’t want to run a restaurant where I’m charging, like, $1,000 a person,” he said.

Instead, he moved back to Austin to open Ramen Tatsu-ya with Mr. Matsumoto in 2012. They apply the discipline of the sushi bar to the broth-making in their ramen shop. It spawned a second location in 2015.

In recent years, the two chefs have become more comfortable with their natural instinct to blend the foods of Texas and Japan. On trips to Lockhart, a Texas barbecue mecca, Mr. Aikawa would bring his own rice and return with brisket to feed his staff.

When the ramen entrepreneurs started brainstorming for a restaurant they planned to open inside a former barbecue joint in East Austin, they asked themselves, Mr. Aikawa said, “What if there was a Japanese guy in Texas 100 years ago? What would he be cooking at a roadhouse?”

The answer is Kemuri Tatsu-ya. The restaurant and bar, decorated with Texas flags, taxidermy and vintage signs in Japanese, is as much of a mashup as the food and drink. The menu includes sake, sochu and local craft beer; smoked fish collar, eel and gochujang-rubbed pork ribs; two types of brisket ramen; and beef tongue and chorizo tamales made with sticky rice.

Kemuri’s success — its owners have leases on two new Austin restaurant spaces — suggests that the city’s diners are plenty ready for whatever Loro has in store.

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A mash-up of Texan and Japanese artifacts fill the walls in the bar at Kemuri Tatsu-ya, which is inside a former barbecue restaurant.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

One might expect Mr. Franklin, the barbecue maven, to be wary of taking liberties with smoked meat, considering the stringently traditional fare on which he built his reputation. The only sides on Franklin Barbecue’s menu (coleslaw, potato salad, pinto beans) are absent from Loro’s, supplanted by dishes like coconut-scented rice and papaya salad.

At Franklin Barbecue, he said, “there would be anarchy in the streets if we changed anything or tried to get fancy.”

But Mr. Franklin is also a product of Austin’s cross-cultural forces. He appears energized by the opportunity to recast his smoked meats with shishito salsa verde and house-made hoisin.

Though the meat at Loro is “super traditional, just salt and pepper,” Mr. Franklin added, there is freedom for his partners “to do what they do, making really rad sides and sauces. We just meet in the middle.”

Fukumoto Sushi & Yakitori Izakaya 514 Medina Street, 512-770-6880, fukumotoaustin.com

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya 2713 East 2nd Street, 512-893-5561, kemuri-tatsuya.com

Kome 5301 Airport Boulevard, 512-712-5700, kome-austin.com

Kyoten Sushiko 4600 Mueller Boulevard, Suite 1035, 512-888-7559, kyotensushiko.com

Loro 2115 South Lamar Boulevard, 512-916-4858, loroaustin.com

Musashino Sushi Dokoro 2905 San Gabriel Street, Suite 200, 512-795-8593, musashinosushi.com

Otoko 1603 South Congress Avenue, 512-920-6405, otokoaustin.com

Ramen Tatsu-Ya 8557 Research Boulevard, No. 126, and 1234 South Lamar Boulevard, 512-893-5561, ramen-tatsuya.com

Uchi 801 South Lamar Boulevard, 512-916-4808, uchiaustin.com

Uchiko 4200 North Lamar Boulevard, 512-916-4808, uchikoaustin.com

Yoshi Ramen 3320 Harmon Avenue, 512-243-6161, yoshiramenaustin.com

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Entrepreneurship: Making Her Own Way, Nearly 100 Years Later


Ms. Reggie’s enterprises have caught the attention of the magazine Southern Living, which recently named her one of 30 Southern food women to watch. She also was mentioned in Garden & Gun magazine’s look at how to do New Orleans like a local.

Before the market, Ms. Reggie helped create Cleaver and Company, a butcher shop, and the New Orleans branch of Good Eggs, the San Francisco organic food delivery company. She sold her interest in the butcher shop, which is now closed, and Good Eggs subsequently shut its operations in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans to focus on its home base.

The market came to life while Mr. Brooks was renovating a pair of old buildings in the Central Business District to form the 35-room Catahoula Hotel, which opened in 2016. Ms. Reggie had planned to open her market around the corner, but that location fell through at the last minute.

Within a week, Ms. Reggie found a spot on emerging Oak Street, in the Uptown neighborhood, which required the installation of a commercial kitchen, custom-built shelving and a front counter. Including inventory, Ms. Reggie said, the venture cost around $600,000.

Her goal is to earn net margins of 3 to 5 percent a year, though some customers complain that her local products cost too much. (A small jar of Poirier’s cane syrup goes for $16.99; a pint of Quintin’s ice cream costs $4.99.) But that reflects doing business with small vendors, Mr. Brooks said.

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Simone’s Market is the third small business venture in New Orleans that Ms. Reggie, 40, has been a part of since she obtained a master’s degree at Tulane University in 2012.

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William Widmer for The New York Times

“Everything is curated,” he said. “You’re dealing with a person at the other end, and usually an owner, not a sales rep for a big corporation.”

Ms. Reggie’s parents divorced when she was 2, and her childhood was split between New Orleans, her mother’s home base, and Lafayette, where her father owned a restaurant. He subsequently became the head of St. Jude’s Dream Home Giveaway, a fund-raising program for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

The family connection to St. Jude’s traces to her grandfather Emile, who knew St. Jude’s founder, the actor Danny Thomas. (The two were of Lebanese descent.) He wasn’t the family’s only notable association.

One of Ms. Reggie’s cousins is Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Another is Mikie Mahtook, an outfielder in the Detroit Tigers organization.

Ms. Reggie has an impressive network in New Orleans, where her annual Mardi Gras open house draws chefs, food writers, photographers and other assorted friends. They came to her aid when her mother, Mary, known as Missy, died last fall.

As soon as word spread, food began to arrive from the city’s top restaurants. On the funeral day, Ms. Reggie arrived at the luncheon afterward to find that it was catered by her mentor, the restaurateur John Besh.

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Oak Street, where Simone’s Market opened at the end of 2016.

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William Widmer for The New York Times

Mr. Besh has since been enveloped in a sexual harassment scandal, causing him to leave the Besh Restaurant Group and lose his association with PBS, whose stations carried his television programs.

Ms. Reggie declined to comment on the allegations against Mr. Besh, but said she remained grateful for what she had learned from him over the years.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him pushing me to follow my dream and open a business,” said Ms. Reggie, who also ran a microloan program for local growers. “It’s because of him that I learned about the struggles of local farmers to produce their product.”

Ms. Reggie envisions more Simone’s Markets across New Orleans, whose food shopping scene is dominated by major grocers such as Whole Foods and a local chain, Rouses.

But, as with every small business, the odds for her market are uncertain. One in three small businesses closes within two years, and half fail within five years, according to data from the Small Business Administration.

Getting people in the door is a constant worry. “You wake up every morning thinking, ‘Will they come?’” Ms. Reggie said.

Yet she believes anxiety is motivating. “There’s got to be a level of fear,” she said. “If you’re not scared, you’re not thinking it all the way through.”

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A Worker Shortage Is Forcing Restaurants to Get Creative


“I think the assumption is, the industry has to continue to evolve in terms of the work force it is trying to appeal to,” said Gordon Lambourne, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “People want flexibility, they want some growth defined for them.”

The growth in dining out is clear. The nation added 15,145 restaurants, a net increase of 2.5 percent, just between the third quarters of 2016 and 2017, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Orders accumulate in the Taco Bamba kitchen.

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Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

“Everybody eats out,” said Gerri Mason Hall, the head of human resources at Sodexo in North America, the giant food service company and cafeteria operator, which also vies for restaurant workers. “We are competing for executive chefs, front line cooks, the entire talent pool.”

The demand for highly skilled help is especially acute in Washington, where a boom in restaurants run by creative chefs is outstripping the region’s labor force. Zagat named Washington, once considered a second-tier city in the culinary world, as the nation’s hottest food city in 2016.

Established players from around the country have moved in, like the chef David Chang of the New York-based Momofuku group and Stephen Starr, the Philadelphia restaurateur behind the Washington hot spot Le Diplomate. Danny Meyer, the New York restaurant mogul, is on his way with an outpost of Union Square Cafe.

In November, the last month for which data is available, food service accounted for half of all net job growth here, a 7.5 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Department of Labor.

Restaurant industry experts say the recent crackdown on undocumented workers has sent a further chill through the business. Dishwashers and other low-wage restaurant workers have long been recruited from the nation’s undocumented work force, but many restaurateurs are wary now of going to that well.

“Our industry is very much in need of a temporary visa program for the low-skilled, essential workers,” said Shannon Meade, the National Restaurant Association’s director of labor and work force policy. While visas are available for seasonal work, she added, “a year-round program would go a long way to addressing our hiring and retention issue.”

The labor shortage has at times altered the nature of restaurants, as well as the quality of service. “In some cases I believe it has changed the direction certain restaurants had originally planned on,’’ said Mr. Albisu, the Taco Bamba owner. “There is less polish.”

Many diners complain about restaurants where the food is expensive but the service is lacking. Water glasses are left unfilled. Guests stand waiting for attention at a host stand, and servers with little knowledge of the menu merely smile sheepishly as sophisticated customers ask questions.

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Employees at Michael Schlow’s restaurant Alta Strada in Wellesley, Mass., participate in a wine-and-food tasting, part of the chef’s staff-retention strategy. “If people feel like they are learning, they are more apt to stay,” he said.

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M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

Lindsay DiSalvo, the assistant general manager at Metropolitan Hospitality Group, which operates several restaurants in the Washington region, recently spent one of her rare days off poring through the résumés of 15 applicants for a coming venture without finding anyone suitable. “I was freaking out,” she said.

The more experienced workers, she said, are attracted to the increasing number of Washington restaurants with high-profile chefs, leaving midlevel establishments like hers struggling with inexperienced and often fickle help. One woman seeking a position at the bar, she said, “could not name a single varietal of wine.”

Mr. Albisu said pride long ago succumbed to desperation. “I can name two dozen people who left my company to start a new place who came back looking for their old jobs back,” he said. “In the old days we would say, ‘Hell, no.’ Now we say, ‘Sure.’ We chefs call each other and say: ‘Have you fired anyone we can repurpose? I know he can’t plate, but maybe he can just grill.’”

Chris Floyd, the owner of Capital Restaurant Resources, a recruitment firm, said a central problem is that Washington does not naturally attract people interested in food. “People don’t come here for restaurant careers,” he said. “They came here to be in government or go to grad school or be lawyers. The population hasn’t caught up with the demand in the hospitality industry.”

So chefs and restaurant owners are casting their recruitment nets more widely.

“What we need to start doing better than ever is breaking down the stereotypes of who typically gets these jobs,” Mr. Meyer, the founder of Union Square Hospitality Group, said during a recent panel discussion in Washington. “We are holding job fairs right now with organizations we were not even thinking about five years ago,” he said, including those that assist people with learning disabilities, older workers and former prisoners.

Many Washington restaurateurs turn to D.C. Central Kitchen, which trains ex-prisoners, the formerly homeless and recovering addicts. In the past two years, 87 percent of its 177 graduates found jobs, said Alexander Justice Moore, the organization’s chief development officer.

Still, he said the group could do more. “We can only fit so many students in our cramped classroom in the basement of a homeless shelter,” he said.

The National Restaurant Association has begun several programs for high school students and adults who have trouble getting work, including apprenticeships through the Department of Labor and a new initiative that helps place veterans into food service.

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The Alta Strada employees taste a bean dish, Tuscan olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and one of the red wines on the restaurant’s list.

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M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

Taco Bell and McDonald’s both announced in recent weeks that they would expand programs to help employees pay for college tuition.

Chris Coombs, the chef and owner of the restaurant group Boston Urban Hospitality, has offered to repay culinary-school loans. “One consistent theme of our cooks is that they all had student loan debt,” he said. “It was one of many tactics.”

He even outsourced the unpleasant duty of deep-cleaning the kitchen that usually fell to 20- to 30-something line cooks. “I think millennials are really focused on quality of life,” he said.

He has also tried to clean up the kitchen in other ways. “You can’t come to work and scream at people,” he said. “When I was a younger chef, that was how I interacted with my team. We have a lot more positive training methods now.”

Michael Schlow, who owns restaurants around the country, offers his team educational workshops on wine and spirits, and recently took two chefs on a trip to Italy to study cooking techniques and eat.

“We don’t win them over with a paycheck,” he said. “Pay is important, but of more importance is respect and admiration and learning. If people feel like they are learning, they are more apt to stay.”

The #MeToo movement has had an impact as well. Accusations of harassment and worse against well-known chefs like Mario Batali and John Besh have shed light on abusive and discriminatory practices in the industry that many owners say will have to change if restaurants want to attract workers, particularly women.

Restaurateurs must start “taking care of their staff,” said Aaron Silverman, the owner of the celebrated Rose’s Luxury, on Capitol Hill. The goal is restaurants that are as professionally run as other businesses — “places that just happen to serve food.”

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Sidelined by Scandal, Mario Batali Is Eyeing His Second Act


Mr. Batali, who has never been known for his patience, is asking that question — actively exploring when or whether he should begin his. Friends and associates say he is floating ideas, pondering timelines and examining whether there is a way for him to step back into his career, at least in some fashion.

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Mr. Batali co-hosting the Food Bank for New York City Can Do Awards dinner at Cipriani Wall Street in 2017.

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Brent N. Clarke/Invision, via Associated Press

Mr. Batali declined to be interviewed, saying he was “still figuring out my stuff.” Those who have spoken with him recently said he appears to be deeply introspective and seeking counsel on what his future might hold, both personally and professionally.

Mr. Batali is examining what he has called his blind spots and considering how life might look when he is not, as he told one person he consulted over the winter, “the lead singer.” He told a colleague that he is simply trying to learn to be the wallpaper in the room and not the room itself.

Nonetheless, Mr. Batali has sketched several scenarios that put him in the driver’s seat but cede some control, people he has spoken with recently say. One is creating a new company led by a powerful woman chief executive. In early February, he broached the idea with Federica Marchionni, the former president of Dolce & Gabbana, who was briefly the chief executive of Lands’ End.

This month, he is traveling to Rwanda and Greece to work with refugees as a private citizen. He is thinking about creating a program in which chefs can join him a few times a year to help displaced Rwandans as they return to their country.

On the other hand, Mr. Batali has said, he might just move to the Amalfi Coast.

He is still wrestling with the future of the restaurant group that he started with his partner, Joe Bastianich, in 1998 when they opened Babbo. The two men are communicating through lawyers these days, negotiating a complicated buyout that is difficult but, both sides said, not acrimonious.

“The process of his divestiture is going really well considering how complex it is,” Mr. Bastianich said last week. “The real point of beginning will be when he departs from the company. That’s ground zero. It’s about creating a post-Mario world.”

When Mr. Batali’s name comes up among groups of food professionals over drinks or between sessions at conferences, some say that if any of the men caught in the current wave of sexual harassment scandals can forge a path back, it might be Mr. Batali.

He still has legions of fans and colleagues who admire and respect his generosity, culinary knowledge and charisma. Many still post their interpretations of his recipes on Instagram, ask him for selfies on the street or urge his return to “The Chew” on Facebook. His restaurants continue to attract customers.

Still, there seems to be no end to late-night television jokes at his expense. His movements around New York are fodder for tabloids and tweets, some suggesting that his past behavior bordered on criminal.

Few food celebrities want to be connected to him publicly. Privately, some suggest the time has come for a more nuanced approach to replace the scorched-earth policy toward men who have harassed women — one that allows something resembling redemption.

But for Mr. Batali, that door may not be open — at least professionally.

“Retire and count yourself lucky,” said Anthony Bourdain, a longtime friend of Mr. Batali’s who has not spoken with him recently. “I say that without malice, or without much malice. I am not forgiving. I can’t get past it. I just cannot and that’s me, someone who really admired him and thought the world of him.”

Others, including people who have worked for him, say his food knowledge and his palate would be a loss. Melissa Rodriguez, who took over in 2017 as the executive chef at Mr. Batali’s most acclaimed restaurant, Del Posto, often asked him to come to the kitchen to taste new dishes and share his advice. “He’s been nothing but a generous individual to me,” she said.

Ms. Rodriguez said she never considered leaving the company after his treatment of women came to light. “The biggest concern is for my staff,” she said. “I have a huge staff, and I am not in the business of abandoning people I spend more time with than my family.”

People whose opinion Mr. Batali has sought are counseling him to take it slowly, and to consider whether he and his family want to endure all that would come if he stepped back into the food business.

Ms. Muhlke, a former editor at The New York Times Magazine and Bon Appétit, said her advice to any accused chef would be the same: “Leave the field,” she said, “and let us do the work needed to build something better.”

Ms. Muhlke would not discuss the details of her February meeting with Mr. Batali, but said “my advice to these chefs and restaurateurs is that this is not a scandal, this is a paradigm shift. The old ‘wait it out and return appearing humbled’ prescription no longer applies.”

Christine C. Quinn, whom Mr. Batali supported during her 2013 run for New York City mayor, is now the president and chief executive of Win, the city’s largest provider of shelter for homeless families. She is a friend of Mr. Batali’s, and one of the advisers he sought out this winter. She, too, told him to take things very slowly.

“My advice for him has been since Day 1 to recognize the severity of what has been leveled against him and recognize how absolutely and completely unacceptable his behavior was,” she said.

If he does start a new company, she said, he should give the reins to people who can drastically change the culture that both allowed and hid his behavior.

“I do give Mario a ton of credit for reaching out to people like myself, and not calling for us to stand with him,” Ms. Quinn said. “I think that bodes well.” She, like others who have spoken with him recently, believes that he is slowly coming to understand the impact of his behavior and the reasons it happened, including his relationship with alcohol.

“I think he is trying to find a way to engage in real redemptive behavior,” Ms. Quinn said, “but only time will tell.”

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What’s Cooking in That Egg Spoon? A Bite-Size Culture War


Kat Kinsman, the senior food and drinks editor of the website Extra Crispy, devoted a column to what she saw as the inherent sexism in the egg-spoon attacks. If Francis Mallmann, the subject of a recent Esquire profile titled “Is Francis Mallmann the Most Interesting Chef in the World?,” had cooked an egg with a spoon instead of roasting a lamb on a wooden cross near blazing wood, he’d be a hero, she wrote. (Ms. Waters, incidentally, has given Mr. Mallmann one of her own beloved egg spoons.)

The new round of criticism also struck a nerve with Samin Nosrat, a cookbook author and New York Times Magazine columnist. Cooking an egg in an iron spoon over open fire is really no more precious and probably a lot less elitist than cooking an egg in $300 sous-vide machine, she said in a recent interview — except that women tend to do the former and men the latter.

“Is it any more practical to sous-vide an egg? No,” she said. “But it’s this amazing thing because a man is using it.” Consider the chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. When he celebrates these same ideals, she said, “he gets a hagiographic ‘Chef’s Table’ episode. It pisses me off.”

And now, the latest salvo: In Slow Food’s version of an in-your-face move, Alice Waters’s daughter, Fanny Singer, has introduced an egg spoon for sale through her website Permanent Collection.

The 16-inch iron spoon is hand-forged to Ms. Waters specifications by Shawn Lovell, whom Ms. Singer described in an email as “an incredible female blacksmith in Alameda, CA.”

The spoon costs $250. Five percent of each sale will go to the Edible Schoolyard Project, which began after Ms. Waters made gardening and cooking in schools her life’s work.

Photo

The famous Alice Waters egg spoon, now on sale for $250.

Credit
Alex Welsh for The New York Times

Ms. Waters has never marketed frying pans or signed her name to stoves. But this time the stakes were high enough, Ms. Singer said: “This is attitudinal and atmospheric.”

Still, $250 for a spoon? Doesn’t that just play into the hands of the haters?

“The price of the spoon is beside the point,” Ms. Singer said. “What’s ridiculous is that we treat men and women differently. I have never heard the word ‘precious’ used with a man who has promoted some little specialized gadget.”

For her part, Ms. Waters is as much a supportive parent as she is the figurehead of the spoon wing of the #MeToo movement. “It is hilarious,” she said, “but in another way, I want young boys to hold that spoon, too. I want them to feel the sense of the fire and the closeness to the simplicity of it. It helps you become sensitive. We are hoping men become sensitive and we find each other in that place.”

And what of Mr. Bourdain, the original egg-spoon skeptic? He concedes that there is a bit of sexism baked into the egg-spoon wars, but for him, the issue isn’t gender equity. It’s stupidity.

“I am quite sure male chefs have committed far, far worse crimes in the cause of pretentious and pomposity,” he said. “There is plenty of silliness out there to make fun of on both sides.”

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