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mongo_jones

joe beef

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the very fact that these are old reports make me wish that mcmillan had included them in his bon appetit story about his alcoholism. frankly, the discrepancy between the two (his essay and goldfield's) is a large part of what makes me feel iffy about this. it feels like he left out the stuff that would have made that redemption narrative more complicated but including which might have been a more honest way to start making amends in public.

 

like wilfrid, i also have reservations about the new yorker article which can't seem to find a coherent position on the issues.

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anyway, i think my position right now is that there are far more excellent and interesting restaurants for me to eat at in montreal than i have meals available. and so if i can't become comfortable in my mind about eating at joe beef i will happily eat elsewhere. my friends who live there (and are supposed to be going again with me) are suggesting we should instead go to manitoba (the restaurant not the province) for excellent quebecois food.

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the very fact that these are old reports make me wish that mcmillan had included them in his bon appetit story about his alcoholism. frankly, the discrepancy between the two (his essay and goldfield's) is a large part of what makes me feel iffy about this. it feels like he left out the stuff that would have made that redemption narrative more complicated but including which might have been a more honest way to start making amends in public.

 

like wilfrid, i also have reservations about the new yorker article which can't seem to find a coherent position on the issues.

 

It's not an easy issue but this is not a Batali-Friedman situation either. The main event (it's not an allegation because everyone involved admitted it was true) has been publicly discussed by all involved and did not lead to a cascade of allegations. The butt-slap thing, I think, is a different issue but related to the general cultural point. I agree that it would have been better if the Bon Appetit article discussed this stuff, but it didn't and I am not sure what to draw from that. It would  have been very difficult to address in the context of the Bon Appetite piece, for reasons Wilfird points out.

 

There is also the issue that the Joe Beef team has been vocal about these issues and have taken responsibility, at least for the one incident that was widely reported. Lots of chefs haven't spoken out, and my guess is that lots of failures to speak out are for more self-serving reasons to do with kicking hornet nests. 

 

But there are lots of excellent restaurants in Montreal and these are very personal decisions. 

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i do think it's good that they are committed now to changing the culture of their restaurant. i only wish they could more fully and openly own what it was before and what their own part in it had been. without that step it risks turning into another form of self-aggrandizement.

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I think the screaming (and apparently punching) predates the full-on alcoholism (because during the drinking period McMillan was never in the kitchen anyway) and in trying to use alcoholism as an excuse (vs the reality that this is just how things were) it became a bit of a messy narrative. 

 

I can confirm that McMillan has extraordinarily good memory even after 4-5 bottles, but of course that does not mean he didn't, or didn't forget, slap(ping) a butt.

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i do think it's good that they are committed now to changing the culture of their restaurant. i only wish they could more fully and openly own what it was before and what their own part in it had been. without that step it risks turning into another form of self-aggrandizement.

I guess the context that I am trying to convey is that it doesn’t seem to me to be the case that they are avoiding these issues, Bon Appetite notwithstanding. I just heard them on the David Chang podcast and they spent some time talking about physically abusive and macho kitchens and their complacency in that. That didn’t make Bon Appetite either but they weren’t trying to hide the ball or self aggrandize on the show.

 

I don’t know if the environment at Joe Beef was better or worse than its contemporaries, but it does seem, when you look at the totality of it, they have been more open and honest about things than most, and realized what they represented, but also not made a show of atonement or apology (yes, the Bon Appetite piece on addiction, but there is a more charitable reading that opening up the piece to a discussion violence and sexual harassment would have veered towards excuse making).

 

It seems to me that they have handled it well - not perfectly - and have at least been relatively transparent (as far as we can tell at least) which means that you will know when you go there that it has not been a great work environment at times, but also it means that you know that, which is better than you can say for other places.

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I think the screaming (and apparently punching) predates the full-on alcoholism (because during the drinking period McMillan was never in the kitchen anyway) and in trying to use alcoholism as an excuse (vs the reality that this is just how things were) it became a bit of a messy narrative.

 

I can confirm that McMillan has extraordinarily good memory even after 4-5 bottles, but of course that does not mean he didn't, or didn't forget, slap(ping) a butt.

I think that if you listen to the Chang podcast they suggest that the violence is more a result of the institutional system they (and almost every other serious western chef) up in. Which is not an excuse but is also a thing.

 

Keeping sharp distinctions in the media, and in ones own brain, can be hard.

 

The other reason you forget slapping a butt is that you slap so many butts.

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The conflation is encouraged by the article which suggests that intoxication and abuse go together, while sobriety is a solution. This may be true for the JB guys, but as a general theme it’s ridiculous. As I said, look at Yishay, bang on.

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Significant Eater and I started off our Friday eve stopping at Le Vin Papillon before our Joe Beef dinner reservation.  A couple of glasses of wine, and a delicious snack of grilled haricots with harissa yogurt, we walked down to JB, where our table wasn't yet ready, so we waited.

 

And waited. And waited. As a matter of fact, our wait was close to an hour for the reservation I'd made 2 months earlier...and it kinda pissed me off.  That said, the food was fine, but perhaps we just should've eaten at LVP.  

 

For SE, a nice onglet topped with some fabulous mushrooms, while I had a delicious half of a guinea fowl. The croquettes, as always, were just great - smoked eel, this time (or are they always?).

 

No alcoholics were seen. Or maybe everyone we saw was an alcoholic.  Anyway, very nice at LVP too.

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we have a reservation for 4 on friday, october 18 that we will likely have to let go. i believe it's for 8.30 pm (or thereabouts). if anyone here would like to transfer it to them, please let me know.

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Very interesting and great piece, as I felt the same about keeping the reservation I had (we did).

 

Which leads to the other argument about dining at places like this; be it here at Joe Beef, or at places I'd been avoiding in NYC, such as Lupa - of course now allegedly shed of Batali's presence in any way, shape, or form.  That argument goes sorta like this: why punish the rest of the staff for the sins of perhaps one or two?

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Good piece, and I am glad you separated the drinking from the abuse; I’d be inclined to separate the style of cuisine from the abuse too. Not only are there sober abusers out there, but I bet some of them are cooking vegan.

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