The pandemic is ravaging the restaurant industry, but the restaurant awards industry marches on: Michelin has reportedly resumed inspections, and the James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef awards are slated to be announced next month — albeit with one fewer nominee.
David Kinch, the new-Californian pioneer behind the three-Michelin-starred Manresa, in Northern California, announced over the weekend that he’s taken himself out of the running for the Foundation’s Outstanding Chef category. “This is purely a personal decision, and not a reflection on anyone else who will be rightly recognized by the Foundation this year,” he wrote on Instagram, before outlining his own reasons for stepping back. “The idea of celebrating achievement — and all that our @Manresarestaurant team has accomplished — simply does not feel right in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, and the devastation it has pressed upon our chosen métier and industry.”
Kinch continued, writing that just five months earlier, “we were thriving, contributing to our industry’s expansion in what many called a Golden Age of restaurants.” Now, with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, “We have been pretending that we could continue to support our employees, front- and back-of-house, maintain a level of service, equality, and innovation, while welcoming our guests each day — knowing in our hearts that it could never be sustainable. And now, those efforts seem foolhardy.”
He then laid out a now-familiar list of industry failings, including “rampant gender and racial inequality,” sub-living wages, toxic work environments, and a lack of “focus on sustainability.” Kinch calls for an end to tipping — instead, restaurants should “embrace service charges and join the 21st Century” — and asks guests to do their part by accepting “the true cost of dining out. Not what they feel it should cost, but what it actually costs to support the livelihood of the industry and reflect the value of restaurants in building community.”
“I want to imagine a new reality, a new possibility for when we all come out on the other side,” Kinch concluded. “That seems a more fitting way to demonstrate commendable leadership and support the James Beard Foundation’s ‘commitment to promoting a strong, safe, inclusive, ethical food community.’”
Several other chefs have voiced their support of Kinch’s call to action — or at least, they have commented positively on Instagram. “Well spoken David on behalf of so many of us sharing the same deep concern and sentiments,” wrote Daniel Boulud. “Je t’amie,” agreed Dominique Crenn. No-tipping crusader Amanda Cohen welcomed him to the “no tipping world!,” while general award critic Christian Puglisi, who currently has the distinct advantage of not operating in the U.S., gave him an approving “well said.”