Whether it involved whales vs. sushi chefs, critics vs. chefs or Jonathan Gold vs. “fill in the blank,” 2010 was huge for food fights in Los Angeles. Here are the 10 most memorable tiffs of the year, the ones that set the Twitterverse afire.
1) The Cove Team vs. The Hump: While in L.A. attending the Academy Awards earlier this year, the filmmakers behind Oscar-winning documentary The Cove set up a sting operation exposing Santa Monica sushi restaurant The Hump for serving whale as part of its omakase dinner. The restaurant then faced federal charges for serving the illegal meat and permanently closed its doors a couple of weeks later.
2) Jonathan Gold vs. Rick Bayless: OC Weekly writer Gustavo Arellano covered Jonathan Gold's lecture at a CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California fundraising mixer where the food critic critiqued chef Rick Bayless. The offended chef responded in the post's comments section and then on Twitter. Gold smoothed things over and agreed to revisit the chef's Red O restaurant on Melrose. His review afterward was positive but mixed.
3) Red Medicine vs. S. Irene Virbila: Happening just this week, this was the ass-kicking heard around the Twitterverse. The other night while Virbila was waiting for a table at Red Medicine, co-owner Noah Ellis spotted the LA Times food critic and asked her to leave — but not before snapping her picture. He then posted it on the restaurant's Tumblr site, “So that all restaurants can have a picture of her and make a decision as to whether or not they would like to serve her.” Chefs may secretly be cheering Ellis, but it didn't win him many fans among the general population. Comments, on our own blog post and on other sites, have been overwhelmingly negative towards Red Medicine and Ellis.
4) San Gabriel Mayor vs. his Dumpling-Throwing Mistress: What makes this story particularly delicious is the political angle. San Gabriel mayor Albert Huang's “friend,” Lu Chen, threw the first punch, er, xiao long bao. The honorable Huang responded by flinging vinegar, then allegedly trying to snatch her purse and driving away while she clung to his vehicle. (You don't need to speak Mandarin
Cantonese to enjoy this CG recreation of the fracas.) He was later arrested on suspicion of felony robbery and assault, though the DA recently announced he won't file charges against Huang — mainly because the victim is “unavailable.”
5) Mark Peel vs. LAist: When LAist editor Lindsay William-Ross blogged about Mark Peel's Tar Pit, his kids, who were running around during happy hour, made a cameo in her review. Peel took offense, and commented on her post. What followed was a fight, in the comments, pitting single people who want a quiet drink at the elegant bar against parents who feel they should be allowed to bring their kids to “family restaurants” that happen to have bars.
6) Food Safety Bill vs. Large Scale Food Producers: On Tuesday, after a year in limbo, the House finally passed the Food Modernization Safety Act. Much to the chagrin of many large-scale food producers, it allows the Food and Drug Administration to take a more active role in regulating food producers before outbreaks. Tainted eggs, anyone?
7) Hollywood Farmer's Market vs. LA Film School: The LA Film School complained that it couldn't get to one of its parking lots during the nine hours the popular farmer's market occupied it on Sundays. The nonprofit organization behind HFM scrambled to get signatures for its petition to preserve the weekly market and acquired a temporary permit. This past Saturday, Councilman Eric Garcetti and his staff tried to devise an agreement that was mutually acceptable to both sides, but in the end the film school could not be appeased. Currently the market is operating on a 90-day extension to its street-closure permit.
8) South L.A. vs. Fast Food: South L.A. has had it with fast food restaurants. Considering that over 70 percent of the food currently sold in the city can be considered “food served in disposable wrapping or containers,” the neighborhood has a point. To prevent their growth, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance that bans standalone fast food restaurants from opening within a half-mile of existing ones.
9) Jonathan Gold vs. Jose Andres: Who knew that Gold was such a trouble maker? He wasn't thrilled by Andres' The Bazaar and didn't include the West Hollywood restaurant in his 99 Essential Restaurants list. Andres didn't take kindly to the omission, and the two proceeded to feud via Twitter about everything from centuries' old Jell-O to Dr. Dre to the term “molecular.”
10) Food Trucks vs. Abbot Kinney Merchants: Food trucks were a popular fixture at Abbot Kinney's First Fridays event in Venice, where up to 50 trucks would appear. In November, the Abbot Kinney Merchants Association banned the trucks. Shop owners were unhappy that the trucks were taking up parking spots they felt should be for customers. However, this Tuesday a compromise was reached that will allow approximately eight trucks to park in a production company's during the monthly event. It's not the dozens of trucks, but it's something.
Bonus! There were just too many good stories to limit ourselves.
11) Providence vs. Anti Foie Gras Protesters: The foie gras debate is an ongoing one, and California is set to ban it in 2012, but this past November, the Animal Protection and Rescue League took the Melrose restaurant to task during a Bocuse d'OR USA Foundation event. In the end it was a civil protest, with the GM complimenting the protesters for being better dressed than the guests and the protesters leaving promptly at 9 p.m.