PSA: Take a beach day
Plus, a Q&A with Win Son's Rafael Joson
Thank you for your responses to Monday’s newsletter on Win Son. It’s heartening to see that you all care about this and want to use your voices to make change.
Today, I’ve got some lighter recs and a Q&A with Win Son’s Rafael Joson, who broke the story about Trigg on his Instagram. It adds a lot of context as to why the story came out when it did.
Let’s dive in.
Something to cook:
I haven’t cooked much in the past week, but I have made fried rice and also an unexpectedly good quesadilla with black beans, fresh mozzarella, and roasted red peppers (I was inspired by arepa fillings and also the contents of my fridge). I’ve also been into cherry tomatoes with mozzarella, and cucumbers, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and flakey salt.
Tomorrow, Dale and I start a one week self quarantine before traveling to Vermont so I’m revisiting this list of pantry staples as we do a big grocery shop and am planning to try these black bean burgers.
Something to order:
Dale and I went to Queens for a backyard dinner for my mom’s birthday and we got Metro Taco takeout. Definitely order if you’re in Queens, they have a queso corn dip, great guac, and lots of cocktails.
He also brought home Scarr’s on Friday night which really set the weekend off on a high note. The slices are light thanks to the fermentation and the Sicilian is such a treat. I also love the vegan caesar.
For Julia’s birthday (I love all my cancer friends), we headed to Cooper Park. I coordinated with Addie and Julianne to get donuts from Dunwell, which are vegan and perfect for social distancing, as everyone gets their own and you can blow out a candle safely on one. Get to Dunwell early on weekends to have your pick of flavors.
Julia, Julianne and I had a much needed beach day last Thursday (read more about my Covid summer approach here). We timed it well and got to have two meals there (taking the subway felt pretty safe, there was good mask compliance the whole time). Based on what I’ve seen, weekends can get pretty crowded so if you can go during the week, do it! Vacation days are still necessary even if you’re not going far (or anywhere) and the stress relief of a few hours by the ocean/your closest body of water is unmatched.
For lunch, we had burgers (mine was veggie) and fries at Rippers, which had a really good contact free system. The burgers are fast food style, small on perfect potato rolls with special sauce and crisp lettuce. The fries have such good seasoning you don’t need ketchup (it’s garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and salt).
We were blessed when the Beachtender walked by our area (follow him to see where he’ll be). Anthony Robinson makes such high quality, strong drinks for just $10 (try the watermelon tequila one) and takes cash, venmo, or square.
Then we rushed over to Tacoway Beach before it closed (I love it there). They have super spread out tables and you order online or at the window. The menu is streamlined this year with taco boxes (two tacos, chips and salsa, and a cucumber mango salad for $15), which are the perfect size for dinner. We went home slightly sunburned, happy, and full.
Something to read:
A Q&A with Win Son Bartender Rafael Joson
TNHS: What prompted you to initially start posting about Trigg’s behavior? Did Covid influence the timing?
RJ: COVID is what specifically exposed Trigg. Beyond his anger management issues, which we’d unfortunately been conditioned to accept as veterans of the restaurant industry, his handling of this crisis highlighted his motives and tendencies.
Everyone on the team was sympathetic to small business’ inability to be prepared for COVID, but Trigg’s inability to heed counsel from his partner and management team was on full display.
He has full control of the Win Son Instagram account, for example, and rushes to make appearances—he announced that Win Son would be closing due to COVID via Instagram, and without mentioning it to the general manager. She and the rest of the staff working that evening discovered they were out of a job by going on Instagram. It’s worth noting that this was a Sunday evening, that Win Son is always closed on Mondays, and that New York’s lockdown would be imposed on Tuesday.
Essentially, because David Chang and others had done so, Trigg wanted to get a post out ASAP, in order to benefit from the appearance of “leadership”. Win Son didn’t sacrifice a single hour of scheduled business before being forced to.
Then, while restaurants around NYC were raising money for their staff on GoFundMe, which is transparent, Trigg made an Instagram post stating the intention to raise money for undocumented workers who might not see any government relief. This was being operated through Trigg’s personal Venmo, which is not transparent. I immediately donated $25, because I believed it was important not to leave those members of our family behind.
Other staff members were concerned about the fuzzy language surrounding the fundraiser, and whether any money was being raised on their behalf. When these concerns were raised, Trigg told us that we didn’t “read his post carefully” enough—that “runoff” from the opaque Venmo fund would go to the rest of the staff. Soon after, an Eater article by Gary He materialized, centering Trigg’s noble cause, and referring to the “$30,000” we were eventually told had accumulated, though we never saw any receipts.
At this point, Trigg’s goal was blatantly apparent. Disregarding the wellbeing of the real people involved, Trigg did what was necessary to quickly secure coverage from Eater, portraying him as an industry leader.
This pattern persisted. As black squares starting popping up everywhere, we received another e-mail from Win Son. This time, we were being told that funds had continued “trickling” into Trigg’s Venmo account, and were asked to donate this money to BLM-adjacent causes for Win Son to match. In other words, we were only notified that more money was raised for us (and how much of it there was) in the shape of a proposal.
Sadly, Trigg’s mind had jumped to Instagram appearances again: unethically transfer funds from one buzzy cause to the next, against the intentions of those who donated, and before the supposed beneficiaries ever had the money in their hands. At least he would be able to make a splash.
TNHS: What’s your response to those who claim all kitchens are toxic?
RJ: I would mostly agree. I did see some people suggest that we are merely sensitive young people—as if we weren’t raised by this industry as well. Most people working in the front of house at a restaurant didn’t dream of it. We’ve worked the 12 hour shifts and served the 9-5 majority while they unwind for so many years because it was our path to making a living. This reckoning is overdue because we “toughed it out” and accepted it as a status quo. I’ll just repeat what I’ve said before: “Trigg is a symptom of a disease that unfortunately pervades an otherwise rich, diverse community, and has incubated dominance over positions of power in that world.”
I actually don’t care what toxic white kitchen bros think of the toxic white kitchen bro culture, or if they think its an acceptable norm.
TNHS: What has the response been from customers and the industry?
RJ: Overwhelmingly supportive. People want to do more, and for me to expose more, which I can. It’s me who is decidedly showing restraint, because I want to specifically hold Trigg and his dishonest pursuit of celebrity accountable—not burn down an entire business that was good to me in many ways. I’ve been wary of most attempts by the press to engage, because I don’t want someone else’s opportunism to co-opt the narrative and feed it to the “Cancel Mob”.
TNHS: Has anything changed since the Eater article?
RJ: No. Those currently working at Win Son have already noted how much easier Trigg’s absence has made things, however.
TNHS: What next steps would you and your colleagues like to see?
RJ: Trigg still has not acknowledged the truth of the past employee’s experience at Win Son, which she was very brave to share. My DMs were flooded with other stories that people wanted to get off their chest, but chose to keep private—their practical concerns about being blackballed speaks to the toxicity of the restaurant industry.
Though I’m reluctant to speak for my colleagues, I will say that Trigg publicly owning up to the dissonance between his behavior and his presentation of moral leadership would go a long way. Specifically, validating the former employee’s story is a fundamental demand.
(One update I wanted to mention: after speaking with the former employee Joson refers to, I edited Monday’s edition to remove her name and to clarify that cleavers were thrown generally, rather than specifically at her).
How Kia Damon is serving her community (support her if you can)
Does Dunkin Donuts have Ben Affleck’s order on file?
How to make sure your restaurant is welcoming to everyone
Who really gets to drink outside in New York City?
When it comes to a a recipe, what’s in a name (or why we call bibimbap a Korean Rice Bowl)
When it comes to sustainability, the path forward might mean looking back
Thank you to Soleil Ho for mentioning me in this excellent story about reopening in the Bay Area (lots more reopening thoughts here and on Instagram).
Madison told me about this very cool wine club that happens over text message. Sign up and get the details here.
Loved this conversation about self care between Nneka Okona and Shanika Hillocks
Also read Nneka on Savannah’s black Butchers
24 hours in Jonathan Gold’s Los Angeles
How colleges reopening (or not) affects college town businesses
Bake sales are not always (or automatically) politically
A man allergic to chilis makes one of LA’s spiciest sandwiches
I watched Disclosure, the Laverne Cox documentary on trans representation in media, and highly recommend. It’s upsetting to see the harmful tropes but important to know.
More on the racist history of tipping, which Union Square Hospitality is going back to (other smaller restaurants, like Dirt Candy, operate without tips and Hunky Dory just ended it).
Urban Grape in Boston launches a wine studies program for students of color
Now, let’s share your tips for staying cool. Watermelon is a favorite (definitely influenced by this masterpiece). Stay hydrated!
Kaitlin has the right idea: I’m keeping cool with smoothies and boozy slushies. I bought a way too large watermelon that started to get mushy, so I froze cubes, put it in blender w/ gin and lime and boom, boozy slushie :)
Becky has me craving softserve: As for staying cool, it's iced coffee and soft serve for me!
Christine also loves watermelon: My favorite totally cool, hot weather snack: I buy a whole watermelon at the beginning of the week, keep it in the fridge so it's nice and cold, and make it my personal mission to finish it by the end of the week. If there's anything left (rare, but it occasionally happens) I share it with my chickens.
Hilary knows the power of frozen desserts: Spending time and/or eating dinner outside (especially on my friend's 4th floor patio where it's always breezy) is a great way to feel cooler. This friend also reintroduced me to those Italian ice desserts from the freezer section. The lemon flavor is so refreshing and the mango can't be beat- plus it takes a while to chisel away at them so it cools you down while you savor it. Besides that, I keep multiple water bottles in the fridge so when I finish one and refill it from the tap, I already have another chilled one ready to go.
Sarah keeps it cool: ICE ICE, BABY! My roommate and I have started keeping a leftover greens container (you know the ones - 5oz, plastic, square) in the freezer with ice in it. Once an ice tray is frozen, we dump the ice into the bucket and freeze another tray. We basically always have ice in our drinks now. (!!)
Hayley is caffeinated and cool: I basically exclusively drink iced coffee year-round. And summer in Sacramento means the temps are typically over 100 which makes hot coffee a pariah essentially. I start the morning with iced coffee, vanilla almond milk creamer and top it off with coconut whip, which is my best summer discovery. It’s made from coconut cream, so no dairy problems, and it has way less sugar than the typical stuff. Definitely has a strong coconut flavor which I love, but may not be for everyone!
Hannah’s kitchen doubles as a coffeeshop: As for staying cool, I've been living on homemade cold brew. I like using Cookie and Kate's recipe and it's nice to always have something cold in the fridge that wakes me up and keeps me going.
Julianne stays cool even in a park: Staying cool by this fun tip: you can get a 1L (that's a liter NOT a first year law student to you!) water bottle at Orange Tree for a dollar. Put it in your freezer to use as an iced pack for the park hangs and then take it out so to have water refills even if there aren't water fountains around! I just keep reusing the bottle! Another very PRO tip: I realized I can't buy $4 chai tea lattes whenever I want even though I recently became addicted. So I looked up a box mix and ordered some online that I just add milk, ice cubes, and my metal straw. Voila! Now each large iced chai tea latte (which tastes the same as coffee shops since they use mixes too!) is closer to 50¢ each!
This week, I’d love to know what your favorite summer fruit is. We did a similar poll two summers ago and I want to see if the consensus has changed! Bonus points if you share your favorite way to enjoy it.
I was looking forward to the Q&A as Rafael’s pinned story is self-described as confusing*. It was nice for him to confirm his grievances - 500 word response around donations/PR and significantly shorter responses to the other 4 questions, 5x shorter to be exact. He doesn’t really care about toxic kitchen culture, or “white bros” cooking Asian food, or integrity of food recipes. If those were actually important, there are certainly much larger, and many more, fish in the ocean for him to focus his time on, in addition to Trigg.
Whatever happened, happened; and it happened for multiple years, with Rafael having a front row seat. However, it was differences in opinion on how to manage the $30,000(+) that Trigg raised that caused Rafael to flip the switch. Everything else wasn’t looked past until then. He could have outed the scallion pancake Bon Appetit recipe in 2017. The pork bun sourcing the first day he started working. The cleaver the day it happened. He could have never started working for a “white bro” cooking Taiwanese food. But again, he doesn’t really care about those things; he cares about money, and when it disappeared due to COVID, he went public.
Seems like the whole thing is a “can’t see the forest through the trees” situation – complains about PR/Marketing but directly benefits from it; complains about a small amount of donations but ignores the remaining $30,000; complains about food sourcing but ignores how that directly benefits minority businesses; dedicates 100% of his time to Win Son but ignores all the other toxic kitchen the employees have/now work at.
*Tangent but I’ll note that his word choice is very specific in that post - “might confuse” and “to some” - but yet he uses Trigg’s own wordsmithing against him.