March 7, 2021

David Mintz, Whose Tofutti Made Bean Curd Cool, Dies at 89

After graduating from a Lubavitcher Yeshiva high school in Crown Heights, he attended Brooklyn College, briefly sold mink stoles, and ran a bungalow colony in the Catskills, where he opened a deli.

It was after he opened his Manhattan restaurant, he said in one of many versions of the story, that “a Jewish hippie” tipped him to the potential of tofu. “The Book of Tofu” (1979), by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, became his new bible.

Mr. Mintz’s first marriage ended in divorce (“Bean curd wasn’t exciting to her,” he told The Baltimore Jewish Times in 1984). In 1984 he married Rachel Avalagon, who died this year. He is survived by their son, Ethan.

Mr. Mintz often sought guidance from Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the venerable leader of the Lubavitcher Hasidic movement, to whom he had been introduced by his brother, Isaac Gershon Mintz. David Mintz would write daily $1,000 checks to Rabbi Schneerson’s philanthropies, according to COLLive, an Orthodox news site. (He was a founder of the congregation Chabad of Tenafly.)

“Whenever I met with the rebbe I would mention what I was doing, and he would say to me: ‘You have to have faith. If you have faith in God, you can do wonders,’” Mr. Mintz said in an interview with Jewish Educational Media in 2013.

Late in the 1970s he had to close Mintz’s Buffet, his restaurant on Third Avenue, because the block was being razed to build Trump Plaza. When he was offered the option to transplant his restaurant to the Upper West Side, he sought Rabbi Schneerson’s guidance. The rabbi’s secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, called him back, Mr. Mintz recalled, and said: “Get a pencil and paper and write it down. This is very important.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/business/david-mintz-dead.html

Loretta Whitfield, Whose Black Doll Was ‘Ahead of Its Time,’ Dies at 79

Loretta Mae Thomas was born on Feb. 17, 1941, in Wellington, Kan. Her family moved to Washington after her father, Jesse, got a job as a clerk at the Pentagon. Her mother, Verna Mae (Hayden) Thomas, also worked for the federal government.

Loretta entered Eastern High School in 1954, the same year the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Dolls played an important part in that case: Thurgood Marshall, the lead lawyer, relied on research by the psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark that showed Black children had a preference for white dolls — evidence that segregation taught them that being Black meant being inferior.

She graduated magna cum laude from Howard University in 1962 and later received a master’s in psychology from American University in Washington.

The Whitfields were not the only people in the mid-1980s thinking about Black dolls, said Fath Davis Ruffins, a curator at the Smithsonian Institution and an expert in Black consumer culture.

In 1968 Mattel began selling Christie, marketed as a Black friend to Barbie. In 1980 Kitty Black Perkins, one of the company’s few Black product designers, created the first Black Barbie, complete with an Afro.

And in the late 1970s, Ms. Ruffins said, Black artists had already begun selling handmade Black dolls with realistic features at markets and art fairs. A few other entrepreneurs had even sold mass-produced dolls like Baby Whitney.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/25/business/loretta-whitfield-dead.html

Loretta Whitfield, Creator of a Doll With a Difference, Dies at 79

Loretta Mae Thomas was born on Feb. 17, 1941, in Wellington, Kan. Her family moved to Washington after her father, Jesse, got a job as a clerk at the Pentagon. Her mother, Verna Mae (Hayden) Thomas, also worked for the federal government.

Loretta entered Eastern High School in 1954, the same year the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Dolls played an important part in that case: Thurgood Marshall, the lead lawyer, relied on research by the psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark that showed Black children had a preference for white dolls — evidence that segregation taught them that being Black meant being inferior.

She graduated magna cum laude from Howard University in 1962 and later received a master’s in psychology from American University in Washington.

The Whitfields were not the only people in the mid-1980s thinking about Black dolls, said Fath Davis Ruffins, a curator at the Smithsonian Institution and an expert in Black consumer culture.

In 1968 Mattel began selling Christie, marketed as a Black friend to Barbie. In 1980 Kitty Black Perkins, one of the company’s few Black product designers, created the first Black Barbie, complete with an Afro.

And in the late 1970s, Ms. Ruffins said, Black artists had already begun selling handmade Black dolls with realistic features at markets and art fairs. A few other entrepreneurs had even sold mass-produced dolls like Baby Whitney.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/25/business/loretta-whitfield-dead.html

Gregory Gourdet Works to Build a Better Restaurant in Portland

As Mr. Gourdet sat in the kitchen of Kann Winter Village last month, a side door was open to the outdoor “village” of 10 yurts, provided by American Express as part of a nationwide program. Tia Vanich, the project’s director of operations and Mr. Gourdet’s business partner, was helping refresh the tents before the next service. In January, indoor dining was still banned in Portland. (Those restrictions were lifted early this month.)

“Without the yurts, we’re not in business,” Ms. Vanich said.

Mr. Gourdet’s attempt to create a more inclusive and harmonious work environment is most evident in Kann’s kitchen. “I could have staffed this place with a bunch of white males in, like, literally five minutes,” he said. “But as a gay Black man, and with everything that went on with the reckoning and George Floyd, I didn’t want to do that.”

In the kitchen, Varanya Geyoonsawat, 35, who as sous-chef is the highest-ranking kitchen employee below Mr. Gourdet, worked alongside Jasmyne Romero-Clark, 27, prepping for the three six-course tasting menus — one pescatarian, one vegan, one omnivore — served five nights a week. Every menu included a salad of ripe plantains, squash and pickled apples in a cashew dressing, a version of soup joumou and upside-down banana cake draped in warm coconut cream.

Kann’s food, much of which is served in polished Staub pots, is considerably more rustic than the modern, pan-Asian cuisine Mr. Gourdet was known for at Departure. He acknowledges that the glitzy rooftop restaurant is out of step with the earthy, do-it-yourself aesthetic of the chef-owned restaurants that put Portland on the map.

He mentioned Ms. Geyoonsawat, who, along with Ms. Romero-Clark, worked at Departure near the end of his tenure, as a chef whose talents he didn’t fully recognize in Departure’s busy kitchen. He said it took working with her more closely, testing recipes for his cookbook, for him to realize that she had the ability to lead Kann’s kitchen.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/23/dining/gregory-gourdet-portland-restaurant-kann.html

Airbnb Is Driving Hosts Elsewhere With Costly Pandemic Policies

In an interview on the day of Airbnb’s initial public offering, Brian Chesky, the chief executive, acknowledged tensions with hosts but said the relationship had improved over the last year.

“We have a lot of work to do, and frankly, they’re still hurting,” he said.

Catherine Powell, Airbnb’s head of hosting, said hosts’ views of their relationship with the company improved 17 percent between January 2020 and last month. “Our relationship with hosts is incredibly important,” she said. “Our hosts are what powers Airbnb.”

Airbnb hosts trace many of their issues with the company to March 14, three days after the World Health Organization declared the pandemic. That was when Airbnb enacted an “extenuating circumstances policy.”

The change angered many rental operators, who had previously chosen their own cancellation policies, including a nonrefundable option. The new policy allowed guests to cancel with a full refund, overriding some hosts’ preferences. Many saw their livelihoods disappear overnight.

Darik Eaton, who managed 50 properties in Seattle, laid off 10 employees after the change and has reconfigured his company to run “leaner,” including dropping some of the properties he managed, he said.

“I watched $77,000 disappear from my bank account in one day,” Mr. Eaton said.

In late March, Mr. Chesky apologized to hosts for how the decision had been communicated. “We have heard from you, and we know we could have been better partners,” he said in a video. The company set up a $250 million fund to cover some of the cancellation costs and a $10 million relief fund.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/21/technology/airbnb-hosts-pandemic-tensions.html

¿Qué es Clubhouse y por qué todos están hablando de eso?

“Puedo ver lo que aparece en los subtítulos, la gente dice: ‘¿Por qué una mujer sorda está en una aplicación de audio?’”, dijo. “Eso me paralizaba y me ponía a llorar”.

Clubhouse tiene una función de “bloqueo” para que los usuarios tengan más control sobre sus salas. Eso, a su vez, ha creado disputas sobre el acceso, incluso con un periodista de The New York Times.

Kimberly Ellis, de 48 años, académica de estudios estadounidenses y africanos en la Universidad Carnegie Mellon que dirige talleres sobre seguridad digital, dijo que también había estado en salas de Clubhouse donde las personas parecían dar consejos financieros pero, en realidad, estaban “haciendo mercadeo multinivel”.

“Algunos quieren aconsejarte y quitarte tu dinero con sus cursos”, dijo.

En una conversación celebrada el domingo en Clubhouse, Davison comentó que la empresa tenía reglas explícitas en contra de la difusión de desinformación, los discursos de odio, así como las situaciones de abuso e intimidación. El año pasado, la empresa anunció que estaba agregando asesores e implementando medidas de seguridad, así como dándoles más poder a los moderadores.

Sin embargo, Clubhouse también ha permitido que las personas que viven bajo la estricta censura de países como China y Turquía puedan hablar libremente sobre muchos temas. Algunos usuarios dijeron que estaban enganchados.

Brielle Riche, de 33 años, estratega de marcas en Los Ángeles, dijo que Clubhouse había abierto su mundo desde que comenzó a usarla en noviembre.

“Clubhouse nos da la oportunidad de conectarnos con extraños”, dijo. “Solo Clubhouse puede sacarte de TikTok”.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/es/2021/02/18/espanol/clubhouse-app.html

Pete Wells’s Odyssey as Restaurant Critic During Pandemic

It still took a few weeks before I wrote any reviews. At first, I worried that any opinion of mine would be unfair when restaurants were trying so hard to adapt to the new reality. Eventually, I understood that that was exactly what would make the reviews worth writing. Good food in a pandemic was great; great food seemed like a miracle, and I was finding great food all around.

My pandemic reviews note the ways that restaurants have trimmed menus and simplified dishes, but even the shorter, stripped-down versions had a lot to praise. There was something that got to me about these small businesses — some of which had opened in the pandemic, all of which were fighting for survival — trying to bring New Yorkers some joy while keeping them healthy. I didn’t want to just report on it. I wanted to bang a drum so people would pay attention.

The decision not to put stars on the reviews, as The Times has since the 1960s, was easy. Formerly, I tried to make the stars reflect how close any given restaurant came to being an ideal version of itself. But in the pandemic, there were no ideal restaurants, only places that were making it up as they went along.

Almost everything about outdoor dining appealed to me: the street life, the flower pots, the shoestring architecture of in-street platforms. Even the weather played along, staying mostly dry and temperate nearly through the end of December. But there was no question that by Christmas it was getting too cold to dine al fresco.

In my reporter mode, I had been told by scientists, airflow engineers and other experts how Covid-19 is transmitted, and all last summer and fall I felt fairly certain that eating outdoors could be relatively safe for everyone. (Some public-health experts believe that now, even outdoor dining in New York City is unsafe while the local risk of Covid transmission remains very high.) I did not have the same certainty about dining indoors or about some of the plywood structures I call enclosed porches, particularly their windows and doors, which are closed so they have almost no ventilation. I have walked away from several of those.

I wanted to keep reviewing restaurants, but I didn’t want to go back into their dining rooms both because of the risk and because I was afraid readers would take it as an all-clear signal. When the governor halted indoor dining again in December, my selfish reaction was relief. Then I briefly got depressed. How would restaurants survive? And how would I keep writing about them?

One answer had already started to appear on sidewalks and streets in the form of small greenhouses, huts, tents and yurts. Inside these personal dining rooms, you can (and should) sit just with people from your own household. If the restaurant thoroughly airs the space out between seatings, any germs you breathe in should be the same ones that are bouncing around your home. Many restaurants instruct their servers to stay outside the structures as much as possible, though some don’t.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/insider/17insider-restaurants-pandemic.html

Stuck at Home, Pastry Chefs Find Freedom. New Yorkers Find Cookies.

“It’s really cool and interesting to have a whole class of restaurants, basically, where the barrier to entry is much lower than we’re used to,” she said. “I hope it’s something we can hang on to. There’s a real sense of hustle, which is very encouraging and creative as people flourish in this terrible, uncontrollable situation.”

Highlights on the steady menu of mostly savory baked goods are sourdough pretzels ($10 for four), “everything but the bagel” focaccia ($10 for three) and canelé ($10 for four). Deliveries in Manhattan, Brooklyn and western Queens. boybluecoffee.com

The current focus is “gem cakes,” small, very tender sour-cream Bundts (six for $20). Pickups in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn: joychopastry.com

Snack-size poundcakes called “Kemi cubes” ($8 for two) are a mainstay on an evolving roster of sophisticated desserts, many with flavors from Asia. Deliveries in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County: kemidessertbar.com

The selection of pastries and desserts changes often, but kits of sourdough English muffins with preserves and salted butter are a constant (four for $15). Deliveries in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau County, or pickups in Flatbush, Brooklyn: seabirdbakery.com

Each week, two boxes filled with about half a dozen baked goods are offered; the contents are a surprise, but one box is mostly sweet and the other mostly not ($20 each). Deliveries in Brooklyn or pickups in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn: wrightwoodandsawyer.com

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/16/dining/pastry-chefs-small-business.html

Clubhouse, a Tiny Audio Chat App, Breaks Through

“People are already building brands,” said Sheel Mohnot, 38, founder of Better Tomorrow Ventures, who has 1.2 million followers on the app. “There’s all these Clubhouse shows. Some of those shows I’ve seen are sponsored.” (Mr. Davison and Mr. Seth have said the company plans to make money through ticketed events, subscriptions and tipping, but will not sell ads.)

The growth has been accompanied by criticism that women and people of color are frequent targets of abuse and that discussions involving anti-Semitism, homophobia, racism and misogyny are on the rise.

Porsha Belle, 32, a Clubhouse influencer in Houston, said that after she spoke up about misogyny on the app, people formed rooms to encourage one another to report her account so she would be barred. Her account was suspended last Monday.

She said she had tried appealing to the company, but found little recourse. “My page is suspended while the bullies get to roam free,” she said.

Rachelle Dooley, 40, a social media manager in Austin, Texas, who is deaf, said she had been blocked and kicked out of some Clubhouse rooms.

“I can see it show up on the closed caption, people saying, ‘Why is this deaf lady on an audio app?’” she said. “I’d freeze and start crying.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/15/business/clubhouse-a-tiny-audio-chat-app-breaks-through.html

How to Turn Your Hobby Into a Career

Early batches were “a mess,” Ms. Dangerfield said, “oil was floating on the top, it never really hardened.” With practice, she mastered the craft. Not only did it seem to help alleviate her children’s dry skin, she said, but, back home in Alabama, it became her escape and a way to decompress after completing her delivery routes.

“It was so relaxing to go into my soap room at night,” she said.

She made soaps for family and friends, and when the pandemic hit, they persuaded her to sell them online. Before long, Ms. Dangerfield had converted her dining room into a studio cluttered with jugs of oils, mixing bowls and packing materials. And she began selling confection-like blackberry and vanilla soap, cedar-scented body butter and coconut oil sugar scrubs on her Etsy shop, We Made It Soap Co.

It took months to gain traction. She now fills more than 30 orders a month for whimsical products like pheromones-activated charcoal soap ($7), coffee-whipped sugar scrub ($8) and black raspberry vanilla whipped body butter ($9). A sorority at the University of Illinois recently ordered 70 self-care gift sets featuring soap and bubble bath. She recently shipped a ten-unit order.

Only problem? Ms. Dangerfield needs a new creative outlet to unwind after a busy day. Lately, she’s been crocheting. “Maybe that will be my next career,” she said.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/13/style/turn-hobby-into-career-pandemic.html