The Guardian: Mexico City’s Grandest Neighbourhood is Back in Vogue

My article for The Guardian on La Colonia Juarez is available here 

It’s morning in Mexico City, and the traffic on Avenida Reforma, the city’s central artery, is in full flow, interspersed only by tamale carts dashing madly into the path of oncoming cars. A block away, its entrance guarded by two of the city’s landmark skyscrapers, Torre Mayor and Torre Bancomer, is Colonia Juárez, once the grande dame of Mexico City neighbourhoods, and now making a long-awaited comeback.

A few kilometres west of the historic centre, Juárez used to be the grandest colonia in the city. Local architect Rutilo Rojas says: “At the tail end of the porfiriato [when Porfirio Díaz ruled Mexico, 1876-1911], wealthy families built enormous French-influenced mansions in Juárez, and lived there until the mid-century’s new urban developments began. Many demolished their mansions and replaced them with office blocks, which were easier to rent out.”
The horrific earthquake of 1985 sent the area into further decline. In the 1980s and 90s, a small pocket of Juárez, Zona Rosa, became a centre for the city’s gay scene, full of clubs and restaurants, but the rest of the area lay dormant. Now, developers such as regeneration specialist ReUrbano are helping restore its beautiful architecture. A wave of openings over the past six months has seen interest in Juárez reach fever pitch. Havre 77 is an oyster bar and restaurant from feted young chef Lalo García; other new spots include Lucerna Comedor, Teo Luncheonette, Taberna Luciferina, Osteria Isabella and Kyo Sushi. Milan 44 is an “urban market” where people can go for excellent coffee and cheese, a beard trim or a yoga class. In the past three years, three of Mexico City’s most exciting contemporary art galleries – José García, Marso and Karen Huber – have opened in Juárez.
But the most anticipated newcomer is Amaya, a new restaurant and wine bar from Jair Téllez, the chef behind two of Mexico’s best restaurants – Mexico City’s MeroToro and Baja California’s Laja. It opens on 20 May and will boast Mexico’s first entirely natural wine list. For Téllez, Juárez is a fusion of the best of new and old Mexico City: “A wave of creativity has made its way across the city and hit the spinal cord of Avenida Reforma. You don’t know what to expect here, and that makes it very exciting.”
Indeed: the area is also home to classic cantinas unchanged since the 1920s, such as Salon Niza, and to some of the city’s most exciting theatre, cabaret and multi-disciplinary performance spaces: Teatro Milan, Foro 37, El Milagro, El 77 and La Americana Club. Then there’s the wonderful Korean food at Mapo Galbi, Mexico City’s first serious cocktail bar, Bar Milan, and Café La Habana, which opened in 1952 and is said to be where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara planned the Cuban revolution.

Juárez  remains proudly local, with its launderettes and cocinas económicas (budget restaurants). Rents are still low enough for artists and independent businesses to survive, and large restaurant chains have so far stayed away. Long may it last.

VICE: Inside Mexico’s Naked Wine Revolution

 

Read my article for Vice on natural wine in Mexico here 

It’s midday and I’m sitting in MeroToro restaurant in Mexico City, hearing Chilean (by way of Burgundy) winemaker Louis-Antoine Luyt introduce the concept of natural wines to MeroToro’s enthusiastic waitstaff, including the wines he’s making in Tecate with Jair Téllez, MeroToro’s chef, at the Bichi winery.

Many of the waiters tell me they’d never drunk wine before they started working here. After all, as Luyt explains, “historically, there’s been no culture of drinking wine with food in Mexico.” Most Mexicans drink beer, mezcal, tequila, or aguas frescas to accompany meals. What little wine that was drunk in Mexico was quaffed in smart restaurants by rich people, and they would stick to the big, status-symbol labels from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Bordeaux—a far cry from anything that 99 percent of Mexicans could afford. Luyt compares the consumption of these Spanish and French wines to having an iPhone, or before that, wearing blue jeans—part of the mindless accumulation of uniform luxury products, totally devoid of individuality. Now, however, the Mexican wine industry is taking off, and expensive wines from Baja, California sit alongside big Rioja houses on the city’s wine lists. Sadly, however, they offer little respite, as the Mexican wine industry is dominated by a monopoly of omnipresent, industrial producers like Casa Madero, LA Cetto, and Santo Tomás, who have chosen to ape the commercial European and Napa Valley models rather than focus on reflecting Mexico’s exciting and unique terroir. The small producers don’t get a look in.
Luyt and Téllez are, however, mounting their own resistenza naturale (to borrow the title of Jonathan Nossiter’s 2014 wine documentary). They are not only Mexico’s only known natural wine producers, but they are also using the somewhat neglected oldest grape in the Americas: misión. It’s fairly certain that misión came over with the first conquistadores (the clue’s in the name), was tended to by friars, and eventually used not only as sacramental wine but also as an everyday table wine. Yet you mention the misión grape to most people in Europe or the Americas and they probably haven’t heard of it. It’s a deeply unfashionable, folkloric grape that you’ll find a smattering of in all sorts of wines, but it usually doesn’t even get a mention, let alone celebrated in a single-varietal bottling. In Chile, Luyt tells me, there are 400-year-old misión vines, and while they’ve yet to find any that old in Mexico, they are certainly lurking dormant somewhere, ready to be nurtured back to life to produce spectacular wine.
Back at MeroToro, the team dives into the latest Bichi samples—a delicious, wispy rosado called Rosa de Peru, made entirely of misión; a more gutsy, juicy nebbiolo with lovely acidity; and the new filthy (in the best possible way) white, La Gorda Blanca, made from the moscatel grape.

Luyt explains to MeroToro’s staff why the wines are different: They are a tiny production; they are low in sulfites and follow biodynamic methods that respect nature; they are made with wild yeasts and are considered “alive,” so they might have a bit of bottle variation. He says that the staff should encourage diners to at least try them, but not be pushy. He admits that if the client wants a bottle of very traditional, classical-style Ribera del Duero or Rioja, they probably aren’t going to be interested, but that if the client is “open,” it’s worth suggesting they try one from Bichi. The sample bottles are quickly finished and everyone seems excited to have them on the list. Two waiters lean over to tell me that they don’t like wine, but they like Bichi.
Bichi means “naked” in some parts of northern Mexico, and for Téllez and Luyt, it thus seemed like an appropriate name to give their new natural wine project based at the Téllez family ranch in Tecate, Baja, California. Making wine together seemed like the obvious thing to do: Téllez had encountered natural wines in Europe, became an instant convert, and was keen to start producing and importing them to Mexico. Luyt was one of Latin America’s experts in hunting down small grape growers in countries dominated by industrial winemakers, and helping them produce wines with minimal intervention. He’s quietly carved out a niche for himself in Chile as one of its only natural winemakers, and his wines now have a cult following.

At the end of this month, the pair will open their much-anticipated new restaurant, Amaya, in Mexico City’s Colonia Juarez. It’ll feature an entirely natural wine list (with imports as well as wines from Bichi and their Tecate Mancunian neighbor, Phil Gregory’s Vena Cava); simple food employing nose-to-tail butchery methods; and sustainable line-caught fish from Ensenada and Puerto Angel in Oaxaca.
The question is whether this “spark,” as Luyt calls it, will be enough to encourage other restaurants to put more natural wines on their menus in Mexico. For many, it’s too big a risk to stock these wines, as there isn’t enough of a customer base yet. Pablo Mata, sommelier at Pujol, explains, “At the moment, Mexico’s wine culture isn’t developed enough for people to understand the concept of natural wines…they are popular in Pujol, but above all with foreigners.” However, Mata is confident that “without doubt, the global natural wine movement will generate more diversity in Mexico [in wine].”

Luyt believes it’ll only be a matter of time. After all, chefs and diners in Mexico City go to great trouble sourcing extraordinary ingredients—it’s only natural that they will begin seeking out wines that evoke the same emotions and excitement landrace corn or endangered chiles do.

My review of Gored for the New Statesman

In his fifteen year career as a professional matador, Spaniard Antonio Barrera has survived 23 cornadas, or “hornings”, making him the most gored torero in modern history. His journey towards retirement in December 2012 is the subject of Ido Mizrahy’s new documentary Gored, which, after a hugely successful festival run last April (including winning Best Documentary at Raindance) has just been released on Netflix and iTunes in the UK.

It is not a documentary about the rights or wrongs of bullfighting, but rather, as the director Ido Mizrahy – who does not describes himself as a fan of bullfighting, but is not against it either – tells me, “about life and death, family, broken dreams”, and one man’s single-minded obsession with doing something he isn’t great at. As the Spanish bullfighting critic J A de Moral explains in Gored, he isn’t “fino, has no ‘aesthetic grace…he isn’t one of the artist matadors with an aesthetic purity from another galaxy”. He is, however, insanely brave, and is prepared to die every time he enters the ring.

Mizrahy explains that this is what drew him and Geoff Gray, his writing partner, to Barrera as a subject – the very fact he isn’t a poster boy for bullfighting insured an honest look at the ancient spectacle that would fully demonstrate its brutality. There would be no risk of the viewer getting caught up in the romance or artistry of it, not when, according to de Moral, the spectacle never stops being “a mere fight” and so cannot become “a tragic ballet of extraordinary beauty”.

Whatever your views on bullfighting, there is no denying that Antonio Barrera is a captivating subject: a brave, tragic hero, Ajax-like in his bravery and in his fate to never to be the best. He explains in Gored that there is nothing in the world he loves more than bullfighting; that he has never, not even with a woman, maintained a relationship so intimate as he has with a bull, and that it’s the most pure relationship he knows.

His long-suffering wife (the daughter of a fighting bull breeder), who has been with him through 18 of the 23 cornadas, is desperate for him to retire. But when she fell in love with him, she promised herself she “would never ask him when he would retire – never”. Now that Barrera has a family, however, he has finally decided to call it a day in Léon, Mexico. A 501 kg bull called “Bienvenido” will be the last he’ll ever fight. But will it be a relieved welcome back to the land of the living, or a final welcome to the death he’s cheated 23 times?

By the final frames, you’re still not sure which resolution, if any, has been brought forth by his last appearance in the bull ring. He has in theory survived and retired, and is now managing his good friend, the torero Morante de la Puebla (who incidentally cut off Barrera’s coleta – the small ponytail all toreros have – marking his retirement in Léon). Morante is one of the aforementioned “artist matadors from another galaxy”, and this new role allows Barrera to still be close to his beloved bulls, without offering his life to them.

The closing scenes are some of the most powerful in the documentary. Mizrahy shows us anti-bullfighting protestors outside Seville’s bullring during the spring feria – various young Spaniards standing around holding placards, and a girl with a megaphone shouting “bulls deserve to live, like us”. At this point, against the backdrop of Barrera’s heroics and contemplation of his own mortality, the protestors seem grotesque and incongruous; modernity jarring against not only the timeless beauty of Barrera’s wife in the next shot in her traditional flamenca dress, but also with the profundity of the film.

In the final few minutes, we see Barrera in his new life. He’s now an anonymous figure clad in a normal blue suit, walking through the crowds outside the bullring, behind the gran figura Morante, signing autographs and shining brightly in his matador’s “suit of lights”. We leave Barrera contemplating his future without the “driving force of his life”, asking “cual es mi ilusion ahora?”, or “what is my dream/what do I have to look forward to now?”

Mizrahy hasn’t heard from his protagonist since finishing filming. He has no idea what Barrera thought of the film or whether he’s even seen it. He describes him as “bull-like” in as much as if you’re not in his peripheral vision, he can’t see you and you can’t reach him.

***

A few weeks ago here in Mexico City, Morante de la Puebla performed the most beautiful “tragic ballet” of the bullfighting season at the Monumental Plaza de Toros. A few hours later, outside a hotel, I briefly locked eyes with Antonio Barrera. Morante was in the bar enjoying a drink after his successful afternoon, but Barrera was standing alone outside with the exact same lost, slightly haunted expression he has at the end of Gored – I fear he’ll never find an ilusion quite like the bulls but I’m confident he won’t stop looking.

Gored is now available on iTunes and Netflix. Find out more www.goredthemovie.com

VICE: The Most Gored Matador in Modern History Q&A

Gored Trailer

Link to my article on Ido Mizrahy’s documentary Gored for VICE

Antonio Barrera is not a great bullfighter. As the Spanish bullfighting critic J.A. del Moral puts it in Ido Mizrahy’s documentary Gored, he has no “aesthetic grace.” In other words, he isn’t one of the “artist” matadors with an “aesthetic purity…from another galaxy.” Barrera never reaches the point where the spectacle stops being “a mere fight” and becomes “a tragic ballet of extraordinary beauty.”

But he makes up for these failings with unflinching bravery. Barrera is proud to “offer his life 100 percent” every time he enters a bull ring; and, with 23 cornadas, he is the most gored bullfighter in modern history. Gored gives us glimpses of his near-death experiences: On his knees in front of a thousand-pound bull in the pouring rain; hopping around the ring with a makeshift tourniquet around his bloody upper thigh; staggering, bare-chested, bare-buttocked, bleeding from various wounds, his “suit of lights” split open at the seams by the bull’s horns; on a stretcher being rushed to the ringside infirmary unable to breathe. His wife is desperate for him to give it up, but when they first fell in love she promised to never ask him to retire.

Gored tells the story of the run-up to Antonio Barrera’s planned retirement from bullfighting and his final fight against a beast, aptly-named Bienvenido. After making the festival rounds last spring (including a slot at Tribeca Film Festival), Gored is now available for the public to watch online. We talked to director Ido Mizrahy about his bloody doc, and why he doesn’t expect bullfighting to die out anytime soon.

VICE: How did you originally find out about Antonio Barrera? Were you a fan?
Ido Mizrahy: No, not at all. My writing partner [the journalist Geoff Gray] had become interested in this ancient spectacle of bullfighting. He met Antonio Barrera in Spain, and did a profile on him. They stayed in touch, and when Antonio mentioned he might retire, we thought it might make an interesting short film. Once we started filming, however, we realized it was a much fuller story… it wanted to be a feature-length documentary.

By all accounts, Barrera is not a particularly gifted bullfighter. What was it that drew you to him as a subject?
What was interesting to me is that he wasn’t one of the gods of bullfighting. He didn’t have the artistry, the duende that’s expected from the great figuras, but rather he was just a human being trying to do this. His destiny was set in motion for him: his father was a failed bullfighter and put Antonio in front of the bulls when he was 7, but he just didn’t have the goods. So he created his own brand of bullfighting that was really more about coming back from the dead, and became famous for it. And he had to keep that style because that was what drew people to see him.

Barrera is Spanish, but his career seems to have played out mainly in Mexico. Why is that?
Antonio felt much more welcome in Mexico for a variety of reasons, but mostly because Mexicans really appreciated what he put out there. The Spanish affición get pretty snarky about bravery. They tend to think, Of course you’re supposed to be brave, that’s a given. The big deal is to be an artist while you’re doing it. Whereas in Mexico they seemed to be saying, We know you’re not a great artist, but give us everything you’ve got anyway. We want to see you put your guts out there, and we’ll respect you for it. Antonio could offer that.

Bullfighting is obviously a controversial subject. Were you confident audiences and critics would see beyond any debates about its morality?
We knew we were walking into fertile ground, but, in a way, that’s what you want as a filmmaker. The choice of having Antonio Barrera as the protagonist, rather than bullfighting in general, was a good way of not hiding from the subject, but rather putting it at eye-level. Especially as Antonio isn’t a poster-boy for bullfighting and doesn’t exhibit that artistry, so you never get swallowed up by the romance. We’re not trying to justify bullfighting, which is why I think lots of people who are anti-bullfighting have loved the movie, because it doesn’t feel like a bullfighting film. It’s about obsession, life and death, broken dreams, family.

But, as Antonio Barrera emphatically says at the end of the doc, “I am a bullfighter.” He’s not just “any man” dealing with these issues. Would someone like Antonio, or many of the themes arising from his story, even exist outside of bullfighting?
No, and that’s exactly why bullfighting still exists. There’s still a really visceral need to be around death in a controlled environment. Today news channels feed us death all the time, but that’s very different. That’s driven by politics, conquest—lots of other things. For us to be able to go into a controlled environment and see man try to submit nature in that way, and share in that incredibly difficult task, I think that’s what keeps bullfighting relevant. Which is why there’s so much pushback against it. If it was just fading away, people would let it be. But I think it still has so many fans and still exists because it satisfies something really primal.

Has making the film changed your view of bullfighting?
I find myself much more interested. A film takes a long time to make, so you have to be submerged in the subject. You have to learn to understand your subject without judging it. It didn’t turn me into a fan, but I am not a protestor. To my sensibility, I don’t necessarily enjoy it, but there’s something about it that I totally understand now, and which tells me why it’s still around.

How did Barrera respond to the film?
I have no idea. So here’s the other reality about trying to make a movie about a matador: they are really tricky to pin down. He’s like a bull; if you’re not within his peripheral vision, you cannot reach Antonio Barrera. As close and as intimate a time as we had with him, when he’s not in front of us physically, we can’t reach him. As soon as we finished, I wanted his take on it before I even locked picture, but he never responded.

Was it difficult filming such crucial moments in his life?
We met him when he was making the most painful decision he’s ever made. Getting gored over and over again wasn’t painful for him anymore, but to make the decision to walk away from the bulls? That was really painful. To film his family in the days leading up to his final bullfight… they couldn’t care less about us. We’re filming people dealing with life-shattering decisions. And everyone had a stake in it: his wife, his daughter, his father-in-law. Everyone was so invested, and the camera was so low on their priority list, that we filmed the real stuff. It’s a very privileged point of view, real access to something, which is incredibly rare in documentaries.

‘Gored’ is out now on iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon. For more information, visit the documentary’s website here.http://www.vice.com/read/a-look-at-the-life-of-the-most-gored-bullfighter-in-modern-history

The Culture of Obesity – Huffington Post

Here’s my latest article – read it here or over at Huff Po USA

I had no excuse for becoming fat at 25. Growing up in the countryside in South Devon, England, I was always fed delicious, local, unprocessed food, and was always active, spending most of my free time either surfing or riding horses. Yet for all my initial advantages, on the eve of my book launch in 2010, on the back of my ‘year of excess’ working as a bond broker in London, I’d reached 190lbs (86 kilos), making me ‘overweight’ according to U.K. governmental guidelines for my 5-foot, 9-inch frame.

There was of course nothing unusual about my size, given that 30 percent of the world is now obese or overweight, having jumped 47.1 percent amongst children from 1980 to 2013, and 27.5 percent amongst adults. Despite most of us now being painfully aware of the causes of obesity (poor diets and lack of exercise — certain medical conditions aside), we just keep getting fatter. In fact, it appears even some doctors have now given up fighting obesity altogether and are opting for a different approach: cardiologist Dr. Carl Lavie has recently published the aptly named The Obesity Paradox: When Thinner Means Sicker and Heavier Means Healthier telling us all that it’s fine to be overweight, we just need to be fit, too.

But before we all go jogging (slowly) towards the donuts, we surely have to ask if this is the best we can now hope for. Are we all so incapable of maintaining a healthy weight that we have to resign ourselves to being ‘bordering on obese but fit,’ because it’s at least preferable to ‘morbidly obese’ or ‘dangerously thin’? I’m sorry, Dr. Lavie, but the only people who can legitimately be fat and fit simultaneously are sumo wrestlers.

Reflecting on my own years of being overweight, I’ve realized that I became fat simply because I gave up. Aside from the odd kick of adrenaline, I hated bond broking — even though it’s taken me a while to realize it. I got home exhausted, ate whatever I could pick up on the way, spent my weekends sleeping having lost touch with my friends, and with no energy to do any of the things I used to love. Disenchanted, unfulfilled and alienated, I convinced myself this was just what happened when you grew up and got a job — that being fat, exhausted and miserable was the price I had to pay for success, but that eventually I’d earn enough money to buy back my health and happiness. In the meantime, I’d settle for the cheap thrill of processed food.

Fortunately, I was fired for gross misconduct when I wrote an article for the Spectator. I was able to change my career and eventually rescue my body, which had become unrecognizable. It wasn’t my natural weight, and away from the excessive, nefarious world of finance, it felt incongruous — like I’d borrowed a fat suit for my brief odyssey to the trading floor, and I now no longer needed such thick skin. I was ready to re-enter the land of the living, and for that I wanted my strong, fit body back — not this impostor with chafing thighs.

I would argue that our addiction to fast food, corruption of the food chain, lack of interest in physical activity and resulting obesity epidemic is a symptom of a far more serious problem: the collective misery caused by our increasingly solipsistic, alienating societies. We’ve detached not only from each other, but now even from our bodies, which we no longer take any responsibility for, or pride in, beyond the odd Instagram snap. Social media provides cheap, accessible thrills that are to real society what a Big Mac is to a sirloin of grass-fed Devon beef. Behind our computers, we barely need to be physically present or embodied in the world as our lives can be played out online, through any persona we want, and advances in medicine will continue enabling us to live longer, even if we’re too obese to move.

Celebrities and the rich, meanwhile, will continue crafting whatever ‘real-life’ bodies they want, and documenting the entire process online, alongside what they wear for their daily sojourns into the real world, for the poor underclass to ‘follow’ from their computers: bedridden, hopeless and obese. With apologies to Edmund Spenser, it turns out it’s no longer the soul that’s form, and doth the body make — it’s an expensive personal trainer and a good surgeon, or if all else fails, an online avatar will do.

We cannot allow this madness to progress further than it already has. Having a functional, fit body cannot become the ‘privilege’ of the upper classes, or of celebrities who can afford personal trainers and daily deliveries of perfectly balanced healthy food. The ‘thigh gap’ cannot become yet another measure of worldwide wealth inequality for Thomas Piketty to pick at.

To combat obesity, we have to take responsibility for our bodies again and stop seeing them in the abstract. They are what make us human, and rooted in society — we do not live alone inside our iPhones (yet). Caring about our bodies and wanting to be strong can be seen as a spiritual and civic duty; of not being ready to give up; of life embodied still meaning something beyond a mindless ‘selfie’ on Instagram. Getting up and going out and engaging with the world, and aspiring to be a healthy member of society is what gives us dignity — helping us to live ‘as if’ our lives and our bodies have meaning, which is preferable to giving up, or indeed succumbing to the new ‘fitspo’ trend of spending all day taking photographs of your butt.

Rather than our governments implementing endless abstract notions upon ours lives, like five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, we should perhaps start by teaching children that their lives don’t have to be a race to the (fat) bottom; teaching them values beyond the mindless pursuit of ‘success,’ celebrity, money, and the all-too-brief kick provided by MSG in fast food, and encouraging them to strive for meaningful vocations, skills and the resulting dignity that with any luck won’t leave them with the sort of moral and spiritual void that they’ll spend their entire lives trying to fill with donuts.

The Telegraph 21/08/2013: When working all hours takes a terrible toll

My generation grew up thinking – and being told by parents, teachers and the media – that if we got a job at an investment bank and worked really hard, we’d never have to worry. We could have it all: the fast car, the loft apartment, the yacht, the Caribbean holidays, the glamorous girlfriend or boyfriend. And the best part? We wouldn’t even have to do it forever – just long enough to earn a fortune and then we could do what we really wanted in our thirties or forties. It was the American dream in the City of London.

Moritz Erhardt’s father believed this avenue would be open to his son, too, revealing that Moritz’s plan was “to work really hard for a few years and to do something good afterwards”. Moritz will now never have the chance to “do something good” – the 21-year-old was nearing the end of a seven-week internship at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London when he collapsed and died at home. He had worked until 6am for three days in a row.

The “dream ending” hoped for by young people in these jobs at investment banks is for most, today, non-existent. As one trader friend of mine put it, “That old myth of being able to retire or become a chef in your forties? Don’t be crazy. Not with a mortgage this size and two kids in private school. We’re all trapped. There’s no big money to be made any more – just enough to keep you from jacking it in and doing something interesting.”

When I was Moritz Erhardt’s age, having graduated with a degree in Russian and no idea what to do next, I too was working in the City, putting in long hours as a high-yield bond broker. I was at my desk by 7am, out with investment banking clients until the early hours several nights a week, and frequently found myself standing in the shower at 5am taking long, deep breaths trying to slow my heart rate down.

For a few months, I thought it was terribly glamorous: the exhaustion, the long hours and the panic attacks all seemed a small price to pay in exchange for that magical hit of adrenaline when I traded. Even when I ended up in hospital on a drip with an acute kidney infection, and doctors told me my body’s defences were no longer functioning normally, I didn’t slow down: I eagerly resumed my abusive relationship with the trading floor as soon as I could. I still felt invincible. After all, when you’re in your early twenties, and you know you won’t be working like this forever, what’s the worst that can happen?

And, of course, nobody forced me to do any of it. I was not even driven by extreme poverty, like the tragic seamstress Mary Anne Walkley, whose death from overwork in 1863 so scandalised contemporary society that she made it into Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. When I came in a bit late or left a little earlier, I doubt anyone really cared. Nor could I claim I was doing it out of heroism or some higher purpose. The only person I was really impressing with my all-nighters was me. All the shots of espresso, the cat naps taken in toilet cubicles, and the heart palpitations that I wore like some sick badge of honour while staying late to fill in yet another spreadsheet, went largely unnoticed and were of comparatively little use to the world.

No, all the pressure, expectation and desire to outperform my colleagues came from somewhere within, as I can imagine it did for Moritz Erhardt – star pupil, sportsman, perfect intern. As he wrote in a now much-quoted online profile with regard to his love of sport: “Sometimes I had a tendency to be overambitious, which resulted in severe injuries.”
It could have been me or any number of my contemporaries found collapsed in a shower cubicle at 21. Mercifully, deaths from overwork or suicide from depression remain rare, but people are rarely able to “do something good” with their lives, or escape the rat race.

We may never know how many all-nighters Moritz had worked during his summer internship, and I’m sure speculation as to his cause of death will continue long after the autopsy results are in. But for too many educated young people around the world, their horizons, expectations and ambitions are limited to trying to work harder than the person next to them, because this has become the only acknowledged route to “success”. Until this changes, no amount of regulation on working hours or support networks will help very much. After all, any super-ambitious 21-year-old forced to go home at 7pm will simply continue filling in spreadsheets from their smartphone.

We would do well to remember that banks are composed of people, and are a symptom of our culture. They say every country has the government it deserves – perhaps the same could be said of the banks.

GQ: Never mind the cojones

Colima, Mexico. A body is lying in the sand, an enraged bull is charging around in its death throes, and the crowd are screaming: one of Mexico’s favourite bullfighters, Uriel Moreno, “El Zapata”, is not moving. Amid the screams and gasps, I can make out the word “escroto”. It emerges that Moreno drove the sword in, throwing himself bravely over the horn, the bull raised his head and threw him into the air, badly goring him in the scrotum. He’s carried out of the ring, crimson crotched, blood pouring from his forehead, only to re-emerge jacketless, bloodied but still standing, to take his bow and receive the bull’s two ears and tail – the highest accolade a bullfighter can be awarded by the judges. READ MORE HERE

The Daily Beast/Newsweek: French Laundry Revisited

Going to The French Laundry for the first time is like going on a perfect first date: you giggle excitedly, become tongue-tied, light-headed, and more breathless as the evening progresses, and try not to think about how and when it will end, because you don’t want it to—you want it to last forever. Back in March, all I could think about was whether I would see that heartthrob calotte of beef again, and after a tense six months of waiting by the phone, day-dreaming about smothering myself in hen egg truffle custard and “Oysters and Pearls,” last Friday night I finally got my second date with The French Laundry—this time on my home turf, at Thomas Keller’s 10-day Harrods pop-up. Read more here

The Spectator: A perfect pink drunk propping up the bar: pig’s trotter ravioli at Cityzen D.C

Part backlash against the expensive world of 90s ‘haute cuisine’, part desire to encourage Brits that eating can be a communal activity, not purely something to be done alone in front of a television, the force of the ‘tapas style’ food movement has made it somewhat difficult to sell tasting menus: why have 12 expensive, complicated courses when you can share a whole roast chicken and a giant bowl of roast potatoes in East London? Read more here