Thinly sliced: James Beard announces 2018 nominees, citizen-regulators feel heat of Monsanto’s ire, and more

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

Top chef. The James Beard Foundation released its 2018 award nominees on Thursday morning. This year, the foundation tried to do its part in addressing an elephant in the room: Voters were instructed to take a chef or restaurateur’s behavior into account when picking potential winners. The subtext was pretty clear—“No harassers, please.” The resulting nominees were 40 percent female, up from 27 percent from last year. The New York Times has the story.

Chemical reaction. A team of “citizen regulators” called the Arkansas State Plant Board voted to ban the pesticide dicamba, implementing the toughest restrictions in the country. Monsanto sued the board and each individual member, and one committee member said he feels threatened. NPR’s Dan Charles traveled to Arkansas to cover the situation.

Making Ronald proud. McDonald’s on Thursday announced its plans to make its Happy Meal a little healthier, The Guardian reports. Don’t get too excited: Even though the chain will remove cheeseburgers and chocolate milk from its kids’ meals, the changes won’t take full effect worldwide until 2022. Nation’s Restaurant News estimates the company sells 3.2 million Happy Meals a day in the United States. That’s one for every 25 children.

Hot fashion. Two things we could live without hearing in the same sentence: Cheetos and Fashion Week. This isn’t the first time the popular cheese snack has barged in on the apparel market. Last year, we penned an ode to a bizarrely poignant and Easter-themed Cheetos marketing mashup, which included a clothing line to help fans “get family photos on fleek.” But this Cheetos appearance on the runway for a high-end label’s winter collection doesn’t actually appear to be all for the promo. Which begs the question: Will Flamin’ Hots replace the Campbell’s soup cans on Uniqlo t-shirts of the future?

Worker wellbeing. A proposal in Washington to provide free mental health resources to agricultural workers is another step closer to reality. As we’ve reported, bipartisan House Bill 2671 would develop a pilot program aimed at reducing suicide and substance abuse in farming communities. The bill passed in the Washington State House on February 13 and is now under consideration in the Senate. Stay tuned.

Connoisseurs. Forget Chicago or New York or Miami. The San Francisco Bay Area is the most influential region in professional basketball. As if the Warriors’ excessive three-point shooting wasn’t popular enough, now comes news that superstars are flocking to Napa Valley. ESPN dives deep into the NBA’s obsession with wine, and its primo oenophile, LeBron James, reportedly the first visitor to a top winery after wildfires ravaged the hillsides. His former teammate, Dwyane Wade, who “craves” cabernet, even started his own label. As we reported, smoke taint has just about ruined the year’s cabernet harvest. Maybe he should try the chardonnay.

The Counter Stories by our editors.