Chefs Without Restaurants

Flavors Unknown with Emmanuel Laroche

October 12, 2021 Chris Spear Season 2 Episode 113
Chefs Without Restaurants
Flavors Unknown with Emmanuel Laroche
Show Notes Transcript

This week my guest is Emmanuel Laroche. Emmanuel has more than 20 years in the food ingredient industry, and is currently in charge of marketing for a company that manufactures flavors for food and beverage companies like Unilever and Nestle. 

In 2018 Emmanuel launched the Flavors Unknown podcast. Every other week he speaks to the chefs, pastry chefs, and bartenders who are creating tomorrow’s trends. Full disclosure… I was a guest this Spring, and you can hear me on episode 65

Emmanuel has a master's degree in organic chemistry, and an internship for his MBA led him to this career in flavor manufacturing. On the show, you’ll hear his origin story. We also talk about his podcast, how and why he started it, and some takeaways from the guests he’s had on his show. Some of his guests include chefs Andrew McLeod, Levon Wallace, Philip Spear, Misti Norris, and today he’s releasing an episode with pastry chef François Payard.

Looking to hire employees for your restaurant? This week's sponsor is Savory Jobs, a job site only for restaurants. For just $50, get unlimited job postings for an entire year. Use discount code SAVORY10 to save 10%.

===========

Emmanuel Laroche

===========
Flavors Unknown Instagram
Flavors Unknown Twitter
Flavors Unknown Website
Flavors Unknown Podcast
================

CONNECT WITH US

================

SUPPORT US ON PATREON
Get the Chefs Without Restaurants Newsletter
Visit Our Amazon Store (we get paid when you buy stuff)
Connect on Clubhouse
Check out our websites (they have different stuff) https://chefswithoutrestaurants.org/ & https://chefswithoutrestaurants.com/

Like our Facebook page

Join the private Facebook group

Join the conversation on Twitter

Check our Instagram pics

Founder Chris Spear’s personal chef business Perfect Little Bites https://perfectlittlebites.com/

Watch on YouTube

If you want to support the show, our Venmo name is ChefWoRestos and can be found at https://venmo.com/ChefWoRestos. If you enjoy the show, have ever received a job through one of our referrals, have been a guest,  or simply want to help, it would be much appreciated. Feel free to let us know if you have any questions.

Chris Spear:

Welcome to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. I'm your host Chris Spear. On the show. I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry who took a different route. There caterers research chefs, personal chefs, cookbook authors, food truckers, farmers, cottage bakers, and all sorts of culinary renegades. I myself fall into the personal chef category as I started my own personal chef business perfect And now here's a word from this week's sponsor Savory Jobs. Did little bites 11 years ago. And while I started working in you know restaurants turnover employees four times faster than kitchens in the early 90s, I've literally never worked in a most businesses? What if somebody created an affordable restaurant. This week. My guest is Hanna Raskin. Hanna spent the and effective hiring solution for the restaurant industry? past eight years as food editor and chief critic for The Post What if there were a job site that only focused on people and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. During her time there looking for food service jobs? What if that site only cost $50 she was nominated for for James Beard Foundation Awards, winning a year to advertise for every job your restaurant needed? the organization's first ever prize for local impact journalism. She recently left the newspaper to begin Forget the big corporate sites like indeed and monster. Our publishing the food section, a twice weekly substack newsletter sponsor savory jobs has a job site exclusively for that will bring original inclusive and independent food restaurants. The best part is savory jobs only charges $50 for journalism to underserved cities and states across the American an entire year. And you can post all the jobs you want. And for South. The food section launched on September 15. On the show, we our loyal listeners use the code savory10 and get 10% off. So go discuss her experiences as a restaurant reviewer, the state to savoryjobs.com and discover the job site shaking up the of dining in South Carolina during COVID and her decision to industry. And remember to use savory10 for 10% off. And now on abstain from reviewing restaurants during the pandemic. We discussed whether or not a chef or restaurant tours with the show. Thanks so much and have a great week. behavior should be considered when reviewing a place. And of Hey, Hanna, thanks so much for coming on the show. course, you'll learn all about her newsletter, the food

Hanna Raskin:

Thanks so much for having me.

Chris Spear:

I'm looking forward to talking to you. You are very section. And we'd love it if you supported the Chefs Without familiar with my favorite food city in North America. So I Restaurants, podcast and community. There are a few ways to help. First, if you have a business or product, we're can't wait to hear some stuff about Charleston but also all always looking for sponsors. You can also support our existing the cool things you're working on. Great. So I guess we'll just sponsors like savory jobs. If you shop on Amazon, we have our jump right into it. I guess our listeners probably know you most own affiliate link, or be like cool kids Matt Collins and from being a food writer reviewer at the post and courier Justin Khanna and consider joining our Patreon. If nothing in Charleston. So can we talk about how and why you got into else, it would be great if you subscribe to the show, rated it food writing and restaurant reviews? and reviewed it and maybe share your favorite episodes on social

Hanna Raskin:

Yeah, absolutely. Um, I got into food writing media. The links to all these things are in the show notes as through writing first, like a lot of food writers. I went into usual. The support means everything to me. newspapers right out of college, but wasn't writing about food. I was writing about crime, like most starters, you know, working reporters, I didn't stay at newspapers, all that line, at least the first time around this time before the internet and I had these big ideas, my story should last longer than one day. So I went to museum school thinking I would design exhibits, which would have kind of a longer shelf life, so to speak, but still doing storytelling. As it turns out, once you get acclimated to the pace of a newsroom, no museum works fast enough. And the idea that your deadlines three or four years away really just blew my mind. So I didn't stay around in the museum field. But I did. I was at a master's program, where I also got a master's in American history. And so I worked in a food history topic. So after that, I moved down to Asheville to lead Mountain Lake trips. And while I was there, the alt weekly needed a food writer. So by that point, I had the newspaper experience, I had some food History Background, and I've been waitressing ever since high school, really. So I had some sense of how restaurants work. So I started doing this kind of work for pay in 2000 or five, I believe.

Chris Spear:

Did you like restaurants and dining? Like were you someone who always went to restaurants and thought they had a good palate?

Unknown:

Um, those are two different questions. I think. When I was a kid, I don't think I had any sense of what a palette was. I did not you know, grew up in a refined food family. I really much more so than being renowned for my palate. When I was a kid, I was renowned for my appetite. When I went off one summer in high school, I had the opportunity to be one of those homestays in France and my host families to invite over their friends just so they could watch me eat, because I think I was the stereotypical American. And how will I clear my plate and everybody else's. So you think a lot about you know, having a palate at that young age, but I've always loved restaurants, that's, you know, always been a really important thing for me.

Chris Spear:

I think being a restaurant reviewer sounds like one of those things that people think is probably more exciting and glamorous than it is right? Like, oh, you get to go eat out at all these places for free and have whatever you want. So like, Is that true? And what are some kind of misconceptions about the way the whole process works?

Unknown:

Sure. Well, it's definitely true that people think it's a dream job, I think in part because they think the eating is all I do, when in fact, that's like a tiny little fraction of what I do. So I do you enjoy going out. But when you're working as a critic, what people don't always realize is you go to every restaurant at least twice, usually three times and sometimes four, and then includes and especially the restaurants that don't seem all that great. So the fourth time going back to a restaurant where you're pretty sure you're gonna have a bad meal is not exactly a dream for anyone, I would guess.

Chris Spear:

I never thought about that, you know, you just kind of think about the one review that you see every week, but not thinking about all the places that aren't Amazing,

Unknown:

right? And because there's so many places that never get written up at all, because it's like, well, there's like nothing really happening here. So I mean, there are plenty of unmemorable meals in between.

Chris Spear:

I don't live in Charleston, but I love Charleston, it's probably where I go the most my sister in law lives down there. So we get down there every year. So I've really come to follow your writing and reviews. I don't know not to kind of give me an idea of where to eat. I think I just like the food writing. Like by the time I'm getting down there, I think I already know where I'm going to eat. Sure. It seems to me that you're kind of a controversial person. Is that a fair assessment? like reading the, I guess, like on Facebook posts, like the comment section, it seems like people either really love your stuff or have strong feelings about your writing. Would you say that's true?

Unknown:

Yeah, I think that's fair. I mean, I'm probably the worst person to ask because I don't pay as much attention to it. You know, there are a lot of people, especially in a polite southern city, who think a lot of things that they wouldn't say to my face, so I probably don't know. But yeah, I would say polarizing is

Chris Spear:

a fair descriptor. Don't read the comments section.

Unknown:

I always read the comments section. And definitely don't read the comments section. I usually respond to as many comments as I can.

Chris Spear:

You stopped doing reviews this past year. So is that right? Correct. When did when did you stop doing that? And what prompted that decision?

Unknown:

COVID. So I stopped. I actually remember it was my last trip before the shutdown. I was in San Antonio. And we had I think a review was gonna run that week or Maybe review I was gonna write. And if that at that point, we realize there's no point in running reviews because restaurants we're about to close. And I continued not to write reviews for I haven't written one since so whatever that was March and 2020, or whatever. So

Chris Spear:

yeah, like 1617 months.

Unknown:

Mm hmm. Yeah. And my rationale, there was a there was a number of number of reasons why I did that. I mean, there were some logistical reasons. One was that, like so many businesses, newspapers suffered during the pandemic, and it's we kind of alluded to earlier, restaurant reviewing is expensive. So the budget was significantly cut. But the most important reason was in to I mean, there's also the idea that, like, how can you possibly review a restaurant during the pandemic, I know lots of folks talked about this, but you know, they, what they were doing was just trying to stay afloat, which is not the most interesting restaurant review, because you're saying, like, what's this restaurant trying to do? It's trying to survive it. So that's really not the fun of reviewing. But the most important thing is that here in South Carolina, we went back to onpremise, unrestricted dining in May 2020. And I always have to emphasize the years I know they're alive states, they think of back until May 2021. And so because of that, it was impossible for me to review a restaurant without possibly inciting people to go there, which in the midst of a pandemic, pre vaccine was like a really, really bad idea. So I couldn't even be kicked out because even if takeout there was no guarantee that my readers will go sit inside the dining room and stick in the workers and other guests.

Chris Spear:

That's a really interesting take that you saw, like, almost like a moral obligation to protect people. I don't think that that's the stance that a lot of food writers took.

Unknown:

Yeah. And as I said, I mean, people were in different situations, like my friends who write in LA, like there was only takeout. So I understand why they kept going with reviews. And I understand too, because they were so limited out in California, I think there was a lot of creativity. We didn't see me that because we didn't have to have any of that. So it's a very different scenario.

Chris Spear:

South Carolina in general seems like a crazy place to me. I mean, we were down there this past May. And it felt like business as usual, which to me was like weird and scary. You know, I have literally still not eaten in a restaurant since March of 2020. Like, yeah, I mean, I've got two unvaccinated young kids at home, and we're just trying to protect them even though we're vaccinated. But it just seems so weird that like, yeah, last summer, people were sitting inside restaurants eating absolutely, like shell shocked when you walk by these restaurants and just see them completely full. And I you know, like good for the owners, I guess that they're keeping their business going. But it was just not how I was living.

Unknown:

Yeah, no, it was studied. And I think I mean, this has been reported nationally, but of course, people who are really unhappy about math mandates and other safety protocols knew that they didn't have to follow them here. So that's the crowd we were getting. So it was totally, totally wild. For a long time.

Chris Spear:

You don't want to wear a mask or get a vaccine go to South Carolina.

Unknown:

They don't. Right. I think that's their stage login. Yeah.

Chris Spear:

I'm so glad at least the weather was nice when I was down there that we were able to do takeout and some outdoor dining, you know,

Unknown:

yeah, that made all the difference. I mean, yeah, outdoor dining was very easy to do here. But just amazing. You would again, this was pre vaccine, and there would be outdoor dining areas just empty and everyone's sitting inside.

Chris Spear:

weird world. Yeah. When do you foresee I mean, do you think once like kids and everyone are vaccinated like when would do you think it would be like a good time to go back to reviewing restaurants? And then that's

Unknown:

that's a great question. I am planning to reintroduce reviews this fall, I think I mean, it's you know, it's kind of a day by day call. When I made that when I you know, when I when I planned on picking up reviewing again in October, November, somewhere around there. It was before Delta had really peaked, you know, things obviously change all the time. But I mean, I think now there are enough people who are eating inside that i na think, gosh, I mean, it's a really tough call. But I I guess my concern my growing concern now is we know I mean, the science shows vaccinated people are not dying, the way unvaccinated people are. They're not facing the same kind of hospitalizations when we're dealing with different kinds of risks. It's so it knowing that I know that people are going to restaurants and that's my job. I mean, really, my job as a critic, most importantly, is to you know, help people make decisions about how to spend money in restaurants. They know they're spending money. And I guess what, what occurred to me is this summer, I was traveling around and reacquainting myself with the South after the pandemic. And, you know, there's some restaurants out there that are doing a really lousy job. There are some that are doing a really pretty great job. And when I think about I mean yes, we want to be sympathetic to all Listen, the industry and everything that you know all this, they have suffered. But I think two of the school teachers and the healthcare workers who have gone through so much, and they deserve to have a great night out. And I feel like if restaurants aren't delivering it to them right now, it's probably time for reviewing to start again,

Chris Spear:

you don't see any kind of leniency period, then I guess, when you're going back to reviewing like, it's just, you know, because right now, it's so hard, right? Like, everyone talks about labor shortage and everything. At what point do we decide that, like, they need to be operating at, you know, back to normal, you know, again, back to normal, it's hard, but like, if you're paying the same price, like if I go to a restaurant, and they're entrees, $35 today, and it was $35, a year ago, right? Like, how much slack? Should we be cutting them? I guess, is what I'm getting at.

Unknown:

Right? I mean, yes, we, you know, always and this is true, whether we're in pandemic conditions or not, I mean, as a critic, you have to be cognizant of the circumstances, you know, surrounding a restaurant and its operation. So, yes, I mean, we know that, like the supply chain is totally screwed up right now, you know, there are some things that are absolutely beyond the restaurants control. But a restaurant that hasn't gotten word that like they should be paying their employees a little bit more and hasn't made those adjustments. And that, you know, I think the front end forgiveness is is not going to last long on that front.

Chris Spear:

And then I guess that brings me to another question, which is, how much should we be thinking about the way a restaurant runs and who the operators are in the context of a review? I mean, you know, in this day and age where it seems like there's more and more places where I don't know the chef was harassing employees, like does that weigh in at all I know eater was like not reviewing places at all if it seemed that someone who was running their operation or the chef there was a bad actor, what what's your take on that?

Unknown:

So I mean, like Elaine is this has been a reporter long enough to know that to prove those kinds of allegations takes a ton of work I mean, if you look at you know, even when it's something everybody has heard, you know, I think when it takes a sale times two years to put together a story on Edward o Jordan, you know, it's like, you can't prove this stuff overnight. And it's, you know, I absolutely believe in listening to every allegation taking every accusation seriously, but I'm also well aware that especially when women or people of color and power people are likely to try and take them down potentially with accusations that aren't true. So what I what I'm getting at is you really can't base anything on rumor it's just it you can't do it you need to report this stuff out. So yes, I listen, but I'm not going to strike a restaurant from consideration if nothing's been proven. I just you know, when you went again when it takes two years to do that, and I'm putting out a review a week at that you can't do it, you can't do it.

Chris Spear:

And then I feel like the new cycle is so short that people have forgotten like are anyone talking about Eduardo Jordan or anything anymore? You know, I feel like that was a million years ago when it was like maybe 2001 most

Unknown:

Yeah, so yeah, so that right exactly you're right there is a very short attention span and things like that. However you know when something is absolutely proven and I used to work in the Santa market I don't know I don't know so I don't know how that's played out. But for instance, there is a restaurant turn the Charleston area who has been sued multiple times in connection with sexual assault. There have been I mean, I won't go through all the court cases but once it gets to court once it's you know, the police get involved Absolutely. I won't forget about that even if the public do so for instance, that person's restaurants never once appeared in the food section of the newspaper here when I was running it and any context is that that's easy. But I would say beyond like the you know, the workplace you know, toxic workplaces and abuse and assault of you know, employees potentially what you can do is you certainly can assess some of the behaviors on display. So for instance, what I'm getting at here is during the like heart of the pandemic, I gave out a set of awards to two restaurants that were really doing a good job on the safety front because there were so many that weren't and I thought that was really important to draw attention to that to me that that I mean, to me that was immoral. Some of the things that were happening here um, in terms of the danger they were exposing their staff and guests to so that kind of thing I will always take stock of it doesn't matter, you know, how good the muscles are, if I think the the business practices are questionable in that regard.

Chris Spear:

I like that. It's kind of like parenting kids like I have two kids. So sometimes, you know, when my daughter is doing something really good that we would love my son to do We reward her instead of, you know, kind of yelling at him and just say, hey, great job. Yeah. Yep, well, you left your job at the paper to start your own thing. And I would really love to talk about that. So now you have a substack newsletter called the food section. Do you want to talk about that for a while?

Unknown:

Absolutely. Um, so the idea behind the food section is to do what I was doing in Charleston, which is the cover food and beverage, industry, culture, and anything else related to eating and drinking, but rather than restrict my coverage area to Charleston, to cover the entirety of the South, so it's kind of I mean, all all the states where you drink sweet tea, it's like 10 states,

Chris Spear:

how north is the south, in your opinion? Um,

Unknown:

well, there's some states that are split, right? Like, you know, I mean, parts of Maryland, or southern parts of, you know, right, like parts of Ohio are probably heard,

Chris Spear:

I live in Maryland, outside of DC, and I'm originally from the Boston area, and people talk about this as the sounds like I don't know, when I was living up in the Boston area, I never would have thought that this is the South.

Unknown:

No, I wouldn't say I wouldn't count DC. But currently, I mean, it's convenient for me, Napa counties here because I don't need to compete in that market. Like, the whole idea behind this initiative is that there's so many underserved communities where there should be food journalism happening, but it's, you know, I mean, the post does a great job, I don't need to, I don't need to be in DC. But there are plenty of places and Mississippi and Alabama and Tennessee where they don't have that kind of coverage, and they need it.

Chris Spear:

So you're gonna go out and find all these fun, cool stories that we don't know anything about. Is that right? That's my hope. Yeah. And when did you conceive of this, like, when did you know that this was a project you wanted to take on?

Unknown:

Something I've been toying with for a while, just because again, like, I felt like the work I did here was really well received by readers. As you said earlier, not all readers have. But actually the idea of like, it doesn't bother me, any of people, you know, don't like what I say or don't like me at all. It's when I actually just got an email from someone out of state saying they had a funny story about a certain person, and I had to Google the name, and it's like, oh, that's a restaurant or banned me from his restaurant, like, he doesn't even I don't care at all. Um, so anyway, so point is, it's fine if people don't like me, but the idea is to get people talking, and I think I was successful in doing that here. So, you know, it seemed I was like, Look, I could do this in more places. It wasn't possible to do that under the auspices of the paper. So substack actually put out a call, like looking for local journalists who needed financial support to get something started. So I applied to that, and they gave me a grant. I've completely forgotten I had applied until they did give me a grant and decided to run with it.

Chris Spear:

And not everyone knows what substack is, but it's a newsletter that there's both free and paid options, right?

Unknown:

Yeah. So every step step publisher can structure it however they like. So my newsletter is currently free, cuz I want folks to see what's happening with it. But by the end of October, early November, it will primarily be behind a paywall. All the free subscribers will receive is just a short email saying, here's all the stuff you missed.

Chris Spear:

And paywalls are a hot topic on Twitter, aren't they?

Unknown:

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, it's it's fun to have everything fully accessible. But you know, good journalism costs money. So

Chris Spear:

yeah, I mean, I totally understand like, you have to pay your bills, somehow. I don't, I don't know how people don't understand that. I mean, myself, I've done some independent writing for publications, both free and paid. And it's a ton of work. And I'm a super amateur. And it's like, wow, I put all this time in to write this 1000 word piece. And, yeah,

Unknown:

yeah, you don't want to undervalue it, you don't want to give it away. And my goal, ultimately, is to build this the fifth section to build it into a platform for other journalists, like, you know, it's fun for me to bounce from state to state, but it's better to have people on the ground, but I, I gotta pay up, you know, I really believe in paying people what they're worth. So that's what money buys.

Chris Spear:

I think we had talked about even like, at some point in you and I talked about, like food festivals and free food and that kind of stuff a couple years ago. Yeah, yeah, cuz that's one of my like, hot topics, as you know, you're having this event that someone's making money off of, and you can't give a single dollar ahead to the cooks who are providing the food and, and labor ridiculous, right? And the food. Yeah, the food especially. Right. Well, I think that's so interesting, because it's not just a restaurant reviews, its food writing, you know, like when you're writing reviews about restaurants in Charleston. You know, I wouldn't always read them because it doesn't pertain but now you're doing some real interesting food writing that I think is universal that everyone can enjoy, and hopefully get something out of.

Unknown:

Yeah, I hope so. I mean, that's really been fun to think about a wider audience. You know, I think a lot of what I did in Charleston probably was applicable to a wider audience, but you know, now making sure that it is on Yeah, it's a fun exercise.

Chris Spear:

And I just read the friends and family piece. Yesterday, I thought that was really great. And you know, something I'd never even really thought about. And these are the things that I think in the food industry more people need to be talking about. For those listening who don't know, I think you should check that out. But it's a piece on, you know, when places open and have a friends and family dinner and the cost and the bottom line? And is it something that everyone should be doing? What prompted you to write that piece?

Unknown:

So as I said, I think in the header to that piece, I had never gone to a friends and family dinner, they are a huge part of kind of the social scene here in Charleston, because we have so many restaurant open openings, and so many well capitalized restaurants opening. So you know, it's like every place, it's going to have some big, you know, shindig at the start, I've never gone because I don't accept free food as a rule. So it gets difficult when they're not handing out checks. Additionally, I mean, you can say that if you're reviewing a restaurant, you could say, like, Well, my early experience has no bearing on what I'm going to say, you know, when I visited six weeks, I don't really trust myself on that, like, honestly, I think humans are human. And I think if I had a horrible experience, you know, I think I'm some level I probably be biased, I think it would just color my impressions. So so I don't go early to restaurants. And I don't go to this private stuff. Like I think hobnobbing is not I mean, that's not my job, you know, my job is to represent and serve the general public. So I never felt comfortable going to one of those events. I've never been to one. But then I had this restaurant recovery series that I launched in August of last year, where every week, I was checking in with four local restaurants that were taking a different approach to the pandemic. One was kind of acting like it didn't exist. One was an existing restaurant that had shut down was kind of waiting out. One was a new restaurant that still had an open, they were supposed to open the week that it all started. And the fourth restaurant was one that made some pretty radical adjustments to its operations. So each week, I check in, see where they are, how they were doing, you know what they were gonna make it. Interestingly, when I started this, and August 2020, I didn't think any of them would make it that they would all close. Eventually, they all stayed open, including the one which had never opened. They just ran takeout throughout the pandemic. And then they were opening in June. And after all those months together, they invited me their friends and family. Yeah, okay. This is like, this makes sense. For a reporting standpoint, I've seen them all the way through. So I went to the friends and family. And I was just astonished. I mean, people were like, ordering the wine list and why, you know, we're everything on the menu. I was like, Why would you do this to these people? Like, this is so expensive? And what is the point? And that's really what I wanted to find out was like, What is the point? So you know, as I said, in the piece, I just think now is reevaluating every aspect of the restaurant business. This seemed like one worthy of scrutiny.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I've never opened a restaurant and I just think people spend a ridiculous amount of money on crazy stuff that I would never do. And I'm like, and when I have those opinions and put them out there, people always want to argue it's like, okay, but did you need $500 chairs or $10,000 chairs or whatever, like, it just does not seem like a good business decision.

Unknown:

Right? And I get it. Like, again, with this during this newsletter, I'm starting a business for the first time and I get it that a lot of these decisions are difficult. We're like, Okay, I'm putting in, you know, this much money here and that much money there and like, what's going to make the most sense for the people I serve in the end, and you don't always know that these friends and family dinners really seem like a, like a mess?

Chris Spear:

Well, that's why I think I had responded to you on Twitter, I'd said, you know, we had one here in town that I got invited to and part of the process was as they want to teach their staff how to, you know, deliver a check and everything. So they actually present the table with a full check. Now they let you know, this is comped if you want but like anything you want to put towards the bottom line would be appreciated. And I thought that was great. I mean, and my wife and I still paid the full bill because I just wanted to go check it out. I thought it was cool to go and see what the restaurant was about, but I wasn't gonna walk out and be like a $200 free dinner.

Unknown:

Right I mean, and so that's what I tried to allude to in the piece or maybe even said explicitly like this really plays into the idea of the public sense of entitlement when it comes to restaurants and that you know, this was especially true as we all remember immediately after vaccines right people were going back to restaurants and we remember all those stories about how people were treating restaurant employees and I had spoken to I can't remember what what made this person expert I don't know what line of work they were in but saying that the theory was that restaurants had been so flexible and adaptable throughout the pandemic, that people look back and were like wait a second like you're a you know, French bistro that just became a coffee shop. So if I want pistachio ice cream go make me so you know, it's like you can do it all. And I think that's just such an unhealthy attitude. I mean, I think you know, of course drivers have to be minimal. But restaurant patrons also have to understand how to receive hospitality. And so yeah,

Chris Spear:

yesterday maybe I think I sound like their Instagram bone appetit or someone said like that 10 new rules of Dining Out Did you see that sign in history, but I didn't click on it. I just went through really quickly. I think the first one is like the customer isn't always right. But just you know, basically like, it's time for us to all take a step back and think about like, what it means to go out to a restaurant, what everyone is going through, not just you as a consumer. And like maybe here's some tips to be a better customer when you go out to eat.

Unknown:

Right, right. Because it's not too much of a stretch from saying like, to the wage Am I you know, I was a restaurant server forever to say like, Oh, you know, why don't you smile when you talk to me to you know, during the pandemic, like you take your mask off, so we can, you know, it's like, okay, now you're putting people's lives at risk, like that customer is not right. And I am glad that there are a number of restaurant owners who have empowered their employees to take a stand in those,

Chris Spear:

which is hard because I don't think, you know, some of these things have turned to altercations both both loud and sometimes physical. And it's like, yeah, like that's just not a position anyone needs to be in like the whole thing with who's checking vaccination records at the door, like you're gonna put a 18 year old hostess at the door, checking this guy's card to make sure he can come in here. Like, I don't know, it's a tough spot to be in.

Unknown:

Right? That's I don't think there's any restaurant in Charleston that's restricted to vaccinate people.

Chris Spear:

Oh, I'm in Atlanta. I'm in Atlanta vaccinated everything like you want to you want to go here to this concert, you got to have your vaccination card, you want to go to this restaurant, you gotta have your vaccination card. Great. So bizarre.

Unknown:

So it's a whole other world here. It really is. I mean, it really it was so strange to see on social media, like you'd hear from these other cities and states are like, Oh, my God, like they are literally living in a different world.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, yeah. So how do you plot out your trip? When you're, you know, when you're thinking about what you're going to be writing? Do you already have a good chunk of your time mapped out already of where you're going? And I guess when you got there, like, how many pieces are you writing when you go to a specific place?

Unknown:

Yeah, good question. I mean, it kind of depends what I'm going for, I would say, generally, if I'm going somewhere, I'm going to report one story that I've already done some legwork for, and I know that story is going to come together, I just need to, you know, sit down with one person or visit one restaurant, whatever. And then I would probably try and scout other stories online. So it would be sort of secondary reporting.

Chris Spear:

But you do give yourself a little time for the serendipity of like, Oh, I wasn't expecting this to happen. And

Unknown:

I kind of started this whole adventure in July took this three week train trip around the south for just that reason, I wasn't reporting any story at all. And in fact, I hadn't planned to even like write about the train trips. I was like, I'm just that you're looking. But then everyone wanted to hear about the train trips I wrote about the train trip. It's interesting to as I think I said in that piece, when you travel during the pandemic, there is less serendipity like things just I mean, things are more planned things are more plotted. You don't I just didn't have as many fines as I feel like I might have in a four year time. But But I did come back with a long, long story list. And so yeah, I tried like, the idea is that this newsletter will as the name says, Be newsy, you know, so I don't want to, you know, be too wedded to any schedule. But I do have like the next three

Chris Spear:

months kind of planned out, and you're releasing, what, twice a week is that right?

Unknown:

Twice a week. So ideas like one big story drops on Monday, which could be you know, investigative piece or review or opinion piece, what you mentioned about friends and family that was a Monday piece, you know, sometimes just takes up a topic of general interest. And then Wednesday is just kind of like a little roundup short columns, short news items, things like that.

Chris Spear:

Do you have any favorite pieces that you've written over the years, like anything stand out that you're really proud of? Oh,

Unknown:

one of the things I was really, really proud of was the last piece I wrote for the post and courier here, which the document has just been sitting in the University of South Carolina library that nobody really looked at, as looked at. And it was part of the Negro Writers Project, which was part of the the, you know, the New Deal Writers Project program. In the south, those programs were segregated. So there were just under a dozen contributors to what's called again, the Negro Writers Project, including a woman who essentially reviewed restaurants in Charleston, she wrote, I think, was a six page guide to restaurants, you know, black restaurants in Charleston. And it was just kind of fascinating document because you don't hear a lot about that period in Charleston history. During the Depression. You know, obviously, we hear lots about war Revolutionary War. This is kind of a less well chronicled period. And so it's really great with he is able to track it down and track down her rail. Attention. I had no idea that she'd done this work. And to learn about her. I mean, she was this really like headstrong, very proper woman. And it was, yeah, that was a lot of fun just to think about, you know, a part of restaurant history here in Charleston that had never really been told before.

Chris Spear:

I didn't see that. I'll have to check that out. I'm sure I can probably still find it online. Absolutely. Yeah. I guess on the flip side of that, is there anything that stands out that's like your most talked about or debated piece? Is there? I mean, I'm sure there's a few but does anything stick out is like a review you did that nobody agreed with or a large percentage of people didn't?

Unknown:

I wouldn't say I don't know if I'd say nobody agreed with it. Certainly my most talked about review that I did here was of a restaurant that banned me before they were open. There was a you know, kind of group of like restaurant industry and kind of like powerful people locally who had decided that I was too powerful. And they wanted to correct for that. So they actually they had like this mob meeting seriously, they all got together. And the strategy was, well let's this new restaurant is opening, we're going to tell Raskin that she can't come and see what happens. Like we just say we prefer not to be reviewed. Which is an interesting, it's an interesting conundrum. Because obviously, I couldn't set the precedent and allow a restaurant to, you know, excuse itself from reviewing. It's not up to the restaurant. But also it's a small town, and there was no way of me getting in there without them knowing. So in this case, I ended up reviewing my friend's leftovers that she brought to me and boxes.

Chris Spear:

Oh, that's amazing. Yeah. Well, so I mean, like, we're not doing video for this right now. I have no idea what you look like. I mean, is has that been challenging the whole process of like, sneaking into a restaurant and people not knowing how you know what you look like? Yeah.

Unknown:

I mean, there's no question in Charleston, people do know what I look like it is a really small town. And so, you know, I take so seriously, as I've said earlier, kind of, you know, serving the readers and so that means like, I do public speaking engagements, like you know, the kuwana is want to learn how reviews work, I'll go and tell them so while they're not photos of me circulating that are current there, plenty of photos in the online, but they're all really really old at this point. It people locally know who I am. So it's kind of fun now to have a larger region where that isn't always the case.

Chris Spear:

Well, I appreciate that, you know, hopefully you get a non biased review, because as a diner, I want to know that the review, kind of representative of the meal you've had, I've talked about the, I won't say the worst meal I've ever had, because I've had some bad meals. The most disappointing meal I ever had was at husk in Charleston. And it prompted me to like, I'm not like a yell, but it was on my website. I waited almost a year before I wrote it. I was so mad because I think it's because I wanted to go there more than anywhere. And I had read nothing but good praise. And I went and had absolutely the worst service in my life there. And I was like, I'm not a reviewer. I don't want to be that yelper but I also felt like there was nothing on the internet anywhere that spoke about that kind of experience. I'm like, I'm so angry. Like maybe it's because it was my anniversary dinner. But like Yeah, I got a cocktail. And they never once asked if I wanted a second and my empty glass out on the table for an hour and a half. And they served me a dessert with ice cream and no spoon and it's melting and I can't get a server to come over. And it was just like almost laughable how bad it was but it was like it was the year they were called like the best new restaurant in America I think by Andrew Knowlton and all that. So I was like, Oh wow, this is the best new restaurant in the country and like I can't get a spoon for my melting ice cream. And

Unknown:

you know yeah, I'm totally with you Huskies really interesting huskins a restaurant that I don't wouldn't say it was a victim of positive press. But it certainly had so much of it that it was he got to be when I was speaking in the Kiwanis rotary club or whatever. And invariably, someone would come up to me after my speech and say, you know which restaurant I hate and I would say husk every time I mean, local backlash against husk what is intense. Um, and I think for the very reason that you just articulated I always thought it was that what made the locals upset about husk was that they weren't identified as locals. They were just treated like yeah, you're lucky to be here. If using that theory may not have aged well, because now everyone here is a tourist and I don't have any restaurants still recognize as locals like it's really it sounds a little but that was really kind of at the turning point for Charles Stan when it went from like, Oh, this for the kind of that local the tourists shift.

Chris Spear:

Now I will say, I'm a big fan of Shawn. And I did talk to the management that night and they took care of us at McRae's The next night. So they did make up for it in that respect. I mean, amazing recovery, but it was just like one of those things that like I go to Charleston every year and my wife We can go anywhere but we're not going to husk and I was like can we can we give it like another try? Like I really want to love this place she's like now like um yeah,

Unknown:

right yeah he really like I say I think it's just because there is was so many accolades were in people's expectations are so high that there is no restaurant in South Carolina that I know of that people mentioned so, so frequently like, that's the place I'll never go I also

Chris Spear:

was eating in the same section as Bill Murray and I feel like he got a little better service than I did and it was like he had four servers to my half a server so

Unknown:

right that's a local who still gets the local tree.

Chris Spear:

I guess you know if I was in Ghostbusters, different story, right? Well, what's Do you have a favorite restaurant down in Charleston? I mean, can I put you on the spot? Is it too hard to pick one? Or I guess say like, if you only had one meal, like if you're gonna go back and have one meal, where would that be?

Unknown:

guys just, I mean, gosh, I mean, it's like, it depends on the meal is you know, I would. I'm a huge fan. Gosh, it's really, really hard to choose. Okay, I guess if I were to go away, I mean, one of the restaurants I would miss most is vs kitchen is the soul food restaurant in North Charleston, it's been recognized now as like, as a beard America's classic, just you know, it's woman owned and run. And the food is fantastic. You know, that's where you go for soup, red rice and all that. Um, so I really miss birth, but in terms of like new wave, high end restaurants and things that Charleston gets written up for primarily, I, you know, I really emerged from the pandemic's such a believer in Edmond zOS

Chris Spear:

which is number one was number one restaurant for me

Unknown:

Yeah, really? I just went on Friday night I'd have like why would they ever have like a hard week or so I was like No, is that Edmond does it not only is the food great and they happen to spend not only talented pastry chef now as well and the wine list is really good the bars always been fantastic I mean, it's great Shea Everything about it is great, but you know they were just total leaders during the pandemic in terms of taking care of their people take care of their staff taking care of their guests. I know so many people who wouldn't eat anywhere else was the safest place in Charleston

Chris Spear:

and they were amazing outdoor dining space

Unknown:

amazing outdoor dining space they were just they were creative you know and then and just so caring they initiated a back you know when this wasn't happening they had weekly COVID testing for any hospitality employee in the city you know, they're like we got to fix this thing which I was really impressed by so

Chris Spear:

I know they've had chefs there over the years a couple different ones but I'm a big fan of Bob cook and everything Bob's done and where he's been and when he moved in there I was like yeah this just as the icing on the cake to make it my favorite place I'm already a big beer guy. So we end up and it's it's fun like we take the kids there there's always stuff for the kids to eat and

Unknown:

completely I mean it's as I said, a lot of people who were smart weren't eating anywhere else.

Chris Spear:

And I know you just started this new project but do you have anything else on the horizon or is this enough for now?

Unknown:

Oh, other things I'm doing I this is pretty much it right now. I'm trying to if I'm working anything else, I mean, anything i'm doing i'm trying to kind of fold into this. So anything new I come up with confined in this appsec? I'd

Chris Spear:

say yeah, no, no pressure to start a new business. But sometimes we have multiple irons in the coals, right? Whose food writing do you love?

Unknown:

Ah, boy, I am a really big fan of Brett Martin think he's such a good writer that I like I read his pieces multiple times. Um, I think he's just terrific. What other food right and right now I'm looking at you can't seek without video but I'm looking around at my bookcases to see who else I've been reading. I mean, I try to read from, you know, from different eras and different places. It's really fun. I had the opportunity a few years ago to go to India and to meet some food writers there. And you know, I don't know if I would say that, like everyone should seek out this food or anything, but it's so much fun to read. You know, food writing from a different culture is a different approach. Different voice by enjoyed that. I try and read try to read everyone you know, it's a small world, so we

Chris Spear:

all know each other. Yeah. It's like chefs trying to eat at all the chef restaurants. Yeah, exactly. Yep. Was there anything else you want to get into before we get out of here today?

Unknown:

I don't think so. This has been great. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Chris Spear:

Yeah. And I usually kind of end with a question. Like, if you had to describe yourself as a flavor, what would it be?

Unknown:

Ah, myself as a flavor. I mean, I think, you know, I really like horseradish, which I think is like, really I'm gonna go with horseradish, right? Because some people find it hard to take, but I think it makes things more lively.

Chris Spear:

I love that and I love horseradish. Yeah. Well, I really appreciate you coming on the show, I'm gonna link everything in the show notes, people will be able to find your new writing maybe some interesting old pieces and where they can find you. What's the best place to reach out to you on the internet if people want to get in contact with you?

Unknown:

Yeah, I am at read the food section at gmail. So and I answer every email and I answer fast and love hearing from people. So he should be able, I mean, they can also find me on Twitter or Instagram, if they don't remember that email address. But I'd love to your books.

Chris Spear:

Great. I'll put that in the show notes. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. Thank you, Chris. This is really fun. And to all of our listeners, this has been Chris with the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. As always, you can find us at Chefs Without restaurants.com.org and on all social media platforms. Thanks so much, and have a great day. Thanks for listening to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. And if you're interested in being a guest on the show, or sponsoring the show, please let us know. We can be reached at Chefs Without restaurants@gmail.com Thanks so much.