“A New Start For Two Cool Moms” Transcript
Priya Krishna: Hello. I'm food writer and cookbook author Priya Krishna. Did you know that more than 750,000 New York City children are likely to miss two meals a day this summer? When class isn't in session, many children lose access to the free breakfast and lunch that is usually served in schools. The folks at Food Bank For New York City want you to know that unlike school, hunger doesn't take a break. Help them end hunger by providing meals to families and children in need. Visit foodbanknyc.org to learn how you can volunteer, spread the word, and more.
Kerry Diamond: Hi, Bombesquad. You're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe, and I'm you're host Kerry Diamond. Each week talk to the most inspiring women in and around the world of food. This episode is sponsored by the awesome folks at Le Cordon Bleu culinary schools and Traeger Wood Fired Grills.
Kerry Diamond: Some housekeeping: the Radio Cherry Bombe tour is headed to Asheville, North Carolina, on Saturday, September 14th. You can join us for a live recording of our show with a special guest panel, great snacks and drinks, and lots of networking. The event is part of a brand new weekend-long culinary festival called Chow Chow. For tickets, visit cherrybombe.com, and to learn more about Chow Chow, go to exploreasheville.com.
Kerry Diamond: Today's show, we have three very special guests. Erika Nakamura, Jocelyn Guest, and their baby Nina. Erika and Jocelyn are two of the best-known butchers in the biz, and they recently launched their new business venture, J&E SmallGoods. Think the hottest hot dogs, the coolest kielbasa, and the best bratwurst. It's all sustainable, flavorful, and responsibly sourced meat. I am a huge fan of Erika and Jocelyn's, so I'm thrilled they're on the show. Before we get to my conversation with these new moms, let's hear a word from Le Cordon Bleu.
Kerry Diamond: Are you daydreaming about culinary school again? Make this the year your dreams become reality with Le Cordon Bleu, the legendary culinary school. Study classic French culinary techniques and cuisine and patisserie as part of their exclusive nine-month Le Grand Diplôme, and graduate into a world of opportunity. You also can extend your course of studies to include culinary management and dedicated internships.
Kerry Diamond: Le Cordon Bleu has locations in more than 20 countries around the world, and located within some of the best food cities out there: London; Ottawa; Madrid; Bangkok; Tokyo; and of course, the spiritual home of cuisine and Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. Turning your daydreams into reality is closer than ever. Visit cordonbleu.edu for more, and let your culinary adventure begin.
Kerry Diamond: Someone came up to me and said, "I'm a mom. I'm working in kitchens now. Have you done many shows talking about how moms can make it work?" I was like, "You know what, we haven't." Because about two years ago maybe I stopped asking the moms on the show how they handle the mom life and childcare and all that because I was like, "Nobody's asking the dads on all these podcasts so why is it fair for me to ask the moms?" After I talked to that woman, I was like, "(beep) it." We're an entire podcast for women, so it's crazy that we're not asking them.
Jocelyn Guest: This is not anything you've asked me or necessarily on topic, but I got so mad on Instagram the other day because there was this Father's Day thing. It was like a campaign or something from Pampers about how dads are so resourceful and change their kids' babies on their lap, their kids' diapers on their laps or in the trunk. And it's like, "We've done that." I've changed her diaper so many times on the floor of the bathroom at Via Carota.
Erika Nakamura: It's a shared issue, not just some-
Jocelyn Guest: Yeah, and it's like, "I don't have a change table either, dude." Anyway. I got mad. It was John Legend in the ad and I was like, "Well I'm less mad."
Kerry Diamond: That's pretty funny. What advice do you have for moms in the food world?
Jocelyn Guest: Honestly, I think we're probably figuring it out. I think we're trying to go with the flow.
Kerry Diamond: You bring Nina places. You brought her to Jubilee.
Erika Nakamura: Almost everywhere we bring her.
Jocelyn Guest: Within reason because we're also noticing that she has a threshold, and we're trying to be sensitive to her needs, obviously. If she seems to be struggling, she struggled at the Jubilee a little bit because it got pretty loud at a certain point. She became-
Kerry Diamond: When there were hundreds of people?
Jocelyn Guest: Yes.
Erika Nakamura: Plus, a lot of throbbing uteruses.
Kerry Diamond: Oh my god, everybody wanted to hold her.
Erika Nakamura: That's certainly true. We wanted to make sure that at the end of the day she seems okay. We're just getting to that point now where she's becoming woke enough where it's not as easy as it used to be.
Jocelyn Guest: I think our thing is what we started telling her from week one when we thought we may have messed something up, we were like, "We're not perfect, but we love you." That's our whole mantra. We're inevitably going to (beep) this up. You're going to talk about something we messed up to your therapist one day. But end of the day we're like, "Okay, we're here. We're trying to do it together."
Kerry Diamond: You two weren't scared off from having a kid. Even though you were going through a lot. You knew you were going to launch your own brand one day.
Jocelyn Guest: That was definitely a conversation we had. Erika's four years older than I am, so she was ready before I was.
Kerry Diamond: Hold on. Did anybody grab a spoon? Could somebody grab a spoon? Thank you. Spoon number two. Nina, we have a spoon for you.
Jocelyn Guest: The spoon count.
Kerry Diamond: There we go.
Jocelyn Guest: All the problems are solved with a spoon right now, which I wished that never changed. I wasn't ready as early as Erika was. As soon as I was ready I was like, "All right, dude. I'm on board. Let's go." You didn't make it happen. You weren't like "Tomorrow." I was like, "If you're not going, I'm going to go so you need to figure that out."
Erika Nakamura: When we first started hanging out, I was like, "Look, I want babies. The clock is ticking away, and you're the person I want to have kids with so let's try to do that." She was like, "What? This is a lot." I was like, "Yes, but this is a real thing." I was certainly ready much earlier than you, but I think you were talking to your therapist about a bunch.
Jocelyn Guest: Constantly. Everyone-
Erika Nakamura: But she-
Jocelyn Guest: That's normal.
Erika Nakamura: You were not super into it for a while. And then this one day she sat me down, and she was like, "Here's what's up. I'm ready, and you should try to get pregnant tomorrow because-"
Jocelyn Guest: I literally met you at a happy hour, and I was like, "Order me a white wine. I'm on board."
Erika Nakamura: I was like, "What, wait?" Suddenly it couldn't happen fast enough.
Jocelyn Guest: I'm a fairly impatient person.
Erika Nakamura: It took us-
Jocelyn Guest: But it wasn't a big conversation. We knew we were going to step away from White Gold months before we did. We had to put a lot of things in place. Erika got pregnant that January, and we were like, "Crap. Do we wait?" And then we were like, "Nope. This is our thing. We're not going to let anything get in the way of it." It was scary. I feel like plenty of straight people get accidentally pregnant all the time and go with it, and this was our closest approximation to that.
Erika Nakamura: It's true.
Kerry Diamond: How have you handled childcare as you've built your own brand?
Erika Nakamura: I think the thing is that we do take it day by day for sure. As Nina changes and as her needs shift, I think we're shifting accordingly. We're finally in a place... She's almost eight months old, and we probably need to start finding childcare now. We've been fortunate that we haven't had to have up until now, and that-
Jocelyn Guest: She has all the supportive food world aunties.
Erika Nakamura: For sure.
Jocelyn Guest: When we were at WCR in Minneapolis, Faulkner and Kelly Fields were like, "Give me the baby." They would float away, and we would see her an hour later. Evan's always like, "Let me hold the baby. Let me help." It's so awesome that she has all these incredible women around her.
Kerry Diamond: Does it help that you two are pretty chill?
Erika Nakamura: I think so, to an extent. We try really hard to-
Jocelyn Guest: We're chill to an extent, or it helps to an extent?
Erika Nakamura: Both, to an extent. If she puts something that's dirty from the floor in her mouth, we don't freak out. If someone's handling her not exactly in the way that we are into, we're still okay with it. The other day my mom was watching her, and she was like, "By the way, I gave her a Popsicle." I was like, "She's seven months old, Mom. What are you talking about?" And she was like, "It's just fruit." I'm like, "No."
Jocelyn Guest: No dude, it's a gang of sugar and fruit.
Erika Nakamura: But we're still chill.
Kerry Diamond: I think people are afraid to bring their babies places. You also brought her to the 200th anniversary, and everybody was so happy to see her.
Erika Nakamura: Where Aurora Ferrara floated away with her. For 30 minutes we were like, "Where did she go?"
Jocelyn Guest: I think she said hello to us as she was walking away with her.
Erika Nakamura: Probably.
Kerry Diamond: We only have a handful of people ever ask, like at Jubilee, "Can I bring a baby?" We always have a lactation lounge now at Jubilee.
Erika Nakamura: I utilized it.
Kerry Diamond: When we did San Francisco Jubilee, I remember this young mom said, "I just had this baby. Can I please bring my husband to help?" And I was like, "Totally." They came in with a stroller, and he came and wheeled the stroller around the back the whole time. I hate that women are put in these situations where they can't do certain things because they think a baby's not welcome.
Jocelyn Guest: I think that's very American, too.
Kerry Diamond: The baby's not welcome?
Jocelyn Guest: Yeah, because I think everywhere people are like, "This is an extension of me. Let's go. Let's have dinner at 11:00 at night with my infant." Which we would not do, but other people would. I think it's fine. I think there's a weird division in the States.
Erika Nakamura: It's just as complicated as people's choices to breastfeed or not. There's so much that comes along with it, and there's a lot of shaming or personal shaming. I remember when I was trying to breastfeed Nina and was really struggling through it. We had a therapist we were seeing. She was like, "You know what, Erika? I think you actually are having a harder time with this than Nina is." And I was like, "Oh." That actually changed everything for me because I was like, "Okay, I can actually be in public and not cover myself up and not feel modest." You do what you do because that's your number one priority, right? I think we've definitely figured it out in a lot of great ways.
Kerry Diamond: I have this awful theory that America secretly hates moms-
Jocelyn Guest: 100%.
Kerry Diamond: Nothing is set up to make life easy on moms.
Jocelyn Guest: Now that there are... This is going to get me in trouble. I'm going to say it anyways. Now that there's just men having babies, gay men couples, wait for all those (beep) changing tables to show up everywhere. Great, but it's also like, "Come on, dude. What about us?"
Kerry Diamond: But that's what it takes to get more of those. Moms pushing their giant strollers down the sidewalk and people mad that they're taking up all the space. I'm like, "Shut up. She has a baby. Jump into the street. Get out of the way." The thing that makes me 100% bonkers is the subway situation.
Erika Nakamura: We haven't taken her on the subway yet.
Kerry Diamond: When people do not help moms carry strollers up the stairs I get so mad.
Erika Nakamura: I used to nanny for these two-and-a-half-hear-old twins when I first moved to New York. They lived in Washington Heights, and getting them on the train I literally thought I was going to die. I was carrying one of them like a book, and one of them I was dragging like, "Fuck. There's a turnstile, what do I do?" It's so crazy.
Kerry Diamond: I always ask, can I help?" There's me and the mom carrying this 800-pound stroller, and I'm like, "When did strollers get so big?" As one young, able-bodied man after another walks up the stairs two at a time past us.
Jocelyn Guest: Huffing and puffing. We're stroller-light.
Erika Nakamura: We try really hard to be... It's true.
Jocelyn Guest: That's because I'm cheap, I think.
Erika Nakamura: I don't know. We've witnessed every bizarro situation. For me as a pregnant person trying to get a seat in the subway, which is always really delightful. Especially when you're not huge, you don't present very pregnantly because people are afraid to even address it. I'd have to huff and puff and rub my belly and rub my back, and it's like-
Kerry Diamond: But that's good. I feel like there needs to be a pin or something.
Erika Nakamura: They have one in Japan.
Kerry Diamond: They do?
Erika Nakamura: They have shirts or something. Your dad was telling us. It's like a little badge where you're with child.
Kerry Diamond: There should be some kind of pin because there have been times where I have gotten up, not knowing if the woman was actually pregnant or not. Then I'll get up and pretend I'm getting off at the next stop, and I won't make eye contact. I'll casually stand in front of the door.
Erika Nakamura: I got asked if I was pregnant years ago, in 2006 or something, and I was so mad. I think I took a chair, but I angrily wished the man a happy Fourth of July because it was my only recourse. I was livid. When we had our place on the Upper West Side, it's stroller central.
Jocelyn Guest: We lived in a baby dorm.
Erika Nakamura: We did. At the time-
Jocelyn Guest: There was naked babies wandering the halls.
Kerry Diamond: We need another spoon.
Jocelyn Guest: One more spoon, please.
Erika Nakamura: That one's fine, it just hit my one shoe.
Kerry Diamond: Just bring a whole box of spoons.
Erika Nakamura: White Gold wasn't very spacious. Thank you. Oh my goodness.
Jocelyn Guest: You're the greatest.
Erika Nakamura: You have five spoons.
Kerry Diamond: Julia the intern can add this to her job description.
Jocelyn Guest: An embarrassment of riches, Nina. Look at that.
Kerry Diamond: She's mesmerized. So Upper West Side, stroller central?
Erika Nakamura: Upper West Side, it's stroller central. On a Saturday when it was the busiest service, you'd get six strollers blocking an entire section. I'd usually be expoing and also running food at the same time, which is a lot of hurdling and ducking and things like that.
Jocelyn Guest: Tables were close together. It wasn't-
Kerry Diamond: I remember.
Erika Nakamura: I'd get pretty frustrated frequently. But then I also realized that we also were a restaurant that didn't have a changing table. If you make it hard for people, they're going to make it hard for you. This is tit for tat. I think-
Jocelyn Guest: We went to a restaurant once, sorry to interrupt you, in Livingston Manor, and there was this changing table, a proper one, in the restroom and wipes-
Erika Nakamura: And everything.
Jocelyn Guest: Cream. I was like, "These people are parents. This is amazing." It was awesome.
Kerry Diamond: It also is a little better outside of New York.
Jocelyn Guest: 100%.
Kerry Diamond: The real reason you're here is to talk about your new company, J&E SmallGoods. How did you come up with the name?
Jocelyn Guest: You came up with the name yet again.
Erika Nakamura: Did I?
Jocelyn Guest: You're nailing it, yeah.
Erika Nakamura: I don't know. We have a process, and I think this time around we really wanted to put our own mark on it. It's certainly why our initials are on there. That was very, very important. We talked a lot about meat company, sausage company. There's every kind of combination you can have there. It's funny too because as we've been sharing details about this company with folks and getting advice, people are like, "SmallGoods, that sounds like it could be chachkies or-
Kerry Diamond: But that's great because you can take it in any direction.
Erika Nakamura: Totally.
Jocelyn Guest: We didn't want to pin ourselves in.
Erika Nakamura: That's true. The actual term "small goods" is a term used in Australia and in New Zealand, which specifically identifies added value product of meat. Usually deli meats and sausages, which is why we chose that. We have the opportunity to take it into rubs, or whether it's cutlery if we wanted to, or an affordable knife line, which we've talked about.
Kerry Diamond: A nice cutting board, which everyone needs. Aprons, the whole nine yards. The name's brilliant in that respect.
Erika Nakamura: Totally. Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: You launched with three products. Tell us the three.
Jocelyn Guest: It's bratwurst, kielbasa, and hotdog. The reason why we did that was because as butchers, we've shown our range in all sorts of-
Kerry Diamond: She loves Lauren. She keeps dropping it because she likes when you pick it up. That's very funny. Everybody knows what a hotdog is, but not everybody knows what's in a hotdog.
Jocelyn Guest: That's true.
Kerry Diamond: Can you walk us through-
Erika Nakamura: You often don't want to know.
Kerry Diamond: Right, but that's-
Erika Nakamura: What do you call it, babe?
Jocelyn Guest: Lips and assholes.
Kerry Diamond: Ouch.
Jocelyn Guest: It's what my dad told me. That was one of the first things he taught me as a child was "You never want to see a hotdog get made."
Kerry Diamond: Is that's what's in a J&E SmallGoods hotdog?
Jocelyn Guest: No.
Kerry Diamond: I would love for you to walk us through each of the three, and what the ingredients are because I don't know what makes a bratwurst a bratwurst or a kielbasa a kielbasa. Educate us.
Erika Nakamura: Let's start with hotdogs, I guess.
Kerry Diamond: This is so hilarious, this game they are playing.
Erika Nakamura: The thing that we do with any of our sausages is that it's literally meat and fat and spices, and that's about it.
Jocelyn Guest: That is about it.
Erika Nakamura: When it comes to hotdogs, it is beef, lean, grass-fed beef. It's 100% grass fed.
Kerry Diamond: It's a beef hotdog?
Erika Nakamura: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: But there's such a thing as a pork hotdog, right?
Erika Nakamura: That would be a frank. I think that's what you call a frank.
Jocelyn Guest: This is beef and pork.
Erika Nakamura: Totally. We use a blend of beef and pork. In the past it's always been lean meat and fat that we add into it. In terms of the way we like to make it work is that it's a little bit harder to add fat into it because especially from a labeling perspective, you have to write it out. What we chose to do with this is we use pork jowl. It's still a fairly fatty cut, but it is a cut. It does have some flecks of meat in. It felt really good to use pork jowl because it's not a cut that's frequently used in a lot of places. You might see it as guanciale or something like that. For us to be able to utilize a portion of the pig head felt really sustainable to us.
Erika Nakamura: Along with that, what are the spices in there?
Jocelyn Guest: There's a bunch. There's garlic, there's white pepper, there's mustard powder, onion powder-
Erika Nakamura: Marjoram.
Jocelyn Guest: Paprika.
Kerry Diamond: "Paprika," is that how you pronounce it?
Jocelyn Guest: It isn't, I just think it's funny to be a jackass.
Erika Nakamura: My mom pronounces it "paprika."
Kerry Diamond: She does?
Erika Nakamura: That she does.
Jocelyn Guest: She also says "basil" and "aloe" instead of "aloe." That's not a regional thing anywhere. That definitely has the most spices in it.
Erika Nakamura: We do spell it out, though, on the box. It's all there.
Jocelyn Guest: There's some Worcestershire powder, which I was really excited about. I found that in Kalustyan's one day, and I was like, "What?" Now I try to put it in everything I make. The brat is super straightforward. It's garlic, ginger, nutmeg. It's an all-pork sausage. I really like it. It's-
Kerry Diamond: What makes a bratwurst a bratwurst though?
Erika Nakamura: Bratwurst is very classic German style sausage. Sausages actually come from that region, right? It comes from the Thüringer region of Germany. The specification is actually in the list of spices. The blend that you just mentioned is actually what creates the bratwurst.
Jocelyn Guest: There you go. I knew all along.
Erika Nakamura: Totally. The flavor profile is super important. The same is, there are certain products that are made in certain regions, and you can only call it that, like champagne. You know what I mean?
Kerry Diamond: How about kielbasa? What makes a kielbasa a kielbasa?
Jocelyn Guest: Our kielbasa is beef and pork. You can get turkey kielbasa, I think, from Hillshire Farms. I don't think the protein actually is specified as far as I know.
Erika Nakamura: There's a whole history. "Kielbasa" is actually a term in Polish that refers to a sausage. It's a very broad term. You can find a number of different types of kielbasa, so to speak.
Kerry Diamond: So bratwurst is German, kielbasa is Polish?
Erika Nakamura: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: You started with those three. Tell us about the distribution. Where can people buy J&E SmallGoods?
Jocelyn Guest: Online, largely. We just launched our e-commerce site this week. We are running around, selling sausages, doing a little bit of self-distribution. It'll definitely be at Mekelburg's. We've got some-
Kerry Diamond: Where's Mekelburg's? I saw on your Instagram that's your first point of distribution. Congratulations.
Jocelyn Guest: Yeah. There's one... Thank you.
Erika Nakamura: Thank you. The original one is in Clinton Hill on Grand, I think. In Clifton.
Jocelyn Guest: We used to live around the corner from there, so when they opened, that part of Clinton Hill was a bit of a desert.
Erika Nakamura: Like a food desert?
Jocelyn Guest: Yeah. We would go to Speedy Romeo every day because that was on our other corner. The Key Food closed, which is so common in every little neighborhood in New York. We're like, "The grocery store that's actually helpful closes." Then Mekelburg's opened, and it was great because it was a bar, café, plus grocery store. I think we were probably among the first people that wandered in there. We're always the people that are like, "Hey, what's your deal? What're you selling? What's your background? Talk to us. We're butchers. What's up?"
Erika Nakamura: They have a meat counter up front, so of course we got nosy about that. Then we started talking to them about all these other things. At certain points we even talked about helping them out with their program, which never quite happened. As we were putting J&E together we reached out to them and they were like, I think they said yes to carrying it without even tasting the product because-"
Jocelyn Guest: Without even knowing what the products were.
Kerry Diamond: People trust you two.
Jocelyn Guest: I like to think that.
Erika Nakamura: I think that's true.
Kerry Diamond: You have a pretty good pedigree.
Erika Nakamura: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: How did you determine pricing because along with that pedigree you're both snobs about meat, and you're using grass-fed beef like you mentioned, Erika?
Erika Nakamura: Trying to find a heritage for it.
Kerry Diamond: I know you two well enough to know that you're not going to want to price it so that people can't enjoy it.
Jocelyn Guest: That was one of the big inspirations for us to start this company. We both have siblings that live not in major metropolitan areas with bespoke, nice butcher shops. We wanted everybody to have access, to walk into a grocery store and be like, "I can have a hotdog and not have a moral crisis about it." That was one of our big inspirations, I guess.
Jocelyn Guest: Along with starting this company, we had to take a deep breath and be like, "We're going to work with a production partner, and we're still going to work with these small farms that we can stand behind." But we're going to use a family-owned distribution company that can corral them all together and do all the logistics because we're used to butcher shops calling our dude who drives the truck and be like, "Yo, we need four cows." He's like, "Okay, I'll bring them Tuesday," and that's not this. We have to have more systems in place.
Jocelyn Guest: These guys are based in the Bronx, and they work with a bunch of small farms in the Finger Lakes and in Vermont and in Pennsylvania. They had that infrastructure to make that more affordable rather than having to hire a dude to drive it and having to put all those things in place. The way that that helps us with our bottom line and getting it out to people is that they work with coops with farms so that not one farmer is inundated with like, "Hi, I need 3,000 pounds of pork, please." That way we can keep our sourcing standards where they are, but we're being a little less precious.
Erika Nakamura: As we grow larger, we don't have to worry about being so precious about the sourcing and struggling to maintain exactly what we're about from a branding perspective and falling short to maintain that. This allows us to do so, and as we grow we see ourselves doing it in a few different ways. One of the things that we've talked a lot about is to cut out the continent in a few different regions so to speak, and within each region finding our own sourcing. Farmers, co-manufacturers, distribution, outlets, and forming little units that can do business within that region, patchworking the whole thing together to come up with a more nationally facing brand.
Kerry Diamond: How did you fund this whole operation?
Erika Nakamura: We are still working on that as well. It's been an interesting experience, for sure. At the ground level we had some really great support from some past customers who really believe in what we do and who really have always been very supportive. That was great. That's allowed us to do all the legwork to get us this far.
Jocelyn Guest: We also did some self-funding, which is always a joy. We've got to-
Erika Nakamura: Especially when you're expecting a baby, and you're like, "This whole funding is charming."
Jocelyn Guest: Maybe that's why we are stroller-light. "Well, we've got to make this commercial run."
Kerry Diamond: You're preaching to the choir here, but I think for the next duration of whatever I do I'm not draining my bank account again and putting it on credit cards.
Erika Nakamura: Yeah. You've got to have that boundary because otherwise you'll get grumpy, and it'll be much more stressful. At least for me, I don't know.
Kerry Diamond: There's definitely that. I was listening to an interesting podcast, it might've been Reid Hoffman's show "Master of Scale." I learned so much from it. He's not anti-bootstrapping, but he prefers that entrepreneurs go seek funding elsewhere because he thinks you are shutting yourself off from a potential brain trust.
Jocelyn Guest: I love that.
Kerry Diamond: He did an episode with MailChimp because MailChimp is totally self-funded or was for a long time. He said even though they're a success story, are there people they could have had access to who could've helped them along the way? That really sunk in with me. I was like, "Wow." Especially today there are so many smart people out there who want to help.
Jocelyn Guest: I think also that's, at least as my experience as a woman, I don't like asking for money. I get so uncomfortable.
Erika Nakamura: Which is why I'm the one who-
Jocelyn Guest: I'm from Virginia, and I'm weird about it. But I'm like, "Erika, you go talk to that guy." It's hard. It's really uncomfortable. Erika's so amazing at it, and the trick is to just be like, "Yo, I have this amazing thing. No pun intended, let's be frank."
Kerry Diamond: You have to take the emotion out of it. Just because they're not going to give you money doesn't mean they don't like you.
Erika Nakamura: Here's my story about the whole thing is that my first business Lindy & Grundy, which was wildly successful, which definitely gave me my wings as a professional and within the food industry and all of that stuff, was not only self-funded. I drained my entire everything, my life savings, the whole thing. I shook my mom down, my dad down, my brother down, and then we went belly-up. I screwed everybody over. My brother didn't talk to me for a long time, bless his heart. I love him so much, and he's still my best friend so that's awesome. It took us two years to get back to that though. It was rough.
Erika Nakamura: Now here's the next thing is that we went from Lindy & Grundy where everything was self-funded, and then you destroy everybody and all your loved ones. Then you move into this next phase, which is you quote-unquote "get into bed" with folks who have money, who are going to help you out, who are going to help you realize your dream. You've got to do it with your eyes wide open.
Kerry Diamond: I forgot you got burned. No wonder you're self-funding your own business.
Erika Nakamura: It really does depend on who you do business with.
Kerry Diamond: I'm laughing, not laughing.
Erika Nakamura: Of course, I know.
Jocelyn Guest: You have to laugh.
Erika Nakamura: Jocelyn always laughs when things get uncomfortable.
Kerry Diamond: We'll be right back with Erika and Jocelyn after this quick break.
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Kerry Diamond: We had grilled grapes. Yes, you can grill grapes, and they are so tasty. They pair beautifully with burrata and grilled bread. We also had delicious grilled vegetables, beef tenderloin that was as soft as butter, and even a stone-fruit galette. I had no idea you could make baked goods on a Traeger, but you can. Traeger Grills, infuse your food with wood-fired flavor. You can't say that about a charcoal or a gas grill. Cook alfresco and do it hot and fast, or low and slow. However you like, try it on a Traeger. Visit traegergrills.com to learn more. And now, back to my conversation with Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest.
Kerry Diamond: Welcome back, everybody.
Erika Nakamura: Yay.
Kerry Diamond: We're here with Erika and Jocelyn, and we're going to talk a little bit about their previous experience, which many of you probably know about if you're a regular Radio Cherry Bombe listener. They were partners in White Gold, or so they thought. That ended, there were Me Too issues. They left the situation that they found themselves in because they felt that they had no choice. Am I putting that correctly?
Erika Nakamura: Yeah, I think so, to a certain extent. I think Jocelyn and I did think we were going to be making moves before that, and that actually largely has to do with Nina, our little baby girl. I think we started to realize maybe the universe works itself out in that way. We were realizing that our 12- to 18-hour work day depending on, and six months without a day out which we've done for the bulk of our professional careers, wasn't super sustainable to having a family. As a couple and as entrepreneurs felt like there was going to have to be a change.
Erika Nakamura: The pregnancy portion of it was coming first. We were doing the work behind the scenes. When you're a lesbian couple there are no accidents. It was very deliberate, and we're very happy to be able to say so. But in the course of it, I think there were other things that opened the door for us to take a step. It was tough, for sure, but I think what was important was that Jocelyn and I got to really get behind who we are and say, "We agree with this" or "We don't agree with this."
Kerry Diamond: You mean in this current company?
Erika Nakamura: Right and even before. I think when you're put in an interesting situation where you're not necessarily cool with everything that's going on or however way it goes. You're standing at a meat counter. You're naked, you're open to the world, folks are coming in, they're asking you questions. Their questions might not also be "How much is that rib eye?" You know what I mean?
Erika Nakamura: When certain topics hit the news, it's open for discussion. It always is unless you shut it down.
Jocelyn Guest: That's the difference with being a retail butcher is there's no kitchen to-
Erika Nakamura: Hide behind. "I have to get something." It's like, "Nope, the cow is here on the rail. You've got to talk to the person." We were in touch with everybody who remained. I think a lot of people were like, "We're going down with the ship." And we were like, "Save yourselves." It goes down the way it's going to go down however way people want to deal with it. That's each person's prerogative.
Erika Nakamura: For us, especially talking about partnerships and talking about how we were raising money earlier. You make a decision every day about who you're going to interact with, who you're going to do business with. In a messed up way, when you're just a cog in the wheel and you're another working person, and maybe it's because you're a woman and maybe it's because you're queer, and maybe it's because you're a human who's just trying to get through your every day, you go along with it. You don't realize that you can take a stand or say, "No, no, no. I'm not doing this. This doesn't have to go down like this."
Erika Nakamura: I think we very clearly made a decision to be a part of White Gold because it got us closer to our dreams. It got us closer to our end game which has always been to give the people what they want. We want to give people great meat. We want to make it affordable. We want to change the way agriculture happens in America. These are lofty goals, but they were all real goals. It allowed us to get a little bit closer to that, but there's also a price tag.
Kerry Diamond: You didn't know that in the beginning.
Erika Nakamura: Of course not. Of course not.
Kerry Diamond: I remember interviewing you two when White Gold opened.
Erika Nakamura: We listened to that. I told you that... We totally did. It was pretty cool.
Jocelyn Guest: Rainbows.
Erika Nakamura: I think now when we look back at all of it as new moms and new business owners again coming out of the gate, we're able to be super thoughtful about partnership, about our mission, who we are as a couple, who we are as parents, who we are in the world. We were talking to Missy and Shaun about all this stuff, and they're incredible about that stuff. It's great to have people in the community who can usher you in that direction of being powerful and feeling your own worth and importance every day because it's easy to forget that sometimes.
Jocelyn Guest: Having the ability to drive the bus is so, so awesome. Scary sometimes, but awesome.
Kerry Diamond: What advice do you have for folks who have themselves in (beep) work situations?
Jocelyn Guest: Get out if you can, financially.
Erika Nakamura: I think-
Jocelyn Guest: That's ideal, that one, but not realistic.
Erika Nakamura: My whole thing is about intentionality every day when you wake up. You get a chance to do it differently every day. If you're making a conscious decision and you have the intention to get through your day, then get through your day.
Jocelyn Guest: I think also control what you can. Don't add to that (beep) ripple that's making things bad. Either try to stop it or start another one that's great. That's what we would do uptown. We would have birthday parties for people at our house, we would take care of everybody, we would hang out every day after work and do Thanksgiving and Christmas. We were doing what we could with what we had. That helped as much as it could.
Kerry Diamond: I guess what I'm thinking of, there was a lot of the burn-it-down sentiment back when everything was going down. In a place like New York it's easy to say, "Go find another job. Leave and go do something else." We all know what that entails. You have to go on job interviews and find another situation that's comparable to the one you're in financially.
Erika Nakamura: Plus it's really hard to find people that you jive with in the kitchen. That's so hard.
Kerry Diamond: We've been in situations where people have been like, "Go get another job." We're like almost not hireable.
Erika Nakamura: People don't give us the time of day, or they think we're straight-up not serious.
Kerry Diamond: Because you're overqualified?
Erika Nakamura: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally, which is flattering.
Jocelyn Guest: That's what I like to think.
Erika Nakamura: I don't know. I think you've got to make a stand. At the end of the day, I'm definitely an old-school revolutionary. I've been to 1,000 protests. For me the work that I do is my own protest against industrial farming and stuff like that. I think you have to live your life that way. However way you can, if you can make difference you do it. It's also important to be realistic about it. You can't beat yourself down and be a victim. You can't-
Jocelyn Guest: Also, you have to keep in mind that that choosiness and choosing to quit your job or whatever whatever, take a stand, that's a privilege for a lot of people.
Erika Nakamura: It's true.
Jocelyn Guest: When they had all those... I cannot remember the term, and I'm going to get it wrong. No immigrant work days or whatever it was. All these people would be like, "Don't come to work today." They need to pay rent and put food on their table. Don't put your privilege on them. They want to go to work and get their paycheck. I think that needs to be part of the conversation too that it's not realistic for everyone to have that luxury.
Kerry Diamond: I think one of the good things is that you can try to find allies today whereas maybe it wasn't so easy in the past because you were often made to feel that you were the only one who was being harassed or whatever. There's a lot more awareness that that behavior is wrong and shouldn't be tolerated. I do think about people who work in small restaurants or for small restaurant groups. It still has to be pretty hard-
Jocelyn Guest: Yeah, I'm sure.
Kerry Diamond: To complain, file a formal complaint or just up and leave. I hope things are changing.
Jocelyn Guest: I'm really excited about our new company because we get to be so thoughtful in all the policies. Martha Hoover is my idol. I'm obsessed with her. She does so many things right.
Kerry Diamond: Martha from Indianapolis and the Patachou group.
Jocelyn Guest: Being like, "We can put whatever we want on Instagram. Great bonus." But we also get to the side "You can have this work-life balance if you work for us. You get great benefits. You get to want to come to work and feel safe and feel appreciated." That's probably the most exciting part for me.
Erika Nakamura: I think so. It's funny because the late '90s there was this uprising of women, and it was the first time that people started to take this stuff into consideration. Then it got washed away at a certain point in the early odds. It's a conversation that has to constantly be happening. It's cool that we're talking about it now. It's cool that we've been talking about it for a little over a year in a very serious way. It's a big conversation everywhere, but it's up to everybody to continue that conversation and to be an activist in their own way, in their own space, and hope that there is change.
Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to Erika and Jocelyn for sitting down with me and sharing their experiences and for being positive role models. If you'd like to support Jocelyn and Erika in their new venture and want to try some great sausages, be sure to check out their company, J&E SmallGoods.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you to today's sponsors Traeger Wood Fired Grills and Le Cordon Bleu culinary schools. Don't forget we'd love if you could support the Hunger Doesn't Take a Break initiative from the Food Bank For New York City. Visit foodbanknyc.org for more.
Kerry Diamond: Radio Cherry Bombe is a production of Cherry Bombe Media. Our show is edited, engineered, and produced by Jess Zeidman. Our special projects director is Lauren Paige Goldstein. Our retail guru is Audrey Payne. Our publisher is Kate Miller-Spencer, and our theme song is "All Fired Up" by the band Tralala. Thank you for listening, everyone. You are the bombe.
When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.
Allison Morisano: Hello. I'm Allison Morisano. I'm the manager at the Grey Market in Savannah, and I think Sarah Ross is the bombe. She founded Social Roots, and they raise heirloom crops with the intention of nailing the best possible growing conditions. They're plotting to keep the low country growing for a really long time, and the coolest thing is that they're giving the results away for free. Farming families do not have the resources to spend their time hypothesizing sunlight ratios and all that jazz, but Sarah does. By sharing it she's building up the farming community, which is a great community and is completely crucial to the restaurant industry. Google Sarah Ross, Social Roots, and what's going on in Wormsloe in Savannah, Georgia.