“Chef Iliana Regan Burns It Down” Transcript

Sophia Roe: Hi, I'm Sophia Roe. Chef and wellness enthusiast. Did you know that nearly 340,000 or one in five New York City children rely on soup kitchens and food pantries to eat, especially during the summer months when school is out? The folks over at Food Bank for New York City want you to know that unlike school, hunger doesn't take a break. Help them end child hunger by providing meals to families and children in need during those challenging summer months. 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 your host Kerry Diamond. Each week we talk to the most inspiring women in and around the world of food. Let's thank today's sponsors, Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Schools and Traeger Wood Fired Grills.

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Kerry Diamond: Because I've been traveling so much, we have a special guest host this week, my friend Jordana Rothman. She is the restaurant editor-at-large for Food & Wine Magazine, and an all around awesome human being. Jordana talks with Iliana Regan, the talented and wildly creative chef behind Elizabeth Restaurant in Chicago and the brand new Milkweed Inn in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Also, Iliana somehow found the time to write a memoir called Burn The Place, which is out right now. If Iliana's name sounds familiar, maybe it's because she is in the Cherry Bombe Cookbook, she's on the Cherry Bombe 100, and we covered her wedding in Issue 12 of Cherry Bombe Magazine, the one with Sophia Roe on the cover. Clearly, we love Iliana Regan.

Kerry Diamond: Stay tuned for Iliana and Jordana's very honest conversation about Iliana's food journey, the power of memory, and how she came into her queer identity. Before we get to their conversation, let's hear a word from our friends at Le Cordon Bleu.

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Jordana Rothman: I got this book on Monday. I had read an excerpt from it. I thought that I was going to have to rush to get it all in, and then I just completely jammed through it because it's so exquisitely written and it surprised me zero percent to read that you had studied writing and that that was one of your great passions in life before you decided to cook, I guess. And what strikes me the most, in particularly actually in the beginning which I think makes a lot of sense, because in the beginning you are a child and you are remembering what it felt like to be a kid, which is a sort of wild exercise in general to really put yourself in that place.

Jordana Rothman: And you write in this way that is incredibly vivid and in sort of non-linear bursts, and it sort of reminded me of trying to tell someone a dream before you forget it, or just like recounting a memory that there are pieces missing from. It felt very, very human and I just wonder, how did you put yourself in that frame of mind to sort of get into the sort of richness of memory? Did you have to go through a process to remember these things?

Iliana Regan: I didn't have to go through a process. I think that I recall those memories frequently probably throughout all of my life and throughout my adulthood. I could have probably written just a whole book of memories from childhood and not moved past anything beyond the age of 10 or beyond the age of leaving that farmhouse. So, I didn't have to really do much mentally to prepare. The way I wrote the memories or the memoir piece of that was how I would probably tell it, and exactly how I remembered the actual visions of it.

Iliana Regan: So, as I moved on through the book having studied a little bit of writing, probably when you get to the middle section when we talk about my drug addiction and everything else, it might get a little bit more vulgar, but that's who I was at the time. And then at the end, it probably wraps up a little bit more with less profanity, which is a little bit now how I am as an adult. I mean unless I haven't had coffee, then it would be a different interview. I would be cussing a lot more because that's how I feel when I don't have coffee, but I've been caffeinated this morning so I'm fine.

Jordana Rothman: I thought a lot about the role of food, obviously, it's a food memoir. But one of the things that really struck me is the sort of shifting nature of what food represents to you, and to the various people who are important to you as you tell it in your life. I feel like there's an incredibly vivid and sort of astonishing and disturbing story early in the book about this sort of formative moment with your father and your uncle at your grandfather's farm looking for chanterelles, which are on the cover of your book, and then you're lifted up by a tornado and sort of edge very close to potential trauma that you don't articulate too much, but it feels like something quite dark might have happened were you not rescued at that last moment by another family member.

Jordana Rothman: And then at the sort of end of that moment, you talk about the cooking of the chanterelles with butter, and with your father, and this incredibly tender moment of him sharing how you would prepare them. And so, in that moment it feels like food is restoration and recovery and sort of grounding in nature, comfort and almost coddling in some ways. And then later, in the really wonderful chapter about your mother at Jenny's, where she's making pierogies, food becomes a sort of battle ground and this pride and this sort of withholding or giving as a gesture, and it's really incredible to see how it is such a powerful vessel and sort of follows you narratively through the book. I wonder as an adult now, and with, is it nine years sobriety?

Iliana Regan: Yeah, nine and a half.

Jordana Rothman: Nine and a half. Congratulations. Obviously a ton of clarity. You're married. You're a business owner. What role does, or what sort of metaphorically does food represent to you now?

Iliana Regan: Well, I would think that it still goes to that same place of comfort, and I think that just like alcoholism can be a family disease and an inherited trait, whereas you might not always have the affliction of the actual addiction to the alcohol but some of those isms that people talk about can really get passed down. It's not in the book, but every single serious partner I have ever had, every single one, and this is not an exaggeration, their father has died of alcoholism. So, there's no coincidence that we all find each other somewhere, and that somehow this thing becomes really a part of genetics and family behavior and learned behavior.

Iliana Regan: And so, I think I was with my mom so much as a child, and for her, as I describe in the book that food was the expression of love. That was the way that she absolutely felt love as a child, and so I think that that's where it still stands with me today, but you're right, there is some battleground to it and if I think about it, my mom ended up hating the garden and the things that my dad ... He did the growing and she did the canning, and for her, that was kind of a job but it wasn't her passion. She does love cooking food, but I don't think she wanted necessarily all of that in that way.

Iliana Regan: And so, I'm just thinking out loud, but I guess it is kind of a battleground because as much as I love food and cooking and preparing and sharing that experience with others, and really expressing myself through it because I do find it to be an equally creative outlet as I do writing. I think that running a restaurant though, as the chef and the owner and the business person of it, I don't just get to create the beautiful dishes. I create them, and then I have to teach the staff and then I have to re-teach the staff when they do it wrong, and then we have to serve it to people and I have to hope that they seasoned it right. Then I have to do payroll and pay the sales taxes, and because I do all those components because we're so small, I can't hire a management team and an HR department, that is my internal battle because I have to have this restaurant that I want to maintain and that I love, but a the same time there're so many things that are so just really atrocious that I hate.

Iliana Regan: And so that's actually a good segue to lead into Burn The Place, and the prologue of the book where seriously I want to Molotov cocktail this fucking place down, but I can't because I think that now it would be really obvious who did it.

Jordana Rothman: Yeah, so that's out.

Iliana Regan: You know, as I've been thinking out loud talking through some of these interviews with others too, is that I'm discovering that Burn The Place is also maybe a metaphor too, for just where I'm at in life and figuring out what I want to do next, because I'm almost 40 and I don't want to have this restaurant when I'm 55. As I get older, all the employees stay the same age, anywhere between 22 to 26. Sometimes I'm lucky and I get somebody over 30, and either they are just a really hard worker and understand the business and so they're really great to work with, or they already know everything and then it's also really hard to work with. So, I don't want to be 55 and dealing with 20 year olds that are not my own. I would like to have my own family and maybe when I'm 55 I have to be dealing with 15 year olds, but I just definitely, I just don't want it.

Jordana Rothman: You've begun the process of finding something else for yourself, it sounds like. You have an Inn in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan called The Milkweed Inn, which the photo's look amazing. I think it's in your epilogue where you're talking about the Silver Bullet with Anna, and it looks like you've made that into one of the rooms at the Inn, which is so beautiful.

Jordana Rothman: There are a few things I want to talk about in particular, I guess we'll pivot into the woods because it sounds like that's where you're headed now, which is only natural for you because that's where you started. It strikes me sort of towards the end of the book where you're talking about going back to your grandfather's land with your father, and there's this fear that really lives there for you and your father, but also your compelled towards it even though it scares you. You have to sort of go deeper into the woods to find mushrooms, and your father is sort of standing on the edge of the woods and calling you back.

Jordana Rothman: You mentioned that you wondered at one point if he might have been a victim, and it strikes me that the ways in which you sort of learn to work with the land to harvest mushrooms and to can and preserve and gather in some ways is sort of controlling that fear, right? Like maybe learning to make the land work for you is sort of getting in front of the fear that very much exists there, and it's sort of getting to a comfortable place of understanding that you have to live in lockstep with that fear, that you can't be bested by it and you can't sort of kill it so you have to make it work. Does that resonate at all?

Iliana Regan: I hadn't thought of that, but now I'm like, oh maybe this is like a really interesting therapy session, because at the cabin now it's completely wilderness. It's not like that farm where my grandfather had. About a week ago I went out to go foraging and I had to go about ... So, we're buried about eight miles down a dirt road in the middle of some small mountains and just thick, thick trees. There's nothing around for miles and miles, and then we're at least 30 miles from any service. So, I had to go to pick some things because along our trails as we're driving in and out I watch very closely of what is there and so I knew that some berries were getting ripe. So I drove about 20 feet and I saw a black bear. It was probably 6 feet tall and probably 400 pounds. I'm under exaggerating because I don't want to over exaggerate, and I think it was way bigger.

Jordana Rothman: The right amount of exaggerating.

Iliana Regan: Yeah. It was so huge that all I said was, "Holy shit," and it was running across the road from one part of the woods to the other. It was so black that it was almost silver or blue, and it had the little bit of the brown nose, and it was just incredible. It was breathtaking and a little bit heart stopping at the same time because I had never seen an animal that huge in the wild before.

Iliana Regan: So now the evening comes and Anna and I are outside and the dogs are in the yard, and it's about 9 PM and we hear a huge growling or roaring not that far away, and a lot of thrashing through the brush. It sounded like the bears were maybe fighting or playing, and so we got the dogs in the house and we went inside. Where we're at, because it's so wild, they're not used to being few by humans and so they're really not that dangerous because they're going to run before they ... That's probably why that one was running, because he heard my truck coming.

Iliana Regan: So they're not that much of a threat, but there is still a fear, and so this last time I was there Anna won't let me go foraging now. She's almost like the version of my dad, where I was going to a piece of land where I knew that there's was lots of dewberries and strawberries and I was like, "I've got to go pick them." So, she took the shotgun that her dad gave her, her step-dad, and had the bullets in her pocket. She has no idea how to fire it, and is like, "I'm going to go with you." So I was picking berries and she's standing there with a shotgun in case a bear comes. One, like she'll actually hit it and two, that it might actually die, because that's probably not going to stop a bear if it's as big as the one I saw.

Iliana Regan: But then the next time when I went out by myself, I was going to look for mushrooms through the area where we have a lot of pine, and I put on this full mosquito outfit and I took the bear mace with me because she kept saying, "Take a gun, take a gun." And we're not gun people and we don't like guns, but the thing is is like kind of when you're in the wilderness everybody that we've met up there is like, "Well, if you're going out foraging you should take a gun with you."

Iliana Regan: I was like, "Okay," so I've got this bear mace in my little pouch where I keep all my stuff that I put the foraging things, but I was going down by the river which we suspect they probably hang out a lot to go catch fish and eat and things like that. So, I felt like I was actually constantly looking over my shoulder, but this time it's not for bad humans, it's for real wild animals.

Jordana Rothman: A point that I would feel really remiss if we didn't get to talk about actually is the queerness of this book, if you're comfortable talking about it.

Iliana Regan: Oh yeah. I mean, I wrote everything I could probably think about as far as that goes in there.

Jordana Rothman: This is the gayest food memoir available at the moment, so I highly recommend those of you looking for queer stories in food get it.

Jordana Rothman: I want to talk about gender with you, because it's a topic that just keeps coming up in this book, and in many ways feels like something that you're sort of working out as you are writing it. It's such a character in the book, gender and your sort of tussles with it and exploration of it. You talk a lot about sort of in the first chapter of the book finding out that you weren't a boy, and it feels like in some ways the times when you were reminded of your femaleness were moments in which the power was sort of taken from you.

Jordana Rothman: I wonder too, as you sort of, and I think you do get here in the course of the book, whether that sort of questioning of gender is about that you are questioning or wishing that you might have been a boy, or if it's a sort of the childlike understanding that you were gay. You were gay, you were born gay and you're a gay woman, and before you sort of understood what was available to you you sort of had this understanding that, "Okay, I want to be with women, and a person who is with women is a boy."

Iliana Regan: Yeah. No, that's exactly right, because when I think ... At least that's how I think as an adult what was going on for me as a child.

Jordana Rothman: Right, a sort of heteronormative raising.

Iliana Regan: Yeah, it's weird to because when I realized some of those things, I mean I think before I could even talk, I mean my mom said I would scream bloody murder if they tried to put me in a dress. So from a very early age, and at that point it's not that you know, "Oh, I want to be with a woman." But then as I was maybe three and four and five, and I can realize now, okay, that was definitely where my head was with it. Like, "I must be a boy because I like girls," without that obviously being sexual in any way, but seeing like you said, the heteronormative relationships. And yes, then I didn't hear about gay people or know what they were or know that that was an option, and when I finally did kind of have little clues into it, then if it was a gay man usually ... Well, I don't know if Boy George is gay. Is that crazy that I'm like, "I don't know if Boy George is gay?" Is everybody like, "Ah, he's gay?"

Jordana Rothman: Gay?

Iliana Regan: Is he gay?

Jordana Rothman: It's sort of like when you say a word out loud for the first time that you've only ever read and you realize you don't know how to pronounce it. Well actually, but that moment in the book is so cool actually, because for me, that was my absolute favorite, most poignant moment when you're leaving the farmhouse and you are leaving the boy behind. Then there's this instantaneous pivot into an admiration of people who occupied this middle space, so Boy George, Annie Lenox, and it feels so right that you sort of get to this place where you're like it's not this binary thing. There are people who occupy this space and maybe there's something in that for you.

Iliana Regan: You know, as a kid watching that I was like, "Oh my God, what is that?", and just being absolutely enthralled. But yeah, I mean I know as the book goes on I still kind of was working it out. Honestly, I think that as a child though, if I was a kid now and that same exact kid and with knowing it's so much more widely talked about in TV and news and everywhere, that I think people even living in rural areas still have much more of an understanding of what gay and lesbian and queer and trans and all those things are, that I probably would have been asking my parents to change my gender. But I don't know, it's really hard to say because now as an adult I know I don't want to be male. Why would I want to be one of them?

Iliana Regan: But it doesn't still mean that on the inside I don't feel a duality, you know? And so, it's interesting because Anna and I have these conversations a lot about queerness and gender and trans and all these things because it's so fascinating and there's so many things to discuss, but when I meet men ... Like when women sometimes meet other women they feel a natural competition, I don't feel that with women, but when I meet men I feel it with them immediately and I know that other men sometimes feel that with men. I don't think it's that normal that women feel competition with men. Or maybe they do when they're in industries like I am, but I've felt that my whole life.

Iliana Regan: So I don't know if that's a testament to my gender or who I am on the inside, and if that puts me in that middle space of they, them, or just kind of like I am not either, or if that's a learned behavior from my dad who was clearly pretty sexist and obviously still says sexist things like, "I can't hear women's voices." No matter what, I love him, but he's still that dude that is like, "Oh my God." And growing up in that environment and also now currently in this work environment that is male dominated where it's like, yeah I feel like I have to work harder as a woman and harder to get recognition and a lot of things.

Iliana Regan: I even think I wrote in the book, "If I looked like Brad Pitt in Fight Club I would be so much more famous." That book would probably be on the Best Seller List right now if it were the same exact freaking story.

Jordana Rothman: Let's talk about restaurants for a moment, Kitsune.

Iliana Regan: Oh, that's so complicated because it has struggled since day one. We were under capitalized when we started it, and this is just like that honest truth. For the first month I was there all the time, but then I had to go back and open Elizabeth and I kind of took my A team to Kitsune, B team to Elizabeth, and things were just being mismanaged from food cost to too many employees on, et cetera, et cetera, and that has to be my fault because I'm ultimately in charge of that, but if I wasn't at one restaurant one fell apart and then the other one would fall apart just depending on where I situated myself. Ultimately, Elizabeth is the helm, that's the one that makes everything else breathe, and I was like, "Guys, if I lose this restaurant, then everything goes," so I have to focus there.

Iliana Regan: I eventually found a really great team there, because obviously it turned over a little bit in the beginning, and a great team that stuck. But by the time they stuck it was already like the newness wore off and people stopped coming as much, and so it slowly got slower as things got better and better. This is such a typical I feel like Chicago restaurant story. It probably happens a lot in New York, too. And even with all the great accolades like Esquire and GQ and all the local critics and stuff like that, it just dies down because new things open and people get excited, and you lose focus and they get distracted.

Iliana Regan: So it just became one of those things where I tried everything from little special omakase dinners that I did or little themed dinners or creating ramen kits that we sold, or just whatever it was that I could think of that fit within our brand. But then those only become short term little band aids. And yeah, we just never caught up from the beginning, and Elizabeth had loans, Kitsune, like $82,000. So it became a part, like, "Oh my God, I can't pay this back now," and one thing after another.

Iliana Regan: So it just becomes one of those things where it's like okay, when are we finally going to pull the plug? I kept keeping it open for the two guys who worked there who were really, really great. My manager who I taught to be my GM and my chef de cuisine. I guess I waited until they had talked about it enough and brought it to me to say like, "I think we need to close," and then I was like, "You're right. We absolutely do."

Iliana Regan: That was actually something I was discussing a lot in therapy was, "I have to close this restaurant and I do not know how to do it because I do not know how to approach these guys about it." So we were talking a lot about boundaries, because it's like why can't you just do it? Why can't you just go to these people and say, "This is not working and we have to close it." I'm the boss, I'm the owner. And for a while I was worried about the investors and feeling bad, and for most of them it's a good write-off for them for their taxes, you know? The loss.

Iliana Regan: Still, I was just struggling with it and it wasn't about ego and having to stay open because I really don't give a shit. I am so freaking happy that it is closed, because even though I wasn't there every single day and I had those guys in charge, both of them I've made space for at Elizabeth and I think they're extremely happy that they're going to somewhere that is not constantly feeling like it's in failure mode.

Iliana Regan: And I had Tim, my guy who was the GM, I had taught him how to do the bookkeeping and watch the bank account and all those things, so he was doing that same juggle, struggle game that I generally oversee but I was watching it happen as it would go down. The day he sent me a text message that said, "Hey Chef, can we talk when you're back in town?" because I was already up at Milkweed, I was like, "Yes." Because I knew it was going to be about that, because if he saw the bank account that morning which I had already saw, I was like, "I don't know where the next dollar's coming from. I don't know how we're going to do this." You know? And I am out of ideas because a lot of the things I do at Elizabeth I love, but I teach an eight week cooking course and most of the time in the past that cooking course, as soon as I got the money from it I would give it to Kitsune. I was stretching myself thin to the point where it's not good for any of the businesses either.

Iliana Regan: Well, I'm still teaching the cooking course because I love to do it, but as an example, I would just take on all these extra projects to try to keep fueling that one and it was getting to the point where Anna's like, "Oh my God, you're going to go insane." You know?

Jordana Rothman: Well you can see when you get to the point where you're feeding one to keep the other alive, and you get to a point where both could be threatened because of that and I think it's really important to reframe the idea of success and failure in restaurants. It's like our business is not comparable to other businesses in many ways, and so the idea of something failing is really sticky. I think that clearly there are a lot of emotional and business lessons to be had for you that you're articulating now. I mean, you trained these two people who are going to have a meaningfully positive effect on the flagship restaurant, and you were talking earlier about sort of like the biggest struggle being managing people and teaching.

Jordana Rothman: I always think about that when a historic restaurant closes, or a restaurant that's been open for 10 years or something. Historic may be a stretch there, but important to its community, had longevity, and the idea of something failing after a decade of feeding a community is sort of absurd. I think it's important to, and obviously this is very new for you, Kitsune closing, but I think in time sort of extracting the wins from that experience will be a meaningful exercise.

Iliana Regan: Yeah.

Jordana Rothman: Yeah, and I think too, you talk about process so much in the book. There's the whole "Yes, Chef" chapter, which is so much about sort of like once you sort of click into place you are a chef, this is who you are, teaching that is really hard. You talk about the sort of R and D behind getting a donut right, and you articulate so much what goes into making something not just good, but consistent, something that can be replicated. The same can be said of the experience of being a business owner, and it sounds like, I don't know, maybe that'll be your next book. I don't know.

Iliana Regan: The chapter's about my current life and mostly about the career, I realized even as you were talking about the "Yes, Chef" chapter my mind started to drift a little bit. Not that you're not a great speaker or interesting, but I'm like I don't want to have anything to do with it. I would tell my editor, "I can not write this," and he was like, "Well you have to put something about your career in there."

Jordana Rothman: What you're describing, it is much easier to look back on a journey and be like, "Okay, here are the lessons that I learned and here's the bow to put on it," because that's behind you, and I mean it's deeply confronting to write about who you are as a person now because you're not even 40. You're still writing it, you're still living it, and so the idea of capturing it in amber is disturbing, and so much has changed from the time of writing, too.

Iliana Regan: Right. Yeah, so in that chapter I just tried to best convey what the day in the life feels like, and maybe to take some of the shine off of what people think is glamorous, because I really don't think this job is full of glitz and glamor. When I meet people and they say, "Oh, what do you do?" Like when I met Anna's family for the first time, they were like, "Oh, I hear you're a chef. Now what do you do?", and I was like, "Yeah, I cook at a restaurant." Because I didn't want questions, I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't even want to say it was my own restaurant. I'd rather just say, "Yeah, I'm a line cook at IHOP."

Jordana Rothman: Like you've been there, right? I mean, I feel like I do that all the time when I'm traveling on the road because when people find out that I'm a food writer, their first question is frequently, "Do you know Guy Fieri?", or something like that and I can't manage it. But then sometimes I will say what I do, and then I get occasionally, incredibly tender things in return, and that's the dice rolls that sometimes people will be like, "Oh, I want you to know about this restaurant or this recipe that my mom used to make," and it's incredibly sweet and I'm so glad we had the conversation. But more frequently it's like people asking me about Guy Fieri. I don't know why. I don't know Guy Fieri. We're not buds. I'm sure he's a lovely man. Not really in my lane.

Jordana Rothman: Well I want to ask you ... I didn't know how our conversation was going to be because I know that you just are really clear that you hate talking a lot, and so I was like is she going to want to talk to me? But I don't know, I feel like we might get along. I don't know. But I guess a question that I always have for people who don't like talking about themselves is what do you wish people were asking you?

Iliana Regan: Oh, probably nothing. Yeah, I mean that's the weird thing because it's like, well you wrote a book and you have this restaurant that people are interested in, and of course you're going to have to talk about these things, and how can you so honestly express everything through food and through actually writing about yourself. That's the really weird thing, is because I am such an introvert I guess it just depends on what the context is in the situation about the talking.

Iliana Regan: My job that has become more than a chef is a problem solver, which is interesting and it's fun but the part that I don't like is people needing me to come solve the problems for them when it's something that they can easily solve themself or that I give them the actual authority and autonomy to do.

Jordana Rothman: I guess I'll end by ending where you end in the book, which is this really sort of beautiful meditation. Really emotional, beautiful moment of you and Anna in the wilderness just sort of moving around in your Silver Bullet and finding places to lay your heads, and you talk about not being afraid anymore because you have this person and you have this and the confidence and the steadiness that she brings. It's an interesting place to end, particularly right now I think in America, because it's sort of like a road trip moment that you're talking about, and sort of feeling safe places where you might not have expected to feel safe as a queer woman with her wife out in the wild.

Jordana Rothman: I wonder, I'll be frank and say that in many ways I feel more afraid than I've ever felt. I feel afraid, to the extent that my partner and I have talked about we actually need to have a sort of exit plan if things sort of cross a certain threshold in this country, where do we go? What do we do, and at what point do we do it? Because I come, my ancestors did flee and that's why I'm alive, and so I think about that. And I wonder if you were writing it today, do you still feel the same safety?

Iliana Regan: Well I mean that last scene with, that was actually last summer, but the thing is is Milkweed is my exit plan. It's in the Upper Peninsula and we're 30 miles from Lake Superior, and when you cross Lake Superior at that point you're in Canada. So, there you have it.

Jordana Rothman: That's brilliant. Our exit plan is Canada as well, so we'll see you there.

Iliana Regan: Yeah. Well, come to Milkweed Inn. It's completely off the grid, and it's going to be the last place that people are going to be looking for a bunch of lesbos and queers, so what we'll do is will cross ...

Kerry Diamond: Thanks to Jordana and Iliana. We'll be right back with a special speed round after this word from Traeger.

Kerry Diamond: Let me introduce you to Traeger Wood Fired Grills, a company that has revolutionized cooking outdoors. I had the opportunity to see Traeger Grills up close and in action at a special event we did this summer in the Hamptons and let me tell you, they are beautiful pieces of equipment. Some of our favorite chefs proved just how versatile and easy Traeger Grills are to use. 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 can make baked on a Traeger, but you can.

Kerry Diamond: Traeger Grills infuse your food with wood fired flavor. You can't say that about a charcoal or a gas grill. Cook al fresco and do it hot and fast or low and slow, however you like. Try it on a Traeger. Visit traegergrills.com to learn more.

Kerry Diamond: Welcome back everybody. We're slipping in a little speed round with one of the newest team members at Cherry Bombe, Miss Audrey Payne. Audrey was our intern earlier this year, and she is now a full time staffer at Cherry Bombe, and I personally couldn't be happier. Audrey handles all things retail, works with our stockist, and is our number crunching analytics queen, right Audrey?

Audrey Payne: Correct. Correct.

Kerry Diamond: I thought it would be fun for everyone to learn a little bit more about Audrey, so we're doing a speed round with her. Ready?

Audrey Payne: I'm ready.

Kerry Diamond: Are you nervous?

Audrey Payne: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: This is your official Radio Cherry Bombe debut, right? For the most part?

Audrey Payne: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. We'll leave it at that.

Kerry Diamond: Which city is the superior culinary destination, Sydney or Melbourne?

Audrey Payne: Melbourne.

Kerry Diamond: Which city are you from?

Audrey Payne: I'm from Melbourne, and I love food because I grew up there.

Kerry Diamond: What did you study in college?

Audrey Payne: I studied business.

Kerry Diamond: Besides me, who is your favorite podcast host?

Audrey Payne: Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway.

Kerry Diamond: Of course. Mine too these days.

Kerry Diamond: One food you would never eat.

Audrey Payne: Oh, I hate liver. Never eating liver.

Kerry Diamond: Really? Never eaten liver?

Audrey Payne: I've eaten it but I never again will.

Kerry Diamond: I love liver.

Kerry Diamond: All right. Food you miss from Australia.

Audrey Payne: It's a little cliché, but I do get meat pie cravings sometimes. Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, tell us what a meat pie is because I really am not entirely sure.

Audrey Payne: It's basically just a beef stew, and then cooked in pastry, but it's like a fun weekend lunch or easy bakery treat.

Kerry Diamond: Is it something you would make at home?

Audrey Payne: Not really unless you were really into cooking. It's so easy to buy.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. A song that makes you smile?

Audrey Payne: Taylor Swift's new album just came out. I Forgot That You Existed is really fun.

Kerry Diamond: Oh good. Okay, I forgot to mention you're our resident Taylor Swift fan. So Taylor Swift if you're listening and you want to be on the cover of Cherry Bombe.

Audrey Payne: Also, if you want to just hang out.

Kerry Diamond: All right. Tell us what a flat white is.

Audrey Payne: Ooh, a flat white is a coffee that I believe is from Melbourne, like all the good things in the world, it's basically just a shot of espresso and then the heated up milk, but no froth.

Kerry Diamond: Got it. Okay. Have you ever worked as a barista?

Audrey Payne: I worked at a movie theater, and I had to make coffee as part of that.

Kerry Diamond: Now you tell me that.

Audrey Payne: Yeah, but I was bad. But I don't think you expect a good coffee at a movie theater, so I was like it's fine.

Kerry Diamond: That is 100% correct.

Kerry Diamond: Restaurant you would love to eat at one day. It has to be a female chef or forget it.

Audrey Payne: I want to go to Misi. I've never been.

Kerry Diamond: You've never been?

Audrey Payne: Mm-mm (negative).

Kerry Diamond: We can arrange that. Chef Missy Robbins, Misi.

Kerry Diamond: If you had to be trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be and why?

Audrey Payne: Maggie Beer. She is the grandmother of Australia I think, and I used to watch her shows after school and it's just comforting, and I think it would be a very fun time.

Kerry Diamond: The grandmother of Australia, or the grandmother of Australia cooking?

Audrey Payne: Cooking, yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Tell us a little bit more about her. I don't know about her.

Audrey Payne: She has a pheasant farm in the Barossa Valley, and she makes all these great products, and she is going to be the new Master Chef Australia host. She's very into home cooking. She's very famous for using verjuice in everything.

Kerry Diamond: Verjuice? Okay, I have never cooked with verjuice. Would she make you meat pies on that beach?

Audrey Payne: Oh, definitely.

Kerry Diamond: Definitely. Okay, that sounds good.

Kerry Diamond: You Australians have so much pride for Master Chef Australia.

Audrey Payne: I think that show has changed the way that my generation views food because it's on five nights a week, and at its peak it got higher ratings than a lot of sports finals. So it's like a huge thing, and they talk about everyone's food dream and I think have done a lot to educate people on how to cook better food at home.

Kerry Diamond: Wow, five nights a week?

Audrey Payne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kerry Diamond: That's crazy.

Audrey Payne: Yeah, and some of the episodes will be half of it is the competition and then the other half it's a master class, so it's three hours.

Kerry Diamond: Wow.

Audrey Payne: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: That's impressive.

Audrey Payne: And it's launched so many careers.

Kerry Diamond: Has it ever made you cry?

Audrey Payne: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: Huh, okay.

Audrey Payne: It's very emotional.

Kerry Diamond: So since you said it's a lot about their food dreams, what's your food dream Audrey Payne? And then we'll let you go.

Audrey Payne: My food dream is to have a café.

Kerry Diamond: It is?

Audrey Payne: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: I haven't abused you of that notion?

Audrey Payne: No. I was like I can't tell Kerry because she'll be like, "You're crazy."

Kerry Diamond: Well no, you can run the Cherry Bombe café.

Audrey Payne: Yeah, that's the food dream.

Kerry Diamond: Which you're all hearing for the first time is something we are working on. So if you listen all the way to the end of the show, you just got a little news nugget there people, and now we have something else to add to Audrey's job description.

Kerry Diamond: All right Audrey, you're the bombe.

Audrey Payne: You're the bombe.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Jordana Rothman, thanks for filling in for me, and Iliana Regan, thanks for coming by Radio Cherry Bombe. Be sure to check out Iliana's memoir Burn The Place, and then make plans to visit Elizabeth or Milkweed Inn.

Kerry Diamond: Iliana's interview was recorded at the Wing in Dumbo. Thanks to the Wing women as always. And, thank you to today's sponsors, Traeger Wood Fired Grills and Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Schools.

Kerry Diamond: 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. Cherry Bombe is powered by Lauren Page Goldstein, Audrey Payne, Kia Dimone, and Donna Yen, and our publisher is the one and only Kate Miller Spencer. And our theme song is All Fired Up, by the band Tralala. Are you all fired up? I know I am.

Kerry Diamond: Thanks for listening everybody. You're the bombe.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Suzanah Raffield: Hi, my name is Suzanah Raffield, and I'm the owner of Camp Craft Cocktails. Do you want to know who I think is the bombe? Sana Javeri Kadri, owner of Diaspora Co-op, a food business that sells single origin turmeric from India. Sana is the bomb because she works directly Indian farmers insuring pay equity and a quality product while disrupting and decolonizing food systems. When she's not in Mumbai, Sana lives in Oakland, California with her pit bull Lily and partner in life, Rosie.