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FFT Baltimore Transcript

“Food For Thought: Baltimore” Transcript 

Kerry Diamond: Hi Bombesquad. Welcome to Food For Thought, a Radio Cherry Bombe mini-series. I'm Kerry Diamond, founder of Cherry Bombe.

Kerry Diamond: We wanted to know what's on the mind of food folk across the country, so we went on tour, to eat, drink and talk with hundreds of you, and recorded the whole thing live. Today's stop brings us to Baltimore, Maryland, where we recorded this episode at the beautiful Bar Vasquez.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our Food for Thought tour. Kerrygold is the Irish brand known for its award winning butter and cheese, made with milk from grass-fed cows, from family farms all over Ireland. We'll be hearing more about their amazing products later. So stay tuned. Also, thank you to Visit Baltimore for making this event possible.

Kerry Diamond: First up we'll hear from dietician and recipe developer Jessica Grosman about how her love for recipes led to her meeting with someone very special.

Jessica Grosman: Good evening. I'm Jessica Grosman, a registered dietician, recipe developer, and culinary instructor. I'm also a wife. My husband's sitting right there, a mother, a home cook, and a paper lover. It's this love of paper, what it represents in the kitchen, that brings me here tonight. How many of you grew up with a box of recipe cards on your kitchen counter? Handwritten and often grease stained?

Jessica Grosman: I used to shuffle through my mom's box when I was barely tall enough to see over the kitchen counter. As an ambitious eight-year-old, too impatient, and too lazy to look for a recipe, I nearly burned my house down trying to cook pancakes. Recipe cards were my first entrance point into the food world, but they lack the visuals that are key for any great recipe.

Jessica Grosman: While my friends were reading sweet Valley high books, I was reading my mom's good housekeeping magazines, always on the search for a visually appealing recipe that I could make with my ever-increasing skills and confidence in the kitchen. I used to watch Julia Child on PBS, and I often imitated her voice as I cooked. My sister preferred the Swedish chef on the Muppet Show, but I knew that Julia Child was the real deal.

Jessica Grosman: By my early adolescent years, I became obsessed with food and cooking. Besides my mom's recipe box and magazine clippings, there wasn't a collection of cookbooks in our house. Just a few synagogues, sisterhood cookbooks, all pictureless. Today I have a cookbook collection that constantly inspires and excites me. Back when I was a teenager, my favorite reading material was the Williams-Sonoma catalog. I'd read every page, every product description, I asked my mom to replace her trusty Revere Ware copper bottom pots with All-Clad stainless steel. She still has the Revere Ware.

Jessica Grosman: I dreamed of having a big kitchen someday to fill with all the gizmos and gadgets sold on the pages of the catalog. The paper, those recipe cards, good housekeeping and Williams-Sonoma catalogs were my first teachers when it came to food and cooking. There was no internet, just an infinite amount of paper, full of inspiration. I studied nutrition in college, taking a rigorous course load to prepare me for becoming a registered dietician. I took lots of science classes, psychology and nutrition and my all time favorite college course, a food lab.

Jessica Grosman: One time I had to make eight different pie crusts using eight different types of fat. It's no wonder that my first job was at a Williams Sonoma store. You know, I loved those catalogs, and they needed seasonal help at my local store. I knew inventory so well already and I even knew the parking lot. I'd learned to drive my mom's car in that parking lot, so I balanced my nutrition studies, selling All-Clad pie plates, and lemons esters. Then we'd head back to the nutrition lab where I'd continue to play with food.

Jessica Grosman: When I moved to Boston to pursue my master's degree, I was hired into the managerial team at the Flagship Williams-Sonoma storm. There everything was a little bigger, a little better, and they had an amazing chef program, which brought chefs like Lydia Shire, Joanne Chang, Jody Adams, Barbara Lynch, among others to the store to demo a recipe, sign cookbooks and pose for photographs.

Jessica Grosman: In November, 1999, just two years after I was initially hired as a seasonal employee in my small Cleveland store, I had one of the most memorable days of my life. My Boston store was Julia Child's home store, the closest location to her house in Cambridge, Mass. By this point, she was living full-time in Santa Barbara County, but she occasionally returned to Boston to teach with Jacques Pepin, and to appear at a yearly in store event.

Jessica Grosman: On the day of, hundreds or maybe thousands of eager customers lined up hours before the 10:00 AM store opening. They carried their tattered, Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbooks to get signed. Oftentimes hauling tote bags full of Julia's cookbooks. These lifelong fans carried cameras, this was well before the days of iPhones and social media sharing. The store was a zoo on Julia Day. We had books piled up to be purchased and autographed.

Jessica Grosman: Customers grabbed whatever they could to have signed, wooden spoons, potholders, dish towels, anything that was able to get the imprint of Julia's pen. I was assigned to sit at the table with Julia, as you saw in the photo, to manage the crowd and keep the personal comments brief. She was nearly 87-years-old by then, but still as gregarious as I remembered from her PBS shows.

Jessica Grosman: Julia was an imposing figure over six-feet tall plus a pile of quaffed hair. She wore a heavy strand of pearls, so classically elegant and almost regal. She sipped tea from a delicate cup between her brief interactions with her loyal fans, all wanting more than a small piece of attention they were granted. Her comments were short and direct. This was not a woman who made small talk.

Jessica Grosman: On November 17th, 1999 I met Julia Child, my culinary hero and a hero to so many others. I think she resonated with so many because she was magnanimous, passionate, and funny, and because she found her calling relatively late in life. How inspirational is that? It's not too late for any of us to find our voice through food. I think the secret is to stay connected to what resonates within.

Jessica Grosman: For me, it's paper, this physical connection to recipes. They're like a map, a journal, a gentle guide to where we've been, where we are, and where we might go. Reflecting back nearly 20 years since that fateful day and in my 20 years, nearly 20 years as a registered dietician, I ultimately believe that Julia's message was simple. Cook the foods you love for those you love. Surround yourself with good food, good wine and good people and you'll always have a good time. She touched my life innumerable ways. There's no comparison for this culinary giant. Julia was the icon of all icons.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you Jessica. We couldn't agree more. Julia Child is an icon, and such an inspiration to everyone in the Bombe Squad. Next we'll hear from Catina Smith who tells us about her project, Just Call me Chef.

Catina Smith: Hello, my name is Catina Smith and I'm the founder of Just Call me Chef. JCMC came about as a passion project to highlight black women chefs. After diving a little deeper, I noticed that there was a need for an organization to shine light on the disparity between white male chefs, and all chefs of color, and black female chefs in the culinary arena.

Catina Smith: Black women have been cooking since the beginning, yet in the industry, the numbers just don't add up. There is a severe lack of representation and opportunity in higher level kitchen positions. JCMC is a sisterhood led by black women chefs to support black women chefs. We are growing alliance of women of color promoting diversity and inclusion and professional culinary arts and hospitality. Fostering opportunity exposure and support, providing mentorships, scholarships and grants. The Just Call me Chef city tour is a platform to showcase black women owned food establishments.

Catina Smith: So yeah, that's just a little something about what JCMC is about. So it's pretty new. I launched it around June of last year, it did come to me as the idea of just a calendar, and then I figured, "Hey, this can be so much more than just in calendar, this can connect black women chefs and we can utilize each other almost as a sisterhood and a hub to help one another out."

Catina Smith: So right now, it's still in the growing phases of everything. So I had been traveling to a couple of cities, so, so far I've been to Philly, and I've been to Chicago, and there is a need for it. I'm finding that women are emailing me, they're saying that they wished they had a hub to plug into for the help. So I'm thinking, not only can we help each other out, but we can highlight each other. We can help each other's brands.

Catina Smith: Hey, "If you need a jump in and you need some hands," we have found that we've been able to do that for another. I know Amanda over there, she's in the calendar. She's called me, "Catina, can you come over? Can you cut this up for me?" I'm like, "Absolutely." So just being able to have that sort of sisterhood and connection. So that's what Just Call me Chef is all about.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you Catina. We're so excited about how Just Call me Chef has grown, and we're thrilled that you're organizing, Just Call me Chef conference, for 2021. For folks who would like to get involved, check out, Just Call me Chef on Instagram. Our final speaker is Cindy Wolf. Cindy tells us why she loves being a chef.

Cindy Wolf: So I'm going to stand up. Kerry and I talked about what I wanted to talk about, and she said... You know, "I love being a chef," so that's what I'm going to talk about. My great grandfather and grandfather were butchers in Pennsylvania. My father was in the food business all of his life. He was one of the first people to import lamb from New Zealand into the United States. So just grew up with a bunch of women that were great cooks on both sides of my family, and it's just in my blood.

Cindy Wolf: And we were talking a little bit earlier. I had originally gone to college to study restaurant, hotel management to become a restaurant owner, and a business manager, and eventually decided that college wasn't for me and that I wanted to go to culinary school. And then the moment I set foot in culinary school, I was just so excited and it was so amazing and I loved every moment of it.

Cindy Wolf: But to me, we were talking about... I told Kerry that I love... Every day that I'm in the kitchen, I love what I do. Sometimes I just stand there and say to myself, "I can't believe I get to do this. This is my work. This is amazing." And it is such a great joy to get to work with great food product. And where we live is a very, very concentrated farming community. And we pull from Virginia, Pennsylvania. I mean well we pull from the Seacoast all the way down to Florida.

Cindy Wolf: But I mean the farming is so important and it just gives us such great possibilities. There's so much inspiration in what's in the market, and that's for everyone to enjoy now. Thankfully our markets in this area are much better than they used to be. When I moved here 24 years ago there there were not that many markets and they were not very popular. They were not being supported by the community. And now they really are, which is great. It's great for the farmer. It's great for us, and it's great for the person that can't buy from a purveyor like we can.

Cindy Wolf: You know, we can get anything we want. But for you to have that opportunity, and for you to be inspired in you're cooking, by what's growing in your local area and having this great fresh product. So for me the greatest joy of what I do is to teach, to work with people that I love. I have staff that have worked for me since the day we opened the restaurant. A lot of my guys have been with me for many, many years, and I have a couple of different families working for me as a matter of fact. And they are my family.

Cindy Wolf: And so that's the other great joy of what I get to do is that I get to work with food and I get to work with people that I really, really love. And we also know those of us that are in our industry, that we work very, very hard. And the people that are our family really don't see us that much. So it really does your restaurant family, it's like being in theater or anything where your lifestyle is just so different from everyone else's. It becomes your world and everything centers around it.

Cindy Wolf: And we were talking about some of the negatives in the industry. I think that the positive of being in our field is that anyone can do this. You don't have to go to culinary school, you don't have to go to college. And that's very inspirational and that means that... I was also having dinner the other night, and we were talking about how our country needs more tradespeople and this is one of our problems.

Cindy Wolf: We are losing all of our carpenters, and we need to think that being a cook or being a waiter or being a tradesperson is a great job. That you should be proud to be in these positions. I remember when I first started cooking, and people would look down on me for becoming a cook. And you know, of course that didn't bother me at all, but now there's so much celebrity potential for chefs, it's a little bit different. But all the other traits need to have this... People should be proud, and we need good carpenters and all the traits people.

Cindy Wolf: So I think that's one of the things that needs to change in our country is an emphasis on making people feel good about doing good, hard work like that. But anyway, I love to cook. One of the greatest things is to make guests happy. And when I know they're happy, and they come up and say things that I almost can't digest, which is, "This is one of the best meals I've ever eaten in my life," and it just makes me so happy. But I also kind of say, "No, no, not really. That can't be possible. Are you kidding? Seriously."

Cindy Wolf: Because they often say, "I've eaten all over the world," and then they say that, and I'm like, "Oh no, come on." But it's the greatest joy. That is the greatest joy. And knowing that people are happy. As we say, we're not doing rocket science. We are here to make people happy. We are preparing food product and serving it to them. So it is really something that should be full of joy. Was that five minutes? I don't want to talk too long.

Kerry Diamond: That was okay.

Cindy Wolf: Okay. You're welcome.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you Cindy. If you'd like to experience some of Cindy's incredible food, be sure to check out to learn about all her restaurants. Before we get to our panel, let's hear a word from Kerrygold.

Kerrygold Ad: Kerrygold is delicious, all-natural butter and cheese, made with milk from Irish grass-fed cows. Our farming families pass their craft and knowledge from generation to generation.

Kerrygold Ad: One fifth generation goes back over 250 years.

Kerrygold Ad: This traditional approach is the reason for the rich taste of Kerrygold. Enjoy delicious new sliced or shredded Kerrygold cheddar cheese, available in mild or savory flavors at a retailer near you. Find your nearest store at

Kerry Diamond: Are you ready to hear from our panel? Please welcome Jasmine Norton of The Urban Oyster, chef Donna Crivello of Cosima, and chef Amanda Mack of Crust by Mack bakery. One update since we recorded this episode, Amanda's plans have changed slightly. She's opening in a different location, but her Crust by Mack concept is set to open this month at Whitehall Market in Baltimore.

Kerry Diamond: First question and Donna, we will start with you. If you had to describe what you do or yourself in one word, what would that word be?

Donna Crivello: Well, one word. I guess I connect with people. Every day, I connect with my staff. Well, first of all at home, my family, come to work, the staff. And then most importantly, connecting with customers. You know, as Cindy said earlier, it's to make people happy. What we do, we do because we have a connection with people. They come to your place and you feed them. And that's an initial connection. And then I spend most of my time walking around and talking to people, you know, "How is everything? How are you?"

Donna Crivello: And they want to tell me stories and you know, it's very important if they like something they tell me, if they don't like something they tell me. But it's very much a connection. So I feel like it's connecting, interacting but really connecting.

Kerry Diamond: So you are a connector?

Donna Crivello: Am a connector.

Kerry Diamond: That's the title we're giving you. All right. Jasmine, your turn. One word.

Jasmine Norton: One word for me, I would say relentless.

Kerry Diamond: That's a good word.

Jasmine Norton: Just based off of the premise of how I started my business. Being mobile, setting up basically a kitchen everywhere that we went, the odds that came against us, the new ones that I inherit on a daily basis. With having a brick and mortar, I say relentless because... And it may sound cliche to a lot of people, but I say it all the time because I mean it, when it comes to my business, I look at it as like my child.

Jasmine Norton: And so there's nothing that I know my parents, and other parents who are out here in the audience that they wouldn't do for their child. And there's not one thing that I wouldn't do for the success of my business. If that means I get two minutes of sleep, or two hours of sleep, if that means that I get blisters across my stomach, which just happened this past Sunday from standing in front of a grill at the farmer's market, that's just what I'm going to do. Because it's important that my business is successful, and that I put a smile on my customer's face, and that I'm consistent. And that people are happy and that they continue to enjoy what I have to offer. So I would say relentless.

Kerry Diamond: Amanda?

Amanda Mack: The word that I would best use to describe myself would probably be authentic. And I say that, because growing up, I grew up in the projects just a few blocks up the street. We have this beautiful Harbor East, everything is so glamorous, everything's so pretty. But when I was growing up as a child, I actually lived in the projects. I lived in a food desert. There was really little to no access to fresh veggies and good quality, clean food. So for me being authentic, and my story being authentic and where I came from, people who've inspired me and helped me along the way. It's really just translated into my business and into my business model.

Amanda Mack: So if you see me out, if you follow me online, I'm the exact same person that you meet on the gram. I love being around people, I just love hearing about people's story and just being a part of people's story. So for me, being authentic is something that I carry with me in my personal life and in my business, because I understand what it's like to have nothing to start something from ground zero, and also to be successful, and also to come up from a place where you might not have a lot of influence and a lot of inspiration, but you go out into the world, and you meet authentic people and you connect with people who are inspired by what you're doing, who want to support what you're doing.

Amanda Mack: So for me, relationships, authentic relationships, authentic food, sharing things about yourself that translate into your product. It's really important to me. So a lot of the times when I'm cooking a good. making a big good, it comes from a very special place for me. It comes to my very special story I'd like to... My grandmother taught me how to cook, taught me how to bake. So when Jessica talked about the recipe cards, "Oh my goodness. I know all about the recipe cards." That's what I grew up on. So, watching the food network, taking notes, writing them down, there was no rewind to back then. We did not have DVR, so you had to be quick.

Amanda Mack: For me, I'm really authentic in my story and my grandmother is the beginning of my story. So, I tried to carry a lot of my recipes and a lot of the things that I make today, it's very close to my family. So being authentic and who I am and my story and then translating that to my customers and my friends. It's really important to me. So-

Kerry Diamond: That's beautiful Amanda.

Amanda Mack: Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: What was your grandmother's name?

Amanda Mack: Her name... She's, she's still alive.

Kerry Diamond: She's still alive.

Amanda Mack: Yes, she is. Her name is Yvonne Roy. She was actually a chef here in Baltimore. She worked for some of the earliest Eden assemblage moments here. So she was like working relentless like raising kids, coming home and the stories we would hear. You think it's tough for women now back then? Oh my goodness. So we would just, I would just sit and just watch her for hours, recipe testing in a tiny project. Kitchen hot. Okay. If you cannot stand the heat. I know first hand, so yeah. My grandmother, she's amazing. And my mom, she owns a catering company for 13 years. So, food is important, food is important of my story. Food is a part of my story. So.

Kerry Diamond: You have shit about your Grandma.

Amanda Mack: I should have brought your grandma.

Kerry Diamond: Next time we come back for the opening. She' will meet my grandmother. How did you make the leap professionally?

Amanda Mack: It's so funny. I actually went to college and I was like, yeah, I'm going to go to college. I'm going to be in marketing and communications. And I did that. I was into publishing, I ran a magazine, did a whole bunch of like creative consulting. But then I just realized like that work is good work. I'm helping other people. But for me community is very important to me. I come from a really big family and I just wanted to be more in tuned with the people around me and I wanted to share my story with the world through food and my family. Food is how we say I love you is how we say I'm sorry. It's how we say congratulations. So for me, I wanted to be closer to food in working in my mom's catering company by force because it was not, it was not a like, Oh, I'm gonna pull up the application.

Amanda Mack: It was like, get over here, clean this case a chicken. So, it was one of those things that I really just enjoy doing. Like I would be hours in the kitchen with her, with my grandmother, just catering weddings and small events. So doing that with her for years, I decided like, I'm gonna step out on my own. And do small please catering cause it was fancy it was intimate. I'm all about, look, my friend Carlene is here, she's my soul sister. I'm all about like the fancy intimate gatherings. So I did a small place catering company for a few years and then I did a lot of work, community work in farms. I did a lot of work for John Hopkins school of public health to do like food deserts, increase in access. And then I also went from there and I started working at a local cafe where I actually had the pleasure of working with chef Kat.

Amanda Mack: And it was just a sisterhood. It was something that I just could not get away from. It was contagious energy, something that I just always wanted to be around all the time. I had the pleasure of working in female dominated kitchens so my story is just like sister, sister, sister. So, it was one of those things where it was just like, I want to do this all the time. Being around people who are just so passionate. Being in the kitchen where I grew up, it was just so important to me that I continue the story and it was just a legacy passed down from my grandmother, from my mom, and it was just something that was in me and I wanted to just, I knew at that moment that, that's how I wanted to spend the rest of my life in the kitchen.

Amanda Mack: I have three children and a hungry husband. So, it was just where I was all the time. So I just wanted to live a life that I didn't have to curate online or offline. It was just something that I will wake up and say, this is what I'm doing. If here's the work, it was work that I knew that I would love to do every day. So I made the transition. I said, forget this magazine, forget this PR, like I'm in the kitchen where I belong. And it was just something that I just enjoy making people happy through food. So, I just was here to stay and I'm like excited that I get to open this bakery cafe in 2020. A lot of people here have supported me, supported my campaign. So, I'm just humbly grateful to Baltimore, to my sisterhood here. And so organizations like cherry bomb who are like carrying out stories and currying our voices all over the world. So, this is the place that I need to be. And I think you guys would coming here.

Kerry Diamond: Really our pleasure. It's a remarkable community, so we're !happy to be here. As you were talking, I was like, everybody talks about living their best life.

Amanda Mack: Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: I was like, you really are living your authentic life thing. One word that you chose. All right Jasmine. So tell us how your baby was born. So she referred to it, urban oyster is your child.

Jasmine Norton: I can relate to chef Amanda in a lot of ways, but mine like dorm it for awhile. I also have a background in communications. My degree is in broadcast journalism. So I worked for six years for an audio visual corporation called PSAV. I actually worked at the four seasons coil that remember I retired from the four seasons two years ago. Prior to that I lived in New York for a short while. And like I said, this idea of the urban oyster had been lying dormant for some time. And it wasn't until I landed in New York that it kind of pushed me to actually conceive and in birth it.

Jasmine Norton: And so, I left Baltimore at a time where the riots took place and things like that. And I had lost a lot of hope in Baltimore, you know, to be quite honest, I was concerned about just walking down the street, what that would look like and what could happen to me. And so, I had like I said, lost a lot of hope in Baltimore and so, uprooted a transparent, my position and I worked in times square and lived in Bedstuy and all that good stuff. And it just wasn't the life that I thought would be like this is not what it's like on Saturdays. Like when I come here on the week, it's not like this like this is horrible. And so, I also had a lot of takeaways living there as well. And so what I learned living in New York for my six months was that it's so much culture in New York to be such a huge city.

Jasmine Norton: They celebrate everything. I mean I went to a parade for Halloween, like what is this? And there was this amazing thing that I love called Smorgasburg. I would go there every Saturday and Sunday and it was like these self-taught chefs who had these amazing concepts. And I was just like, it looked like this room. Like you know, people from different walks of life, you know, music, good food, like they had ramen burgers. I was just blown away and I was like, this is it. Like I need to bring back this culture to Baltimore. Like things that we can look forward to on the weekends not just an annual celebration like art scape and things like that, but things we can look forward to on a regular basis.

Jasmine Norton: And so, I transferred my position. I came back, I had a little halt in my pursuit with that, I had to have surgery for a major fibroid that I had. But in the midst of that I was able to kind of take my public relations background and have my parents cook the menus and there's recipes that are prepared and created and I would take pictures and build up the anticipation. And as soon as my doctor gave me the clear to come out of recovery, I launched my very first in a sense in this like small little bistro in Towson and it was well received. And so the premise of everywhere that we go, whether it's in the restaurant, whether it's at a farmer's market or a festival, is good food, good music.

Jasmine Norton: Because those are the things that I saw in New York that brought everybody together. So like anytime you walk past our stand at a festival or a farmer's market, I have my JBL Bluetooth speaker, we're jamming, we're partying, we're serving good food even in the restaurant because those are the things that I see could change the narrative. So that was my small way of, you know, contributing to charity in the narrative. And so where I have ran away from a family and brought it back. And so, that's basically how I birth did by being in a very uncomfortable place.

Kerry Diamond: All New York's loss, obviously Baltimore's gain. So Chef Donna, a real hot word these days is pivot. Everybody talks about pivoting. You pivoted.

Donna Crivello: I pivoted-

Kerry Diamond: Two years ago into food. Can you tell us about your pivot?

Donna Crivello: Well, it was more than few years ago I'd say. Well, I've always been interested in food from the time I was very young. I was surrounded by my grandmother Cosma and my mother, who was a great cook and still was cooking tonight when I called her, she was getting dinner ready. And so I came to Baltimore in 1984 to work at the Baltimore sun. I had been working at the Boston globe, and I came as a designer, art director, food stylist, which I love the Fe. My favorite part of that was food styling.

Donna Crivello: In the early 80s, mid 80s, I went to Sicily for the first time and saw where my grandmother had lived and I was inspired by being incessantly for the first time. And I thought about writing a Sicilian cookbook because at the time there were no Sicilian cookbooks. Never did that, but wrote articles and kind of had all of this kind of going on the back of my mind, worked at the son, loved being there, loved food styling and bringing the paper to a level that had great visuals and great people at the sun. But as I got to do more, I was going to more meetings and I wasn't doing designing and it wasn't very creative and computers came, if you can imagine there were no real computers at the time.

Donna Crivello: And page design became not sketching and designing but sending in a computer, and they offered a bio. And at the time I had a small catering business on the side with a friend and I was at a big meeting where they were talking about the buyout and my friend Elizabeth Large, who was the food critic at the time, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You should take it." You know, looking at me, I can't take it. Weeks went by and she had a dinner and introduced me to my longtime partner, Alan Hirsch, who actually was the city paper founder. And he and I both loved coffee, food, everything that we felt Baltimore didn't have at the time.

Donna Crivello: And we said, "Yeah, we are going to do something like this. Something with coffee, something where you'd sit down and you'd get a sandwich on really good bread or a salad with really good greens. And believe it or not, this predated Starbucks. This predated everything that I had seen at the time. And one day I had just kind of had enough at the sun with whatever was going on and I said, "I'm taking the buyout." And I took the buy out at the end of 91 and in the end Alan and I got together and really came up with our ideas and we opened the first on is cafe in 1992, and had more Donna then, I could manage at the time but we did and they all were doing great and had highs and lows.

Donna Crivello: And then about four or five years ago, the developer of mill number one came to me at cross keys. He was having dinner and he said, "I'm developing this space and it would be a great place for an Italian restaurant. So we went to look at it, and you drive down the driveway and it's cobblestone and it feels like you're transported to Sicily. We got other people involved. Judy Golding is actually the owner and a wonderful woman who I wish could have been here tonight, but she's taken a couple of days off, and she saw the beauty in the space and we together came up with the idea. And when we were thinking of names for it, we said, well, what was your grandmother's name? And I said, Cosa was just, that's it.

Donna Crivello: So now, years later, those recipes and the ideas that I had when we were Sicily and I was back about four times since, are now on the menu. And then part of Cosimo's so we don't have Donna's anymore. But you know, we're realizing this great woman and other great women, like your grandmother and everybody's mother or anybody who kind of touched them with food. You know, we're seeing now through this. So, it was a transition. But it seems like there've been lots of transitions, but I think you still have that core of something is creative, something touches you and, and you feel like you're touching other people with that.

Kerry Diamond: When you mentioned that you had a catering business on the side, so you also had a side hustle before anybody-

Donna Crivello: That's right.

Kerry Diamond: Before anybody called it a side hustle.

Donna Crivello: Yeah. I'm too old, I think.

Kerry Diamond: So, since this is the food for thought tour, and as I mentioned earlier, we wanted to find out what was on everyone's minds. Amanda, we're going to toss this question to you. What is foremost on your mind right now in terms of the food world? Like what are you consumed with? What are you thinking about? Where do you want to make change?

Amanda Mack: So for me, I think that the place that really set to make change, especially since my bakery cafe is going into cherry Hill Baltimore, it really brings me back to my roots about living in a food desert, having access to fresh, healthy produce. So with crest by Mac we do seasonal pastries, pies, cakes. It's really important to me. Seasonality is really important to me, especially because when I grew up, a lot of my food came in cans. What have a lot of access. And now that, and I've done a lot of work with food deserts, local farms, community gardens, CSAs. So, when I heard about the opportunity to open up my bakery in cherry Hill, I was just like, at first I was just like, Oh my goodness, there's nothing in cherry Hill. And then I was like, Oh my goodness, there is nothing in cherry Hill.

Amanda Mack: They don't have any no coffee. I mean they have a seven 11, but there's so much business there and the people living in the community have to travel outside of the community. I have to go across the bridge for food, for coffee, for the market. There's not even a real market there. So, it was just, for me, it was like God was giving me the very thing that I was working so hard to change and to solve here in Baltimore. So for me, creating an opportunity for the people inside of that neighborhood to come to a place that is understanding of their situation, who's been there. I want to bring all of my foodie friends to talk about access and opportunity. I'm bringing in different growers and cartoners and just having fresh produce on display. I know that it will be something that's kind of like new, it will be something like what we're used to the chicken boxes and the cheese steak subs.

Amanda Mack: I love a chicken box and I love a cheese pizza, but we have to start being better from the inside out and just having that access to fresh produce, supporting your local economy. It just does so much for Baltimore. It does so much for the people and the community, and to feel like you're actually a part of the solution. So for me, right now I'm tasked with figuring out a way to bring fresh seasonal foods to Cherry Hill, but then also getting them to understand the importance of that. And then also understanding how much we can change the community and change the narrative around access and opportunity in that area, and then in Baltimore as a whole. So for me I've just been sitting with like, I cannot believe this is happening, that I'm being in a place that's similar to where I grew up and I have the power to help someone. So power to change someone's life. The power to change someone's health. It's really amazing.

Amanda Mack: And I was just in a meeting last week with MedStar Health who have come on as partners to sponsor me for any nutritional education classes that I want to host in the space. So we're already just thinking of ways to bring programming to that area, to bring access to that area. So I'm just really excited to be able to do that first. Not even like baking cakes, but just showing people that there is more, and you don't have to travel far to get it. And also that you don't have to be a product of your environment. I know what it's like to live below the poverty line. I know what it's like to have to travel to another zip code to get food, and to go into the area like, "Oh my God, what is, this Harris Teeter? What is this whole foods? What is this cheese bar?"

Amanda Mack: You know what I'm saying? So bringing those opportunities and bringing the access to people, especially people who don't even know that it exists is something that's really humbling for me. And I'm also really excited, and just looking forward to like being that change, being that vehicle for people who are just like me, you know? So that's really what I think about all the time. Like, "Oh my goodness, how am I going to do this? Oh my goodness, who am I bringing into the space? How am I going to make this work for people?" So yeah, I dream about it. It's amazing.

Kerry Diamond: You are doing so much more than opening a brick and mortar.

Amanda Mack: Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: Like you have a mission.

Amanda Mack: I do. I do. I do have a mission. It's like I said, just this being that authentic person, knowing that you started from that place, and you don't have to end your life here. There can be more. There is opportunity. There are people out here willing to help you. Like with Cat starting the Just Call Me Chef Calendar. It was just something that was like, I met so many people just through Cat. Like so many people are my closest friends, just from having a sisterhood of community. Having someone to call and say like, "Oh my goodness, I need help." You know? And the way that we show up for each other is so important. It's one of those things that you cannot trade for anything, not for money, not for anything.

Amanda Mack: Just having that sisterhood of people, and just having someone who has your back. Who understands what you've gone through and knows that I don't have it, but I need it? I don't have it, but I need the help. And you show up. You're willing to do the work. So for me, that's how I want to show up in Cherry Hill. I want to be that person that's like, "Listen, I need help. I don't know how I need to get there. I don't know the steps that I need to take." But someone that's willing to show people the way. I'm glad that I can be that person.

Kerry Diamond: That's great. All right, Jasmine, you get to follow that up. So Food For Thought, what is on your mind, Jasmine?

Jasmine Norton: On in my mind two things. Very much like Cindy Wolf, just making a stronger presence as a woman, building an empire. My mind is constantly running. Some people may think that I'm doing too much at such a short amount of time. Most people, if they've gotten to where I am right now with finally getting to that point where I have a brick and mortar and things, they go like, "Oh, you've made it." But it's never enough for me. I'm always striving for more. I'm always looking for the next thing to do. And so what's on my mind, like I said, is establishing a stronger presence as a woman in the culinary industry, establishing an empire.

Jasmine Norton: Another thing that's on my mind is, there's so many people in this room who also have contributed to my success along the way. And it's important to me to carry all of them in whatever way I can, along the road. Like my designer is right here. My photographer Kate, Amanda supplies our lemon pound cake in our restaurant. I'm in Cat's Calendar. So Carlene's son is my employee and we also make mignonette. So it's important to me. It's such a tribe, seriously being in Baltimore. My partner in so many ways is back there with me, who helps me cook and keep me from strangling people, is also in here.

Jasmine Norton: So it's such a huge, huge tribe and it's always important that I have them on my back and figure out ways that we move forward together in this empire that I'm striving so hard to build.

Kerry Diamond: That's awesome. Chef Donna, what is on your mind?

Donna Crivello: Well, I think that it goes, all of us think back to our early days, our education and what did we ever know about food? Did we learn about food? Did we learn about healthy food? And I think about... I actually used to be a teacher years and years ago, but I'm teaching kids and teaching people about food. Not just cooking classes and not just to people who can pay a lot of money for classes but getting into the schools and teaching kids about making a salad. There's a program through the AIWF, the American Institute of Wine and Food, which Julia Child and Robert Mondavi started.

Donna Crivello: And they have a local chapter here in Baltimore, which brought Julia Child to Baltimore years ago. And they go into the schools and, if you're a chef, they invite you and you do a three-week-program, where you talk about taste and then you talk... You go to a farm and One Straw Farm is one of the local farms that they go to, and other farms and they show kids, here's where the lettuce comes from. It doesn't come in a plastic bag. And here's where the carrots, they're real carrots, yes, you can eat those. And then the next week you go back and you make a salad.

Donna Crivello: You make your farmhouse salad and they're not getting ranch dressing out of a jar, but they're eating. You're making lemon vinaigrette, and they're tossing a salad and they're eating a salad. Those sort of things that I think are always a part of what we need to do, is educate people, educate kids, educate everybody about real good natural food that they can... I think more and more people are getting aware of it when they go to the farmer's market, but not a lot of people go to the farmer's market. I think that a lot of people don't have access to that. And a lot of the kids who are in public schools right now still don't see where food comes from.

Donna Crivello: So I think education and educating children about how to eat and what to eat is sort of always on my mind too. And I think you'd be doing that with what you're doing. That's just an amazing thing, what you're doing and just bringing real food to people and they're not just buying cans of stuff off a shelf. Yeah. That's really great.

Kerry Diamond: I would love to see the return of Home.

Donna Crivello: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Don't you think that's amazing?

Jasmine Norton: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: Why did that ever leave schools?

Donna Crivello: Well, they probably didn't have enough teachers.

Kerry Diamond: Misguided feminism.

Donna Crivello: Misguided feminism.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Donna Crivello: Yeah, yeah, sure. Because it was just for women.

Kerry Diamond: Right, right. All right. We could unpack all that for a while. I'll save that. That could be a conversation starter for the networking downstairs. So we're going to jump to a little speed round that we're going to do and then we'll open it up to questions from everyone. So all right, Chef Donna, who is your culinary hero?

Donna Crivello: Well, I know Jessica talked about Julia, but I'm probably one of the only people who actually saw her on TV when she first started back in the '60s. And grew up in Boston too, and saw WGBH and we watched Julia and love Julia, and I learned how to cook from her early cookbooks. And so when she came to Baltimore, I think it had to be in the mid to late '90s for this program. And I got to meet her. It was just great to have her sign my cookbook and later got to do a couple of dinners and made the salad for her dinner and made something else for another dinner. So it was just an amazing time to be a chef and to be with her. And also what I remember is that she was happy to see women chefs.

Donna Crivello: It's good to see a woman in the kitchen. And that was Julia and she wanted more women to be professional chefs. And if you've ever read or listened to any of her biographies, some people thought she wasn't a legitimate chef because she wasn't like the men who went to culinary school, but she made her way into culinary school and she made her way to the top of what we thought was one of the best chefs. Because she was so caring about what she did and she really, truly cared about people.

Donna Crivello: She would talk to you and she would say, "So how are you doing? So what are you doing?" She didn't act like a superstar. She acted like a very normal person and cared about people. And I think that's why she was more of a star than anything else, is that she was a very honest and genuine person.

Kerry Diamond: Chef Jasmine, who's your culinary hero?

Jasmine Norton: My culinary hero is chef Terry B of Spice. But just females in general.

Kerry Diamond: Raise your hand, raise your hand.

Jasmine Norton: But to put it all in a general statement, a woman who is a mother, who carries so many things on their daily plates, to be able to put as much care as you are... I don't have a child. The closest thing is The Urban Oyster but I can only imagine, what that daily struggle looks like. Having to spend and make time and carve out time for the child, and carve out time for your passion, and things like that. And it's like you never complained, no one would ever know what you've gone through to get that plate to them. To get whatever it is that you're serving to them. And I have the utmost respect. So yes.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you for taking care of Jasmine.

Audience Member: That's so sweet.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you for making sure she didn't strangle anybody.

Audience Member: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: Like she said earlier. Was that you?

Audience Member: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: You're the one who kept her from-

Jasmine Norton: That would be people that call out and make my life very difficult.

Kerry Diamond: All right, chef Amanda, who is your culinary hero?

Amanda Mack: So my culinary hero is of course my grandmother, of course. I remember her talking about... Not just because she made all kinds of things for me. But because she told me like the story one time about... I don't want to get emotional. So it's so funny. So I had my... I'm sorry I'm going to get myself together. Let me get my water. Hold on. Let me pause. Hold on.

Kerry Diamond: I'll sing a song for as long Amanda gets her water. I only had a sip of that. You can have my water.

Amanda Mack: So my grandmother is so funny. All grandmothers have so many stories. Right? I mean they talk; they talk, they talk. My grandmother is no different. So I had my son when I was 19, I was in college. I was like, "Yeah, I'm going to go to school." Everybody was just so disappointed that I got pregnant and my grandmother was just like, "Oh Mandy, you are going to be fine. You are going to land on your feet." And I just was like, "I don't know how I'm going to do this." So it was funny, when I had my son, my husband, he got us this apartment all the way out, like White Marsh, which was like the nice area to be in. And I was just like, "I'm still used to," my grandmother actually still lives in the projects, because she doesn't want to move, not because she can't, it's just like, "I'm not going nowhere, Mandy". That's her.

Amanda Mack: So I was so far away from her at the time, White Marsh is not far, but to me at 19, I'm like, "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm all the way here." So I will call her every day. How do I make this? How do I make that? And she would literally talk me through recipes over the phone. I learned how to make a roux. I learned how to make so many things just with her talking to me over the phone. And it was one of those things that was very therapeutic. Just hearing her voice, why the baby's crying, I'm trying to make him some food. And she just walked me through.

Amanda Mack: And one time she told me this story about how she was working in the kitchen, because she was like, back then when she started being a chef, there were a whole bunch of delis and just a whole bunch of like new places that people could go to for like quick foods. But they still wanted... They worked with like butchers, and all those kinds of things. So she told me about this story where she worked and she literally got paid like $2 and 12 cents an hour.

Amanda Mack: And she had four kids and fed them. She fed us. I just was so amazed. I was like, "I don't know how I'm going to do this. Raise this kid. I'm only making $10 and 50 cents." And she's like, "Oh, you can do it. I made $2." And I'm like, "No, there's no way you could have made $2 and 12 cents." But she made $2 and 12 cents, she fed her four kids, she fed her four kids, and just didn't even think about it. It was one of those things where she was like, that's what you have to do.

Amanda Mack: So you got to do it, and you do it and you don't complain. And even now, sometimes when I'm overwhelmed with my three kids and my husband and my little Mount Vernon Apartment, I'm like, "How am I going to do this?" And I remember the things that she told me. I remember about the resilience, about it does not matter about how much you make. You have enough to take care of your family. As long as there's food on the table, and clothes on their backs, they are happy and they are fine.

Amanda Mack: And that's the mentality I take with me into my life when I'm having hard days, when I feel like the invoices aren't coming in fast enough, the work isn't coming in fast enough. I remember the things that are important to me in my life that make me happy, and it just always translates back to the kitchen. Every time I go in the kitchen to cook, that's my self-care. I calm down. I think about the things that I'm grateful for and I'm just excited to be a strong black woman who has these kids, who's taking care of them because if she can do it back then with $2 and 12 cents, I can do anything.

Kerry Diamond: I cannot wait to meet your grandmother. You're going to have to wait till 2020. All right, we're going to end there. I cannot thank the three of you enough and our speakers earlier. So many beautiful memories, so many evocative memories, and thank you to the folks at Visit Baltimore for inspiring us to come here.

Donna Crivello: Thank you. Thanks all.

Kerry Diamond: Than you to our speakers, our attendees, and to Chef Cindy Wolf and her team at Bar Vasquez for hosting us. Also, thank you to the folks at Visit Baltimore for their support. We love your city. And a big thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our tour and providing us with beautiful butter and cheese at each stop. Our show was produced and edited by Jess Zeidman. Thanks for listening everyone. You are the bomb.