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FFT Portland Maine Transcript

 “Food For Thought: Portland, Maine”

Kerry Diamond: Hi, Bombesquad. Welcome to Food for Thought, a radio Cherry Bombe mini series. I'm Kerry Diamond, founder of Cherry Bombe Magazine. 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 Portland, Maine, where we recorded this episode of the very cool press hotel. I love Portland, Maine, but I also do love every city we've been to on this tour. Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our Food for Thought tour. Kerrygold is the Irish brand known for it's 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. First up, we'll hear from Jacqueline Dole, founder of Parlor Ice Cream company. I remember meeting Jacqueline for the first time when she smuggled a pint of blue ice cream into a restaurant so she could have me taste what she was up to.

Jacqueline Dole: In 2015, I thought that I had my dream job. I was running the pastry program for one of Boston's best new restaurants. I had just been named to Zagat's 30 under 30 list and I felt professionally satisfied. Still, I was struggling to even pay my bills with what I was earning. Later that year, I went through some deep personal traumas and without access to health insurance or even an HR department, I largely internalized a lot of issues. The trauma affected everything. My attitude, my performance, my physical and mental health. It eventually led to my termination from what I thought was my dream job. After a week, I realized that I literally could not afford to let my sadness swallow me whole. I had started to source all of my feelings of self worth through my career, so I was feeling like a total loser. I found a pastry assistant job at a pretty awful restaurant that paid enough to get by. I had zero creative control, but that's exactly what I wanted.

Jacqueline Dole: I didn't tell anyone where I was working out of shame. The menu wasn't cool, this place definitely was not on any kind of best of list. I spent months making lava cakes and folding galettes, but these days reminded me how much I still love pastry even at it's most basic level. One day out of the blue, I got a call from a producer at the Food Network. She asked if I'd like to fly out to California in a week and be a contestant on Guy's Grocery Games. Let's be honest. I've never seen the show, I couldn't even afford cable, but regardless, I said, yes. When I couldn't get the time off, I risked it all and I quit the lava cake factory. During filming, one of the producers asked what I would do with the prize money if I won, with no hesitation I knew the answer was ice cream. Ice cream production had always been my favorite part of every job and at this time, there was a serious lack of quality ice cream in the Boston area.

Jacqueline Dole: Spoiler alert, I ended up living out most peoples' worst nightmare in being eliminated first on the show. Regardless of the embarrassment, I do believe that this day changed my life because it was the first time that I believed starting my own business was within my reach. Plus, I got to meet Guy Fieri and he wasn't that bad. I've often heard that the best advice for starting a new company and following through on it is to tell people. When I returned home, I began crafting my business plan. I quietly hosted some ice cream socials for friends while hunting for a commissary space. During this time, Boston Magazine found out about Parlor. They wrote a story, which turned into a call from Chronicle. Chronicle wanted to feature Parlor on an episode all before our very first pop up. I called in a favor to my friend, Heather, who owned Union Square Donuts, and she invited me to put on her very first event, which luckily was a success.

Jacqueline Dole: Parlor was built around community and collaboration. Our first flavors were limited batches with bakers, brewers, distillers, even painters. We began to pop up more frequently going from monthly events to weekly, biweekly, eventually daily. It didn't take long for the demand to grow between the pop ups and I was forced to find a larger space that would accommodate the growth potential that we needed. Enter, Portland, Maine. I already knew that I loved Maine and I would come up to visit as often as I could. After some research, I found a much more affordable production space than we had in Boston. With the support of the Tandem family who opened their patio to Parlor for popups whenever we needed, I finally had the confidence to make the move.

Jacqueline Dole: I spent a year running the company out of a commissary kitchen until we found our own production facility in Biddeford. It's in an old mill and it's an actual dream come true because after years of working in dark basements, I finally have windows. After being underpaid for most of my professional life, there are some things which I am inflexible on. First and foremost, I will never take on a staff that I cannot properly pay in exchange for faster growth. It's no secret that you can pay an ice cream scooper minimum wage and tips, but should you? Due to this, Parlor has been a one woman company for the last three and a half years. The Parlor social media account suffers from a bit of imposter syndrome because when it says, "we," and, "our," it's really just me back here. As of the summer, I have part time production and delivery help for 20 hours a week. Up until now, I've been responsible for every aspect of this business. I strongly believe that if you don't have the ability to pay your staff a living wage, you don't deserve the right to have one.

Jacqueline Dole: Is it a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth is? Absolutely. The wholesale business model may not be as glamorous as a retail shop or a truck, but it's allowed me to stay in business. I don't have loans or investors, and I'm growing the company organically. I realize that every job I've had throughout the years no matter seemingly ungrateful or ungratifying has taught me something which adds to the unique skillset that I bring to the table. My heartbreaks and my failures have made me stronger. They've shaped who I am and what kind of business owner I strive to be. Don't give up on your dreams and never sell yourself short. Put in the hard work, treat people well, and be on time. Thank you very much.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you, Jacqueline. We're so glad you chased your ice cream dreams. Next, we'll hear from Briana Warner of Atlantic Sea Farms about how she became a seaweed farmer.

Briana Warner: Thank you. Hi, everyone. I'm Bri Warner and I'm CEO of a seaweed company. That is something I never thought I'd say, so every time I say it, I say it with all this pride. I am not from a baking or a cooking background. I'm not from a culinary background. My background's actually in economic development. How the hell did I end up in Maine running a seaweed company? I ask myself that every day. I'm so proud to be doing it. I was in the foreign service, a diplomat for a number of years. I always decided to sign up for the biggest war zones, South Sudan, Yemen, Guinea, sign me up, I'm there. I had this thing called a husband who had to move around every two years to these African countries mostly. He would be evacuated, I would be in these war zones, and the way I always when he wasn't there and there was very little hope that I could see around me, but working for something better, I would bake. I would bake all night.

Briana Warner: I had a colleague who came over once, it was a particularly hard day at work, he came over at 8:00 in the morning to see how I was doing, and there were about 15 pies out on the table, and I was still awake. After a number of years of being in the foreign service, my husband who's a Mainer, anyone who live in Maine or knows Mainers, they always want to boomerang back. I said, "I'm going to come back for a two year leave of absence. We'll go back to the foreign service, it'll be great." That was seven years ago. I got here and I thought, "Man, I want to stay here, but I really want to make a difference and what can I do here?" I loved baking, I knew how to make these crazy weird pies out of crazy weird things because I only had an avocado tree, a mango tree, and a coconut tree. I didn't have a cherry tree anywhere to be see. I started a bakery in Portland and only employed new Mainers, refugees, because I thought maybe this is a value I could add. Maybe I could work with refugees in the community that didn't speak English, they didn't know how to bake, but no one else would hire them because they didn't have perfect English skills, so maybe they could get their first job with me.

Briana Warner: After about two years of doing that, I found how therapeutic it was for other people to eat this food, to eat food that brought them closer, and more connected to the rest of the world. I was able to sell that company and move to a position at the Island Institute up in Rockland that started working on diversifying coastal incomes. What I started learning there about the state that I started to fall in love with maybe even more than my husband who goes, "You're more Mainer than me now," is that this coast is entirely dependent on lobster. I'm up here at a kelp company, but I'm talking about lobster. There's a really good reason for it and how I got here. Stonington, Maine, three years ago. They landed 62 million dollars in lobster. That's just what went onto the dock. There's 12 hundred people in Stonington, Maine. If we've ever seen a bubble, this is it.

Briana Warner: Our gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the oceans on the planet. This is terrifying. At the moment, lobster is more plentiful and more profitable than it's ever been in the past. It's not like the lobsters walked up the coasts with their backpacks and came up here from Road Island. We have the most lobsters that we've seen in record. This is the time, this is where my economic development, and food world comes together. This is the time when we have the ability to prevent disaster. If we could all go back to the logging towns 30 years ago, pulp and paper, and say this bottom may fall out at some point, let's do something about it in advance. Let's try to diversify now, you could have really done something really different. We have this chance with aqua culture here on the coast of Maine.

Briana Warner: At the Island Institute, I started working with this company called Ocean Approved and started helping to recruit farmers to build their supply chain. Lobster men make really good kelp farmers. It's in their off season, it's in the winter, they can grow it on lines, pull it out of the water as baby kelp before it even gets hot when they start putting their lobster traps in. I got really jazzed thinking, "Jesus, 98 percent of what we eat in the United States here in seaweed is from Asia." It's super high in cadmium, lead, and it's got, sorry to ruin this for you all, but that bright green seaweed salad you eat has yellow 5, blue 1, and has super high MSG, and everything else. Why are we doing this? People like seaweed, it's delicious, but we can do this thing where we meld food with what is good and what we can do to prevent economic collapse all at the same time.

Briana Warner: I got the chance to take over the company in August after our founder transitioned, and I brought on some awesome staff since then, including my sales manager in the back, Jessie Banes. What we've really found and what we really focus on is good food should do good. This is the ultimate good vegetable. It cleans the ocean, it takes carbon and nitrogen out of the water, and reduces ocean acidification. It's here supporting Mainers. You can just pull it right out of the water, freeze it, or ferment it and make delicious fermented seaweed salad. Fermented kimchi is one of the big things that we make or just frozen blanched kelp. You suddenly have this incredible product that is not only good for the ocean and good for the coast, but tastes damn good too. We're on a mission here that now we just got through our biggest harvest season ever, we produced about 10 times more than ever produced in Maine at all this year. We're ready to take on the country with this really cool product under Atlantic Sea Farms. We have 16 partner farms in the coast, we hope to have 25 next year, and I hope in five years, we have 100 fishermen working with us. That means 100 fishermen have supplemental incomes in the off season and when lobster might not be how it is today. I really appreciate being here and go buy some kelp.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you, Briana. We completely agree, good food should do good. If you're looking to try kelp for yourself, check out and order some toady. Before we get to our panel, let's hear a word from our friends at Kerrygold. Hi, everybody. It's Kerry Diamond here to talk to you about Kerrygold cheese and butter. I traveled to Ireland this summer to learn more about Kerrygold, the family run dairy farms they work with, and the beautiful cheese and butter made from their grass fed dairy. I hung out with cows for the first time in my life. I visited a picturesque cliff side farm in the southeast of Ireland overlooking the ocean. I walked on a lot of grass, I ate a lot of scones slathered with Kerrygold butter, which is truly the color of sunshine. I learned how Kerrygold tests and grades its famous cheeses from its award winning reserved cheddar cheese to its nutty and robust Dubliner cheese. I also stopped by Beechmount Farm to learn how they make my favorite Kerrygold Cashel Blue Irish Farmhouse cheese. You should definitely plan a visit to Ireland to get a taste of this beautiful country or you can just visit your favorite grocery store. For more on Kerrygold, visit

Kerry Diamond: Ready for the panel? Please, welcome Chef Erin French of the Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine, Pastry Chef Briana Holt of Tandem Coffee in Portland, Chef Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan in Brunswick, Maine, and Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland, and Chef Rebecca Charles of Pearl and Spat Oyster Cellar in Kennebunkport and Pearl Oyster Bar right here in New York City. I want you all to describe yourself in one word and tell us why that word. Erin, you get to go first. One word that describes you and why that word.

Erin French: Hostess because I feel like I just want to care for people. I feel like as a woman, it's what I want to do instead of I'm making all these fancy dishes and I want to make it really ... I want to make the best dish in the world, I just want to take people in, I want to rock them, and I want to give them a good time. I want the lighting to be just right, play the music, I just want to be friends, and hug them at the end of the night. It's all I want.

Kerry Diamond: Do you really want to work front of house? Is that what you're telling us?

Erin French: Well, half the night, I do. I serve about five out of eight of the courses that we serve, which is a joy for me. I get to do it all, front of the house, back of the house, and back and forth. It feels really nice.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, good. Cara, what's your one word?

Cara Stadler: You gave me this question and honestly I feel like I need to say two words because my life is mostly split between being a chef and being a restaurateur. I don't know which one goes first.

Kerry Diamond: Tell us both words. We'll let you cheat. Go ahead.

Cara Stadler: I mean, I am the chef at Tao, so I'm there every day with a menu, that's what I love. Because of what I love to do, I decided to become a restaurateur because I wanted to try to be better than the industry that is currently in business, which I'm still struggling with.

Kerry Diamond: Rebecca.

Rebecca Charles: I'm torn. First word I thought of was Sisyphus. I came up with a cocktail with a bartender at the restaurant the first year called the Sisyphus because that's the way I feel, pushing a rock uphill endlessly. Really, the word is troubleshooter. The reason is if you asked me 15 years ago, I would have said chef. Frankly, I was off the line for 10 years until I opened a restaurant in Maine. At 62 years old, I went back on the line and started line cooking. I am actively cooking, but really as a restaurant owner, a business owner, and a cook, troubleshooting is the name of the game from the moment you get up to the moment you close your eyes, and beyond.

Kerry Diamond: Briana.

Briana Holt: I don't know if this is a crazy word to choose, but I might say hungry. I think I do what I do and enjoy the stuff that all of you guys do because I love eating so much and feeding people. I really love doing that. For me, it's all about the moment where you get to eat it. I get really excited when I see it come out of the oven or I get really excited when I see someone else eat it and I love eating. I always want to be better at it and there's some people who work with me in the audience who might know this, but I'm always changing things and trying to make it better. I feel like hungry would probably be my word.

Kerry Diamond: You're the first one to use that word on the whole tour, so I love that.

Briana Holt: I'm hungry now. I don't know why.

Kerry Diamond: There'll be plenty to eat after this. Since this is the Food for Thought tour, I would like to know one food related topic that's on you mind and why. Cara, why don't we start with you since you alluded to something regarding the industry.

Cara Stadler: I mean, that's probably what's on my mind all the time. Even talking about running a one man operation as Parlor Ice Cream, but do you pay yourself minimum wage? That's messed up. I haven't paid myself minimum wage for some of the years that I've been working. The door still opens, so what's worth it? How do we fix that? That's the thing that's on my mind all the time.

Kerry Diamond: Erin, how about you?

Erin French: For me, it would probably be just happy workplace. I know that sounds like it should be simple, but it's really hard and it's really rare to make a place where people feel supported, safe, happy, healthy, and I think part of the success of, which I still look and I'm totally mystified, how the hell is this restaurant that I made in the middle of nowhere working? Part of it is the happy workplace that we created. Women who are thriving there, we're there and we're supporting each other. We laugh because sometimes prep time is also therapy time. We're hanging out, we're chopping, and we're talking about our husbands. We're figuring it all out and just making a space where we can feel safe, comfortable, joyful, and I think you can taste joy. If you have that happy workplace, then you can have a happy kitchen.

Kerry Diamond: Is this something you always wanted when you had your own restaurant? When you worked in other places, did you feel like it was a happy workplace?

Erin French: No. I mean, I was always working front of the house before because I couldn't afford to work in the kitchen because I had to make a living so I was waiting tables. I was always given stripper names from the chef or something. You're called something when you're in the back room. This is the first place that I've been where I feel like we're all okay, we're all supporting each other, and we want to thrive. We need a village and being together, we're stronger when we're together. This place has made it that way.

Kerry Diamond: Cara, I meant to bring up something that you told us outside. You are setting aside an hour every day to work out and it has made you ... can I tell everyone this, what you said? A less angry person by working out for one hour every day. Is someone applauding? Did I hear? Yes. How did you get to that place? Your workout routine is what's on my mind right now. How did you get to that place where you knew you had to do that, but then also running three places, finding the time to carve out that precious hour?

Cara Stadler: I became a negative effect on my staff and I needed to not do that. Moving long term, I need to change what I do because I work too much. It's just reality. Trying to figure out not working 80 hours a week or more ... 80's the minimum, so trying to get below that is the goal. Trying to find some sort of balance is really what I'm trying to figure out now. I'm a happier person and I would probably start losing staff had I not taken the time to be a happier person.

Rebecca Charles: That's impressive by the way.

Kerry Diamond: Taking out an hour every day.

Rebecca Charles: To realize that she was having a negative impact on her staff, that's something I think about a lot, is incredibly self aware for somebody your age.

Kerry Diamond: Rebecca, what's foremost on your mind these days?

Rebecca Charles: God, I wish I could do that. Wow. Well, the question I think is getting lost. Wasn't it food related?

Kerry Diamond: Oh, it could be food related, but I think these things are food related.

Rebecca Charles: More or less, tangentially. When it comes to food, again 20 years ago I probably would have told you what I was most interested in working with, now I'm going to tell you the most important thing is cost. Straight up, any time you want to use anything, what does it cost is the first question. That's just the way it is. Everything's very expensive now. Kudos to the other Briana for making something out of nothing and opening a company that makes kelp, really amazing.

Kerry Diamond: How are you dealing with that at your places? Is it different in New York City and Maine?

Rebecca Charles: Ironically, food is cheaper in New York than it is here. My cost is much less in New York strangely even when it comes to lobster. I'm paying more here than I do in New York City.

Kerry Diamond: Really?

Rebecca Charles: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: Wow. Why do you think that is?

Rebecca Charles: I really can't tell you. The last three years, I've been trying to figure it out and I just can't. I think prices in Maine have skyrocketed in general certainly when it comes to food. Maine has discovered itself. Have you noticed that? Maine used to be a secret. We came here when I was 11 months old for the first time. My mother came here in the 20s when she was an infant. My grandparents came in the 1970s. Maine has been discovered, the secret is out, and I think as that has happened and the food industry has exploded here with amazing artisanal companies opening, great seafood companies. Now, the cost of business is much higher and everybody knows people love things from Maine. As that market has expanded and discovered, I think the people that have products in Maine want to get the most for them. I can't blame them for that, but it's changed everything.

Kerry Diamond: I know you are a big thinker when it comes to the industry. In terms of the human side of food and making it, what's weighing on you these days?

Rebecca Charles: Labor. The cost of labor, another irony. When the food business exploded, when the industry exploded United States, when food suddenly became the thing, chefs became the thing, the Food Network started, cooking schools grew everywhere. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be in the business where it was actually a shameful thing when I started out. Dropped out of college. My parents really couldn't believe that I was a cook. How could they tell their friends that I was a cook? It became a glamorous thing. It's led to ironically a rather unskilled large group of people that have very unrealistic goals about where they're going and what they want. That's been unfortunate. You have to try to weed out the people that are seriously really interested in cooking in the food industry. They're there, they've always been there. There are many that have gotten into the business, I think we've all met them, tried to train them, and tried to deal with them, that think they're going to be on television or own their own restaurant in five seconds. Those I think are very unrealistic goals. It hasn't helped us much. Where there's a lot more people, there's still the same small group of people you really want working for you. The ones that have a serious interest in it.

Kerry Diamond: It must be so exciting when you find those gems.

Rebecca Charles: Oh, my god. It's celebratory. It really is. I found one this year. I'll do his laundry for him. I'll do anything for this kid. His refrigerator was out of light this morning, I was going to bring a cooler over.

Kerry Diamond: You said the industry's more glamorous now. Are you feeling the glamor?

Rebecca Charles: Me?

Kerry Diamond: Yes, you said that.

Rebecca Charles: I haven't had a haircut in three months, I do loads and loads of dishes every day, I prep, I peel potatoes, we all do, we all do the grunt work. This is about as glamorous as it gets for us. We occasionally do things for folks like you and we try to present a positive slant, but sometimes it's hard. It's really difficult work, you have to love it.

Kerry Diamond: That is true. Briana, your turn. Food related issue that's on your mind right now.

Briana Holt: Well, I guess I would have to say that it's something I don't necessarily know exactly how to talk about very eloquently, but at least in our Portland, Maine, southern Maine, or as far as the rest of the country has been concerned, lately all of Maine has blown up as you said and has become a foodie destination. Everyone's really excited about it. I am involved in that. Tandem is a destination. We have long lines and people get really excited. We've been in some magazines as have all of you sitting here with me. I really love this city. I've lived here for about five years. I think it's really amazing. There's a lot of great stuff going on. For me, I just want to figure out how to make other things visible. There's a lot of other people involved in the food system in Maine in general and in Portland, a lot of other women. There's a lot of new Americans and immigrants that are in the food world here. Those things aren't as visible for people out in the world. There's a lot of small organizations in Portland that work for food security and food justice. There's a lot of year round agriculture programs happening.

Briana Holt: Those are things that I am really hoping to figure out how to have more of an impact or be better about knowing about ... hoping that the stuff that I do or we do at Tandem can be involved in those things somehow. I think it'd be great if there were more of a part of the conversation of food in and around Portland.

Kerry Diamond: That answers the food and the human side of food right now. We have a little speed round, but before we go to that, I would love to know one thing that's on your menu right now that you're making that you're really excited about. Erin, we keep starting with you. Can we start with you?

Erin French: Why? Okay, thyme, basil, and lemon sorbet.

Kerry Diamond: How did you come up with that?

Erin French: I don't know. I just wanted something that tasted surprising and that was herbaceous, cold, lemony, and citrusy. You know when that first basil comes in and you're smelling it like, "Oh, my god. I've been waiting for you for 10 months. You're here now." It just seemed so right.

Kerry Diamond: Awesome. Cara.

Cara Stadler: Assuming that the machine doesn't break again, we have a thing called a Zha Jiang Mian at Bao Bao, which is a savory Chinese pancake, which I'm jazzed about and love.

Kerry Diamond: What is it filled with?

Cara Stadler: Hoisin, brown bean paste, scallions, cilantro, sesame seeds, fried wantons all wrapped up.

Kerry Diamond: Rebecca.

Rebecca Charles: It's not a recipe, it's a product. Bangs island muscles. Wow. Muscles are so badly cooked in so many restaurants. It is really hard to ruin these. They are big, plump, everything a muscle should be in your imagination these are. I make them every night, it's on my station. Every time I make a bowl of them ... I took out my phone last night, took a picture. Couldn't help myself.

Kerry Diamond: How are you preparing the muscles?

Rebecca Charles: The same way I have for 20 years, white wine, shallots, heavy cream, Dijon mustard, chives, steam them in a pan, reduce the sauce to coat, you know, baguette, wine.

Kerry Diamond: Sounds like heaven.

Rebecca Charles: You know I wanted to open a bistro in Portland, Maine, in the 80s and I couldn't raise a dime to do it, but that would have been on the menu then.

Kerry Diamond: All right, Briana. What's on your menu you're excited about right now?

Briana Holt: I would say we make this biscuit that I've been thinking about making for a really long time. I don't know why it took me so long because it's not at all hard, but it's a biscuit. Then, we split it, put a soft cheese on it, and drizzle a large amount of hot honey, which is honey that we've steeped with chilies overnight and some black pepper. Then, smoosh the top back on, it's really messy, sticky, savory, sweet, and it's really good.

Rebecca Charles: What kind of cheese?

Briana Holt: A soft cheese. Right now, we're getting it from York Hill. It's like a goat and cow ... right, Janna? It's a goat and cow. Yes, it's a goat and cow soft cheese.

Rebecca Charles: Is that the cheese maker?

Briana Holt: No, Janna's a baker. She works with me.

Kerry Diamond: All right, so time for the speed round. Briana, we'll start with you. Since it's the Food for Thought tour, where do you do your best thinking?

Briana Holt: Oh, in bed.

Kerry Diamond: In bed.

Briana Holt: I can't go to sleep or I wake up too early in bed.

Kerry Diamond: Rebecca.

Rebecca Charles: For me, it's dish washing. Whether at the restaurant or home, when I'm washing dishes, it's the best time for me to get organized mentally.

Kerry Diamond: Cara.

Cara Stadler: Swimming.

Kerry Diamond: Rebecca's really into the swimming idea. Debra, you might have to get her a membership for the Y.

Rebecca Charles: It's completely changed her. The last event we did, she was not this buoyant, smiling, wonderful person that she is now.

Kerry Diamond: You two should be in an ad for the local Y, I think. Erin, where do you do your best thinking?

Erin French: 39 minutes after my first cup of coffee.

Kerry Diamond: That's when the caffeine kicks in.

Erin French: Yes, it's a mess. I try to do the numbers for the night and I'm trying to tell the girls how many tables we have. They're always like, "Were these your before coffee or after coffee numbers because the math's a little off?"

Kerry Diamond: Okay, Briana. Culinary hero.

Briana Holt: That's a really hard question. I feel like there's so many people out there in the world that are so inspiring, I feel like I have so much to learn. I'm always reading and getting excited. I met this person at a bake sale I did in New York, Pamela Young who is a really amazing baker. She used to have a restaurant in Brooklyn called Semilla. It was amazing and she left it. She and her partner stopped doing this restaurant and she's just been traveling the world working with other bakers. She's like a detective for grains, community, culture, and what baking means for different people all over the world. She's really awesome.

Kerry Diamond: Rebecca, who's your culinary hero or one of them? I'm sure you have many.

Rebecca Charles: I couldn't pick one. A lot of people have influenced me for sure. I would have to say Julia Child has been most influential to anybody that grew up in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. A woman that I worked for in New York, one of the first round of celebrity chefs, Anne Rosenzweig was very influential. I worked for her for many years. My mom, my grandmother, all that boring stuff.

Kerry Diamond: Cara.

Cara Stadler: My first chef, Marsha McBride, probably the one in terms of have a restaurant, business, or staff stick with you for 20 years.

Kerry Diamond: Erin.

Erin French: All right, I know you're all going to judge me, but I know you all feel the exact same way. I know that you want a hug from Ina Garten too, so don't lie. You know you do. I want a big ole squeeze from her, I just want her to squeeze me, hold me, cook for me, and Jeffrey.

Briana Holt: I made her potato salad last week and I've been eating. Every time I eat it, it's so good.

Erin French: You think of Jeffrey, how happy he is. Got so much joy in his life.

Kerry Diamond: Everybody wants to be reincarnated as Jeffrey, I think. Ina spoke at one of our jubilee conferences and Jeffrey came with her. The number one question pre jubilee that year was, is Jeffrey coming? Then, Jeffrey actually sat in the audience. On Instagram, you can find several pictures of the back of his head. People were so excited, that's what they were Instagramming. True story. Your favorite thing to eat or drink in Maine that was not made by you. Briana.

Briana Holt: The pupusas at Tu Casa on Washington Ave. They're so good. They come with this really tasty little cabbage and carrot slaw, red salsa, and a green salsa. You can get a cheese and herb, a bean, or a meat. If you're me, you get one of each. They're so good. They're just delicious.

Kerry Diamond: I hope some of you are taking notes. Rebecca.

Rebecca Charles: I don't get to go out much.

Kerry Diamond: I knew you were going to say that. What does Debra make at home that you love?

Rebecca Charles: Eggs benedict, raw sweet potatoes and poached ... I mean, she's a wonderful cook. Bao Bao notwithstanding, there is a Chinese restaurant called Empire here that I really like. When I find myself in Portland on my night off on Monday, I do go there. There's also a beer here that's really good. Anybody have anything by the Maine Beer Company? I have lunch for dinner often.

Audience Member: They now have dinner.

Rebecca Charles: Is that right?

Audience Memeber: Yes.

Rebecca Charles: After a night on the line, that's pretty much my favorite thing.

Kerry Diamond: Cara.

Cara Stadler: I was going to say there's this place called Ameera Bakery that's on Forrest Avenue. If you haven't been and you live in Portland, you need to go. They do a Iraqi flat breads and they do pita. They do all the babaganoush and hummus. They're all delicious. They're so good.

Briana Holt: The eggplant pickle.

Cara Stadler: Everything they have is so good. I don't know why more people aren't there. I am shocked.

Briana Holt: I really don't know either.

Cara Stadler: I am shocked that there's not more people there, it's so good.

Rebecca Charles: What's it called?

Cara Stadler: Ameera.

Kerry Diamond: Erin.

Erin French: I have a few. Pad kee mao and Khao soy at Long Grain. Chocolate croissants from Michelle at Moonbat in Belfast, which no one knows about and I shouldn't have told you right now. Don't tell anyone else they're the best in the whole goddamn world. The hotdogs at Wasses in the Renys parking lot in Belfast. They're cooked in peanut oil. You can get kraut, mustard, I get two of them. My dog gets one and we have a day. We eat them in a park.

Briana Holt: Where's the Wasses at a Renys?

Erin French: In the Renys parking lot in Belfast.

Briana Holt: Oh, the Belfast Renys.

Erin French: They have a drive through, I don't even have to get out of my car.

Briana Holt: I always go to the Rockland Wasses.

Erin French: No, girl. They got a drive through in Belfast. It's totally shameless. No one knows you were there.

Kerry Diamond: What kind of dogs?

Erin French: I don't ask. They're cooked in peanut oil. That's all I know.

Audience Member: Hot mustard and the hot peppers.

Erin French: Oh, yes. That kraut and that steamed bun. Oh, my god.

Audience Member: I just went this week.

Kerry Diamond: I sense some food road trips in some people's futures here. We do have time for a few questions from the audience if anyone has a question or two. Good.

Bonnie: I'm Bonnie from as Rebecca said HB Provisions and my partner, Helen, so it's HB. The question is more to everybody, I think. One of the things that we all constantly talk about is how hard it is to get staff, good staff, how to appreciate them, pay them well, not be angry at them, and go I can't stand this anymore. Stick a fork in me, I'm done. The other thing that's changed ... we've been in business, Helen and I, this is our 18th summer in Lower Village, Kennebunk. It's the one piece that nobody talks about, the customer has changed, the customer base. People are angrier, they demand more, they expect more, they're less patient, they want to get the Instagram shot. Social media has changed what we do because we're all going, shit. I just said that and I'm going to get a one star review. It will change what we do in a heartbeat. I speak for us.

Bonnie: We're very fortunate, we get a lot of great reviews. How important they've become, more so than how passionate we are about what we do and why we do it. I challenge that, it's a question, but it's can you call speak to that in some way?

Erin French: They are, they're angrier, and they have a lot of dietary restrictions. What's going on?

Bonnie: Allergies, more than I've ever seen before.

Erin French: I got stuff that I'm like, "I didn't even know that was a thing." I'm trying to just keep up with it. For me, I remember the times when I would get ... you can't help it. We all love what we do so much. You go home, you get home at midnight, or 1:00 in the morning, you are checking to see what they're saying about you. It's hard because you put yourself out there. For me, I'm out there with my face. I'm out there with everything. I'm putting everything I have on a plate and I'm feeding them. It's like the closest thing to sex you could possibly give them without actually doing it. You're like this is my everything, baby. They can go home and say it wasn't really a good time. It's hard. You cry and you go in fetal position. You're like, "What?" Then, you take a moment. There are moments when I've looked at it and I've said, what can I learn from this? How can I improve? Are they correct? What did they say that's valid? What did they say that's just being a total douchebag? They are. People are mean.

Erin French: It's amazing to me that you can stand there with your real face and your real name. They can go home and they can make a comment about you with a picture of palm trees and a fake name that isn't even ... it's a dude's name and it was a woman, whatever it was. That's really hard. Part of it is for me I feel like it's grown me and I've said, "What can I handle?" It's pushed me and I'm so much stronger now. You can take it and people are going to come at you. The higher you rise and the bigger you become, they come at you even more. It is hard, but if anything, you just go, okay. What do you got to say today? My new saying is tits out. Just go for it. Come on, let's go. What do you got for me today? I'm doing my best and I'm human, so you just go ...

Cara Stadler: I want them gone. I don't, I don't want them. I don't want to say yes to you. I don't want to appease your request, you're an obnoxious asshole. Get out. I'm sorry, but I don't want you coming back either. To a certain extent, people who are obnoxious, I am not nice to. People who are rude to my servers, I want them to get out. I don't give them things for free, I don't ever want to see their face again. The only people I'm nice to are people who are friends of people who are my regulars. Those people, I will be nice to because I love my regulars. They're the people who keep our business afloat. Aside from that, if you're a jerk and you've never been in my restaurant before, I'll never want to see you again. Don't come back. Those people, I'm sick of being nice to jerks. I'm sick of it. I really think we should stop.

Erin French: Sometimes, they take it as a challenge that you can try and turn them. I don't know. They're all human and you realize they're not really upset about the food. They're having a harder issue in life. I have to say whatever your beef is, it's really not with me or that food. You're having a harder day. I try to have sympathy with that and I try to figure out ... it's hard being in hospitality and trying to be ... you're caring for people. People get so emotional about food and how do you rock them through it? It's hard because sometimes you're like, "I'm going to cringe, I want to say things I don't want to say." I think it's an ongoing edit.

Kerry Diamond: Do those social media reviews, the Yelp, and things of that [inaudible 00:42:39], do they still have power?

Erin French: I think they're slowing down. I watch every night, they're slowing down.

Kerry Diamond: You feel they still have power, Cara.

Cara Stadler: Yes. I got a one star review from a guest sitting in my dining room because I denied him the ability to get a tasting menu because-

Kerry Diamond: Does that impact your business?

Cara Stadler: Oh, yes. If you get enough bad reviews, it absolutely will affect your business.

Erin French: You can have people who haven't even been at your restaurant give you a one star review. I got one last week and I was like, "You weren't even there. Why are you saying this?"

Kerry Diamond: My sense is the tide's going to turn. I really do think that. I think the whole customer's always right thing just isn't the thing anymore. There's going to be a way for restaurants and places to take the power back.

Erin French: They all just want to be loved.

Rebecca Charles: They all think they're influencers.

Erin French: Yes, they're looking for purpose and love.

Cara Stadler: They are though. Yelp reviewers are and Yelp directly affects our bottom line. Who are we kidding? Yelp elite people now get profiled on Instagram. Yelp elite writers, people who do-

Briana Holt: What's Yelp elite.

Cara Stadler: Yelp elite are the people who write hundreds of review. They spend so much time. They get boosted on top of their reviews and they get to the top of the page.

Kerry Diamond: This girl, she just hit a nerve. This hit of nerve up here.

Cara Stadler: On Instagram, you now see photos of Yelp elite people that are being boosted by Yelp to promote these people. That's giving them even more power. I don't think it's going away, I think it's going to get stronger.

Kerry Diamond: You do, wow.

Cara Stadler: I think it's going to get worse.

Erin French: Don't you think then in some ways, maybe I'm naïve and always hopeful, but that will become its own shitty subculture, and that there's enough people out there who look at that the way we look at that even if they're not in the food world?

Rebecca Charles: People believe what they read regardless of whether or not it's true.

Cara Stadler: If it's fake new or not.

Rebecca Charles: I don't know why that is what it is. People believe what they read. They don't even think this could be not true. I do think that the customer is no longer always right. By the way, her response, brilliant. Your response, the fact that you still have some negativity, I'm glad to see because there are times in your restaurant when, as Erin says, you are giving your heart on a plate as best you can. To have it just dismissed out of hand for some idiotic reason like my bread wasn't warm or something absurd, to have somebody go online, take your high rating down with one star. That's all it takes. Four or five star rating, one one star will bring you down. It doesn't even have to be true. There's nothing you can do about it. However, if you pay for the service as Yelp will call us many times in a month, if you pay for the service, you will have some ability to control those reviews, who can see them, whether or not they can be seen. That's just bribery. That's just terrible.

Kerry Diamond: I think we've barely scratched the surface of obviously a topic that deserves discussion. Thank you, everyone. Thank you to all of our speakers and to everyone who attended our event in Portland. Also, a huge thank you to the team at the Press Hotel for hosting us. A big thank you as always to Kerrygold for supporting our tour and providing us with beautiful butter and cheese at each stop. Our show is produced by Jess Zeidman. Thanks for listening everyone. You're the bombe.