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Food + People Transcript

 Food + People’s sicily sierra and mavis-jay sanders

Kerry Diamond: Hey, Bombesquad. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the podcast that's all about everybody's favorite two subjects: women and food. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond, coming to you from Brooklyn, New York. Speaking of New York, today we have two of the coolest folks in the city joining me to chat, Sicily Sierra and Mavis-Jay Sanders, the founders of Food + People.

They have a pop up that's opening today at Maison Yaki in Brooklyn as part of the restaurant's Black Entrepreneur series. Get your pens out. It's open September 4th through 6th and September 9th through 13th. Their menu, no surprise, is fab and features meatloaf burgers, fried chicken and pancakes, not waffles - you'll soon find out why - Black eyed pea salad, and more. You can also buy their Food + People products at the pop up, say that three times fast, including their hot sauces and seasoned flours.

Sicily and Mavis-Jay are also the hosts of Drink Tank, a fun and very lively IG Live show on the Black Food Folks Instagram account. I hope you check it out. Today's show is supported by Breyers CarbSmart. Thank you to the folks at Breyers for supporting Radio Cherry Bombe all summer long.

What else is going on? Well, are you an official Cherry Bombe member? We'll have our first virtual membership meeting happening later this month. Stay tuned for details. If you'd like to join, check out the member section on and while you're there, be sure to check out our brand new feature, Open Book. It's a behind-the-scenes look at how the newest cookbooks come together, from the authors' moodboards to how they got their deals, to the tools and ingredients they used most during the making of their books. The first book featured is Hetty McKinnon's Community. A cult classic in Australia, it was finally launched for the very first time here in America and thank you to Cherry Bombe's Audrey Payne who is the editor of our cookbook section and put all of this together.

We'll be right back with Sicily and Mavis-Jay after this word from Breyers CarbSmart.

As someone who thinks that ice-cream should be a food group, I'm very happy that today's episode is supported by our friends at Breyers ice-cream. Breyers is America's number one ice-cream brand and I'm pretty sure my family of Breyers fanatics helps contribute to that top ranking. Did you know that Breyers has a special treat that won't undo your day? It's called Breyers CarbSmart and it comes in tubs and bars and in great flavors like mint fudge and caramel swirl.

There's even a flavor called Almond Bar that comes covered in an almond studded chocolate shell, and who doesn't love a chocolate shell? One thing I especially like about Breyers is that they use 100% Grade A milk and cream from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones. Breyers' colors and flavors come from natural sources and their vanilla is sustainability sourced.

Would you like to try Breyers CarbSmart when that next craving for something sweet and frozen hits? Look for it at all major retailers. Go to to get a coupon so you can try Breyers CarbSmart today. That's

Now, here's my conversation with Sicily Sierra. We'll hear from Mavis-Jay later in the show.

So, you have a big pop up that's happening this weekend that you and Mavis-Jay are working on. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Sicily Sierra: We're a part of the Maison Yaki Black Entrepreneurship series. We're the fifth pop up in the space and we're super excited. I mean, we're doing the food that we love, we're making fried chicken and pancakes, we're going to do a meatloaf burger. We're also doing greens and cabbage, our version of that, and then we're doing a black eyed pea salad. We're doing this really cool thing where every order comes with a particular hot sauce that we make.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, yum. The menu sounded terrific. I saw it go online and the meatloaf burger, you got me with that. What's the secret to your meatloaf?

Sicily Sierra: It doesn't have tomato sauce in it. I wanted it to feel very light and a little sweet because sometimes meatloaf can feel like that, but feel like a cookout, like a hang. Yeah, it's pretty cool. It's on a burger. We put our signature sweet heat sauce on it. We make a spicy mayo and it's simple, so it's just the meatloaf patty, pepperjack cheese, a little bit of lettuce, the mayo, the hot sauce, and the bun.

Kerry Diamond: Are you making the meatloaf as a loaf and then slicing it or is it like a baby meatloaf on the bun?

Sicily Sierra: It's like a baby meatloaf because we put it into the shape of somewhat of a round to be able to fit on the patty and then we grill it like a burger patty, but there's this weird why behind the what of when we make the sauce, how we add the sauce, at what point we add the sauce to the meat and all of this stuff and then shape it.

Kerry Diamond: Ooh, it sounds so good. How do you feel about people who put ketchup on meatloaf?

Sicily Sierra: I feel like I can understand why people make safe choices in life, because consistency is important. However, there's a whole ass world that you're missing out on.

Kerry Diamond: And you're serving that with sweet potato wedges?

Sicily Sierra: We're doing sweet potato wedges and they're seasoned with one of our spice rubs, our sweet and smoky spice rub and then Mavis-Jay makes these really cool pickles and we actually make the pickling spice and we'll start selling it again. So, we're doing those pickles because even though it's a pop up and we have careers as kitchen people, we are not here to feed y'all. We're here to get you to buy the hot sauce. You'll be able to buy everything, yeah, and then with the pop up, we're launching the pancake mix that we do, so you'll be able to get that too.

Kerry Diamond: That was going to be my next question. Most people know chicken and waffles, but you two do chicken and pancakes. What's the story behind that?

Sicily Sierra: Waffles is not an African-American thing. It's a Dutch thing, so it's the hybrid of the two and if you grow up in a lower class, socioeconomic status, you didn't have a waffle iron. For me growing up, we didn't eat waffles like that unless it was an Eggo by chance and that's rare. We ate pancakes. You made pancakes because you had a skillet that you could make pancakes and you fried chicken. It is this weird conundrum, I think, for me and a lot of people that I know because we're like, "Where did this rumor start that Black people always ate fried chicken and waffles?"

Kerry Diamond: Where did it start?

Sicily Sierra: They say that it was the marrying of two things during slavery. When the Dutch came over here, they brought the waffle iron with them and so, when the slaves would cook for them, they would fry the chicken and then they would then also use the waffle iron to make waffles.

Kerry Diamond: Oh okay, wow. What's the secret behind a great pancake?

Sicily Sierra: Okay, so it's two things, right? First, it has to taste good, the batter has to taste good. Sometimes people go into this with very bland batter. It's like throwing a little extra salt and some brown sugar in your batter and then it's patience because most people's pancakes are very thin. Even if you buy it out of the box, you want to use less liquid so you have a fluffier pancake.

Kerry Diamond: That's fun that you'll be able to buy your packaged items as well. That's really cool. It runs through next weekend, right, the pop up?

Sicily Sierra:                           Yes, so it actually starts tomorrow. It's a soft opening, but we're not really come one, come all until Friday and Mavis-Jay is super excited because it's the fourth which is Beyonce's birthday, so she's like, "Of course you want to start your pop up on Beyonce's birthday." Then it runs all the way until the 13th and we're closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, so if people want to come and get your food, do they have to order it in advance? Can they just show up?

Sicily Sierra:                           They can show up. I think at some point Maison Yaki will be doing pre-orders with Resy and then if you live locally, I think it's a two and a half mile radius, there's this bot thing that we're going to post via Door Dash but the best thing is just come and then you can hang out and you can see our kids and get a little social distanced hang thing happening. Bring your mask.

Sicily Sierra: It's hilarious because our kids typically work the window and they've done it for other people's pop ups there and they will tell you, "Okay, you need to put your mask on." Then there's a restroom, so our small daughter, when you come in, she will take your temperature with a gun.

Kerry Diamond: Aw. It is going to be a lot of fun. As we mentioned, Food + People, that's your company. You two have some products. Tell us what the company's all about and how it came to be.

Sicily Sierra: I think that we both always lived in a space where we've had really great careers but it's also been very apparent to us the lack of care and accessibility when it comes to the people working there and the people that look like us getting the food. This idea of when I always hear people say, "Shop the perimeter of the grocery store," and it's like, but that's whack because some people cannot logistically afford to do so.

How can we create products that feed people that will go in a grocery store that's in a food desert so they feel nourished and loved and cared for and don't have to feel like good, clean, simple products aren't for them because they can't afford it or whatever? We wanted to hit the center of the aisle and then we also try to do it in a way for people who either really, really hate cooking or don't have the time to cook, so we're meeting both of those needs.

Initially, it started with a dried food mix where it was like, how can we create a product where you just have to add one thing which is water? Whether it's on tap, whether it's in a filter, whether it's out of a bottle, whether it's out of the kettle, how can we create products where people can just add one thing and be able to have a really great meal and feel taken care of and feel like we in particular care about them?

From there, we started talking about the things that we love, so hot sauce and all of our hot sauces double as marinades. If you bought our hot sauce and the flour mix that's seasoned, all you would need is your fish or your fried chicken. Things like that. How can we be the solution for a cooking experience but also always, always be about Black culture?

Kerry Diamond: And folks can buy these products on your website on Food + People. What's the plan for the brand? Will you be expanding with more... You mentioned your pancake mix is coming.

Sicily Sierra: Yeah, so we're launching a pancake mix and then we have another spice rub that's coming out. We're going to start doing another flour that's completely gluten free and corn free and then we're going to go back into... Because the soup was really hard. It was just a lot of laboring to think through what... Because we dehydrate, we grind everything, so it's like, how can we make something where if you add water or whatever the thing is, it all cooks up at the same time? So, we'll go back to doing the soup mixes.

Then we eventually will... We wanted to start with just shelf stable products, so we're trying to exhaust all of that space of you don't have to put it in the refrigerator, you don't have to do all of these things, and then eventually we'll move into items that are refrigerated, but the goal is we always want to be teaching. Go back to teaching. I think that's something that both of us are super passionate about. Holding the space for people to learn and develop and grow and I'm sure she will tell you when you speak to Mavis-Jay, but she has a farm, her and her dad.

They've had this almost 100 acres for 50 million years in their family, so I think at some point, it's like going back and getting more land, which they still farm that land and just getting more land. If I could convince her to get this land in California, it would be great but I also don't believe that that's going to happen.

Kerry Diamond: Where is the family farm?

Sicily Sierra: It's in Georgia. I think Georgia's beautiful, but I just really love Los Angeles, California and my narrow mind is like, "Cool, cool, cool, all these places are great, but we need to go back." But I think that that's a real thing. That is something that we've talked about is possibly that being the place that we settle in land long term and just really buy some land and some space.

Kerry Diamond: We should mention that your show on Black Food Folks got renewed, Drink Tank. It will be on Monday nights, 7:00 pm EST. Can you tell everybody what Drink Tank is all about?

Sicily Sierra: I mean, it's funny because initially, if you watch the earlier videos, it was like, "We just want to hold space for people and be a community and be a resource where people can come and ask questions, if it's about costing or a resume, this is the thing we want to do." Then it was like, "So, I had rosé today." It really is a hang. I think that for us, community is really rooted in who we are. I definitely love a good hang and I think that that's super important to us.

So yes, there are very serious things that we talk about and how they affect Black people, people of color, women, queer people in the food space but it's definitely rooted in, "What are you drinking?", us sitting around a table with you virtually and just saying all the things that either you can't say or you wish you could say or that you would say if we were all together.

Kerry Diamond: Well, it's very entertaining and I have to say through some of the bleak moments of the past few months, it's been fun getting to watch you and Mavis-Jay on that show. I will say my favorite parts are when you get scared that Clay is watching, Clay Williams, who's the co-founder of Black Food Folks, terrific photographer, great guy. I never know whether you're fake scared of Clay or you're really scared of Clay.

Sicily Sierra: No, no, we're really scared of Clay because even in the emails outside of it or we'll text, and he'll be like, "Do you want to talk to so-and-so?", and we'll be like, "No," and he'll be like, "Oh god." He's like, "Well, you have to be mindful that this is a space for everyone," and I'm like, "Mm-hmm (affirmative), that's great." But then he'll also come on when we're live and he'll join in our live and that's how we really know.

Or one of two things. He'll either come on or he'll be like, "I'm going to sign off because I have a thing to do," and then Colleen will come on and be like, "So, what's happening in here?", and I'm like, "We've caused some trouble."

Kerry Diamond: Colleen Vincent, who's the other co-founder of Black Food Folks.

Sicily Sierra: We try to be super intentional. The people come in, we wave at them, we talk to everyone. When you play back a live, you don't see the comments.

Kerry Diamond: No.

Sicily Sierra: So, we tried to be very intentional about, "Oh, so-and-so said this." Even people in the comments will be like, "You guys are going to get in trouble right now," and I'm like, "I know, we're pushing the boundary."

Kerry Diamond: Right, everybody gets a little commentary.

Sicily Sierra: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: I think you've given one or two shout outs, which I have appreciated sitting at home with my cat. It's just nice to be seen by you guys.

Sicily Sierra: Yeah, we really try to. I think that that's important. It's this thing of we're hella fortunate to have each other and our two kids, even in the midst of a whole ass pandemic where sometimes we can drive each other crazy. We have a pretty good time and not everyone has 1800 people in the house with them or too many people in the house with them that they don't want to talk to. We tried to love on people so they don't feel alone or that they feel seen and they feel valued.

We try to really respond to every comment, just so people can feel like we're all in the room together, we're all hanging together and we're trying to give you as much joy as we can for an hour or two on a Monday night.

Kerry Diamond: Well, a lot of joy comes out of that little iPhone screen. Black Food Folks has become a really amazing platform.

Sicily Sierra: Yeah, and they've only been around... This is going on their second year and I think the thing is they've created such a... Well, they've created a space. This space was not a thing where Black people can come together in the food and beverage industry and see the diversity in the people that look like you and they're the ultimate connector.

Sicily Sierra: Whether it's the thing we do on Monday night, whether it's sharing information, posting about what other things are happening within the community of people of color or people in general, of hiring, of support, like, "Oh, you need this thing? This person does that thing or they may have some experience." Even with us, we had a friend who's not in food but that was like, "Hey, I know a guy who wants to help out with websites during the pandemic."

Sicily Sierra: For us to tell Clay and Colleen and them to tell other people and they're so great at shining a light where there wasn't one and we don't feel small, that there's so much joy and happiness and it's just great. It's like everybody looks forward to having this space where they can just say and do and be and not have to worry about code switching or anything like that. It can just be celebrating Black Food Folks.

Kerry Diamond: With everything that's been going on over the past few months, you sometimes don't know where to turn and that Instagram account has really been a powerful place to turn to, I think, for a lot of people, even for myself, for white people who care about the space and the conversations. I just really appreciate it.

Sicily Sierra: Yeah, and I think that that's great too because they also have created a space that centers in Blackness and doesn't apologize for that, but has allowed for a lot of people to come in and sit and ask questions and learn and grow and develop. We've seen so many interesting people. It was funny because on Monday nights, they're very disrespectful to me.

Kerry Diamond: Who is they?

Sicily Sierra: Well, I don't want to say anybody but one of them is in the room with me right now, because I like sugar and butter on my grits. The way she's shaking her head, and it's funny because one of the white guys we know who's a blogger, he's like, "Listen, I eat butter and sugar on my grits too but I didn't think that I was going to help your case with all the people in the room," and I'm just like, it's so great that so many people can come in here and just be a part of a community and honor a community. It's so dope what Clay and Colleen do.

Kerry Diamond: Not to mess with you, but I did think one of the funniest moments was when you talked about your neighbor who thought Mavis-Jay was your...

Sicily Sierra: My daughter!

Kerry Diamond: It's almost like it was classic television except it was IG Live.

Sicily Sierra: It was insane, because the way she asked me that question, because we were getting out of the car, she was walking her dog and it was our two daughters, Madison, who will be 13, and Marley, who will be nine and we had been talking for at least 10 to 15 minutes and she looked at me and she said, "So, where's your other daughter?", and I said, "Did one of them get back in the car?"

Then she was like, "You know, the one who's the cook," and I said, "Ma'am, now I know, I know you don't mean..." I was like, "You mean my fiance?", and she was like, "Oh." Now everyday, I make sure to leave the house with my hair combed, makeup on and an outfit that is semi-sensible.

Kerry Diamond: This is a good segue into the fact that before you were in food, you were actually an actress and I didn't know that in the beginning. Is that maybe one of the reasons why you're so good and so comfortable on IG Live?

Sicily Sierra: Well, a lot of people actually don't know that I was an actress because I often, even if I talk about it, I'll be like, "Oh, my first career." Most people probably think I had some office job or something. I did Power Rangers and then most people will later recognize me for this TV show that I was on for five years called One On One and I literally grew up on that show.

But no, because if I, Mavis is like... Which is about to be on Netflix next month. They're relaunching all... They had done I want to say 10 old Black original sitcoms and that's one of them, so it's one of the last ones to launch, so it's super exciting but I'm also... This is going to sound really crazy, but I'm an extroverted introvert and I actually get very nervous around people, but I think that I'm also reckless enough to just say the thing that I'm thinking. People don't take me seriously and that's why they think it's funny.

Kerry Diamond: Tell us how you transitioned from acting to food.

Sicily Sierra: I always grew up around food. My aunts and uncles are cooks. I can trace my family back seven generations and my great, great, great, great grandfather, seven generations ago was a slave on a plantation and he was a cook. It's always been this idea of cooking and community that's been a throughline in my family. Around the last season of One on One which was 2005, it would be this thing where we would go out and do events and everybody would be talking about the red carpet and all these things and I'd be like, "I just want to go in the kitchen and see what they're making."

When the show finished, because I had started acting so young and it was something that my mom was like, "If you don't love it, you don't have to do it", I've always had this thing of if you don't love it, don't do it. When One on One had finished, I was like, "Okay, I want to do something that I love and it's food." Because I was raised to know that you only do the thing that you love, I need to take this seriously, so as I was transitioning, before the show was fully done, I had started doing dinner parties and all of these things.

Then finally, I was like, "Okay, I think I'm going to go to culinary school and really make this a career," and I did. I went to Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles and then while I was there, I did a double internship with the LA Times test kitchen, so my background is actually R&D and food styling and working for the Times. That was my favorite job. I mean, I love what we do now but this idea of food styling, talking to food people, to people who love food, and creating a space that lives on paper about that is probably... And testing recipes is hands down my jam.

I never looked back and so, I started doing that and then it was ironic enough that as I graduated and began to freelance for the Times, I started doing food styling more frequently and went into doing TV shows and movies and music videos and things like that. That got weird for a second because I would pull up and people would be like, "Oh, you're acting," and I was like, "No."

Kerry Diamond: You started a business with your mom, right?

Sicily Sierra: Yeah, so once I stopped and then I started doing food trucks and that's in Los Angeles where I met Mavis-Jay and then moved to the Bay and my mom and I joined La Cucina together and we opened our business Pinky and Reds, which she runs full time. We had gotten the opportunity and they were like, "Would you be interested in opening something on Cal's campus in Berkeley?"

We moved into the MLK Student Union building and we were like, "Okay, we'll put everything on a sandwich." I mean, we were doing, she still is, greens, yams, dirty rice on a sandwich. We did catfish and spaghetti, all the things that we were raised on, on a sandwich. Because there was such a lack of diversity on the campus and La Cucina had done this partnership, so it was us and five other women of color, a girl named Pinky was doing pastries and then there was an empanada place and then there was a Vietnamese place and there was a Syrian family who were refugees who were doing Syrian food.

It allowed for us to be a source of identification for people, because we're so heavily community people, our girls started going upstairs to the multicultural center and volunteering and all of these things. Then it was like, okay, if we're really in this space and we see the need for representation, people could come and sit and hang and study and do their homework and we would feed them but if you couldn't afford meals, we would still take care of you. Then we started doing all of our meat was halal meat to make sure that everyone could eat there.

Then we only hired students of color that went to school on campus and then it later turned into women of color who were on campus that were students and then that became very controversial. People felt like we didn't deserve to be in that space as Black people and so, then there was a petition that went up, so it wasn't guaranteed that we were going to stay in this space and it was super nerve wracking, so we had to go the board and they had to put it up for a vote.

All of the students really rallied behind the restaurant and then shortly after that, I ended up moving to New York but then she won one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the Bay Area. It's been pretty great. It was wild. I think we pushed a lot of boundaries and fought for people to be seen in a way that they may not have been represented before.

Kerry Diamond: What would you say you learned from your mom?

Sicily Sierra: I think one thing I will say is it's never too late. The thing that you really want to do in your heart, it's never too late. Your dream never expires. When I lived in Los Angeles and we were kind of far apart, she would just text me and be like, "I hope that God creates a miracle in your life and you don't miss it." For me, it was not missing those things, kind of being tuned in and being present, especially being in food and always being a person who's worked for 800 years of my life, to stop and be aware of the good things that were happening around me and to fight.

My mom has always been a very, "No, state your opinion with your whole chest and be firm", so I think that is partially where I get that from.

Kerry Diamond: Well, speaking of miracles, you have two little miracles in your life. You've mentioned your daughters, but you really involve your two kids in your business.

Sicily Sierra: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Marley, she has a company email. She does a lot of the packing, she has an interest in food, so she'll sit when we're in the kitchen and she'll help with the spice rubs and the products and she's really, as time has gone on, had a deep desire for cooking, but they're always there. I've been really fortunate enough, we've been fortunate enough to get to a place in our careers where I'll be like, "We have kids and they will be here." It's all they've ever known. It's kind of cool, but they've only ever seen us work and own businesses and things like that.

Sicily Sierra: They definitely want to participate and want to be hands on. For the pop up, Madison was like, "Okay, so who's working the window? Because that's my thing." Whereas Marley's like, "I'm making the Koolaid and bottling the drinks and doing the..." Yeah, I mean, they're great. They're very serious about it. They're just as invested as we are. They will hustle it harder than we will. We'll be talking to someone, they're like, "But have you tried the hot sauce? Because if you haven't, go to the website," and I'll just be like, "Oh my god, they have no shame." It is their company.

Kerry Diamond: I love that it's a family business.

Don't go anywhere. We'll be right back with Mavis-Jay, but first I want to tell you a little bit more about Pass the Spatula. It's the first ever magazine produced by the students of Food and Finance High School, New York City's only culinary focused public high school and it's amazing. Cherry Bombe worked on the magazine in partnership with the students and the Food Eduction Fund 501(c)3 and it was an incredible experience. One of the students we worked with is Sicily and Mavis-Jay's daughter, Madison, a very talented young illustrator. You can purchase a copy of Pass the Spatula for $10 at their website, and help support their food media program.

Speaking of Pass the Spatula, we have a very special who's the bombe for you right now.

Jade Atkins: Hi, my name Jade Atkins and I'm the editor in chief of the Pass the Spatula magazine and a senior at Food and Finance High School in New York City. Do you want to know who I think is the Bombe? Christina Tosi from Milk Bar in Brooklyn because she is so energetic and fun. Christina, I can tell, values and finds happiness when baking, and I admire her for that. It was an honor to be a part of one of her Instagram Lives and bake with her. I would certainly love to do it again.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you, Jade. You're the Bombe too, and good luck this semester. Now, for Mavis-Jay Sanders of Food + People.

Mavis-Jay, how are you feeling? I know you two are working really hard on the pop up right now.

Mavis-Jay Sanders: We had a moment today where I was like, everything in my body was aching and it was just kind of like, "make it to the door, make it to the door." We were coming home and then Sicily wasn't sure whether or not she had left her phone in the car. It wasn't that much of a trek but it was more than I wanted to trek back. Instinctually, my body just turned around and went because it was like, you don't even have a thought of I'm too tired to go back to the car, otherwise you're not going to go back to the car, so just go. Just do what needs to be done. I think it's been so long since I've actually had to be in that mental space, but it still happens.

Kerry Diamond: Tell me what you're excited about for the pop up.

Mavis-Jay Sanders: I'm excited just to celebrate. Celebrate Black excellence. I'm excited to see Sicily in her element.

Kerry Diamond: How did you two come up with the menu? Was it super collaborative?

Mavis-Jay Sanders: Psych, no it's not. It's all hers. It's all her menu.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, I didn't know that. Okay.

Mavis-Jay Sanders: Yeah! It's totally her lovechild.

Sicily Sierra: Don't say that, I don't tell people that!

Mavis-Jay Sanders: What does it matter? Because here's the thing that happens, right? She's the brainchild of everything and I get a little bit more of the backside, the work horse of things and that's perfectly fine. The things that people see me executing things and they go, "Oh, it must be hers," and then I'm like, "No, it's not. It's not mine." You know what I mean? It's hers. It's totally hers.

We collaborate on things as much as, "Does this need more salt? Does this need more vinegar?"Or, "Hey, could this be different like this or these kind of cuts?", and stuff like that. I think anything that we're doing for the pop up, there's nothing on it that's specifically mine. The pickles?

Kerry Diamond: What's the secret to a good pickle?

Mavis-Jay Sanders: A lot of people, they just want to do, "Oh, I'm going to put this weird brine mix on it," and old pickling spice that's been sitting in the back of the grocery aisle for the last 17 years, you got to blow dust off the top of it. Don't do that. Make your own, do your own thing, do what's going to feel good to you. Don't follow anybody else's recipes for what you want this pickle to taste like. You've got it. Go for it.

Kerry Diamond: I'm psyched to try it this weekend. Now, you have some serious food chops. While Sicily was establishing herself on the West Coast, you were on the East Coast and went to the Culinary Institute of America, right? How did you wind up at CIA? What was your experience once you got there?

Mavis-Jay Sanders: I mean, I think any school, any educational process honestly is you get out of it what you put into it. I honestly do believe that. I think when I was younger, a lot of what I was doing was about trying to get access to places I wouldn't normally have access to. When I started my career earlier on, I had a lot of no's because I didn't have some super fancy white person cosigning me and so I didn't have access to space.

I knew that if I went to the most legit school, that piece of paper would get me into a door somewhere and that's kind of how I started.

Kerry Diamond: You worked at some major places. You were at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Untitled. Lots of changes at all those places right now. Have you been keeping up with that?

Mavis-Jay Sanders: Yeah, for sure. I mean, the whole entire industry's upside down honestly. I don't know if I worked at those places so much for the... I mean yes, the pedigree of those places were important but it was more about the mentality of the leadership and not necessarily the leadership itself but the thought processes of the people who were leading those spaces. You know what I mean?

I thought that Dan was incredible for the fact that he was like, "If I can't find it, I'll create it and I'll create it here and I'll bring together some of the best minds to bring this to fruition", and I hadn't ever experienced anybody who was of that mindset.

When it comes to leadership at Untitled, yes, Michael Anthony, rad dude but Suzanne Cupps was phenomenal and her leadership style is unmatched. She just exudes leadership. Those are the things that I wanted to learn and so, it wasn't necessarily about the where. I mean, where it was was important, the access that I would get going to work at those places but it was also about who was at the helm.

Kerry Diamond: Give us some examples of what you learned from Suzanne.

Mavis-Jay Sanders: She has an optimism about her. She obviously has a vision, you know what I mean? You're working towards that vision. No one ever gets... She's very empowering. No one ever gets talked down to. She's very accommodating. I was talking to her one day and she was saying that she had somebody who was always coming in late and instead of berating that person or seeing something as being wrong with that person, she just changed that person's schedule. Not in a bad way, but just pushed it back an hour and that person was then always on time because something was going on.

She sees people. That's what it is. She never loses peoples' personhood. From every single person who's on her team, they're always a priority. Then doing that and still making excellent food.

Kerry Diamond: Suzanne is now the chef at 232 Bleecker in New York City. So, you have this fine dining experience but then your next move was kind of unexpected. You went and were a partner in a food truck, albeit an award winning food truck.

Mavis-Jay Sanders: With a bunch of other young folks who were coming out of fine dining. I think for them it was about business, but for me it was about access. It was about how do we take all these ideas that we've learned in these fine dining spaces and feed people who don't have access to them. I think when we were in LA, it was a lot of gyms and movie sets and WeWork kind of spaces and that was great, but what made me step away from fine dining was that I wasn't feeding people who looked like me and my parents couldn't afford to eat at the restaurants that I was working in. It didn't make sense to me anymore.

Then still in the food truck, when it came down to it, after we'd gotten all the accolades and were hitting a stride and we were really like, "Okay, how do we build this?", when it became obvious that it wasn't going to focus on feeding people who really needed some extra care and needed the changes in the food systems to happen. If we weren't going to be that change, I didn't want to be a part of that anymore.

I think that pretty much everyone on our team, at that point, we were kind of ready to go in different directions and not in a bad way. We were young, everybody was under 30 and we had no debt and the truck was doing great and it was like, "Okay, cool. We can dissolve this and figure out how to work on our talents in other ways."

Kerry Diamond: I did not ask Sicily this, but I think she said you two met in LA. How did you meet?

Mavis-Jay Sanders: On food trucks. Yeah, it was pretty fantastic. She used to work on a food truck that sold pudding.

Sicily Sierra: This is so rude!

Mavis-Jay Sanders: Yeah, she sold pudding and it was expensive pudding. They would sell four ounces of pudding for ten bucks and then be two dollars per topping. It'd be like gummy bears or something like that and you'd be like, "This is wild. Why would I put gummy bears..." Anyway...

Kerry Diamond: Sounds like a racket. It was the pudding racket.

Mavis-Jay Sanders: Yeah, it was a racket. Anyway, so food trucks in LA, whenever you do anywhere, a big party or scenes or whatever, you have to really be making money to get the best spots because they charge a whole lot of money, like $700 for you to park in the good VIP spot, right?

They always had the best spot. They had it on lock every single month, always, always, always and it was so weird. They had this window that was unusually high. You had to look up and reach your money into the sky. She was like Rapunzel sitting up there.

We parked and we hadn't got hit yet, anything like that, it was still kind of during the day a little bit and so, I jumped off the truck and we were set up and I was looking around. I was just so captivated how no other trucks had any business, but there were so many people standing in front of this pudding truck in line to grab this four ounces of pudding and there was this woman who was just working this entire crowd from this window in the sky. I was just like, "Who is she?"

I sent over one of my business partners to go get her name right quick and then she kind of moseyed over to say hi and grab food and I went and jumped on the back of her truck and I was like, "Hey, what up? How are you?" She was all blushing and shy and stuff, so I was like, "Cool, this is good. It's a wrap."

Kerry Diamond: That's a love story. You two wind up in New York, you're back in New York, you launch Food + People. Sicily told us a little bit about what Food + People is all about in her words. Can you tell us in yours?

Mavis-Jay Sanders: I was working all these jobs that were supposed to be about helping the people and feeding the people who really need it the most. It wasn't happening, you know? It was a bunch of shenanigans and the top of the year was just the perfect opportunity to be like, "Yo, bump this. Let's make it happen for ourselves. Let's see, let's do this, how we would want it, how we would want to be seen. Let's make sure that we pay homage to our culture." Let's make sure that we do things that are specifically geared towards maybe parts of our culture that are overlooked or that are seen as not the greatest, but for us, it's the little things that make everything worth it.

Kerry Diamond: You said earlier, Mavis-Jay, about the restaurant industry being upside down and I think it's sort of the food world in total. Restaurants, food media, you name it, it's a revolution, an evolution, an implosion. What's your take on what's going on right now?

Mavis-Jay Sanders: I think my frustrations are still the same. I'm hopeful for change because a lot more people are... And I'm not saying that I'm happy that more people are experiencing this, but I feel like it is now more apparent to a lot of people. People who may have looked down on people who were at the farmer's market trying to get the extra two bucks on the vegetables because they got SNAP or whatever deals are set up depending on where you are, but having to learn how to navigate those same things and learning how difficult it was to even get benefits in the first place.

Oftentimes, you're in those situations because of something that is completely out of your control. I think it's humbled a lot of people in general and I think a lot of people have started to rework how they think about food and I think that's very important. There's a lot of amazing people who have been doing this work all along and they need the help, they need more voices on it. I think they're getting that now. I'm hopeful that things will change, the tides will turn.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Sicily Sierra and Mavis-Jay Sanders of Food + People. Don't forget their pop up, starting today, September 4th, at Maison Yaki in Brooklyn. I'll be online for that meatloaf burger and Sicily, I promise I will not put ketchup on it. If you can't make the pop up, pop over to to pick up some of their hot sauces, flour mixes, and more.

Thank you to today's sponsor, Breyers CarbSmart. Would you like to support Radio Cherry Bombe? Check out the official Cherry Bombe memberships at Radio Cherry Bombe is edited by Kat Garelli. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Radio Cherry Bombe is produced by Cherry Bombe Media. Hang in there, everybody, and thank you for listening. You're the bombe.

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