Skip to main content

Honey Transcript

 “Just Like Honey” Transcript

Susan Feniger: Hey there! I'm Susan Feniger, and you're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe. You're the bombe!

Kerry Diamond: Hi, Bombesquad. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the number one female-focused food podcast in the universe. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond. Today's show is a sweet one. I interviewed the founders of London's Honey and Co. restaurants, and one of the co-founders of Chicago's Honey Butter Fried Chicken. These folks have more than just the word honey in common. They are working to make the restaurant industry a better place, and they make incredible food, so stay tuned.

Kerry Diamond: Let's thank today's sponsors, Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Schools and Emmi cheese from Switzerland. You folks are the bomb.

Kerry Diamond: Some housekeeping. Do you love fashion as much as food? Then don't miss the new issue of Cherry Bombe Magazine. It's our first ever fashion issue, and we have five different covers to choose from. Visit to subscribe or buy an issue, or visit one of our stockists, like Now Serving LA or Salt & Sundry in Washington, D.C.

Kerry Diamond: What else? We have launched the official Cherry Bombe membership. You can now be a card-carrying member of the Bombesquad. Join now through December 31st to become a founding member. Memberships are 25 dollars, and the price will go up in 2020. Visit to learn about the perks of being a member and more.

Kerry Diamond: Before today's show, let's hear a word from our friends at Le Cordon Bleu.

Kerry Diamond: Are you daydreaming about culinary school again? Make this the year your dreams become reality with Le Cordon Bleu, the legendary culinary school. Study classic French culinary techniques in cuisine and patisserie as part of their exclusive nine month Le Grande Diplome, and graduate into a world of opportunity. You also can extend your course of studies to include culinary management and dedicated internships. Le Cordon Bleu has locations in more than 20 countries around the world, and located within some of the best food cities out there: London, Ottawa, Madrid, Bangkok, Tokyo, and of course, the spiritual home of cuisine and Le Cordon Bleu, Paris.

Kerry Diamond: Turning your daydreams into reality is closer than ever. Visit for more, and let your culinary adventure begin.

Kerry Diamond: Let's welcome Christine Cikowski, co-founder of Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago. Not only does her team make one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the country, but Christine is running her business in a very mindful, modern way. Let's hear more.

Kerry Diamond: Tell us your entry into the food world.

Christine Cikowski: I was a late bloomer, so I went to culinary school when I was 27.

Kerry Diamond: What had you been doing previously?

Christine Cikowski: I don't know. Wandering? I was in the restaurant business. I've been in the restaurant business since I was 16, but actively... like, I just did it as a job. I worked in a coffee shop, several coffee shops, and I worked as a bartender and a server and a host... and basically just to get myself through school, and I was really good at it, and I made some good money, and I was like... I just did it, but I didn't love it, but I also couldn't get out of it. And so...

Kerry Diamond: It sounds like you were not looking at as a profession.

Christine Cikowski: Definitely not, which is funny, because I grew up cooking, and my mom and both my parents were... they were divorced, but they both loved cooking and baking, and my mom was a gardener, and we had fresh vegetables. I think it was right in front of my face and I just didn't see it.

Kerry Diamond: Where did you grow up?

Christine Cikowski: In the suburbs of Chicago.

Kerry Diamond: Okay.

Christine Cikowski: It never occurred to me to make this a career. Now, this was like 15 years ago, so you remember at that time, chefs were just starting to be a thing that people paid attention to on a bigger scale, as opposed to... everyone paid attention to Julia Child or the people that were starting on The Food Network; people paid attention to those, but not every day, all day, and tons of magazines and blogs, and Eater and all that stuff was not going on.

Christine Cikowski: So, it didn't really occur to me to do it for a career, but I loved cooking and I loved eating, and I was a server for a really, really long time. And then, I was like, "I finally got my out," and got a job working in the wine business, which is essentially annexed to the restaurant business.

Kerry Diamond: How long did that last?

Christine Cikowski: It lasted two years, and during that time... it was like my first nine to five, Monday through Friday, clock in, clock out job... and it was wonderful. I was off every night. I cooked every night. On the weekends, I would go to the farmer's market. It was just a really special time to have all that time to devote to it, and I really just got super interested in cooking for myself.

Christine Cikowski: And then, my company got bought out, my wine company.

Kerry Diamond: Did you see that coming?

Christine Cikowski: No, I didn't, but I also wasn't... it wasn't surprising to me, I think. I worked for a really small distributor, a neighborhood kind of boutique-y kind of catalog, and it was a great experience, but there was going to be no job for me. It kind of forced my hand, of like, "Well, you have to do something." And so, I went to culinary school instead.

Kerry Diamond: Which one?

Christine Cikowski: I went to Kendall College in Chicago. I was like, "I want to be a chef." I met my business partner, Josh, at Kendall, and we... again, 15 years ago... so, farmer's markets were not the thing that people went to to just buy groceries. It was kind of a still a very special, not-well-attended thing. But Josh and I were really super into farmer's markets, and we were like...

Kerry Diamond: And you were both at culinary school at the same time?

Christine Cikowski: We were at culinary school. He's a career changer, too; so, he actually was living in New York. He was a teacher in the South Bronx for Teacher America, and then he moved back to the Midwest to go to culinary school, so that's where we met. We are not married, by the way. Everyone thinks we are. We're not.

Christine Cikowski: So, we met in culinary school, and then we had this shared love of farmer's markets, seasonal ingredients, and we have a very similar cooking style and approach, so we started an underground restaurant called Sunday Dinner Club, and ran it out of our apartments for years; word of mouth-only business, really just like a beautiful time. Like I said before, living in poverty, but so happy.

Kerry Diamond: You've had all these beautiful times in your life. That's really nice.

Christine Cikowski: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: What were you doing for money?

Christine Cikowski: I worked at Blackbird Restaurant. So, I was a pastry assistant there.

Kerry Diamond: You did? Oh, wow. Blackbird's fancy.

Christine Cikowski: It is very fancy, and has an excellent pedigree and legacy. I'm very lucky I got to work there. That was my only job working in the restaurant business before I started my own business, but it was a really good experience and definitely helped me lay some foundation for the kind of food that I want to make.

Kerry Diamond: So you have your day job; you're doing the Supper Club at night. And at the time, Chicago had a lot of supper... like, underground food things going on.

Christine Cikowski: Yeah, within the first five years of us doing it... like, when we first started, I think there were two? And then we met Abe and Adrian from X Marks, who now have Fat Rice; they started around the same time that we did, and then there's a ton more that I couldn't even tell you. And most of them are actually not operating now, or are restaurants; we are like the only people that are still doing Sunday Dinner Club 15 years later.

Kerry Diamond: What's the appeal of doing an underground supper club?

Christine Cikowski: Looking back... I can always talk about it looking back on it... I think at the time, it wasn't about being underground. It was just like, we don't have any money and we had this idea of starting to cook our own food without opening a restaurant, and just having it be for the community. You know what it's like to go to a dinner party. It's such a more intimate, relaxed environment. There's no tip or check or somebody trying to push you out. You get to actually interact with the... we liked it because we could have a glass of wine with the people, and they could come into my kitchen and sit on my bed and pet my dog. It just was a really good way for us to connect with people that were eating our food, and we just loved the format.

Christine Cikowski: So, that's kind of why we did it, not to be underground, and then it quickly... word kind of spread about it, and we started doing a ton of dinners, and then we were like, "We need to"-

Kerry Diamond: Did that impact your day job?

Christine Cikowski: I quit Blackbird.

Kerry Diamond: You were making enough money from the supper club, or you were just living on nothing?

Christine Cikowski: Oh, definitely not. I just lived on nothing, and I lived on passion and happiness, and I ate very well. I ate a lot of great food. I just didn't spend money on anything else. We didn't pay ourselves a lot of money, but we made sure that we had health insurance and that our employees had health insurance, and that we paid ourselves enough to be okay, and I think that that laid the foundation for what we ended up doing with Honey Butter.

Kerry Diamond: Wait, when you had the supper club? Wow!

Christine Cikowski: We only had, like, two employees.

Kerry Diamond: Okay.

Christine Cikowski: Yeah, we definitely made sure that we were taken care of as much as we possibly could, and then just sort of scrap by on everything else. But eventually realized, this is not sustainable. We're two adults. Josh got married and he really wanted to have a family, and I was like, "I would love to not be late on my rent every month, and pay my student loans off," and so... plus, we had people working for us that were like... they're going to leave at some point because there's no opportunities for them, and that's when we got the idea to do Honey Butter, and open that restaurant.We worked on it for two years before we opened it, and it's been quite a wild ride.

Kerry Diamond: So, you wanted to do it because you knew you needed something more stable, more income coming in. Why did you decide we're going to do fast, casual fried chicken?

Christine Cikowski: Well, I think... I don't believe in divine intervention or anything, but it was like... Josh has a lot of restaurant concept ideas, a lot. I never wanted to open a restaurant, ever. I fought it really hard for a really long time, and he would always... like, we'd be making burgers or tacos or pizza or cassoulet for Sunday Dinner Club; he's like, "We should open a burger restaurant," and I'd be like, "No. I don't want to do it. There's too many burger restaurants."

Christine Cikowski: So, I would always come up with some excuse, and I remember when we were doing the honey butter fried chicken at Sunday Dinner Club, he's like, "We should open a honey butter fried chicken restaurant," and I was like... I had no rebuttal. There's no excuse to not do it. There wasn't a ton of fried chicken restaurants at the time. Now, there are more, obviously, but it seemed like a unique enough thing, and people loved it! It had like a cult following, and I was like, "That actually feels like it could have a place in Chicago, and it wouldn't be competing with everybody else that's doing it."

Christine Cikowski: And also, it just felt super special. We put honey butter on fried chicken. It's delicious. The name alone is like... if we never do anything else... seriously, we will never do anything as great as Honey Butter. We'll do other things, but it'll never knock it out of the park like that.

Kerry Diamond: What was the a-ha moment about the honey butter on the fried chicken?

Christine Cikowski: The inception story?

Kerry Diamond: So, when you serve it, you literally put honey butter on the fried chicken, or you serve it to the side?

Christine Cikowski: We put it on the side.

Kerry Diamond: Got it.

Christine Cikowski: So you can dip it in.

Kerry Diamond: Got it, got it.

Christine Cikowski: Like a dipping sauce. It's not a sauce, but we have it room temperature, and you... slather, is the best word I can use.

Kerry Diamond: That's decadent.

Christine Cikowski: It is. It is. The moment was an accident? There's not a moment of culinary genius. It was like, "You know what would be really good? Honey butter on fried chicken." No, it was an accident. It melts-

Kerry Diamond: It was a happy accident?

Christine Cikowski: Yeah, the happy accident, as we call it. It just melted on the chicken on accident when we were plating a family meal. We had it on a side dish; it was like a corn cake, like a Johnnycake with honey butter on it, and then it just got on the chicken.

Kerry Diamond: It's like those old commercials for Reese's Peanut Butter cups, when the chocolate accidentally melts in the peanut butter.

Christine Cikowski: Yeah. It's like, "Whoops! Oh, greatest combination of all time!" Yeah, it was pretty much like that. We're like, "Oh, this is so good! Maybe we should tell people to put the honey butter on the chicken." So I ran out to the dining room after we had sampled it in the kitchen; we're shocked, and I ran to the dining room because they were probably halfway done eating, and I was like, "Take the rest of your butter. Put it on the chicken." And people were like... I mean, I'm not exaggerating this... eyes rolling back in heads, like, "Oh my God, this is so good!"

Kerry Diamond: I just got goosebumps.

Christine Cikowski: Me, too, a little bit right now, because every time I think about it... the further I get away from it, the more I'm like-

Kerry Diamond: Thank God!

Christine Cikowski: Thank God that happened!

Kerry Diamond: So, you're two kind of broke former culinary school students. You've got your supper club. Moving from that to brick and mortar is not for the weak. How did you set about doing it?

Christine Cikowski: No. Well, very slowly and very deliberately. Like I said, it took us two years to get it open, and it took us 16 months to find a location. We had a really difficult time with that.

Kerry Diamond: That's a long time.

Christine Cikowski: Yeah, we just kept having things fall through, but when we found our space, we were like, "This is it." We probably had five or six spaces fall through before that, just contract negotiations or inspections or somebody else got it, or the landlord stopped talking to us... you know how it works. And when we finally found our space, then it was pretty quick, then it was eight months.

Christine Cikowski: It was intense. I struggle to find the words to describe it. It was really exciting. It was intense. You opened a restaurant. You know what it's like. It's like this buildup, and then you open it and you're like... you have no idea what's going to happen, and for us, we had built up so much buzz, and also loyalty from our Sunday Dinner Club community, that we weren't expecting it to open and have 700 people show up for our soft open, and just crush us. It was crazy, and it's not ever stopped. Day one, it was like we had a line. We did, I think, 1,000 customers our opening day, and it was like... I know! It's intense! I'm having PTSD just thinking about it.

Kerry Diamond: So, my favorite question: how did you raise the money?

Christine Cikowski: We were pretty lucky, actually. We had some friends who were graphic designers and really into Sunday Dinner Club, really into food, and basically said, "We'll put up the money and partner with you guys."

Kerry Diamond: Damn! So, you're looking to expand and raise money. Tell us how that's going.

Christine Cikowski: Yeah, so we are... we're looking to open number two, and we're in a much better, more powerful financial position now because we have six years of financial data in our business... does really well. We have excellent numbers and excellent financials, and to a lot of people's surprise... especially money people; they look it and they're like, "These numbers don't make any sense," and we're like, "That's the numbers. They're really good. We have great profit margin, and we have benefits and good pay, and somehow we are able to make it happen."

Christine Cikowski: So we're in a position right now where we actually have people that want to give us money, and we need to pick who it is.

Kerry Diamond: Great!

Christine Cikowski: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: So you're only looking to expand to one location. Do you look at the landscape of fast casual and see Sweet Greens worth billions of dollars now, or whatever the last valuation was? All these brands in your category expanding like crazy, raising tons of money; are you two ambitious in that way?

Christine Cikowski: I think we're kind of somewhere in the middle. I don't know if we want to go... I just don't know what will happen. We kind of evaluate... we try to be very present, and we look at the climate, and obviously, it's different now than it was six years ago when we opened. We kind of at this point... things could change... see us kind of like, maybe a dozen over time. We have these dreams of opening Honey Butters in other cities, and not just 20 in Chicago, but in a couple other places in the world that we'd like to visit and be part of the community.

Christine Cikowski: And so, I don't think we'll open a hundred, but I don't think we'll open just two. I think the plan now is to do five over the next few years and see, but I don't know, it just changes all the time. But we definitely will be expanding, I can assure you that; there will be other Honey Butter locations.

Kerry Diamond: Now, you are a very mindful business owner.

Christine Cikowski: We try to be.

Kerry Diamond: Last time we saw you, we talked a lot about how to be a mindful business owner and pay insurance and make sure your employees earn a living wage, have good parental leave, all those things. How did you come to be that kind of business owner?

Christine Cikowski: There's a couple of different things. Josh is really a huge advocate for that kind of business. He used to be a collective owner in a coffee shop in Madison, and is like a socialist, and he's-

Kerry Diamond: Are we going to Madison next year?

Christine Cikowski: He just was always been very civic-minded, and just trying to do good for the world. And when we started Dinner Sunday Club, he was the one who insisted, like, "We're buying health insurance for ourselves and our employees," and I was like, "Great." So through him, I've learned... I mean, I don't come from that world. I come from a restaurant world where that was not the case, and we were just like, "Let's do something different," and what we sought... we started doing it because it we thought it was the... it was a ethical decision. It was like, we want to make sure that people are taken care of. We've seen and heard horror stories of people getting sick, having to come to work sick, having children and not being able to work, and just chefs leaving the restaurant business... and just the harsh condition... all of it. I'm not saying anything that anybody doesn't know.

Christine Cikowski: But we were like, "Let's not do that. Let's try to do it differently and just build it into our model." A lot of people we talked to about this were like, "Oh, I would love to do that, but I can't afford it." We were like, "We are going to pay for it, and then we'll figure out how to afford it," and making that decision upfront was probably the easiest one.

Kerry Diamond: Does that mean paying yourself less? Does that mean charging higher prices? What does that mean?

Christine Cikowski: I think that... I mean, I suppose we probably do pay ourselves less than we could be making, but we also know that we have to take care of ourselves, too, so just trying to fair and equitable with it... looking at living wages like, "How can we get up higher?" I think it's a little challenging because we don't do tips in our restaurant. So, a lot of restaurants will... they have a sub-minimum wage; they don't actually have to pay their front house staff a full wage. We pay our entire restaurant staff a full wage, so we don't have... what's happening right now we're seeing in the restaurant business is that the back of house labor market is short, and so restaurants are able to pay their back of house more money because they're not paying their front of house.

Christine Cikowski: And so, we are just striving to make sure that everybody levels together, so that's been really important. And I think one of the byproducts of that, one of the results, is that people really feel like they're part of a team together. The back of house doesn't see the front of house walking home with a ton of tips, but the front of house now doesn't see our back of house making four or five, six, dollars more than they are. We really do try to keep everyone leveled.

Christine Cikowski: So, our leveling is slow, but we're able to keep up with the wage increases. And then, the benefits is a huge part of it. So, we pay health insurance. We have paid time off. Everyone in the city of Chicago, it's mandated, so everyone has paid sick time. We started doing it before it was mandated, and now we have PTO, and then we added paid parental leave, which is huge.

Kerry Diamond: How does that work?

Christine Cikowski: It's tiered; so, depending on how long you've been with our restaurant or company, you get a certain percentage of your pay for 12 weeks. So, one year is 60 percent of your pay for 12, 3 years is 80, and 5 years is a full pay. But what we'll do is... like, we've had some people take it that have only been with us for a year, and then we just pro... prorate maybe is not the right word, but you know what I mean?

Kerry Diamond: I know what you mean.

Christine Cikowski: We'll do full pay for six weeks, or we did have one person that took 60 percent at 12 weeks because they wanted more time, but it's something.

Kerry Diamond: That's impressive. It's not easy when you're a single place, trying to make that work.

Christine Cikowski: It isn't, but we just a higher labor percentage, and we try to save costs in other capacities. But we know... at this point, we're actually... this is one of the reasons why we need to expand, because there's nowhere for people to grow. That's what we're seeing. We had a lot of people that stayed working for us for four or five, six, years that are maxed in their manager... there's no way for them to go.

Kerry Diamond: That was the frustration when I had one place, and I was like... it's just really not that feasible.

Christine Cikowski: It's not when you have one.

Kerry Diamond: For multiple reasons, I think. There's nowhere for your employees to move up to or aspire to.

Christine Cikowski: That's right. And they max on their salary; it's like, I can't just keep giving them raises, as much as I so desperately want to, because that's how much money we have for labor, and like-

Kerry Diamond: But then also, two places gives you more backup in terms of staffing.

Christine Cikowski: Yeah, and we have shared services, so we've already started to establish our accounting department and our marketing and PR partnership, and we just hired our first HR manager, which is the best hire I've ever made!

Kerry Diamond: You must sell a lot of fried chicken to afford all this!

Christine Cikowski: We are very lucky. We sell a lot of fried chicken.

Kerry Diamond: All right, give me some advice for folks out there who are listening to this, who are like, "I want to do all that. I just can't make it happen. And I've already launched my business, so what you were talking about, building it in at the beginning"...

Christine Cikowski: Are you talking about how to add these wonderful benefits?

Kerry Diamond: Yeah.

Christine Cikowski: My advice has always been what people told me, which is do one thing at a time. It's very ambitious to be like, "I'm going to add health insurance and paid sick leave, and harassment policies, and a better work environment and change my culture, and have paid parental leave." It's like, we didn't start with all of that. We started with a belief and a philosophy, a guiding light that we would always be doing better. So, pick one thing. We started with health insurance and we pay half, and that's what we started with... and two sick days. Now everybody gets two weeks, and it's like, you build it in, and every year, we would just look at our budget and make decisions about how we would... what we do now, we think, is the minimum, right?

Kerry Diamond: The one thing at a time is great advice.

Christine Cikowski: One thing at a time.

Kerry Diamond: Whether you're talking about HR issues or anything else. It's like launching a menu with a hundred things on it.

Christine Cikowski: One of my favorite books of all time is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. You know that book? I love it so much. It really imprinted itself in my DNA when I read it, and famously the story that she tells in the book is a good metaphor. She said her brother was writing this paper on birds... like, report on bird when she was in third grade or something... I'm probably misquoting her, but... and waited, obviously, to the last minute and had this stack of books, and they were on vacation, and he was sitting there, crying, like, "How are we going to do it?" Because you're looking at this massive project and it's so daunting.

Christine Cikowski: And her dad just sat down and rubbed his back and was just like, "Just take it bird by bird, buddy." And I just sort of look it at... like, I have to tell myself that every day, because at every stage that I've been in our business, I have felt that. The opening, it was like, "Oh, my God, how am I going to get through this?" And then you said, one of the hardest things to do is open a restaurant. I would say one of the harder things is keeping it going. I would love to go back to that time and just live there, because it was hard but not like this hard. Being able to say, bird by bird... we're just going to do one thing at a time.

Christine Cikowski: We talk about having five locations, and I'm like, "Let's just do the next one," do you know what I mean?

Kerry Diamond: Bird by Bird has even more resonance for you because of fried chicken.

Kerry Diamond: Why no tipping?

Christine Cikowski: Well, we had tipping when we opened. We're a counter service restaurant, so we don't have servers; so, we have the tipping at the counter, like you go to coffee shops and you just add the tip.

Kerry Diamond: Right, the tip jar.

Christine Cikowski: But it was not something that we wanted to do. I think we just did it because we just did it. Just assume... that's how we did it. We were very inspired by Danny Meyer when he went tip-free, and-

Kerry Diamond: Did you raise prices?

Christine Cikowski: Yes, but not... we didn't raise prices to cover all of it. We're like, "We're not putting all of this on our customers." We're like, "If we get rid of tips, we have to get better at service. We have to get better at business." We can't just say, "Service stays the same or gets worse, and we're just going to raise our prices." We did raise them 50 cents across the board?

Christine Cikowski: Now, we're a high volume restaurant, so we have 10 dollar sandwiches and people still think that that's insane. But we really liked the Danny Meyer "hospitality is included," and Josh... he will go out into the world and say this forever, he's like, "I don't understand how our industry is the only industry where you don't pay for the product that you're going to get." When you go to the Apple Store and you buy an iPhone, it's not 300 dollars plus a 80 dollar tip for the person who sold it to you. It's crazy. You just pay for the phone, and you just pay for your doctor. Why do we not just pay for our food?

Kerry Diamond: It's a great question. People are addicted to tipping. It's weird.

Christine Cikowski: Well, the roots of tipping are really-

Kerry Diamond: Creepy.

Christine Cikowski: It's like... it came out of slavery. Like, it's bad. It's bad. That was the way that business owners could get away with not paying their African-American employees, was saying, "We're not going to pay you a wage. You work for tips." It's terrible. It's rooted in discrimination. All the research shows... it's like, not everybody just goes to a restaurant and leaves 20 percent tip. It's just not. We all want to believe that, but it really is still based on gender, sexuality, the way you look, color of your skin, and the whims of a customer, and we were like, "We're not going to put our employees in that position."

Christine Cikowski: And it is psychological, too. We didn't want our employees profiling customers. Maybe it's unconscious, but we're like, "We just want to have it be... it's 10 dollars and you get everything. Everything's included: health insurance, good service, the lights, the rent... everything's just 10... that's just the price."

Kerry Diamond: All right, so tell us what's on the menu.

Christine Cikowski: So many delicious things. Honey butter fried chicken is on the menu; so, that's our main focus. We also do chicken strips, which are something we didn't with and added, and have now probably become our biggest selling item? We have a couple fried chicken sandwiches; most popular, pimiento mac and cheese.

Kerry Diamond: On a sandwich?

Christine Cikowski: No, but that's a side dish. That is a good idea, though.

Kerry Diamond: Tell me about your fried chicken sandwiches. You said you have a few of them.

Christine Cikowski: Yeah. We started with one, called the OG, which is the candied jalapeno mayo, crunchy slaw-

Kerry Diamond: Wait. Candied jalapeno mayo?

Christine Cikowski: Yeah, it's really good.

Kerry Diamond: Wow.

Christine Cikowski: It's like sweet/spicy.

Kerry Diamond: Wow.

Christine Cikowski: So, we candy jalapenos so they get the sweet/spicy, and then we blend them into mayonnaise.

Kerry Diamond: Put that in a jar and sell it!

Christine Cikowski: We would love... I mean, that's like a pipe dream. It's like, "Let's put all of our sauces"-

Kerry Diamond: I think you need a meeting with Kraft. Who's listening from Kraft? You need to see Christine.

Christine Cikowski: Call me.

Kerry Diamond: All right, so you put that on...

Christine Cikowski: The original fried chicken sandwich, the OG: candied jalapeno mayo, crunchy slaw, and then fried chicken strips. And we have the honey butter fried chicken sandwich, which is just honey butter... just... honey butter fried chicken and a bun. Fun fact: we did not actually open with that sandwich. A year after we opened, we were like, "Should we do a honey butter fried chicken sandwich?"

Kerry Diamond: And the world said, "Duh!"

Christine Cikowski: It's so embarrassing that we didn't. It never occurred to us to do that.

Christine Cikowski: Then we have the honey buffalo sandwich; so, honey buffalo sauce, and it's buffalo sauce that we make with honey butter.

Kerry Diamond: I'm so hungry right now.

Christine Cikowski: Blue cheese, giardiniera.

Kerry Diamond: Jess, our producer, and I had a smoothie. It's not cutting it right now, is it, Jess?

Christine Cikowski: It's not honey buffalo fried chicken sandwich.

Kerry Diamond: All right, the bun.

Christine Cikowski: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: What kind of bun?

Christine Cikowski: It's called a buttery bun. It's kind of challah-style bun.

Kerry Diamond: Do you make your own?

Christine Cikowski: No.

Kerry Diamond: Okay.

Christine Cikowski: We could never get-

Kerry Diamond: Okay. Let's talk about these sides.

Christine Cikowski: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: Pimiento mac and cheese. Two of my favorite things colliding right there.

Christine Cikowski: I feel like we sold, like, over a million mac and cheese last year. That's insane, right?

Christine Cikowski: Then we have our schmaltz mashed potatoes; so, a way for us to make something delicious using essentially waste; like, we have all these... we butcher our own chickens and we have all these bones. We roast them off, and then the fat renders off, and we get schmaltz... chicken fat.

Kerry Diamond: That's brilliant.

Christine Cikowski: And then we make gravy out of it, and we whip into our mashed potatoes. They are quite delicious.

Kerry Diamond: You make stock from the roast bones? What do you do with the stock?

Christine Cikowski: Yeah, we make demi. We use it for the gravy. We go through a lot of gravy. And then we have creamed corn.

Kerry Diamond: Are you guys working on a cookbook?

Christine Cikowski: I would love to work on a cookbook.

Kerry Diamond: Okay.

Christine Cikowski: We have had some challenging efforts to bring a Honey Butter Fried Chicken cookbook to the world.

Kerry Diamond: Because?

Christine Cikowski: I think that there's a stigma that people don't want to make fried chicken at home.

Kerry Diamond: Sure.

Christine Cikowski: It's like... people say it's messy and it's dangerous, and it's like, "Well." But we also have, like, 30 other menu items, and over the time, we've had hundreds of specials, and we were like, "We have plenty for a cookbook." So, if anybody's interested, publishing the Honey Butter Fried Chicken cookbook, please call me.

Kerry Diamond: Well, you are a force for good, Christine.

Christine Cikowski: Thank you!

Kerry Diamond: In so many respects.

Christine Cikowski: So are you.

Kerry Diamond: We'll be right back after the break with Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co. in London.

Kerry Diamond: Hey Bombesquad, let's talk about Emmi Cheese from Switzerland. Emmi's beautiful variety of cheeses are crafted from the freshest milk from local Swiss farms. One of our favorites is Emmi Kaltbach Le Gruyere AOP. With notes of hazelnuts, black tea, and dried stone fruit, Emmi Kaltbach Le Gruyere AOP is the perfect addition to any cheese board. Or, if you want to get more creative, you can do what Chef Elizabeth Falkner does and make her creamy farro with Kaltbach Le Gruyere fondue sauce. This wintry recipe combines fresh thyme, parsnips and farro, in a creamy bechamel fondue made with Kaltbach Le Gruyere. You can find this recipe and more at

Kerry Diamond: If you are looking for the perfect gift for the cheese lover in your life, check out Emmi's traditional Swiss cheese gift package. You can give the best of the best from Switzerland to friends and family with this package of five Emmi cheeses. This includes Emmi's popular Le Gruyere, and some of their Kaltbach cave-aged cheeses, including the new Le Cremeux, and one of my personal favorites, Gouda. Topping off the selection is Emmi's ready to serve fondue, making it easy to bring everybody together for a night of fun and melted cheese. Visit\gift for details, and use code RADIO to receive 10 percent off.

Kerry Diamond: Let's welcome Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co. in London. These two are partners in life and business. Everybody I know in London is obsessed with their take on Middle Eastern cuisine as served in their restaurants and served up in their cookbooks, including their newest one, Honey & Co. At Home.

Kerry Diamond: So were you two born enlightened human beings? Have you always been this way?

Itamar Srulovich: No.

Sarit Packer: No.

Itamar Srulovich: No. I mean-

Sarit Packer: We weren't even born human beings.

Itamar Srulovich: We were extremely-

Kerry Diamond: Everybody loves what you do. I mean, so many people are like, "You have to go to one of the Honey & Co. places."

Itamar Srulovich: You have to. You absolutely have to.

Kerry Diamond: I came to Honey & Smoke.

Itamar Srulovich: Did you?

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I was there, I don't know, four days ago? Five days ago?

Itamar Srulovich: No way!

Kerry Diamond: Yes, it's on our Instagram if you need the proof.

Itamar Srulovich: Oh, we believe.

Sarit Packer: We believe!

Itamar Srulovich: Did you enjoy it?

Kerry Diamond: I had a wonderful time.

Itamar Srulovich: Good. Did you have dessert?

Kerry Diamond: I had the Feta cheesecake on that little bird's nest.

Sarit Packer: You have to.

Itamar Srulovich: Yeah.

Sarit Packer: It's the thing to have if you come to any of our places.

Kerry Diamond: There were only two of us, which was sad.

Sarit Packer: It's not enough.

Kerry Diamond: Because you really want to order everything. That's why your mezze option was so much fun. I was like, "There's no option here. You just have to get that and get all the small plates."

Sarit Packer: You just have to.

Kerry Diamond: Well, the good news for everyone listening is that you two have a new cookbook.

Itamar Srulovich: Yay!

Kerry Diamond: And you can make all this sexy food that is on their menus.

Itamar Srulovich: And should make.

Kerry Diamond: And should make. I mean, honestly, I was dying looking through this cookbook, and I was just like, "This really is all I want right now," and this is one of those cookbooks that I think people can actually... I'm sure you have some folks who cook through everything, but this is one of those books where you literally just want to make everything.

Sarit Packer: The point of it was really to keep it to really honest food. It's called At Home because that's what it is. It's the food completely that we cook at home, and we cooked it all at home for this book. We shot it all in our apartment.

Kerry Diamond: You did? Oh, that's so much fun. Wow.

Sarit Packer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. All the food was shot in our apartment, made in our apartment; consumed in our apartment, as well. We would cook all day and take pictures, and then a few people would come over and eat it in the evening; whatever was left over, our neighbors got quite a bit of food.

Sarit Packer: But it really is just what Itamar and I kind of either cook... so, it's kind of divided in this way of what we cook for us when it's just the two of us, or what we cook when more people are coming over, and then if we're having a big party. So, it's kind of divided in how we think of food, which is... there's certain things you just kind of want to sit on a sofa and have a spoon, and eat, and not think about; but other things, where you sit in a dinner party and you want everyone to take a bit and try a bit, and enjoy.

Sarit Packer: It's a very personal book, as well. When we write these books, we don't think that someone's going to read.

Kerry Diamond: You don't?

Sarit Packer: Well, I don't know.

Itamar Srulovich: I think you kind of have to not think about this.

Sarit Packer: Yeah, and then people tell you things about your life. You're like, "Wow! How do you know so much about me?" And then you realize that they just read it.

Itamar Srulovich: Ah, I wrote it in my book. Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: So have you two had a culinary mind meld at this point, or do you still have distinctive personalities when it comes to what you cook and what you love, food-wise?

Sarit Packer: Yeah, I think-

Itamar Srulovich: I think, if anything, we kind of... more recently, more kind of independent of each other.

Sarit Packer: I mean, we definitely try not to cook together anymore.

Kerry Diamond: Really?

Itamar Srulovich: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah? Why?

Sarit Packer: In the same kitchen, because it became too much. I think it was completely fine at the beginning, but then later years, we ended up kind of just bossing each other around, rather than... because at some stage, you just get used to telling people what to do, but then, I don't need to tell him anything to do. He's fine, but I would still find myself telling him, and vice versa, and that's just stupid. It's not-

Itamar Srulovich: And actually, we would have a kitchen that needs direction, and a kitchen needs a head, actually, and we would both be there, and kind of forget... for some reason, our attention would only be focused at each other, managing each other. And really, the one person that doesn't need any management, that doesn't need supervision, would be... and we would drive each other crazy; as well, we would drive the team crazy.

Sarit Packer: Yeah.

Itamar Srulovich: They call us Hydra, the two-headed monster. They do. And so, we need to be very conscious about-

Kerry Diamond: But at least you two realize that. That's good.

Itamar Srulovich: Well, we need to be conscious about who's doing what, who's talking to whom. Before we speak to the team, we need to... I would say, like, "Oh, yes, I saw this in Honey & Smoke. Did you tell them to do that?" And she'd be like, "No," because if I go to the chef and I'll say, "Arya, what are you doing," he'll say, "Sarit told me to do it."

Sarit Packer: Yeah, so we have to-

Itamar Srulovich: So I need to get my soldiers in line, yeah.

Kerry Diamond: So what is the best gateway drug recipe in this, if someone's going to cook for the first time from Honey & Co. At Home?

Sarit Packer: You definitely need to start in the For Us chapter, because it's really casual food. It's super easy. It's what we cook at home, and usually it's like our day to day, because you come home from work, you don't have a lot of stuff. It's like we said, after we wrote the book, we realized that we... so we realized that we kind of use a bit of tinned tuna, and that's because we never have any ingredients. It's one of these things! The only thing you have is store-covered ingredients sometimes.

Sarit Packer: So, I would say you could start with that chapter is the easiest, and things like the Giant Couscous and Tomato Sauce; it's just a very nice, quick... ready in 10 minutes.

Itamar Srulovich: Or the green shakshuka, I think, is so typical of how we live.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, yeah, who doesn't want that? I mean, I would like that right now.

Itamar Srulovich: Because this is the kind of stuff that... we would go on a Sunday to the farmer's market near us, and we would buy way too much vegetables. And then on Sunday night, we will have like something nice. And then Monday night, we'll be at work, and then Tuesday night, we would go out or something. And then by Wednesday, we would have all these wilted greens in our fridge; and then we say, "Okay, we cook it now or never!" So we take everything, we chop it, we slow cook it in a pan until they're nice and soft greens, and poach some eggs on top. And this is kind of our Wednesday night thing.

Kerry Diamond: So, how do you know who's writing for the headnotes?

Sarit Packer: Itamar is writing.

Kerry Diamond: So you write everything?

Sarit Packer: So Itamar writes all the very...

Kerry Diamond: Got it. Okay.

Sarit Packer: Itamar, it's weird, because his first language is not English at all, but I think he writes so beautifully, and he captures kind of our life. He manages to tell a story in a way that I'm just not able to do. And I think, actually, the best part in the book are the stories rather than anything else.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, I love that.

Sarit Packer: Because he's just so good at kind of conveying it. When I read first drafts sometimes, it brings a tear to my eye, or I'm laughing my head off and stuff. It's really lovely to have someone-

Itamar Srulovich: Yeah, there is one... the bit at the end, everyone cries.

Sarit Packer: Everyone cries, yeah. The last story.

Kerry Diamond: We'll have to-

Sarit Packer: And I still can't read it without crying.

Kerry Diamond: You forgot to put the Cherry Bombe cookbook in that photo, one of our cookbooks, but I'll forgive you for that.

Itamar Srulovich: Oh, my God.

Sarit Packer: You know what? This is two of, like, 15 shelves, and we were like, "Which shelf do we take a picture of?"

Kerry Diamond: I'm sure. All your friends are going to be like, "Oh, where's my cookbook?"

Sarit Packer: This is the worst! "Why I'm not there?" Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: But I love the pictures of you two at home. It's fun. It really feels like, "Okay, so you have to read all the way through to the last story."

Sarit Packer: You have to read it. You know what? Start with the last story, because it's kind of... it's important to us that people read that, as well.

Sarit Packer: So, anyways, he does all of that beautifully thing of putting our life into words, which is nice. I have a chronicle of things, and I-

Itamar Srulovich: When I die, you can read it back.

Sarit Packer: I tend to style the shoots and write the actual recipes.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. It's a beautiful book. It's so nice to meet you two! I was so happy I got to sneak into the restaurant that night! Your staff was amazing, and the food was amazing!

Itamar Srulovich: Thank you so much!

Kerry Diamond: But I was like, "I really need to eat at one of their restaurants before I talk to them," so I'm glad I got to.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Christine Cikowski, Sarit Packer, and Itamar Srulovich for stopping by. If you are in Chicago, be sure to check out Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and if you're in London, swing by the Honey & Co. restaurants. Nowhere near London? Their new book, Honey & Co. At Home, is out right now.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Le Cordon Bleu culinary schools and Emmi cheese from Switzerland for supporting Radio Cherry Bombe. Be sure to subscribe to Radio Cherry Bombe wherever you get your podcasts. Our show is edited, engineered and produced by Jess Zeidman. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Thanks for listening, everybody. You're the bomb!

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

Mariam Parker: Hi! My name is Mariam Parker, and I am the Executive Director of the Food & Wine Alliance. Do you know who I think is the bomb? Cathy Cochran-Lewis, the Senior Leader of Communications and Operations for the Whole Kids Foundation. Cathy is a true inspiration. She's incredibly generous with her time in mentoring and advising women in the industry. She believes in mentorships so strongly that she started the Austin chapter of the Les Dames d'Escoffier.

Mariam Parker: When she believes in you, she literally will move mountains and dedicate her resources to help get you to the next level. Whether it's prepping for an interview or a kind introduction, she's done it for me, and she's done it for countless other women. She's an incredible advocate, and she's taught me the importance of giving back in the same way, so I strive to do that every day.