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Kansas City Transcript

“Food For Thought: Kansas City” Transcript 

Kerry Diamond: Hi Bombesquad. Welcome to food for thought, a Radio Cherry Bombe mini series. I'm Kerry Diamond, editor in chief 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 Kansas City, Missouri. We recorded this episode at Corvino, the amazing supper club and tasting room where we heard from eight women changing the local food scene. Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our food for thought tour. Kerrygold is the Irish brand known for its award winning butter and cheese made with milk from grass fed cows, from family farms all over Ireland. We'll be hearing more about their amazing products later. So stay tuned. Our first talk is from Christina Corvino, the co owner and general manager of Corvino.

Christina Corvino: All right, good evening. I'm Christina Corvino. Welcome. I'm the co owner, GM of Corvino supper club and tasting room and a certified sommelier. And I am all these things because I failed at everything else I tried to do. When I was young, after school, I'd sit crisscross in front of the TV, and I'd watch Julia Child. I loved her. She looked like someone who would invite you to her house and give you like a big bosom-y hug when you walked in the door. Oh, and she was really good cook too, but I never wanted to be a cook. I just really wanted to be Julia Child. She, during one show was making a potato pancake and while trying to flip it in the pan, it fell apart all over the stovetop, and she said, "See, when I flipped it I didn't have the courage to do it the way I should have, but you can always pick it up if you're alone in the kitchen who's going to see?" But the only way you learn to flip things is just to flip them. Isn't that a kind and graceful way to address a mistake?

Christina Corvino: I want to talk to you about failure today, because our intensive need for perfection is driving us into anxiety, addiction, depression, withdrawal. We're not taught how to confront failure, and then how to move past it in a positive manner. I once had a little company called Red Dirt. In short, it was a retail line that collaborated with artisans and developing communities, born out of my humanitarian work in West Africa. Also in short, it was a heartbreaking failure, but I kept repeating entrepreneurial cliches in my head, never accept failure, keep grinding, you'll succeed, but that's not always true. All of us can picture someone who worked their heart out to the best of their ability with a great plan, and they just didn't succeed. Maybe it was a bakery that you loved and they just never made money. Maybe it was an actress that never caught a break or maybe it's you and your dream.

Christina Corvino: I refuse to accept the failure and stayed on a sinking ship when I should have grabbed a life raft and jumped off. I lost all the investment and pushed it even further, losing my own personal life savings and my friendship with my partner. Failure affected my mental health, because I believed that it meant that, I was also a failure as a human being. I was depressed and not really working on anything. And I was so crushed with anxiety that I felt it physically. I shook my fist at God and cried, "Why?" I think we have moments in life, but most of life tragedies, that question will never have an answer in our lifetime. Why couldn't I accept an appropriate amount of responsibility? Feel my feelings, note the lessons and move on before so much destruction was done, because we are hard wired to avoid failure.

Christina Corvino: There's astounding research that indicates that failure hurts us twice as much as success makes us happy. Thus, it explains why we as humans will go to great lengths to avoid loss or failure to the point of even squelching your desire to build and create a lead. As I research more about failure, I learned that our brains automatically focus on the negative instead of the positive. So, I kind of wondered about that if it was true. Case in point, we're in restaurants, so of course we have reviews on platforms like Yelp and Google. What do we spend the most time discussing? The random one star reviews. How about when we meet up for drinks with friends? How often do we overanalyze something bad that happened or maybe even just could happen? Or do you all do what I do when I get dressed in the morning? I kind of make a mental list of what I wish was different. I'm not going to lie, it's a difficult paradigm shift to change your thoughts and conversations to focus on the good, but tomorrow, I'm going to look in the mirror and say to myself, "Nice boobs." You do too.

Christina Corvino: You know how Oprah told us all to keep a gratitude journal, because when we train our brain to focus on the positive, we feel happier and more fulfilled. Make a list to remind yourself of how awesome you are. It will nourish your soul to help you move on to your next big thing, which you need to do, because if we're not growing, we're rotting. So one day, my sort of masochistic husband said, "Let's open a restaurant." And I had to dig down real deep to find a spark of courage to pull me into a new adventure in a world I also knew little about. I nursed my curiosity back and in turn, it inspired me to learn how to run a restaurant and how to study to become a sommelier. I've come to understand that it is beautiful, that in your failure to achieve something, and what you do instead, makes you uniquely you. Honor that story, because it's your story. Julia Child finished up her commentary on that broken potato pancake saying, "Anytime that anything like this happens, you haven't lost anything, because you can always turn it into something else. So in this case, we'll put a little bit of cheese on it, and we'll pretend this was supposed to be a big potato dish." You are complicated, evolving, adaptable human beings capable of harnessing all of life's simple and complex joys. Put that curious spirit to work for you. Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you Christina for sharing your journey. Next we'll be hearing from industry pro, Caitlin Corcoran.

Caitlin Corcoran: Coming off the holiday season is always a doozy when you own a champagne bar. This coupled with the deteriorating state of my relationship with my partner, and life and business was a recipe for disaster. My depression and anxiety were at an all time high. So what did I do? Well, naturally, I worked 80 hours a week. I grinded, and I hustled like I had been doing my whole career. I pushed, and I pushed, and I pushed, so I wouldn't have to process the trauma or pain. Self medicating helps numb anything I did feel once I took a moment to catch my breath. Fast forward to the early morning of January 21, 2019. I wouldn't call what I did a suicide attempt or cry for help. I just wanted to quiet the pain, the sadness and the anger. Release the intense level of emotion I had been experiencing daily for the past few months. As luck would have it, a few hours later, I went to a scheduled couple therapists appointment. It quickly turned into a session all about me.

Caitlin Corcoran: With the help of my team of therapists, I immediately checked into a mental health hospital for what ultimately be a seven day stay. In the hospital, I was forced to examine everything that brought me to this point. Even though the life I had built around me was crashing, it wasn't just that. While alone with my thoughts in silence, I begin to process current and past traumas. The first few days I was numb, but eventually I allowed myself to grieve and just be. I kept thinking, maybe this is why I've stayed in the industry for almost two decades. I was avoiding this exact moment. This intense time of emotional, so scared of what the outcome would be. Work had always been my escape. As long as I showed up, worked hard and had a smiley face on, no questions were asked. Once the 10 plus hour shift was over, and I had to wire to go home and sleep, I would most likely grab drinks with coworkers, rehashing stories until the last call, or enjoying a bottle or bottles of wine on the stoop at my apartment. Then repeat the next day, and the next, and the next.

Caitlin Corcoran: I was able to exist and seemingly thrive on the surface. Plus hustling also meant, I was making money learning about food and beverage, and most importantly, taking care of guests, making connections with people, introduce them to a new favorite winemaker or farmer, helping to celebrate their best days, and most of all, be there for them on their worst. The realization I had, it was easier for me to take care of my guests needs than it was my own. The biggest takeaway from this day was establishing boundaries for myself, especially at work. For the first time in my career, I had started to prioritize my own needs first. This isn't a selfish act, I had to keep reminding myself. It's self preservation. This revelation was eye opening to me.

Caitlin Corcoran: Our industry does not do boundaries, especially if you want to rise in the ranks of management. Most chefs and owners that I've worked for, wear this self sacrificing starvation of basic needs as a badge of honor. It's not. Leaders can't lead from an empty cup. Unfortunately, this is all too common. In 2017, the nonprofit mental health America released a two year study concluding that the environment and the food and beverage industry correlated with a very high level of mental health issues. The organization surveyed more than 17,000 employees and 19 industries, and the food and beverage industry was one of the worst three to work in, alongside retail and manufacturing. Raise your hand if you've worked in the food and beverage industry.

Caitlin Corcoran: Most of you in this room can guess what the contributing factors listed in that report were. Stress, low wages, long hours, job insecurity, a lack of trust of coworkers, and substance abuse. After I came out of the hospital, I started setting small boundaries for myself, like having a regularly scheduled day off. Limiting the amount of social media for work and personal I was consuming, setting parameters on when I would respond to emails and inquiries and delegating more to my staff. These boundaries in addition to my new healthy habits of drinking water, eating regular meals, getting sleep, aka the essentials for life, all this on top of taking an antidepressant seemed to make me feel like myself again. I was able to model for my staff for putting yourself first looks like. We had an open dialogue about my time away. I feel that in order to erase the stigma of mental health, and create a more intentional, mindful place of employment, it's necessary to have a direct communication about even the hardest of topics.

Caitlin Corcoran: A few months passed and my relationship officially ended. I had to start setting stricter and firmer boundaries. When your business partner is your romantic partner, it's not easy for boundaries to exist. It can also be very hard to retrofit boundaries onto an established system and pattern. So ultimately, I had to set the hardest boundary of all, as I felt it was best for my own health to step away from Ça Va. The past few months, I've been learning to make wine in Washington. The time away from the restaurant space has been therapeutic. While working wine harvest is a different kind of grueling, it's nice to be able to clock out at the end of the shift and leave work at work. It's been interesting to observe the parallels between the two sectors. It makes me wonder, what are the boundaries we need in place to care for our mental health, and that our employees to strive for an achievable work life balance, specifically if you're a manager or owner, to ultimately make a dream restaurant industry?

Caitlin Corcoran: Boundaries as Webster defines, as the line that marks the limits of an area, a dividing line or limit of a subject, sphere or activity. Here are some boundaries and limits for us to consider. First off, small businesses and restaurants need to take a more structured approach as model by corporate restaurant groups. In my almost 20 years in the restaurant industry, I've never once received a job description. The easiest way to establish boundaries off the bat is to give a new hire a job description and an employee handbook. Secondly, we need to raise the minimum wage and figure out a way to eliminate tipping, the latter is controversial, and I definitely don't have that solution figured out. But some background on tipping. Tipping spread throughout the country after the civil war as US employers, largely in the hospitality sector, looked for ways to avoid pain formerly enslaved workers. Several states sought to in this practice in the early 1900s, often in recognition of the racist roots.

Caitlin Corcoran: This policy has been used repeatedly as a way to keep marginalized members of our society working poor. Thanks in large part to segregation within the industry, and discrimination from patrons, restaurant work poverty rates are highest for women and people of color. Additionally, sexual harassment is at epidemic levels in this industry because of tipping. Our industry teaches its workers, it's okay for someone to touch you, say something sexually to you, cross your boundaries, because they are tipping you, aka paying your wage. Through labor activist's Saru Hammad studies, she's been piecing together why the sexual harassment runs rampant, not just in restaurants but throughout all industries. After talking to a group of women CEOs about why they tolerated sexual harassment in the boardroom, most of them responded, "Well, it's never been as bad as when I was a server or bartender."

Caitlin Corcoran: This industry is how we introduce the workforce to most young people, by telling people that it's okay to be sexually harassed at their place of employment by their boss, their co worker, a guest, we're saying you don't have autonomy over your body and your boundaries don't matter. Lastly, I think having a socialized healthcare in this country, Medicare for all is a necessity. Everyone needs access to health care, mental health care included. If we want our nation to be happy and healthy, it has to be coverage that people are actually going to use. This burden cannot solely fall on the shoulders of the small business owner and employer. Also, I don't think someone should be denied access to health care based on their employment status.

Caitlin Corcoran: The government needs to be working for the people, which is why it's so important to vote, even in local elections. I truly believe that if we start making these changes within our own circles, we have the power to change our local communities and eventually our country, and may feel counterintuitive, but in order to surpass our biggest goals, grow our companies, make a mark on the industry, we have to get serious about limits. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you today in this room, and further. Thanks for listening. I'm Caitlin Corcoran, pronoun she, her, hers.

Kerry Diamond: Our final speakers are Aasma Tufail and Katie Turk, co owners of Chai Shai, a Pakistani restaurant in Kansas City.

Katie Turk: My name is Katie Turk and I'm the co owner and manager at Chai Shai. Today we wanted to talk a bit about ethnic culture within the food space and how food is such a great equalizer when it comes to people. One time I read something that really resonated with me, and I wanted to share it with you. Oftentimes, when people decide to go out to eat the question in their mind, subconsciously is not, "What do I want to eat?" The question really is, "Who do I want to be?" So think about that for a second, who do I want to be? And then in answering that question, people pick a place that represents this sense of self for them. And the space we operate in, which is Pakistani food, who people want to be, is generally someone who's a little more cultured, someone who's a little more well traveled, and this in turn gives us the opportunity to share parts of our own background and culture with the people that come through our doors.

Katie Turk: I was taking care of a couple recently that were celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary over dinner with family. They were from Olmitz, Kansas. Does anyone know where that is? Yeah, me neither until I looked it up. It has a population of 111 people, which means on the night they were dining with us the population was 109. They were not people who ate ethnic food very often, but they ordered almost one of everything on the menu. Appetizers, entrees, drinks desserts, and throughout the meal, they were just peppering me with questions, "What is this called? What type of spices are used in this dish? Do I use the bread with this sauce? How do you cut a mango?" How do you cut a mango? We get that question quite a bit. Now this goes on for nearly two full hours and everyone's having a good time, myself included.

Katie Turk: A few hours after dinner service. We received a message from the couple's daughter on Facebook. I'll read what she wrote. "Mom ate so much. She had a pakora, a whole chicken samosa, a slice of mango, 80% of her chicken, her salad, half her rice and left her panna cotta clean. She likes it I expose her to new things. Daddy almost as much and he is not food adventurous at all. Thank you so much for the hospitality. Awesome. Everyone had a great time. Mission accomplished."

Katie Turk: But then they mentioned something else. Turns out her parents recently moved into a nursing home, and at the nursing home, they've become friends with another couple who happened to be from Pakistan. And in order to learn just a little bit more about these new friends, they did what any reasonable person would do. They got dressed, traveled from their small town of Olmitz to a Pakistani restaurant in Kansas City, ordered an incredible amount of food that they'd never tried and couldn't pronounce, all while asking questions and gleaming as much information as they could about the food and culture. Just so they could go back to old myths and share some more common bonds with these new friends from Pakistan. So this right here is the power of food to bring people together. Sometimes those experiences are new ones, and sometimes they can even be old ones. So I'm going to let Aasma to talk to you a little about that.

Aasma Tufail: Hello, everybody. Thank you everybody for being here tonight. I just want to share just a quick story with you guys. When I'm back into my restaurant, and sometimes somebody stopped me and asked me, "Are you the chef?" "I guess I am." One day I met this young woman. She has stopped me and she said, "Your food remind me so much of my mom's cooking." And I looked at her and said, "Honey, where are you from? Are you from Pakistan? What city, are you from?" She said, "Oh, no. I'm from Italy, but your food reminds me of my mom's cooking." And there is a saying in Pakistan, in other languages, they say [Pakistani saying] which translated, "The first food a child eats from mom's, home mom's hand, will never forget it."

Aasma Tufail: So I have nine sisters and brother. I'm family of nine. And times were tough when we were growing up, we didn't have very much. My mom was an excellent cook. So, she'll give us a few ingredients and make amazing food. So, I can tell how the mom's food is never, you miss it, you never forget. So, once in a while, and one thing, she could make the food really good, simple food with ingredients really good. I'm traveling to Pakistan every December to go see my mom. Yearly, to go see our mom and I just, can't wait to go see her this time. And once in a while when I'm out eating dinner somewhere, someone will put a dish in front of me, and remind me of her, and then it's my turn to say, "Are you the chef?" Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Aasma and Katie. You are the first mother in law, daughter in law duo on radio Cherry Bombe and we loved hearing from you. Before we get to our panel, let's hear a word from Kerrygold.

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Kerry Diamond: Please welcome Marissa Gencarelli of Yoli Tortilleria, Chrissy Nucum of Caisy Pinoy, pastry chef Megan Garrelts of Bluestem and dry restaurants, and Beth Barden of Succotash. I would like you all to describe yourself in one word, tell us what that word is and why.

Marissa Gencarelli: I guess for me one word, is explorer. Growing up, in Mexico, you get the shows like 15 years later than everybody else. And Jacques Cousteau, if you familiar with him, he's a great marine biologist. And he was always on TV. So, I was obsessed with being Jacques Cousteau. So, I wanted to be an explorer. That's pretty much it.

Kerry Diamond: That's great. What's your word?

Megan Garrelts: A hard one to figure out. I would say committed. I've always finished a project. If it doesn't have a list, I'm a little OCD about doing it. But I've always wanted to make sure that the end results is what we hopefully had talked about in the beginning, but I'm always committed to The project, the person, the community, whatever it is we're involved in.

Kerry Diamond: That's great. Beth, how about you?

Beth Barden: I would say adaptable. I mean, I think that, it kind of goes between adaptable and tenacious. And I think that for myself, my path has been such a strange one. And I never intended for the life that I have to be the one that I have. And I'm also fully aware that your life can change in a matter of seconds with the meeting of anyone, or the turn of a corner, or a thought or something that you listened to that changes everything. And I think that if you're not stuck, and you're not ego driven, and you're just present in your daily life, there's so much opportunity for everything to be so much better than you ever thought it could be. In the same way that it could be so much worse. And I think that the high-low was kind of the beautiful balance, and you have to be able to just kind of traverse it or you're sunk. And if you can just figure out a way around it, you're always going to be fine. At least that's what I told myself.

Kerry Diamond: Chrissy?

Chrissy Nucum: Might be a bad word, but I kept on thinking about it, but it's scared, because I always think of the next step. So, if you're scared all the time, you kind of have to push yourself to not be scared all the time. I was a cubicle monkey, for my first 20 years of my adult life, and then I started the food truck with no food serving variants. So, I think that fear kind of pushes me to kind of go outside the box, which as an East coaster, I'm always in the box. So, to see things out of the box kind of pushes me to make other adventures in my career and in my life.

Kerry Diamond: I think you need to hang out with Beth more and then scared won't be your word.

Chrissy Nucum: I don't know.

Kerry Diamond: You can back next year and I ask you all what your words are again. Okay, so the next question is tell us about your company, organization, restaurant and what you do for them. And we'll start with you again. You can tell us about Tortilleria, because it is on a major trajectory right now.

Marissa Gencarelli: Yeah, we're doing really good. We started two years ago, so Marissa, I'm the co founder, no food background either. So you're okay. I'm still in the tech world, seal.

Kerry Diamond: Were you a cubicle monkey. And have you ever called yourself that?

Marissa Gencarelli: I have not called myself, instead maybe cubicle entrepreneur because we used to trade, like food and prank other people, how to fake mouse and prank people and all kinds of stuff. So yeah, it's okay. It's all. It's all real. So, we started two years ago. And it's really interesting to hear all the different stories here. Our search of food was missing my parents, I lost them by the time I was 21, both of my parents had passed. And I miss Mexico so much, my dad was a lawyer but he loved to cook, so a chubby lawyer. And so, I started cooking out of necessity, literally to try to connect with my parents and as an adult now, I was younger. So, it's like, trying to go ahead and connect with them through food and was really weird.

Marissa Gencarelli: So, that's kind of how we started. It literally started at home and we're like, "Oh, maybe we could do this better if we get this type of equipment." And then before we knew it, we had Tortilleria. I don't know how that happens, but it happens. And then, I'm a strategist by background. So, we started building, what the two year, five year, 10 year plan goes. And right now, we're in two years, so we have stone ground corn tortillas, all locally sourced, Midwestern corn. And now our next one adventure is going to be stone ground flour tortillas, Sonoran style. And so, we really have this, vision of doing neighborhood Tortilleria. There's not that many in Kansas City, and we'd like to go ahead and make it really approachable. And that's where we are, and hopefully keep on growing.

Kerry Diamond: But this is still your side hustle?

Marissa Gencarelli: This is still my side hustle. Yes. It's very exhausting, yeah.

Kerry Diamond: For how much longer?

Marissa Gencarelli: Oh, we'll see.

Kerry Diamond: It's very non committal, Marissa. Is it easy to find your product in Kansas City?

Marissa Gencarelli: Yeah. And all local grocery stores, in houses, carriers. I'm always at the Overland Park Farmers Market every Saturday, so you can find me there. Yeah, it's pretty easy. And we have, some restaurants will call us out that they're using our products. So, hopefully you can see us there too.

Kerry Diamond: I fully expect all of you to be supporting Marissa and her product after tonight. All right, Megan, your turn.

Megan Garrelts: Well, I am a transplant to Kansas City. I was born and raised outside of Chicago in a suburb. And I grew up with two teachers. My parents were very much into education, I was not. I loved to not read the books and find any creative way I could to get out of the norm, which really struck my parents as odd, and they didn't know what to do with that. I have a brother that went to multiple colleges and is still in a college and a library. I wanted to be in this industry when I was 14. I had an uncle who lived in Dallas and he was a manager of a restaurant in Dallas, and we used to visit him all the time. He was so charismatic on the floor. He was amazing with gas. He was Mr. hospitality. And he would let me play in the kitchen. I was a little kid I was, eight or nine and I was running around this Mexican restaurant in Dallas.

Megan Garrelts: And I fell in love immediately and knew that I would never ever leave the space. So I had to figure out, how do I change the norm for me? Because I wasn't a great student. So, I figured out how to get an early dismissal so I could go to work in a kitchen. And I would watch the clock, when it hit to 27, I think was the time and then I would leave and I would go to work in the kitchen. And I never left. And I went to culinary school right outside of high school. So, the CIA in New York, spent an amazing internship in New York City and really found my foundation there, which was very, very instrumental in my path. And then after culinary school, moved home to Chicago, took a job with Gail Gann, who was a great pastry chef at True restaurant at the time, and met Colby, my husband there.

Megan Garrelts: He was always talking about how he wanted to move back to Kansas City. I was, "Kansas City? Who was this guy, and what and where and how? I really liked him, but I don't know." But it worked out. And we got married and we moved to Kansas City, his hometown and we opened our dream restaurant together, a little fine dining restaurant called Bluestem. Has been around for 16 years in Westport, a little shady corner.

Kerry Diamond: That's quite the achievement.

Megan Garrelts: Yeah, it's been a long path, I was 23 when we opened and I had no idea what was happening. I remember our servers would say, "Okay," and the first night they were like, "So, we owe you this and you owe us that," and I was like, "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't know the tip structure. I'm a back of the house girl, I know where the pastries and the sugar caps, but I don't understand this." So I had to figure out the front, I had to figure how to order wine, I had to figure out how to do it all. And then as we grew, we had a couple kiddos and our kiddos don't always like tip for a growing caviar, it's a thing. So, we wanted a restaurant that was more family friendly not only for ourselves but for Kansas City. And so, we developed bree, my background from Illinois and Colby from Kansas City. We grew his smokers and love for barbecue with my passion for pie and Ohio corn that my mom, where she was from, we grew up eating a lot.

Megan Garrelts: And so, we created Rye, which is Midwest comfort food, been open for six years. And then we opened a second location on the plaza two years ago. And I'm pastry chef, but I wear a lot of hats. My husband's the chef, but he's also the plumber as everyone will say, in the restaurant business, there's always a plumbing problem, but I do a lot of things and I've learned that the best way to grow is with a fantastic team and a lot of them are here tonight. So, thank you team. So, that's a little bit of me.

Kerry Diamond: That's fantastic. Congratulations on all your success. Beth, how about you?

Beth Barden: I have an otter beginning I think that most, I was a sex ed teacher and I-

Kerry Diamond: Everyone know that, am I the only one who didn't know that?

Beth Barden: No. I did a community educating grassroots organizing for planned parenthood and I was transferred. I'm originally from the Detroit area. I was transferred to Kansas City and within a month of moving here, I lost my dad, lost my job. I didn't know anybody. I was just, to say I was untethered is to be gentle. And so, I didn't know what to do. And I'd never cooked in a restaurant before, but I threw epic dinner parties. And I'm a girl with a can do attitude. So, I just, there was a city market space and I thought, effort, what's the word? Everybody in their life loses a car, makes a bad decision. Something goes like crap up for you. And I'm the kid that kind of is always leaned into failure. Other people are terrified of it, I love it.

Beth Barden: I mean, really, if you go someplace and somebody falls just terrifically on their rear end, and they get up and they laugh about it in their good nature, don't you root for them? And if somebody withers and shrinks, and they're sad, and they're upset about it, you just kind of cringe, and I think I kind of took, whatever happens if you just lean into it, it's going to be fine. And so, I kind of parlayed this dinner party situation into, I'm going to open a restaurant. And worst case scenario is I opened it for the price of a car. I had a home stove, I just argued with them until they let me have a home hood. I had two presto plugin griddles from wherever, and a table and a bus tub full of ice and everything in there didn't match. There wasn't a table, nothing.

Beth Barden: And I thought, how bad could it be? It'll give me something to do for a while and we'll see what happens. I'm 52 and I have to say, it was merciful. I've had it for 18 years. It's merciful that I got to do these all before the advent of social media. I got to be the crappiest band in the world that played the crappiest songs till you found your sound, and you kind of toed, and maybe sometimes you burn it. You called it smoke chili and illusion, or you just did something that was kind of messed up and then you're, oh, bread pudding who knew? And you just figured it out and I felt, how bad could it be? And the first day I was open, I served 21 people. 21 people in eight hours worth, like to have killed me. I didn't know my ass from my elbow. And I had no business doing it and naivety, and necessity were kind of the cornerstones of how my life happened.

Beth Barden: I've had a lot of, I had an employee embezzle almost everything I've ever made in my life, I've had, I mean, the greatest hits are the highest highs and the lowest lows. I've had absurdly wonderful, fortuitous kind of experiences and kind of things in my life. And I have had some really devastating blows. And it's all that philosophy of, as bad as it is in this moment, it can only be better. And so, for me an absence of family, an absence of all the things that I thought that I really was going to be able to have for myself. I think my restaurant has become an absence of all of that the family that I never had or was able to have or nobody's seen my restaurant, nobody knows any bit of this. Deeply sad, but I've also been really lucky. I've had wonderful people in my life that have just kind of gone all in. And in case you can't figure it out, I'm a very polarizing kind of person, and people either really adore me or they really just can't stand me. I think it's very much because I'm exactly who I am and I don't know how to be anything else.

Beth Barden: And my philosophy has always been that whatever I have, whoever walks in the door, whether it's day one, or it's today, I am deeply grateful. There are so many choices that people can make in the world on any given day. And the fact that they choose my place over and over again, and they feel like they want to share their kind of life events and come into my place and feel welcome, and the menu allows for any kind of dietary restriction, any kind of, I serve Hillel burgers, because I'm by the hospital, and I want doctors, the doctors that are there and a whole group there to feel comfortable. I don't know why I mentioned that, but I don't know, I just feel I want people to feel, when they walk in they can just always make a choice that they feel welcomed. The staff is the same way. It's like the land of misfit toys and some of them are just abysmal at their jobs, but they're wonderful people, and some of them are... I'm sure, I don't know.

Kerry Diamond: Raise your hands if you work for Beth.

Beth Barden: But I mean, but I think you have to have a mix, you can't have all the best. You have to, everybody has to have a first job. You have to learn how to work, you have to learn how to belong, you have to learn how to fall down, you have to learn how to get up. And I think that in the world especially now is disenfranchised as people can feel. If I can create a space where people truly feel welcomed and appreciated, I'm good. I did my job.

Kerry Diamond: Beth you really remind me of someone, yes. This really wonderful Seattle restaurateur opened the conference on Saturday. Her name is Linda Dashing. And she gave a talk called, a grunge guide to hospitality because she opened her first place during the grunge years in Seattle and went on to open multiple places. And she sort of has a similar hiring philosophy as you do, but she also said, "I don't care about having the best places. I want to have your favorite places." And it sounds like what you're talking about.

Beth Barden: Yeah. That's what sustains. To me, there are so many and I'm also in the $12 price point. So, I don't have a bar, I close at three. I'm all about quality of life. I never got into that grind. I created a space where I could be exactly who I was and the absence of kind of, I don't know, the view of what other people expected for me. I knew I wasn't I'm going to fit that. And I figured, I live and die by my own choices, but at least is stressful and awful as things can be, nobody's going to fucking fire me. That's the one good thing. I have a lot of people that rely on me but there is a certain wonderful feeling in knowing that, "I'm not going to get fired today." So there's that.

Kerry Diamond: The beauty of being an entrepreneur.

Beth Barden: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Chrissy I noticed you were nodding like 100 times during Beth's talk.

Chrissy Nucum: Well, it's kind of hard to follow her, but as I put on my business card, I am the head dishwasher at Casey Pinoy. I was born and raised in the Philippines. I moved to the United States permanently in 2000, settled in New Jersey, where my family still live. I was a cubicle monkey my entire life. I worked in the private jet industry as a recruiter, pilot recruiter before I met my boyfriend who lives in Kansas City and when we decided to kind of make the job, he was not going to live in New York/New Jersey because of the rent. So, I decided to kind of move to Kansas City and fell into, out of all things, internet security sales job, and I work for a very good firm, unfortunately through acquisitions and mergers, it became too corporate for me, where, I was 34 and I started being an hourly sales executive, which I thought was completely bullshit. Sorry, can I say that? Okay. Okay, I just wanted to make sure, the foundation of it.

Chrissy Nucum: Okay, so I started hating my job every morning, every time my feet touch the floor when I woke up at 6:30, the first things out of my mouth is, "I hate my fucking job." So, I finally discovered that maybe it's time to find something else. And that's part of the scared part. If you're too scared, you kind of do something a little different. And one night, my boyfriend was in a conference in Boston, and I've had two glasses of wine and food network show about the food truck. Competition shows up and I'm like, "Food truck, why not? Let's, I can do that I've cooked my entire life, can't be that hard. Sure, why not? If Tyler Florence can do it, Chrissy can."

Chrissy Nucum: So I looked at it, and I'm like, let's see, popular food trucks in Kansas City. So, I had Elton adore, which is fabulous, beauty and the beast drone, fabulous. So I'm, sure, maybe I can do it. So I looked on YouTube and there's this long two hour city council meeting in Miami about all these food truck owners. Talking about how awful it was. So I'm, still not scared. So I'm like, okay. So I texted him, I texted my boyfriend. I'm like, "Hey, I think I found my exit strategy." And he's like, "How many glasses of wine have you been in?" And I said, "Just two, don't worry. And I haven't bought anything yet." And he's like, "Okay, fine. We'll talk about it when you get home." When I get home, and I'm, "Okay, sure."

Chrissy Nucum: So, he comes home and he's, "Okay, what is this bright ass idea that you have?" And I said, "Well, what about a food truck?" He's, "Chrissy, you've never even worked at a McDonald's. You don't even know what food handling is or a business or whatever." And I said, "I know. But it's better than this." What I'm going through or I hate my job. My health was awful, my mental state was awful. And he said, "Okay, if you're going to do it, you're going to have to do it right." So he's like, "Let's go tap in your alpha female personality and research the crap out of it." So he said, "First off, you're going to have a business plan." And I'm like, "Okay, I can do that." I don't know what that meant.

Chrissy Nucum: I was a psych major in college. So I'm, "Okay, I'll go take a small business class at, the score, they had 15 people who wanted to open their own business and there's a couple of them with lawn mowing, janitorial, whatever. And this lady looks at me, she's, "So, honey, what would you like to, what kind of business do you want?" And I looked at her and I'm, "Food truck." And she looks at me. There's like this pause and she's, "Bless your heart." And I'm like, "Okay." So, I took the class, it was a three hour class on a Sunday. And then they're, "Okay, you have to do all this research, all the accounting stuff, and all that." So, I started the library card, took out all the books, started my business plan, talked to all the food truckers who wanted to talk to me. And then I started. So that's kind of, that was the scared part. I just said, "F it, let's do it," but I was very prepared on how, the failure rate, the attrition rate of the industry is and I knew that, since I was a complete newbie about the restaurant industry that I had to surround myself with people who know their shit.

Chrissy Nucum: So, my first hire was my line cook, and she was working in restaurants since she was 14. And she taught me everything. She taught me what nine pans are, and you don't call every pan a thing, because that doesn't make any sense when you start washing dishes, but she taught me everything, almost everything I knew. And we started in 2015. Our first event was at the West bottoms, which was kind of funny because that's where our restaurant is now, but we had a line four blocks long, we ran out of rice, which for an Asian truck is really bad, but we ran out of rice. So, we had like a little sticker that says, sorry, out of jasmine rice, sorry, out of garlic fried rice, and they're, "I just want the meat. Can you just give me the meat?" And I'm like, "Sure, we can scoop the meat. I don't know how to charge you," because that was the first time I worked on square, so I didn't know.

Chrissy Nucum: So, that's how we started. And I kept on hiring line cooks who knew more than the previous line cook so they can kind of teach me how to do it. They taught me how to do an egg on the flat top, which if you have not done it, it's the best thing ever. So, and that's kind of how we started, and then on talking about failure, we tried to do a kick starter for our restaurant which failed miserably. But that's kind of how it is, we kind of knew, but it's a self funded project. So, it's definitely one of those where you're looking at dollars and cents every day and you're, "Okay, $78 on the bank account, are we going to have to move more money from one end to the other? Stuff like that, but I have yet four years, almost five years in, I have yet to wake up saying, "I hate my fucking job."

Kerry Diamond: That makes me so happy, to hear that. You are a resilient bunch here in Kansas City. I absolutely have to say, that I think is the theme of the day. I want you to just tell me you don't have to go into the why, but just what is what one food issue is most pressing on your mind these days? Marissa.

Marissa Gencarelli: For me is authenticity, is that, argument of authenticity drives me absolutely nuts. There's a lot of perceptions of what, especially with ethnic foods, Mexican cuisine, there's a perception of what that food should look like, taste like and what it should cost. And it just drives me crazy. For example, in Mexico, I would say that every single state has a very different cuisine from the other. I remember growing up in Sonora, then moving to Puebla, which is by Mexico City, completely different type of food. I would bring my little flour tortillas even then, and it would be, my Puebla friends were being odd, "That thin." And then I would tell them about Sonoran style tacos. It's like, "Oh, yeah, we have, we don't eat your little thin steak that Mexico City and Puebla people eat, we eat rib eye and good steak." And they were, "Yeah, but we have molly." "Okay, well, yeah, you win on the molly, but we win on the steak," that kind of thing.

Marissa Gencarelli: And so, I think that one of the things that, it's just, what does authenticity really mean? And we just need to be more open minded about it, you really understand what takes the labor, where you're sourcing your product, there's a lot of different things that go into account. For me, what I would like to really do is, shift that paradigm of how people view specifically in the Mexican cuisine, specifically in the United States, with the current rhetoric. So, I think that there's a lot of cultural learning curves that I would like to contribute and influence. I watched Pati Jinich, oh God I love her. She's so sweet, on PBS, and she goes like, and she was talking about additions and she goes, she flat out, I admit, I had never seen it, I have never tasted and I'm from Mexico. That's the thing people, even us in Mexico, we do not have, yeah, you see the Anna Kennedy book, great, but every single cuisine is so regional, is so different than even ourselves, surprised ourselves of how different it is. And I would like people to just explore it. That would be...

Kerry Diamond: Okay. Authenticity. Megan. Give us one word, one sentence.

Megan Garrelts: Waste.

Kerry Diamond: Waste.

Megan Garrelts: I struggle with the amount of people in our country that can't eat, particularly when we do events where there is so much excess or people paying so much money for the excess. I am in that business, but at the same time, we were recently at an event in Los Angeles last year and it was a charity event for Wolfgang Pack, and out of nowhere when we were setting up, the food bank arrived with boxes, insulated boxes, I've never seen it before at charity events. And they dropped them under everyone's station and they said, "When you're done, whatever's leftover goes in here and we take it to the food bank." And I was, why can't Kansas City do this? Doesn't every city do this when there's so much food?

Marissa Gencarelli: At the very least in the farmers market, at least in the one that I'm in any way, any extra product that we have, they do go around and they get a box and I get to go ahead and give them my tamales, my tortillas, anything extra. So yeah. At least we have that going-

Megan Garrelts: Some more way to feed people.

Kerry Diamond: All right. Beth, your one thing.

Beth Barden: I don't want, yeah, I'll go fast because I feel like... Food insecurity, same thing. There's just too many kids and too many families in this town, everywhere. They can't eat, should be eating. And when I see cooking shows, especially where somebody is likening something to a dog's dinner and throwing it in a trash can, to me, it's like torture porn for people that can't eat, and I'm, are you kidding me? That's the best thing that would come across somebody's table and you're looking at it like because of an error and technique that it somehow has no validity. The perversion of that, intrinsically just bothers me. Not everything has to be pretty and tasty, it can just be tasty. Tasty is good.

Kerry Diamond: Chrissy.

Chrissy Nucum: I have to say, I wrote the same thing, was food waste. Coming from a food truck, we had a lot of disposables when we're still doing the truck. So, we made a conscious effort that when we started the restaurant, it was all going to be plates, real plates, real silverware, real napkins as few disposables as possible, and I tried to take home as much of the food that we don't sell that night because unfortunately, the health department doesn't like you reheating it more than twice. I don't know. I grew up eating four times warmed up food and I turned out okay, so I don't see why you only have to reheat it twice. I have some very happy, I call them my friendly neighborhood homeless gang. And so, when I drive off of Wyoming under the 12 Street Bridge at about 9:30 at night on my way home, I have containers of food for them. And I put silverware and water and they have a great night, and I don't have to throw it out hating myself and somebody has a warm meal. So, that's kind of what I do.

Megan Garrelts: May I say very quickly, also too, I find it appalling, as a business owner that people that work in restaurants, nobody that ever works in a restaurant should have the indignity of going home hungry, it annoys, it made a no end that things are structured where the people that are profiting off of your labor, and are getting the best of you for what you have to offer for their own gain, and for what they have, you should be feeding them and feeding them well. And if they are food insecure, you give them enough to take home so their families aren't struggling, and they're not figuring out how to hijack half a hamburger, that they're going to get fired, because it has to be their shift meal. It's just appalling.

Kerry Diamond: I think we all agree with that. Absolutely. All right, you're all you're all such an amazing bunch. I wish we had put two more hours on the schedule so we could talk and hear from everybody else, but that is it. I want to thank all of our speakers and panelists, as we like to say on the show, you're all the bomb. Thank you, everybody. Have a great night. Thank you. Thank you to our speakers, our attendees and to Christina and her team at Corvino for hosting us. I had such a wonderful time in Kansas City, and loved learning about the vibrant community and the great food scene. A big thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our tour, and providing us with beautiful butter and cheese at each event. Our show is produced and edited by Jess Zeidman. Thanks for listening, everyone. You're the bombe.