Skip to main content

Savannah Transcript

“Food For Thought: Savannah” Transcript

Kerry Diamond: Hi Bombesquad, welcome to Food for Thought, a Radio Cherry Bomb mini-series. I'm Kerry Diamond, editor in chief of Cherry Bomb Magazine. We wanted to know what's on your mind, so we hit the road and went on tour to eat, drink, and talk with lots of you. Today's stop is Savannah, Georgia. We recorded this episode at Sheryl Day's back in the day bakery with six women who are 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. First step is a short talk from Natalie Freihon of the Fat Radish, a New York city restaurant that recently opened an outpost in Savannah.

Natalie Freihon: Hi everybody. I'm actually going to put on a timer because I can talk forever about this and I feel like I'm going to need to check myself at some point. So I am co-owner of the Fat Radish with Phil Windsor, my business partner right over there and we have the Fat Radish in New York, which has been open for nine years and we are opening our second Fat Radish in Savannah. We are super, super excited to be in this market for various reasons and one of them is what I want to address today. So I've been in the restaurant industry in New York for 19 years. That's kind of an eternity in New York and it's a tough industry there. So I came up in the industry in New York when it was quite a violent industry as we've all come to understand, sexual harassment was rampant, most women were not able to actually grow in their careers in the industry and it was super tough.

Natalie Freihon: I made a commitment once I realized that I loved it and this was going to be the thing that I wanted to do, I made a commitment to continue growing my career in the industry and try to move my way up through management because I saw so many flaws with the environment and I figured that the only way I could attack these flaws was by actually having my own hospitality group. People wouldn't listen to me, very, very rarely was I ever listened to and I think that a lot of us women have experienced that in this industry specifically across every industry. We've learned through the Me Too movement how actually, how severe the atmosphere of harassment, assault and just being looked over has been and I'm incredibly excited and happy that this movement has occurred specifically within our industry. It has not only given us a voice, but given us an opportunity to start speaking about other things. So now we're in a position after the last few years of us talking about our stories and acknowledging each other's stories and coming together understanding what we've all shared together, which has been traumatic for most of us, myself included, but now we have an opportunity to start talking about how do we solve this problem moving forward.

Natalie Freihon: We now understand what the problems were, what existed, what the environment was and how unhealthy it was and what we need to do. There are so many things that I've noticed throughout my career that I found troubling, mentorship being one of them. So in our industry the bottom line is super tiny, it's very tiny. The cost of running a restaurant are incredibly, incredibly high in New York especially, but pretty much in every market, there's so many unforeseen costs, the licensing is so incredibly expensive, insurance is so incredibly expensive and that's not just liability and liquor insurance and all of these sorts of things. But essentially opening a restaurant and running it, you're lucky if you make a profit at the end of the day, you're lucky if you make 8%, if you're really operating a restaurant well you're making 15%.

Natalie Freihon: I mean this is really hard and as we all know who are in this industry, it takes blood, sweat and tears, I know, you know that girl, I mean it is exhausting. You work long hours, you suffer through it and that's because I feel that we don't really have the foundation in order to help people grow within this industry. I'm not going to say by any means that I have the answers to this, but I do feel that this is a conversation that we need to start having so we collectively as a hospitality community can figure out how to resolve it because it is going to take all of us together.

Natalie Freihon: When I was coming up through the industry we, and I'm sure anyone that's ever worked in a restaurant knows that this happens. You're a server, the manager gets fired or the manager doesn't show up to work and suddenly you're a manager and you're like, "Cool, all right, now I'm a manager, I don't know how to lead people, I've never done leadership training, I don't understand costing, I don't understand financials, I literally don't understand how to run a business and now I'm in charge of running a business for somebody who owns this business if you're not the owner and a lot is riding on your shoulders, that is a huge amount of pressure for somebody that's never been trained how to do it. This business specifically is incredibly complicated. If you go into finance, you learn one thing, you learn your skill, you perform that skill.

Natalie Freihon: You go into restaurant management or ownership, you have to be a mom, you have to be a babysitter, you have to be a leader, you have to understand financials, you have to know how to plunge a toilet, you have to know how to think. I learned what a flange was last week and I've been doing this for 19 years. So there's so many hats you have to wear and we're not trained in how to wear these hats and I think that we all suffer as a result of that. And that happens because of various reasons and the first is because the bottom line is so small that we cannot afford as a business to actually spend the time training people properly the way that we want to because if you have extra people on staff, you know every single dollar counts and anyone that's ever run a restaurant understands you are looking for $15 savings here, a $10 savings there, if you can save one staff member, you were like, yes, I'm crushing it. But you cannot train people and mentor them properly if that's all worried about.

Natalie Freihon: I knew I'm worried about that all the time, our minimum wage in New York is $15 an hour and that just happened in January and I can tell you that Michelle, our director of operations over there and I have spent countless hours trying to figure out how to give more to the staff while paying them what we're required to pay them, but also keep the doors open of our restaurant. It is so incredibly challenging. So one of the things that I've been doing for the past couple of years is financial training for servers and bartenders that want to become managers. It, I think, is one of the most important things that's super overlooked. This is because we as restaurant owners have notoriously kept our financials so close to our heart and not share them that we don't really allow ourselves to train people. I can't tell you how many restaurants I've worked in or how many restaurants have gone to or how many managers I've hired that have never seen a P&L before. This is a very valuable part of running a business, you need to understand where your money goes, you need to understand what every decision you make, how that affects your bottom line and how these things work together and get together.

Natalie Freihon: So we do financial training within our restaurant group, we do financial trading outside of our restaurant group and I donate a lot of time to financial training to everybody because it's super important. Many bartenders who are going into bar managers don't know how to cost a cocktail. So you make up a cocktail, you put it on the list for $12 and God only knows maybe you're not making any money when you factor in all the labor costs. So these things are important and this happens through mentorship, this happens through managers or skilled professionals within the hospitality industry and without the hospitality industry who are able to provide just a little bit of time and a little bit of effort in order to train people how to properly manage a business. Leadership coaching is one of the most valuable things that I've experienced in my career and that's another thing that doesn't get taught really to anyone. We are now living in what is called the post Me Too world.

Natalie Freihon: That means we need to teach people how to treat people. It is so ingrained in our being how we talk to one another. The things that were acceptable 15 years ago when I was in the restaurant industry when we used to have innuendo Fridays are certainly not acceptable today, but we need to train people on what that means and how we talk to one another and what is wrong and what is right and that also requires time. So I mean I could go on and on and on about the things that we lack in terms of mentorship and what is required, but the thing that I really want to touch on, because I guarantee you, I'm already talking for way too long, which I am, sorry, the thing that I do want to touch on is that what it takes is us as a hospitality community talking to one another, coming together, taking if it's one hour a month where we sit together and we start to try and figure out how can we share this information with not just each other but with our teams.

Natalie Freihon: Like if maybe once a month I take the teams from the local restaurants and I'll do a financial training, maybe next month some other restaurant does a training that is about empathetic management. I don't have the answers yet, but one of the reasons why I wanted to open a restaurant in Savannah is because the market is smaller, it's exciting, people are excited to be here and want to grow and I feel like it's a great opportunity for us to come together and shape how we want the industry to look instead of living necessarily in a place like New York where there's 25,000 restaurants and it's like turning a cruise ship, you're like this.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you Natalie. We completely agree with you that sharing information is the way forward. Next we'll hear from Julia Levy. She's the cohost of the Peach and Prosperity podcast and cofounder of National Muffin Day, which you're about to learn is more than just another food holiday.

Julia Levy: I learned to bake without measuring and to give without being asked. Growing up, baking by my grandma, Betty's side, I studied as her confectionery apprentice. The kitchen became my classroom for mastering our family's holiday recipes and the stories of perseverance that accompanied them. As I added pinches of cinnamon and splashes of vanilla to recipes, I learned life wasn't always filled with chocolate chips, especially during the great depression for grandma. Financial hardship forced her mother and siblings to live apart for some time. Despite these challenges, grandma never gave up hope that one day, the five lucky ones, how she lovingly referred to her siblings, would reunite.

Julia Levy: And when they did the kitchen became the center of their home again. Even when grandma didn't have much, she gave, showing me how a little sweetness could go a long way, especially if you shared with people in need. Many years later when I met Jacob Kaufman who baked muffins for people experiencing homelessness, our conversation rekindled the lessons I learned in the kitchen as a kid in Atlanta and West Palm beach. This philanthropic fateful moment led to the launch of National Muffin Day, a food holiday where muffinteer bake and provide muffins to hungry strangers on the street or in shelters. Now, typical food holidays like National Ice Cream Day, National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day or National Pizza Day, they celebrate consumption with decadent and savory photos flooding your social media news feed and morning talk show hosts digging into pints of ice cream, platters of cookies or slices of pizza. National Muffin Day, on the other hand, celebrates giving rather than consuming.

Julia Levy: While the images of blueberries, pecans or pumpkin's may draw you in on National Muffin Day, it's the photos of our muffinteer baking parties that showcase our charitable aspirations. Looking back, the muffin movement began rather spontaneously. In 2013 Jacob baked his first batch of apple cinnamon muffins in his San Francisco apartment. Proud of his first baking adventure, he enjoyed one muffin, but he realized he didn't need 11 more. While some people might bring their extra baked goods to the office, Jacob reflected on the reality of what happened each morning on his walk to work. His walk down market street, a major thoroughfare in San Francisco where he passed by many people experiencing homelessness.

Julia Levy: So he packed the extra muffins in a bag and set out on what would become his first muffin run. Hungry strangers on the street appreciated this unexpected treat. This simple act of kindness sparked smiles from recipients and led to conversations with neighbors experiencing homelessness. From that day on muffin baking became a weekly ritual for Jacob. One year later, I learned about the tradition while writing a blog post about ordinary everyday philanthropists who give in unique ways. The posts would be published on Why We Give a side project I had started while working as a fundraiser in New York city. As part of every feature, I asked my guests, who is your philanthropic role model? And one guest told me the story of Jacob Muffin Man Kauffman. Our mutual friend David, introduced us and I talked to Jacob on the phone on December 26th, 2013. We had an instant rapport while discussing his direct giving model and shared empathy for the severity of this national epidemic. There are an estimated 500,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United States. And while walking to work in New York city, I also passed by hungry strangers. Over the years, I had volunteered at a soup kitchen and given leftovers to people on the street, but I had always wanted to do more and Jacob's ritual inspired me to take action.

Julia Levy: I couldn't merely publish a story so I suggested that we invite our friends and family to bake with us and I created National Muffin Day with the Muffin Man as our muse. Our first year, we had only 20 days to make this holiday happen. Despite the time zone difference, our full time jobs and the fact that we had never met in person, we texted, created the hashtag, "Give muffins," to track participation and shared a spreadsheet of ideas. Jacob even sweetened the deal with a donation for every baker. We reached out to friends, community centers and co-living spaces, basically any place with a kitchen to share. We organized muffin baking parties at places including Hayes Valley Bake Works and startups including Asana. At the end of our first holiday, we counted the hashtags in joyous disbelief. 70 bakers had participated and many of them were people we didn't even know.

Julia Levy: We heard stories of people who had never given before, parents who baked with their children and Greyston Bakery even stayed open during a New York city blizzard to participate. Each year since then, more muffinteer have joined the muffin movement, 112 bakers in year two, 160 bakers in year three, 236 in year four, and an unprecedented 549 bakers in 2019. Driven by our passion to help and the power of social media, we have created a philanthropic baking community of over 1000 muffinteers, and over the past five years, approximately 15,000 muffins have been baked in 35 cities and thousands of dollars have been raised for causes addressing homelessness. We have been featured in Forbes, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, and Pickler and Ben. With this exciting momentum, I'm just getting started baking for good. So what's next before national muffin day 2020 which will be celebrated on February 23rd? I'm writing a philanthropic cookbook of muffin recipes donated by prominent bakers, chefs and Instagrammers.

Julia Levy: I only wish that my grandma was still here to participate because she would have loved being a muffinteer. In honor of her and all those who bake with kindness, I invite you to join us in one of three potential ways. First, you can be a muffinteer, commit to organizing a baking party in your city. Two invite a bakery on board, ask your local bakery or your favorite baker to participate. And three, join us on social, we have a Facebook group page and Instagram, like us, follow us, join us at National Muffin Day.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you Julia. We can't wait to celebrate National Muffin Day with you, so all you bakers out there, get ready. Our last speaker is Kate Dowdle of the Savannah Bee Company who tells us how she's working to save bees nationwide.

Kate Dowdle: Hi everybody. So I'm Kate with the Bee Cause project and Savannah Bee Company and really we really focus on education at Savannah Bee Company. So if you've ever been to one of our stores, you probably left with way more information about honey bees than you ever cared to know. And we realized through going through that that it was such an important part to us that we really wanted to start a not-for-profit and really be able to focus on education. As she said, the honey bees are facing a little bit of a challenge these days, declining populations, environmental challenges, and we have this not-for-profit for two reasons.

Kate Dowdle: One, we want to raise awareness about what the honey bees are going through, we want to raise an entire generation who love and protect the honey bees, when they start working with the honey bees, they start caring about the honey bees and just naturally they start wanting to protect the honey bees. And the second part to that is we want to help a new generation understand sort of the connection of where their food is coming from and how important it is to take care of those sources and to really nurture our environment and to really foster the environment that is growing our food. So we started the not-for-profit four, five years ago, and one of my favorite stories was out of Charleston. First of all, it was a challenge, a lot of people are afraid of honey bees. When you're younger, you have one of your parents or somebody that you trust tell you like, "Do not go near the honey bees, you will get stung, it will hurt you." So constantly, we're battling this fear of honey bees.

Kate Dowdle: So we have a bee garden, at Savannah Bee Company where we bring children in and adults as well, and show them how gentle the honey bees are. And they're not out to sting you, they're not trying to attack you, they're just doing their thing. So the school boards obviously were very reluctant to let us put beehives in their schools around all their precious children because obviously it was all going to go wrong and so we had to really do a lot of working with the community and with the government there to really show them that we could do this. And now we're in 500 schools, we're in 50 countries, I'm sorry, in 50 States, in four different countries, we're everywhere. So we've really proven that this does work and it's a great educational program.

Kate Dowdle: But with the very first school that we put these hives in it was just nice, you want to cry talking about it. We had a third grader from Charleston college and he said, "The mosquito truck came through and it killed all of our honey bees and if it's bad for the honey bees, it can't be good for us, and what do we do about it?" And I was just like, it's working, it's amazing. So we really immediately started to see that effect and we really started to see how important this was. And it's amazing, the students love the projects, the teachers love the teaching tool. It's usually associated with an urban gardening project as well, so they will have the students name the queen, they teach her all about what's going on in the hive and then the students will start to study sort of the color of the pollen that the bees are bringing in and the color of the pollen that are blooming on the flowers and start to make that connection between, oh hey these fruits and vegetables are growing really well.

Kate Dowdle: Those are the flowers that the bees are pollinating. And one honey bee hive will pollinate hundreds of thousands of flowers a day. So I mean the ripple effect is incredible, it produces more viable fruits and seeds, it grows stronger produce, it feeds nuts and all kinds of things that feed the environment, that feed the squirrels and the birds and it's an amazing ripple effect when you really start looking into it. And we would love to educate you guys about it too if you want to come out to Savannah Bee Company. So we also started realizing that this wasn't just affecting the students, it was affecting the community as well. Children would go and want to bring their families in like mom, look what I learned in school today. Can my mom come see the honey bees? Can I come show my brothers and sisters? They would bring them back to Savannah Bee Company and I would give a tour and think these kids didn't hear one thing I said, and they would bring their family back and literally just repeat verbatim every word I had said, I was like they are not only listening, they are learning about this and their little sponges just soaking it up and they're excited about it, it's amazing.

Kate Dowdle: So it's really growing, we're really excited about it and it's not just in schools. We've also recently started outreach programs just in communities. We're in the [inaudible 00:22:07] as well but also we have a video launching on Wednesday we're pretty proud of, we found out that in Exuma there were no honey bees on the Island. Did anybody see the Fire Festival documentary? So you know a little bit about Exuma, it's a little crazy, there's not great infrastructure there, but once we realized, this was four years ago, we realized there were no honey bees on the Island, so we had another really strong, amazing woman named Katherine Booker and she runs the Exuma Foundation. And a million years ago she worked at Savannah Bee Company for a very short time. So she came to Ted and she said we just realized that there's no bees here, we want to bring bees onto the Island. So first we just checked, double checked, triple checked, just to make sure.

Kate Dowdle: And then we knew we had to bring bees that were Varroa mite free. So Varroa mites are one of the most dangerous pests for honey bees among other problems like the pesticides, herbicides are a big problem, the Varroa mite is probably one of the deadliest problems for the hive. So we made sure that we found the best bees that we could take down there, we trained a very small group of very passionate people who had no idea they were going to be beekeepers very short time later and so we trained them and it has just grown and grown and now you'll see honey bees all over the Island.

Kate Dowdle: One of the beekeepers named Ricky, he has taken the two hives we gave him and turned them into 50 hives four years later and it is his industry now and he says that everyone calls him the Honey Man on the Island, he's not Ricky anymore, he's the Honey Man. And so this whole community has just adopted the honey bees and their way of life and it's just so wonderful to see because it's just kind of an awakening, I feel like there's a little bit of a renaissance where everyone's really paying attention now to what they're eating and what they're putting on their bodies and in their bodies and it's incredible to watch and we just really want to support and foster that and educate people on that. So as I said before, if you guys would like to come out to Savannah Bee Company tomorrow even, we can take you on a honey bee tour. We go out in the bee garden, we open the hive, taste the fresh honey, you're literally eating liquid sunshine.

Kate Dowdle: It's like the the flowers are converting energy from the sun through the flowers, the bees are collecting that nectar and making honey. And then also something that I love about the honey beehives, something that I've learned from them is it is a colony, I don't know if you guys know this, it was all women running the honey bee hive. So there's one queen, all the worker bees are female and there's a few drones in the hive, the roles are not extensive, but it is a great example of this community of female, amazing women who work together and support each other and it just shows all of the amazing things you can accomplish when you're working together and supporting each other and coming together as one. So thank you guys so much for letting me speak.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you Kate for sharing your story and for all the wonderful work you and your colleagues are doing on behalf of bees. Our panel is coming up next, but first a word from Kerrygold.

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

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

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

Kerry Diamond: Let's welcome baker Cheryl Day of Back in the Day Bakery, alchemist Jovan Sage of Sage's Larder and chef Mashama Bailey of the Grey. We'll start with Cheryl. How did you wind up in Savannah?

Cheryl Day: I wound up in Savannah to slow down and I have to laugh about that because obviously I haven't, but yeah, that's why we decided to move here. I'm from Los Angeles and we saw a need for the type of business to run a neighborhood bakery and that's why we moved here, yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. Jovan, how did you wind up in Savannah?

Jovan Sage: Well, it started in Italy. So I used to live and work in New York city for seven years running cafes, doing food consulting, but my last job was actually working as a director with Slow Food USA, and so I had the pleasure of traveling both nationally and internationally advocating on behalf of good, clean and fair food and so I wound up in Italy where I met my now partner who is a farmer and a chef in Brunswick, Georgia, which is just 45 minutes below Savannah. So it was a little bit of a windy way to get here, but I mean, I love it here, I love the vibes, the energy, the food, and the history of this coast.

Kerry Diamond: Why did you decide to come to Savannah?

Mashama Bailey: Because I was ready to move on. I knew in 2007 that I wanted to move to the South, but I didn't know where I wanted to go. I studied in France for a little bit and when I came back, I didn't want to go back to New York city because I didn't feel as connected and when I was in France, I lived and worked on a chateau and it just reminded me of the South. So when I came back, I went to Charleston and that wasn't a good fit, I went to Charlotte for a little bit, just visiting for a week or so and that wasn't a great fit. And we lived in Savannah, I went to elementary school in Savannah, went to Charles Ellis, and when I met my business partner Johno and he was opening up a place in Savannah, I thought, okay, I'll come down and visit. And really the building is the reason why I came down, going into that structure that wasn't finished, that hadn't even been worked on yet, it was so warm and so inviting and so challenging that I wanted to challenge myself. So that's how I ended up back the second time.

Kerry Diamond: Can you, for folks, hopefully a lot of you have seen the documentary know the story, but when you refer to the building, can you tell everybody what you're talking about?

Mashama Bailey: The Greyhound Bus station that was built in 1938.

Kerry Diamond: It's remarkable. You all have to see it if you haven't seen it. Okay. I would like you all to tell us how you describe yourself. If you could only describe yourself in one word, I know that's tough for you, Jovan, so we'll start with you.

Jovan Sage: Oh wow. See, I set myself up for that one. One word, oh my goodness. I think that would have to be curious, very curious about a lot of things.

Kerry Diamond: Cheryl?

Cheryl Day: Happy.

Mashama Bailey: Rub some of that off on me. It changes all the time, but right now I think leading, leadership.

Kerry Diamond: Great. Can you expand on that a little for us why that word?

Mashama Bailey: Because I am growing from a dishwasher, a line cook, a chef, into what actually being a chef in this city means and being a chef in my organization means, and right now it's leadership.

Kerry Diamond: Cheryl, why is your brand happy?

Cheryl Day: Well, I think when people come to a place like this, I'm really about the creating comfort and the experience and it's something that I tell my team all the time that really it's what we do is sell happiness. You could go to a lot of places and get good food, but I feel like in this day and age you have to provide a little something more and I am one of those people that through my life experience realized that life is really short and yeah, I just live each day to the fullest.

Kerry Diamond: This industry is so tough though, what advice do you have for people about keeping up their optimism?

Cheryl Day: It's very tough. Yeah, at the end of the day, I think you just really have to remember why are you doing what you're doing, I get teary eyed thinking about it because it's really hard work, I mean, all the people that work in this industry know you have to be, you have to love it. I mean, we work insane hours as Natalie was saying and just so many crazy things happen from day to day, especially when you're leading or running a business. It's hard to find people that are as excited about what you do and that doesn't just naturally happen, but they're out there and when you meet them, it's magical. So I don't know, I just think you have to love what you do every day otherwise it's just not... you need to move on and do something else.

Kerry Diamond: Jovan were you born this way? Were you curious out of the womb?

Jovan Sage: Absolutely. Well, and I'm also kind of a magpie, so I'm really sad, but to say, but the couch that I saw on the curb is now gone someone has taken it. So for me, I will literally pick up things off the ground and put it in my pocket. I will find a word and go look it up and dive into the history of it. I mean I begged someone who would become my mentor to start an urban chicken keeping apprenticeship specifically so that I could learn about keeping chickens in the city. So for me-

Kerry Diamond: Wait, when she's a city, she's not talking Savannah.

Jovan Sage: Yeah, I'm talking about Brooklyn, New York, Crown Heights. And so I joke that a chicken saved my life but really it's like those threads of like, okay, here's this thing, what is this about? How can I dive deeper? And so that's the story of my experience with food is that deep dive into where our food comes from, how does it make it to our plate and what is good service?

Kerry Diamond: Jovan just brought up something that I was going to bring up later in this, but a chicken literally did save Jovan's life. So she doesn't just say that to be funny. Do you want to tell us that story?

Jovan Sage: Yes. So for me, I used to be a social and economic justice organizer, specifically focusing on LGBT rights and so I'd be the one who would fly into the city that's facing anti-gay attack and I would be working with the community on the ground to fight back. And so that kind of work is like restaurant work, it's very exhausting, we're talking in saying 60, 80 hours a week, sleeping on an air mattress and a loaned apartment away from your home, away from all of your comforts. And so for me, coming back to New York city after and especially hard loss in California, I was just like, I'm done, I'm done. And so someone showed me this documentary on people and their chickens and I was just like sitting, in winters in New York are kind of hard, it's cold, nobody wants to come out and see you or anything and I was just laughing my ass off at this lady who was swimming with her chickens or sewing clothes for her chickens and I was like, what is this about?

Jovan Sage: And so my favorite place, I call it my Disneyland Brooklyn Kitchen, had an urban chicken keeping class and I was like, I'm going into that. And I was the very last person to actually hold the chicken because I was kind of scared, they have talons, they're kind of like miniature dinosaurs if you look really closely so I was actually terrified to hold it. So it was a very last person and so as [inaudible 00:34:38] who became our mentor handed me the chicken, there was just something in me that just kind of settled and that calmed down and I was like, okay, wow, I've got to follow this thread right here. And so that spring I would spend my days in the local community garden working with 50 hens cleaning up after them, feeding them, learning their different personalities and really rejuvenating myself from the inside out and it's what brought me here to Georgia, following that thread is what brought me here.

Jovan Sage: You promised me chickens, so I've got about 100 of them right now. But again, it's like following that thread to find that deeper healing within myself is something that I just... you can't forget that and you can't drown that out, you have to listen to that and you have to follow that.

Kerry Diamond: I just hope everybody has a mental picture, Brooklyn is not Savannah, 2.5 million people, no wide open spaces, so you and your 50 chickens, I do need to see photos at some point.

Jovan Sage: Yes. I'll get some photos, and I video and everything.

Kerry Diamond: Oh good. Okay. So since this is the Food for Thought Tour, I wanted to ask our panelists what is consuming them these days? What are you thinking about all the time? What can't you stop thinking about? Mashama, what's top of mind right now?

Mashama Bailey: There's a lot top of mind being in Savannah, Georgia. I am really thinking about sustainability, I'm thinking about oystermen and shrimpers and farmers, there's been this sort of drought that's been happening here where I think when you look back at the history in Savannah and history of this coast, it was really a thriving food scene, people were living off the land and also living off the water and there was so many businesses here and there was so much training and so much information and then there was a stop and a pause and you start to see there's a lot of boarded up buildings and restaurants that have gone out of business and a lot of them are mom and pop shops that just didn't survive this era. And we're right next to the coast, we're surrounded by so many farms and we're surrounded by bees and pigs and oystermen and right down in Brunswick, right on the way down going to Darien. You have all these delicious and all this rich food and culture right next to you, it's so difficult to get a farmer to come to Savannah on a daily basis or even twice a week.

Mashama Bailey: So we're actually buying seafood from South Carolina and they're coming down. When I moved here, I really wanted to just try to buy things very, very locally and I'm from New York city, so the local is sort of a state of mind, it's not necessarily a farm to table culture, it's maybe like a rooftop farm to table culture, but it's not necessarily that. So when you come to Savannah and you have these wide open spaces, you just automatically assume that these things are going to be at your fingertips and it was a really rude awakening for me coming down here and not really understanding that that was going to be my path or understanding that that was the type of chef that I was going to become or turn into but living in this area, it's so steeped with tradition that you just can't help but be curious about it. You just can't help but find out more information. And so for me, finding a way to enrich those around us who are growing things and living off the land and have those things for sale and who want to participate in the food culture within Savannah itself, I'm very interested in that.

Kerry Diamond: Any success stories you can point to yet?

Mashama Bailey: Yes. So there's a few, there's some success stories and there's some not so successful stories. We have three sisters farm out in Bluffton, when I first moved here she was very small and she was... I could get mushrooms and certain things from her and now she's thriving. We buy tons of produce from her every week, but then Walker Farms, who was really just my muse and the person that I really loved buying produce from, they closed down, they were here for a long time and then just a few years ago she couldn't sustain it. So there's a lot and then you have people who are here and they're very good at one thing and they don't understand that you can grow fava beans here and you can grow... there such a vast amount of vegetables and things that you can actually grow here, this land is so rich that they just kind of stick with the classics and the heavy hitters and the things that are going to give them cash, but when you're a chef, you really want more. So that's where I'm at right now, I'm thinking a lot about that right now. And also I'm thinking about doing something on my roof top garden.

Kerry Diamond: You've a rooftop garden?

Mashama Bailey: We don't, but we can.

Kerry Diamond: Jovan-

Jovan Sage: I can help you with that. I can help you with that.

Mashama Bailey: We have room, I don't know, so...

Kerry Diamond: Good, there you go. Jovan you need a project so you can work it-

Jovan Sage: Yeah, oh, I'll take that project, absolutely.

Kerry Diamond: Jumping ahead a little bit, but Jovan, when I was reading about you and Gilliard, I read that it's an African American Centennial farm, just since we're talking about farming right now, can you explain what that term means?

Jovan Sage: Absolutely. So Gilliard Farms, the land that I live on with my partner has been in his family since 1874. So Jupiter Gilliard who was born a slave in 1812 after the civil war made his way down the coast from South Carolina and staked off about 490 acres of land and we're on kind of like that last 50 acres and farming is hard. And we've always farmed organically and it's challenging especially with the changing landscape, with climate and everything. In the last three years we've had two major hurricanes. The last major hurricane was probably at the turn of the century. So for us there's some conversations that are happening and this is kind of what's at the center of the work that I'm doing now is this idea around resiliency of finding ways to bounce back working with the land, I mean we have one area of land when I first came down in 2012 that was beautiful and lush and it's our valley area and we could do events down there.

Jovan Sage: After the last two hurricanes, that is mosquito alley and it stays wet, it stays flooded and outside of us putting in some dirt and doing some very expensive changes around there, we just kind of have to leave it and make sure that we keep it kind of cut short so that snakes and stuff like that don't get folks. And so knowing that there is that change happening is something that I think is important for all of us to know whether that [inaudible 00:42:02] eaters or restaurant tours and chefs is that what worked five, 10 years ago may not work now. And for us as farmers, I'm a former restaurant owner, we closed down at the end of last year which I'm happy about is that for us being down in a small town, we're like, okay we're smart, amazing people and the places that would actually pay us money are the places like Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, I can't tell you, Santa Cruz, we've had people offer us money to open up our concept in California, but down in the South is where the work needs to happen and so we struggle to stay on our land. We don't have a tractor and so there's a lot of hard work and guess what? It's been about 100 degrees, for me it's just like let's have conversations about what that looks like.

Jovan Sage: And I do a lot of work with seeds, I'm also on the board of directors for seed savers exchange and so I do a lot of work around seed literacy and seed saving and so that's where it starts. It starts with your farmers who are often being displaced and it starts with the seed and really finding people who can nurture and grow and chefs who can procure and create and make sure that those farmers are thriving. And so I think it's the cyclical relationship that is so important for us to really kind of keep in the middle of our hearts right now.

Kerry Diamond: Well, God bless all the farmers out there. I mean, I know everybody in the industry thinks that, so Cheryl, what is top of mind these days?

Cheryl Day: Top of mind for me is taking care of the people that work for me, healthcare just being able to provide a good living for people that are making amazing food for you all. I mean, this should be a respectable career and to be able to get people to want to do this wonderful work, but just being able to take care of them and also to be able to run your business. That's what's at top of mind.

Kerry Diamond: Jovan, I know so much is top of mind for you. Give us one thing that's top of mind.

Jovan Sage: For me right now I think what's top of mind for me is the idea of the healing that comes from the plate. So I'm an herbalists and a health and wellness coach and a disinter grower and, and, and. But for me I'm an herb nerd and a ferment nerd so I do a lot of work with the microbiome and fermented foods and incorporating Southern vegetables into my ferments. And so for me right now that's kind of what's top of mind is how can people form a deeper relationship with what's on their plates whether that's knowing who your farmer is, knowing where your food comes from or how to transform food into being so much more than what it is just coming out of the ground. And so for me, I just get really super fascinated around different ways to heal with food.

Kerry Diamond: I love that not just for the three of you, but also for our three speakers, it's really all about sustainability and all definitions of that word, humans, the land, everything. Mashama, we didn't get to talk to you about this last night, we said one thing we definitely wanted to talk about tonight is the legacy of Leah Chase. I don't know if all of you know that name, but Leah Chase passed away on Saturday 96 years old chef, owner of Dooky Chase in New Orleans, just a legend. And this woman was still cooking for, I don't know if she was still cooking the past year, but-

Audience Member: She was.

Kerry Diamond: She was?

Mashama Bailey: Oh wow. That's awesome.

Kerry Diamond: We talk about role models and mentors and if you can see it, you can be it, and Leah was that for a long time. I don't know who wants to say anything, but Mashama, do you want to talk about Leah a little bit?

Mashama Bailey: Sure. I met her once, I got an opportunity to meet her in 2012. It's funny because I reposted a picture that I took with her at Dooky Chase when I was visiting and my sister was like, "Get up and go talk to her." And I was working at prune then and I went up and I was like, "Hi," and she was working the room and she had a chef coat on and I "I was like, does she have a walker?" I don't think she had a little pushy cart thing my grandmother used to go shopping with one of those clothes shopping, not grocery shopping, but she used to hit the mall and get in her laps. So anyway, so she was going around the room and I went and said hello to her and I explained to her who I was, I told her I was a line cook in New York city and she was like, "Yeah, I love seeing women in the kitchen, that's right, we're going to take it over." She was so enthusiastic and I was sort of shocked. I was like, yeah, yeah, we're going to take this shit over.

Mashama Bailey: And so then she just really just talked about how important it was for us to be in the kitchen and how we had so much to give and she started talking about really her hay day when she first opened that place. It was really a meeting place for a lot of politicians and a lot of people who were in the Civil Rights Movement and they came there as a safe place to meet and also to break bread. And that's the wonderful part about what we do. We provide safe places for people to come and break bread no matter who you are, especially at the Grey, we definitely provide that. And it doesn't matter who you are, you can come in and as long as you're kind and human to those who are next to you, you can share your thoughts and we can start to build this thing up.

Mashama Bailey: But she was so inspirational and I was so nervous to talk to her and it was really just somebody who was very supportive about what I did, who actually gave me that push to just meet her. It's everlasting. And the first time I posted that post on Instagram, it was 12 likes, so nobody was like showing love, but hey, it doesn't matter, I got to show love.

Kerry Diamond: I feel like young women are going to look at you the way that you looked at Leah Chase.

Mashama Bailey: I hope so. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to wear that a little bit, it's a little like, yeah, let's take a picture, yeah. But I'm sort of like, well, what more do I have to give to that or in that moment because I tried to... I'm me and I'm sort of laid back, but as I start to talk, I start to realize like, oh shit, I've been through a lot, okay, we can keep on going. Don't interview me, it's like I will keep on, I mean, I'm a little quiet up here, but I will keep going and going and going. And I think that it would be an honor if I was looked at like that. It would be my... that's like my life goal.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, for sure. Cheryl, did you ever get to go to Dooky Chase?

Cheryl Day: No, sadly I didn't and I don't know how that's possible, but I didn't. I guess I've been slowing down here in Savannah, so no. But she definitely was an inspiration for me. I mean, it's not every day a little black pearl opens up bakery. So seeing someone that looks like you is really important. And so...

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I think for people who had never been there, I think just the representation was so important for the industry. And she wasn't just a chef, I mean, she wasn't just a chef or a restauranteur she was an author, she was an art collector, she had an important art collection down there. A lot of it hung in the restaurant, still hangs in the restaurant and a real lover of life. Again, Beyonce, she was in a Beyonce video, I don't know if you all know that, but I think when she was 93 she was in the video. Jovan, any Leah Chase connect?

Jovan Sage: Just from some of the work that I've done with the local Slow Food chapter down there, I'm in organizing leadership, so I didn't actually get a chance to meet her, but I was able to facilitate for other young folks to be able to meet her. And so I think the thing for me that kind of stands out is this idea of our torchbearers and as a black woman who is in the food industry of seeing the folks who are carrying that torch in so many active ways, and I think it's one of my friends was like okay, we got to make sure that we give our elders their flowers while they're still alive. And so for me, that's something that this is that reminder of, it's like how do we make sure that we're honoring the folks who came before and who blaze the trail and some of those folks and I'm thinking of, it's like my mentor, Dr. Lenny Sorenson, Dr. Jessica Harris, these amazing black women who are like... they're writing the cookbooks, they're making the food, they're telling the stories and they're connecting the people. And so for me I can only hope to continue to give those flowers to those folks while they're still alive and honor them when they pass.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. We're going to do a little speed round. So Jovan you told us who your mentor is. Cheryl, who is your mentor?

Cheryl Day: My mentor was my grandmother. She was, for some reason, there were a lot of women in my family named “Queen,” I have no idea why they didn't name me that, I'm still-

Kerry Diamond: How it skipped you.

Cheryl Day: How it skips me, but her name was Muddy and she was, I found out recently, well, she was a slave and she was a pastry cook. So that's pretty powerful for me to realize that I guess I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing because it's just kind of passed down. So, yeah, she's still my culinary hero.

Kerry Diamond: And she is going to be a big part of your next cookbook, right?

Cheryl Day: Yes, yes. She's a big part of my next cookbook, which is all about Southern baking and I won't put in my shameless plug because it doesn't come out until 2021 but...

Kerry Diamond: All right. How about you, mentor?

Mashama Bailey: Well, I have a few and a lot of you probably know one of them, but my mentor, truly, my mentor is Margarine Bailey and that's my father's mother. And she was mean and feisty and strong and self-sufficient and a hell of a cook and a great entertainer. She threw parties and she had the tableware and the tablecloths and the silverware and she just really knew how to make people feel at home and loved and no one ever knocked at her door and they weren't able to walk away with a full belly. And she just had this undying sense of generosity and even as a grandchild living with her and working with her, you didn't feel that, but you saw it on every face that you didn't think you felt that. And then you saw it at every face that walked in and out of her house. And so that's my shining light.

Kerry Diamond: All right, Jovan, your favorite thing to make, bake or cook?

Jovan Sage: Oh my goodness. Well, so I have this obsession with banana bread from the joy of cooking. I have done them from 50s to the 70s to today, I just really just love tasting what each generation considers good banana bread. So that's kind of my number one weird thing and the other thing is sauerkraut, I love making sauerkraut.

Kerry Diamond: Not together, I hope.

Jovan Sage: No, no, no, no.

Kerry Diamond: Cheryl, I know that's a tough one for you. Favorite thing to make, bake or cook.

Cheryl Day: Oh your favorite, well, I don't have any children, but, I would say anything that I'm doing a big bowl like pie dough, biscuit dough, I love getting my hands just in the dough. So I would say yeah, biscuits and flaky biscuits and pie dough.

Kerry Diamond: Mashama.

Mashama Bailey: I love a casserole. I love an eggplant parmesan or macaroni and cheese or right now we got squash casserole going on, that thing in that casserole dish that's warm and cheesy and delicious, I love it. It just makes me want to dance.

Kerry Diamond: All right. Jovan, where do you do your best thinking?

Jovan Sage: My best thinking in a busy cafe, a nice big cup of coffee and all kinds of noise that's where I do my best thinking.

Kerry Diamond: All right, Cheryl?

Cheryl Day: In the bowl of biscuit or a pie dough. And usually there's some Beyonce blasting or JZ or something loud and...

Kerry Diamond: I knew you were going to say that. Mashama, where do you do your best thinking?

Mashama Bailey: Outside probably on a porch or in a lounge chair listening to jazz, yeah. I like music with no words and my brain can just kind of like ooze out and then come back in.

Kerry Diamond: Do you really have a pet greyhound?

Mashama Bailey: I do have a pet Grey(hound).

Kerry Diamond: That is so on brand.

Mashama Bailey: Her name is Daisy, it's so on brand. She's really sweet. She's on brand. She's more on brand than I am probably, but she's the sweetest.

Kerry Diamond: How did she come into your life?

Mashama Bailey: I wanted a dog, living in Savannah every freaking body has a dog so your just got to... I felt a little left out and I also wanted something to be responsible for. I was always surrounded by my family when I lived in New York city, I always had a responsibility and coming down here my responsibility was the restaurant. I just needed something to kind of distract me and pull my attention away. I knew I wanted to hound, my business partner was trying to convince me to get a Rhodesian, they're awesome too but I was like, I don't want to be matchy, I don't want to match you. So there's a woman who boards the dogs and we just started looking into different things and I hound was at the top of the list. And I started talking to people and there's so many greyhound rescues in Atlanta, also in Florida and last year they just passed a bill that the greyhounds won't be racing anymore so there's a lot of greyhounds up for adoption. And so I went down and one day I saw three dogs and she was the last one and she was wiggly and goofy and I was like, "Come on." So yeah.

Kerry Diamond: So Jovan got to talk about her chickens, I just wanted to get some equal time for other animals. Cheryl, any animals in your life?

Cheryl Day: Yes, I have Ella. She was actually my late sister's dog and she is, I don't know how she's still kicking, but she is just like... I mean, I literally don't even know how, I think she's like 14 and she's a little to sign her match, she's a Cavachon, but Ella is the sweetest and she is so tiny right now, but she's just so happy still and she loves to eat, so yeah.

Kerry Diamond: God bless Ella, okay.

Mashama Bailey: Does she eat biscuits and pie dough.

Cheryl Day: Ella loves watermelon.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, nice, maybe that's the secret.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you to our speakers and everyone who attended our event in Savannah, a huge thank you to Cheryl Day and her team for hosting us and a big, big thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our tour and providing us with beautiful butter and cheese at each stop. Our show was produced and edited by Jess Zeidman. Thanks for listening everyone, you're the bombe.