The Future of Food: Chicago Transcript
Kerry Diamond: Hi Bombesquad. Welcome to The Future of Food, a Radio Cherry Bombe mini series. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond.
Kerry Diamond: The Cherry Bombe team toured America last year and visited lots of great cities, from Detroit, to Seattle, to Dallas, to ask women what the future of food means to them. Throughout this series, you're going to hear talks and panels that we recorded on each stop. You'll hear from chefs, bakers, farmers, and even some vegan ice cream entrepreneurs. These members of the Bombesquad share their vision for what's next, in their world and the world around them. I hope this series inspires you to stop and think about your future.
For this episode, we're traveling to Chicago, Illinois. Our event was held at the St. Jane Hotel in downtown Chicago. We're going to kick things off with Chrishon Lampley, founder of the wine company Love Cork Screw.
First, thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our tour in this mini series. Kerrygold is the iconic Irish brand known for its award winning butter and cheese made with milk from grass fed cows. Before we go to Chrishon, let's check in with Kerrygold.
Kerry Diamond: There's so many things you can do with cheese, beyond just making a cheese board. Who knows that better than a cheesemaker? We checked back in with Sarah Furno, the farmhouse cheesemaker whose family created the famous Kerrygold Cashel Blue Irish farmhouse cheese. We asked Sarah for some of her favorite ways to cook with Kerrygold cheese.
Sarah Furno: There's many different ways. If I'm with my kids, we might be making pizza with a quatro formaggio with Cashel Blue and maybe some aged Kerrygold cheddar, or fresh mozzarella. Or I might pop it into a risotto. I love making inverted burgers for friends if they come over.
Kerry Diamond: Inverted burger? I've never heard of that. Stay tuned to hear Sarah explain exactly how she makes this inventive burger with Kerrygold Cashel Blue Irish farmhouse cheese. Interested in putting your own spin on dishes with Kerrygold's award winning butter and cheese? Visit kerrygoldusa.com for recipes and inspiration. That's kerrygoldusa.com.
Kerry Diamond: Here's Chrishon Lampley of Love Cork Screw explaining why she's a unicorn.
Chrishon Lampley: What the heck am I, right? You think do I own a vineyard? I'm an negociant. What does that mean? That means that the vineyards actually produce the wine for me. I'm a chemist, if you will. Each varietal that I produce is my own. It's Love Cork Screw. That simple, right? Imagine starting off in this industry. I've been in sales and marketing about 20 years now. I've owned Love Cork Screw since 2013. Imagine entering the industry as a unicorn. I say the future of food is being a unicorn. "A unicorn?" You say. Yeah. I'm a self proclaimed unicorn. How so? As an African American woman negociant, I account for less than one percent of the industry. Let's really break that down. Documented, there's only 60 of us out of 111 thousand in the world. Kind of a unicorn. What does that mean? 60, there's 60 of us that own private labels, or negociants, or own a vineyard or a private label. 60.
Chrishon Lampley: Each time I walk into a room, whether it be a meeting, a meeting with the vineyard owners, meeting with a different account, meeting with my distributors, they think I'm the promotional girl. I'm just the face of the brand. There's no way I own a company. "She doesn't own a vineyard." I'm the owner. Let's backtrack to losing my gallery. I lost my gallery because of a flood due to baby wipes. Imagine losing your business from baby wipes. Huh? The condo owners above our storefront flushed non-biodegradable baby wipes down the toilet. That backed up into our storefront. Imagine walking into two inches of sewer water.
Chrishon Lampley: For you that own brick and mortar, drowned shop insurance, you think it covers baby wipes? Nah. I was about two days from losing my home, losing everything because I had everything connected to an SBA loan. All right. Personal guarantee back in those days. Lost everything. I said, "For some reason my heart's still beating. I need to continue. What am I gonna do? Oh, I'm gonna start another business." I'm crazy, right? I did. I did. 2013 started Love Cork Screw. I'm in likes of Whole Foods, Mariano's, Target, over 75 thousand bottles of Love Cork Screw sold to date.
Chrishon Lampley: Thank you. Thank you. The catch, though, that's not a lot at all. That's not a lot at all. This girl from Chicago actually grew up in Downers Grove, this girl from Chicago ... oh, there's Downers Grove. Downers Grove. South? Okay. Years ago, though. I came out in '92. I'm showing my age now. I'm this girl from Chicago, yet I'm flying to Harvest. I just got back from Harvest Summit. I'm going to all these cool places with sommeliers, other negociants, and they're like, "Who the heck is this girl? How'd she do this from Chicago?" I say that to say that being a woman within this industry and whatever industry you're in, most likely you're gonna equate for a very small percentage. I always say, "What makes you so special?"
Chrishon Lampley: Now think about that. What makes you so special? You go and complain all the time, every day, and you're not getting the right opportunities. Oh, woe is me. Sorry. Look it here. You think I get any opportunities? Hardly any, but I say to myself, "You know what? I'm gonna use that and use that in a positive light because it's gonna make me work harder. It's gonna make me do more." I don't have to say, when I walk in the room, "I'm the owner." No. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna listen. I'm gonna learn. I'm gonna take all of that information in and I'm gonna become better. By the time I'm leaving that meeting, they're like, "Wait a minute. You own Love Cork Screw, don't you?" I said, "Yeah. I do."
Chrishon Lampley: I end this with saying the future, the future, is definitely knowing that you can do better in whatever that is. That's number one. Do better. Always go above and beyond and know that you're always going to have to be the best at it just to be considered equal, if you understand that. Lastly, I always that you can't follow your passion. Your passion actually follows you. What does that mean? For bakers here, you know people who just love cooking, they love baking, and they suck at it. The food is absolutely horrible, but they're very passionate about it. Then there's singers. You just thought you just blew, right? You're actually tone deaf, but you're passionate about it, but you're not good at it.
Chrishon Lampley: Could I have told you 20 years ago I was gonna be a negociant? Yeah right. No. I take everything that happened and I realize, "Oh, wait. Kind of been in sales and marketing for 20 something years. I kinda get along with just about everybody." I said, "Wait a minute. This is something that's just normal to me that everybody looks at and says, 'Well, that's just you, Chrishon.'" Well look it. My passion followed me. It followed me into something that I love and I love being a unicorn. The future is being more and being better.
Kerry Diamond: Let's raise a glass to Chrishon Lampley for all that inspiration. Next, we're going to hear from Maggie Hennessy, the restaurant and bar critic for Time Out Chicago. Maggie, who is also a Cherry Bombe contributor, talks about something near and dear to us: the future of food journalism.
Maggie Hennessy: I'm Maggie Hennessy, the restaurant and bar critic for Time Out Chicago. I'm also a freelance food and drink journalist. I'm here to tell you about what being a freelance food writer means at this very moment and what I hope the future holds, because the importance of good journalism extends to food, too, and there's a lot at stake.
Maggie Hennessy: In the 13 years I've been a mostly food journalist, I've been on staff at five different publications, survived two magazine closures that resulted in the loss of my job, watched mass heads shrink and fat magazines get really skinny. I had just finished culinary school when Gourmet Magazine folded. That one hurt. I've been a full time freelance food writer since 2014. I'm fortunate to have a life partner who supported us at the beginning, when I couldn't find steady work. Now I divide my time between testing chef recipes for Chicago Magazine, running around town talking to people who know way more about wine than I do, calling chefs to talk about bootstrapping their first restaurant, cooking with beer, or whether or not they serve veal, and furiously writing on the floor of my apartment, pants optional.
Maggie Hennessy: Every other week, I sneak into a new restaurant or bar and decide if it's a place all of you should visit, too. I use a fake name, but I don't wear a disguise, except one place where I wore a felt Indiana Jones hat and I got really sweaty because I was also wearing a turtleneck. I like listening in on other people's conversations for color. Sometimes I stay for extra wines that I pay for out of my pocket. Often, I get to interview the chef or bartender a few days later to ask if they actually did put cheese in that shrimp dish. No. What made their XO sauce taste so damn beguiling? Or how they managed to make a cosmo that didn't taste like sadness, Aronia liqueur. Then I get really awkward and I tell them how my review turned out. I'm allowed to accept media dinner invites to supplement critic visits, but I don't anymore because it's unfair to the restaurants without PR representation, since I only have a budget to go once.
Maggie Hennessy: These are the sorts of ethical jams I work through with fellow writers or the mister or, if no one else is around, my dog Penny, but she hears all my ideas anyway because working from home makes you talk to yourself more along with a litany of other creepy habits. Five years in, I'm doing all right, making close to what I did as a full time writer, plus I like life way more. I constantly toggle between chasing stories I love and those that pay the bills, which are rarely the same. I don't pitch often enough because it's dreadful. I don't tell every story the way it deserves to be told. I don't always get to eat at the places I write stories about. I don't catch every opening. I've misspelled names, fucked up titles, and opening days, and once mistook chicken for pork. To be fair, it was really good chicken.
Maggie Hennessy: When you work for yourself, you become painfully aware of the concept of time as currency. For instance, my porn is deep dive story telling. As a writer, I often can't afford to justify the hours of research, interviews, and writing to do it properly when I know I'm getting $150 fee out the other side. I'm not alone. Almost all writers at the New Yorker are independent contractors, meaning they don't qualify for healthcare or other benefits, despite being largely prevented from writing for other outlets. I'm heartened to see news rooms from Vice to Slate to Trunk to Vox unionizing to protect journalists in these troubled times, but those protections don't extend to freelance writers. As more media brands have laid off big chunks of staff, they're more likely to hire part timers, freelancers, interns, and perma-lancers, another great little term that's popped up, just to get content online for cheap. There is always someone who will say yes to less money than you.
Maggie Hennessy: The truth is, covering anything the way it should be covered, including food, is time consuming and expensive. I'm not sure how many of you saw the movie Spotlight, which follows the Boston Globe Spotlight Team that uncovered widespread child sex abuse by area Catholic priests, but it's an incredible example of what truly good journalism requires. You need patient publishers who pay in time and money for proper research, whether digging into decades of newspaper clippings or legal documents, soliciting Freedom of Information Act requests, knocking on door after door, getting several slammed in your face along the way, and that's all before you've even put pen to paper, not to mention the supporting cast of fact checkers, photographers, production staff, ad sellers, social media, and of course, editors. The best writing you've ever read wouldn't have been so without good editing. Granted, I get that divulging a city's five best burger joints doesn't hold a candle to uncovering decades of abuse and cover ups by the Catholic church, but being careless always has a cost.
Maggie Hennessy: Say a writer who's strapped for time uses previous coverage of an iconic bar as background. If that previous story's writer got the founding owner's name wrong and no one called to double check, you can see how it becomes a gross little game of telephone with inaccurate reporting. The great thing about the internet is we can correct those errors super fast, but we lose credibility with readers each time. I am no negative Nancy and the future is bright. Chefs, sommeliers, writers, you-name-its frustrated with existing food media are starting rad, small press magazines of their own, like Food and Queer Culture mag Jarry, Hospitality Focus mag Counter Service, Food Origin's mag Wet Stone, oh, and you know, Cherry Bombe. They pay the writers. Even better. A 19 year old Thai-American college student at the University of Illinois started one of the most beautiful food mags I've ever seen, with that real sexy thick paper stock called Dill, which honors Asian food ways. All over, we're hearing more diverse stories, and rightfully learning about foods intersections with politics, culture, and socioeconomic status.
Maggie Hennessy: Chicago Tribune Dining writer Louisa Chu extensively covered the ongoing fight against displacement and gentrification in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, where a handful of new restaurants have been at the cross hairs. Plate Magazine editor Chandra Ram, who is here, she just released a marvelous Instant Pot cookbook in which she shares her story of imposter syndrome as a first generation Indian-American from Kentucky, who reconnected to her heritage through a modern kitchen appliance that made Indian cooking accessible. Another fellow Chicagoan at the RedEye, Sade Carpenter, regularly highlights local bartenders and chefs of color. Recently, after a reader tweeted about the lack of black-owned spots to support north of downtown, she compiled a list of 24 black-owned restaurants on the city's north side.
Maggie Hennessy: On Thursday, Bon App published a beautiful piece about the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who worked in food service while running for office, and for whom food has always been inescapably political, as the most tangible indicator of our social inequities. I'd like to see more advertisers throw their support behind work with a conscience, where there's evident care in the end product, where power is held to account, where underserved voices have a platform, and where recipes are reliable. I'd like to see readers invest in high quality story telling. Here's my plea. If there's a food media outlet you love and you have the means, show your support. Donate money or buy a print subscription and feel that sexy card stock between your fingers. If a magazine you like puts on events, or I don't know, opens a timeout food hall, go. If one of its contributors writes a cookbook or a city guide, buy one.
Maggie Hennessy: The people in this room give me hope because you're here and, as did watching the rise of our own neighborhood news site, Block Club Chicago, like a Phoenix from the ashes of DNAinfo this spring. I was glued to Twitter as they broke fundraising goal after goal, weeping openly while I cried out to the mister, "People care." We have to show that we value quality story telling if we want it to survive, because at the end of the day, we're all part of this community. Writers are the archivists and story tellers, uncovering the truth and speaking for the unheard, but they're human. If you're a member of a group that's underrepresented, or notice an injustice yet uncovered, or if there's simply a place where you love to eat that needs some love in return, tell me. I may only be one dudette who can't always tell if she's eating chicken or pork, but I got good ass editors. Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Maggie Hennessy. As Maggie said, don't let good journalism disappear. Find a way to support your favorite publications. To all of you listening, thank you for supporting Cherry Bombe. Before we get to our panel, let's return to my chat with Sarah Furno, the farmhouse cheese maker whose family created the award winning Kerrygold Cashel Blue Irish farmhouse cheese.
Kerry Diamond: I know you're all eager to more about this inverted burger. I certainly am. You're definitely going to want to make this recipe this weekend. Here's farmhouse cheese maker, Sarah Furno, describing her go-to recipe that includes Kerrygold Cashel Blue Irish farmhouse cheese.
Sarah Furno: I buy some good quality ground steak mince. I will sweat off a small amount of diced onion and just mix that in with the ground mince. Then, I take a small amount of blue cheese and I make a hole in the burger patty and pop it into the center and just close it back up. Then, as the burger's cooking, of course, the blue cheese melts in the center. When you bite into your burger, you've got a little sauce, a little surprise.
Kerry Diamond: Who doesn't want that?
Sarah Furno: It captures the flavor of the cheese very well and just adds a complementary element to the burger. It works well. It's good. It's very easy as well.
Kerry Diamond: Want to make your own inverted burger with Kerrygold Cashel Blue Irish farmhouse cheese? Visit kerrygoldusa.com to find out where you can purchase their award winning butter and cheese. That's kerrygoldusa.com.
Kerry Diamond: It's time to hear from our panel. These four women are contributing to the Chicago area's very happening food scene: baker Ellen King, the co-founder of Hewn Bread in Evanston, chef Beverly Kim of Parachute, Fat Rice co-owner Adrienne Lo, and Christine Cikowski, the co-founder of Honey Butter Fried Chicken. Let's go right to Christine, who answers the question, "What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the future of food?"
Christine Cikowski: The first one that comes to mind is less food waste. That's a subject that has always been really super important to me and I really do see us going in that direction. I think that it's economical. It's social. It's practical, logical, all of the things. We have so many people that are starving in this country and so much food goes in the trash. I think it's something that chefs are very conscious of because of food costs, just practical speaking. We run businesses. We're not just romantically cooking and that doesn't cost money. It does. We're very conscious about what we put in the trash and how we reuse everything. I think I would love to see more attention paid to that, just sort of trickling down to the public. We can set the example, but having it be part of our food culture as Americans, I think, is what I would like to see for just first. There's other things, but that one first.
Kerry Diamond: Adrienne?
Adrienne Lo: I mean, I definitely agree. Food waste is a huge thing. I think we're very conscious of that at Fat Rice. I like to think of us as a very low to no waste restaurant, for sure. I think a huge thing is also making sure that we're eating local and supporting local. Again, I feel like the majority of the food in the grocery stores are processed foods that have added sugar to everything. I really think we need to move away from that just from a health standpoint, but also, I think, for the continued progress of our world and our society to be able to actually eat real food.
Kerry Diamond: Beverly?
Beverly Kim: What I would like to see in the future is more focus on a balance, more family-friendly kind of lifestyles. I think it would require for all the consumers to know what's going on behind the scenes and for the consumers to understand how it breaks down. If people see how it's broken down, they might consider restructuring things, like restructuring how we are looking at hospitality, how we are paying everybody, because it wasn't fun being pregnant and going back to work in six weeks. That's why I took risks to go on Top Chef and things to further my career. I think for most women, why ... not just women, but even men, it's a very difficult field to have a family life. If we are willing to pay more for food, if we're willing to pay more for a better lifestyle, we have the highest number of minimum wage workers in any industry. Just food for thought.
Kerry Diamond: You and I have talked a lot about the tipping issue. Christine, I know you have no tipping, right, at your establishment?
Christine Cikowski: Yeah. We actually eliminated tips after our first year of business. We do what ... kinda following the Union Square hospitality model of hospitality included. We did raise our prices a little bit to kinda help offset that. Yeah. We just basically say everything's included in the price of your food. Our workers don't work for tips.
Kerry Diamond: All right. Your turn.
Ellen King: All right. I think that the future of food is actually ... I'm a history geek, so I actually think it lies in getting back in touch with our historical roots. By that, I mean for us at our bakery, it's our mission to source locally grown, organic, and sustainable grains, but not just conventional varieties. We really work very hard with farmers to source heritage varieties because we need to increase the biodiversity of our wheat that's being grown in addition to our beans and our corn. For me, the history is honestly spending time in farm journals and looking at varieties in our region and in other regions that grew successfully in the 18 and 1900s, kind of more ... a little bit more academic, but that's where I think the future is.
Kerry Diamond: Ellen, have you found many willing farmer partners to do this with?
Ellen King: Yeah. You know, it's funny, the speaker before talking about unicorns, 'cause I used to call my grain farmers that I found, like Andy Hazard, one that I connected with four years ago, I was like, "It's like meeting a unicorn," because she's a female and she's a grain farmer. She was willing to grow a bunch of different varieties. She was already growing, but then she was willing to grow a heritage variety that we kinda worked on a project together. They're slowly coming. I think the biggest thing was the fear of the demand, because farming is basically a three year process. They wanna make sure that in three years, essentially, when they have a crop big enough, they'll have someone to buy it.
Kerry Diamond: That's great. All right. Christine, we're gonna go back to you and food waste. Such a big deal. I think I've read numbers like a third of all garbage is food waste.
Christine Cikowski: I think that there's a couple of pronged approaches to it, obviously, like learning and teaching ... well, teaching people how to use all the parts of the ingredients. That starts, I think, with children. I'm part of an organization called Pilot Light that goes into schools and teaches kids about beets, not just like ... not just hamburgers, like where the meat comes from. It comes from an animal. Educating the next generation, I think, is gonna help with that a lot. Something that I would love to see happen, maybe just even locally, that's happening way on the west coast, a little more progressive, I think, is if you're gonna have food waste that it should be composted. I think that not have a city-wide composting program seems insane to me.
Ellen King: When I lived in Seattle, I mean it was almost a decade ago now, they had transitioned, back then, all food waste had to be composted, even at your home. It was like you had a little tiny, almost like an office garbage can size for your waste-
Christine Cikowski: That's what it's like in-
Ellen King: Everything.
Christine Cikowski: Portland. Every family has two. Don't quote me on this. I think it two, or one huge one, big one for composting and then they get picked up like three days a week. The garbage gets picked up one day a week. It's a competition, like, "I don't have any garbage."
Ellen King: It's easier.
Christine Cikowski: We can all do our individual parts, but at Honey Butter, we've chosen to compost our packaging, but it really puts us in a competitive disadvantage. It costs us so much money to pay services to compost. The packaging's more expensive. It's like we do it 'cause it's the right thing to do, but trying to get everybody on board with it would lower the cost significantly. It's just a theme that we sort of will come back to about tipping and benefits. It's like we do all of these things in various forms, all of us, but if not everybody's doing it then our businesses suffer because it costs us more money to run our businesses. I think with the food waste, in particular, taking a bigger approach with the public and just educating people about how to use it, but then also what to do with it when you have waste. Composting, I think, is probably the easiest answer for that.
Kerry Diamond: There's such a big education component to it. I think people, a lot of people, just don't know how to recycle and how to compost. I'm sort of a militant composter. Often my freezer will be filled with more compost than actual food. Then I'll see my boyfriend put something in the compost bin and I'm just like, "Oh my God. What did you just put in the compost bin?"
Christine Cikowski: Every time my cooks put one of those blue gloves in the compost I'm like, "I'm gonna kill you."
Ellen King: Yeah.
Christine Cikowski: "That's the earth." They're like, "There she goes." They all get onboard with it, too, but yeah. I hear you.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. It's like a murderous rage over compost. All right, so supporting local, such a big deal. How is the scene here? I mean, I know we've got people like Maggie, whose whole existence is about supporting the local food scene, but how are things in Chicago in terms of the support you get?
Adrienne Lo: I think we have a pretty great community as far as local farmers and in supporting local small businesses. I mean, for us at Fat Rice, which is ... the food that we cook is definitely not seasonal, per say, as far as ... again, it's history again and everything, but we really work towards ... obviously during the summertime is when you can take the most advantage of it, but really trying to, again, work with local farmers, get local dairy and eggs, and utilize that in our food. We have, I feel like, great relationships with all the farmers here. Again, we've made huge efforts to continue to support the people that are here, again, to keep their business thriving 'cause if they're gone, I mean, it hurts us as well, for a cuisine that is 500 years old and has nothing to do with seasonal ingredients.
Kerry Diamond: Tell us about the cuisine.
Adrienne Lo: I don't know if any of you've been there, but what we do at Fat Rice is ... kind of started off with the cuisine of Macao. Some of you may know of it as the Las Vegas of the east. It does 10 times what Las Vegas does and it just ... that is unfortunately continuing to grow and grow and grow. The casino world is overtaking this beautiful little enclave right off the coast of Hong Kong. Again, 500 years ago, kind of the world was split between Spanish and Portuguese sailors and traders. The Portuguese went east and the Spanish went west. The last place that the Portuguese ended up was in Macao. Again, it was a time everybody was looking for what was gold back then, which was spices, the spice trade. The food that we do is really built within heritage family recipes.
Adrienne Lo: Again, these people, these sailors, that were traveling across the world, these, again, dangerous ... I can't even imagine being on boats for months. It's a really beautiful combination of mostly Portuguese and there was stops through South America, Brazil, South Africa, through Goa, India, through Malacca, Malaysia, and even up to Nagasaki in Japan. Finally, the last place was Macao. Again, you see this beautiful fusion of Portuguese ingredients culminating with, again, ingredients from across the globe. It's really kind of a beautiful thing that people are like, "I'm going to Macao. Where should I go eat?" I'm like, "There's no where to find actual, true Macanese fusion food there." If you're interested in it, you have to actually go to somebody's house, which we are fortunate enough to do, to meet people in Macao, go to their houses, cook with them, go to the markets and learn directly from these amazing families that have long histories in Macao.
Adrienne Lo: My business partner, the chef, is Portuguese-American. I'm Chinese-American. I spent some time in Indian. He spent time through Brazil. We traveled to China together and to Macao. It really just kinda was a beautiful combination of who we are as individuals, where we had traveled, and the places we had gone together.
Kerry Diamond: Before we go back to Beverly, I'm so fascinated by this underground food culture. I chatted with a few of you beforehand. Yours is the only one that's still around. I get the sense that you did it because it's so hard to just leap right into the brick and mortar world, that you start with these underground clubs to sort of find an audience, maybe raise money. Ellen, why did-
Ellen King: I-
Kerry Diamond: You do this?
Ellen King: I didn't want to start a business, actually. I didn't. I left the food world when I moved from Seattle to Chicago with a young son. I didn't wanna work in restaurants anymore. I think I realized I was depressed. I wasn't a baker, either. I was all savory in Seattle.
Ellen King: When you have a young son and you don't know anybody and the winters are really long here, I became obsessed with the bread that I missed eating. It was kind of a hobby that just became therapy, really, because you talked about having pets that you have at home. My starter became my pet. It became my sanity, because I would talk to my starter and my son, who was like two, and I'd just be like, "I don't know what I'm doing."
Kerry Diamond: Wait. Have you seen that video series about My Life in Sourdough? Has anybody seen that-
Ellen King: No.
Kerry Diamond: The French girl who's had ... she's in love with her ... she's dating her starter-
Ellen King: Okay.
Kerry Diamond: Basically.
Ellen King: That didn't happen for me, but yeah. My business literally started because I wanted to get better at doing bread and it wasn't tasting the way I wanted it to from when I had lived in Europe and in Seattle. I say that whenever you have an addiction, you have to become a dealer. I quickly became a dealer and got my son hooked in to sell the bread at his preschool. Then we would travel around on my bike. He'd be in the little burly buried under bread. I mean, we're talking he's like four years old. He was the money man. He'd run up and deliver the bread and I'd keep the bike 'cause the squirrels here are crazy, like insane. If we left the bike, there'd be a squirrel sitting in the burly.
Ellen King: From that, literally Julie, who's here, my business partner in the bakery, she was a customer and was just like, "Wait. You've gotta open something." It'd been about three years and I was maxed out. I couldn't do it at home anymore. It was insane. I never wanted to open my own place, 'cause I knew what it meant, that I would have no life and that times like 10, except I guess I have a life 'cause I'm up here, which is cool. There are some perks to it. Yeah. That's my story.
Kerry Diamond: All right. Beverly, we are going to switch to you because you want to make the food world better for women working in this industry, as does everyone who's up here, but I know this is a passion of yours. Tell us what you're doing to be the change you wanna see?
Beverly Kim: Well, okay. We've been open for five years. Well, since we've been open ... since we turned a profit, one of the first things I felt bad about was I went from Medicaid to getting my own health insurance and I felt like, "Shit. I'm getting my own ... I feel really selfish." We've implemented a group health insurance program, which we started off giving $150 per person, flat across the board. Then, if you're a manager for three years, we take care of all of your health insurance, which is a lot for, I think ... we have 25 employees altogether. We started with seven employees when we opened Parachute. I think that was always a concern for me, because I remember when I was a cook and I didn't have enough money to pay the bills. I was constantly holding in my pee all day.
Beverly Kim: I just always had this compassion for what it's like to be in this industry. I wish I could pay middle class income wage for ... it's just not ... cooks are not middle class. You're kind of, as a cook, trying to find yourself. I think people are like, "Why are there not a lot of women? Why are you not ..." It's just a damn hard job for very little wage. I met my husband through our love for Korean food. That's how ... why we're a Korean-American restaurant. He's not Korean. He's originally from Cincinnati, but I was not a good Korean daughter, not a good Korean daughter. We had a shotgun wedding because I got pregnant when I was 30.
Beverly Kim: Yeah. We had our wedding when I was on the hotline at Tikashi’s at six months pregnant. I realized I couldn't do this anymore and that's when I applied to Whole Foods because they had benefits and Tikashi's, it's a small, Michelin star Japanese restaurant. He's like, "You no wanna stay with us?" I was like, "Yeah. I need my benefits." It was really tough. I just have a lot of compassion because the only reason I stuck with it is 'cause I'm crazy. I'm not mentally all here. You gotta be kinda crazy. Well, not only that, but it's the only thing I know how to do. Since I was 16, cooking and now I'm like already in my 30's, what else am I gonna do? I love this. I love it, but I hate it. It's just not paying the bills. Well, we ... it's not about paying the bills. You just learn how to live under 30 thousand a year. If you live under 30 thousand a year in Chicago, it's tough. You learn how to do that, but it's not great. You wonder why there's all these mental health issues with cooks and stuff.
Beverly Kim: Nothing felt great until opening our own restaurant. Even though we opened our own restaurant, we still work like crazy. I've always committed to not, even though it was tempting to, open Sunday. We always close Sundays and Mondays, so none of our sous chefs ever ... managers ever have to work six days or seven days or whatever, 14 days sometimes places have to work. Also, our managers actually work four full days and a half day. We've cut down the managers from working 60 ... our back of the house cooks, back of the house managers, from working 60 plus hours in the kitchen to working to more like 48 to 53 per week. They are so much happier. Their half day that they come in for a little bit is just focused on creativity, because if you can't pay awesome, I think what you need to give your cooks is a culture of learning and education, and something that they can really value.
Kerry Diamond: I have one more question for Christine, 'cause you have eliminating tipping. You have a service charge, right?
Christine Cikowski: No, we-
Kerry Diamond: No.
Christine Cikowski: We don't have a service charge.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, you don't have a service-
Christine Cikowski: We-
Kerry Diamond: Oh, you added it to your food prices.
Christine Cikowski: We're a different kind of ... we're not a table service restaurant. We don't really have servers, per say. We have people that run the food to the tables, so it's a little different. We don't present-
Kerry Diamond: Tip jar?
Christine Cikowski: Yeah. They put a tip jar. They add a service charge on the check. We just decided that we were just gonna include it in the price of the food. It's just one price. That's what you get. When you come in Honey Butter, you get food. You get service. You get to be a part of this community that supports local farmers, that composts, that pays PTO, health benefits, paid parental leave for all of our employees. That covers everything. Yeah. I just think that we just decided that we just didn't want our customers to decide what kind of money our employees make. What's hard about it is that not everybody does it. I think most restaurateurs that I've ... Bev and I've talked about this a lot, would love to get rid of it, but unless everybody gets rid of it, it's just not gonna ever work because we're operating at a competitive disadvantage.
Christine Cikowski: Most servers wanna make $50 an hour to let some people do it and not other people do it, it just ... there's always gonna be people ... you're gonna lose workers and not attract the same type of people. Like Bev said, we really need to ... we, at Honey Butter, attract people that maybe they're okay making a little bit less per hour because they love working for us and they have PTO. They can have a baby and take 12 weeks off paid and come back and still have a job and only work 45 hours a week, 48 hours a week for managers, stuff like that. Yeah.
Christine Cikowski: Until it's legislated across the country, I ... we're always gonna suffer a little bit for it, but we just ... I just think it's the right thing to do. I don't wanna put my employees in a situation where they will give different service to customers based on what they think they're gonna get tipped. As much as I'd like to believe that everyone gets tipped the same, it just isn't true. White people get tipped more money and so do men. That's just a fact. We just didn't want them to have to do things to get more tips and favor certain customers and we're like ... we're the only industry in America that lets customers decide how much. You don't go to the Apple store and tip the ... they just ... the phone's $700 and that covers everything. You don't tip your doctor. I just don't understand it.
Kerry Diamond: I think the good news is the people on this panel who have spoken and who are part of the Cherry Bombe universe really represent change. I think what all of you are doing is so remarkable. When you talk about being the change that you wanna see in the world, I really do think all four of you represent that, and Maggie, you and Chrishon also. Thank you to all of you. As we always like to say, you are the bomb.
Kerry Diamond: Thank to our speakers and panelists for such an inspiring evening. I hope they gave you a lot of food for thought. Thank you to the St. Jane Hotel for hosting us. If you are planning a trip to Chicago, be sure to check out the St. Jane Hotel.
Kerry Diamond: Our show was produced by Jess Zeidman and supported by Kerrygold. Thank you for listening to The Future of Food mini series. Here's to a delicious tomorrow.