The Future of Food: Minneapolis Transcript
Kerry Diamond: Hey there Bombesquad. Welcome to the future of food. A radio Cherry Bombe mini series. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond.
Kerry Diamond: Throughout the series, you are going to hear talks and panels that we recorded on each stop, from Atlanta to Portland, Oregon, with chefs, farmers, bakers, activists, and even a rainbow pasta maker. These members of the Bombesquad share their vision of what's next for them, and for the world around them. I hope this series inspires you to stop and think about your future.
Kerry Diamond: For this episode, we travel to the Midwest and stopped at the Lynn Hall in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Lynn Hall is part restaurant, part event space, and part incubator kitchen, and it's owned by our gracious host for the evening, Ann Spaeth. We're going to kick things off with a talk from Sarah Kieffer about what happens when your cookie recipe goes viral. Before we get this show on the road, let's check in with our sponsor.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Kerry Gold for supporting our tour and this mini series. Kerry Gold is the iconic Irish brand known for its award-winning butter and cheese made with milk from grass-fed cows.
Kerry Diamond: Since Kerry Gold gave us the opportunity to travel around the U.S. and hear from women all over the country, we thought it would be fascinating to take a virtual detour to Ireland to hear how some of their delicious products are made. One of the cheeses we love in particular is the award-winning, Kerry Gold Cashel Blue Irish Farmhouse cheese, so we placed a call to Sarah Furno, a farmhouse cheese maker who happens to know the history of how this very unique cheese came to be, and who happened to create it.
Sarah Furno: Well, in the early 80s, what you did is you went to the library, and you got a recipe book. So she went to the library and asked for a recipe book for making cheese, and it took three months to arrive, because most people in Ireland, weren't making cheese in the farmhouse kitchen. Maybe a bit of butter not cheese.
Kerry Diamond: The 'She' in the story isn't Sarah, but her mother Jane Grub, who invented the recipe for the famous Kerry Gold Cashel Blue Irish Farmhouse cheese.
Sarah Furno: She started experimenting in my Grammy's jam pan, original she made hard cheddar style cheeses. Then she thought why not have a bit of fun and add a bit of spice in there. So she started making blue cheese. She was the first person in Ireland to try to do that.
Kerry Diamond: Want to try this groundbreaking blue cheese? Or maybe Kerry Gold's savory shredded cheddar cheese, or the garlic and herb butter? Visit kerrygoldusa.com to check out the store locator and find out where you can purchase any of their award-winning cheese and butter. That's kerrygoldusa.com.
Kerry Diamond: Does the world really need another chocolate chip cookie recipe? Apparently we do. When Sarah Kieffer of The Vanilla Bean Blog introduce the world to her unique take on the classic, well, let's let Sarah tell the story. Please welcome Sarah Kieffer.
Sarah Kieffer: Hi, I'm Sarah. I'm just going to admit that I'm terribly nervous right now. I tend to write in stories, so when I started to write what I was going to write tonight, it just kind of came out in story form. So I'm going to do what you're not supposed to do which is read your notes. But I need to tonight, so that's what I'm going to do.
Sarah Kieffer: Last September, I was pleasantly surprised to find a recipe for my cookbook make its way into the New York Times. The highlighted recipe was for a chocolate chip cookie that uses a technique now known as pan-banging. You may have heard of this. Where the baking sheet is tapped or banged in the oven while the cookies are baking, creating ridges and crinkles around the edges of the cookies. Although this has evolved, and some people are actually taking them out of the oven and dropping them on the floor to get these ridges.
Sarah Kieffer: Being in the New York Times food section was a bucket list item I never thought would happen, and I was ecstatic. A few days later Fox News picked up the story, highlighting my cookie on all its local news outlets, and online nationally. My pan-banging cookie had officially gone viral, and I like to point out that if both the New York Times and Fox are reporting on the story, that it can't be fake news. That's my cheese dad joke.
Sarah Kieffer: I started getting emails and messages from people all over. My Instagram was full of people pan-banging their cookies, and tagging me in photos. Local TV stations came to my house and filmed me making cookies, newspapers called, asking me questions, and I was flown out to New York to make cookies at an event. It was a whirlwind of a month and I found myself, as one does, on social media addicted to the mentions, hearts, hashtags, and positive feedback.
Sarah Kieffer: The questions of, "How do I get my recipe to go viral," started being posed to me, and I didn't have a good answer for anyone. There wasn't any formula or secret that I somehow cracked. I like to think and hoped that it was because I had worked hard on making a cookie worth baking.
Sarah Kieffer: But there was one element that kept it trending, and that was for as many people who loved this cookie and raved about it, there were also plenty of people who absolutely hated this cookie and thought it was ridiculous that it had been invented. The comment section to the New York Times under this recipe is filled with comments of people angry that these cookies exist.
Sarah Kieffer: They are too greasy, too buttery, too big, too sweet, and people are furious about the pan-banging. It's too time consuming, it's not worth it, and my favorite complaint was that it was too loud. I had someone rant to me in an email about that.
Sarah Kieffer: So while I had some good press, and saw my Instagram follower count increase rapidly over the month my cookies went viral. I also had to process and except that there were piles of people out there who hated what I was doing, and maybe hated me for doing it. As someone who avoids conflict, has wrestled with being a people pleaser all my life, and has been diagnosed with anxiety and OCD, this set off a string of emotions.
Sarah Kieffer: I could accept that my recipe wasn't for everyone, and I wasn't offended that someone wanted something different in a cookie. I always say, just as Carry said, that there's always room in the world for more chocolate chip cookie recipes. But it was hard to accept that people would write off my whole career and hard work over a cookie. Or that they assume something of me because they didn't even like the picture of my cookie.
Sarah Kieffer: I also had to deal with the press presenting me wrong. While I was flattered and so thankful to be included in the New York Times, my book wasn't mentioned and I didn't see any sales due to the article, both for not being mentioned and the recipe being available for free. They also highlighted my Instagram career over my book career.
Sarah Kieffer: The local news had a headline that read 'Local Mom Gets in the New York Times', also skipping over my career, and presenting the idea that, "You know if this mom can get into the New York Times, anyone can do it." I was conflicted and frustrated that I couldn't control the narrative of my own recipe and story. I wanted to bake the cookies for everyone and try to prove they were good enough, that I could bake, and that I wasn't just some hack influencer who lucked out, and that I knew what I was doing.
Sarah Kieffer: I found myself obsessed about a cookie, I stopped reading comments on the news articles and on my blog, and I stopped answering questions about them in my messages and emails. I started actually regretting the cookies and their technique as I anxiously analyzed how many people viewed me through these cookies.
Sarah Kieffer: Bloggers started posting their own versions of them, changing just a few ingredients, measurements, or sprinkling them with salt and calling them their own. Others tried to make the same cookie without all the fuss of pan-banging. These new recipes were born from my original, but they weren't mine anymore and I had no control over where things went. I started believing all the misconceptions I was worried about: I wasn't really a baker, those cookies are click bait, and I'm just a local mom who lucked out.
Sarah Kieffer: It was actually in the act of parenting that I finally got over the weird spiral. My daughter was doing a report at school and she needed to pretend to interview someone famous. As she was looking through a list of possible options, I slyly mentioned to her that, "Well, you know, your mom was in the New York Times. Maybe you could interview her." She didn't even look up from the paper she was reading, and said, "Well, you weren't really in the New York Times, your cookies were. Maybe I could interview them?" She's right over there by the way.
Sarah Kieffer: I found myself laughing as I heard my ego crack in half. Oh my god, I'm worrying about cookies. Yes, they are buttery, and sugary, and delicious as hell, but they can't bring clean water to Flint, or stop the next school shooting. They won't give women equal pay, or take the stigmatism away from mental health issues, or remove the injustice of racism. They won't bring peace, and only temporarily bring happiness. They can't even do the simple task of keeping people civil in the comment section of a newspaper article.
Sarah Kieffer: I thanked my daughter for her honesty, I apparently needed a good dose of it. After that I found myself pleasantly at peace with my cookies, they aren't really mine anymore, they belong to the pan-bangers of the world. And I am thankful for each and every one of them. I still make them often, they are our house cookie, and each time I pick up the edge of my baking sheet and drop it four inches in my oven, I watch a ripple form around the edge of my cookies, and know that those crispy edges and gooey chocolate-y centers will give me a moment of joy but they do not define me. For it is only a cookie.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Sarah Kieffer for sharing her story. If you haven't banged a pan, and made those cookies, what are you waiting for? The recipe is in Sarah's wonderful cookbook The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. She brought me a dozen of these cookies on the night of our event, and I've gotta say, they were amazing.
Kerry Diamond: Our next speaker is Leensa Ahmed. The high school student who is also the CEO and CFO of The Green Garden Bakery. I don't know about you, but I wasn't the CEO of anything when I was in high school. Let's hear more from this inspiring young entrepreneur.
Leensa Ahmed: My name is Leensa, I'm 17 years old, and I just finished my junior year in high school. I am the CEO, and CFO of Green Garden Bakery. Green Garden Bakery ... we're a youth run business, all of us are minority youth, all youths of color. We grow vegetables in our community garden, and we use those vegetables to make vegetable-based goods. We sell at farmer's markets, we do pop-up sales, and we recently started online orders.
Leensa Ahmed: A third of our profits we donate back into the community, which is a large part of our mission. Recently we just won the Minnesota Cup, which is an entrepreneurship competition. We have been featured in the Star Tribune, and a lot of local newspapers recently.
Leensa Ahmed: I would say that being a part of Green Garden Bakery has really changed my life. Learning more about nutrition and addressing the lack of food security in my neighborhood. I do live in North Minneapolis, so that's something that I really care about, and I want to help raise the community and better the community.
Leensa Ahmed: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: We usually ask questions at the end, but because Leensa has to go we're going to ask her some questions now. How can people in the audience get involved?
Leensa Ahmed: We have our website greengardenbakery.org, so everyone can go on there and learn about how to get involved. We're always looking for ways for adults to be incorporated into our youth run business, because sometimes the lack of adult help sometimes is a struggle for us. We're also on Instagram, @greengardenbakerympls. As well as Facebook, we have a Green Garden Bakery page.
Kerry Diamond: Do you do any of the actual baking, as CEO and CFO?
Leensa Ahmed: Sometimes when they need me, but most of the time I do most of the administrative work. I do a lot of the behind the scenes, as well as the features and the media as well.
Kerry Diamond: I don't know why we're sharing one mic when we have five mics, but that's okay.
Kerry Diamond: So usually vegetables and desserts seem like they're in opposition to each other, so how are you blending the two? Tell us a few of the baked goods.
Leensa Ahmed: One of our best selling baked goods that was just recently invented by one of the cooking classes that we run with the youth that are in there, is our jalapeño chocolate chip cookie, which is really good. It has kind of a kick at the end, but you can't really taste it. Another one of our vegetable-based goods is a lemon-zucchini muffin which is also really famous. That's my favorite, personally. Most of the baked goods, you can't really taste the vegetables, kind of a way to hide nutrition into foods for a lot of the youths, which is pretty awesome.
Kerry Diamond: Just tell us a little bit more about you. I was asking you about your college plans, what's your future? What do you envision for yourself?
Leensa Ahmed: I'm kind of soul searching right now, I have a lot of different possibilities for me. With Green Garden Bakery there's a lot of different opportunities that opened for me, so I could go into anything from business to going into some type of STEM work, I could even become a doctor, I don't know.
Kerry Diamond: Well Leensa, thank you so much.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Leensa and the Green Garden Bakers for making a difference in their community. As for Leensa, it seems like her future is going to be a bright one.
Kerry Diamond: Before we get to the panel, let's return to my talk with farmhouse cheese maker Sarah Furno, whose family created the award winning Kerry Gold Cashel Blue Irish Farmhouse cheese.
Kerry Diamond: I wanted to know more about Beechmount Farm, Sarah's family farm, so I asked her to tell us a little bit more about this magical place.
Sarah Furno: We have a lot of trees that's why it's called Beechmount. We've got lovely deep soils here, it's a very traditional farming area in Ireland. We've loads of small meadows on the farm, loads of hedgerows. The cows are out in the fields, I've also got ponies, and dogs, and hens, and all the things you'd expect to have in a farm.
Sarah Furno: We live on the farm, so we want to keep it a nice environment to be in.
Kerry Diamond: And in addition to the beautiful landscape, Sarah also has one of the best commutes.
Sarah Furno: Our farmhouse is in the middle of the farm, I don't have far to go to work, I've only got to go just across the farm yard, and down at the cheese dairy.
Kerry Diamond: It sounds like Sarah has the perfection situation to go with the perfect cheese. Want to try Kerry Gold Cashel Blue Irish Farmhouse cheese for yourself? Or maybe you'd like to try Kerry Gold's famous butter or their new slices and shreds. Visit kerrygoldusa.com to find a stockist near you.
Kerry Diamond: It's time to hear from our panel. We brought together five women who represent the Minneapolis food scene to hear their thoughts on the future. Let's welcome Chef Lachelle Cunningham of Chelle's Kitchen, Melissa Coleman of The Faux Martha and The Minimalist Kitchen, Pakou Hang co-founder and executive director of the Hmong American Farmer's Association, Chef Jamie Malone of the Grand Café, and Diane Moua executive pastry chef of Bellecour, Spoon and Stable, and Demi.
Kerry Diamond: We started the evening by asking Lachelle what comes to mind when she hears the phrase 'Future of Food'.
Lachelle Cunningham: When I think about the future of food, I think about how do we normalize healthy eating, and how do we not just normalize healthy eating but make it accessible to everyone in our community, and how do we really reconnect to our food.
Lachelle Cunningham: We've talking about this for years, reconnecting to our food, where does our food come from. But really food is the great equalizer, so I believe that when we can unite under that common interest and we can see that what we put into our bodies, and what we consume into our lives has a great impact on us individually, but us as a community of people. I think that that is really where we need to go in our food system. We've done a lot of work, we talk about sustainability, we talk about these jargon words and they're great things and we need to keep moving towards that but we really need to understand the impact of our health on what we ingest. And I think that our future is bound to that, and it's imperative that we really unite around that. That's what I'm talking about.
Kerry Diamond: Great, thank you.
Kerry Diamond: Melissa?
Melissa Coleman: I hope the future of food is centered around dinner time. It's so simple, it's this ancient, ordinary practice of gathering around the table and our lives have almost become too busy to gather. Too busy to cook.
Melissa Coleman: I met with a couple of people, when I was doing my book tour. I was talking to two people and one said, "Oh, I hope you have quick recipes." I said, "Yes, I have those." Then the person standing next to them said, "Well, I want slow recipes, I want to cook, I want to spend time in my kitchen." And I said, "Oh, I have those too."
Melissa Coleman: It made me realize our lives are too busy for food, for the dinner tables, for something as simple as gathering. I hope that we can carve time out for that, it's sacred time.
Pakou Hang: I think there's two things that's happening. When you're talking about the future of food, there's bifurcation that's happening. One on hand we're going into food that is thinking about feeding the world, they're looking at whether it's GMO foods, or seeds, or technology. Ways to create food that can be mass produced and shipped out. It can be grown in one part of the world, and then two weeks later be in another part, and supposedly it tastes better.
Pakou Hang: There is a space for that, I may not agree with that, but there's a space and there's a whole industry around that. And more power to them. I also think, and this is where the future is, that there's a growing awareness or who is growing our food, who is cooking our food, the memories that our food and the flavors evoke in us. A greater awareness of how food is really the medium from which we are connecting with people.
Pakou Hang: I think about that often because in my life, I'm an immigrant, I was born in a refugee camp. Growing up my parents wanted to send us to Catholic school, but we couldn't afford it, so we started picking cucumbers and selling it at the farmer's market. I remember vividly when I was in sixth grade, we were picking cucumbers, that was 1986 or 87, it was an extremely hot year. I remember as a sixth grader, thinking global warming is for real. I don't know if anybody has ever picked cucumbers but they're so prickly you have to wear gloves. You have to wear these washing gloves, and I was thinking, gosh this is for real. That was for me the motivation to ... if I can't win the lottery, I'm gonna get a good education, because there's no way that I'm ever going to do this for life.
Pakou Hang: Which is really ironic, because now as my role at the Hmong American Farmers Association is to tell that story of the farmer. I do think people often say, "Could this have been done maybe 10 years ago, or 20 years ago?" And i said, "I don't think so." Because we're at this nexus right now where people are open to these ideas, and they're especially open to the holistic way of thinking about food. I think that's something that's growing, and I really hope that that is the future. Because that's going to be the only way that we're going to be able to sustain ourselves.
Jamie Malone: So I'll talk about food in the context of restaurants, which makes me feel a little out of place on this panel, because I think a little of people are doing things that are a lot more meaningful than what we do, which is a little bit topical sometimes.
Jamie Malone: I'm hoping that food within the context of restaurants start to change. There's a lot of focus on what's on the plate, what it looks like, who cooked it. I think, to your point of dinner being sacred, I love the idea of cooking in homes and home cooking, but I also love the idea of restaurants. A restaurant can be a commissary for a neighborhood, for a community, so it can be good environmentally, but it can also be good for communities.
Jamie Malone: For me the future of food in restaurants is a shift from an egotistical, chef-y focus, onto being able to being vulnerable. Serving food, cooking food, it's an act of love. For us to really remember that that what it's about, and that that's what we're doing. That's also just as sacred as dinner time.
Jamie Malone: I think a lot about how in a restaurant we have the opportunity to celebrate humanity and the top of civilization which is dining, and how lucky we are. I think there's something magical about it, it's a chance where we get to connect. Most of all I hope that we can move towards being able to be more vulnerable and it's a place where we can show other human beings how much we care about them.
Diane Moua: Hi everyone. One: I failed speech class, okay? Two: if I get really teary eyed, I'm allergic to flour and I'm a pastry chef. Three: I'm short of a head baker so if you know anyone, send them my way to Bellecour. I've been baking bread in the morning, so I'm still teary eyed from that.
Diane Moua: The future of food to me, I have two points, they're very personal to me. One: I have two kids, and it's teaching them about ... I'm in the food field and they still don't know. My daughter, she's thirteen, and three years ago she learned that chicken nuggets came from chicken. Education my kids, I can't educate anybody else if I can't educate my kids about where our food comes from. I think that nowadays a lot of kids don't know where their food comes from.
Diane Moua: My main goal, once I stop working so much, is I want to educate kids on where food comes from. My parents have a farm in Wisconsin, and we go there. Every time we go there my mom has a saying that, every time we go, an animal dies. Because my dad always loves to ... there's a duck, or there's a pig, there's something fresh on the dinner, because I only go there once a year, and they live in Wisconsin. My sister is really against letting her kids see the whole butchering part. I want my kids, everybody has a preference, to know where her chicken nuggets come from. I want her to know where everything comes from. From beef, cow, chicken.
Diane Moua: Unless you're a vegetarian, everyone needs to know where there food comes from. Nowadays, I think a lot of people don't know where their food comes from.
Diane Moua: Another thing food, the future is one: I'm not for females up here. Let's bring males and females to the same level, because I feel like once you get those two together. You see all these pastry competitions, all male. All male. I thought about why it's all male, but I don't think I could do it because I have kids and you have to study. You really have to have no life, not that you have to have no life, but if you have kids and you're a mom, you have more chores at home. If we bring this equality up, imagine how far a woman can go too. We can go just as far as male.
Diane Moua: So to me, there's two points. The food of future for me is educating kids, especially my kids, where their food comes from and teaching them that my daughter Lilly can be just as equal as Thomas. That's me.
Kerry Diamond: So Diane in very basic terms told us what she's doing to put some of this change into action. Lachelle, we're going to go back to you, can you tell us just a few things? I mean, you do a lot, so maybe just tell us one thing. Tell us one thing you're doing to bring about some of the change that you'd like to see.
Lachelle Cunningham: I am really making it my purpose, and a part of what I do to really celebrate plants and vegetables, and what's healing that's coming out of backyard that we think of as weeds. Things that actually can help us medicinally, that's something personal for me.
Lachelle Cunningham: For me, and the community that I serve, my community is the twin cities but specifically for me, I serve the community that I most identify with which is the African-American community specifically in the food industry. What I do is, I help other entrepreneurs in this business. It has to be with sometimes just inspiring someone with what I do, but also it's with helping people that are looking to build a business. I'm really about entrepreneurship and creating an ecosystem that will help us on the level of business as well as food.
Lachelle Cunningham: My purpose is to impact people through food, and so i start there. I do a lot of work, I'm teaching. I have a curriculum called Healthy Roots, which I teach around the history of soul food and really reclaiming the narrative around soul food, but also looking deeper into how that really impacts our bodies and our lives, and our trajectory. I also teach food safety and some other things around that.
Lachelle Cunningham: My biggest impact is helping entrepreneurs and really showing that we can make money in this industry, and it's not just a $10 an hour job. I think that's one of my biggest things when I came into the food industry. Everyone was like, "you're gonna make $10 an hour." And I was like, "You might make $10 an hour, but uh." I'm embracing the fact that I'm a kick-down-the-door type of person.
Kerry Diamond: Melissa, how about you?
Melissa Coleman: My answer is two-fold. Number one: I wrote a book. Dinner time broke for me, I couldn't figure out how to get dinner on the table. I knew that I wanted us to gather as a family. I wanted to create that ritual where we came to the table every night.
Melissa Coleman: Sometimes I'm a little nutty, but I look at food and I just imagine it screaming at me, "Stop! Gather! Eat! Slow down!" Nothing else matters at least for a second, so I wrote a book so that I would actually cook, and it works. It works in my family, it might not work in your family, but it works in my family. It's a practical solution to an everyday problem which is dinner time.
Melissa Coleman: I remember standing right after I had my daughter, I looked up at my popcorn ceiling and prayed that dinner time was going to fall out of the popcorn ceiling, or at least an idea. I would have taken an idea, I had nothing at 5:30.
Melissa Coleman: To kind of ping-pong off what Diane said, I was at the end of my book tour, my husband was actually with me at this part and we're in the car in LA traffic. I said, "This is why I live in Minneapolis, why am I in LA?" But I said, I'm going to let this idea that's been sitting inside come out and it was met with laughter as most of my ideas are. I said, "Kevin," Kevin's my husband, "I want to develop a curriculum, I'm going to need a politician, to bring food back into school, I think we need to educate people about food."
Melissa Coleman: I came to food because I loved food, I loved to eat. So then I learned to bake, because I loved to eat. Then I had to feed myself dinner, so I learned to cook myself dinner, but nowhere was it really taught to me except Martha Stewart, while working out. I learned it because I loved it, and not everybody loves it. Not everybody loves to be in the kitchen. So many days, me who loves food, I don't want to be in the kitchen especially at 5:30 when I have no ideas and the popcorn ceiling isn't producing.
Melissa Coleman: This is my dream, I'd like to team up with you, if you're interested. And anyone else. We're gonna need a politician. I'd love to create a curriculum and bring food education back into school.
Melissa Coleman: Same with mental health. We kind of skip over it in our education system, we teach people mathematics, and now we're teaching them robotics and all these high level thinking things, but we don't even know how to take care of our bodies. We don't know what to put in them, we don't know how to deal with the emotions of being lonely because everybody feels the emotions of being lonely. And I would love for us to not skip over the little things, the simple things, the everyday things, the sacred things that make us who we are, so we can do the big things like robotics.
Melissa Coleman: But how do we feed ourselves, where does food come from, I taught my daughter to eat everything from the dirt, and then I had to start teaching her, "Oh we don't eat that, but we can eat that." But I want her to understand that produce doesn't come from a shelf at the grocery store, because that's where I thought it just magically appeared from there. So I'd like to team up with you, if you're interested. This is not shark tank but-
Kerry Diamond: I can see a super group emerging here of Lachelle, Melissa, and Diane doing some education programs. If there's any politicians out there, talk to these ladies afterwards. Alright, your turn.
Pakou Hang: So what am I doing right? I co-founded an organization called the Hmong American Farmers Association, we work with over 100 farmers, and our mission is to lift up Hmong farmers, and build economic prosperity.
Pakou Hang: We do this on three tenets, we wanted people to self-determine. So what does that mean? We wanted people to have agency or power over their own stories and the food history of their lives and what they were taught. We wanted them to get credit for it, and not just be the sidekick, where someone else is talking about bean sprouts or melon. That was the first thing, the second thing was that we wanted to have systems change. We did that around a membership. In order for a farmer to belong to HAFA they have to join our membership. It's a small fee, but it was this idea that we want people to recognize that what they were facing in the food system, it was not something about them, but there was something inherently wrong in the system. We wouldn't be able to tackle those problems unless we were a group. If there's systems problems, we need a system solution.
Pakou Hang: Thirdly, we're about wealth, not just income. There's a great economist who says that income is awesome because it feeds my stomach, but what I really want is wealth because wealth feeds my mind. When my mind is healthy and fair, I can imagine what will I do in five days or five years, or fifty years from now, and my behavior changes because of that.
Pakou Hang: So what are we doing at HAFA, we're trying to build a voice for Hmong farmers so that they can build intergenerational wealth, and lift up not only themselves and their families, but their community.
Pakou Hang: Lastly we want to change the food system. Let me give you one example of how we're trying to do that. We work very closely with healthcare companies, in particular, we were working with HealthEast. HealthEast, if you live in St. Paul, has a hospital called St. John's and 40% of St. John's patients are Hmong. We were talking, talking, talking, and there was this physician Dr. Letz, and he was like, "I'm getting so many Burmese refugee patients and they're so depressed because many of them were in the refugee camps for 10, 20 years." So we came up with this idea that we started these CSAs, they're called Veggie Rx, but unlike Veggie Rx these Veggie Rx boxes would be customized towards a South-East Asian diet.
Pakou Hang: We started out with five families that Dr Letz and some of his physician colleagues had identified were food insecure. He had in particular one patient who he had been treating for ten years, and this man was severely depressed. He said the first time he got one of these Veggie Rx boxes, the man went in and he lift up one of these cucumbers and he smelled it, and he said, "This is the smell of my country." And he started crying.
Pakou Hang: Dr Letz said, "All this time that I had treated this man, he didn't have any type of affect. And this was the first time that I saw him." That was just two years ago, and now we're serving 100 families in this Veggie Rx program. We believe that if you can ... insurance companies are so concerned, if insurance companies wanted to be preventative, and if they subsidize health club memberships, why can't they subsidize CSAs? If we want healthy food for our kids, especially if we're concerned about obesity or diabetes, why don't we have two cents more for each lunch in Minnesota? Right? Every public school who makes a commitment to buying from local farmers, if the state can just give them two cents more on their lunches, that would be a way that we not only could have healthy food year round for the kids, but also support immigrant farmers and local farmers.
Kerry Diamond: Pakou, for those of us who don't know anything about the Hmong community here, can you tell us something?
Pakou Hang: I can, and then Diane you can say something too ... I've always wanted to meet you so this is so awesome. I read your New York Times article and I thought you're such a star.
Kerry Diamond: Now you're a second generation Hmong, right?
Pakou Hang: That's right.
Kerry Diamond: And you're first generation right?
Diane Moua: Yeah.
Pakou Hang: So the Hmong are hill people, ethnic people from parts of South-East Asia. They're kind of like the Kurds, they straddle many national borders. During the Vietnam war, part of a secret operation with the CIA, the CIA partnered up with the Hmong soldiers. They were the parts of the Ho Chi Minh trail, if people know the Ho Chi Minh trail was a supply line that North Vietcong were using to move their supplies up and down Vietnam. There's a section that goes into Laos. The CIA had Hmong soldiers, some as young as 14 patrol that part of the Ho Chi Minh trail. Technically the United States was not supposed to be in Laos, but what they would often do, is they would bomb parts of Vietnam, parts of Cambodia and they would then eject themselves out of the airplanes on Laos. Hmong soldiers were then asked to go and rescue these American soldiers.
Pakou Hang: After the Vietnam war, the communist faction in Laos came into power and the first people they began to target and put in re-education camps were Hmong families. So Diane and myself, our families were part of that mass exodus of Hmong folks in Laos trying to get out of Laos. Now these are people who for their whole lives never left their villages. Now there are Hmong people in French Guyana, in Denmark, in Australia, in New Zealand, in Germany, in Canada, in Minnesota in the United States. We're a diaspora now because of the war.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you. Jamie, you talked about changing kitchen culture somewhat, so I'm curious now that you have your own kitchen to run and get to shape sort of everything. Tell us what you're doing.?
Jamie Malone: Actually, can we switch spots, so I don't have to keep going after you? Then you can sit by Diane, it will work out. My work feels meaningless.
Kerry Diamond: We need restaurants, we need chefs, we need restaurants. The farmers need restaurants.
Jamie Malone: Its really easy to get overwhelmed when you see all of the things that you want to change in the world. My personal ethos has always been that if i can make a commitment to make small changes to the connections that I have on a daily basis that's a really good start. We try to do those starts in the kitchen. Brett St Clair who's here, who actually runs the kitchen on a day to day basis at the Grand Café, so if you had a good meal there you can thank Brett.
Kerry Diamond: I should tell people, we wanted to do this on a Monday because Grand Café is closed on Mondays. So we knew Jamie wouldn't have that much of an excuse to not be here.
Jamie Malone: Thank you for accommodating that. We try to ... like I had mentioned, for a lot of reasons at the Grand Café, we try to pull the focus away from the food. It doesn't mean we work any less hard on the food or give it any less reverence. We try to change the focus on it. I'm running a kitchen, but I'm also running a whole restaurant and a whole staff, and a lot of what we focus on is the service, and really truly making sure that we're not just saying, "Come to the Grand Café for a fabulous chicken breast or whatever."
Jamie Malone: We want the whole restaurant ... sorry if we ever failed anyone in this, our desire is to have it really be an oasis from everyday life, have it be a place where you can stop, and you can pause. And not only can we find a way to connect with you and maybe be a little bit vulnerable, and show you love in small ways. You can do that with the people you're dining with. I think that's incredibly important. In my family growing up the times that we really stopped, the world stopped and we connected with restaurants. We ate a lot at home, but it was at restaurants where the world stopped and it was about family. The idea of being able to provide that to other people is really important to us and we do it in small ways.
Jamie Malone: All the time we're talking about service, we're talking about how can we be polished, how can we show we care, but how can we be non-intrusive and allow intimate special experience? A big part of that is trying not to make a big focus of it. Hopefully the food is so good, you can just think about your friends.
Jamie Malone: We had a big staff, all manager meeting this morning and we were talking about how can we create an environment where no one is embarrassed to say, "I don't know, or, I fucked up." I make mistakes, Brett knows this, basically my whole day is just a series of mistakes that I'm apologizing for. I make them constantly and I try to be really open about it, I try to to hide it. But in restaurants it's so hard to say you made a mistake. It's really terrifying. You may have spent every day for the last two years at your last restaurant job peeling asparagus, you come to the Grand Café, we peel it a little bit differently. For some reason there's all this shame wrapped up ... somehow you magically don't know how we peel asparagus here, and it's this huge weird mentality. We're just trying to create an environment where, of all the stress that restaurant people have to deal with, hopefully that's one thing we can take off their plate.
Kerry Diamond: Diane, what are some other things that you're doing? You're in a big kitchen, a big busy kitchen. I read you do 200 plus covers every single night. What are you doing to change the kitchen culture?
Diane Moua: I have a really good team, I have a few good mentors. I have Gavin Kaysen, I have Allison, who I run to every day.
Diane Moua: I really feel like we're running into a shortage of cooks. I tell my sous-chefs this, how can we educate, how can we bring more people in and educate them? Because I seriously don't understand how people are opening restaurants right now because there's so much of a shortage out there. Everybody that we bring in, our teaching days nowadays are different. I remember when I was just a pastry cook and I was crying because I was just getting yelled at. And she was like, "Are you crying?" "No it's my allergies." But I would tough it up, I would totally tough it up. I knew I had a goal, and I had my son. I couldn't get to work early, I couldn't be like every cook who got there two hours early, but the generation's changing.
Diane Moua: We as chefs need to change and deal with this. Our kids nowadays they're learning in school differently, we're all learning differently. So how can we educate cooks that are coming that it's not a scary place, that it's okay? Spoon and Stable is a beats, I tell Alex my sous-chef who is here tonight, "I can't keep up, I'm way too old to work the line there. Every time I work there I feel like I'm getting beat up all the time." But it's so great to have such a great team who works behind you, and they're wanting to learn how to work faster and more efficient.
Diane Moua: I want to bring more people in. We've had a lot of stages. Next month, I think it's the end of the month, we have a lady who wants to do a career change. She wants to stage two weeks with us, two weeks at Bellecour, just to see how it is before she does a career change. I said come on in. I don't think of it of, "Oh free labor," now I'm like, "No, come on in and see what we do because it's really not glamorous, it's really not." We're sweating all day. This is the best outfit I could find, I can't even keep up with fashion anymore because I'm black pants, chef coat, T-shirt all the time. It's my comfort zone.
Diane Moua: I want all the high school kids. We have a lot of high school kids come in, and it's not that bad in the kitchen. It is to a certain extent, but if you're willing to work hard, there's always a way.
Kerry Diamond: We do have some future culinary school students in here. Spring where are you? I'm going to embarrass Spring now. Spring is starting culinary school in the fall, so who knows, maybe we'll see her at the Grand Café, or Spoon and Stable one of these days.
Diane Moua: It's not that bad.
Kerry Diamond: Okay this is going to be a speed round. Because there's still a lot of food, and a lot of mingling, and we want the audience to be able to ask some questions. Lachelle, 10 years ahead the year 2028, what's one thing you envision for yourself?
Lachelle Cunningham: I really see barriers being broken, I see a real community around food, around creating an ecosystem that is around food. Economics, education, and really healing.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you. Where will the Faux Martha be in 2028?
Melissa Coleman: I was listening to, I'm pretty infatuated with Oprah's podcast Super Soul Conversations. Will.I.Am, have you guys listened to that one? You need to go home and listen to it, I've listened to it twice in the past three days.
Melissa Coleman: Oprah said, "Why aren't you making music anymore?" And he said, "Well, I've made my music, I've paid my dues now I'm reinvesting in other people. Why do I need to stay in this just to music? I don't want to make music just to make music."
Melissa Coleman: I, back to the education piece, would love give back. Pour into someone else, the next generation. For the food world, I hope that we are more literate, that we are food literate, and that extends beyond this community, beyond the food community. That it's a language that we all have, and that we all know how to feed ourselves well.
Pakou Hang: In 10 years I hope that lemongrass and bitter melon are just as common, and part of the Minnesota palate as hot dish is. For my personally, I hope to be growing plums, and pears, and making plum wine and pear wine. That would be fun. Jamie?
Jamie Malone: For me in 10 years, my favorite part of my life is working in restaurants, so there's a lot of hard parts but you work with the salt of the earth. So I hope I can continue to get to be around the greatest people in the world. And I hope that my organization can continue to be a successful, and become profitable, and I can pay them all what they deserve. I look at them all every day, look at them sweating and burning themselves, so earnestly trying their absolutely hardest. I'm like, "I wish I could give you a million dollars, but here's $15 an hour."
Jamie Malone: I hope I get to continue to be surrounded by them but I hope that when I look at them, I feel that there's supported and they're living the healthy, happy lives that they deserve.
Diane Moua: Ten years from now, gosh, I don't even know about next year. I want, being first generation Hmong, I mean everything that I talked about today is kind of personal. I want to see this whole male domination thing to go to ... I want it to be all equal, that's what I want to see. All across the board in the kitchen, I found myself a little bit more now in the kitchen. The kitchen's bringing my true self out, and I really believe being Hmong, the male domination is so high up. My goal is in order to tackle, I can't attach everything at once, I have to do one thing at once. My thing is to show my daughter and show my son that everyone's equal.
Kerry Diamond: Diane, we couldn't agree more.
Kerry Diamond: Our show was produced by Jess Zeidman and supported by Kerry Gold. Thank you to Anne Spaeth and the team at the Lynn Hall for hosting us, and thank you to all of our speakers, and to the amazing members of the Bombesquad who joined us for this taping.
Kerry Diamond: While we were in town, we had dinner at Jamie Malone's Grand Café, and we got snacks and drinks at a very unique place called the Gist Fermentation Bar. We highly recommend you visit those places, as well as the Lynn Hall. Be sure to support the women in your community.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you for listening to the Future of Food mini series, here's to a delicious tomorrow.