Each episode, join Eli Sussman as he hosts a one-on-one conversation with a chef or restaurateur about his/her childhood, first jobs in food, and the path they chose that led them to become the chef or restaurateur they are today. From how it all began, to where they are now and everything in between. This is The Line.
On this episode I speak with Zarah Kahn the chef of Botanica, located in Silverlake in Los Angeles. A self-described farm and produce nerd, Zarah majored in environmental studies and forestry at University of Washington. Growing up in Seattle, cooking was always part of her family ritual and she was required to cook dinner one night a week for her family. After working at Delancey & Essex and running the kitchen at the London Plane, she made the decision to move to Los Angeles to continue her cooking career. She arrived in LA on March 8th of 2020 right as COVID-19 was about to explode nationwide. In this episode we talk about finding friendship during lockdown in a new city, remaining optimistic even in the midst of a global pandemic, the power of family meal to inspire, and what it is like to take over and lead a kitchen during COVID-19.
On today's episode I welcome St. Louis native chef Ben Grupe. Like many traditional chef trajectories, Ben began his career in the industry as a dishwasher. He worked extensively at country clubs and became addicted to competition as team captain for the U.S. Culinary Olympic Team in 2016 and while competing in the Bocuse d'Or, the most prestigious culinary competition in the world. He was recently a James Beard Award semi-finalist (2018) for "Best Chef Midwest." His new restaurant venture, Tempus, opened after a year of delays in October 2020. Never planned as a takeout or to-go restaurant, we speak extensively on this episode about opening up a restaurant during a pandemic and the unique challenges Ben faces as a brand new operator.
On today's episode, I welcome Dario Wolos, founder of Tacombi. After spending 5 years at an internet startup in London, he moved back to Playa Del Carmen and in 2005 purchased a VW bus which became the first location of Tacombi. In 2009 he decided to move Tacombi to NYC, and while biking around NYC he found the spot which is now Tacombi Nolita. With over 10 brick and mortar locations, a production facility in NYC, and a planned expansion in 2022 on the east coast, Tacombi is taking big steps to grow the brand. On today's episode we spoke about the difficulties and pressures of expansion, the community kitchen initiatives Tacombi has championed throughout the pandemic, and how building a great business takes time.
On this episode of the Line I am joined by Co-Owner Patricia Howard and her partner and Executive Chef Ed Szymanski about the various versions of their restaurant project called Dame. It has existed as a fish and chips pop-up and has also hosted multiple other chefs during what they called their Sunday Series. Patricia and Ed donated nearly $20,000 in profit to NAACP, Harlem Grown, Hot Bread Kichen and Soul Fire Farm this summer from their various efforts. They are currently open as Dame Deli and Bottle Shop serving Ed’s seafood conservas along with wines, local spirits, fresh produce and prepared goods from many of their friends who dropped in for pop-ups. On this special episode we talk about trying to open and stay open during COVID, how a small team and a lack of funding can help you be nimble and scrappy, what it means to have a strong partnership and if COVID changed any of their ideas about opening and operating a restaurant.
Chef Ji Hye Kim - Miss Kim
On this episode of theLINE we welcome Ji Hye Kim, chef and managing partner of MISS KIM, a Korean restaurant influenced by her ancestors and by Michigan produce. After graduating from U of M and spending several years working in hospital administration in New Jersey, life brought her back to Ann Arbor where a desire for a career change brought her to Zingerman's. Enduring a 90% pay cut, she worked at various Zingerman’s businesses and with the Rome Sustainable Food Project, as well as running an Asian street food cart for 4 years before opening the brick and mortar location of Miss Kim in 2016 as a part of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. Ji Hye was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award Best Chef Great Lakes in 2020. She was admitted to and participated in the James Beard Chef Boot Camp for Policy Change and Food Lab Detroit’s Fellowship for Change in Food and Labor. On today’s episode we discuss changing careers, the true time it takes to create, develop and open a food business and how to make the industry more equitable in the future.
Lucas Sin - Junzi Kitchen
On today’s show, I welcome Lucas Sin, Eater Young Guns Class of 2019 and Forbes 30 under 30 and the chef/partner in Junzi Kitchen. Lucas opened his first restaurant when he was 16, in an abandoned newspaper factory in his hometown of Hong Kong with the help of friends and support from his family. While obtaining a degree in the Cognitive Science and English departments, he also hosted a popup out of his dorm and cooked at multiple restaurants in New Haven. In the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute he met his future Junzi Kitchen business partners and incubated the concept. In 2015, Junzi kitchen opened in New Haven and now has 3 additional locations in New York City. The company also has a new concept called Nice Day, which was born out of the pandemic and is focused on honoring classic American-Chinese classics. Nice day is currently incubating inside of a Junzi location, while they plan to launch its own brick and mortar location soon. In this episode we talk about pop-ups, not knowing what goes into opening a restaurant, the rapid growth of Junzi Kitchen and the past present and future of American-Chinese food.