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Full video and transcript: Momofuku chef David Chang at Code 2018

“How do you balance out what’s essentially still blue-collar labor — which is cooking — which is now glamorized to the point where it now has white-collar values?”

Peter Kafka: So it’s a smaller group here so we can keep this a secret, but I interviewed the CEO of 21st Century Fox yesterday, a Senator this morning, CEO of AT&T, talk[ing] to the CEO of Spotify later, this is the interview I’m most excited about. So just between us. But before we get there I want to bring out Amanda Kludt, who’s editor in chief of Eater, who is gonna come with me.

Amanda Kludt: All right!

Peter Kafka: Hi, Amanda.

Amanda Kludt: Hi, Peter.

Peter Kafka: I brought out Amanda, one, cause she knows her shit, she knows a lot more about food than I do. Also, she’s less likely to be a fanboy for David Chang.

Amanda Kludt: Yes, hopefully I can stay objective in this, whereas you ...

Peter Kafka: Just cooler. I’m just gonna sort of freak out.

Amanda Kludt: You will not.

Peter Kafka: I’m gonna sit over here.

Amanda Kludt: Okay.

Peter Kafka: Should we explain who Dave Chang is? Do you guys know who Dave Chang is? Yes.

Amanda Kludt: All right, he’s a very famous chef, owns a bunch of restaurants in America, Canada, Australia. Has a Netflix show called Ugly Delicious, you may have seen. Has a podcast.

Peter Kafka: Is a brand.

Amanda Kludt: He’s a brand. He has a condiment line.

Peter Kafka: Is that good? We’ll ask him.

Amanda Kludt: There’s all kinds of things.

Peter Kafka: Yeah, check your bag for the condiments, I think. Yeah, we’ll ask. All right, that’s enough windup, let’s bring on Dave Chang.

David Chang: Hi, guys.

Peter Kafka: You don’t have to cook.

No, no, thank goodness.

Amanda Kludt: It’s the one event where you don’t have to cook for anybody. But there’s a lot to get into. Media, tech, restaurants, let’s start with restaurants. You have expanded your empire quite a bit over the last decade and I’m wondering how do you decide what to say yes to? Because I’m sure you have way more opportunities than you can even handle.

Yeah, for about 10 years there was no strategy. We did whatever we wanted to do. Our first restaurant outside the East Village was in Sydney, Australia, because we felt like it. There was no strategic growth strategy. All these words that I’ve learned now.

Amanda Kludt: You knew how long that plane ride was.

Yeah, 21 hours, I’ve done it many times. And I think we did our best to not ever become a company with any kind of measureables and strategy. And now that’s different so we have north of 1000 employees total now and what we say yes to is now a process because if it was up to me, even though I think I say no to everything, I really don’t. I say yes to too many things.

Peter Kafka: So how present do you think you need to be. How many places are you running right now? How many outposts of the Chang empire are there?

Including Fuku, the fried chicken sandwich shop, it’s probably in the mid 20s now.

Peter Kafka: And if we ... So take Fuku out, it’s the traditional restaurants, it’s a dozen?

In the teens.

Amanda Kludt: A dozen.

Peter Kafka: And so, do you feel like you need to be in each one of those a certain amount of time each year for it to work?

Amanda Kludt: Are there some that run better than others?

Yeah, I consider the real full-service restaurants to be — not that I have children yet — like children in the sense that when you open up something new they’re like a newborn and you need to really look after it. And then we have some restaurants that are like, they pay their own taxes, they have their own jobs, they need very little things and you see them two or three times a year. And we have everything else in between. And I think a lot of how we may manage now is because we have such a strong team.

We’ve been in business now 15 years, I think we have ... many of my management team have been around 10-plus years, so it’s just getting to understand that philosophy. And I think I’m trying to be a better delegator, which I didn’t quite understand what that meant until I think the past couple years.

Peter Kafka: So you’re like ... A lot of these folks here run software businesses or invest in them and they’re used to the idea, like you make the thing and then you scale it. You make it once and then you can sell it a lot of places. You could argue that you could do that too right, because you’re a brand and you could just churn out stuff and attach your name and maybe drop by once a year. Is that ... And I mean, other people who do what you do have a version of that, right?

Yeah.

Peter Kafka: Do you want to do that?

In one of ... We had a board meeting and someone said recently that, “Hey Dave,” as sort of not a joke but a joke, “you’re the worst business person I’ve ever met.” And that was sort of the idea that I have an aversion to scaling something and I’ve sort of worked my entire career not to scale something. We even have a scalable concept named Fuku and every iteration is different. And it’s the same thing, but like I just want to make it better and better and better, to the point where we can scale it.

But what I’ve learned is the idea of scaling something over and over and over again, while it’s interesting to me, I don’t want to physically be the person doing it. I want to be the person or create the team to help make it better.

Amanda Kludt: So even in Vegas or in D.C., it’s not like a ... Gonna be a greatest hits, it’s its own very specific ...

Well, the thing is, we have done the greatest hits in Washington, D.C., and it didn’t work. And we blew it up, and we put a new chef in, we’ve just got a great review. So it’s completely different from a tech business because scaling a brand in food, yes it can work in McDonald’s or if you have a beverage. But the idea of scaling something that’s intimate and some kind of contract between you and a prospective diner, that’s hard because we’re still trying to be best in class in making the most thoughtful, delicious food, and it’s hard to scale excellence, I think.

Peter Kafka: So dumb question, if you’re not super oriented towards scale and maxing it out ...

But I am.

Peter Kafka: Okay.

But I’m just trying to figure out how ...

Amanda Kludt: He’s just bad at it.

Yeah, I’m learning how to do it.

Peter Kafka: But to what end? You strike me — and maybe it’s just the brand as someone who likes being in the kitchen and playing around with stuff. What is the point of adding to the empire? You’re doing really well now, why do you want to keep pushing it out?

You know, we’ve turned down offers to sell and to scale. It’s never been ... I never got into legitimately food to make money, as weird as that might ... I mean, now it’s like a cool job, but I was probably the last era where you got in because you couldn’t really do anything else. Now, because I shouldn’t be here talking to you guys in a room full of ...

Peter Kafka: Of fancy pants.

Fancy pants, super successful people, I just know how lucky I am, and the fact is, what I’ve learned after 15 years of doing Momofuku is that what brings me happiness — because I’m sure Amanda and many people know. I’m not the happiest person, I could have the best day in the world but I’m like, “Oh we could do this better, we could do this better.” I want to be able to make our company better to provide for the people around me and that makes me happy. And I think scale, because restaurants are notoriously ... Like, we don’t have the margins that tech has. We just don’t, across the board, food should be more expensive but people aren’t ready to accept that yet. Until that can happen we have to figure out how to create enough profitability so we can provide for all of our employees.

Amanda Kludt: Could Fuku become that?

Yeah, that’s ...

Amanda Kludt: Could you see Fuku as like a 300-store ...

Peter Kafka: Should we talk about what Fuku is in case they haven’t seen in?

Fuku?

Peter Kafka: Yeah, in case they haven’t had a Fuku in their life.

Oh, Fuku’s just our take on fried chicken sandwich and it’s done in a sort of a more of an Asian context. Or you could even just look at it as a liberal Chick-fil-a.

Amanda Kludt: Chick-fil-a was the model too, right? You love Chick-fil-a.

Because I grew up eating Chick-fil-a. But the reality is, you can do it better. It’s like, once you see how they do it, it’s not that great. I’m not trying to say it’s not delicious, but like, I think you can make it better, and that’s our attempt to do it. And we now have a team and it’s now siloed off and it has its own financing. When I say I don’t want to scale it, I want to do it in a way that I think is better and more thoughtful.

I think it’s gonna take time, and we have nine locations, we have like many more online. So while I’m telling you no, we’re not scaling it, we are definitely scaling it, I’m just not comfortable in saying that it’s a set model.

Peter Kafka: Got it.

Amanda Kludt: Right, and what about the culture as you expand to so many different markets, how do you think about that? I know you’ve said that like the chemistry between the staff is almost as important as the technique.

That’s been incredibly difficult. Right. We just opened up in Los Angeles, in Downtown, and it’s been, I think, my ... All of my experience to be the best version of myself and over the years I’ve had to become a better manager of people and to realize that my communication skills are not very good and that people are working incredibly hard for us because, No. 1 they need to provide for themselves, but No. 2 they want to have opportunities moving forward.

And a restaurant group, even if it’s super busy, may not have the complexities or the systems you might see in a white-collar job. And the biggest difference that I’m trying to tackle right now is — and again with everything that’s happening in the world today — is how do you balance out what’s essentially still a blue-collar labor, which is cooking, which is now glamorized to the point where it now has white-collar values. And that’s a collision that’s hard to mitigate and to sort out and that’s what I’m trying to figure out myself.

Amanda Kludt: When you say white-collar values, can you elaborate on that a little more? Do you mean like how much people expect to be paid, or the benefits?

From pay to benefits to also the hours you work to any kind of benefit, right. Like, you know, we’re going through a lot right now, many restaurants don’t even have an HR program. I’m sure many of you guys have too many HR people, we would love to have that problem. I’m trying to figure out how that works because everyone has an understanding of food now. The food awareness is higher than ever before but no one quite wants to understand how that food gets made. They understand it maybe from an environmental perspective but they don’t understand it from the restaurant perspective and there’s a lot that needs to be not just elevated but thoughtfully brought up.

Peter Kafka: Part of the appeal, I think, for cooking is reputationally, right? Like it’s a fun place for young people to hang out and you get to drink a lot and hang out with your coworkers and maybe you have sex with your coworkers. Are you, over time, are you trying to make that a little more square and a little more white collar? Or do you figure that people are gonna do what they’re gonna do?

Well, yeah, and like I’ve been so allergic to a corporate body for so many years, now I think I’ve convinced myself it’s the only way to go and we have to be the most efficient and most thoughtful company on how we organize people. Part of that is how we structure our cooks, our back of the house, our front of the house, the servers, to having systems in place. I think the balance is to make sure that we don’t become entirely systemized. So my job is to fuck it all up in the sense of like, we want to be 100 percent committed to creating a white-collar environment. What I mean by that is like, hey, you can only have one shift drink at the end of service, you have to take an hour break, that’s non-negotiable, you have to do this and this, you have to take certain vacation days. We have systems, like we are more thoughtful than ever in terms of tallying data of our employees to make sure like, hey you haven’t taken vacation days, why is that. Certain things like that.

Amanda Kludt: Almost like professionalizing.

Yeah, it’s professionalizing. That’s what I mean.

Amanda Kludt: In an industry that hasn’t been.

And I think it might be hard for people that aren’t of the restaurant world to be like, “Whoa, you guys are really in the dark ages.” Yes, we are.

My fear is that once you become too systemized in the restaurant industry, you’re gonna lose any of the coolness, creative parts. I got into cooking because it was so on the ... like, it just wasn’t cool. You know? Everyone thought it was career suicide when I said, “Hey, I’m gonna start to cook.” It was that sort of sense of danger, sense of recklessness, that no longer really exists.

Amanda Kludt: But it could make it more inclusive from a —

Exactly, exactly, and that’s what I’ve been wrestling with, with all of this change that’s been happening. What needs to get better, and I think for a long time, I thought if things become professionalized, then food will be less delicious. I was 100 percent wrong on that, because I kept on putting myself into the center of that equation. And, having balanced, you know, like ... You work long hours in the culinary world. And I’ve always believed that the culinary world, and those that lead people in the culinary world, have maybe one of the hardest jobs, because you can’t motivate people with a giant stock option package, or a giant bonus that you might get on Wall Street. You’ve got to motivate someone to do physical, hard labor, and to try to get better at that through sheer integrity and personal will. That’s hard, that’s incredibly hard to motivate people, and one of the things that I think is different is, maybe you can’t just force someone to do something they don’t want to do. You have to encourage them to do that, and that’s something I think that the professionalism that’s happening in restaurants is now, I’m seeing that benefit. Because I didn’t ... I worked under regimes that were incredibly brutal.

Peter Kafka: Like a hazing culture, right?

Yeah, and it’s very secret, you’re never going to hear stuff that happens because it’s a rite of passage, it’s ... I can’t justify anything that happened, but like, what happened and how you learned to cook then,is very very different now.

Peter Kafka: How much of your thinking has changed because of #MeToo, and overall the restaurant industry in particular has a lot of high-profile stories, Mario Batali and many others, has written about a lot of them, about your industry and the abuses there. How much of that has affected your thinking?

To be completely honest, which I’ve been the entire time here, is that we’ve been trying to figure out how to make this better for many years, because our labor force has been changing. I’ve been working with millennials since they were millennials, like they could work. And now the 18-year-olds are 28 years old, and their value system and how they want to perceive the world is different, and once we saw that they were allergic to the working conditions and the stress that we were creating, we created symposiums. That’s why we created “Mad,” this thing that we hosted in Copenhagen with other chefs, to be able to communicate, like, “Hey, things are changing. We need to make it better.” And just because we came up under a brutish system doesn’t mean that we can justify it moving forward.

So it’s been on our minds for a long time, and I’d like to say that’s one of the positives in the culinary world: At least the leadership, I believe, around the world has been thinking about [the fact] that what worked for them in the past wasn’t going to work moving forward in terms of how you were going to, you know, get new employees to care about it.

This year, starting with John Besh, and then Amanda’s team at Eater, really changed the perspective of everything. And I don’t think it changed how we were thinking about it, but it changed the fact the entire industry — whoever covers it, whoever goes in a restaurant or supports restaurants — now has to believe that the things that we didn’t care about matter quite a bit.

Amanda Kludt: Right, and it’s not just your company, but it’s also, like, you were friends with some of these guys. Has that had to change your way of dining?

Yeah, it’s been really difficult for myself, because I’ve been friends with a lot of the people that have been exposed from the #MeToo movement, not just in the culinary world, and I’ve been wrestling with myself as to what it says about me: Could I have done things differently? I don’t know. I think all of us are trying to figure out what we could have done or said, and have that dialogue. And that’s the only thing I know I can do right now, is to make our own company better and to learn from the mistakes of others. When it comes to the regards of someone like Mario Betali, it’s still something I don’t know how to comprehend, because I ... everything’s he’s done has been ... there’s just a recent revelation, more on Eater today about Mario. I mean, it’s not just disheartening. You’re like, “Jesus Christ, this is so hard to read,” because simultaneously, I don’t know if we would be in business today without Mario’s support.

So I feel obligated to recognize that, but also like, what do I do with the opportunities I have now? And the only thing I think I can do with the platform that we have is to be the best-in-class business, with the most thoughtful, forward-thinking culture — knowing that we’re never going to be perfect. But that’s always been our goal because right now I think a lot of people are downtrodden in the culinary [world] — covering it or working in it. It’s been really tough for everyone. It’s been demoralizing. And how I can make sense of any of it is to make sure our business is best in class.

Peter Kafka: Amanda’s spending a lot of time at Eater talking about, should we cover restaurants that have abusers running them, should you go eat at restaurants where that’s the case? Do you have advice for folks here, and personally what are thinking about, if it’s a restaurant where you know someone’s been accused of that, do you want to avoid that place, do you want to go to support the remaining team?

It’s a really great question, and how I’ve internalized it is you should all ask yourself this before you eat something, you should ask where did it come from, how was it raised, what was the provenance, don’t just put it blindly in your mouth. And, more than ever, in 2018, it’s funny, ethics and morality are more important than ever

Amanda Kludt: How it affects employees is more important than ever.

Exactly. And I don’t think it’s going to be that hard, but just ask around, or just read about it, and I even ... It’s funny, I was about to say like if they treat their animals right, or their products right, and everything seems like it’s copacetic, that was good enough. But now with other allegations in Oakland, and there’s other restaurants that did everything right except take care of their employees, and I don’t know what that answer is.

Amanda Kludt: Well now, it’s been an obsession for so long in this industry was the provenance of the food, and people are now finally talking about the labor and the treatment, and the culture.

And ... it’s not just hard to talk about, it’s hard to wrap my head around, and as a company we have to get better. We’ve had shortcomings in communication. And just because I believe my intent has been right, I’ve been imposing what I believe is the perfect version of what I believe a company should be.

But we have so many different kinds of employees, and it’s so hard because part of it is we need better resources. We need to quite frankly make more money to be able to invest it back in. And how a customer will decide where to eat, I think that’s going to have to happen from journalists and Eater, and to be able to support these newsrooms that are dedicating a lot of resources to uncovering the truth.

Amanda Kludt: So we could talk about this forever, but I do have burning questions about: you’re launching a media company. Why? You have a Netflix show, you have a podcast, what is this company going to do and why are doing it?

Well, part of it is like I was saying, better resources, making more money, and we have a restaurant that has a great brand, and we’re just trying to get it all aligned where whatever works ... It’s almost like — I won’t saying diversifying your risks — but like you look at someone like Wolfgang Puck, and he’s created a giant business of every kind of thing related to food, from like CPG, to pots and pans, to frozen pizzas, to catering, and there’s a reason why hundreds of people stay with him. And he constantly takes care of his employees, and he’s got a great team. And that’s sort of the idea, was, “Hey, if the media takes off, that’s more stuff that we can bring back to the restaurants.” Maybe people will never want to pay that much money for food, maybe we could subsidize some of the costs with other stuff that’s elevating our business.

Peter Kafka: So it can be the media business on its own, it can also boost the restaurants.

Correct. I wish it would have been easier than that. I know it’s never going to be, but you know, that’s what’s driving me to create a media company where ... Not only that, we can create new content, stories that aren’t being told. It’s one of the reasons why “Ugly Delicious” got created.

Peter Kafka: You’ve done TV before, and I know you did a car ad I can’t tell you what the car was, advertising is not that good. And now that you’re doing Netflix, does that feel different than being on a TV ad? Do you feel people recognizing you?

It’s a sea change, yeah. I didn’t understand how many people were going to watch the show. It’s definitely ... so I won’t say numbers, but whether “Chef Table” or any of the culinary programming on Netflix, the story is amongst those that have been on these programs, you expect to see a dramatic bump. Even in restaurants that are already busy. And that exposure is so important. And even though our show doesn’t really promote Momofuku, we have, we’re just busier than ever before because of it. I have to say that. Part of that is that we’re not promoting the restaurant. We’re trying to promote our ideal. And I think that the younger generation, that’s more important to them than ever before.

Amanda Kludt: And you already have a magazine, Lucky Peach, which you shut down last year. What are you going to do differently about this new media publication? Is there any DNA from Lucky Peach that will make it over? Are there things that will just completely not?

Yeah, we shut down unfortunately this magazine that was beloved, and we had a really good run. We brought some of the team over. But what I’m going to do differently, and what I’m learning as I get older especially in businesses is set it up right. Make sure you have clear delineation of what’s in, what’s out. And I don’t know if I would have learned that if we didn’t make mistakes in the past. Part of that is like having some metrics, and checks and balances. It would be like, “Hey, like okay, what are the goals for this objective?” And I hate ... This is the professionalism that I’ve been going through, like you can’t just like manage ...

Amanda Kludt: Like, have a plan —

Yeah, you have to have a plan, and that’s what’s different. Lucky Peach was very similar to like, “Hey, let’s open a restaurant in Sydney.” You know? It doesn’t work.

Amanda Kludt: Actually, this is very hard. And will another Netflix or some kind of show be the next big project?

I’m thankful that we seem to have a very solid relationship with Netflix, and we’re working on some stuff. I can’t comment too much on that.

Peter Kafka: Do you I assume you do do you read the reviews? Do you read, like people critique episode X — there’s one episode, I’m sure you know about, people complain that ... it’s the barbecue episode, there’s no African-Americans in it. Are you taking that in? Or are you going, “I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do.

You know, I’ve read every bit of criticism about that TV show just like I read every review, because it kills me when anyone has a bad time. So yes, I’ve read every criticism, whether it wasn’t inclusive enough through African-Americans or through women. I just know that we had one season and we did our best and we had no intention of trying to be exclusive and hopefully there’s a second season, we’ll be able to do it better.

Peter Kafka: So you’ll take that into account when you put out Season Two.

100 percent, like that’s ...

Peter Kafka: You’re not just a ...

We didn’t make the show to be like, “Yeah, well, let’s piss these people off.”

Peter Kafka: The point is, you read the comments and you take it seriously.

Of course, of course.

Amanda Kludt: Is it similar with restaurants? Is it a different experience going through that review cycle?

It’s similar, but no. You know, I have never gotten a bad review ever until Pete Wells destroyed a restaurant that I continue to talk about and I’m sure people at Momofuku are like, “Why is he bringing it up again?” Because I’ve learned so much from it and that medicine tasted terrible but I think it really helped us to reevaluate what we needed to do, where we needed to go. Quite frankly, I think all of our restaurants around the world are doing better than ever before because of that review. So I hate to give it to the New York Times and Pete Wells, but I am weirdly thankful for that.

Peter Kafka: Read the comments.

This is a tech conference, tech impacts your business. You’ve also invested in tech, you’ve tried different ... you invested in two startups, right?

Amanda Kludt: Maple.

Maple, Ando, they ...

Peter Kafka: Both delivery.

Maple got acquired by Deliveroo, UberEats took over Ando. I still am incredibly bullish on it, I just think that there’s only gonna be probably one or two players that do it.

Peter Kafka: Let’s just spell it out in case people aren’t following closely. These are both attempts to do on-demand delivery.

Food delivery, food delivery; a little bit different. Maple was to create sort of meals that were diverse; breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were doing like 10,000 meals a day in Manhattan. But the biggest issue with tech and food is the fact that you can create the tech but you can’t the scale the people. The throughput of how fast you can make food was always gonna be limited by kitchen space.

And also the collision of tech culture and restaurant culture, you’re talking about polar opposites. I will always side with the restaurant culture, and it’s hard because I think people in the tech world think that they can recreate the intuition of someone that has made food their entire lives. Maybe that’s gonna be the case down the road, but food delivery’s gonna work — maybe not now, but I do think that it’s gonna be hub models, some kind of roving platform truck that’s making food ...

Peter Kafka: How do you feel about I think I know how you feel but I wanna ask services like Grubhub, Seamless? Where they’re not connected to you, they’re coming and they’re picking up your food you don’t intend to deliver but they’re delivering it. They’ll tell you they think they’re helping your business, does it help you, hurt you?

I think it’s fool’s gold.

Peter Kafka: For who?

For the restaurant owner.

Peter Kafka: But again, you don’t even have a choice when people ...

Amanda Kludt: Because you think the restaurants you control ...

The reality is, you’re only helping out the delivery company. You’re not helping out the restaurant, and the margins are too high so the whole thing needs to be thought through differently. What’s really getting squeezed out ... so I know we’re running out of time.

Peter Kafka: We’ve got time.

But I was telling one of my friends who sells a lot of things on delivery, he also has a restaurant that is very popular but as he expanded three locations, he couldn’t figure out why, let’s just say it was a milkshake, wasn’t selling as well, right? It was down. I don’t think he put into consideration that now with all the delivery apps and all the food apps, if someone wants to get a milkshake delivered to their home, now they have the option to order milkshakes from the entire city of Manhattan. They’re no longer loyal to that brand. Maybe still loyal, but not twice or three times a week, maybe twice a month. I would argue that like, while they might be up 15 percent on that one item, they might be 15 percent down on everything else. So I don’t know if I explained that well, I’m happy to talk to anyone after the fact.

Peter Kafka: Do you want people to not use delivery services?

No, the model has to be better. I think what’s actually gonna happen is the delivery services wind up just gonna make their own food.

Amanda Kludt: Would you get back into that space or are you done with that?

Man, I mostly likely, being as stubborn as I am, will probably go down that road again.

Amanda Kludt: Third time’s the charm.

I am positive it can work and I would ... I know it. My only concern is high-end restaurants and large corporations that back restaurant groups will thrive. Fast food, QSR and models of that sustained delivery will also thrive in the future. It will eradicate the mom-and-pop and the mid-market restaurant. I want to be hopeful, I don’t know how to preserve that.

Peter Kafka: The next Momofuku can’t work with that paradigm.

I don’t know if Momofuku works today.

Peter Kafka: Right. Let’s open it up because we have more questions but we’ll open up to you guys first. Don’t be shy, put the lights on so they can see, there we go. Hey, Jon.

Hi.

Jon Fortt: How’s it going? Jon Fortt from CNBC. “Ugly Delicious” is weird and great. I watched it and was like, “Whoa, what did they do that for?” Like the animations and cartoons in the middle of a documentary. I’m curious about your role in the creative process. Is it similar to a kitchen? How do you approach something like that? How did you assemble a team and what was the mandate that you or somebody else who you brought in had for putting that together?

Well, that’s a question that’s a little bit ... not difficult. No. 1 is Netflix gave us total freedom to do what we wanted. We told them, “Hey, we want to push it out here, here and here.” They’re like, “Go for it.” Secondly, I think that they gave us the freedom to do that because we partnered with an Academy Award-winning documentarian named Morgan Neville. That changed the game for us because now, all of a sudden, we were partnered with someone that could translate our crazy ideas into actual footage and his whole team of editors. So what it really was was finding like-minded individuals that wanted to push themselves out of the comfort zone and really critically think through what might be a bad idea and turn it into a good idea. That’s why it turned weird. It’s not your normal show and it was because everyone had a say in something. That’s why it was sort of inefficient to make — it took way too long, in my opinion — but I’m proud of the fact that it’s unique.

Jon Fortt: Do you feel like you had the same amount of control as you do with your restaurants with that product? Or because it’s not what you do normally, you had to sort of hand it over to somebody else?

You know, the weird thing, I’ve thought about this a lot, after we sent it in and it got edited I was wrestling with the fact that after it gets launched on February 23rd, we were never gonna be able to change ever again. It’s out there. That was my same criticism of food, is that you’re getting judged on something that is ephemeral and will constantly change over time. You can never get the same meal twice. That’s also been a benefit to me is whenever we have a restaurant, whenever we do something, it’s a living organism, and if our mindset is to always get better, that’s what we’re gonna do. I’m still grappling with the idea that most of it’s been praise and most of it’s been really good, but the idea that we’re gonna have to wait for another season, if we get the opportunity, to address the inadequacies of Season One, that’s really hard for me because I need instant gratification, you know?

Peter Kafka: Brooke, are you gonna ask a question? Hey, Brooke.

Brooke Hammerling: Hi, David. It’s Brooke Hammerling.

Hey!

Brooke Hammerling: Hi. Wow it’s nerve wracking asking questions. I loved Maple, by the way, we miss it. So we loved that. Just to talk a little bit back to the #MeToo stuff, as you and I both come from a world that is imploding. The people that we know, you talked a little bit about how the change ... know where your food’s coming from, know what the restaurants are. For those of us who knew, who sat there and know those chefs and know the owners of the restaurants and are part of the world of the spotted pigs, what do we do moving forward? How can we be more beneficial to the owners of restaurants and chefs and people that go and have events there and things like that? What do we do moving forward there?

Well, you know, it’s funny. It’s like this is a conversation we would have offline so this is just like you’re hearing it. We share a lot of the same friends and that when that, whether it’s Mario or Ken, I’ve been weighing pretty heavily, could I have been more stern? I know there are journalists, there’s other chefs, there’s patrons that all felt the same way, and there’s a sense of guilt that you could have prevented something. As much as I want to dwell upon the past, I feel like I did say stuff, right? I was like a moral compass. So I think for those that are in the business, we need to be stronger in our moral compass, essentially. When someone does something that they may find questionable or not do something right, I think instead of ... When we see it like immediately, we need to talk to them about it and be like, “Hey, that’s inappropriate,” and teach it as a learning lesson.

When you see something over a period of time, that’s unacceptable. That’s what I’m trying to weigh out, is this put it into two categories; did something happen and someone not know how to handle the situation and they made a mistake? Or has it been repeated abuse? For those that are friends of people in the business, I think that the only thing you can do is just be honest and have that dialogue, and that’s what I’ve been trying to have with myself and those that are in it. I don’t know if I ...

Brooke Hammerling: No, that helps. I mean, I think we all just have to figure out ... It’s just such a ... it’s inherent in the culture.

It’s really hard, it’s incredibly hard, and I’m wrestling with it. If I’m not giving a perfect answer it’s because I still don’t know how to map it out.

Brooke Hammerling: Thank you.

Peter Kafka: David, Amanda, thank you.

Thanks, guys.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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