If you go to a restaurant between the major meal hours, you’ll likely see chefs and owners taking meetings with liquor reps other industry folks. Those folks are often people like Joanie Simon, who sells POS systems (essentially the screens your servers tap your orders into) for Copperstate Restaurant Technologies. So when The Food Network decided to expand their CityEats restaurant reservation system to Phoenix, they tapped Simon to sell that service alongside her Copperstate stuff. Makes sense, right? But what did that mean for her? Besides more work, it meant more time in restaurants, and more time with the characters who run them. So, she started thinking: I’ve gotta share these stories. She bought some equipment, rented some recording studio space near Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale, and started Restaurant Live, a podcast that airs Wednesdays at 3pm and then archives on the website, http://restaurantliveaz.com. (It’s also available on iTunes). The show is five months old and Simon hasn’t missed a beat. Every week, she lines up guests, performs interviews, runs through the news, gets the word out, and (apparently) poses for a few pictures. The show feels like cocktail hour for industry folks – they swap stories, share secrets, and offer unique perspective. For that reason, the show is attracting new non-industry listeners with each new episode. It’s insidery without the pretense.
We caught up with Simon just before today’s episode (today at 3pm!), airing here: http://doublewidenetwork.com/index.php/site/audio/68. Here are some highlights from our convo:
Your world literally revolves around food. Don’t you worry about cholesterol?
Worried I’ll be on Morgan Spurlock’s next food documentary? Don’t worry, the recent weight gain is because I’m pregnant! Though I do eat out frequently, everything in moderation. When dining out or at a food event, I rarely eat everything. Too, I’m notorious for doing Kathy Freston’s Quantum Wellness Cleanse every so often. No animal products, no alcohol, no caffeine, no gluten, no refined sugar.
Wait, preggers?! When’s the due date? Will there be a guest host?
Due early February (or whenever the little booger decides to show up), but no break for the show. We’re just going to preecord four episodes and then have them stream during the weekly time. Though it takes out the fun element of ‘live,’ we’ll still be queuing up new content while I’m on a break. All I will really have to do is manage the social media side, which you know, is easily done from a couch in pajamas.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Funding. Radio/media sales have always been hard work and will always be. My business partner and I aren’t in this to get rich, but it would be nice to lessen our out-of-pocket expenses. Regardless, I’m personally having a blast doing the show.
Why did you start this?
I love restaurants and have a personal fascination with the people behind them. Because of my day job, I get to interact with them every day, hearing stories from the chefs, owners, bartenders … I figured other people might want to hear these stories, too.
What have you been surprised to learn about the food scene?
I was surprised how much the restaurants work together to support one another. It’s a tight community. I had always thought they saw each other as competition, but in reality, the good ones know that working together gets you more in the long run.
Who listens to Restaurant Live?
My Mom. She’s the reason we keep the profanity to a minimum! As for the other listeners, it seems to be a mixed bag of restaurant industry folks tuning in to hear their friends and general food enthusiasts wanting to hear about local restaurants.
What’s been the most memorable moment so far?
Every week something unexpected comes up. Chef Eric at Centurion told us what a boozy bachelorette party did to the 6-foot centurion statue in front of his restaurant … Christopher Gross came on the show and brought legal counsel with him … But an interview I really enjoyed was with Nobuo Fukuda of Nobuo at Teeter House. I had never met him before and didn’t know what to expect. He’s a James Beard Award winner and I was nervous and intimidated. We started the interview and I was instantly disarmed. He talked about growing up in Japan and that he learned to cook because his dad was responsible for making his school lunches, which according to Nobuo, were horrible. It was a great reminder that people are usually a lot less intimidating than I’ve made them out to be in my head.
You have repeat guests. Who’s been on the podcast the most times and why?
James Porter has technically been on twice. He was on our very first episode, which unfortunately didn’t record, so you’ll never hear it. But, he was on again to relive the first episode alongside Christopher Gross and a bottle of Laphroiag. Cocktail blogger, Kirti Dwivedi, has been on five times. She’s a good friend and full of personality. When I started the show, it was important to have people who made me feel comfortable as I had never been a show host before. She made me feel at ease, was a great cheerleader, and provided a lot of helpful feedback.
Do you listen to other foodelated podcasts?
I’ve listened to Splendid Table on NPR for years and love having it in podcast format for instant download to my phone through the Stitcher app. I also really enjoy Food is the New Rock, Spilled Milk, and Andrew Zimmern’s Go Fork Yourself.
In light of those, do you have a ‘mission statement’ for Restaurant Live?
I have a background in education, so I’m a sucker for a good mission statement! Ours is three-fold. One, to create a personal connection between restaurants and the dining public. I find that when you know the people making the food and know that they care, it makes the experience that much better. Two, to promote great food happening locally. People might think I’m anti-chain and that’s not the case. I’m against restaurants that focus purely on the numbers. I like to know that a restaurant actually cares. Since it’s easier to find this personal touch in independent restaurants, they are more of a focus on the show. And three, to make the world of food less intimidating. We know food is universal, but the terminology and attitudes we adopt when we’ve stepped into a “foodie” lifestyle can be intimidating to some. As much as possible, I try to make the show as relatable for industry folk as it is to someone who is learning what charcuterie is for the first time. Food should not be a clique, it should be shared.
We are planning on broadcasting on location. It will be a lot of fun to live stream the craziness of events like your Arizona Taco Festival. That, and we will start doing mini-sodes, little 10- to 20-minute segments with recurring themes.
Wednesdays at 3pm