Nov. 25, 2021

How the Restaurant Business Could Change for the Better

Plus: The restaurants you need to check out now

After navigating the pandemic, restaurants are now facing supply and sourcing issues, labor shortages and entitled customers. Food & Wine restaurant editor Khushbu Shah chats with Nora and Scott about the business of restaurants, and introduces us to the chefs who are doing things differently. Bonus: Here’s a handy guide on how to be a better restaurant customer.


Nora Ali: The restaurant business has been through a lot. After navigating the pandemic, restaurants are now facing supply and sourcing issues, labor shortages, and unfortunately, increasingly entitled customers. So, whether you're dining out or dining in on this Thanksgiving day, we're talking about the business of restaurants. We'll learn about the chefs who emerged as leaders during the pandemic, find out how restaurants are innovating and working around shortages, and explore meaningful changes in the industry that will impact how we eat. We're so thrilled that Food and Wine magazine's Restaurant Editor, Khushbu Shah joined us to talk about all of that and so much more. For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, the podcast that gives you a front row seat to candid conversations with some of the biggest names in business, asking them the questions you wish you could ask. I'm your host, Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm your other host, Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you stories of how business shapes our lives today and into the future. Now, let's get cooking and down to business. Nora, are you hungry?

Nora Ali: I'm starved.

Scott Rogowsky: Well, I'll say this. I'm not starving from an intellectual standpoint. My brain is full.

Nora Ali: Satiated.

Scott Rogowsky: There's so much new knowledge, yes, in between my ears. But the stomach portion of my body, that needs to be filled because we just talked with Khushbu Shah and we're now, all we can think about is just eating and food and hot new restaurants and new chefs. But also there are some parts of the conversation that aren't so fun about what's going on these days. How have your pandemic experiences going on to restaurants specifically? How have they been?

Nora Ali: They've been pretty good. I think New York City figured it out pretty quickly, both with very lovely outdoor settings and also putting up Plexiglas indoors. Obviously, you have to have a vaccine card to dine indoors still these days. So I think it's been actually quite pleasant and I have more of an inkling now to just be kind and empathetic and understanding, even if someone accidentally puts nuts in my food of which I'm very allergic. I'm going to be very nice about it, which I usually am. I'll go have my reaction in private, my reaction meaning hives and a lot of other things, and come back and be like, "You know what? Everything's fine." How about you? How has it been for you, Scott?

Scott Rogowsky: I remember when I first went back to a restaurant, it had probably been eight months or so since eating at a restaurant and it was an exhilarating experience. It was like, "Oh my gosh."

Nora Ali: Totally.

Scott Rogowsky: "We're actually sitting here at a restaurant. We're being served. There's food coming to us." Because the whole idea of the restaurant is just the most magical thing, right?

Nora Ali: Yes.

Scott Rogowsky: We're paying others to make food and bring it to us. And it's things that we can't possibly make on our own, recipes that we would never attempt, ingredients we can never track down, techniques we would never learn unless we spent a decade at culinary school apprenticing. You pay up at a restaurant because there's so much labor and cost that goes into the restaurant experience that we never generally think about. I think we need to readjust our approach to eating out and treat it like it was a hundred years ago when you know you dressed up in your finest. But it's like everything's sort of degraded because it's become so available. But I don't know. I think we need to reimagine just the experience of being a dining guest and, of course, keeping the tips up because that whole thing ...

Nora Ali: Totally.

Scott Rogowsky: What's your take on tips?

Nora Ali: That, I mean, oh, I leave tips left and right. I am very passionate about tips. Even if the experience is not great or the food's not great. We learned this in our conversation with Khushbu. A lot of times restaurants won't pay their workers much because they assume that their salary will be made up for with tips. So if you don't get a tip from even one customer that day, that could totally mess up your expectation for finances for that week, for that month. Yeah. So yeah, I'm a big tipper. I assume you're a big tipper as well, Scott.

Scott Rogowsky: And it's gotten bigger. I went out with Marc Summers once, not to drop names here, but yes, the Double Dare host.

Nora Ali: Yep, the one and only.

Scott Rogowsky: Marc Summers has become a friend in recent years. He took me out to dinner once and he left a 40-50% tip on his bill. It was a nice restaurant, too. I was like, "Wow!" He's like, "Yeah." He has the whole Food Network thing and his restaurant show so he's very aware of that.

Nora Ali: Great.

Scott Rogowsky: If you can afford it, no one goes broke from tipping.

Nora Ali: Yes, that is true. Okay, well let's get to it. Here is our in-depth conversation with Food and Wine Restaurant Editor, Khushbu Shah.

Nora Ali: Khushbu, I do want to talk about some of your travels around the U.S. This spring you ate at as many restaurants as you could given the circumstances. Of course, you're vaccinated. You did it safely. But this was part of research for Food and Wine's Best New Chefs, 2021. We'll get to the specific chefs in a moment. But you open the piece by saying, "I don't know how restaurants work anymore. Everything was different." And we can attest to the fact that the experience is very different now than it was just a year or two ago. What were some of the biggest changes that you noticed in restaurants around the country?

Khushbu Shah: I did seven weeks straight on the road because that was the safest way to do it. It made no sense to fly back and forth. I spent a lot of time in cars. There was a lot of to go food, a lot of takeout. I was ordering delivery to hotel rooms. I was picking hotels based on proximity to delivery ranges and radiuses because so many restaurants were doing to-go only. At one point, I expensed like paper plates and forks from a writer because I was just running out of silverware. Because you're ordering entire menus or trying to eat entire restaurant menus out of your tiny hotel rooms. It's every surface has a to go box on it. It's terrible. I feel really bad for housekeeping. They probably hated me. I finally got to a proper outdoor dining setup. This outdoor dining setup was also not using disposable stuff. They were using their real plates. I just remember looking at my friend and being like, "Wow, real plates." It was such a moment. I didn't realize like how much that is part of the act of dining out, their core choices, their plate choices, their glassware, it's all part of the experience. It was the first time in months that I'd eaten off of a real plate.

Scott Rogowsky: The weight to the cutlery. Having the plate not move around on you when you're cutting it.

Nora Ali: But to that point, we saw so much delivery, so much innovation during the pandemic. And this idea of ghost kitchens proliferated even more during the pandemic where there's no storefront. It's just a kitchen that serves delivery purposes. What do you think the future really is of ghost kitchens? Do you think they're here to stay or are chefs really interested in opening these up en masse?

Khushbu Shah: I don't know if it's chefs that are interested than more so investors that are interested in this space, because they are very easy to start up. As far as like Costco, you can be actually a little bit kind of out of the way, you can be in a more warehouse-y space. You just need a kitchen setup versus a brick and mortar restaurant. The reason why a lot of people don't open them is because they're pretty expensive to open up. You need at least $100,000 if not more, depending on what city you're in. Most people in San Francisco, New York, et cetera, they need upwards of half a million to a million dollars to even open the doors to a restaurant. And this is like, you're not even talking about the fanciest places. You hear about $25-30 million restaurant build outs. That's what it takes to open some of these crazy luxe spots headed up by chefs like Daniel Boulud and stuff. I don't think ghost kitchens are going anywhere. I think they're only going to increase. Some people like to call them cloud kitchens. There's now NFT-based ghost kitchens.

Nora Ali: What does that entail?

Khushbu Shah: Literally, I've been reading and I was like, "I still can't figure this out." All I know is what NFT stands for and that's it. But there's a lot accepting cryptocurrency now. There's a lot kind of happening in the space. But I think pre-pandemic ghost kitchens were seen as a bad thing. It's almost like a way of cheating customers. There'd be three restaurants based in the same address and you're like, "This is like a scam." But it's not, I don't think it's seen that way so much anymore. There's a lot of really well-established restaurants actually and really well-respected restaurateurs, especially here in L.A. even that have really booming and busy brick and mortar sit down restaurants, but they've also just managed to build such a big delivery business that they need a separate kitchen to actually do it out of because they're otherwise going to slow down their other spaces because the kitchen just does not have enough space to manage both businesses at once. Also, again going to startup costs, if you want to test a concept and your concept is delivery friendly, it's not a bad way to test a concept. That being said, they're called ghost kitchens for a reason and I think working in those spaces is unbelievably depressing especially if you got into this to be in hospitality. The way to express hospitality is so limited in these spaces.

Nora Ali: And you're not interfacing with customers.

Khushbu Shah: Exactly. Yeah, not at all.

Scott Rogowsky: I want to hear about the differences you've noticed during the pandemic and post pandemic when it comes to the experiences of restaurant workers and their perspectives and how they interact with customers.

Khushbu Shah: I reported out this story about customer entitlement, especially it was like, I feel like it only increased during the pandemic which was really kind of surprising and saddening to me. But the server at this restaurant in Connecticut was telling me that his co-worker was given $0 in tip because she served the meal to these customers on disposable plates. But that was just the rule of the restaurant. That was what they were told to do and they were like, "Had it been served on real plates, we would've tipped you." I'm like, "Well just stay home. Bring your own plate." I don't know. That's not very fair to the employees also. I think there's a lot of tension between actually customers and employees in a way that isn't going to disappear anytime soon. I think that there's a lot of shortages across the board on the customer side as far as patience goes and on the business, the restaurant side, as far as supply chains go, labor goes. I think we're actually just starting to feel the real, real effects of the pandemic now and for the next year, as far as the restaurant industry. I think everyone thought they were feeling it, but you saw restaurants in survival mode. Their menus were a lot shorter and different and weird. People were doing like playing around with what they were doing. So now, you're seeing restaurants try and get out of it. And you walk into a restaurant and you're probably, you might not be able to get your favorite dish or the thing that you're expecting to order because there's going to be a random shortage of limes or they just can't source this one type of plate or vessel so they can't serve you this thing. Or even things like wine that you might not expect there to be shortages of. A lot of sommeliers have mentioned to me that they have to completely turn around their wine list because things that were always easy to get and very reliable to get, now they just are not able to get that supply that they need. That, plus there is labor shortages too that all restaurants are sort of dealing with. The restaurants that have sort of turned around their business models and accepted that hospitality is a real industry and a real career and not just like a stepping stone for people on their way to their "real jobs," I think have done a better job of retaining staff because they've built a culture that is respectful, that pays people well, provides benefits like any other industry might. But the restaurants that are more reluctant to do that or haven't quite figured out how to make that work with their margins, I think are still also really struggling with staffing issues.

Nora Ali: And so much of this is out of the restaurant's control. This is a time when customers should be more accommodating and should be more understanding. We are going to take a quick break, but when we come back, I do want to talk more about the piece you alluded to that you wrote called "The Customer Is Not Always Right." We're going to take a quick break.


Nora Ali: Khushbu, you wrote in this piece, “The Customer Is Not Always Right,” that customer entitlement at restaurants is at an all-time high. But this phrase, the customer's always right, we hear that so much, whether it's retail or restaurants or otherwise. Why has that stuck around, especially when it comes to hospitality in the U.S. and how is it changing?

Khushbu Shah: I honestly don't know why it's stuck. It's sort of a terrible business practice and approach. All businesses should be a two-way street. Just because you're paying doesn't mean that you should be able to get whatever you want whenever you want it. There should be limits and rules in place. I think the pandemic has really shed a light on that and I think a lot of restaurants are no longer just willing to bend over backwards. I think they're seeing that they don't have to, they don't need to. It's been interesting. I've talked to a lot of chefs and a lot of restaurant owners that are like, "We realize that we just don't want a certain type of money. We don't want money from people that are like that. We have our regular customers, our community, people who are kind. They've supported us through this pandemic. They're repeat customers. They're invested in us in the way that we're invested in them. Those are the dollars that we want." But I think, we do live in a capitalist society and restaurants are one of the toughest business models. The margins are just so slim that I think for a long time, restaurant owners felt really desperate. Every customer was so necessary for that bottom line. That being said, customers, I think, are going to have to get used to paying more for food. I think people are really struggling with that a little bit. But you're starting to see prices go up across the board. But I also think we just, for a very long time in America, have just not paid enough for what we eat. When you look at the percentage of our income, our average income in the United States, the percentage that goes towards food is so low compared to even other countries with similar GDPs. We just expect food to be sold at such a low cost here, ignoring the labor and the work and the transportation systems and the logistics. What it takes for an apple to appear on your table is actually insane. And the fact that you're able to purchase these things for 25 cents or a dollar is ridiculous. It's even more ridiculous when you think about the people often growing the food are not able to afford the food that they grow.

Scott Rogowsky: It comes down to the culture as well. You write that the American approach to dining is very individualistic. How so? And how is it different elsewhere in the world? I'm sure you've eaten all around the world. What do you know about the differences in the culture between America and how we approach and how customers approach dining versus Europe, Asia, elsewhere?

Khushbu Shah: I think it's even just reflective of how Americans as a whole have approached the pandemic. It's very individualistic. It's very, "This is what I believe and this is what feels right for me, and this is what I want. It doesn't matter how my neighbor feels about this or if doing this will help my neighbor." There's not as much of a consideration for community as there is in other countries and cultures. You see those in restaurants a lot too. It's like, "This is what I want and this is what I need. It doesn't matter if it affects the customer next to me or the table over there." I mean, even the way Americans have freaked out over this shared plates dining concept that's come up a bunch in restaurants. Like, "Whoa, crazy concept." Then, you're like, if you look at just how other cultures eat, my parents are from India, I'm Indian-American, that was just dinner on a Thursday night. It's a more naturally communal way of eating. And therefore, I think all their cultures are just a little more thoughtful about the people around them. I think we have a little bit of work to do in that space.

Nora Ali: I also feel like here in the U.S., we might be more prone to leaving reviews in anger very quickly on the Yelps of the world. You wrote about this. You said that review sites like Yelp are empowering customers even further and there are real consequences where employees can lose their jobs or new restaurants can be stuck at a two-star rating because of a couple of unhappy and unverified customers. For those of us who are trying to be better customers, generally, what should we keep in mind when leaving reviews and thinking about how restaurants and their employees really are impacted in our moments of frustration?

Khushbu Shah: First of all, it's good to always keep in mind that restaurants are run by humans. They can have off-days obviously. It's not down to one person. Restaurants are teamwork. But also, here's the thing. Most people that are in the restaurant industry, that are in the hospitality business, they do really care about hospitality and they do really want people to have a good time. If you're having a negative experience at their restaurant, the manager wants to hear about it. They actually really do. They would rather, of course, correct themselves, find a way to fix it often, maybe take something off the bill, they'll apologize. It's a very human experience and interaction versus just kind of like taking out all of your rage in a Yelp review.

Nora Ali: I've seen this on TikTok where a customer has a very bad experience at a restaurant. They post about it and they get all the people whose For You pages they've landed on to get angry on their behalf. And then, you have hundreds of people going to this restaurant site and leaving bad reviews without having even been close to that restaurant. It's really sad. And it happens in an instant. I don't know.

Scott Rogowsky: It happens on podcasts, too.

Nora Ali: It happens on podcasts, too. You did have an interesting stat in one of your pieces where you said servers and other front of house staff are paid at a sub-minimum wage, which is often around $2 an hour. That's mind blowing. How would raising the minimum pay of restaurant workers affects the current labor shortage, the current restaurant worker shortage that we talked about? How might that actually benefit the industry overall?

Khushbu Shah: I mean, there's an idea, that, "Oh, people just don't want to go to work right now." But if basic government unemployment is paying you more than your job where you're dealing with entitled customers all day, why wouldn't you stay at home? If your job is making it impossible for you to really make ends meet, you can't afford health insurance, you can't afford all these kinds of things but you're working crazy hours in a very tough environment. It's a very physical job. It's a very mentally-draining job in many ways. Emotionally draining job. Also, there was a lot of very toxic restaurants and toxic kitchens that still exist. So, I think it was a big movement to sort of shift those environments. Also, we're kind of moving away from that Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential, chef is a rockstar, cocaine and alcohol-infused era of restaurants. That's not what's valued and celebrated anymore, which is a very good thing ultimately. Now you're seeing restaurants invest in their staff with yoga programs and running clubs. A lot of them are paying for health insurance. A lot of them are paying for therapy. But yeah, I mean, if you can go to work and be guaranteed $15 an hour no matter what, instead of having to deal with people being like, "Oh, pull down your mask, I want to see your smile so I can decide how much to tip you," which is a real thing that happened to so many servers-

Nora Ali: Oh, my gosh.

Khushbu Shah: ... during the pandemic. I mean, genuinely ridiculous. Of course, I think that's only going to help the industry to raise these prices. But again, that means people have to re-jigger their business models. Food costs are going to go up for everybody because the money has to come from somewhere.

Scott Rogowsky: Let's talk about the QR code menus which we haven't even touched on yet, Khushbu. Food and Wine actually conducted a survey which found that only 26% of Food and Wine readers want to use QR codes to view menus in the future. I would call myself one of those 26%. I kind of like the digital code. You don't have to wait for the menu to be handed to you. But obviously there's an element of opening that little book. A little adventure, you get to flip through and read all about it. What are some benefits of the digital menu? What are some of the drawbacks?

Khushbu Shah: I mean, benefits, obviously sustainability. You're not printing out a piece of paper, throwing it out.

Scott Rogowsky: I like that too.

Khushbu Shah: It's really nice when you're constantly updating your menu too. It's very easy to update it in a digital format. And that's something that's constantly happening especially with supply chain shortages. That being said, there is something really nice about being handed a piece of paper. I don't know about you. I get to a restaurant sometimes with a friend, especially, and we're just talking and we just forget to look at the menu. Then, you're like, "Oh, I got to find my phone and open it also."

Nora Ali: It feels like you're not even present. Like you're texting someone else because you're both on your phones. From an efficiency standpoint, I'm torn as well. Do you think it may create more efficiencies down the line or we are going to get back to having to have that face-to-face interaction? Or is there some hybrid?

Khushbu Shah: I think there's a hybrid. I think it's the style of restaurant that you're going to. I think QR code menus make a lot of sense for a fast casual spot where there's not that much customer and employee interaction necessarily.

Nora Ali: Like I'm not going to ask what the specials are at Chipotle, for example.

Khushbu Shah: Right. There are no specials. Yeah, exactly. And you know the guac is extra. Those things, they don't have to explain that kind of stuff to you, and so therefore, I think a QR code might be really efficient, especially. But it's a thing that not only can you pull up the menu, you could place your order, you can pay all through the same code, like that. I think there's a real usability to that sort of tech. In a certain environment, though. Again, you're going out to eat not just for the food, but also often for hospitality and the experience. And so, I think for certain restaurants, that's just not going to work. Especially if you walk into Alinea and you're handed a QR code and it's not an edible QR code that's part of the menu or something.

Nora Ali: Ooh, that's an idea.

Scott Rogowsky: Maybe an NFT QR menu for the high-end places. We're also glossing over the class issue here, which is that not everybody has a smartphone. Not everybody can access a QR code.

Khushbu Shah: There's not a backup option, if there's not a backup paper menu available for that, then yeah, absolutely. I think it's not the most inclusive way of doing things.

Nora Ali: I do like to talk about TikTok on this podcast.

Khushbu Shah: Great.

Nora Ali: So you have written about the best bites that you've ever had. In one of your articles, you said, I was surprised that a viral food item from TikTok ended up on your list. I think the wrap where it's the quadrants and you have different ingredients and you fold it into a wrap. To what extent do you find chefs, restaurant owners looking to social media and see these viral trends and adopting them now onto their menus?

Khushbu Shah: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I'm obsessed with the way that internet food culture has sort of shifted the restaurant industry. I was talking to a chef a couple of months ago. He was talking about how he just remembers when he first started out, the only way to see what other people were doing or to get other ideas was to buy cookbooks and to buy restaurant cookbooks. It was the only way to do it because you don't have the money to travel. Or you'd have to wait for maybe a magazine to cover it. But now, you just open up your phone and it's just an insane tsunami of creativity. Whether it's on Instagram or TikTok, you can learn about so many different cultures. You can see what other restaurants are doing. You can see what home cooks are doing. Also, for a very long time, I'm very fascinated by this too. It's like a lot of food trends that you see will start in fine dining and then kind of trickle down towards the mainstream. This is a piece I'm also hoping to do is this kind of rise of the fine dining crunchwrap. Taco Bell came up with the Crunchwrap Supreme. You now see several versions done by very fancy chefs doing their cultural take on the crunchwrap, which is I think, a very fun thing to see. That's--

Nora Ali: That's awesome.

Scott Rogowsky: I love this. When we come back, we're going to spotlight some of the chefs who are innovating and doing great work right now.


Nora Ali: I am curious to get your take on what it takes to be a great chef. Because you wrote, as we had been alluding to about the Best New Chefs for 2021, we'll get into the specific people in a moment. But you wrote about their leadership style. The fact that they support causes, create community spaces, their focus on sustainability, compensating staff at above market rates. It's not just about the food they're making. If you had to encapsulate what it means to be a great chef in 2021, what does that mean?

Khushbu Shah: It means you need to be a great leader, ultimately. The baseline is that you're an incredible cook and that your restaurant or however you're serving food is incredible and delicious and tasty. But if you're treating your staff poorly, if you're not invested in your community, then cooking good food doesn't excuse that anymore. Every single chef on Food and Wine's Best New Chefs list are vetted to be great leaders above all with staff that are loyal. You can see it. You can see it in the staff. You can see it in the restaurant, the way they talk about the chefs, the way the community respects the chef. It needs to be a happy workplace also.

Nora Ali: Do you want to highlight some of the top chefs? Scott's interested in the list.

Scott Rogowsky: We're waiting for this. Because I'm willing to drive across the country and try them like you just did.

Nora Ali: Yeah, totally.

Scott Rogowsky: Give us some hot spots and maybe tell us what city surprised you most in terms of their food scene.

Khushbu Shah: D.C., I think, is one of the most surprising food scenes. I think it has a reputation for being a little bit stodgy and very political dining type spots or very high-end fancy things. But actually, two of the best new chefs this year are from D.C. There's Angel Barreto at Anju and there's Paola Velez who used to be at a number of places and used to run a very cool pop-up called a La Bodega. But she's now bopping around doing pop-ups and stuff at various restaurants around the country, which is very cool. Both of them are incredible leaders and thinkers honestly. Angel is a practicing Buddhist. Every single time I talk to him, I'm like, "Wow, I really need to figure my life out." He is just so calm in his approach. He practices this thing called radical self-care and he's a huge proponent of it. He's like, "If I don't take care of myself, I can't be a good leader. I can't take care of my team. I can't take care of my customers." Running an incredibly busy Korean restaurant in a very prime neighborhood of D.C. with limited staff is a very taxing job. And so, when he takes his days off, he takes his days off properly to really regenerate and rest and recharge himself so that he can put his best foot forward, which I really respect. Then, Paola is behind Bakers Against Racism, which is one of the biggest bake sale movements that's kind of taken place. She started it with a couple of other D.C. chefs like Rob Rubba who's at Oyster Oyster in D.C., who's doing actually a very cool plant-based tasty menu if anyone is interested in some plant-based that does not have any impossible burger or technique. And so, they started this movement and it's grown into something that's unbelievable where it's just thousands of people from around the country and around the world started bake sales for causes that they really believe in. And they've raised just millions and millions of dollars for several causes around the globe through this movement. Paola is also a huge proponent of mental health, which is a huge proponent of fighting for yourself and your value and your worth. And all of these chefs have incredibly loyal co-workers and staffers and people that they've worked with throughout the years that they not only champion also. They're always mentioning the people that they work with and always giving them credit for the things that they do. But you can see that loyalty and that a lot of these people follow these chefs from job to job to job. One of my other best new chefs, Carlo Lamagna in Portland. He owns a restaurant called Magna Kusina. One of his two chefs has been with him for 11 years. Has followed him across cities to continue to work with him. If that's not the mark of a great leader, I don't know what is at that point.

Nora Ali: Lastly, Khushbu, I know part of your mission in joining Food and Wine was to tell more varied and inclusive stories in the world of food. This is certainly reflected in the Best New Chef's List for this year. What impact does telling these stories have on the way consumers discover new chefs and new restaurants that they might not otherwise come across? Are you happy with progress so far in telling these kinds of stories?

Khushbu Shah: For such a long time, this industry, even if you just look at previous Food and Wine covers, the Best New Chef covers, they were all just incredibly homogenous. It just showed that as a culture, like this is what we value, and what we valued were white men cooking French and Italian food often in fine dining settings. The idea that if you weren't doing that, you couldn't be a chef of influence, a chef of note, or that the food that you're cooking wasn't something. That Korean food couldn't be influential or delicious or game changing, or Indian food, could it be influential or delicious or game changing. It's very cool to have the privilege and the honor to run around the country and find all of these incredible chefs and leaders who are not only pushing the envelope as far as leadership in the kitchen, but also putting their cultures forward and their best foot forward. The first class of Best New Chefs that I did last year, one of the chefs on there, Donny is a Laotian cook. I don't know how many people have exposure to Laotian cooking in this country. His restaurant, Khaw Noodle Shop in Dallas is amazing and do some of the food I've ever had. But it's showing that Laotian food can play at the same level as French fine dining. And it's very important to me to also put pastry chefs on these lists. That's often where you find a lot of women in this industry. But they are also running their own kitchens. The idea that pastry is somehow secondary to the rest of the kitchen was always BS to me. And so, that was something that was very important for me to also shift in taking this role. It's just changing the faces of who gets to matter. That to me is really important as someone who grew up not seeing a lot of people who looked like me represented. There's so many people that feel that way. There's so many people from so many cultures that feel that way. And it's really, it's cool to see the pride.

Nora Ali: I was reading Khushbu that when you were younger, you were embarrassed to bring Indian lunch that your parents would prepare for you to school, which is totally something that I felt as well. I didn't want the scents of cumin and onions when I open up my lunchbox as a kid. But now, I feel like it's cool to have your family's cultural food with you at school. I feel like things are changing for the better too.

Khushbu Shah: Oh yeah, definitely. I'm glad that we can finally move past this kind of lunchbox narrative. I agree. It's a real trauma. We've all experienced it. But you know, my brother is 11 years younger than me and he could bring dahl and rice to school. No problem. We're done with it.

Nora Ali: No more lunchbox trauma.

Scott Rogowsky: I was shunned for my white fish salad. The stench. The stench is overwhelming. I'm not going to deny that. Well, a lot of our listeners are going to take these recommendations. If they're in D.C., they know where they're going, Portland, all over the place. This has been such a fun conversation. I feel sated. Are you full, Nora?

Nora Ali: I'm so full. Full of joy and now I'm actually hungry from a stomach sense.

Scott Rogowsky: We're definitely getting hungry here. So we're going to fix ourselves a snack. Khushbu Shah is the Restaurant Editor at Food and Wine magazine. Khushbu, thank you for joining us.

Nora Ali: Thank you.

Khushbu Shah: Thank you for having me.

Scott Rogowsky: And now, BC listeners, we want to hear from you, specifically around a topic for a future episode on the Great Resignation. Have you quit your job? Why? Where did you go? What are you doing now? Did you feel good about it? Are you regretting it? Let us know about your best quit ever. Send us an email at or DM us on Twitter @bizcasualpod. That's B-I-Z casual pod, with your thoughts.

Nora Ali: You can also leave a voice memo on our website, Or give us a ring and leave us an old fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862-295-1135. As Business Casual grows, we are so excited to get to know our listeners old and new. Drop us the line. And don't forget to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from so we can hear from you in a future episode.

Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual is produced sous vide by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production sound design, mixing, and plating by Daniel Marcus. Alan Haburchak is the director of audio at Morning Brew. Sarah Singer is our VP of multimedia and Jessica Cohen is our Chief Content Officer. Music in this episode is from Daniel Marcus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, and how could you not, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you go for your ear molten lava cakes. And we’d love it if you would give us a great rating and a review.

Nora Ali: Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky.

Nora Ali: Keep it business.

Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual.