Hello my friends, we’ve started a podcast! We’re calling it “Food Diaries,” and it focuses on individuals in the food world we love. We learn how they got where they are, what they’re excited about right now, and about the challenges and high points of working with food. It’s a window into the lives of those who inhabit this world, and who make the great food we all enjoy. It will be me (Iso Rabins), and my business partner (Matt Johansen), talking to some of our favorite folks in the food world.
For the first episode, Matt and I got to hang out with David Suarez, who we call “the Mayor of Forage Kitchen.” I’m not sure exactly how it started; Matt probably came up with the name and it stuck. In my opinion, it’s because of the way he is in the space. He’s been in the kitchen for the last six months testing recipes for a new restaurant he’s opening, but even with all that work, he always has time for people.
He’s always friendly, always willing to lend a hand, always curious about what people are making, always eager to talk through a recipe or engage in conversation with anyone about how they’re doing.
The food world is faced-paced, with everyone rushing around trying to get things done that should have been finished an hour ago. This pace is addictive. The more you rush, the more you feel like you’re being productive and moving forward. I’m definitely guilty of this, and I have to remind myself to take a moment everyday just to check in. But for David, it’s in his DNA. Not that he doesn’t get things done. On the contrary, I’m amazed by the speed and complexity of what he makes, and he seems to do it without stressing out or rushing around.
He’s definitely one of the veterans of the food world in our kitchen, his knowledge gleaned from working under the likes of Thomas Keller, among other food gods. Maybe that’s where he gets his Zen. He’s done it all, so he doesn't have anything to prove.
His stories from those days are legendary. I always find myself thinking he should have written Kitchen Confidential instead of Anthony Bourdain—he’s got the background for it. From birthday parties and late nights with master chefs like Keller, to his vacation (which is a great story but he wants to keep it private…curious, aren’t you…?), to travelling around the country opening restaurants, he’s seen it all.
When I started my business, I didn’t have any professional training. I had an idea and I had motivation, but I didn’t know anything about commercial kitchens. There’s a language and a way of moving in these spaces that separates the novice from the initiated. Everything has a secret name; every action has a certain way it’s “supposed” to be done. It’s nerve-wracking going into a space like that with a bunch of pros who have the expertise, are rushing around with no time to hold your hand, and often have a lot of contempt for anyone who hasn’t learned the code.
I think we call David “the Mayor” because he’s the furthest thing from one of those chefs. He uses his knowledge to help. If he sees that something could be done easier, he offers his input—not in a condescending way, but with a real desire to help people save time and learn.
Forage Kitchen has developed into a space where both veteran chefs and newbies feel comfortable. People get along, they exchange ideas and collaborate, they’re honest and open when things aren’t going right, rather than letting tension build up.
It’s become a real community, where we support each other as much as we can, with all the different strengths and experiences we’ve had. It really is starting to embody the vision I had when I first set out to build this space, and I think that David’s personality is one of the reasons it’s become that way. He might be moving on soon, but his touch is forever entwined in Forage Kitchen’s DNA.