I loved being an editor. That was really fun. Um, being, it's almost like being, In some ways, it's like being a chef, like it's like being an impresario or being a producer, someone who takes something like an ingredient, uh, Layers in this, this, this technique, and then you get to the other side, you create something that's never existed before, and it is better than the turnips that you started with.
And that's to me what I love doing. And now I get to do with TB, which is also super fun. Back to the advice about. What you should do when you're seeking to do something that feels bigger than you are and that you maybe aren't ready for, which I don't know if I was ready to be an editor in chief. I was an excellent editor.
If I do say so myself, I do think that it's really important to surround yourself with really talented people. And so that's something that I discovered as an editor in chief is that maybe it's similarly, again, I'm going to bring it back to chefs because I think it's really important for people to feel like they can see themselves in the story.
As a chef, you, you are really good at being a chef, which is why you end up getting a restaurant or opening your own restaurant because you're super talented. But are you good at running HR? Are you good at figuring out how to do reservations? Are you, are you good at PNL? Are you good at, and that stuff you don't really get trained in.
Maybe a little bit more now than before, but still, a lot of it is stuff that's outside of your scope. And I've talked to a lot of chefs, especially because of, um, our program at Food & Wine, Best New Chefs. There's a lot of young chefs who I got to interact with early in their meteoric rise. And I think it's really important to hire people even though you feel like, There's no way.
I don't have the money. I don't have the bandwidth. I can't train somebody. It's really important to be surrounded by people who are going to make you better, and those people have very specific skills. You can't become the guy who, or woman, who is in charge of building your HR infrastructure. You can't necessarily be the person who goes out and gets you funding.
All of that stuff. You need the right partners for. And so the idea of not doing it yourself, the idea of not putting all the pressure on yourself is the first step to being a successful leader and a successful manager. And that is what an editor-in-chief is. An editor-in-chief is somebody like I was, who reads every single word in a magazine and is the the public face of a brand, but you're also the CEO of your brand and you're also the person who's ultimately.
Responsible for the success or failure and the only way that you succeed or fail. Is by surrounding yourself with talent.
Josh Sharkey [00:08:51]:
Yeah, I love that as an ambitious person, which you are. And I think, you know, obviously anybody who starts a business is as well, we always want to just get better at everything. And I think what, something that I'm picking up from what you're saying, which is really true also with entrepreneurship is you have to be really good at identifying the things that you're not good at.
Accept it and find people really awesome at it. Because if you're just trying to be good at everything
Nilou Motamed [00:09:11]:
Being good at everything is a futile exercise in my opinion. Again, maybe there are people who are good at everything. Obviously there are people who run triathlons, so they must be good at at least three things. I, on the other hand, have discovered that my secret sauce, my secret power is my ability to curate. I curate really, really well. And so I have a business now called Story Collective. What I do is bring great talent together for whatever different projects require it. Often, I'm part of that talent pool. Oh my gosh, the list of things that I'm not good at is so lengthy. And I feel like the things, though, that I do do well and that I bring to the table are very valuable.
And so, rather than try... To try to make up for the things that I don't know, I'd so much rather collaborate with people who are talented at what they do and all of us just bring our A games and honestly, part of what I love about being an editor or being a any of the jobs that I've ever done actually, and I've, gosh, I've done a lot of jobs is the collaboration and the interaction with other people and the fact that we just get better the more we are surrounded by talented people.
And so, yeah, that's, that's my one takeaway. I actually have never quite enunciated it that way, but I do really feel like it's really, really important for your sanity and for your success. to seek out others and don't feel like it's all on you. It's impossible. It's impossible to be good at everything. It really is.
Josh Sharkey [00:10:51]:
Yeah. The fact that, you know, your superpower and you've identified it and then you sort of operationalize it And it's so important. It makes me think of Rick Rubin. You know, when he talks about, he doesn't know anything about music.
Nilou Motamed [00:11:03]:
That's, well, I think he might be, I think he might be being a tiny bit Rick Rubin about it.
Josh Sharkey [00:11:05]:
But he knows what he's, the thing that he's actually very good at, which is, uh, you know, just understanding, you know, when people love something and when they're really good at it.
Nilou Motamed [00:11:10]:
Finding talent. Okay. I, this is a weird thing, but I feel like, uh, in our household, there's a lot of Taylor Swift love. My husband's obsessed with Taylor Swift. I know that some people just roll their eyes, but it's a mistake to roll your eyes at Taylor Swift. She is really hyper talented, but I think She's also knows that there's things that she does really well and there's other things that she doesn't necessarily do well and to find the right people to accompany her to find the right people to produce her.
I think that's really, really smart and give them credit and celebrate them. I love that's the thing that I think is really modern is not to like kind of glom on to the credit just feels so old school, but really celebrate others and lift others to me. That's really interesting. And I don't know, it just seems truer and more honest.
And there's a lot of time we spend these days on social media and anywhere. Um, just propping ourselves up, you know, I don't know if it's true or honest. It doesn't feel very honest to me. And I think the things that do resonate with me, granted, I will say there was a moment in my career. Early on when I started at Travel and Leisure, I was hustling solo. I really was hustling solo. I had an amazing editor in chief who put her trust in me, but then I had to over deliver and I had to show up every day coming up with more ideas. I was somebody who started very late in my industry compared to, you know, my colleagues, because like you said, I, um, didn't come from a family of magazine editors, I wasn't really aware of it as a job until much, much, much, much later, and it wasn't in my path, and so I really had to find it, and once I found it, I realized I didn't know anything about it, I didn't know I was a good writer, I'd been, uh, I was a philosophy and political science major, um, What was I thinking?
I don't know. It just seemed like a good idea to learn more things. And I loved learning, but yeah, once I started in magazines, I was single minded about, I don't know, now I'm going to have to be really honest with myself. Was I single minded about going up the ladder? I think I was, I think I really wanted. This is more about my psychology. I really like to be in the room. I like to be in the room where decisions are being made It's not that I wanted to be the boss at all. I just really wanted to be involved in the conversation So I talked about the idea that collaboration is a big deal for me I think part of that is being part of the engine that makes something to build something and so when I became a magazine editor, I realized I loved Business.
I love doing this. I love the idea of working at a travel magazine, but being in charge of the food conversation. And then once I became in charge of the food conversation, I realized, Oh my God, this is so niche. How do I expand my role? Not because I want more fiefdom, but more because I was just so passionate about the space.
I really wanted to talk about food more. And this was in the year 2000, where really people weren't talking about food in the way that we talk about food in 2023. There was no Instagram. We weren't taking pictures of our food. It was really a different time. And so all I just kept on pushing is what about this food story?
And what about this restaurant story? And what about this chef in, you know, in Singapore and just kept on trying to expand the conversation. And luckily for me, the zeitgeist and the culture was in step with me. And so maybe I was just like one step a little bit more obsessed with it than in the early days, what travel journalists were doing.
But then I built and built and built and eventually became the food editor, travel leisure magazine, the first ever food editor with a global beat, which was super compelling all day, every day would read and meet with people and talk to people all around the world about what was going on. In their environment, when it came to food, it was such a great education.
I can't even believe how lucky I was to have that job. And then from there, became editor in chief of Epicurious and tried to instill a little bit more of a global perspective at Epicurious, which had traditionally been very, I don't know, more classically American, I think.
Josh Sharkey [00:15:37]:
Yeah, very American. Yeah.
Nilou Motamed [00:15:38]:
But there had always been diversity and I think I just, you know, hired some people who were a little bit, uh, had a broader purview and then came to the food and wine opportunity opened up.
And again, really just an incredible, incredible series of opportunities to just keep on opening up our conversation around how food can bring us together and that we can really get over so much difference and so much strife when we just think about how food really unites us. And so I'm not being a Pollyanna.
I understand the world is a complicated place, but I do feel like we, in my experience, traveling around the world, even when I don't speak the language, which is most places, you know, I only speak four languages. Um, when I sit down to eat with somebody, a lot of stuff can get sorted out really, really easily. Um, and pretty seamlessly, even to the point where going back to my coming to America story, I started inviting kids to my house to eat Persian food because I felt like they couldn't understand me.
They had so many barriers to seeing me as who I was rather than seeing the images of the hostage crisis on TV. They couldn't really, um, humanize me until they came and ate my mom's food and then everything, everything was better, much, much, much better,
Josh Sharkey [00:17:10]:
Of course, I'm sure that has affected a lot of how you, at least in my opinion, have certainly widened the aperture of what is good in terms of the food world with the work that you've done, you know, food and wine and Epicurious things like that, and I will say, you know, going back to what you said about in the beginning about being more about yourself when you're starting out I think there's it's very hard to be ambitious and not have some sprinkling of narcissism.
It's just part
Nilou Motamed [00:00:49]:
Oh, yes. I'm a lot of things. If I was a narcissist. I'd just tell you I'm a narcissist I'm actually not I have this super super super super need to please combined with like a deep deep deep need to make my family proud so if you were going to get to the root of why I have worked as hard as I have and continue to strive to, uh, to excel, it's.
Because I really want to make sure that my parents know that all of their sacrifice was worth it. And, uh, I would tell you, honestly, if I was like doing, I don't like to watch myself on TV. I don't sit around counting my accolades. I'm really not that person. That's just, that's not how I'm made. It's all about a little bit of service.
I, and this is a funny thing too, people, when they talk about service, they're talking about, You know, helping people in need. My version of that is it breaks my heart when anyone is ever going someplace on a trip, for example, and isn't having the sort of like the ultimate time. And so having been a food and travel magazine editor for 20 years, all I want is to make sure that every single person is armed with the best advice.
And so I make these insane lists that I give to people that are like my, my Paris list and my, and my Tokyo list. And. My Istanbul list and so on and so on. And that is my my ambition is that every single person at least who knows me or who follow me on instagram will not have a bad meal in Athens. Like that's what I want. I don't want anyone to have a bad experience if I can, if I can be of help. And so service is a is a funny way of saying that. But actually that's what that type of journalism is called. It's called service journalism and it's it's about giving people tools, giving people information that they can actually act on.
And I believe that in this moment in time where we are drowning in information, right, there's information overload. Somebody like me, who is a curator, who is a curator in chief. Is more important than ever. What I try to do is to help people distill and narrow. And when I work with clients, that's what I try to help them do is to be a really good partner and a really good advocate for the consumers who they're interacting with.
Because that's all we need. All we need in the world right now is someone to tell us. Yeah, I know you have 8000 choices, but this is the right choice. This is the one choice and make this choice and move on with your life. Don't dwell on it. Don't worry about it. Don't sweat it. That is the gift of curation and that's what I've been trained to do my entire career.
And so I just want to keep on trying to provide that service as much as I can without narcissism. I don't think.
Josh Sharkey [00:20:33]:
By the way, the reason I bring up narcissism, I've had like five or six conversations on this podcast with chefs where we have tried to battle with ourselves the notion of, are we narcissistic as chefs because we want you to like our food? And can we separate the two?
Nilou Motamed [00:20:48]:
Josh Sharkey [00:20:49]:
And it's a, it's a conversation we have often.
Nilou Motamed [00:20:50]:
I mean, I could answer that for you, but I don't think you would like the answer. I do think that chefs do, could benefit, a lot of chefs that I know, um, and I know some really talented chefs could benefit. Often, especially when they're first coming up with an editor, with somebody who they trust enough to let them into their creative process and to allow them to pull them back for themselves. Because I think when you're a chef, what you do is. You're like, well, this is a cool trick. I know how to do and look at this technique. And what about this ingredient? And, oh my gosh, what about this? Crescent on this finish, blah, blah, blah, blah. Next thing you know, you end up with a very, very, very messy plate full of amazing ideas that can't all live together.
And so the idea of an editor or someone you trust, whoever that person is. Who can come in and say, what about if we like did the Coco Chanel thing and pulled three things off before we walk out the door? Yeah. My friends and family. Whenever it's very difficult for me to get feedback to chefs because they are so emotional, you know, because it's your, it's your, it's your baby. I won't name the chef, but I gave feedback to one incredibly talented, I mean, James Beard winning all the, all the accolades chef. She still talks about it today. That was 10 more than 10 years ago. Wow. Yeah. Well, no, no, it's it's very difficult because you guys say you can handle it, but you really can't. Um, but you need
Josh Sharkey [00:22:20]:
It's tough. It's a battle.
Nilou Motamed [00:22:21]:
It might be that environment also. But when I do get feedback, I always just try to say this is so good. If you just took one thing away, I think it would be better. And I think that's always, really always the case.
Josh Sharkey [00:22:34]:
I actually, I had Tamar Adler on last week when we were talking about it. She's a writer. And I asked her the same question I asked some chefs, which is, if you wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book, you knew it was a Pulitzer Prize winning book. And the same goes for, you made the most incredible dish in the world. And by the way, as chefs, this happens. We're like, we eat something, we're like, oh my god, this is so friggin good. But no one could read that book and no one could taste that dish except you would you still be happy and as a chef? It's tough.
I mean, I can't speak for a writer, but um, it's tough cuz sort of no No, I sort of want someone to also eat this. Yeah, and I don't know, you know as a writer Tamar had mentioned similar thing like no no, I want I want someone to read this
Nilou Motamed [00:23:13]:
No, because otherwise it's the tree in the forest, you know, you're alone with your incredible of and you're
Josh Sharkey [00:23:19]:
Nilou Motamed [00:23:20]:
I'm a super I think we all are who go into some version of this industry.
I'm a very, very person driven creature. And you know, I, I'm all about my interactions with people. I am, I'm enlivened by being around people when I'm in, uh, surrounded by, by peers and people who are better than me. I am much, much, much happier. Yeah, of course. I don't want to be all alone crafting my magical list that no one reads.
That would be silly, but it's not because a pat on the back is a part that I, that I don't necessarily see in myself.
Josh Sharkey [00:23:59]:
Nilou Motamed [00:24:00]:
This is nuance here. I love the smile. I love the idea that on the flip side, someone comes back and said, Oh my God, that, that restaurant that you recommended in Mumbai was spectacular.
I'm so happy we went there. It wasn't fancy, but it was exactly what we needed, blah, blah, blah. That makes me super happy.
Josh Sharkey [00:24:18]:
I wonder if part of it is your, I think part of Persian and Arab culture has this hospitality part to it. It's also just like, Rima Seals has something really, really, I guess, fun. She said that Arab hospitality is like sweet torture.
Nilou Motamed [00:24:32]:
Oh, that's wise.
Josh Sharkey [00:24:33]:
Maybe part of this for you is that you just have hospitality in your blood, and it's just part of what you, you know, what drives you.
Nilou Motamed [00:24:35]:
Yes! Oh my god, Josh, you've figured it out!
Josh Sharkey [00:24:47]:
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Nilou Motamed [00:25:38]:
We are maximalist in terms of a lot of things as Iranians and in my family, specifically about generosity, about hospitality, about nurturing, maybe a little bit to the point where we're suffocating people. But um, I'm speaking for myself. And so I think, yeah, I just want to be hospitable at all times to as many people as possible.
Josh Sharkey [00:26:03]:
I love that. Well, I'm gonna wind us down a different path so we can get closer to the finish line here.
Nilou Motamed [00:26:09]:
Josh Sharkey [00:26:10]:
You talked a lot about common thread storytelling, right? Whether it's sort of in your legal practice and now as a writer and then other things that you're doing. And I think as a chef, actually, it's a really important skill as well. I only recently, when I was digging into how to retain information, I started reading Ralph Waldo Emerson. And the reason why is that I learned something that was interesting, that he would stop reading a book right away if it wasn't interesting. I always have to finish every book no matter what. And now I'm like, no, if in 10 minutes I'm not excited, I stop.
And I think about that as it relates to storytelling. I promise there's a point here in that when I started watching some of some of the Iron Chef that, you know, that the episodes that you're doing, and by the way, I fucking love Iron Chef.
Nilou Motamed [00:26:53]:
Josh Sharkey [00:26:54]:
Even from the original to today, it's still, it's still awesome.
Nilou Motamed [00:26:55]:
Like, it continues to keep on giving. It's a generous show.
Josh Sharkey [00:26:58]:
Yeah, yeah. And part of it that I didn't know as much about when I watched the original one, and I'm watching Hiroyuki Sakai and Kenichi, who passed away this year, by the way, like, you know, the storytelling piece isn't there. But what I see, you know, when Curtis Stone and Dominique Crenn come to the table and they're sharing their mushroom dish with you, they're also telling a story. And I think that that's a part of of having great food is, is like the story behind it. And I'm curious for you, like, if you close your eyes and you close your ears and you just ate the food, maybe not close your eyes, obviously, cause you have to look at the food, like, is it the same and how much of that plays into how that comes out in the, in the show?
Nilou Motamed [00:27:36]:
So Josh, that might be the smartest question anyone's ever asked, because I think there's an evolution that's happened in both the way that we eat in restaurants and the way that we eat in on TV and even the way that we think of chefs and when we're giving them accolades and magazines, let's say, I think the narrative is so important and almost crucial because where we're at right now.
In the world of food, everyone is at such a high level, uh, in terms of their cooking and their cooking skill and their technique where I think we melt as consumers and I am playing the role of the diner when I'm on a show like Iron Chef or Chopped is this what's behind it? Why are we here? Why do I care about this dish? Right? Why is this dish changing my life? And so We've gotten way past, is this dish delicious? Am I going to want this dish tomorrow? But how is this dish significant? Which is, oh my gosh, so much pressure, right? Because now you don't just have to be a chef. You have to be a storyteller. You have to be a narrator.
You have to be, you have to really plumb into your history. And be ready to serve that on a silver platter. And that's a lot of pressure. I know that it is, but I do feel like it's not enough for me for a chef to hold me at arm's length any longer. I feel like I need an intimate connection and a reason. And so I think Esther, Choi, Dominique, they did an incredible. Yeah, I'm thinking I'm going back now in my head about all the dishes. I mean, I think that Curtis also did a beautiful job with painting a picture. And painting a picture that made me feel like I was invested. I cared about the dish more than just what it tasted like.
Now, if you told me a great story and the flavor payoff wasn't there, we're at zero, right? Yeah,
Josh Sharkey [00:29:45]:
been there before, by the way. Beautiful story.
Nilou Motamed [00:29:46]:
Yeah, I know. And yeah, you can't make up for deficiency and the actual what's on the plate. I still need to want to slurp that up and see if there's a way for me to get seconds. And not because you... Amped it up with caviar and not because you, you know, you've made it rain, you know, uh, truffles or there's a surprise. None of that's not, I don't think that's where we're at. I think we're kind of in a soulful era of food. I don't even want to say kind of, we are in a soulful era of food and this is the chef's moment to really celebrate who they are, where they come from and be an unapologetic with their point of view.
I will say this. Also carries over to, um, wine and, um, some ways I feel like I'm 100 percent a natural wine drinker. This creates a lot of drama with my more traditional chef friends who are just like white, burgundy or nothing, you know? And I just feel like natural wine is so interesting and so multi faceted and like nothing else.
And it feels like almost like it should be its own vertical, like there's kombucha, there should be natural wine, and then there's... traditional wine, because it's not really the same thing. But I do feel like where natural wine Soms really excel is in the backstory of these wines. And so if somebody tells me about the fact that this was macerated in a full moon and the wine was Named after the dog of the owner who lost a leg in a combine.
This is the kind of stuff that I eat up and not because again, if the wine isn't good, the wine isn't good. But how awesome is it to be able to share that story when you buy that wine, you bring it home with your friends and to have something that's so memorable. The wine is finished at the end of the bottle. It's over, you know, and the food is done when you've finished eating it and you get up from the table. But those stories stay with you forever. And so I was lucky enough this year to do, um, the red carpet commentary for the Beard Awards. Uh, and so I was with Frances Lamb, who's one of the smartest humans on the planet, and Sophia Roe, who is also so talented and so gifted and has such a great backstory.
You should interview both of them if you haven't before. And we also did the commentary. I like the fact that you're taking a note. We also did a commentary during the show. And so I have been to the James Beard Awards, I don't know, for a long time since I started in this industry. So for a long time, I have never felt as invested as I did in this year's awards because of course, they're the people who I knew who I know their story.
But there were as many people, even maybe more people who I didn't know anything about. And I had to really dig into their backstory and why they started cooking and what their point of view was. And what I found was. I was rooting for everybody. Everyone was my number one choice because I could see how hard every single one of them had worked to get to where they were, wherever they were in the country, whatever type of food they were making, whether they were doing an empanada pop up or they were doing fine dining.
Chefs are the hardest working people in the country. The restaurant industry is grueling. I don't need to tell you this, you know this. What you all have been through in the last few years is, I can't, there's no, there's no word, there's no right word for me to say. Apocalyptic? I don't know. There, there, it doesn't even seem to really cover it because when there's an apocalypse, you don't keep on cooking. You just are like, okay, world's over. This is like, you guys went through what is a seismic shift in the way that, um, the society was functioning and you guys had to keep on doing the same thing that you were doing from go and so. I am like the biggest chef booster on the planet, but being at the Beard Awards this year was so exciting for me specifically and going back to this idea of storytelling because I knew the chef stories.
And so any chef who's listening, who feels reticent, like maybe like I did in the early days about telling my story because I felt like it was maybe too self referential or too, you know, too narcissistic. Figure out what makes you tick and figure out why dishes are on your menu. Not because you need five proteins and three veggie options, but because you want to tell a story through your food, I can guarantee you that it's going to make a big impact in what you're doing.
Josh Sharkey [00:34:26]:
A hundred percent. I agree. And I think what I love most about where we're at today, from a chef's perspective, is that the talent pool is much greater and the bar is much higher. So the table stakes are, you are a technician, and you have a really good palate, and you know how to move in the kitchen. Those, those things are not table stakes. So being able to tell a story and have a meaning in the food that you create is now what sets you apart. And that's what I think is really cool about watching Iron Chef, by the way, is they are technicians. They are, I mean, it's a show. It's very easy to say, this is a show. It's produced. I know a lot, I have a lot of friends that have done Iron Chef, and I know it's freaking hard.
And those chefs are crushing it. And on top of it, they're doing things that are meaningful and that, you know, that have a story behind them. And that is hard. And as a judge, I'm sure it's also really cool.
Nilou Motamed [00:35:19]:
Well, it's really, Oh my gosh. I love my gig. I love getting to eat. And talk about it and try to describe it as best as I can so that people at home feel like they actually got to take a bite, which is really hard to do. I also, I'm in awe of the talent that I get to be around and hang out with and Andrew Zimmern. He's a gift. He's my spirit animal in a lot of ways and he's wonderful. And I think we, we share also a real appreciation because of the fact that we've traveled so much. We share an appreciation about the context of the food and not just the food itself, which I think is really important too.
Back in the days when I was a travel editor, I used to tell PR people who would. Send me press releases about hotels and talk about the thread count, you know, and they would say, this luxury hotel has, you know, 430 thread count sheets. And I was like, please don't send me that. I assume because it's a luxury hotel that it's going to have really nice sheets and a really big spa and great staff to you like you said, table stakes. We aren't talking about how you do the work. What you do to elevate the work right? And so that to me is where the magic happens. And so when I said what I did as a young editor was over deliver, I think that that's really what all chefs have to be thinking about. But not now it's not just over delivering on the quality of the food, the consistency of the food, but to over deliver on the meaningfulness of what you're putting in front of people.
I think people have mixed feelings about The Bear. But I think that the reason that people are invested in that show is because of the story, right? It's not because of the food that's being made. It's about the grit and the determination But also this idea of a chef trying to do something different than how he was trained. And I think a lot of chefs came up with this very traditional brigade system and a very traditional way of what fine dining meant and what belongs in, in that bucket and what doesn't. And yeah, now we're all about how do we break those bounds and how do we think outside that box and how do we blow people away with restaurants like Bonnie's, you know, things that you wouldn't have necessarily thought about as our definition of the hot place to go. And lo and behold, it is.
Josh Sharkey [00:37:57]:
Yeah, absolutely. I have this belief that any craft, whether it's like painting or blacksmith or cooking, these are crafts where there's techniques that you have to learn, usually you have to apprentice, that they all diverge into commerce or art, and so you have the spectrum, and then this craft will turn into one of those two things. And I love that food is sort of a perfect example of, you know, commerce is always involved, almost always involved, right, because there's a cost to it, but we're getting closer and closer to where you have this really true sort of Bridgerton craft and art, craft and commodities, you got McDonald's, right?
You got, and then you have everything in between. That's okay. Like things like the Smith, which is really good food, really simple. And, you know, like that's closer to a commodity, but you start seeing when you're seeing, look, if you have a crispy, you know, parsnip skin with, you know, uh, whatever it is, porcini foam, things like that. And, and there's a story, but that's art, right?
Nilou Motamed [00:38:48]:
There's an art to that. Crispy parsnip skin. There's nothing else but art. You're not making bank on.
Josh Sharkey [00:38:51]:
Nilou Motamed [00:38:55]:
That said, there's no shame in making money.
Josh Sharkey [00:38:57]:
No, of course. And you need to.
Nilou Motamed [00:38:59]:
I think that there are examples of people who have figured out how to create really, really good things at scale.
Josh Sharkey [00:39:00]:
Nilou Motamed [00:39:01]:
And I'm, I'm, I mean, and by the way, Nobu hotels are also spectacular. I have no idea how involved the chef is in them, but that brand has expanded in a way that still feels true to its DNA. And that's, that's also the thing, the gut check of like, what's my brand? The more people you bring under your tent, the more people you have to make sure are speaking the same language as you too, which I think is really, really important.
Josh Sharkey [00:39:37]:
Jean George does a great job of that as well.
Nilou Motamed [00:39:38]:
I mean, have you been to the TIN building?
Josh Sharkey [00:39:40]:
Yeah, I love everything they do. And his team, by the way, Greg and Mark and his whole culinary team.
Nilou Motamed [00:39:41]:
Spectacular. They're incredible as well. Buttoned up.
Josh Sharkey [00:39:47]:
I'm taking up a lot of your time, so I'm going to end with something I've never done before.
I thought it'd be fun for you. Okay. So we're just going to try it. Okay. Because what I talked about in the beginning of the show about opulence, about some of your dinner parties and the coops that you collect, I was like, this sounds so freaking cool. We are going to do a little game. Okay. Where we're going to talk about, uh, some ingredients, and then you're going to, like, give a little answer. Alright, so, first.
Nilou Motamed [00:40:10]:
Is that a speed round?
Josh Sharkey [00:40:11]:
It's kind of like a Q& A. No, it's sort of, but you don't have to be fast about it.
Nilou Motamed [00:40:12]:
Josh Sharkey [00:40:13]:
Okay, you love Uni. Yes. Like I do. Maine, Santa Barbara, or Japanese?
Nilou Motamed [00:40:22]:
I actually, I'm not gonna choose. I'm, I'm gonna say all three. When I'm in Portland, Maine, uh, Maine all the time, right? Santa Barbara is spectacular. And I mean, in terms, I would say, in terms of like, the creaminess payoff, I think Santa Barbara is pretty phenomenal if you're gonna get one bite of sushi, Santa Barbara. In fact, when I was in, uh, at SkiG, I, I, you said speed, but I'm not going for speed. When I was at SkiG, there would be, like, just Palates and palates of Santa Barbara uni, you know, the Japanese prize that I totally support it.
Nilou Motamed [00:40:56]:
And Hokkaido to me has a real specific brine. And so to me, if I was gonna have like chawanmushi with uni on top to me, Hokkaido feels right. I was at a restaurant in case you haven't been there. Eric Ripert recommended it. It's called Ito. It's a sushi restaurant in the Financial District. He does a a triple egg situation. In fact, I would now want to go back and have it. So he does a little bit of rice. Then I think it's then it's uni, then it’s ikura, then it's caviar or some, some version of those three, three things I can't, it is really just heartbreakingly beautiful the way that they, um, they cure their own ikura.
Nilou Motamed [00:39:41]:
The flavor profile is perfect. They use really nice caviar that is not durocity, but really, really good. Um, and it was Santa Barbara Uni and it was pretty magical as like a one, one little plate of perfection. So that's what I'm going to say. So I didn't pick one, I picked all three.
Josh Sharkey [00:42:02]:
I love all three as well. And I love Uni. So, okay. So now you mentioned caviar. Okay. So I'm not going to ask what type, because I think that's obvious.
Nilou Motamed [00:42:09]:
Although I like Ocetra, I didn't say it. I didn't say Golden on Ocetra. Golden Ocetra is, I don't like Beluga. I like the, the mouth feel and the brininess of Ocetra. I also like the larger kind of pop of it. So yeah.
Nilou Motamed [00:42:24]:
I like that too. Yeah. Okay. For caviar: Blini, Rosti, Sashimi, Egg, like scrambled egg or fried chicken. Which one do you, which one do you put it on?
Nilou Motamed [00:42:37]:
Thankfully, this is a podcast so no one's going to see the face I just made. My perfect caviar accompaniment is bread and butter. If I was gonna not do that.
Josh Sharkey [00:39:41]:
Brioche or like any bread?
Nilou Motamed [00:42:50 ]:
No, not brioche. It can't be buttery bread. It has to be kind of like, I mean, I like baribari bread. Like, so like kind of like almost like a, like a clean, not too sour, doughy, sour dough. If you were going to pick something that in the, uh, in the vernacular, everyone else listening, crusty, crusty, crusty, but then like it would need to be with cold butter, not hot butter.
So like bread being room temperature, cold butter, I'm not a fan of whipped butter. I'm anti, in fact, aggressively anti whipped butter. Like, to the point where I could really start a whole campaign against whipping butter. I need like hard, like good French, Irish butter. And then caviar. I don't need lemon.
Nilou Motamed [00:43:30]:
I don't believe in it need, if you're putting lemon on it, it's not fresh enough. So I just want it to be clean. Definitely no onion, definitely no chopped up egg. Definitely. You don't need any of that stuff. That's like basically like for caviar service for somebody who a doesn't like caviar and B isn't having good caviar. Now that said for an indulgent cocktail party, I support, you know, back in the day, amazing Sam Bell founder of Blackberry, um, farm was the first person who ever turned me on to the idea of chips and sour cream and caviar and champagne. Yeah. It's perfect. It's great. Yeah. It's different. You're not respect, but like a kilo of caviar, if you're in that kind of environment with that kind of, you know, crowd, um, and some chips, it's like overly salty, disrespectful to the caviar, but still really, really nice.
Josh Sharkey [00:44:29]:
And also good. Yeah.
Nilou Motamed [00:44:30]:
Since we're in this world and we're talking on this stuff, a good Dom Perignon, like a good yeasty grower champagne, even like goes so nicely with caviar. My friend Anthony Giglio always says this, it's like a zamboni for your tongue. You have that flavor of all the brine and then you have the champagne that clears and then you go back and have another.
I actually like the taste of caviar to stay in my mouth. So that's why I like the tea, the sweet tea, but I'm never going to say no to that combination. So if anyone wants to invite me to a party where that is being offered,
Josh Sharkey [00:45:01]:
I'm for Calmante Alsace over Dom Perignon.
Nilou Motamed [00:45:02:
Calmante Alsace, also very nice. There's no harm.
We don't have to be champagne snobs.
Josh Sharkey [00:45:10 ]:
So this question, I know how you answer, you're just gonna answer it.
Nilou Motamed [00:45:20]:
Josh Sharkey [00:45:25]:
Uh, the other way.So it's okay. But east coast or west coast oyster, but let's just
Nilou Motamed [00:45:30]:
East coast. East coast. East coast.
Josh Sharkey [00:45:32]:
Really? East coast. Wow.
Nilou Motamed [00:45:33]:
A hundred percent.
Josh Sharkey [00:45:35]:
Wow. Okay. What's your favorite East coast oyster?
Nilou Motamed [00:45:36]:
The farther north you can go. Like, for example, I love a Duxbury from Maine. I love a Maine oyster, but I also love PEI oysters. So I love cool and briny and like, cucumbery and I love oysters, but I like them to be like slurp able, one chew and done.
Josh Sharkey [00:45:49]:
You're not a Kumamoto kind of...
Nilou Motamed [00:45:50]:
I like a Kumamoto. It's just that I don't, like, I will have two dozen East Coast oysters happily with a Bloody Mary on a Tuesday at Balthazar. I've been going to Balthazar since it opened, and I don't care what anyone says, that restaurant is better than it has to be, and I go there for their, for their seafood platters, it makes me so happy, and I mean, so many people do a great job with that, but like, for me, sitting there, having lots of wine and a bunch of oysters.
I don't want any other stuff. I don't want any of the other like cockles. I don't need that. And like the half lobster. If I'm having lobster, I'm having it in Maine at the clam shack. Like I'm very specific about the things. But yeah, oysters to me, cold water, I can't have anything that's like from not icy cold water.
Josh Sharkey [00:46:40]:
Yeah, you know, I have a buddy of mine has an oyster farm in Virginia on the eastern shore.
Nilou Motamed [00:46:41]:
I'm so sorry.
Josh Sharkey [00:46:42]:
Um, I mean look they are they're called swansecots and they're not that right there, but they are actually delicious, but they are very different
Nilou Motamed [00:46:55]:
Yeah, it's not that and by the way, I love going to the west coast and having oysters and I love going But yeah, I like the Bay is great. Like don't like
Josh Sharkey [00:47:04]:
The barbecue oysters, by the way genius
Nilou Motamed [00:47:05]:
Genius. Like standing outside overlooking the water. That's magical. I'm just saying, yeah, warm my taste for raw oysters that I fantasize about. In fact, we were just in Canada when Montreal, and I mean, how genius is it? Uh, the Jean Talon market, they have an oyster stand.
Why don't we have oysters? I mean, I just stood at breakfast time and had a bunch of oysters standing up on the market. Different oysters. Yeah.
Josh Sharkey [00:47:32]:
Acme's not really.
Nilou Motamed [00:47:33]:
I love Acme. Different. Different.
Josh Sharkey [00:47:35]:
Yeah. Yeah. Okay, two more. Actually, maybe three more gonna depend. Okay. So, okay. Greatest soup in the world, other than soupe jo, because you can't say that.
Nilou Motamed [00:47:44]:
So for people who don't know, soupe jo is barley soup from Iran. I, if you are very curious about how I feel about the soup, I did a talk at the welcome conference a few years ago. You can go find that on YouTube. Our greatest soup in the world is pho. It's pho. It's pho. It's pho.
Josh Sharkey [00:48:03]:
Have you ever had the bún bò huế?
Nilou Motamed [00:48:04]:
I love bún bò huế. I've had it in Huế. So not to show off, but um, bún bò huế is beautiful. They're Vietnamese. They do a really nice job with soups. They, they, and I mean, but laksa. I mean, it turns out I love all soups. Uh, I'm a lover of soups. But pho for me is comfort. It feels satisfying in a way that nothing else does. I also love, I love like, it's funny, I just had a burger recently where it didn't have any condiments on it. It was just, you know, the meat and the cheese. Yeah. I understand that's a thing, but like, I love the hot side, hot, cold side, cold thing. And so I love the idea of adding cold elements to a hot dish.
And so the herbs to me are in parallel, the idea of having the lettuce and the cucumber and the pickle. Pickles are also very important to me, but, but, but yeah, so I, for me, pho, which is also very difficult because please tell me where to have grapevine New York. Want to know more about that.
Josh Sharkey [00:49:07]:
Yeah, that's a, that's a real tough one. I have a team in Vietnam and I try to spend time there and there's, I mean, there's so much good pho everywhere, but I almost like don't eat. I just wait till I have to go back there.
Nilou Motamed [00:49:18]:
I would like to come with you to Vietnam because it's been a minute, but yeah, I feel like the way, when you watch them making the pho broth from the night before until the morning and skimming and skimming and skimming, and then you end up with is like super concentrated broth. Of all of the bones and all of that gelatinous deliciously, I don't find that in New York. I find really tasty Vietnamese food, thankfully New York, but I've not yet, it's just not a salt bomb. It's like a flavor. It's like an umami situation. And you know, I'm sure in culinary school and beyond had to make a lot of, of stock and it's really just required time. Time is what it requires and good ingredients.
Josh Sharkey [00:50:01]:
Yeah. And I think it's all just particular ingredients to that because it's just, it hasn't been recreated well for some reason. And there's some really good chefs that,
Nilou Motamed [00:50:08]:
Well, I mean, you need the aromatics and you need to burn your onion and you need to burn the galangal and there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done, but, but still it, the foundation is that stock pot.
Josh Sharkey [00:50:19]:
Yeah, absolutely. Uh, okay. Crispy Crunchy rice. So other than Tadig. Yeah. You have Kon Kon, you have Sokarat, you have Begao, you have like Tutong. There's all kinds of crispy rice all over the world. Other than Tadig, what's your favorite crunchy rice?
Nilou Motamed [00:50:38]:
Why would you to ask somebody who eats Tadig for their, like,
Josh Sharkey [00:50:41]:
Because I know that Tahdig is clearly like,
Nilou Motamed [00:48:03]:
Um, I love Tahdig. I love that there's crunchy rice everywhere on that, like, it's funny that my crunchy rice gets a lot of credit, but I do love, I love paella, so I think a good socarrat and a paella is really, really, really nice. But like, people don't, people are so concerned, this is the challenge with paella though, you put seafood on top of a rice dish and then you're like, oh my god, we need to serve it now because this is all going to overcook. And then lo and behold, then you don't get the crunchy. So it is a challenge because you, people tend to lean towards soupy paella because they want to make sure everything is not overcooked.
I would say skip the seafood, just make a meat paella. Give me the good crunchy stuff.
Josh Sharkey [00:51:26]:
So whenever I make paella, I always will cook the mussels and clean them out and then put them in olive oil, maybe marinate them, cook the clams, take them out of the shell and literally everything so that I cook the paella in the seafood broth and then I just add the seafood at the end. I don't want to mess with like the timing and all that stuff.
Nilou Motamed [00:51:44]:
Jose Andres is going to call us right now and be mad, but it's fine.
Josh Sharkey [00:51:45]:
Yeah. Um, well, that's okay. Okay. This last one. I don't know if this is going to work, but I heard that you love music and I actually, I got a couple recommendations from you inadvertently that you didn't recommend to me, but I read about this guy. Tabu Ley.
Nilou Motamed [00:52:04]:
Oh my God. Yeah. Amazing.
Josh Sharkey [00:52:05]:
But I'm going to flip this around a bit to end this because I also love music. I think it's important when you. You know, for if you're having a party, you have the right music and I love playlists.
Nilou Motamed [00:52:17]:
So I'm going to give you some music. That's incredible. You've really got, you, Josh, you got an A plus. Gold star for all your research.
Josh Sharkey [00:52:25]:
You know, it's, it's important. And also you're a journalist. So if I didn't do some research, I'd be ashamed. So now I'm going to try something. I have no idea if this will work or not. And you can just be like, you know, this is dumb. That's fine.
Nilou Motamed [00:52:35]:
I can do that because this is going to get edited.
Josh Sharkey [00:52:36]:
I'm gonna give you a couple, uh, musicians, and then you tell me food that you would serve.
Nilou Motamed [00:52:43]:
Oh, okay, good, good, good. This is fun. Okay.
Josh Sharkey [00:52:44]:
Willie Bobo, Fela Kuti, Buena Vista, or just Ibrahim Ferrer and Paul Simon. That's your playlist.
Nilou Motamed [00:52:53:
Okay. Okay, here's the thing. I'm gonna ruin this for you because I feel like these are all amazing musicians and to me I do feel really like connected to music and um, my husband is a musician I'm by the way in case you're wondering i'm in his office. That's why there's all this musical equipment in here I've always been into music. He's like next level into music So i've been very lucky in that I get to benefit from that. He makes incredible playlists. I don't want to listen to music that's directly correlated to the food that I'm eating.
I just want a vibe. And so the musicians you talked about are all about soul and all about telling a story in the language that often I don't understand. But the idea of like that thing that stirs you inside that makes you want to lean into the person next to you and talk a little bit more and hear more about their story.
That to me is what's amazing about music when we go see we just went to see live music. Okay, I'm gonna give you another one. Have you heard of Amadou & Mariam?
Josh Sharkey [00:53:57]:
Nilou Motamed [00:53:58]:
Okay. So these are blind singers from Africa and they are exceptional and we actually, one of the first shows that we went to where not wearing masks, like, you know, at a gig downtown was them and the energy that they have and the musicianship and he plays guitar, the outfits and the costumes and like the pride in their heritage knocks me out. And so to me, music makes me feel like even if I'm not traveling, I'm transported. So we, I told you we were just in Turkey. Uh, I was listening to Turkish pop. I don't understand Turkish music. I just love the vibes. Like I felt like it was giving me a lot of love. And so for me, listening to any music, but specifically music from elsewhere, just expand my heart, which is what I'm in for.
So I mean, the food I'm always going to serve is soulful food that everyone can dig into. I love meals that have like no beginning and no end and just kind of go from one thing to another. The challenge with Persian food is it's not like that at all. It's so time consuming and meticulous. So when the food is ready, like everyone's sit down. The good thing is though, like the rice just keeps on getting better. The braise and the stews are, can sit. The kebab once it's done, once you're done, you know, getting smoke in your hair, it's ready. Yeah. Food to me is more I would say ta da, you know, like that moment of like food. Sometimes I think people, especially people who are in industry, think of food as something that's like a showpiece.
I really think of it as more of. A showcase now, I don't know if that nuance is clear But I do think like rather than it being something where you shine a bright spotlight on it and then it's like this moment where like everyone claps. Although I do enjoy a little bit of clapping when my tadig actually does turn out and it's a whole perfect glowy crunchy piece, but I really feel like it's just a little bit of a backdrop to this coming together and this communion that we have around food.
That to me is what food culture is about. Of course, we want it to be delicious, but I think it's more important that it just opens us up to talking to each other and being engaged and being present. That's what I'm going to say.
Josh Sharkey [00:56:21]:
Yeah. It's a great point. It's also why it's hard to create playlists for restaurants.
Nilou Motamed [00:56:27]:
Josh Sharkey [00:56:28]:
We spend a lot of time, you know, the playlist for the weekend morning and the weekend evening and the weekday evening and the weekday morning and when do you play hip hop versus when do you pay Paul Simon and when do you play David Byrne, like, and there's different times when that type of music is just the vibe and it doesn't have to do with the actual content of the music, but like the
Nilou Motamed [00:56:49]:
Perfect example is this hotel I was at, Macakizi In Bodrum. It has a global clientele, they play global music, it never feels like they're playing global music, it just feels like the vibe is 100 percent correct at all times. Sometimes it's like 70s disco, sometimes it's like 50s ska, like, it just like, you know, I don't know if there was ska in the 50s, uh,
Josh Sharkey [00:57:08]:
I don't know when that came about.
Nilou Motamed [00:57:09]:
Then 60s reggae, you know, I think that the truth of it is that we are such polyglots. When it comes to music these days, it's just about more the beat and the vibe and the rhythm than it is about what you're playing. That said, it can go so wrong so easily. So I mean, I'm, I've walked out of many restaurants because the music was killing me after I ordered, obviously.
Josh Sharkey [00:57:38]:
Yeah, yeah, no, I know, I know the feeling. Well,
Nilou Motamed [00:57:39]:
Okay, we covered everything.
Josh Sharkey [00:57:40]:
Nilou, yeah, even though we could do a few more hours, this was so awesome, and I really appreciate you taking time out of your day, because I know you were really busy. But I had a lot of fun. Thank you. And I thought this was such a pleasure.
Nilou Motamed [00:57:57]:
Thank you so much for having me, Josh. I loved spending time with you. And I can't wait to listen.
Thanks for tuning into The meez Podcast. The music from the show is a remix of the song Art Mirror by an old friend, hip hop artist, Fresh Daily. For show notes and more, visit getmeez.com/podcast. That's G E T M E E Z dot com forward slash podcast. If you enjoyed the show, I'd love it if you can share it with fellow entrepreneurs and culinary pros, and give us a five star rating wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Keep innovating, don't settle, make today a little bit better than yesterday, and remember, it's impossible for us to learn what we think we already know. See you next time.