San francisco restaurants

New podcast explores San Francisco restaurants’ struggle to survive

A new podcast explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on some of San Francisco’s most vulnerable businesses: restaurants.

For nearly 15 years, Marcia Gagliardi wrote Tablehopper, an “e-column” about the Bay Area food and beverage industry. Although she did radio spots on KGO (her segment was called “You Gotta Eat This”), she had never hosted a podcast before. But seeing the impact of the crisis on her restaurant friends inspired her to act.

“I thought it was so important for people to take a closer look at how hard these people work to keep a few people employed, to keep the lights on,” Gagliardi said.

Launched in less than a month, Gagliardi’s podcast is aptly titled “On the Fly.” The name is inspired by kitchen slang when a dish is forgotten or needs an urgent last-minute addition, but it also reflects how restaurants in SF have had to improvise during a difficult and uncertain time.

Marcia Gagliardi, host of “On the Fly”. | Photo: Scott Saraceno/Courtesy Marcia Gagliardi

The podcast’s first guest is Laurence Jossel, executive chef and co-owner of Nopa de Divisadero. The restaurant opened in 2006, the same year Gagliardi launched Tablehopper, and the couple have a long-standing bond.

“Laurence is just the heart of our community,” said Gagliardi, who has lived near Divisadero for 25 years. “[For the first episode], I wanted someone who would be inspiring for people to listen to, because he’s so interconnected with all his relationships with the farms and all the people in the neighborhood, and his fellow restaurateurs and customers. He’s able to really leverage all of those relationships to help them through this time right now.

In his episode, Jossel explains how his Divisadero neighbors have banded together to help each other. The Arcade Emporium bar lent Nopa candlesticks to control his pick-up lines, while nearby Italian restaurant Che Fico, which provides free meals to families in need, taught him safe pick-up practices.

“The consumer doesn’t know how to act in this situation,” Gagliardi explained. “‘Are we in? Are we at the table? So it’s important for restaurants to guide the consumer in how they want us to behave.”

Laurence Jossel (left) and Jeff Hanak, co-owners of Nopa. | Photo: Nopa/Facebook

The second episode of “On the Fly” features restaurateur Laurie Thomas, owner of Cow Hollow’s Rose’s Cafe and Terzo and executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. She and Gagliardi discuss the 15% cap the Mayor of London Breed has placed on commissions for third-party restaurant delivery apps.

Other episodes featured Kim Alter, chef-owner of Nightbird, and Evan Kidera, owner of Señor Sisig. Alter discusses the possibility of pivoting his small gourmet restaurant to cook hundreds of meals a day for frontline healthcare workers and those in need, while Kidera explains the challenges of running a restaurant location and a fleet of catering trucks during shelter-in-place.

Kim Alter prepares box lunches for those in need at her Hayes Valley restaurant, Nightbird. | Photo: SF New Deal/Facebook

Gagliardi also benefited from the help of his community. Volunteer Lola Yen serves as producer and editor of her show, while designer Erik Schmitt created a free logo for the podcast.

“Everyone is going through a tough time, but I want ‘On the Fly’ to help inspire people in some form or way of doing things,” Gagliardi said. “Stories of people helping others during one of the most difficult times in our lives. »

Gagliardi says she feels that inspiration every time she stops by her favorite local restaurants for takeout. She remembers seeing Jossel’s smile the first time she picked up one of Nopa’s famous burgers to take home.

“It was a very interesting moment about an iconic restaurant in our city and an iconic dish,” she said. “It’s like everything makes a lot more sense right now.”

Listen to “On The Fly” here or subscribe through Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast services.