The meez Podcast

Season 1 Finale: David Santos of Foxface Natural

November 28, 2023 Josh Sharkey Season 1 Episode 40
The meez Podcast
Season 1 Finale: David Santos of Foxface Natural
Show Notes Transcript

#40. As we close out season one, The meez Podcast welcomes Chef David Santos. Growing up as a first generation Portuguese American, Dave was immersed in every aspect of food since a young age. He started his culinary career as a 2001 graduate of Johnson & Wales University. He then traveled throughout Europe and South America, soaking up the culinary heritage of the visited countries and their cuisines rooted in peak quality seasonal ingredients.

Santos later worked at acclaimed restaurants like Per Se and Bouley (where he met meez CEO, Josh Sharkey) as well as Nicholas and The Ryland Inn. By launching Um Segredo, a series of supper clubs hosted at his Roosevelt Island home, Santos established his own culinary voice and quickly developed a cult following. In 2012, he opened Louro in the West Village to much acclaim.

In this episode, Josh Sharkey and Dave touch on the beauty and culture of Portuguese food, the excitement of opening and running his supper club series, Um Segredo, and his new and thriving restaurant, Foxface, which recently earned 3 stars in The New York Times.

Josh and Dave end the episode by discussing the controversy of food critics, Dave's YouTube channel, and what's next in the pipeline for Dave and Foxface.

Where to find Dave Santos: 

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

In this episode, we cover:

(03:26) Dave's family and food background
(12:14) Portuguese cuisine's influence on other cultures
(18:51) Tinned Fish
(21:25) Pastéis de Nata and recreating it in the States
(30:41) Foxface and its origin
(39:28) Um Segredo and who should and shouldn't host professional Supper Clubs
(46:33) Lessons learned from cooking that influence Dave today
(22:03) How bad experiences can teach you the greatest lessons
(1:05:16) Food critics and their place in the culinary industry

[00:00:00] Josh Sharkey: 

Welcome to the meez podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.


Today is the last official guest interview of season one of the meez podcast. We'll be doing some recaps and other fun content in between seasons and we'll kick off season two just after the new year in 2024. So my guest for today's show is an old friend. and a super talented chef named Dave Santos.


We met over two decades ago, well almost two decades ago, cooking at Bouley's restaurant and became fast friends. Dave is of Portuguese descent. He was American born but his family is all from Portugal and actually the first time I ever had Dave's food was actually this seafood soup that he made for staff meal that we still talk about to this day because it was just friggin delicious.


And I'd never had anything like it. And then I couldn't stop asking questions about Portugal and Portuguese food. We talk a lot about that today, so we'll dig into that. Dave and his team were just awarded three stars from the New York Times for Foxface, a restaurant born out of a former sandwich shop that is crushing it in New York City with this sort of contrarian approach to proteins that you might expect.


Serving things like kangaroo and camel, to name a few. Dave also had one of the most successful underground supper clubs. called Um Segredo that he ran out of his old apartment in Roosevelt Island, and guess what, take like the tram or ferry over to dine with him. We talk a little bit about what it is like to run a supper club and why most folks shouldn’t, and we definitely talk about Foxface, but we spent a lot of time talking about Portugal, the history of the country and the impact that it had on the culinary world.


In so many ways, I learned a ton, but we talk about food critics. And the value that they bring and sometimes the things that make it difficult to run a restaurant because of them and maybe the responsibility that we think they could and should have in journalism. Anyways, I had an awesome time. It was longer than we had expected it to be because we just couldn't stop talking and I learned a lot. And as always, I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did.

[00:02:28] Dave Santos: 

Hi. how are you doing?

[00:02:34] Josh Sharkey: 

Mr. Dave Santos. What's going on? So nice to see you. 

[00:02:36] Dave Santos: 

You as well. It's been too long. 

[00:02:38] Josh Sharkey: 

It has. Well, welcome to the show. Thank you. I am just delighted to have you here. I was thinking about this today on the ride over here that we worked together 19 years ago.

[00:02:50] Dave Santos: 

Has it been 19 years? 

[00:02:51] Josh Sharkey: 

19 years ago. I just said 15. Yeah. At Bouley. And that's dating ourselves because, you know, I was in my twenties. I think you were in your twenties. Actually, we... Graduated from Johnson and Wales. 

[00:03:04] Dave Santos: 

Johnson and Wales, so we actually have a prehistory. 

[00:03:07] Josh Sharkey: 

That's right. Although I don't remember if we like, knew each other.

[00:03:10] Dave Santos: 

I would see you at the gym because you were on the wrestling team. Yes. And I was on the baseball team. That's right. So we used to see, we used to cross paths. 

[00:03:17] Josh Sharkey: 

That’s right. And then I separated my shoulder at a tournament, I think at Cornell or something. And that was the end of wrestling for me. Anyways, um, glad to have you here, man.


I would love it if you could kind of wind this up a little bit with how you got here and your background, but I wanted to sort of preface it by today, I wanted to talk about Portuguese food a little bit with you, as well as, of course, your uber successful new restaurant, Foxface, and Um Segredo. Yeah, absolutely.


I'd like to get some learnings from that. And then maybe we can talk a little bit about your thoughts on food critics and the value of the world. I've been on those thoughts. So anyways, to wind everybody up, Chef Dave Santos. A little bit of your background.

[00:03:57] Dave Santos: 

I'm a first generation Portuguese American. Both my parents immigrated here. My dad in 75, I think it was. And my mom in 76, or 74 and 75, one of those. And I grew up in Jersey. 

[00:04:13] Josh Sharkey: 

So English is their second language.

[00:04:14] Dave Santos: 

English is their second language. English is their, it's, technically it's my second language. Technically, the first language I learned growing up was Portuguese, and then I learned English.


I actually almost got held back in school because I couldn't grasp English. So I grew up in Jersey, Portuguese community in Perth Amboy, small, uh, couple dots around the world of Portuguese communities, San Diego, Toronto. Newark, New Jersey, all have small Portuguese communities that most people went to when they came over.

[00:04:47] Josh Sharkey: 

So just a quick question, like, do Portuguese communities sort of gravitate to the Brazilian communities too? My sister lives in Framingham where there's just tons of Brazilian. 

[00:04:59] Dave Santos: 

So the Portuguese immigration kind of predates the Brazilian coming over. And it also like the Azoreans all kind of came for whatever reason to like the Cape, you know, Boston, that area, mainland Portuguese people.


Well, the, one of the first largest immigrations from Portugal is actually to Hawaii, uh, because they were giving basically free citizenships for the Portuguese to work or for anybody, but the Portuguese took advantage of it to work in the cane fields. And so that was the first big migration, basically of Portuguese to America.


They went there and San Diego for the fishing industry. And after that, there was a. There's actually a pretty decent sized migration of Portuguese to, uh, New York. Kind of the West Village area. Even today, there's still some dots of things. Uh, some Portuguese stores and things that still kind of exist, but it's almost all gone now.


But that kind of happened in, after Salazar came out of power. That... Really when the first, you know, after him was New York and then Newark was a huge one, obviously in Toronto as well. Most of those people are all from the mainland, the Azoreans. For whatever reason, the Azoreans mostly went into New England.


Yeah. Essentially. A lot more seafood fishing. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's, they're seafaring people. Yeah. So, you know, anything with the ocean, like, that's why Toronto is very interesting to me because it's like, Landlocked. Yeah, there's no lake. There's not a lake. But 

[00:06:34] Josh Sharkey: 

Yeah. So Portuguese background, which we're going to dig into a bunch.

And then I don't remember, you went to culinary school, Johnson and Wales. Yeah. I think you, maybe we're cooking before that. But like, what was you, how did you sort of come up in the food world? 

[00:06:46] Dave Santos: 

So I mean, being Portuguese, like my parents, they're both, they were kind of both poor farmers. You know, in Portugal. And so when they came over, they brought that with them. So our lives are very much around like gardening, raising rabbits, and pigeons for food. And, and so like I grew up, I used to joke, like I grew up having learned how to kill a rabbit, a pig. A chicken by a very young age. So like my childhood was very immersed in food as I think most first generation, you know, kids are, because they can't, you know, usually people come over and they do what they know, right.


And for my parents, it was gardening, farming, working hard, you know, and so I grew up in food essentially. And as I got older, I was only really good at two things. baseball and cooking. Like, I was a terrible student. I'm dyslexic, so messed up my, you know, education a little bit because I never said anything.


I just, I found out later in life that's what, that's why I couldn't read very well. 

[00:07:59] Josh Sharkey: 

What'd your parents do by the way?

[00:08:00] Dave Santos: 

So my dad, To this day, guy's an animal, he unloads trucks at Foodtown, which is a grocery store. He started working there when he first came over, pushing carts back in the day. Guys, people pushing carts.


So that's where he started, and he's been there ever since. So he's literally almost 50 years in the same profession. He's not retired yet. He's 74 years old and he's still unloading trucks. 74 years old. Yeah, it's wild. My mother, she did a couple different things when she first came over. But through the most of my life, her primary work was like cleaning houses and stuff.


That was what she did for, you know, her end of the work between the two. Yeah. 

[00:08:47] Josh Sharkey: 

So you being a chef is definitely divergent from... 

[00:08:49] Dave Santos: 

Yeah, for sure. I mean, listen, they wanted a better life for their... All their children, you know, as I think every parent does for their child. Now that they're disappointed in the, in the work that I do, but, you know, it's the life is a grind, you know, as, as you well know, and you know, they didn't necessarily want that life, you know, for, they came from a grinding life, you know, they're obviously they're very proud of it, but food is just what I did.


And so it was kind of a natural thing. That's why I went to Johnson and Wales because. Culinary, and they had a division three baseball team, so that's why, it's literally why I chose that college, to go to.

[00:09:28] Josh Sharkey: 

Yeah, it's so funny, it's the same reason I went there, is because I was supposed to go to college for wrestling, I really wanted to cook, in the country.

[00:09:35] Dave Santos: 

Yeah, it's wild, yeah I know, I know. 

[00:09:36] Josh Sharkey: 

But they were, you know, coming up into that when I came there, but I wouldn't have gone there otherwise, I'd never heard of them.

[00:09:41] Dave Santos:

Yeah, well that's what I'm saying, not too far before us, like even the, the baseball team, I think for four to six years before I started going there, they were basically a club team, you know, there's, it wasn't that they haven't been a division, you know, three team for all that long, you know, for, you know, as colleges go.


So it was, that was one of the most attractive things to me was like, Hey, I can go there and play baseball, dude. I'm five foot four, right? I've never had any delusions of, of playing for professional baseball, but I was really good. You know, I was a really good ball player and I did love playing, so I wanted to elongate that love.


As long as I could, within reason, right? Like, you know, again, I never thought I'd go pro or anything. 

[00:10:29] Josh Sharkey: 

So what'd you do after culinary school? Where'd you go work? 

[00:10:30] Dave Santos: 

So I went back to Jersey to start. I worked at a place. It's still there. It's changed hands quite a bit now. It's called the Ryland Inn. Oh, yeah.

[00:10:38] Dave Santos: 

Yeah. At the time it was under a chef named Craig Shelton. That's right. That's right. Super genius kind of guy in super intense environment. Like. Well, old French style of work, one crew lunch and dinner, you know, so you worked 80, 80, 90, yeah, 80, 90 hours a week. You know, the whole thing, I was only there for about six months or so, something like that.


Then I got into a fight, so we won't get too deep into that, but, and then, uh, went to a place called Restaurant Nicholas, which was the, you know, basically the number one restaurant in Jersey for a very long time. And then I came to New York where I went to Bouley, met you, went to Per Se, moved to Chicago for a little bit, just for like a year, enjoyed it, but yeah, enjoyed it, but didn't like love it.


And, uh, got a job offer from. Nicholas Harary, the owner of Restaurant Nicholas, to come back to be the CDC of Restaurant Nicholas, which then I was there for three years as the CDC. 

[00:11:45] Josh Sharkey: 

Well, and there's a lot more after that, which we're going to talk about. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But, before we dig into Foxface and Um Segredo


like, I just wanted to, just for a minute, jam out on... Portuguese food, because I think, I've, I love working with you, but I think the thing I always remember most is this seafood soup that you made for staff meal, which, by the way, staff meal at most restaurants can be pretty incredible. At Boulet, great restaurant staff meal.

[00:12:14] Dave Santos: 

Nobody was there to work

[00:12:14] Josh Sharkey: 

but you made this seafood soup that I would always ask you to make. We would make it like once every, well, I think you made it once. I was like, what is this? And you're like, this is just the typical, you know, Portuguese stew. So like, what is, what should people know about Portuguese cuisine?

And like, how has it like effect impacted how you cook today? 

[00:12:33] Dave Santos: 

For me, the thing I think people, I would love people to know more about Portuguese cuisine is the actual impact Portugal has had on cuisine in the world. Okay. Because Portugal was such a vast, you know, colonizing kind of country. And not even, obviously colonizing, but also just with trade agreements because they're so seafaring.


Like Japan is a perfect example. The Portuguese were the only country to be allowed to trade with Japan for a hundred years, 98 years it was. And there's an entire cuisine in Japan called a barbarian cuisine that's based around. Portuguese influences on Japan. So things that people know today, like tempura, it's actually Portuguese.

[00:13:30] Dave Santos: 

It's comes from temporada and it comes from this bean that there's a dish called the Peixinhos da horta, which means fish of the garden. And what they were, were green beans. that are battered, tempura fried, and then they're actually stored on ships because they're fried, they can last a really long time.


And so the ship faring people that would go to Japan had these on them. And so they taught them how to make them. And that developed into tempura. 

[00:14:05] Josh Sharkey: 

It is Insane, if you think about it, how much of an impact this tiny little country had in the world.

[00:14:09] Dave Santos: 

I'm telling you, the vindaloo, everybody knows vindaloo, right? That's actually Portuguese, or inspired by a Portuguese dish. Same idea, vindaloo comes from, uh, pork that would be stored in barrels. With garlic and wine it would vinegar out so it almost turned into like a pickled pork. Mm hmm over the sea trips so Vinha d alhos wine and garlic Vino d alho Vindaloo I had no idea. Yeah, so they took 

[00:14:48] Josh Sharkey:

Do they still make that today? 

[00:14:50] Dave Santos:

Yeah, that's, that's still, you know, kind of, uh, I wouldn't say it's as common, you know, as it once was. 

[00:14:58] Josh Sharkey: 

It's interesting. It seems like a lot of these foods were created out of necessity. 

[00:15:01] Dave Santos: 

Oh, I mean, a hundred percent. It's, you know, as rich of a country as it was at that time, there's obviously still lots of class, you know, bananas were I remember my mother talking about bananas and being like, that was like a gift, like you gave a gift of a banana, you know, because not everybody can afford it.


But a lot of foods come from necessity. But for me, like I said, I think, you know, the impact that Portugal has had on food across the world. I think it's super important to me. There's so many very famous dishes that didn't exist before the Portuguese kind of got involved. And a lot of these dishes come from like, you know, Vindaloo obviously isn't made like that in Portugal.


It's a result of, Hey, I have this product and then I'm here in Goa or where, you know, Goa in particular. And yeah, yeah, let's use the ingredients of the land, you know, of the land. 

[00:16:02] Josh Sharkey: 

And I have like a million questions now, but so, I mean, you choose because I want to learn a little bit more about tinfish because I know that's really big in Portugal.


And it's generally speaking, like how diverse is the cuisine and the culture throughout this tiny country of Portugal? 

[00:16:17] Dave Santos: 

You know, it's, it's interesting. We all know, well, most people in food know about like the relationship between cod. Right. And Portugal, there is not a cod anywhere near Portugal.


Right. So this, this is a national ditch, right? So Portuguese settlers came to Nova Scotia. They would go on these crazy trips, settlements, salt cod, bring it back. Portugal is one of the only countries that I know of. That went and got a national dish, right, right. Think about that. That's wild, right? Like this is not something that's eaten normally, you know, or it wasn't until they developed a trade around it, you know?


So from like an ingredient standpoint, it's diverse, but it's all is still very localized. So it's a combination of things like, you don't see like one of relating to tins, but One of the more famous tins in Portugal is actually mackerel and curry oil. Like, that's, that tin has been around for hundreds of years because of the relationship in Goa.


So, when it comes to that, there are a lot of... Cultural diversity, as far as food is concerned, but on the everyday basis, it's simple. Like, a lot of it is very simple. It's local, it's...

[00:17:42] Josh Sharkey: 

What I meant is, for example, in Mexico, or in India, or really in America, like, you can't... Or China, like there isn't Mexican food, there's food from Oaxaca or from Puebla or from Yucatan and India, you know, you have, Goa is very different from Kashmiri or in Portugal, are there different sort of segmentations of?

[00:18:02] Dave Santos: 

There's, again, I think to that, I don't know if the, it's that diverse because it is such a small country. There's definitely things areas are way more known for. You know, when you go to the South, it's almonds and figs and you know, because the climate is warmer and it's seafaring, you know, all the oceans there.


So you see tons of olives and stuff. 

[00:18:27] Josh Sharkey: 

What's the size relative to like 

[00:18:29] Dave Santos: 

Connecticut, I think it is something like that. It's I can't remember off the top of my head, but it might have the Google app, but I think it's like Connecticut. Yeah, you can drive across it in an hour and a half to two hours from the thing.


From top to bottom, it's about six hours, six to seven hours, uh, drive. Oh wow. So that's, yeah, it's not that Pennsylvania probably. I know something. 

[00:18:51] Josh Sharkey: 

So what is like the, what is the culture of tinned fish in Portugal? Because you, the way that you're talking about, it sounds like people have their go-to tins and Sure.


And there's, I don't know if there's different, if someone owns the market of manufacturing them or if there's artists, you know, tin makers.

[00:19:04] Dave Santos: 

Yeah. Yeah. It's a little bit everything. I mean, obviously you're seeing a big resurgence of it now. Like Jose Gourmet is probably one of the. Newer tins and, you know, just getting involved in, I mean, every, all the other, if you look at like Minerva, like those companies, literally over a hundred years old, all of them.

[00:19:24] Josh Sharkey: Has the process changed for them?

[00:19:25] Dave Santos:

Not a whole lot. I mean, tinning is tinning. I mean, from a production standpoint, it probably has changed, but everything is still hand packed, hand sorted. You know, steam jacketed cooked, and then, uh, usually hand labeled most of them. It's just always been part of culture.

[00:19:47] Josh Sharkey: 

Do you use them in your cooking still today?

[00:19:48] Dave Santos: 

Not in the restaurant. Sometimes we do things in the restaurant. I've done like tinned fish dinners and stuff like that with my pop up, which is awesome. But, you know, you can do lots of different dishes with them, but truly, most of the time, they're literally eaten out of tin.

[00:20:05] Josh Sharkey: 

I find like, I'll just... You know, at night, some matzah and butter, some tinned fish. 

[00:20:11] Dave Santos: 

Yeah fantastic. You can't go wrong. Like, you can't go wrong. It's just the quality, the problem in America is that, you know, those tins, sardines, whatever it is, you know, they're made like shit, they're used, you know, shitty product and you end up with shit.


You shit, get shit. Right. That's what I always say. And so. It's gotten such a bad name here in America for so long, you know, like if you ate tins, sardines or whatever, like you were poor, like you were nothing, you know, in Portugal is part of life, you know, same in obviously Spain and France and all these 10 cultures, you know, it's just looked at differently, you know, and it's not expensive.

[00:20:56] Josh Sharkey: 

Is there a, like a. an iteration of like the Ventresco tuna belly that gets, you know, cured in Spain, in Portugal?

[00:21:02] Dave Santos: 

They, I've seen it more over recent years, but I guess I've been looking at, I guess, a little bit more as well, where there are different separations of belly and stuff like that, especially the stuff, some of the stuff coming out of the Azores.


Yeah. I think, uh, has separation. I don't think that used to be the case before, but you know, before it was. Tuna. 

[00:21:25] Josh Sharkey: 

What about Pastéis de Nata? Like what, what's the origin of that? Okay. Best, where do I get it in New York? And second, what's the origin? Because it seems obviously like, it feels like there's some sort of French influence there, 

Dave Santos: [00:21:37] 

making Pastéis de Belém or Pastéis de Nata at the like nunnery or whatever it is that, that, that started them for, I dunno, 300 years, 400 years, something like that.


Maybe even longer. So it is not, it does not have like the French influence that, uh, you know, it's a laminate dough, but it's not like a croissant. It's a little bit different. You pin, you make a laminate dough, then you pinwheel it like a cinnamon roll. Then you cut it like a cinnamon roll. Then you take that and you put it face upward.


Then with your thumb. You fill the mold, and so when it bakes, layered and flaky, but not like elevated, it doesn't puff, you know?

[00:22:23] Josh Sharkey: 

And is it just a standard custard? 

[00:22:28] Dave Santos: 

It's just standard custard. What makes them the most famous, I think, is the way they're cooked. They're cooked at a pretty high temperature. So that the outside gets crisp and the top gets caramelized.

[00:22:38] Josh Sharkey: 

So like fast and hot?

[00:22:39] Dave Santos:

Yeah, I don't, there's no like water bath or anything like that. They're literally, like if you go to Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, which everyone should go to if they're in Lisbon, that, you know, have, they now have glass windows were into their operation. So you can kind of watch them making it.


It's pretty wild. And it's just, they just jam. I think I asked one of the servers there once. I think they make. 20,000 a day or something like that, like, it's something wild. Yeah

[00:23:06] Josh Sharkey: 

The original Cronut. 

[00:23:07] Dave Santos: 

Oh yeah, like, literally, the people are lined up. Yeah. To get, and they're worth, they're totally worth it. Totally worth it. They're so different there than they are here. There's a... 

[00:23:18] Josh Sharkey: 


[00:23:22] Dave Santos: 

The baking, the way they bake it. 

[00:23:25] Josh Sharkey:

Why can't someone recreate that here? What's the... 

[00:23:26] Dave Santos:

Because they should be baked and served. 

[00:23:27] Josh Sharkey: 

Oh, gotcha. But, again, I mean... 

[00:23:28] Dave Santos: 

Can you do it here? Sure, of course.

[00:23:29] Josh Sharkey:

Is there anybody that's doing that?

[00:23:30] Dave Santos: 

I guess Joey Bats. I think he has a spot on the Lower East Side. He might have two spots actually now. Uh, he's doing a good job. I think he's doing the best one. I think it's called Joey Bats Cafe. I mean, he loves, he has a passion for Pastéis de Nata, and so he is trying to do them very well here, and I think he does a really good job.

[00:23:49] Dave Santos: 

Stuff in Newark you can get, like, same day, you know, kind of thing, are very good. I have not seen any that reach the pinnacle. of what you get in Portugal, though, sadly. And I remember one of the first, you know, I grew up having them, right? And they were like, whatever to me. Then I would go to Portugal, and a friend of our family had a bakery, and he made the town's bread and all those things.


And again, I love cooking, so I did a couple shifts at the bakery as a kid. And, uh, I remember helping taking out the Pastéis Nata and then letting them cool a little bit and like eating one like warm like a fucking epiphany, man. Like it was crazy. It was so crispy, so creamy and caramelized sugar and. It's like you get that brulee top, like the creme brulee, but it's like super warm and it's wild.


It's so good. It's so good. And 

[00:24:48] Josh Sharkey: 

You know, I was talking about this with, who was this with, um, with Nilou once a minute, we were talking about pho and why are these things that we just can't recreate in the States? You have to reverse engineer some of these things and just make them. 

[00:25:01] Dave Santos: 

It's not about reverse engineering. It's about. production, I think. And here in the States, especially with something like that, I think we produce for days, right? We produce, we're looking to make this product as much of it as possible to sell as much as possible. And then inevitably people cut corners and, you know, so if you just followed the recipe that the nuns were making 500 years ago, but you would have that product.

[00:25:32] Josh Sharkey: 

There are certainly enough restaurants that have a high enough check average that could probably do it. And maybe just because it's so simple, they would have to sort of elevate it somehow. It doesn't become, it's a conundrum. It's like this, it's like this innovators dilemma of anybody that could afford to make this simple dish, which is crazy, by the way.


Um, can't, but if you could afford to, then you don't. 

[00:25:56] Dave Santos: 

Yeah, it's really weird. It's weird that way. It's, you know, cause I don't know, like costs of things are different. 

[00:26:03] Josh Sharkey: 

I mean, you know, I don't know how many can sell. I'm sure Dominique Ansel could figure out how to make it delicious. 

[00:26:06] Dave Santos: 

Of course. I mean, 100 percent he can. I mean

[00:26:09] Josh Sharkey: 

Dominique Ansel if you're listening. Yeah, exactly. Can you please make us Pastéis de Nata? 

[00:26:14] Dave Santos: 

Well, you will get people lining up. I mean, the thing, it's funny, it's, I understand what you're saying. Can you charge enough for it in America? Right. You have to remember like these things, like when you go to Portugal, like you buy them by the fucking sleeve. Yeah. You know, and there's 

[00:26:30] Josh Sharkey: 

But like, but they're not, and they're not expensive though.

[00:26:32] Dave Santos: 

No, that's what I'm saying. You have this thing that is handmade, hand created by, you literally watch the bakers sitting there with their thumbs filling 20,000 molds a day. You buy them by the sleeve, and they're like, less than a dollar a piece. 

[00:26:48] Josh Sharkey: 

It's so interesting. There's something there about the... I think in America, we have an inclination to optimize.


So, we have something that's working, and there are people doing it. How do we... Make it faster.


How do we make this at scale? How do we make it faster? How do we make, create more efficiencies from it? Yeah. And. 

[00:27:06] Dave Santos: 

Which doesn't always make it better. 

[00:27:08] Josh Sharkey: 

Doesn't always make it better. But you know, you think about, yeah, if there's a person to hand making this thing and you're charging 30 cents for it. Yeah. You know, that's a tough model unless you're crushing it, but people do it. 

[00:27:21] Dave Santos: 

It's butter. It's not like, you know, it's not like bullshit shortening. It's literally this thing that you have to make with butter, hands, fill hand stuff, wash when the oven, like there's so much touch to it, you know, person touch to it that it would automatically be more expensive here in the States.


Right. Cause you know, our labor costs are totally different here, but I just. Also, I don't think people want to do that work. You know, I think that's part of the loss of the artisan, a little bit, you know. So I think that's part of it as well. But imagine you'd have to pay six people to hand stuff. 

[00:28:01] Josh Sharkey: 

Well, and you'd also be probably paying, you know, folks that wouldn't be nearly as fast or...

[00:28:05] Dave Santos: 

I mean, these people, I'm telling you, you gotta watch. I think I'll probably have a video of it on my phone. These people are literal machines. Yeah. 

[00:28:13] Josh Sharkey: 

We'll definitely need to share that video. Yeah. But you know, it's funny. There's so many things in, not just Portugal, but everywhere, like where the world takes it, not just America, and turns it into something else.


Yeah. I think of, I love port and Madeira, like, you know, I love it. I can't drink now, unfortunately, because of some allergies, but there are obviously incredible ports and Madeiras. I mostly sort of correlate them with things like preserving black truffles and, you know, making a sauce with red wine and port, of course, having a port, you know, after dinner with, you know, but what's your, you know, what's your take on port these days?


And is it, has it changed in, in Portugal? 

[00:28:55] Dave Santos: 

One thing that the Portuguese aren't great at is change their stubborn country. They're stubborn people. You know, myself included. And so, when you look at industries that have been around for hundreds of years, you don't often see change. It just doesn't happen.


And so, most of those industries like port and stuff, they're literally... the same. I mean, they've grown and obviously, you know, that sort of thing, but the method of making them the method of doing them doesn't change. Like they just don't change and they don't want to change, which is fine. You know, if you're doing something well, then keep doing it.


You know, all the only time you see change is like what I was saying earlier, when you have an upstart come in, like Jose Gourmet or something like that. Then you'll start to see a little bit of change, but you know, when you're talking about port again, I haven't done any sort of research or anything, but I can't think of a

[00:29:58] Dave Santos: 

port company that's probably less than 50, 60 years old, I think, you know, you have the tailors, the croft, the, you know, all those like been around forever. Yeah. So 

[00:30:08] Josh Sharkey: 

It is happening with things in Madeira, but it's a different, different thing. Was it a Rare thing called Rare Company? Right. Is that what it's called?


But possibly. Uh, all right. Anyways, we talked about Portugal enough. That was my, that was my selfishness. I just wanted to dig into that. Let's talk about. Something that isn't Portuguese, which is your new restaurant Foxface. By the way, congrats, three stars New York Times. Thank you. That is, for those of you that don't know, that is really fucking hard to do.


There are not many of them. And it just, even today, it's still incredibly difficult to get three stars. And you did it. 

[00:30:40] Dave Santos: 

We did. I didn't. We did. 

[00:30:41] Josh Sharkey: 

We did. You and your team did it. So, what is Foxface? Tell us a little bit about the concept. And then I have, you know, some other questions. 

[00:30:48] Dave Santos: 

Yeah. So, Foxface is funny. Foxface is the company, if you will, uh, or the brand was started by two people, Sivan and Ori. Two people I've known for literally 20 years. I actually met them at Bouley. They're super food people, and I first came across them on one of the food boards, like eGullet or something that I was active on for a while.


I believe Ori's offices at the time were down by Bouley, so he and Sivan would come in for lunch all the time, and Yeah, we just became very good friends and over the last 20 years, we've just been good friends. You know, they're so passionate. I mean, they're extremely successful people. They're amazing at their personal work, you know, and what they do, but they've always loved restaurants and food and super passionate about that.


And so. They moved to Japan a little bit after the tsunami happens, they opened a branch of their business in Japan and Tokyo and they took the opportunity while being there because, you know, Japan being so food driven to do like a little pop up stuff and, you know, do some creating and everything. And so when they came back, finally.


They wanted to open just a small, like, sandwich shop, and that was called Foxface, right? And so I helped them develop some of the stuff for there, you know, just getting purveyors, nothing crazy, they really were the creatives behind, like, the sandwiches and stuff. And, uh, they grew Foxface, it was tiny, it was a tiny, tiny, tiny little thing, but they grew it, and it was very successful, they even got a time to review.


for a sandwich shop, which is kind of weird, 

[00:32:26] Josh Sharkey: like, like a Flow Fab review or?

[00:32:27] Dave Santos: 

No Pete Wells. Wow. One star, like great one star review, like, you know, for a sandwich shop, which is, you know, kind of crazy. Yeah. But they were doing good things. I mean, they were, they got attention because they were doing things very differently.


They're using things like camel and kangaroo and like the. are very interested in the different things, you know, and so they, during the pandemic, they were looking to expand on the sandwich shop, basically. Will Horowitz from Harry and Ida's was looking to, just wasn't, didn't want to do Harry and Ida's, I think anymore.


And they knew each other because they both live in the same neighborhood down in the Lower East Side. Harry and Ida's is a huge smoker. In the back and they had a lot of like smoked meats on their sandwiches and stuff and they're looking to expand. And so they're like, all right, this could be a good opportunity to turn the space into sort of like a commissary for thing.


They maybe do like some fun pop ups and stuff in the front, you know? And so they started to turn that space over and then they needed a chef and they asked me and I sent them some people and just things never really kind of worked out. And in truth, I wasn't really that excited about getting back into the restaurant industry.


Uh, you know, from doing what I was doing and, uh, finally I gave in. I was just like, all right, dude, let's just do this. Let's, you know, you're saying all the right things to me right now. So let's, you know, I've known you for this long. Let's get together. Let's try to do something. And so Foxface is really founded on the idea of like not being a regular restaurant, like not being the normal restaurant.


Like we're not. using chicken or doing normal pastas and everything. We just want to be different and great, you know, and source amazing. I mean, the stuff we use is out of this world, but it's just not whatever, like you, we didn't want to be a restaurant that you can go and get. Like the same things 


[00:34:27] Josh Sharkey: 

When you say it's sort of different, it's supposed to be a contrarian restaurant. I get the food part, right? So we won't use chicken, but we'll use camel and we'll use kangaroo and things like that. Are there other aspects of service or how the, you know, the interactions with the team or something that, that, that is also, you look to be different?

[00:34:45] Dave Santos: 

Yeah, I think we're, you know, we're one of the first restaurants that I've been in that You know, actually pays people, uh, money. Yeah. Actual money. It's very interesting. Consistently. Very consistently on time. Usually, you know, we had all this talk there that I say that because we had all this talk during the pandemic about, oh, we need fucking change.


And this has got this and that. And then I won't mention the restaurant, but the restaurant helped revamp their menu was, it was like being in the exact same place. And I don't think that many restaurants changed thanks to the pandemic. Everyone's still trying to not pay people. And 

[00:35:22] Josh Sharkey: 

When you, and just so we're clear, when you're saying not people, just not pay people enough.

[00:35:26] Dave Santos: 

Correct. Yeah. Not paying living salaries, living wages. 

[00:35:29] Josh Sharkey: 

So can you tell us maybe just a little bit about the, the menu? It sounds like you're using some. you know, non traditional type of, you know, proteins. Yeah. Anything else about the menu that, that is like, you 

[00:35:41] Dave Santos: 

You know, I mean, it's kind of like the place is designed in a way that like, we want you to take your time eating.


Like we don't try to push people out. Right. We don't, we basically only do two turns and we're only 30 seats. Right. The menu is designed with interesting things that we want you to kind of enjoy and take your time eating if that's what, you know, it takes, but also just like, I don't know, what's the best way to put it like using different things, but like, we're also not like, I don't know, like just crushing you on the bill, I think is a big thing, you know, like we're serving a two pound piece of.


Fluke that's you know, 70 bucks. 

[00:36:26] Josh Sharkey: 

Fluke? That's kind of normal. 

[00:36:29] Dave Santos: 

Yeah, exactly. What's not normal is that they're 20 pounds.

[00:36:33] Josh Sharkey: 

That’s nuts. And they're black. Oh, so you're like a whole fluke? We do. What is it like in a cage?

[00:36:37] Dave Santos: 

Not in a cage. We, we have a wood oven. And we roast them in the wood oven. So we get these like 15 to 20 pound fluke that are bled on the boat.


And I'll show you a picture of them. It's, I've never seen fluke this big in my life. Like it's crazy. It's insane. And so, you know, like all our fish is bled, like we don't use almost anything that's not bled. And so the quality per price is like really good. Yeah. It's just, I mean, we try to work outwardly, right?


We source close first, and then work outward. Yeah, where do you buy camel? North American Meats, I believe is the company that we use for our 

[00:37:21] Josh Sharkey: 

So what are the, I mean, what other meats can you buy? 

[00:37:24] Dave Santos: 

I mean, elk we have on the menu, on and off right now, kangaroo. Camel. Turtle. I just had turtle

[00:37:32] Josh Sharkey: 

Remember the little baby turtles at Bouley?

[00:37:34] Dave Santos: 

Bro. I was just talking about that the other day. The massacre in the fucking basement. just killing babies.


It was literally a fucking massacre. The room was just filled with blood. Like, it was filled with blood and like four tiny Japanese dudes. Yeah, I was like, what is happening here? 

[00:37:51] Josh Sharkey: 

Context here, the Tsuji team came over from Japan and we had tons of baby turtles. They were soft shelled turtles. Soft shelled turtles in the basement of Bouley that we were making Chawanmushi out of. And these poor turtles were just getting massacred. It was a fucking bloodbath. So, okay, so you got turtles. Turtles, turtles. Moment of silence for the Turtles, camel, kangaroo. I remember having I mean, this is overseas having donkey in Italy. I don't know if that's like, uh, if that's something you can get here.

[00:38:20] Dave Santos: 

So there's a, it's not illegal to serve a course or donkey here in the United States. It's just extremely frowned upon. Sensitive.

[00:38:32] Josh Sharkey: 

Uh, so what's, I mean, what's the, there's got to be other animals that like that you're going to put on the menu? I mean. You know like where does the line get crossed here? I don't know camel is basically a horse with yeah 

[00:38:44] Dave Santos: 

But it's not a it's not a pet, right? It's not a I mean, you know, 

[00:38:48] Josh Sharkey: yeah Riding around 

[00:38:51] Dave Santos: 

Exactly. It's not a pet to us. 

[00:38:53] Josh Sharkey: 

I mean a hippo is not a pet you gonna serve hippo. I would First I've had whale before by the way, and it's not good.

[00:39:00] Dave Santos: Bouley was telling me about 

[00:39:03] Josh Sharkey: 

He hated it. Yeah. I remember when, when I was in Norway, we, we ate whale obviously tasted like the bloodline of tuna. Uh, maybe there's good whale somewhere by that. Yeah, totally. Totally. I had zebra once by the way. Oh really? Kurt Decker, if you're listening, brought back zebra and these tin tin zebra.


Oh, really Interesting. From somewhere in Africa. Disgusting. Really? Absolutely disgusting. I mean it was tin, it was probably just pork ball. Yeah, it might have been. But maybe zebra will be on your menu, sir. 

[00:39:26] Dave Santos: 

Zebra? I've had lion. What? I've had lion.

[00:39:28] Josh Sharkey: 

Yeah, see, now I feel like we're just getting... We got Foxface, but maybe we could just wind back a little bit because you had this incredibly successful supper club, is what I would call it, called Um Segredo, prior to Foxface.


I'd love to just understand, how did you make that work? I think you were doing it out of your apartment. I was, yeah In Roosevelt. Yeah, it was. Yeah. You know, a lot of people do pop ups now, but this was more than a pop up. It was like a, I wouldn't call it underground because people knew about it, but it was almost just like a restaurant in your home.


Like, how did you make that work? Were there like regulatory issues?

[00:40:00] Dave Santos: 

I have to give credit to Evan and Sarah Rich for being the inspiration behind the idea for Um Segredo. And, uh, they were in between restaurants, they had a space, and it fell through. And I was kind of in the same situation where I just worked at two places that were a total disaster for me that just didn't work out.

[00:40:22] Dave Santos: 

And I didn't want to take another job. I wanted to do something that was important to me or felt good. And since they were in between restaurants, and this was in San Francisco, They started a pop up once a month at, I think it was at, wasn't it at Quince? I can't remember where they were at the time. 

[00:40:42] Josh Sharkey: I mean, that's how Cezanne started as well, right?

[00:40:45] Dave Santos: 

Yeah, sort of, yeah, exactly. I think, I believe so. I don't want to misspeak, but, so I was like, man, I said, that's a really good idea. I said, they're in between places right now and they're doing this thing. And even it's just to keep you sort of relevant and on your toes. I said, that's a great idea. And so I started doing, I said, you know, I'm going to do that.


And I asked my roommates, I was living on Roosevelt Island at the time. And I had a huge apartment in Roosevelt Islands that was, had a backyard and everything, separate entrance. Like, it was kind of the ideal place to do something like this. Had a huge kitchen, huge living room that I could fit 16 people down on one table, like one long table.


And I was like, I mean, I'm going to do this. I'm going to try this. He said, even if I do it a couple of times, just to, for my own mental health. I'm going to do this. And so I started it and I named it Um Segredo, which means a secret in Portuguese. It was very Portuguese based at first because that's, you know, that's who I am.


And it just grew from there and ended up happening three days a week, every weekend at the apartment. And I would do, you know, 45 to 60 people sometimes. over the course of the weekend in my apartment. And, you know, it was all word of mouth. It was a, you know, cash business, if you will. And, uh, so much fun.


It was awesome. It was a great time. Why'd you stop? Because I'm an idiot. That’s why.

[00:42:14] Josh Sharkey: 

I mean, did you, did Any sort of municipal or regulatory things pop up, or? Cause it definitely sounds illegal. 

[00:42:24] Dave Santos: 

It was not street legal. I definitely could have gotten into a lot of trouble for doing it at the time.


Listen, I take the same regulations as... You know, I would in a restaurant, so I never really had any fear of, you know, getting someone sick or 


anything like that. But, you know, it is in your apartment, so it's very different. And the, I think one of the reasons why that place was, that was so successful is one, obviously the food, you know, it was delicious and all that, and it was fun and creative, but getting there was also part of the lore, if you will.


So, like, people would, like, make a trip of it and, like, Take the tram for the first time. And, you know, 

[00:43:04] Josh Sharkey: 

Was the party experience, like helping them get there?

[00:43:07] Dave Santos: 

Yeah. So I used to post like signs like from the tram, like, Oh, this way. And like, take them through like the sidewalks of Roosevelt Island and like threw into my backyard.


That's awesome. Uh, so it was part of, I think that was part of the success of it. I had a lot of people ask me how to do it and, you know, I want to start this. And I was like, this is for people who weren't chefs. That just like to cook and 

[00:43:34] Josh Sharkey: 

I think that's the, I mean, look, it's not only, you know, professional chefs to make tasty food, but yeah, I, you know, you started seeing supper clubs pop up a lot with like, you know, someone who should maybe just be having their friends over.

[00:43:48] Dave Santos: 

Yeah, no, exactly. And that's what I would say to them and not in a rude way, because listen, man, I appreciate anybody who takes the time to cook a meal. Right. It's awesome. But I, as a member of saying to one. Gentlemen who asked me, it's like, I want to do this. I make this really well, blah, blah, blah. And I was like, listen, man, like with respect, you can't do what I do.


Right. Like cooking one good dish or two or three good dishes is not the same as creating a menu, right? It's not the same. And it's OK that it's not the same as I wouldn't expect you to do that. You know, like this is what I do. You know, that's what I used to say to them. Like, this is what I do. My life is about this.


Have your friends over, you know, don't try charging people money for, you 

[00:44:31] Josh Sharkey:

It's so interesting because it starts to touch on like what it means to be, you know, a chef. Yeah, because you can be a really good cook or you can cook good things, but that doesn't necessarily, it depends on how you define the word chef.


Like, I remember Marcus Glocker talking about, you know, creating a tasting menu and he's a musician right and there's a you know, there's a progression to this thing And there's a story behind it and if there's a crescendo and yeah First of all, like the ability to create a menu that has meaning and if you are making Thanksgiving dinner We're recording this before Thanksgiving, but it's yeah and You're, and there's a stress behind like when you're going to do X, Y, and Z, and how you're going to get it all out, and you're pulling your hair out.


It's because that's a skill. Yeah. Like making food for 16 people with 13 dishes and all these sides and getting it all out at the same time. That's just, that's a skill, and that's part of what it takes, and it's a responsibility you have. Absolutely. If you're going to feed that many people, that's just something you know how to do.

[00:45:29] Dave Santos: 

And that's why I used to try to tell people like, you know, creating this thing is not just about cooking. Like there's so much thought and research, especially like all those supper clubs that I was doing were all themed for the most part. You know, it wasn't just like come to my house and eat right. It was themed around whatever, a writer.


I did a whole writer series, you know, I did all these weird, fun, interesting series. Then I would create. Did you do a Lebowski one? I didn't do a Lebowski one. I did a Breaking Bad one. Oh, that's what it was. I did a Breaking Bad one. I did the cookbook launch for The Walking Dead, too, which was a lot of fun.


But like, all these things had themes, and that's what inspired the food, like you can't just put something together. Like it just, again, and charging people money. I think that's the big thing. If you're expecting people to come to you to pay for food, you can't just throw it together. Like you, there's a responsibility there I think.

[00:46:33] Josh Sharkey:  

You know, I'm curious, cause I think about this a lot with like. As we run our own businesses, or thinking back to when you worked, you know, for, for Craig, or for Bouley, like, are there lessons that you learned, not cooking, that still stick with you today? Or things that like, you know, principles or things that stick with you that you still use today?

[00:46:59] Josh Sharkey: 

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[00:47:47] Dave Santos: 

Yeah, I mean, I think who you end up working for in your life and in our, I guess in any business, but in our business, I think you take hopefully good.


Away from the people you're learning from. There's plenty of bad out there, you know, that you can also take and that happens too, but I think someone like Bouley Right. Who, I love that man to death, but you know, he was crazy, you know, when it came to how that business was run, right? Like it's fucking insane.


Like that didn't make any sense. Didn't work, you know? So you could have taken the intensity insane side of it. Or you could have taken his insane passion for ingredients. Like, that man loves food and he tried to source things as best as he could. And remember he used to, like, all of a sudden we would get, like, all this fish from Cape Cod because he, like, drove up there and...

[00:48:50] Josh Sharkey: 

Or he would show up right before service with a whole pig and... Yeah, with a whole pig. Change the menu.

[00:48:53] Dave Santos: 

Like, hey, break this down and let's do a whole, uh, roasted pig. Like, what? It was five minutes before service. What's going on? But his passion for ingredients is, was amazing. Uh, I think from him, I definitely took that on, you know, whereas like, and obviously that's why Foxface is so successful because our passion for ingredients.


So I definitely think I took that from him, from someone like Thomas, his Keller, Thomas Keller. He has this dedication to like consistency. 

[00:49:26] Josh Sharkey: 

Yeah. It's almost like I always think of precision when I think of TK. It's, it's wild. He's just, precision is everything for him. Yeah, yeah. 

[00:49:36] Dave Santos: 

It's this, there's this monotony of doing it right, you know? And I think I definitely took that away from him. Where it was like, you have to do it right, you have to take the time, you have to take that extra step. Yeah. To make this thing that’s great.

[00:49:52] Josh Sharkey: 

It's so interesting because, you know, you, you have these lessons, but they're out of context. They can, like, precision is so important, but without soul, it becomes very static.


Totally. You know, and I think there's so many lessons we learn in, to your point, in any job. Yeah. But... As a cook, as a chef, you know these lessons that transcend cooking. Right? Like I remember at, you know, at Bouley, first of all, I remember a talk he gave after we lost a fourth star, uh, fourth star, right? And I always, it sticks me to this day of just like thinking about your team.


And he said, you know, he brought everybody together. Yeah. And he said, some of you are dancers, some of you're musicians, some of you wanna be actors, some of you are doing this while you're in school. And. That's okay, that this might not be the thing that you want to do for the rest of your life. And this is a really hard job.


If you can do this really well, if you can give a hundred percent here and you can do well here, think about how well you're going to do with the thing that you're really good at.

[00:50:49] Dave Santos: 

Dude, I gave that same speech at Louro to my staff. Literally, I gave that same speech.

[00:50:54] Josh Sharkey:

I can never forget that. It's one of the things that, I mean, the other thing.

I think that I try to tell young folks that are just starting to cook, it's like, you're going to get upset with things that happen in a job you're working at. And you're going to, it's very easy to say, oh, to complain and say, this sucks. And this job sucks. And I remember Cesar always saying the job is what you make of it.

[00:51:15] Josh Sharkey: 

But it's more than that, really. Actually, there's so much to learn from, I wouldn't have meez today. Right. If it wasn't for How terribly unorganized Bouley was. The fact that we didn't have a recipe for the pomme puree, that's one of the most famous things that he makes. And Evan Rich had to write down on a piece of parchment the ratio, just so someone would know it.


And that the ocean herbal broth, that's another famous dish. There's no real recipe for it. No, no real recipe. The idea of understanding how to set expectations, and the idea of like the importance of consistency and having, you know, a tool. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for that. And that might be a


Shortcoming of Bouley, but these are all things that like, you know, any job you have, you're going to have a good and a bad, but like, you got to learn just as much from them. 

[00:51:59] Dave Santos: 

Oh yeah, absolutely. Bad shit. Yeah, you can't. Let a bad opportunity not be a learning experience. Cause that's actually, I think, a failure on you.


Like, if you don't take as much from a bad experience as you do a good experience, then I think you're missing out. But you said it better, I mean, Bouley, in particular, that place put you to the test. 100%. Like, I remember... You remember, I mean, we were always short staffed, never had enough people, and then we would do events, right?


All over the world. Oh, country, not world. Yeah, unpaid. And I remember vividly, Evan had to do the Cartier events. And one was in California, I think one was in Texas or whatever. And so I ended up having to work basically 10 doubles back to back, you know, two weeks worth of doubles. I remember my last double on Sunday and the standard schedule, if you remember, was six days with a double.


Yeah. You gotta work a double. Yeah. You had to work one double so that your partner could have a day off. So that was, that was the standard schedule. So on the 14th day

[00:53:08] Josh Sharkey: 

And the single, by the way, the single was still like a 12 hour day. 

[00:53:12] Dave Santos: 

Yeah exactly. So she worked in the morning. Yeah. And so on the 14th day of working 100 plus hour weeks, sleeping at the Danube.


On the couches at the Danube. Rest in peace. Yeah. I stood in the bathroom downstairs and I grasped, you know, the sink and I just stared at myself. Just bloodshot eyes, pale as a ghost. And I said, out loud, I said, Dave, this is now your choice. If you want to do this for a living, you're going to go upstairs and you're going to finish service.


Or you're going to get the fuck out of here and you're never going to look back again. And I sat there and I thought about it and thought about it. I washed my face, I went back upstairs, and I finished service, and I never looked back. I've always been a part of this business. That was a huge learning moment for me.


Like, to push that threshold, obviously, you know, I would never want to do that to someone personally, but to go through that and to feel that brink of decision where it could have gone either way at that point, that experience alone, was so valuable to me, and I got that through a place that was very difficult.


You know, and so, I think you have to take as much from those bad situations as you do good situations. Yeah. Because anybody can survive in good. 

[00:54:44] Josh Sharkey: 

I feel like this is a continuing theme that we talk about, and I always want to be careful not to say, Oh, you know, in the old days. But, what do you lose when you don't have that experience?


Like, if you have, if you're a, if you're a chef, and You never have the experience of six days and a double, of just the grind, of, you know, what would seem, probably today, just completely unacceptable, but to us was, you know, normal. You know, for me, the, and I was talking to Mark Forgione about this earlier on in the podcast, like, I wonder if camaraderie is lost a bit, because the one thing we have is that we're kind of like at war together.


A hundred percent. You know, and I don't know if you lose that. I hope that you don't, but I'm curious what you think. 

[00:55:26] Dave Santos: 

So the thing that gets lost, right? I mean, there's that whole Japanese idea of it takes X amount of hours to be good at something, right? Bouley’s reasoning behind working us that way was that.


You sure? Oh, 100%. Yeah, 100%. We talked about it. I actually talked about it with him. Okay. Alright. And he firmly believes in that mentality of... You know, the longer you do this thing, your station in this case, the better you will be at it, right? So hours put in, I think make for, I won't say success, but make you a consistent, better cook.


I believe that there's something lost in the generation of today who don't spend all those hours. Not that it's better or worse, I'm not saying that, but I do believe that. There's something lost there in people's abilities. I think that the consistency, I think, isn't always there in the younger generation.


I think some of what you're saying is also true as far as the camaraderie and, you know, going to, you know, I don't like using the word battle, but going to, you know, through these tough services, I mean, doing 250 covers with. You know, the people next to you every day, there's something to that, you know, while having to survive, like prepping and so on and so forth.


There's definitely something to it that's lost in all those hours. Like I always say, I wouldn't trade my experience at Bouley or Per Se at all. Like it was super hard and difficult and I hated it a lot of it, but I wouldn't trade it because it made me who I am. Today, but I don't necessarily wish it upon others.

[00:57:22] Josh Sharkey: 

Yeah it’s almost like, you know, as a parent, you know, you don't want your children to go through the same hardship, but you also want to make sure that they're resilient. Yeah. And I'm sure that there's things gained from this as, as much as there's things that are lost and we won't really know yet, but we're starting to see, 

[00:57:40] Dave Santos: 

I think what you just said, the resiliency. I think is probably what I was looking for, and I couldn't come up with a word. I think that's a big thing of it. 

[00:57:50] Josh Sharkey: 

I struggle with, you know, I have two kids. I'm sure everyone struggles with this, you know, my wife is the best mom ever. She's incredible. I, oftentimes, I have to step back because the, my immediate, you know, response when my kid is doing something or having a hard time is, I want to embrace that struggle.


Right. And I think, you know, part of. Parenting 2.0 has been, Hey, wait a second. No, we need to be in tune with their emotions. And we have to listen to them and understand and let them experience these things. And it's tough. It's a tough, it's a tough bridge. And it's the same thing I'm seeing, you know, I, I see sort of a parallel with, you know, with this of that, you know, yes, we went through all of these, the, you know, Things that aren't actually legal, you know, shift pay, things that are just frowned upon.


And yeah, they shouldn't have that, right? And not to mention screaming and throwing plates and things like that. That should not happen. Right. But how do you... Continue to build resilience and calluses without that. And I know you can, I just think that 

[00:58:50] Dave Santos: 

It's a new challenge. It's definitely a new challenge. Not everybody's good at it, either. Like creating those environments. I think there's a way, and I think I do a decent job of it because I did come from, so like, Bouley was the environment we're talking about, Per Se, was a very tough environment, but it wasn't the same as, like, the tools were given to you, Per Se.


Right. To succeed at Bouley it was different, right? You were just expected to succeed somehow and somehow. So I think those two experiences in my life, working in those two kind of opposite ends of the spectrum and still finding success, I think has benefited me in a way where I try to provide as much tools as I can for the people who work for me.


More importantly, I try to provide education. Which I think is super important for people to expect from their chef. Yeah. But I don't always make it easier on you. Like, I don't want it to be easy. I want it to be, like, good and learning and tough to, you know, to form that resiliency, those calluses, within reason, like I'm still always going to be there to support you.


And if you are failing, I'm never going to let you fall, but I'm going to, you know, let you sit on that line sometimes for a little bit so that you feel what it is like to like, man, I got to push, I got to move. You know, I was saying this last night, even to one of my cooks who I love to death, but sometimes he just doesn't get that drive, that mood.


So I was talking to him last night about it, I said, listen, man, like, I need you, I need to see you, I need to see you pushing so that I know, like, you're really You know, and so I try to create that balance as best I can, but it's difficult, it's super hard, like, you don't know, and everybody's different, right?

[01:00:49] Josh Sharkey: 

Yeah, well we just, I think we just have to be better leaders today than before, you know, it's interesting, you have to instill some friction, there's a really interesting book by this guy Robert Cialdini. And it's about persuasion. There's these four principles of persuasion. One of them revolves around effort.


And, you know, they've done these studies. And for example, you know, the idea of the hazing, the initiation into a fraternity, right? These fraternities are like adamant about keeping these initiation processes, even though that they can very often be dangerous. And they started doing these studies around, you know, a control group at A and a B and one group has a very difficult, you know, process to get through in order to become part of a group.


And then another group just gets into the group right away. Right. Right. And then they, you know, they follow that each group over time. And it's very clear that the ones that have to struggle appreciate that group much more, stick with it much longer, have a far deeper, you know, not just appreciation, but like are grateful and, and have much more of a connection to that group than the ones that just got in right away.


And so. You do, we do have to find ways to create friction and we just have to do it in a way. That is still mindful of, you know, the human being that are part of this. And that's, yeah, it's not easy. And I think the, what's interesting is I think that we just, you know, in the food world, we just didn't really have leadership and management skills taught to us.


Right. And so. It was kind of a wild west because we didn't know any other, and no one ever told us like, Hey, you know that like anger you're showing right now? That's you, not them. You know? Yeah, 100%. You know, Eric Bromberg said something to me one time years ago. So Eric Bromberg is the founder of Blue Ribbon Restaurants.


You know, we were talking about like, what makes Blue Ribbon successful? And he didn't even like, hesitate. It was like, create an environment where people can be successful. 

[01:02:46] Dave Santos: 

Yeah exactly. That's it. 100%. 

[01:02:48] Josh Sharkey: 

And. You know, when you think about like Bouley or many restaurants, you know, where. You don't give them the tools, you don't set the right expectations, or you set like, expectations without telling them how to get there.


Right. And, you know, it's an easy way to, you know, to fail, right? It's like, we don't, I don't know, I don't even know if I'm making this right, but you're going to get it. Yeah, exactly. So, it's, I think it's good, I think overall it's great that the industry is actually getting better. You know, that you're becoming a better leader and you're thinking about your team that way.

[01:03:22] Dave Santos: 

So yeah I mean, it's different. Like you said, I think to your point, I think it's a matter of like, I don't think our generation and generations before us had people that were mindful of these things where you were just expected to do, you know, whether that be right or wrong. And if you've fucked it up, you got yelled at.


And so many, I think of us carry that. Same forward, this is a cycle, right? Like it just keeps getting fed and fed, you know, so it's definitely up to us. I think to break that cycle and to be mindful of that cycle, but also to find balance with it. Like you said, you know, by just letting that group of people into the, you know, like that's not the answer either.


Right. That's not the answer either. But I, so I think being mindful of finding a balance. between the two. I mean, if you, like, I look at myself and my career and, you know, at Bouley or wherever it was, like at the Ryland Inn, like I said earlier, like, I was a young cook, full of anger, aggression, you know, got into a fight, almost literally killed someone.


And that's who I was then. And I think my experiences to the people that have inspired me over my life in and outside of cooking, that's not who I am today. You know, like I'm actively working on myself as a leader, as much as I am trying to inspire the people who are working for me. And I think people forget that, like, it's not only about you and them.


Like you have to have both, right? You have to work on yourself as much as you are on other people.

[01:05:05] Josh Sharkey: 

Well, that's awesome to hear, man. I'm going to pivot a bit and we're close to the end. I promise. I'm sure you guys. 

[01:05:11] Dave Santos: 

I talk all day. 

[01:05:16] Josh Sharkey: 

So another, so another topic I'd love to get your, your opinion on, because I saw something recently from a food critic.


I mean, That's all it is to me. You got three stars recently. Yeah. And I wanted to talk a little bit about like your thoughts on the value of food critics and then where, where it goes right, where it goes wrong. And, and specifically also, we're in an industry where we can't actually charge what we need to charge.


Like we're the, we're one of the only industries where we can't charge the margins that we need to because there's a ceiling to how much people will pay for X, Y, and Z. can change over time, but right now there's a perception of value of a burger and of a steak and everything, and you can't charge more than that.


And I'm curious what you think the role of food critics and food journalists are in helping to promulgate a new way to think about this because I don't see a way for us to grow without, without the consumers being able to see a world where things might cost more because look, I think, and this would be a bit of a rant, but like, we don't sell at a restaurant.


And if you think about the price that you're paying based on calculating the cost of you going and buying those ingredients. And making them. That's just a flawed perception because One, first of all you'd have to buy all those things in bulk so you, Unless you're making for ten people you're gonna But, you know, more importantly They're asking you what you want.


You're sitting down and getting things handed to you and poured to you. Think about what it would cost if you had a butler And someone else serving you at your house. And someone else cleaning up after you. What do you pay for that? And I think that's the perception that people don't think about. is I get to have a night where all of those things are part of my experience on top of, by the way, we create thoughtful food and thoughtful experiences and thoughtful ambience, the right lighting and the right.


And that is a story that I feel like is just not, it's not told enough. Correct. By writers and journalists. I don't know if it's their job too, but I'm curious what you think, because I think you've had some, you know, some scuffles in the past. 

[01:07:26] Dave Santos: 

Oh, for sure. Yeah, I've definitely gotten into it. With critics and news media, I think oftentimes covers the wrong things, talks about the wrong things.


Uh, you well documented in, in, in having my arguments with media critics, you know, critics are like, for me anyway, they're just, I would love, and I don't want to. judge critics for their work, right? It is what it is. I think it's a part of our industry, right? I think it's sad that one person's opinion can literally close a restaurant, you know?


I think that's ridiculous to me. I think I would love to see reviews go into more of an educational side as far as like, This is what this is like, and this is why they're doing this, or whatever that, I'm not a writer, so I don't know how to go about that, but I would love to see that be more of a critic's job, instead of just judging.


I mean, I'm thankful for our three star review, obviously, but I would love for the stars to die. I just think it's silly. 

[01:08:39] Josh Sharkey: 

There aren't many... worlds where a product has an arbiter, uh, like a food critic. So, and I heard Ruth Reichl will talk about the difference between food media and food journalism, which I appreciate, right?


So food media being, you know, Eater maybe versus journalism where you're writing. Yeah. And I think that I understand that premise and that makes sense to your point of, A food journalist, you know, a Pete Wells, can make or break your restaurant. Yeah. Think about, you know, another business that you would go to.


Yeah. A salon, uh, buying a product like a phone or something like that. Where there's, you know, in, in your geographical area, there's an arbiter of quality of taste that just says, That's not good. Yeah. Which is, no matter what's subjective, and then that's it. It's an opinion. You know, it's, you know, it impacts a lot of things.


And I, look, I, it's a tough thing because I do, I understand their purpose, right? Is they want to anonymously let, they want to let, you know, consumers, you know, diners know that like, hey, in an anonymous experience, this is what you should expect from this restaurant. Right. Okay, that's fine. I think that makes sense and that's nice.


But it's, They have a lot of eyeballs and they have a lot of influence and they have a lot of attention and it's not like going to Wirecutter or going to Product Hunt or going to Yelp even and seeing reviews because there's you know there's a discount to all those things in that like it's a person that is their, it's their opinion and It's also the food writer's opinion.


Yes. It's one person's opinion who tends to override, you know, thousands of others. Right. When it's a, when it's a star review. Right. And I don't know if it's necessarily, you know, wrong or that shouldn't happen, but it's interesting that in the food world that there is this arbiter where you don't see that in others.

[01:10:41] Dave Santos: 

Yeah. to my knowledge, I don't think I can, I can't come up with one off the top of my head.

[01:10:45] Josh Sharkey: 

Even in movies, there's, there's, there are critics, but it doesn't have the same influence. 

[01:10:50] Dave Santos: 

No, I mean, not even a little bit. I mean, you think about. Whatever, Siskel and Ebert or whoever, you know, like they didn't like a movie. So a lot of those movies went on to extreme success where if a critic, as you know, like the Times critic, whoever that may be, if they, you know, write something scathing about you fucking pack it up. Like there's no point, especially in New York city. I mean, obviously other cities are the same, but there's no point in continuing.


You are just going to dig yourself a money pit. And you should literally just close your restaurant.

[01:11:23] Josh Sharkey: 

I think some pushback could be, I mean, look, Daniel has lost a star. If you're just starting out in New York, for example, and not many people know about you, and then, yeah, you get a, you get a scathing, you know, Times review that you're going to have a very hard time, you know, getting enough business to continue.

[01:11:41] Dave Santos: 

You know, because, you know, the New Yorker, the dining New Yorker. A lot of times they're of short memories and they, they see this thing, they want to go to this thing, but then all of a sudden if the thing gets a bad review, then they don't want to go to this thing anymore either, you know? 

[01:11:58] Josh Sharkey: 

We service communities no matter what. So even in New York, you know, you might just, you might be a Greenwich Village restaurant and the people in the village, you know, will go there a good experience, they'll come back. Yeah, totally. That said, it's very expensive to operate in New York and you need more than the people in there. Because there's too much optionality, so you need to have people coming from, even if it's not out of town, from uptown, from downtown, from New Jersey, and those reviews are what, you know, blew it down.

[01:12:23] Dave Santos: 

It's very difficult in today to survive on your neighborhood, if you will. You know, I think Louro was the perfect example of what we're talking about right now. Talking about a restaurant that a lot of people loved, and we were very busy in the beginning. And then, well, even, because we were new, we were very busy, but we got, you know, we were trying to be a two star restaurant, we weren't trying to be a four star restaurant, we were trying to be a great two star restaurant, that was my goal for Louro, right?


Wells came in in the fourth week that we were open, which is fucking retarded, okay, plain and simple, like, what restaurant is... on all cylinders in their fourth week. Right. I don't think it used to be The Times used to wait three months. That was the kind of the unsaid standard, you know, I know why it's changed with media and, you know, everybody writing reviews, but we weren't ready.


You know, we had as a team, we, the first time we cooked together was the day we opened, we turned that restaurant over in two weeks, you 

[01:13:29] Josh Sharkey: 

And by the way, it's very expensive. to, to do that. I mean, we, at Cafe Grey, it was the same thing. We were reviewed a few weeks in, and even though we had spent months, you know, it's a few weeks in.


So, restaurants have become the bystander of the, you know, immediacy of media, and that's, you know, that's a bummer, you know. 

[01:13:47] Dave Santos: 

And so, you know, we ended up getting a very positive, a good one star review. If you were to ask Pete, I think, if he likes Loro, I think he would say yes. You know, but it was a one star review and a one star review, you know, for a restaurant that's spending 19,000 dollars a month in rent, X amount on employees and stuff, it's not going to survive.


And we ended up slowly but surely getting less busy and that restaurant ended up closing because the lease was up. But I don't know how much longer we could have survived without like, you know, digging a huge pit, you know, and that was a restaurant that was very, I mean, if you look at whether it be Yelp or whatever, it's a popular restaurant.


Like people loved Laurel people eight years later, it's been a year since Laurel closed or nine almost now it's still talked about, like people still ask me about and talk about dinners they had at that restaurant, but yet. This critic gave it a one star because you have to remember after the first week or two, whatever, no one's reading the review anymore.


They're just looking at the star. And so I think that greatly affects things and it's like I said, I think it's sad. I would love for it to be a more educational thing from a critic than just I liked it or not. You know?

[01:15:15] Josh Sharkey:

Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting too because I think, you know, there's the argument of, oh, critics don't know. You know, Pete Wills isn't a chef, but I think that's okay.

[01:15:25] Dave Santos: 

Neither are half the people coming in!

[01:15:25] Josh Sharkey: 

That's what I mean, it's like, they don't need to be there. Like, it's, you know, you're actually better off not being a chef. You should be a diner, and that's, and that's okay. I want to end on a positive note. So...

[01:15:35] Dave Santos: 

Before you go there, hold on. Term limits is my idea for critics. Tell me about this. I think... A critic should have a term. I think that

[01:15:47] Josh Sharkey: 

But wait, hold on. What if the, what if it turns out that this critic is incredibly educational and unbiased and thoughtful? 

[01:15:56] Dave Santos: 

They aren't the only one, right? I think it's up to the source or the times or whatever to find good people.

[01:16:04] Josh Sharkey: 

I think you're talking about them democratizing this and voting in it. Why not? 

[01:16:09] Dave Santos: 

I just think that after a certain point I think... You get either jaded or you're just going through the motions, you're getting things. And it's hard to find inspiration. I think we define that in all of our work, not just, 

[01:16:21] Josh Sharkey: 

It's also hard to stay  anonymous. 

[01:16:22] Dave Santos:

That's what I'm saying. Yeah, everybody knows who Pete Wells is at this point, right? Everybody knows. 

[01:16:27] Josh Sharkey: 

And again, it's really hard to do that job if you're not anonymous because the minute that they know who you are. Yeah, everything changes. And your experience is completely different.


And if your job is to tell what the everyday experience is, then that becomes incredibly hard if you're, if you're not anonymous. 

[01:16:41] Dave Santos: 

It's interesting. I mean, the whole thing I think is interesting. It's, it's obviously, it's a loaded kind of for, you know, I think chefs to talk about. I mean, we obviously talk about it amongst ourselves all the time.


Those would be the two things for me. Like, I think that. Having some sort of term limit, like you can be the Times critic for then it's not two years, I'm saying eight years, whatever it is, you know, like, I think at that point, it's just time for a new perspective to come in. Not that you're doing a bad job, it has nothing to do with you.


I think perspectives change over time, and I think when you're immersed in something, it's hard to change your perspective. You know what I'm saying? And then obviously I think I would love to see it be a little bit more educational than otherwise, but that's the last point I wanted to say. All 

good. All right.

[01:17:33] Josh Sharkey: 

We're going to wrap this up, man. What's in the pipeline for you? What should we look forward to with Mr. Dave Santos?

[01:17:38] Dave Santos: 

I mean, besides working, I mean, Foxface, we're going to continue to grow there and do our, you know, our best to keep everything interesting, awesome. And, you know, our goal for next year is hopefully to get a Michelin star.


I mean, that's, our goal was always three Times and a Michelin. Yeah, we'll see, you know, I mean, it's, it can be, again, that's the goal. It's not, yeah, that happens. We're still going to do what we do, you know, but I think it's important to have kind of expectations of yourself, you know, and if these are the things that measure you, then.


That's what you have to use. That's the biggest thing right now. I know there's some talk of expansion on some things. We might go into the next building cause we are so small. We're only 27 or 30 seats, whatever. So we might expand into the building next door. Uh, we'll see. I don't know if that's going to go down.

[01:18:30] Josh Sharkey: 

Any Portuguese seafoods popping up?

[01:18:35] Dave Santos:

Uh, I would love to do, uh, so right now we're closed on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, actually. We're only open four days a week now. We are expanding on that, but I would also like to do some guest chef dinners and, you know, some fun Portuguese dinners and things like that on these days that we have off, uh, right now.


So we have some work on, you know, some plans for that sort of thing to start probably in the new year. Um, and then for me personally, I've just YouTube channel. 

[01:19:05] Josh Sharkey: 

Yeah, yeah, it's awesome, man. I love seeing you cook another thing. 

[01:19:08] Dave Santos: 

It's fun, man. I think if you have a voice. Yeah. I think it's fun to do that sort of thing. Yep. And so 

[01:19:14] Josh Sharkey: 

I do try to keep the I love the, uh, monkey bread pizza thing. Yeah! I like that! That was awesome. That oh, what a good idea!

[01:19:21] Dave Santos:

I ate the hell out of that thing, man. It was so good.

[01:19:23] Josh Sharkey: 

Everybody should go check out monkey bread. What is it? Monkey bread pizza? 

[01:19:27] Dave Santos: 

I think. I can't remember what I called Something like that.

[01:19:31] Josh Sharkey: 

This was awesome, man. Good seeing you, man. 

[01:19:32] Dave Santos: 

You too, brother. It's been too long. Yeah, man. 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 


That's G E T M double E Z .com/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.

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