Welcome to the first-ever episode of “Going Out With Jake Cornell,” hosted by comedian and former NYC hospitality pro Jake Cornell. In this inaugural episode, Cornell is joined by chef and food media personality Molly Baz. The former senior editor of Bon Apétit is now the author of New York Times bestseller “Cook This Book.”
While Baz currently resides in Los Angeles, her career in the food industry kickstarted in New York City. In this episode, she and Cornell discuss the differences between going out in NYC and L.A., what makes a Bloody Mary so versatile, and what, exactly, “going out” means to them.
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Jake Cornell: Hi, it’s Jake, and this is the first-ever episode of the show. I am very, very excited to have you all here. I’m not going to talk too much at the top of these episodes because frankly, I do just want to jump into the interviews. They are quite delicious. But I just wanted to let you know who we are talking to. Today, we are talking to someone whose name was one of the first names to come up when we started making the show. She has a cookbook called “Cook This Book” that is absolutely fantastic. If you haven’t bought it, that is a huge issue on your part. Please fix it. She’s developed some of my favorite recipes I have ever cooked. This conversation was so fun. I am dying to go to L.A. and hang out with her. Please enjoy me going out with Molly Baz.
Molly Baz: This is our first date.
J: This is our first date. It’s such a long time coming, honestly. I don’t mean to make you jealous, but based on some light internet stalking, I do know this about you. Completely not by my design, my friend picked the plans for this evening. I think I’m going to your favorite restaurant tonight for dinner.
M: You’re going to Bernie’s?
J: I’m going to Bernie’s.
M: Oh my God. It could not be more perfect.
J: I forgot about it, and I made the plans and I was walking here to record and I was like, “Holy shit, it’s Molly’s favorite restaurant.”
M: That’s cosmic. Have you never been there before?
J: I’ve been once before, and I had a fantastic time. But I’m really excited because one of my favorite foods to eat in a restaurant is roast chicken. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to eat in a restaurant, always. I have a small list of my favorite roast chickens in New York that I like to eat, and I was out at my favorite place to have roast chicken, which is Walter’s on Fort Greene Park. Have you been?
M: Yes, of course. Walter’s was the predecessor to Bernie’s for me. So my neighborhood restaurant before Bernie’s existed was Walter’s. I would go to the one in Brooklyn several times a week, and I always got their Caesar salad and I sometimes would get their chicken and I oftentimes would get their steak. And then they closed the one in Williamsburg and then Bernie’s opened and I was like, “Thank God.” There’s a replacement neighborhood spot.
J: The Walter’s in Fort Greene is one of my favorite New York restaurants. It feels like home to me, I’m so happy there, and the service is always great. Everything’s so consistent. That chicken is my No. 1 New York comfort food. I brought a friend of mine from college there who was in town this past weekend, and so six of us went there. We had a big booth. It was heaven. And I was saying that the chicken is one of my favorite things in New York. My friend Olivia was like, “Have you had the vinegar chicken at Bernie’s?” I have not had it. I’ve only done the burger. So tonight, I’m gonna get the chicken and I’m very excited.
M: It is iconic. It is one of the best chickens in New York. I’m curious to hear what your other ones are.
J: The Fly. There’s no doubt, I’m obsessed with The Fly.
M: Duh. Have you had the roast chicken at Le Crocodile?
M: Jake, you have to go.
J: OK, I will. That’s it.
M: It’s the restaurant in the Wythe Hotel. It’s the same chef who started Chez Ma Tante. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there.
J: Chez Ma Tante is one of the best brunches I’ve ever had in New York, for sure.
M: I love that restaurant. They opened up Le Crocodile in the lobby of the Wythe Hotel. It’s a new, modern French bistro. It’s gorgeous inside, and they have a roast chicken with french fries. And it comes with a salsa verde chimichurri. The skin is so crispy and so golden brown. It is so juicy and salty. You have to try it.
J: I’m going to do that within the month, I promise you. My other favorite, and I’m almost certain you’ve never had this, is the crispy chicken at Kindred. It’s the last restaurant I ever worked at, which is the sister restaurant to Ruffian. I think you were in L.A. by the time it opened. It opened in October of 2019.
M: Oh my God, I missed out on that whole thing.
J: Next time you’re in New York, I will take you to Kindred for the chicken. But it is a sous vide chicken flash-fried. It’s so juicy, so crispy, and then it’s covered in a Meyer lemon reduction and mustard seeds.
M: Woah, what part of the chicken is it?
J: You can do a whole bird or half-bird.
M: Oh wow.
J: If I got hungry on a shift, there was not really anything else I would order. Everything on that menu is delicious, but that chicken is one of my favorite things.
M: Back it up for a second: What did you do in restaurants? What was your role?
J: I was a bartender starting at 18. Until I was able to do comedy full time, food and restaurants was my gig. I worked at a Ben and Jerry’s in high school, I was a little scooper, and that was my first job and my entry into food. When I was 18, I started bartending in England, and I fell absolutely in love with it. Then I moved back to Vermont to finish college, and I bartended at this Mexican restaurant on Church Street in Burlington. It was the most fun time of my life because it was a bunch of kids all working in a Mexican restaurant, drinking Margaritas and hanging out. There was a Martini bar across the street that we would all go to after every shift. The cost of living was low in Burlington, and we were making $100 cash a night and throwing it to the wind.
M: Oh my God. And you would go from Margaritas over to Martinis back to back?
J: Yeah, I was 21. So the hangovers were a 15-minute issue, you know what I mean?
M: They were fun back then, like what dumb sh*t are we going to do?
J: What sandwich am I going to eat to make me feel better? Yeah, exactly. So when I moved to New York, I was like, “I’m going to do restaurants professionally, and comedy.” I wasn’t sure which one. I loved restaurants so much that I told myself I would pursue a professional restaurant career while pursuing comedy so that if comedy doesn’t work out, I will have this career to fall back on. That ended up not really working out because both restaurants and comedy are beyond full-time jobs. There was no way to do both. And also, the first restaurant I worked at in New York was honestly a devastating experience. It was brutal, just miserable. And I was like, I think I have to go all-in on comedy. But I stayed in restaurants for seven more years while I was building up in comedy.
M: OK, are you currently working in a restaurant?
J: Now I just do comedy full time.
J: Thank you. It’s definitely weird because I’m only like a few months into that. If Kindred is really desperate for a shift or, honestly, if I’m bored, I’ll go do a shift. It’s kind of fun now that it’s part of my free time.
M: Yeah, it’s like a side gig.
J: I did it for 10 years, and I loved it most of the time. Sometimes it was brutal, but I learned so much. I love restaurants and bars so much as a patron that I’ll always be part of that world, for sure.
M: Totally. I also got my start in restaurants. Granted, I’m still in the food industry but in a very different way. I worked in restaurants in New York for — not 10 — but five years. I miss the adrenaline of it. I don’t get to tap into that in any way in the work that I do now, because I’m just me creating my content and developing recipes in my home kitchen by myself. Nobody’s like, “Let’s go, let’s go. Let’s go.”
J: It’s a different kind of stress.
M: Yeah, it’s different. There’s no shift drink at the end of the night, it’s just a different vibe. I miss that jolt of energy that I would get every day from working in a restaurant.
J: There’s something nice about not having to self-start, right? Just getting your ass kicked into gear every day by the shift itself. There is a luxury to that. Were you always back of house, or did you ever do front of house?
M: I did do front of house, but that was before I was thinking about the food industry from a cooking perspective. When I was in high school, I was a waitress at a barbecue spot. But food wasn’t really on the brain at that point in terms of a career for me. Once I started to get into it professionally, I just went straight into back of house. I took my first job at a French bistro in Boston.
J: Which is where you’re from?
M: No, I lived there for one year. It was a really weird year. I’m not a big Boston fan, sorry. But I took my first full-time restaurant job there at a place called the Beacon Hill Bistro. I don’t know why they hired me, honestly. I was a mess. But they hired me to work at the roast station. Not even the salad station; they put me on roasts day one. I crashed and burned until I picked myself up, and then I honestly crushed it after that.
J: I had this same experience with my first New York restaurant job. I showed up to New York having worked in restaurants for three years thinking, “Oh, I already got this.” I worked at a very high-end restaurant in Gramercy, and I was so f*cking decimated so f*cking fast. But by the time I left that restaurant, I was like, “Oh, now I could actually truly work anywhere and rock it.”
M: The restaurant scene in New York, and the volume and standards that restaurants uphold, it’s unlike anywhere else. So you drop into one of those spots for even a year, and you get yourself made.
J: Absolutely. What was that transition for you of starting to think about food and restaurants as a career? When did that happen?
M: I went to Skidmore for art history. I thought I was going to pursue art history, I thought I would work in a gallery, maybe own a gallery. It sounds so crazy to even say that now because it feels so far away from anything that I’m interested in now. While I was studying art history, I studied abroad two different semesters in Europe. And the food in Europe just blew me away. I lived in Florence, and then I lived in Paris and I was like, “I get it, like, this is good food.” Whatever I’ve been eating, whatever I grew up on wasn’t it.
J: Where are you from?
M: I’m from upstate New York, from the Hudson Valley.
J: Which has a gorgeous food scene now, but I’m assuming back when we were younger, it was totally different.
M: Totally. It was not what it is now. Nobody was going up there week-ending.
J: I’m from Vermont, and it’s the exact same thing. The food in Vermont now is literally f*cking beyond. And I feel like when I was growing up, that was not the case.
M: Did you grow up in Burlington?
J: No, I grew up in a small town called Shrewsbury, an hour and a half south of Burlington.
M: OK, then did you go to UVM?
J: Yeah, I went to UVM.
M: Oh, nice. What a classic New England experience.
J: I’m embarrassingly New England. My entire family is from Rhode Island. I was born in Rhode Island, raised in Vermont.
M: Will you ever leave?
J: Well, I’m in New York. So I did leave New England technically. But I know you mean. If work necessitated that I had to go to L.A., I would.
M: Come to L.A.! Oh my god. Do you know how much f*cking fun we would have in L.A., Jake?
J: We would have so much fun in L.A., but I f*cking love New York. In my dream world, I would love to be bi-coastal.
M: You will. I see it for you. You can’t really be in your line of work and not f*ck with L.A. just a little.
J: I’ll f*ck with L.A. for sure. But I don’t see me being monogamous with L.A. I’ll be in an open relationship with L.A.
M: That’s totally fine. That’s all I ask.
J: That’ll definitely be in my future. But I do really, really, really love New York. And I really love Brooklyn. Once I moved into Brooklyn and started to set roots down I was like, “This is truly home.”
M: You read very Brooklyn.
J: Thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment.
J: Moving from talking about restaurants and all this as work, I want to hear from you. What does “going out” mean to you? If you want to go out, what does that look like for you?
M: If you were to ask me on any given day, “Let’s go out tonight,” what would I say? I would say, “Let’s go to Found Oyster.” You haven’t been there because you don’t come to L.A.
J: Paint a picture for me.
M: Found Oyster is currently my favorite restaurant. It’s a tiny little seafood spot, and it’s very New England. I think that’s what I like about it. It’s a little bit of New England on the West Coast. The people who run and manage it, their parents have an oyster farm in Cape Cod. So they get all of their shellfish from their parents on Cape Cod. And it’s got this kind of New England lobster shack vibe, but it’s also the most Brooklyn place I’ve ever seen. It feels like it could be a member of the Diner Marlow Group, but transplanted out here. But it also has a patio and it’s in the middle of L.A. and there’s palm trees on the street. So it’s straddling both worlds for me. It’s like a little bit of Brooklyn and a little bit of the East Coast, which is where I grew up, and then also very L.A. And the food is phenomenal and so consistent. For me, that’s the sign of a great restaurant. I go back there and if I fall in love with a dish, it’s the same dish every time.
J: Like Walter’s chicken.
M: Like Walter’s chicken, Bernie’s vinegar chicken, Walter’s Caesar salad. My ideal night is at Found Oyster. I’m sitting down and I’m having a seafood tower with some glasses of wine, and I’m mostly filling up like raw shellfish with bread and butter. Or I’m going to a wine bar, snacking and drinking tons of different glasses of wine and just spending the night. Who knows what happens after that? There’s a place called Voodoo that opened up recently. As I’m saying I’m it, I’m like, “Why am I saying this?” Because I don’t want to blow this place up, but also I love them, and I feel like I want to support them. It’s this European-casual, no-pomp-and-circumstance wine bar. They have a couple of tables out on the sidewalk and some bottles on the shelves inside. They’re like, “What do you want to drink, here are some snacks.” It’s just the chillest place ever. It reminds me of Paris, another place that has a big place in my heart, and I could spend 17 hours there consecutively and never want to leave.
J: I’m getting the vibe that you and I have a similar taste in restaurants and bars, with that very specific marriage of a casual, chill-like vibe and service, paired with really solid product and knowledge. It’s like, we’re casual because we don’t need to worry, because we got it.
M: Totally. We don’t have to prove anything to you.
J: Not that we don’t give a f*ck. We’ve given all the f*cks, and now it’s locked down. And that’s so Bernie’s, now that I think about it.
J: The food’s going to speak for itself. So we’re not going to sugarcoat the rest of it, you know what I mean? That is the vibe.
J: To me, that is what creates the most immersive experience. I love to feel like I’m in a little world, like I’ve kind of been dropped into this total thing. Like the “Sleep No More” of restaurants. Not like Jekyll and Hyde in Times Square, but that thing where you feel like you fully get subsumed into what the restaurant had envisioned for the experience. That’s heaven to me.
M: That’s why you go out, right? That’s what going out really is. It’s finding a place that you can immerse yourself in and have a transportive, transformative experience so that you get taken outside of your norm and your routine and your life. That’s why we seek it out. That’s why going out to eat is an entirely different thing from eating at home. Even if I were to have the exact same meal that I have at Found Oyster in my own home, it just hits different.
J: It hits completely different. I’m scratching two different itches. If I’m like, I’m going to spend two hours cooking dinner tonight and then sitting down and eating it, that’s a completely different itch than going to sit down at this wine bar for 17 hours to try 20 different wines and eat a bunch of snacks.
M: Yeah, totally.
J: In terms of drinking, is wine your go-to?
M: For the most part. I probably drink 65 percent wine, 25 percent cocktails, and 10 percent beer. And I drink so much water.
J: You have to.
M: I should go see a doctor, I think I have an actual medical problem where I am constantly drinking water. I must drink like four gallons of water a day. It has nothing to do with going out.
J: But also you salt the sh*t out of your food.
M: Maybe that’s why.
J: Can I tell you this? My boyfriend, Nate, has your palate down. Caesar salad, cheesy, salty, lemony. Lemon and dill is where we cross over. I lean towards much more briny, acidic, fermented kind of foods, and he’s more cheesy, Caesar salad vibes. When you first came into our lives and we were expanding our food knowledge via the content you were putting out, the box of Maldon salt developed in the home. And then suddenly, Princess Nate could not eat a single food unless there’s crunchy Maldon on it.
M: Bless his heart.
J: Fast forward six months, his doctor told him, “So your blood pressure has significantly increased.”
M: Shut up. I feel responsible.
J: Nate was like, “Wait, what?” And they were like, “Yeah, your blood pressure is concerning for a 27-year-old.” They asked if he changed anything, and he said no. Then he came home and I was like, “Well, you have started Maldon-ing everything.” So he stopped Maldon-ing to see if it would go down. And it absolutely did.
M: No! Oh my God. I am shook right now.
J: But we’ve learned the balance. Go to the doctor and just get your general checkup.
M: I’m too far down the line. My sodium intake is way too high. I’m scared, that’s so crazy. So you guys don’t use Maldon anymore?
J: We use Maldon. It was like, “Hey Nate, you don’t have to cover your toast in Maldon every morning. As with everything, it’s about moderation.
M: I mean, I put Maldon on my f*cking Cheerios. I did it yesterday.
J: I like Honey Nut Cheerios. That sounds like it would be mind blowing. That sounds so good.
M: You have to. That’s your treat.
J: I’m going to do that. But I actually don’t let myself buy cereal because, in my adult life, buying a box of cereal means eating a box of cereal that day. I can’t control myself around it.
M: You have cereal hands! My husband has that exact relationship, but to popcorn. So if we’re at the movie theater and we get a big thing of popcorn, he just goes repeatedly to his mouth, to the popcorn, to his mouth, to the popcorn, until it is all gone. It doesn’t matter how big the box is, he cannot stop. There’s a screw loose, and he cannot stop. There’s so much salt and butter, and he’s just like, “More.” And he feels like sh*t. You have cereal hands. He’s got popcorn hands.
J: Years ago, my first or second year in New York, I was dating this guy who was great. One of his things was that his food palate was disgusting. He loved KFC and McDonald’s, that dirty sh*t that is delicious but also kind of gross. He definitely encouraged me to lean into that side. And there was this one night where we had been out on a date and we had gone out to dinner somewhere and had a few drinks. We were on the subway home and I was like, “Do you want to get off at a stop early and go to McDonald’s and have a second dinner at McDonald’s?” He said sure. So we got off the train, we’re in line at the McDonald’s, and I’m looking at the menu, really trying to figure out what we want. I asked if we wanted to get whatever we were going to get, and then split a 20-piece McNugget as our app? He said sure. He was always down for junk food. So we get the 20-piece McNugget and quarter-pounders or whatever. We sit down at the McDonald’s, we eat it all, and then we’re walking home and we stop in a bodega to pick up beers to have at home. I’m in the bodega in front of the cooler and I’m so full. The guy I was with goes, “Just so you’re aware, of the 20-piece McNugget we ordered, I ate one.” I was like, “What?” And he was like, “Did you not notice that when we sat down, you just took down the McNuggets until they were gone, and then started on your burger?” I did not even perceive that behavior.
M: Oh my god, you have McNugget hands.
J: That’s what I’m saying. I blacked out and took down these McNuggets with no control.
M: Of all three of them, McNugget hands couldn’t be worse.
J: It’s disgusting, with sweet and sour sauce.
M: I’m so repulsed. But also, it sounds so good right now. I’m so hungry.
J: McNuggets are the only McDonald’s thing I get now. I know they’re disgusting, but sometimes I just need to lean into that. And also I really f*ck with the McDonald’s ice cream.
M: Oh, I haven’t had it. Is it like a soft serve?
J: It’s soft serve that they legally can’t call ice cream, because it’s not cream. It’s technically called “ice milk.”
M: They do? I didn’t know that.
J: If you ever look at the McDonald’s signs, it does not say ice cream anywhere, because the Food and Drug Administration was like, “You can’t call it that, that’s not what it is.”
M: So there’s no cream? So is it actually mad healthy?
J: It’s milk. It’s low fat and low calorie because it’s made from milk and not ice cream. I mean, it’s sweet. It is not a rich ice cream, you can tell. It’s kind of its own thing.
M: Is it fluffy, airy, and light?
M: That sounds so good. A little nugget.
J: It’s also 100 calories, and it’s a dollar. If I’m walking around New York, it’s a nice little snack.
M: A bump of ice dream. Hot tip, hot tip.
J: So 60 percent wine is kind of where we’re at.
M: I think I said 65 percent. But yeah, around that. What about you? What are you drinking?
J: That’s an interesting question. Kindred, where I worked, is predominantly a natural wine spot. Because I was drinking so much wine at work and tasting sh*t constantly — it was all delicious and fantastic — but everything’s intense.
M: It’s so alive and vibrant and your palate is sometimes like, “Woo!”
J: Yeah, exactly. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve ordered wine out, unless I’m having a glass of wine with food. So I’ve been very cocktail-heavy if I’m out of the house, especially Martinis when I was working in restaurants, I was drinking wine. I just wanted to drink a really dry gin Martini and not really have to think about it much.
M: I think about this a lot, actually. Why aren’t there more classic cocktails that are savory and not sweet? If you don’t want a sugary cocktail, your options are basically a Bloody Mary or Martini. Maybe a vodka soda, but that’s garbage.
J: Totally. I agree with this. I love a savory cocktail. Two years ago before the pandemic, I developed a cocktail for Kindred that was a chicken fat-washed Martini.
M: Oh my god.
J: It was a rosemary chicken Gin Martini.
M: Was it delicious? How did you wash it? Was it rendered crispy chicken?
J: It was the Kindred chicken I described to you earlier. I had the kitchen hold the chicken fat for me, pour that into the gin, and let it sit for three days. Then, you’d throw it in the freezer, the fat solidifies while the gin stays liquid because it’s booze, and then you just pull the gin off. There was a little bit of sweet vermouth, and I made rosemary cocktail onions that I pickled in house.
M: Oh my god, that sounds so good and savory.
J: It was so f*cking delicious.
M: I want to make that. Is it still on the menu?
J: It’s not, but I’ll send you the recipe. It’s not hard. If you’re regularly roasting chicken and have access to chicken fat, it’s truly not hard.
M: OK, great. Do you like Bloody Marys?
J: I love, love a Bloody Mary.
M: When I was working at Bon Appétit, there were about 40 people who eat and drink a lot and know a lot about what they eat and drink. I was basically the only person on staff who liked Bloody Marys. That was so crazy to me, because they are so delicious and so iconic, and they hit the spot in a way that no other cocktail can. I just don’t understand how you could possibly not love a Bloody.
J: It’s such a wide spectrum of what they can be. It feels crazy to say you don’t like them at all. You can make one that doesn’t have horseradish, there’s so much variance, there’s got to be one you like.
M: That’s crazy to me.
J: So I love Bloody Mary. There’s a scientific reason they taste better here: I love a Bloody Mary on a plane.
M: It’s got to do with altitude, always. I always drink Bloodys on a plane.
J: A Bloody Mary on a plane is beyond anything I’ve ever had. It’s so delicious, and it’s truly just V8, vodka, and Worcestershire. They’re not doing anything,
M: Or it’s the canned Mr & Mrs T. You don’t even get your fresh pickles and your celery and your lemon, none of that. I’ll drink virgin Bloody Marys on a flight because it’s better than any other option.
J: What are your preferences for your Blood Mary?
M: It’s pretty spicy; I generally tend towards spicy foods. I like a lot of black pepper and a lot of some kind of hot sauce. Have you ever had Red Clay Hot Sauce?
M: You should try it. It’s from Charleston, made with fermented fresh red Fresno chilies. Which are my favorite, fresh or fermented. It’s really acidic and tastes of pepper. So I tend to put Red Clay hot sauce in my Bloody, along with horseradish and black pepper, obviously. I use pickle brine, olive brine, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Then I usually put chopped dill in it and always, always pickled onions. I make pickled red onions with a salt, sugar, vinegar brine and I want a handful of them in every bite.
J: Is any of the brine from that going in as well, or are we just doing the onions?
M: Just the onions, because we’ve got the pickles, lemon, and the olive. It’s intense. My Bloody Mary mix is intense, but the thing is, I would never drink five Bloody Marys. Do you know what I mean? I’ll drink 17 glasses of wine, but two Bloody Marys is where I max out. So I like to go hard on those two and really make them count.
J: I feel exactly the same. I love a Mimosa to dismount a Bloody Mary.
M: I’m not a Mimosa fan, but I’ll go from Bloody Mary to beer, normally. As I’m getting through the second Bloody, I start pouring beer into it to extend its life. It’s so good. It’s a gentle come-down from the Bloody and transition into beer for the rest of the day.
M: What a play.
J: That is one of the ultimate pro moves, riding out the Bloody with a good Modelo.
M: What are your favorite Bloody Marys in New York? I can only think of one that I really love. Do you have one?
J: That’s a good question.
M: Actually, I can think of two.
J: What are yours? I’ll think while you tell me yours,
M: I love all of the Bloody Marys at Prune. Have you been there?
J: I have not been to Prune yet.
M: You should go. And the Bloody at Diner/Marlow. Have you been there?
J: I have not.
M: Jake, you’ve got to. These are institutions in Brooklyn.
J: I know, they’re on the top of my list.
M: But they don’t put the pickled onions on at Diner, they only put it at Marlow. They’re next door to each other and they are sister restaurants. If you go to Diner, which I think you should, ask for the Bloody Mary. But ask for pickled onions, and they can either get them from next door or they can pull them from the kitchen where they put them on their burgers and take them off the line and put them in.
J: Can I tell them that you told me to do this?
M: Yes, of course. It’s been my play. They batched out gallons upon gallons of Bloody Mary mix for my wedding. For my brunch the next day.
J: That’s so sick. So I love to get a Bloody Mary at Sunshine Co., do you know them?
J: It’s on Washington Ave. in Prospect Heights. It’s my go-to neighborhood brunch spot. It’s a half-hour walk from my place and it’s really lovely.
M: You just said half-hour walk. I would never walk half an hour at this point.
J: But in New York you did all the time, right?
M: Yeah, I forgot that’s a normal thing. If I walked half an hour, I don’t even know where I would end up. That would be such a crazy thing to do.
J: That’s actually one of the top reasons I’m not particularly drawn to L.A. is that I love walking in New York.
J: If I hadn’t had a call before this recording today, I would absolutely throw on a podcast and walk from Bed-Stuy to NoMad, where we are recording right now. It’s just two hours over the bridge. I love that.
M: That sounds so dreamy, honestly. I’m just envisioning that, and I just got a pang for New York.
J: See, that’s the thing. You get your different coffee shops in, you get to stop, pick up some croissants. You get to have a whole day of just walking. That is what I would miss the most if I had to go to L.A.
M: You’d get so bored walking here. It’s like an hour in between two interesting spots.
J: How has your relationship to bars, restaurants, and going out changed, going from New York to L.A.?
M: I definitely go out less. I still go out a lot, don’t get me wrong. But this is maybe why I told you about my perfect night being a night at Voodoo is… in L.A. you go to a spot and you kind of have to lock in. You’re not going to bounce, and I definitely miss bouncing around. That’s such a New York thing. You go to one spot, you exhaust your time there or the spot is whack, and you move on to the next. You don’t really have that luxury here. So you kind of have to lock into a place and just accept that that’s your night. If you try to bounce around, you’re often chasing a night in a way that just doesn’t feel romantic in the way that it does in New York. So my nights out are more specific, and I want to go to these places that I know I can really enjoy. I’m probably not leaving for several hours, but I’m going to go to six places tonight. A Saturday for me in Brooklyn would have been: Get up, work out, have brunch, and keep going. And suddenly, it’s nighttime. I’ve been to six different bars and restaurants. That’s the glory of New York.
J: You just described my perfect day. I love those days that kind of just flow from event to event to event and end up having dinner at a restaurant you weren’t planning to be at. You woke up in the morning, but now suddenly you’re there with people you didn’t even know you’re going to run into. That’s my heaven. That’s one of the things I fear losing if I ever had to go to L.A. There is something nice about parking it and having one long experience in a space, if you love that space.
M: You just really have to love the space and you’ve got to find your spots, because they’re not all welcoming. You don’t want to spend five hours in one place, so you really have to find your spots in L.A. and I think that’s my goal for this year. I moved here in the middle of the pandemic, when no restaurants were open for dining in. Then, we transitioned to just outdoor dining and even still, we’re not fully open. So in my first year and a half here, I didn’t really get to experience restaurant life in L.A. the way it is meant to be experienced. Now it’s suddenly starting, and I’m looking forward to being able to go and sit in all of the restaurants and have the experience as it was meant to be. And find my spots.
J: I’ve been to L.A., but I was there doing comedy stuff and most comedians are not restaurant people at all. I feel like the L.A. restaurant scene is completely blind to me. Outside of the inability to bop around, have you noticed general differences in how restaurants run and operate in L.A.? Are there any glaring differences? Or do you feel like there’s a lot of similarities in the restaurant styles?
M: I was in a coffee shop, a restaurant, and two stores over the course of an afternoon. And in each of those spots, I was greeted by whoever was working there asking, “Hey, how are you? How is your day going so far?” Not just, “Hey, how’s it going?” and have it end there. Every single one of them was like, “How has your day been so far?” It was like they wanted to hear from you. And that happened to me four times in a row in one day. It kind of hit me at the end of the day, I was like, I don’t think that is the kind of relationship that I have to restaurants in New York, like everything’s a bit more fast paced and no one really has time to ask anybody, “How was your day been?” So that is a marked difference for me. I love the energy of New York restaurants, but they’re kind of no bullsh*t. It’s like, “Let’s get it done, there’s people waiting.”
J: Yes, there’s something fun about that. To show up to the restaurants and speak the language of that. To be like, “I’ve looked at the menu, I know what I want, I can play ball.” There’s also, I’m sure, something nice about there being a little more space for the socialization aspect.
M: Yeah, it was really lovely. Like OK L.A., this is a good thing. It sounds nice, right?
J: It’s like you get a kickback if I moved to L.A. How did becoming a food media personality change your relationship to going out to restaurants? Becoming someone who people know in that world?
M: Do you mean in terms of people knowing who I am when I’m out at restaurants?
J: I guess so. I’m just curious, because I’m a comedian. But I’ve done a lot of stuff about food and wine, and I worked in it for a long time. So I am somewhat in that world. When I go to restaurants and bars, sometimes it comes up. I have a larger fan base within that community than I do within other things in New York. For you, that’s your whole situation. I’m curious how that changed how you approach going to restaurants, how you’ve been treated in restaurants, just in general?
M: Most of my fan base is in New York, because that’s where I’m from, and when I lived there, I definitely felt very well taken care of by the restaurant and food industry. It feels pretty small there. Now that I’m here, I’m a fish out of water. I don’t necessarily feel that camaraderie, and it’s OK. It was such a treat to walk into a restaurant and be recognized and be treated well. And that’s a great thing. It happens less in L.A. because you go to less places, you bop around less. And also, I’m just less known over here.
J: Also, there’s movie stars in these restaurants, probably.
M: There are bigger fish to fry here. But I have thought about that. That community around food and the food culture happening in New York was really rich for me for many years while I was living there. I feel a little bit more alone out here. Not in a sad way, but just in a “things are different now” kind of way that I’m coping with.
J: To tie that back into what you were just saying about the inability to bop around as a patron of restaurants, I probably should have someone on the show who works in restaurants in L.A. Whatever restaurants you worked at in New York, you had your after-hours spot and you knew the people who worked at the bar next to the restaurant. You had this sort of spider network that grows from the restaurant you worked at. Someone you used to work with now works here, and then it grows. I’m curious if, because everything is more isolated in L.A., what the food, restaurant, and bar community is like out there.
M: I don’t know because I’ve never really lived in it. I’ve never been there to shut down a restaurant at 1 in the morning in L.A. to see what happens. So I think you should bring someone on.
J: What restaurants did you work at in New York before you stopped working in restaurants? If you can’t name them, we can bleep it out.
M: Oh, why wouldn’t I be able to name them?
J: I don’t name one of the restaurants I worked in, because I talk a lot of sh*t about it, and the person who owns it is very rich.
M: The first restaurant I worked in in New York was Picholine. I don’t know if you were living in New York when that existed. It doesn’t anymore. It’s a Michelin-starred tasting menu, super-hoity-toity restaurant up by Lincoln Center. It’s a pre-theater-experience type of spot. The menu was 14 courses, and I worked there for a year. It’s so cliché, but working in that high-intensity environment was the hardest job that I ever had. I definitely got told I was a shoemaker, which is kind of a weird insult. If I couldn’t cook the fish the right way, then I might as well be repairing shoes. Maybe I should have,
J: I’ve cooked your fish recipes; they’re fantastic. So that’s not true.
M: Thank you. I honestly wouldn’t trust myself with a pair of shoes. But that restaurant really whipped me into gear. After a year working there, I wanted to go far away from fine dining. I don’t even like to fine dine as a patron. I can’t even tell you last time I did. It’s just not my bag. But I wanted to have that experience, get it under my belt, and learn everything I can. I’m going to get abused, and that I’m going to leave and take care of myself. So I left, and then I worked at this place called Allswell, which I don’t know if you’ve ever been there. It’s on Bedford in Williamsburg, and it’s still there. Nate was the chef; he used to work at the Spotted Pig and then left it to open that.
J: Bedford and what?
M: Bedford and North 10th.
J: I’m almost positive I’ve been there.
M: It’s a little cozy British gastropub spot. I worked there for a year and a half or so. That was a casual American, British pub kind of vibe. Then I worked at the Glasserie in Greenpoint with Sarah Kramer, and she’s out here now and has restaurants out here, but that’s where we met. I did a little stint there at her Middle Eastern spot. Was there another restaurant there? I think I’m forgetting one restaurant, but maybe that was all of them. I guess that kind of turned into about five years. Then, I moved away from that and towards food media, food styling, the side of things that I’m now still in.
J: Was that a hard transition?
M: No, because I was ready for it. After those years, I realized I don’t want to own my own restaurant. So I needed to figure out what that other thing was. I always dreamed of this notion of food media. I didn’t really know what it was, but all the magazines and Condé Nast and stuff. So it was always in the back of my mind that this is a part of the industry that I’m really interested in. Once I finally decided that owning a restaurant is not the life I want for myself, that was a natural pivot.
J: I went through a similar thing, because I loved bartending so much when I was younger. I loved it so much, and I really thought I would be happy doing it for the rest of my life. Then I moved to New York and actually saw what being a high- level professional bartender looked like as a lifestyle and almost immediately it was like, “There’s literally no way.” I found that absolutely terrifying, this realization that this thing I wanted was not actually what I wanted. Did you have that or were you comfortable with the next move?
M: No, because part of the reason that I went into restaurants in the first place was because I specifically chose not to go to culinary school. So going to work in restaurants was a) a journey of figuring out whether I wanted to own my own and operate my own restaurant and b) a journey of learning how to cook professionally instead of paying for an education at culinary school. I always sort of knew that it was going to be a means to an end. And I decided culinary school wasn’t the best use of my time and money. Working in restaurants killed two birds with one stone.
J: Absolutely gorgeous. I could literally talk to you about this for hours, if we just name restaurants and talk about our opinions.
M: You have 29 other people to do that with.
J: I’m sure you have a table waiting for you at Hidden Pearl.
M: Found Oyster! That’s amazing.
J: That is so humiliating.
M: That’s so good. I’m only calling it Hidden Pearl.
J: I’m like running around L.A. being like, “No it’s called Hidden Pearl and it’s amazing. My friend Molly told me about it.”
M: “It’s the most poppin’ restaurant in L.A., I swear.” And they’re like, “It’s not showing up on Google Maps.” You’re a f*cking icon. That’s so crazy. You just flipped it and reversed it.
J: It could not be more antithetical to the actual name.
M: It’s literally the opposite. Oh my God.
J: Sometimes at Kindred, the wine list was constantly rotating with natural wines from Italy, Slovenia, Georgia, and Croatia. Every day, it was an indigenous varietal you’d never heard of before. Someone would ask me, what’s the grape on this? And rather than be like, “I don’t know,” I would just make a sound. And they would be like, “Oh my God, amazing.”
M: I would do that, like, “Oh, awesome, I love that grape.” You have to play the game. Everybody’s playing the game when we’re talking about natural wine. No one wants to admit that they don’t know what’s going on.
J: Iconic. People love to be told they don’t know something. I guess to wrap it up, as someone who is a very seasoned food person: a pro tip, à la extending your Bloody with a beer. Do you have a pro tip for someone who’s maybe not as well seasoned as you or I in this world for the next time they go out?
M: Always carry a small tin of Maldon salt with you, because you’ll never know when your food may be under-seasoned, and it can oftentimes be very rude or embarrassing to ask for salt at a restaurant. Never let me catch you without a tin of Maldon in your purse. That’s truly all I have to say.
J: That’s truly genius.
M: For my wedding, we gave out 500 of those mint tins; we bought them in bulk. We emptied all of the mints, washed them all, and then filled them with Maldon salt and gave them out.
J: OK, your wedding sounds f*cking cool.
M: It was small, but it was mighty.
J: That’s incredible. Well, this was perfect. Thank you so much for doing the show, Molly.
M: Really? It is my pleasure. I’m so happy to actually connect with you and see your face and chat with you.
J: I would love to actually do it in a restaurant next time we are in the same city.
M: Yeah, I’ll let you know when I’m coming to New York. Think about the polygamous relationship between New York and L.A. L.A. is here, I am here, and I would love to hang out with you if you come out here.
J: At Hidden Pearl. I’m going to be visiting soon, 100 percent.
M: You’ll tell me.
J: Well, thank you so much.
M: Thank you. Good luck with this, I can’t wait to hear it.
J: I know I’m so excited. I’ll let you know when it’s dropping.
Thank you so much for listening to “Going Out With Jake Cornell.” If you could please go and rate and review us on whatever you’re listening to this on, that would be really gorgeous for me in a huge way, so thank you.
And now, for some credits. “Going Out With Jake Cornell” is recorded in New York City and is produced by Keith Beavers and Katie Brown. The music you’re hearing is by Darbi Cicci. The cover art you’re probably looking at was photographed by M. Cooper and designed by Danielle Grinberg. And a special shout-out to VinePair co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for making all of this possible.