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Mexico formally opposes Remain in Mexico program

 February 9, 2023 at 5:07 PM PST

S1: Mexico is now opposing U.S. immigration policy.

S2: They describe Tijuana as a bottleneck for migration , and these policies put a cap on that bottleneck.

S1: I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition. Resources have been poured into fighting the homeless crisis.

S3: The state of California has never , ever put as much into solving this crisis before.

S1: Southwestern College police work on public trust and perceptions. Plus a mezzo soprano in the Puccini duo. That's ahead on Midday Edition. First , the news. For the first time , the Mexican government is formally opposing the Trump era program known as Remain in Mexico. The controversial policy forced asylum seekers to live in Mexico until their cases were decided in U.S. immigration courts. While it's unclear what impact this announcement will have on immigration policy , it could signal an eventual change in how asylum cases are handled at the southern border. Joining me with more on the story is KPBS investigative border reporter Gustavo Solis. Gustavo , welcome back.

S2: Hello , Jane.


S2: I mean , it's important to remember that Mexico agreed to participate in remain in Mexico back in 2019 , only after President Donald Trump threatened to impose a 5% import tax. So Mexico is definitely strong armed into this at the beginning , but ever since then , they've gone along with it. So Mexico's opposition announcement kind of now comes at a time where remain in Mexico is in limbo. It's not really being used right now. It's kind of held up in the courts , but it could come back. So this is almost like a preemptive announcement for Mexico , like if the courts force it back , they they aren't on board.


S2: So the municipal officials , not the ones at the federal level and at least at the local level. And Tijuana officials view both remain in Mexico and Title 42 as the two policies that are really responsible for the current humanitarian crisis they're seeing at the border. Right. Officials , they describe Tijuana as a bottleneck for migration. And these policies put a cap on that bottleneck. It created a scenario where you have thousands of migrants waiting to go somewhere and that outlet is cut off. So shelters filled up. Migrants were sleeping in the streets and becoming easy victims for criminals to prey on.


S2: But it is significant. I mean , it is the first time publicly that Mexico has opposed to this. Advocates certainly hope that it is a bit of a tone shift. The officials in Tijuana are a little bit more skeptical. They see it as part of ongoing negotiations between Mexico City and Washington , D.C.. And actually , just news today out of The Washington Post suggests that it is part of negotiations and it could be a sign of even more collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico. The Post reported that the Biden administration is currently in talks with Mexico to have them accept deportees from other countries. It would make it possible for the U.S. to deport 10th of tens of thousands of people to Mexico.

S1: And I heard you just mentioned this , but you've reported extensively about how this policy has had a number of unintended consequences for migrants who are turned back into Mexico.

S2: I mean , that's the saddest part of all this , right ? Our federal government is forcing people through these policies to remain in Mexico , and Title 42 is forcing some of the most vulnerable people in the world to live in very dangerous border communities. And the federal government knows that these are deadly places to be. I mean , many of them are under U.S. travel advisories. We have years now of documented instances of migrants who were turned away from the U.S. , ended up at the border , being beaten , robbed , kidnapped , sexually assaulted and even killed in Mexico. And we're not talking about a few isolated incidents. We're talking about tens of thousands of documented cases of this happening.

S1: President Biden vowed to end this policy , but some legal roadblocks have kept the program in. As you put it , it's in limbo.

S2: The administration has had two plus years to address this issue. And , yes , there have been some court challenges that have not gone in his favor. But despite those court losses , the Biden administration has actually expanded some of the Trump era policies. And those expansions were made by choice , not by court order. And if you listen to the rhetoric coming out of Washington , the focus is clearly on stopping people from coming to the U.S. and increasing border enforcement , which is what the policy was in the previous administration.

S1: In the president's State of the Union address earlier this week , he alluded to the need for immigration reform.

S2: Now , is that on the list of changes he'll actually make or could make ? That's when I kind of doubt it. If you listen to the State of the Union address , less than a minute of that hour plus speech was given to immigration. And he alluded to immigration reform , which we haven't had in. 20 plus years and he's been a senator or vice president during that time. And I think now going into 2024 , there's even less likely of bipartisan immigration reform happening just because of the makeup in the House and how much of a divisive issue immigration is.


S2: Some Department of Homeland Security officials went on the record to say that they still plan to terminate it , moving their way through the courts. But I think what's important for listeners to know is that even though remain in Mexico might go away , the Biden administration is also working on new programs that would essentially do the same thing , that would essentially let the White House let the U.S. deport non Mexicans to Mexico. So the actual policy could go away. But I think the thought behind it and kind of the ethos of it looks like it's here to stay. It looks like it's something the Biden administration likes and is doubling down on.

S1: I've been speaking with KPBS , investigative border reporter Gustavo Solis. Gustavo , thank you.

S2: Oh , thank you , Jade.

S1: Homelessness has been a stubborn problem across California for years. And while the state and city governments continue to introduce programs , housing and funds to get a handle on the crisis , it persist. Angela Hart is a reporter with Kaiser Health News. And today she published an in-depth look at what the state is spending on the problem and if it's made a difference. It's called The Country is Watching. California Homeless Crisis Looms As Governor Newsom Eyes Political Future. Angela , welcome. Thank you. You started the piece with a dollar amount right at the top that represents the investment the state has made to combat this issue. Can you tell us about that investment ? Absolutely.

S3: $18.4 billion California has invested and directly into addressing the homelessness crisis that's playing out across California. This really is unprecedented. The state of California has never , ever put as much into solving this crisis before. Since Governor Gavin Newsom took office in 2019. There's been a steady flow of both state and federal funding going to cities and counties and programs like housing to address the crisis. And there's even more on the way. The governor is proposing additional investments this year that would bring if they're approved by the state legislature. Overall investment around $21 billion. Wow.

S1: Wow.

S3: And I would just say I would add to that , too , that 20 roughly $21 billion , there is billions more dollars and being funneled into other aspects of the homelessness crisis like health care. So the answer , if you look at the freeway overpasses , if you go to any city , even rural towns across the state , the answer is no.

S1: Can you talk about the governor's policy on encampment sweeps , which I believe he shares the same school of thought as our own mayor here in San Diego. Absolutely.

S3: Absolutely. The governor has been really aggressive about going after these encampments that are populating freeways , sidewalks across California , rural towns. It's really become a humanitarian crisis. And and it's a political tightrope for Governor Newsom as well. The public is angry. People are frustrated. And it's not just homeowners and renters that homeless people themselves who are fed up. On one hand , homeowners and renters , people who are in housing are grappling with the crisis. They don't want to see homeless people , but they don't want homeless people to be in the situation they're in. And four homeless people themselves , they hear promises of more housing coming and more money coming for behavioral health care. But when you scratch beneath the surface a little bit , it's really hard to find that investment. Hmm.

S1: Hmm. You work for Kaiser Health News. How do homelessness and health care intersect.

S3: The intersection of health and homelessness ? It's extraordinary. The mental health crises that are playing out on the streets , the addiction crisis. There is so much fentanyl flooding the streets of California. Five bucks a pill. I just talked to a homeless woman a couple of days ago who got actually a bag of pills for $10. California is writing homelessness policy from a health care perspective bigger than any other state in the country. We're talking about $12 billion the state is putting in on top of the other investments that I discussed into things like , okay , let's pay for rent for someone who is homeless. Let's give them financial assistance to cover first month's rent , last month's rent deposit. For example , let's negotiate with landlords to get them to allow homeless people into other units. This is a state health care agency which is taking the lead on this. So it's really fascinating what's happening here. Even looking at food , fresh fruits and vegetables , the state is actually with health care money paying for that for people on the streets. So there are there is a big initiative underway to really marry these two things and really address the co-occurring crises of homelessness and health care.


S3: But I I'm really watching for accountability. State lawmakers want to know where that money going. Why aren't we seeing a difference on the streets ? The public wants to see their taxpayer money working for them. And so what we've heard from Governor Newsom and mayors and county super. Reserves across California as more accountability , more accountability of where it's being spent and whether it's working. And is that a smart investment ? What does that look like ? You know , I think that really remains to be seen. Right now. A lot of this money is sort of distributed from the state to the local level. And there's a lot of discretion at the local level on what sort of funds and paid for. But I think until you really get to the root problem of homelessness , I would say the root problems of homelessness , lack of affordable housing , which the state's trying to do. But until you really make a dramatic increase in the number of units available , we're going to still be in this crisis. And then for the humanitarian perspective , the health care perspective , until the state really figures out how to offer robust mental health care addiction treatment and even basic health care for people who are living outside , it's really impossible to get healthy until you get into housing. And so you really have to kind of solve the housing or the health care equation before someone can be successful in housing. So I think those are two major areas that we're going to be watching.

S1: You know , you talked to lots of people for this story. You explored a lot here.

S3: You know , I I want to come back to this idea of the underlying health care crises that are , you know , underpinning the homelessness crisis in California. I really I really struggle with this question about how how to solve , you know , how California is addressing putting all of this money into trying to solve this. Yet the cycle that chicken and egg as the home as the homelessness crisis creating a bigger problem in terms of mental health and public health or is that the other way around ? And I think maybe what surprised me is it's it's both. And and if you really want to tackle this crisis , you have to really get out there and talk to people on the streets , talk to people who are homeless and find out what do you need , what will bring you into housing ? What will compel you to accept services ? And so trust is extraordinarily important. Trust really underpins this entire experiment that California is working on and really trying to solve this crisis with an enormous amount of money. Wow.

S1: Wow.

S3: I'll actually be coming down to San Diego to do a little more reporting and and later this month. And I would say that actually I wanted to bring something up from Mayor Todd Gloria , which I'll be talking more about this in my next piece. But it's interesting , Gloria , when I asked him about some of these investments in homelessness and in health care and the really drive that Governor Newsom has on tackling it , we see Mayor Gloria really kind of adopting a similar mentality. And I think it shows an evolution of Democrats and the state on how they're thinking about homelessness and addressing homelessness. Mayor Gloria adds , But up as Governor Newsom with the encampments that are outside and I think he had a he talked to me about something that is really driving my next piece , and it sparked my curiosity. He said , listen , the phenomenon of encampments along freeways and city sidewalks , of course , is a statewide problem. And we're doing the cleanup that are necessary for public safety. The conditions are unsanitary and they put people's health and safety at risk , he argued. And that leads people to dying. Some people disagree with me under the guise of caring for these individuals , he said. But the sidewalk is not a home. So really , if you're looking at the sidewalk , it's not a home where these people are going to go. If we're moving encampments and we're clearing people off the streets. I think that's a big question that state leaders have to really address and have an answer for in terms of public frustration and public anger and public concern. Where do people go if there isn't enough housing , there isn't enough treatment , there's not enough beds for people to be cared for. So if you're moving people around , are you really solving the crisis ? It's going to segue into my next piece , really focusing on San Diego.

S1: Well , we look forward to seeing that piece and finding out what some of the answers to those questions are. I've been speaking with Angela Hardt , senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News. Angela , thank you so much.

S3: Thank you.

S1: You can find Angela Hart's latest in-depth story for Kaiser Health News. The country is watching. California Homeless Crisis Looms. As Governor Newsom eyes political future on our Web site , KPBS dot org. You're listening to KPBS midday Edition. I'm Jade Hyneman. The ongoing case in the police beating death of Tyree Nichols once again focuses on the use of deadly force by officers. KPBS education reporter Angie Perez says police at one South Bay College are working to create a community for change.

S2: Get the gun out just in case , Worst case scenario.

S4: Officer David Felix is talking about the department issued a AR 15 rifle he carries in his car on patrol across Southwestern College's Chula Vista campus. He also carries a Taser , a baton and a Glock 22 pistol. But his most effective tool is communication.



S4: Feel like she's one of the nine sworn officers on the Southwestern College Police force. He has also served in the Los Angeles Police Department , and he has seen the video of Memphis police beating Tyree Nichols.

S2: That was an aggressive style of policing. And if you do that here , you better have a pretty good reason why you're acting and and saying things like they did in the video. It hurts me because I love my profession. I believe in the profession.

S4: Marco Moreno is southwestern chief safety officer. He's felt the sting of brutality brought on by other police across the country , starting with the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

S2: I have two sons , both in high school , that were ashamed to say that their father was a police officer at a time. And that a shame , because they're proud of me and what I do. It's just from what was happening.

S4: And it kept on happening. That's when Southwestern College police decided they needed help to change the public's perception and earn trust. So they partnered with the Urban League of San Diego County , which has organized focus groups between students , staff , police and other community members who want solutions. Al Abdalla is president and CEO of the local Urban League.

S2: Every law enforcement officer across the country is now under a microscope. Are you like.

S5: Memphis or proud of Memphis ? Minneapolis with George Floyd. Do you have.

S2: Murderers on your payroll ? These are questions that have to be asked.

S4: And the Urban League collaboration focus groups have answered those questions and build bridges to de-escalate police involved confrontations. It's working , according to Southwestern Student trustee Jose Perez.

S2: If I were in a situation or circumstance where there would be a threat , I would have that feeling of.

S5: Security knowing that they are going to.

S2: Be their president and they're going to do their job right. The bar to prove the guilt of the EMT or the paramedic is lower than the bar of unreasonable.

S4: Doubt in a criminal case. The curriculum at the southwestern Otay Mesa campus for the college's police academy and other first responder programs includes real time current events with lessons in ethics and legal courses that go beyond the textbooks. That has only inspired paramedic student Slater Lee. Even more , he's seen the video with Memphis police and the EMTs who were also fired.

S2: It's horrible that it ever happened , but to be someone that could potentially respond and make a difference in a positive light for anyone in any of those horrible situations would be motivating.

S4: Talia Rogers is Slater's classmate. She is committed to her mental health in responding to critical calls involving patients in worst case scenarios.

S3: I think it's about understanding what just happened and mentally and emotionally processing it that way. You're not left with traumatic.

S1: Thoughts about it.

S3: Later and times , and then you're able to move on from it.

S4: 244 Back on the Chula Vista campus , Officer Felix is moving on with his patrol. Proud of the progress his department is making. As another day ends in the best case scenario. M.G. Perez , KPBS News.

S1: Here in California , we've grown pretty accustomed to power outages. Sometimes it gets knocked out by storms. Other times it gets turned off on purpose by the utility companies to avoid wildfires. But what if you could live in a community where your lights stayed on no matter what happened to the grid ? Well , in Southern California , such a community is being built and it also has the advantage of being super energy efficient , which the state is trying to promote as a way to fight climate change. California report co-host Saul Gonzalez was curious. So he paid a visit.

S2: 90 miles.

S5: Outside of Los Angeles in southern Riverside County. One of the most technologically cutting edge communities in the country is being built. But you know what's weird ? Standing in front of one of the completed model homes , it looks like.

S2: An absolutely normal California tract house.

S5: Suburbia , not Star Trek. You don't want it to look like a science project ? No.


S5: That's Scott Hanson , a vice president at KB Homes , the giant home construction company that's building this super energy efficient plan community called Durango at Shadow Mountain.

S2: So from the standpoint of why does a home look like a conventional home ? It's because that's where our customer tells us they want , particularly that first time buyer customer.

S5: But despite their conventional.

S2: Looks , each house that will be built in this 219 home community will be a showcase of.

S5: Green technologies. In the garage , there's a battery that stores power generated by 16 solar.

S2: Panels on the roof , an ultra high efficiency heat.

S5: Pump to warm and cool the residents and wiring for an electric vehicle charger inside the $550,000 home has an all.

S2: Electric induction kitchen range , high efficiency.

S5: Appliances and smart devices to help monitor and reduce energy use. Take all of this together and you have a suburban house that.

S2: Slashes power consumption. This community is about 40% more efficient on the use of electricity than a standard house today. But when its.

S5: Construction is completed , what will set this community really apart from others is its microgrid system , the largest in the state for residential development. What's the microgrid ? Well , think of it as a miniature power plan that will allow this community to generate its own.

S2: Electricity by harvesting power from solar.

S5: Panels and then storing it for use.

S2: In two big community battery systems.

S5: So if there are wider blackouts in the region because of wildfires , storms or high winds , this community will remain powered. An island of light in a sea of darkness. In theory , you could you know , if you moderate.

S2: Your usage , you could basically stay indefinitely.

S5: On battery backup.

S2: That's Alison Marx.

S5: With the company SunPower. It's partnering in the microgrid with Katie Holmes. UC Irvine. So Cal Edison and the U.S. Department of Energy , which has given a six and a half million dollars grant to help build and then study the real world use of the microgrid system by residents. How are the homeowners going to react here ? I mean , this is going to be studied by the Department of Energy , Southern California Edison.

S2: And they're going to monitor the.

S5: Homeowners usage and they're going to.

S2: Simulate some blackouts , will have.

S5: Natural blackouts.

S2: And how do the homeowners react to that ? Oh , you're going to you're going to like , turn.

S5: This into a science experiment so you will have stage blackouts and see how these homes do. Correct. Prospective home buyer John Davidson says he's seen too many stories about blackouts in California. He thinks moving in here could offer some energy peace of mind.


S5: Could truly have a power problem in.

S2: The future. You know , so we have to come up with other alternatives than just relying on the power company.

S5: And to you maybe moving into a house like this and buying a house like this is kind of future proofing your life a bit.

S2: Potentially , yes.

S4: The first residents will start moving into the homes at Shadow Mountain in March.

S2: Advocates for sustainable.

S5: Energy hope the innovations here.

S4: Will become increasingly common.

S2: As California.

S5: Attempts to make the places we call home both greener.

S2: And more energy resilient.

S5: I'm Saul Gonzalez.

S1: One way to honor Black History Month is by celebrating black culture. San Diego chef Quentin Austin does that every day in the food he cooks. His restaurant Louisiana Purchase and Q&A Restaurant and Oyster Bar offer local diners a culinary trip to New Orleans through the taste and smells of Creole and Cajun food. And in addition to his work in the kitchen , he's also the founder of Bad Boys Culinary , an advocacy group that helps local black chefs pursue their careers in the culinary industry. Chef Q , as he's known , spoke to Midday Edition producer Harrison Patino.

S2: Chef Q Welcome to Mid Edition.

S5: Oh , well , thank you. Appreciate it.

S2: So you specialize in the cuisine of Louisiana and a place that is just about as far away from the Big Easy as you can get in the lower 48.

S5: And it just brings back that that home feeling. So I just want to stay true to what that is. A lot of times people will say , especially chefs back in New Orleans will say , you know , you don't want to be a one trick pony from there. Like , I can make other things. I've helped Italian restaurants , I help Asian restaurants. I helped a bunch of different restaurants with menus and developing and stuff like that. But when it comes to making stuff that you're familiar with and stuff that's from home , it just makes you feel , you know.

S2: So I just ate at Louisiana Purchase last night. I had the blackened catfish at you. FE It was delicious. The fish was tender , Everything was richly seasoned. And of course I had to pair that with some garlic cheddar biscuits. I'm not going to say on the air how many of those I ate , but I do want to ask you , you know , Cajun and Creole food , it's so deeply loved , but it's a style of cooking where tradition is so important.

S5: The older people , they will challenge you to the bone and is like , Oh man , like , give me a break. And I was like , Well , you know , traditionally you're not supposed to make seafood , so you're not supposed to do this. You're not supposed to. And I'm like , okay , we're going to take this absolutely 2023. We're going to make you modern. The older people , they really try to get you to stick to the traditions and me being younger and knowing that , you know , there's so many different other cooking techniques and stuff that you can incorporate with Cajun and Creole that is kind of like getting them to accept it. That's the hardest thing. But once they try and they understand like , okay , it is still can be good , you could , you can mixture seafood , so you could add different elements and flavors to it to still make it pop , but make it more , you know , modern. So that was the biggest thing.

S2: And before you came to San Diego , you were the chef de cuisine at the legendary New Orleans restaurant Antoine's , I understand.


S2: It kind of seems like that experience could prepare you for just about anything , I would think.

S5: They will prepare you for anything if you survive in the French quarters. The nuclear survive anywhere. When it comes to cooking , Antoine's was a master of his own as far as how many people have said how many turns he did , we will go out to lunch , maybe door my 7000 people , and we'll go out to dinner with another 2000 people. So it was a lot to try to control everything and keep everything balanced. But then I can say the same thing about Copeland's. I'm a part of the culprits , so a lot of people that come from Copeland's , they come out to be great chefs , other places and stuff like that. And it was the same thing there. We had , you know , a lot of people that came into New Orleans that try to work for some of these places , and they just couldn't make it because it's different. It's a different culture , it's a different it's a different animal. So different beats , you know , for better or worse , I can say , you know , H&R , there's not a lot of H&R in New Orleans , so a lot of stuff goes on in those kitchens. So it's it's it's it's a lot to deal with. And you just have to be strong.

S2: Well , let's talk more about that.

S5: I've always been into art. So I can say , you know , my first job was in a restaurant. And so it was always been that I was trying to go to school for sociology or psychology. And then Hurricane Katrina derailed that idea. Even when I had opportunity to go back to school , I just wasn't there. I was a passionate no more about it. I was in the dorm room. I displaced and I was cooking food for the rest of the displaced people and we were just cooking off of high rise. George Foreman grills and deep fryers and low flow portable fryers and we was making meals and lot of people's is live now. You know you should really like try to pursue this even harder. And I was like , you know , maybe I will. Yeah , I did when I'm going to culinary school opponents school in New Orleans , which at the time was ranked , I want to say 12th best culinary school in the country. And it was it was a great experience. So I was really thankful for that. And then after that , I just always had an idea to work at as many different restaurants as possible. I'll keep two or three jobs. And I'll just work and grind and I'll just I was able to work for different places , like just different authentic restaurants. But they , they specialized in different things. And I was able to take all those talents and then put it together and then , you know , kind of create my own way , so to speak. So that was like the best thing. And as far as coming into San Diego , it was the move I wanted to make. I just want to grow as a brand now and grown and grow as as you know , for myself , my brand and my name. And I felt like either California , L.A. thing , Miami , Houston , Atlanta , like those would be good stepping stones to kind of grow. And I had an opportunity to palm to San Diego to redo menus for while and Prosper and rebuild Bisbee's Coconut Club and Park one on one in Carlsbad. And after that we had opened a weapon and it kind of just blossomed from there. And I got the opportunity to be a part of something special with some other places in Louisiana. Purchase was one of them. You know , we formed a partnership and , you know , I was able to really grasp on to that and make it my own.

S2: You're also the co-founder of this group , Bad Boys of Culinary.

S5: I wanted to get as many cooks and chefs together to build a family , a place where people could go to kind of like get knowledge and mentorship and tutoring and grooming other books and chefs to be in better positions. And that was like the whole thing. We started as a culinary expo. We did different shows and stuff like that , and we just kind of grew and grew stronger and we got to end up getting more and more people to kind of join the cause , which was really , really cool. It was just just for like knowledge and growth and , you know , teaching individuals certain ways because if you want to make it and you know , you want to go outside these walls of California. California really does a good job in sheltering their books. And as far as like labor laws and stuff like that. So , you know , once you leave the state of California , it's a different world. And it's a lot in the business world. And you have to prepare yourself for that , you know , And it's like one of those days where it's like , I don't want to see individuals that really want and work hard to fall flat. So I feel like it's my job to kind of like steer people in right directions.


S5: If you look even in New Orleans , the amount of black executive chefs is low. It's there's not really a lot. And in California's the SAT in a lot of different places and I feel like a lot of people want it , but they just don't know how to get. And you have to give people that knowledge of how to get it. And I feel like a lot of people out of our self , some they don't really want to give that information , which I don't know why , but a lot of people don't want to give that information. And I mean me , myself personally , I also , like I was put here to help others and helped us succeed in some of the things that they want to do , you know , because , you know , I feel like we need more mentors , especially like in the Culinary Committee. So we need more minutes or so kind of help you out. So that was my biggest thing.

S2: So I'm wondering if you could share with us some of what you consider to be the signature dishes at your restaurant.

S5: One is the alligator. I'll do the cheesecake and it sticks out because I know a lot of people know about Jack. Jack moves and a lot of people talk about , oh , you know , they're the original , you know , alligator sausage cheesecake. But I feel like , you know , that's one of those things where is tradition ? But like , you can make it more modern. So , like , that's what I wanted to do was it's a savory cheesecake model with sausage , alligator meat , peppers , onions , garlic. Go two cheese with a crawfish cream sauce over the top. And that dish really solidified me as like being one of the more creative minds at culinary , and that is built me up a lot. And in the New Orleans area and even out here in San Diego , when the Louisiana Purchase opened , a lot of people was familiar with that dish. So that was really cool. The second one , I would say is the rib eye. Monica Just for the simple fact crawfish , Monica is traditionally a pasta , and that's another tradition thing. It's a pasta that's made at different fairs and festivals in New Orleans. Like jazz fare is one of them. And I took the source of the pasta , and instead of making me a pasta , I just put that sauce over a rib eye. And that's where we come up with the arm , the rib eye monitor. So that's like a dish that a lot of people really love. And , you know , it grew on a lot of people , especially the traditional heads. And I mean , it's it's one of the biggest sellers.

S2: And to think I had a salad for lunch today. What a waste.

S5: It definitely a waste.


S5: If I want barbecue , I definitely. Got a corpse or bowl a certain I was always a girl weren't subordinate. That's my gosh , I bought a soul food truck. I really like to enjoy that kind of stuff. Steaks. I mean , I'm a steak guy. I feel like if you're in San Diego , you have to go to Cowboy Star to get a good steak. Our chef Brad with the trust group where society. You know , that's a good steak steak spot also. So , you know , I like to explore. I feel like I've been to almost every restaurant you could pick up in San Diego. I go to them all and I take them for what it's for. I'm not like a picky or judgy eater. I take it for what it's for. I appreciate the craft and technique of each restaurant , and I just love food.

S1: That was Chef Quinton Austin of Louisiana Purchase and Q&A Restaurant and Oyster Bar. Talking with Midday Edition producer Harrison Patino. For the month of February , Louisiana Purchase has a special Black History Month menu featuring items named after historically black colleges and universities , including Grambling Pork Belly Jambalaya and Dillard Short Rib and Shrimp Linguine. I wonder if there's anything for Florida A&M , my alma mater. All of that sounds delicious. And now we're all hungry and. You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. San Diego Opera presents four performances of the Puccini duo starting Saturday. It's a first for the professional company , with the casting of Stephanie Blythe in a role traditionally sung by a man. KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO speaks with the mezzo soprano about expanding her range.

S3: Stephanie , you are going to be singing in San Diego Opera's Puccini duo. So this is not a single opera. So explain to people what this entails.

S2: Well , these are two operas that are part of Puccini's You critical , which means Which is which are actually three operas. We're doing two of those operas. The first opera is called Swan Angelica. The second is Germany's Gigi. The first is a drama , a tragedy. And the second is , is a comedy. They'll hear a lot of really wonderful different singers. Two very , very contrasting pieces , contrasting productions , and the typically wonderful Coochie verismo sounds.


S2: And as far as singing two roles that are so distance apart in terms of range , it's not really it's not that difficult. Speaking , of course , this is a debut for me , and it's a very new idea and it's very exciting and a little risky. And I'm enjoying it enormously.

S3: And part of what's risky about this is that you are a mezzo soprano and you will be singing baritone.

S2: So it means that they will hear me in the range of what we generally consider a man's voice. It's different in that there are many roles in opera that are written specifically for a woman playing a man. This is not one of them. This is actually a role written for baritone and being sung probably , I believe , for the first time by a woman as a man.

S3: And vocally , is that something that's difficult to do for you know.

S2: I am not trying to be pressed about the answer. It just isn't. This is a part of my voice that's been developing more and more. I've always had a rather low voice. Actually , in Europe , they don't call me a mezzo soprano. They always call me contralto. And as I've gotten older and certain hormonal changes taking place , it just has gone a bit lower. And I've just developed that voice. And I'm very grateful to San Diego Opera for giving me this wonderful opportunity.


S2: I was very , very lucky. When I was a kid , to be involved with some wonderful programs in my high school life in junior high. And I come from a musical family. My father was a jazz musician. I was always surrounded by music , but it wasn't until I was in college and I was studying to become a music teacher that I realized what I wanted to do with singing. I started really taking singing seriously when I got my degree in English. But it was English. It was studying writing that made me interested in the idea of technique , of becoming good at something by actually working on it. And it helped me to organize my thoughts in a different way , to be creative in a different way. And I was challenged by some wonderful teachers , and it made me want to sing. So that's what I did.

S3: And what is it about opera that appeals to you ? I mean , we tend to think of it as this kind of over the top dramatic format.

S2: I think that sometimes. Stories and emotions are too big to tell without music. And I think that that that's what really draws me to it. I'm drawn to the to the dramatic aspect of opera. I'm drawn to the collegial aspect of it , the ensemble aspect of it , very , very much. And I think it's a misnomer now to think of opera as just being this giant thing because it's not. And I think as long as we continue seeing opera in that way , we're going to continue having to worry about it. But if we understand that opera encompasses an enormous variety of of works , a variety of of sizes and sounds and and productions and and numbers of people. And if we understand that the thing that makes opera really beautiful is the diversity of its. Then it will continue to grow and people will become even more enamored with it because there you can't eat it. Is it ? It all really does , though , kind of fall down to the idea of you have to sing it when words aren't enough.

S1: I was curious how.

S3: You were first exposed to opera. I know for me it was probably a Bugs Bunny cartoon in. That killed the wife. That killed the wife dead. Or the Marx Brothers. And , you know , these would have been kind of comic situations in which I heard opera presented.

S2: I watched when I was maybe 12 or 13. My mother asked me to watch Tosca with her on PBS. And that was the first time ever I ever really was. Of course , I had heard I'd heard operated in many , many in the things that you just mentioned , you know. But that was the first time I ever saw a full on opera. And I fell in love with it. It's still my favorite opera. And I said before that I asked my mother in the third act , I asked her , what is the name of this beautiful song with you singing What is it ? And she told me it was an angel on the scene. And I said , Please write it out for me , Mommy. She wrote it out , and I tapped it onto mine. My note board. And memorized it because I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard in my life. This.

S6: This. That's what it looks good. Oh. Oh. Oh.

S2: And that's really when I was bitten by by that when I was 16 , not long after that , I saw my first live opera at the Met. And I've frequently told the story that I was seeing him at the intermission. I walked down to the pit and I looked up into the audience and those lights and I thought to myself , This would be the most amazing. Wouldn't this be an amazing place to sing ? Wouldn't this be incredible ? You know , I was 16 when I was 24. I was singing on the stage. That's just a great gift. It's it's a great gift. It's a you know , a wonderful a wonderful experience. And opera has been very , very good to me.

S6: Oh , she loves you. Oh. Unbelievable.

S1: That was Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with Stephanie Blythe. The Puccini duo opens Saturday and has four performances through February 19th. Oh.

S6: Oh. So. Are you the one ? Oh , do you think that's hot , Mason ? Oh.

UU: Oh. O.

S6: O. O. O. O. O. B. O. O. Oh.

UU: It might not work. They. Oh.

S6: Oh. Oh , oh. Oh , be.

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