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Roundtable special: Food and football in San Diego

 November 26, 2021 at 12:00 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

If there are a couple of things that are universal when it comes to Thanksgiving weekend, it's food and football. And that's our focus this week. As we bring you a trip through the archives and revisit some of our memorable conversations from 2021, I'm Matt Hoffman, and this is KPBS round table.

Speaker 2: (00:19)


Speaker 1: (00:29)

Hello, and welcome to this special edition of KPBS round table. It's all about food and football this week, starting with a stop in city Heights. Back in may, max Riverland Adler talked with us about his culinary tour through one of our most diverse communities. Here's a portion of that segment from the round table archives. So San Diego is known as a great city for food, but tell us more about city Heights for those not familiar. What part of town are we talking about? Exactly. And what makes it such a unique neighborhood for dining?

Speaker 3: (00:56)

So city Heights is a kind of in the mid city area of San Diego. It's actually a collection of different neighborhoods that fall within it that make up city Heights. There's a ton of different cultures there. Uh, it's long time than an immigrant community and specifically a long history of business ownership by immigrants. It's changing a little bit over the past couple of years, there's been, uh, some gentrification housing prices have been going up. So really the key to keeping the character of this neighborhood intact is to help sustain those businesses and, and keep housing affordable to the people that, that,

Speaker 1: (01:31)

And we know that a lot of restaurants in San Diego, especially those downtown and along the coast, get some big tourism bumps. What about these eateries?

Speaker 3: (01:37)

So they're not as heralded, but they're certainly on the, on the map for people who are familiar with San Diego. And I think that's kind of their, their profile is rising a bit more as people realize, you know, what an international city San Diego is, and especially how many refugees it has been taking for years and years and years.

Speaker 1: (01:56)

And one of your recent segments featured red seat Ethiopian located on university avenue. Why did you want to feature this local restaurant?

Speaker 3: (02:02)

I wanted to do a shout out on Twitter of basically what do people want to see as part of this series? And I kept hearing on Twitter, uh, red see-through, European red seat, the European. So I thought it'd be a great opportunity to start there. Um, and, and when I came in and I met the owner, it absolutely made sense. This is a place that seems immediately comfortable with people who maybe aren't familiar with Ethiopian food. I mean, it's food, you eat with your hands, which is certainly a change from other places. Um, and, and they do everything. They can. The owner similars Cobra does everything he can to make people feel comfortable. Uh, here's a clip from, uh, the story that I did about him. It was emergency loans from the county that kept his business afloat and the kindness of his customers who have often paid the restaurant far more than what they were being charged.

Speaker 4: (02:50)

If I closed this trunk for COVID-19, I'm going to hurt myself, you know, because they love this place. They love it. And they become a family and they could call the machine, man, don't close, please be strong. I know you are a strong working out. I say, okay, don't worry about

Speaker 3: (03:11)

Now. Cobra is feeling a lot more confident that he'll be able to stay in business. Yeah. So it was that kind of energy, uh, that, that kind of radiated from that place, that this was really a community institution that made it a natural place to start.

Speaker 1: (03:25)

You're working on more segments for city Heights bites. What's the next restaurant. We'll see. And how did you connect with them?

Speaker 3: (03:30)

Yeah, so basically, like I said, I did a shout out on Twitter. I, a lot of people reached out. I kind of just went from place to place, talked with the owners, obviously had a bite or two of their food and I kind of narrowed it down. Hopefully we'll be doing this for a few weeks. So a lot of places we'll get some shine, but obviously I'd like to do different types of food. So we've already done a, uh, Ethiopian place. We've done a Chinese food place and we're going to do a Vietnamese vegetarian place in city Heights for next week.

Speaker 1: (03:59)

Even though you can't see the food on the radio, it looks really good in your TV stories. I got to know, did you get a chance to try some of the food? And do you have any recommendations for our listeners?

Speaker 3: (04:08)

Yeah. I mean, that's why I'm doing it. That is so I could get some food and actually eat my way through city Heights. That's the best part of this beat? I have. One thing I would really recommend is the Tibbs at red sea Ethiopian. I saw them make it. It is as fresh as they say it is. They're literally pulling herbs from their garden out back care, recommended enough. It, it has made literally, you know, 30 seconds before it's placed in front of you,

Speaker 1: (04:31)

The restaurant scene there for those who do not spend a lot of time in city Heights and maybe are thinking about doing that. What should San Diego know about this community

Speaker 3: (04:38)

That it's vibrant, that unlike a lot of places in San Diego, there is a serious street scene. People are walking around. Um, it's definitely got a community feeling to it. Uh, it's worth just going from place to place, grabbing a Vietnamese iced coffee from one place, and then a Chinese pastry from another, and going back and forth between alcohol and university and really visiting all the different places you'll come across, you know, uh, Buddhist temples. It's just a really interesting space. And I think, uh, it's definitely worth taking the time to cover it on foot and not just driving around.

Speaker 1: (05:18)

You can watch Macksville and Adler series anytime on the KPBS YouTube page. And since that segment, max has done some great work for outlets like the New York times and NPR give them a follow on Twitter at max ruble enabler for many of us, convenience is a big part of how we get our food. And those who work in the fast food industry saw some gains this year in their paychecks, but it has not been easy in April. [inaudible] talked with John Park from the Sacramento bee about the fight for 15

Speaker 5: (05:49)

First is not just rent day. It's also may day or international workers day. It's often used to launch campaigns and demonstrate for better worker protections. A big part of that is the fight for 15, which president Joe Biden mentioned this week and his first address to Congress right away.

Speaker 6: (06:11)

I'm thinking about sending things in my desk. That's raised the minimum wage to 15

Speaker 5: (06:18)

On a smaller scale. California is looking at ways to help low wage workers. That includes a plan by San Diego lawmakers to give fast food workers more of a say in their industry. Joining us is Junge park who covers economic inequality for the Sacramento bee. Hello, John.

Speaker 7: (06:36)

Hello. Good to be here. You

Speaker 5: (06:37)

Opened up your piece with a woman who was working at McDonald's. Tell us what she said about some of the conditions that she had to endure.

Speaker 7: (06:45)

I talked with a Waco named leader Aguilar. She works at a McDonald's in LA and she had been working there for 17 years and she initially didn't have a mask or Parker protection. And she was also saying that invoicing social distancing was very hard and she was seeing other work hosts being sent to clean other stories where she knew there was a COVID case. So there was all of this different concerns about working conditions. And when she started speaking out about this, she had a, she went on a strike, um, and she then filed a complaint. She said that she had some of her hours billing card and she was being forced to do more work. She felt like she was being retaliated. And, um, eventually in February, the department of industrial relations issued a fine for the fan tights that, um, had employed her, uh, for, for firing her for speaking out and for retaliation.

Speaker 5: (07:42)

And that experience led her, like you said to activism for fast food workers and support a bill proposed by San Diego assembly, woman, Lorena Gonzalez. So she wants to create the fast food sector council. How would this help workers in having more of a say in pay structure and regulations and other such things?

Speaker 7: (08:02)

It's something that's very unique. It at five times, no. Um, based on my conversation with expo tin and Ottoman woman, there's not really any other states that has done something like this. The codes are for example, New York, where in 2015, governor Andrew Cuomo has set up a panel that ultimately led to a $15 minimum minimum wage for the festival workers. But what this council would do is either have a members of state agencies at wallets, businesses, and employees still be two representatives from the employees and three opportunity for the advocates of the employees. So there'll be four members out of the 11 members that are be of the workers or some listens to the workers,

Speaker 5: (08:45)

Opposition to this idea as well. And some of that comes from the restaurant industry itself. Why is the California restaurant association against it? Western

Speaker 7: (08:55)

Association I'll use that, that would effect effectively kill the franchise model because it would not either not give any incentive for McDonald's to, to fantasize it, it stores McDonald's could just decide to one all of its stories by itself because they think it's less of a headache than trying to figure out what the fan type fan Titus does on a, on a daily basis.

Speaker 5: (09:19)

Jobs might be viewed as short term, not something that people stay in for a long period of time. What should people know about these jobs and why workers feel invested enough to advocate for better conditions and put in the time and the effort that it takes to bring about change

Speaker 7: (09:37)

Coming in? I think a lot of people think of best for the worker says, oh, a high school graduates or people in high school doing this work on the side, but a study from UCLA labor center and UC Berkeley labor center actually found that 38% of the fast food workers for twenty-five or orders. So that's an example of why, um, how a lot of festivals, white coasts are not people who are doing this oncologist. They are, you know, breadwinners, sometimes they're primary breadwinners that are feeding their family. And that a lot of them have been in this industry for a long time. Um, legit for instance, have been working at McDonald's for more than 15 years. And she's not the only one. So that has given a lot of motives for those, for the workers to speak out for a better working conditions and better pay.

Speaker 5: (10:26)

This is a long-term issue within the industry, but restaurants also have a more immediate challenge in hiring enough workers to keep up the reopening economy, how are low pay and work conditions, a central part of this issue as well.

Speaker 7: (10:41)

Uh, it's, it's interesting. And, and I haven't had a chance to do that reporting on this. I will say that my colleague in, at the B has done a lot of reporting on this because she, uh, he Cabos food and restaurant business for us. And, uh, he has, he spoke with one of the sober in Sacramento who said that a lot of her coworker got a temporary job at the EDD, uh, which, you know, she hopes to tiny into which they hope to turn into full-time jobs and that those cooks voice starting their own pop-ups. So food trucks that are most flexible that are not as tied to restaurants. And I think all of this is an example of workers thinking about making code changes and, and thinking about how they find a lot of the working conditions and pay to not be acceptable and that, you know, the pandemic has exemplified that for them. And that has given them a motive to look for a better career within the industry or, or different industry altogether.

Speaker 5: (11:37)

I've been talking with John Park reporter for the Sacramento beat. Thank you so much for your reporting and for joining me on the round table, John, thank you so

Speaker 7: (11:44)


Speaker 2: (11:52)

If you're a bit

Speaker 1: (11:53)

Health-conscious just last week, we had a segment with San Diego eaters, Kelly bone on the new vegan marketplace. It's called X market, and it's located in Hillcrest. Just look for the KPBS round table podcast to streaming and an update on that. Fast-food accountability and standards. Bill it's being pushed by San Diego lawmaker. Lorena Gonzalez. The fast act did not have enough votes in the assembly for passage this year, but there is a chance it will be reintroduced in January. It was the end of an era this year in mission valley. The place formerly known as the Murph or Qualcomm stadium is now just a memory. The pandemic might've prevented any sort of formal sendoff, but the stories from that place will last forever and March. My troublesome talked with Antonio Morales. He's a reporter for the athletic who like many San Diego ans grew up going to games inside that building

Speaker 5: (12:44)

This isn't your regular beat. You usually cover USC football in LA, but why did you want to dedicate some time to telling the story of what used to be known as Qualcomm stadium,

Speaker 8: (12:55)

Uh, growing up in San Diego? There's, there's some things that really stand out to me last summer, I wrote about extra sports, six 90. I wrote an oral history about the rise and fall of that station last summer. And it did really, really well for me. It got a lot of lottery spots and people all across San Diego and Southern California. When I saw the videos of Qualcomm, when I saw the demolition started starting, you know, this story idea kind of came to mind. There are certain things, you know, growing up in San Diego that, you know, matter to people, I felt like extra sports, six 90 matter to people. And obviously Qualcomm stadium does too.

Speaker 5: (13:32)

You started your story with this drone video that went viral locally when demolition actually began. And then you talked with the person who shot it, how did he describe the response and why does he think it reached so many people?

Speaker 8: (13:46)

Yeah, Ernesto Perez. He's a 24 year old who bought these drones to kind of display to people how the stadium was, was being torn down. And I asked him what kind of response he thought he was going to get initially, like what he was expecting. And he said, he showed it to his family and his family didn't have many ties to the chargers or whatever. So, uh, they were kind of lukewarm about it. And so he didn't know how the reaction was going to be. And then he started, you know, putting these on Tik doc or Twitter, or they're getting shared across, you know, multiple outlets and things like that. And then it started to kind of blow up. And he said, he realized during, during that whole process, that it was allowing people to kind of process the stadium, like finally coming down. And I kind of tapped into those emotions that, that people had about the place.

Speaker 5: (14:33)

And in the story, you got a lot of reactions from some former athletes, fans and media. Is there one person who you did not hear from that you really wish that was part of the,

Speaker 8: (14:44)

Uh, yeah, definitely, uh, Philip Rivers, just because he spent so much time and he played so much at that the, I mean, throughout the charger's spinal years, he was, he was the defining a player, but it was kind of, it was kind of odd timing just because he had the whole retirement stuff going on, like, right, right. As I was kind of really starting to report this, I reached out to the Damien Tomlinson or just the NFL network. I mean, to talk to Danny Tomlins him, but they said he wasn't available for common. I know some people in San Diego kind of had have hard feelings toward them now because you know how he's been supporting the, uh, the LA chargers. Um, so I know there's some mixed feelings there and, and I wanted to reach out to drew breeze, but I know he was kinda going through the same thing, Phillip reproducible this retirement stuff. And those are two. Those are some of the people I would've liked to talk to

Speaker 5: (15:35)

A lot of response in the comment section of your article, why do you think people are so eager to share their own memories?

Speaker 8: (15:43)

Uh, just because they have their own personal attachment to it. Everyone has their own story of how they remember Qualcomm, whether it's, you know, playing hacky sack or whatever in the parking lot, or, you know, tailgating, or if it was a certain game, the 98 world series or something, the 98 playoffs or the Padres, or, you know, the charters for me. I remember it all the playoff failures

Speaker 5: (16:05)

And speaking of memories, one of those memories, of course, tailgating with the stadium's expansive, seemingly never ending parking lot. Did you find in many cases, this experience is something people will miss just as much as they miss the games and the concerts at the queue.

Speaker 8: (16:20)

Yeah. I talked to Sean Walchuk, we'll watch on wash after the, the owner of Kelly cup of barbecue in spring valley. And he was telling, he told me, he said, the thing I want get the most is that being able to take my children to the parking lot, uh, for that, for those tailgates, you know, is it was a very festive place. And I think that's something that kind of gets overlooked very easy to go from tailgate to tailgate and see different people we had. We always had to leave early for the charger game. So like way to leave hours early, just to get a decent parking spot, because if we didn't get there early enough, you know, wouldn't be way back in the parking lot. Obviously there's a lot of people there. I remember the RVs, the smell of hot dogs and burgers, uh, as I was walking through the gates and stuff. So yeah, I think that was a very, you know, big piece of it that people are going to miss.

Speaker 5: (17:08)

Yeah. Oftentimes an all day affair. And you wrapped up your piece, you mentioned your mom and the memories that you have with your mom. Isn't that what, this is really all about the shared memories and the culture with family and community and meeting new people and all that.

Speaker 8: (17:23)

Uh, definitely. I think, like I mentioned, I had people who responded like, oh, it reminds me of like, you know, racing my dad to the car, sitting next to my dad or sitting with their parents and watching Tony Gwynn or the chargers or, or something or something like that, or the friends they made there. I know that as when I was a charter season ticket holder, I always thought one of the coolest things was seeing the same people see the other season ticket holders every year and, you know, getting to know them and kind of developing that sense of community. And the charters of apologies are the thing that connected everybody.

Speaker 5: (17:59)

I've been speaking with Antonio Miralis reporter for the athletic. Thank you, Antonio.

Speaker 1: (18:08)

The Q's parking lot holds the footprint for the new home for San Diego state football as tech stadium is taking shape there and is due to open just before next season. About a month ago, we caught up with Jane YouTube from the daily Aztec about the team's recent successes up in their temporary home in Carson. We have an unlikely star emerging from this team, kicker and punter. Matt Arizer, who we should mention is also from Rancho Bernardo high school. He's gone viral in recent weeks. Here's what a coach Brady Hoke had to say about him during his last post game press conference.

Speaker 9: (18:39)

Yeah, he's the MVP, as far as I'm concerned right now, how he's plied and what he's done. Um, and the thing that, you know, excites me the most is he comes every day and Matt's got a different attitude than maybe some other kickers would have. I mean, against Utah, he goes down and makes three tackles. Right. Uh, and they're pretty doggone physical too. Why

Speaker 1: (19:04)

Is a riser someone to watch for Aztec fans this season?

Speaker 10: (19:07)

You know, first off, I just think has been such a fun person to fund athlete to watch this season. And of course, like everyone's looking to see what he does every single game. And I think the turning point was definitely in Colorado Springs against air force. After that kick, I mean on Twitter, people were just re-tweeting. It instantly went viral. I saw a lot of tweets like from Nate Burleson, host of CBS mornings and pat McAfee also tweeted about it. So it's just become like such a fun thing to watch and talk about. I mean, I know on campus, that's like one of the only things everyone keeps talking about in class is just how fun this football season's been.

Speaker 1: (19:47)

This season is unique in so many ways with the team playing it's games up in Carson, while new stadium is built in mission valley. That's also where the chargers played their games after first leaving San Diego. What's it been like for you and your colleagues at the daily Aztec making those trips and getting an experience like this?

Speaker 10: (20:03)

It's definitely been fun, but it's also been challenging. I mean, this is like a really weird, unusual time for us. Like we're all still adjusting to having classes in person having to go to them and then balancing that with like everything that we want to cover in person as student journalists. But I think our passion is just helped us get through those challenges. I mean, it's a long day as reporters, you know, we're there early, we're there after long after the game ends. And that two hour drive in-between can be a little long, but I mean, just being able to cover the team during this historic time and have that opportunity to do that has just been really incredible to be a part of. Yeah, we're definitely just happy to be back.

Speaker 1: (20:46)

And so we know that the media is still going up there and covering the team, but our fans

Speaker 10: (20:50)

Traveling with the team and is the home experience any different. So this season, they actually started offering $5 bus trips round trip to, and from Carson for students, I will say, however, I don't know that that has been successful. I mean, the fan section is pretty small, but as far as like atmosphere, I would say that there's still a lot of alumni. It's still close enough for a lot of people who graduated to go to these games. I think it would be nice to see a bigger student presence there, especially since the school is making it possible for them to get up there.

Speaker 1: (21:26)

I know that the Aztecs will be back in mission valley next year, those who have driven past the old stadium site have seen this new stadium taking shape. How is that coming along?

Speaker 10: (21:35)

Um, so it's coming along great. I was lucky enough to attend the topping out ceremony back in July. I want to say. And, uh, just to be on the ground on the dirt of the future basher field was incredible. You can really see it has a signature look to it. I know that they're planning on having, uh, San Diego food trucks be a huge presence for the stadium and they want to make it, you know, place where the public can come and hang out in the park or go around the future mission valley west campus, and also enjoy concerts football games and other sporting events.

Speaker 1: (22:12)

People love college football for the pageantry and music is a big part of the experience. You just had a story on the SDSU fight song, which is turning 85 years old. What did you learn about the school's history when doing that

Speaker 10: (22:23)

Story? So that one was very fun. I was super excited to cover this, this story in particular, because I felt like, you know, I was at these games and I literally was watching this band, like they're the poles. And they paste the game. Like the excitement of the game is because of this band and specifically because of that fight song, because every touchdown, the band plays the fight song. So, you know, you pair that with this historic record that they'd been having or the past couple of months. And on top of that, it was the 85th birthday of the song. I just knew it was a great time to see what they do. So I followed them for two days. I watched one of the rehearsals and talk to them about what they thought about the fight song and talk to coach Brian ransom about what the fight song means to him because he's been director since the eighties and he seen the campus change. And he actually even told me that a few years ago, they changed some of the lyrics to the fight song to make it more inclusive. So they changed some of the lyric as tech men to just as tax and sons of Montezuma to just mighty Montezuma. That way the women's teams could adopt the same tradition as the men's teams as singing the song whenever they won a game. So that was interesting to learn and also see that that song hasn't been changed much in the 85 years.

Speaker 1: (23:49)

I like sports performing in the marching band is about teamwork and community. How have they been affected

Speaker 10: (23:54)

By the pandemic? Right? So they've definitely been affected in terms of, you know, just logistics. So on that Friday rehearsal, they were able to, you know, practice their, uh, formations and their music, but a large part of their practice was to just go over, you know, bus assignments and seating and all those other things that need to be done for contact tracing, because these kids are gonna be sitting on a bus for two hours there and back, you know, to another city. And then everything that involves, uh, transporting them, feeding them, getting all the equipment up there. It is a huge undertaking. And coach ransom told me that when they approached him about the band returning to the, the games in Carson, that they didn't bat an eye with the expense. And he told me is a huge expense for SDSU athletics to get them up there. And they've been really supportive about having them back and you can follow us on our social media at the daily Aztec on Twitter and Instagram. We have at DSEK sports on Instagram and Twitter. And of course we're actually returning our live show. And you can catch that on YouTube Thursdays at 12 o'clock. I've been speaking

Speaker 1: (25:08)

With Jane, you take multimedia assistant editor for the daily Aztec. Thank you so much.

Speaker 10: (25:13)

Oh, of course. Thank you so much for having the matter had so much fun,

Speaker 1: (25:18)

A special shout out to Aztec ma a riser. He was just named a finalist for the Ray guy award. That award goes to the best punter in college football and a reminder that a football tradition is returning to San Diego. Next month. Petco park is hosting the holiday bowl for the very first time on December 28th. We hope you enjoyed this trip through the round table archives as always. You can relisten to our show, or you can subscribe to the KPBS round table podcast. Hopefully you're having a safe and happy holiday weekend. I'm Matt Hoffman. Join us next week on round table.

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Wonton soup and other dishes at Minh Ky in City Heights on May 12th, 2021.
Nicholas McVicker
Wonton soup and other dishes at Minh Ky in City Heights on May 12, 2021.
This Thanksgiving we revisit some memorable conversations from the past year on local food and those who make it. We also revive segments on the past, present and future for football in America's Finest City.

KPBS revisits memorable conversations from 2021 focusing on food and football. Guests include former KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler on the eclectic food scene in City Heights, Sacramento Bee reporter Jeong Park on the push to improve working conditions in the fast food industry, Antonio Morales from The Athletic on the demolition of the old Qualcomm Stadium, and Jayne Yutig from The Daily Aztec on the football team's successful season away from home. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman hosts.