Bonus: ‘Like Someone Turned Off A Faucet’
Title: Bonus: ‘Like Someone Turned Off A Faucet’ Description: In a new, short bonus episode of “Port of Entry’: One Baja chef’s pandemic story and the camera crew who followed it. Valle de Guadalupe has exploded over the last decade. It’s become a hugely popular wine and food destination for people from around the world. But when the pandemic hit, the flood of tourism to the culinary region just completely stopped at first, then slowly turned into a trickle. A new one-hour special on KPBS tells the story of how chef Drew Deckman and his restaurant crew learned how to survive the pandemic. We talk to Deckman and the show’s producer in this short bonus episode. Photos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1APnYbKPfZHMcGM5i0IMeswu2Yv6dxEe3?usp=sharing From KPBS and PRX… You’re listening to Port of Entry…. A podcast by and for people who cross the U.S.-Mexico border… Drew Deckman Billboard Clip I got the opportunity to come and work in Mexico and I haven't left since. BEAT I am producer Kinsee Morlan… And today… We’ve got a bonus episode for you. Drew Deckman 1 Introductions Hi, how are you? Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you, uh, as well. Nice to meet you again, Jill. A few weeks ago...the Port of Entry crew took a quick trip down to Valle de Guadalupe… That is the beautiful wine region that’s a 90 minute drive south from the U.S-Mexico border in Tijuana. And...we met up with Drew Deckman… He’s a chef...and a pretty big deal in the culinary world…in part, because his food is really good… But also because he’s a leader in restaurant sustainability. He sources almost all of his food locally. Only cooks over wood-fired ovens. And otherwise tries to make environmentally friendly choices. The restaurant Drew runs in the Valle is named Deckman’s. And it is a mostly outdoor spot that opened 13 years ago after Drew sorta fell in love with this huge pine tree in the middle of a ranch and vineyard in the Valle… Drew says the minute he saw that tree… He knew that this then-pretty-remote, empty valley was where he wanted his restaurant to grow. Drew Deckman Clip 2 Finding the Tree Kinsee: And I keep wondering, is this the tree? Drew: No, no, No, it's the pine tree. That's now inside the restaurant. Okay. That's because we didn't have any walls or anything. It was just a grill and like 30 seats. Kinsee: Wow. Drew: Now we have more than that. Kinsee: Yes. A little bit more than that. So...our friends over at KPBS TV recently aired a new hour-long special about Drew…. Ingrediente Clip 3 So what we try to do is we try to bring the table to the farm as opposed to the farm to the table. And so when they say what's the most important thing in the kitchen unit? Well, it's three things. It's ingrediente, ingrediente, ingrediente. “Ingrediente” is actually the name of that hour-long TV special about Drew. And the show’s producer...Jill Bond….met up with us in Valle, too. Drew Deckman Clip 3 Origin Story Jill: And after talking with him, um, I presented this idea to PBS that what if we could show the valley in Drew's eyes? So we started filming the series and then the pandemic hit. BEAT So, yeah.. What was meant to be a shiny happy show about the culinary explosion that’s happening in the Valle de Guadalupe right now… It morphed into this incredibly personal story about how Drew weathered the storm that the pandemic brought down so hard on restaurants. BEAT Drew Deckman Billboard Clip 2 When the world shut down, it wasn't a gradual kind of trickling off. It was... we had a completely full restaurant, you know, the two months before, and then literally from a Monday to a Saturday, like all the reservations were canceled, like night and day, like somebody turned off a faucet…. We’ll get into how Drew handled that dramatic change….after a quick break. Do not touch that digital dial... BEAT Fade MIDROLL 1 And we are back. So, real quick… A bit more about Valle de Guadalupe… Because...the first time I drove through the valley, on the Ruta Del Vino as they call it... Was a little more than a decade ago… BEAT Back then, it was still this really remote, rural spot… not much was really going on... It was a mix of a few, really nice high-end wineries… And these tiny mom-and-pop shops. Like, I remember literally walking into this sweet old man’s cozy little house… Tasting a few of his homemade wines.. And then, once I picked the one I liked most.... The old man pulled a blank wine bottle off his shelf… Put a piece of masking tape on it… And handwrote the name of the wine and the year he made it… The whole thing was charming and beautiful and that drive through the Valle is absolutely, hands-down one of my favorite all-time experiences. BEAT FADE Nowadays, though? Well… the Valle is nearly unrecognizable to people like me who haven’t kept up with its explosive growth over the last decade…. BEAT Travel Blog Montage ...Millennials are flocking there with vineyards as far as the eye can see….today’s adventure is a trip to the wine country, Valle de Guadalupe…. ...Bienvenidos a Valle De Guadalupe. BEAT Looooong gone are the days of the Valle feeling like one of the best kept secrets in the world. There are tons of new restaurants and wineries...dozens of high-end hotels and a few new-ish nightclubs… There’s even a place offering up helicopter tours of the valley. The New York Times has written about it along with pretty much every other food writer worth their salt….and pepper...you know, because food? BEAT fade Anyway...the rapidly changing character of the Valle is just one of the topics covered in our conversation with Drew and Jill. So, let’s get to it… Here is our host Alan Lilienthal asking Drew, who grew up in the states, about why and how he ended up south of the border. Drew Deckman Clip 8 What Brought Him To Mexico Alan: What was your relation to Mexico before really coming? Like what is it about this place that you think made you feel so at home? BEAT Drew Deckman: I've always grown up, you know, intrigued by Mexico. I spent a couple of summers in the Yucatan peninsula when I was in high school. Back when I still believed in organized religion, Basically a bunch of high school kids went down to Yucatan and built churches and houses. And it was, uh, we had, you had the option of dining in the home of one of the villagers, or there was a Cantina made for, and I always ate in these huts in the middle of the jungle. And I think I was the only student on the trip that gained weight. I just couldn't get enough of everything. And it was just like, wow. All the other kids got sick from eating at the canteen. I never got sick and, and it was just like, wow. And it just always had been fascinated with the ingredients and the flavors. I remember in my little town, a restaurant in, where I grew up, which tuck a regular, you know, Georgia, small town, Mexican restaurant, but it was really good for my standards back then. And I remember going, because I had a couple other like chef friends, we'd go and we'd always asked to eat what the staff had eaten that day, as opposed to ordering off the menu. Just always with that sort of desire for those flavors. And then, I got the opportunity to come and work in Mexico and I haven't haven't left since, so…. BEAT FADE So...like Drew.....Jill Bond, the producer of the TV special, spends most of her time in Mexico. She and her husband have a house in Valle, right down the road from Drew’s place. Ok, back to Alan asking Jill about why she wanted to focus her lens on Drew. Drew Deckman Clip 3 Origin Story Alan: What are the origins of “Ingrediente.” Is it like going to be an ongoing series of different ingredients and chefs who use them or was it specifically just this one-off on Drew... Jill: The idea...This all came about was when, uh, I met Drew, we were doing a documentary on the region, the valley because it's just been growing so much and I was interviewing all the different chefs just because there's so much happening and it's a very exciting time. And, and met Drew….You know, he's a Mexican himself, he's American-born Michelin star chef. And after talking with him, um, I presented this idea to PBS that what if we could show the valley in Drew's eyes? So we started filming the series and then the pandemic hit. And obviously we had to pivot and figure out what we were going to do. And we were home. We quarantined here.... has been live here part-time most of the time. And I was like, Drew, can we come and hang out with you? Would you mind if we stopped by the restaurant every day? Because he fed his staff every single day. Yeah. Four people of his staff, their families, he also fed 200 fishermen every single week. And so he was here in a very limited staff were here cooking every single day. And I thought, well, let's just, yeah, it is. It's really cool. Let's just put the cameras on it. Um, didn't have a, a team, but we had ourselves and start it with the iPhone. And then we thought we would do some Instagram stories, But anyway, we had a good time and we were just hanging out and then. Was watching unfolding him unfold, the experience of almost every restaurant tour, what they must be going through. Um, you know, there was a cautious optimism in the beginning and then it turned into maybe a little bit of desperation and then it turned into, you know, the one scene where he just, you know, is done. Uh, and then it comes back to the rebirth and the whole, you know, hero's journey. So that's what we captured. And I think it's a beautiful story. BEAT Drew Deckman Clip 5 Drew On When The Pandemic Hit Drew: Yeah, it was interesting because when, uh, basically when the world shut down, uh, there really, I mean, very short amount of time prior to. It wasn't a gradual kind of trickling off. It was, we had a completely full restaurant, you know, the two months before, and then literally from a Monday to a Saturday, like all the reservations canceled, like night and day, like somebody turned off a faucet and we just sort of watched the reservations go down and the government had not really done anything. Government wasn't saying anything. The government wasn't, uh, you know, really giving any indications. Um, And so when I saw that, I was like, look, we just need, we need to stop. We need to be an example. Uh, and just shut it down. Uh, it was 23rd of March. Uh, but. March April, may, June, you know, we're going into high season. So we grow about 90% of all of our vegetables that we serve in the restaurant. So I have three farms that produce for us. And the 23rd of March, those farms were full and ready and just overflowing with everything that we had planted to get ready for the high season. So what do you do with the food? Right when we closed, we had, uh, you know, a walk-in cooler full of proteins because the purchase was made for the week and all of a sudden, the world shuts off. And so it was like, all right, well, you know, how do we at least put this nourishment into somebody's body as opposed to, you know, trash? Uh, so that's when we started to do the food for staff. Um, and then, and then, uh, a local, uh, fish distributor here, uh, Hamas came to us and it's like, look, we have this idea. We've got a lot of people that are willing to, to donate proteins. You've got your garden, you know, let's, let's do some good. Uh, and I, I guess kinda in the end, there's, there's only two kinds of people in the world, right? The ones that run away from fires and the ones that run toward fires. I mean, I don't think there's much in between. And so we were in a position where we were able to run toward the fire and I think we helped a lot of people during the time. Kinsee: That’s incredible. Alan: Yeah, That’s incredible and very well put. But I have to say, there’s one other type. The person who just watch the fires with their iPhones. Kinsee: Hey, that’s me! Drew: Someone’s gotta document the story, right? Ingrediente Clip 4 Um, yesterday we closed, we closed Deckman’s.. Um, and so today we're packing, uh, still have quite a few of the team members here. Uh, that'll diminish start going down. Uh, they were packing up the entire restaurant, putting it away, essentially not leaving anything out here. We, we don't know how long this is going to last. A restaurant family is 50 families that most of them are married and have children extend that out. And you know, you start talking to them about 200 people that live on a daily basis here. So what I've promised, uh, our team is that every day we're going to cook a family meal that each one of them has, has the right to take up the food for four people. We're going to cook for staff as long as we can. Uh, we've contacted, uh, our ranchers and our purveyors, and everybody wants to help. BEAT Drew Deckman Clip 9 Drew On Feeding Staff Alan: I'm curious if this, the, the, the tradition that was born with the pandemic, where you like feed the staff and their families, like, how is that continuing is how did that change the vibe of I'm sure that changes the culture of how the workers relate to you and each other. Drew: We always provide a family meal every day, for all the staff. But when we're open, it's only for that person that's here. So what we did when we closed now, everybody's out of a job there, their spouses out of a job, so we prepared food for them to take home with them for up to four people per employee. So they can now guarantee every day they're going to have a hot meal that they can take home and there's food for the family. Just to sort of take away a little bit of, of the, the worry that everybody had on their shoulders. BEAT Drew Deckman Clip 10 Jill on Valle Closing Down Jill: When the pandemic hit a lot of places in the cities. Um, San Diego... LA…. did a lot of takeout and they were able to survive. They were able to really continue their, their operations and not do so bad and keep their, they didn't have that opportunity here. Um, so it was, I think, a lot more dramatic for the workers, for the chefs, for the wineries, for all the businesses. Cause they just didn't have anybody coming in. So the whole place literally shut down. And I just think that was really hard. And I think that probably was likely for almost all tourist vacation spots, but yeah, that was hard to watch. Alan: Yeah, I can imagine… BEAT FADE Drew Deckman Clip 7 Jill on Valle Vibe Jill: It's interesting too, because the pandemic has changed the valley pretty dramatically. When we started coming down, let's say 10 years ago. It was quiet right there. It was quiet. It was Drew's place. It was a couple of places and some wineries. And then five years ago it became this crazy place. And then two years ago it became even more crazy. It was van after van and you couldn't the traffic. It was awful. And then when the pandemic hit, it just stopped. And we were, I just remember being here and like, we were going my gosh, there's nobody on the road. It's beautiful. It was awesome. It wasn't, it wasn't awesome for the businesses, but I also think that it weeded some of the businesses out. I don't know. Maybe that's true. Maybe that's not true. I don't know for sure, but there's just a lot of. Groups coming in here, putting in nightclubs and kind of changing the, the vibe I think of the valley. And I hope that doesn't continue because that's what makes it so unique and so special is just the quietness of it and being in nature and just like we're sitting here right now under these beautiful trees. Drew Deckman Clip 13 How Sustainability Started Jill: There's is an interesting thing that I don't know if you're aware of, but he only drew and his people only cook over wood fire. They that's what they use as their, their source, their power source. So it's just wood, which is really interesting and their kitchen is completely outside. So, um, that's very, very unique. I, we were one Thanksgiving, two years ago. The film Features drew cooking in the pouring rain and his entire staff. And that was Thanksgiving night. And I mean, it was pouring. I was, I wasn't going to film that day and I had a house full of people, right. As you know, sit down and he's like, calls me and says, get your ass over here. This is great television. So I had to leave. We had everyone left. I actually, and I sent some people over my family over my son. And they wound up filming. It turned out to be really good television…. Ingrediente Clip 5 Rain So one of the really wild thing, what happened in outdoor kitchen? I mean, obviously today we look like we're a SWOT meter of plumbing. With all the tarps and stuff, the Woodburn is different. The humidity there's more smoke, there's less temperature, impossible to bake anything. You know, obviously everything has a little bit of rainwater essence in it that the flavors change based on whatever's coming off the tree into the pots. Right. The cool thing is that the right people come, they know that we can't control the weather and they know that we're still here doing this, trying as hard as we can. Yeah. You know, it's raining, it's cold, whatever. I think it’s cool. Ingrediente Clip clip 6 wood sustainable But one of the things this ranch doesn't produce is petroleum products. So we have no natural gas. We have no oil, we have no coal, but what we have is a lot of firewood. So the wood-fired kitchen was born from the desire to stay within the boundaries of the ranch at all costs. Drew Deckman Clip 13 How Sustainability Started Kinsee: Well , yeah. Has sustainability.. Like how did that become part of your thing? Drew: You know, it's, it's always been something important for me. , I've been a member of slow food since the early nineties, when I was in Europe, all the places where I was an employee, It was just amazed and blown away by the relationships they had with very, very local producers. And then as I started to take over kitchens as well in Europe, uh, I did the same thing. So you, you sort of, um, you know, initially it wasn't necessarily, you know, maybe with the sustainability glasses on more in, I want the best ingredient available to me and I want to be a good neighbor kind of thing. And almost always it's better if it's going across the street…..And, for me, it's like, how do you not make that decision? Right. It seems so intrinsic to me. I don't know if it's because we've done it for 25 years or it's because it just is. And, and I struggle seeing colleagues still making non-responsible choices because it's a popular ingredient or like bluefin tuna, or it's more convenient to call the big box store or the big box purveyor to bring all your stuff, as opposed to taking the time to create those relationships with the people that are around you. Alan: Mmm. And that's so much more wholesome. I think of all the things that I love about Valle, which are many, many things. I think this region is very special to my heart.. I'm curious as it's growing and is exploding because value really is like, it's a goldmine right now. You really, you hear so much of so much growth. I'm sure you think about, like, how can you retain that, that, like, that true care for what the services that the valle is providing for people? Drew: The growth has been exponential obviously, Alan: yeah, yeah… Drea: And not all positive growth. Um, and you know, so really is it, how do you, I, I, we can't stop the growth. Maybe we could be. Uh, a guide, uh, an example of best practices, um, because you know, here it's basically whoever has the biggest bag of money is gonna, is going to get the zoning changed or the concerns and that's what's happening. But I think if we can sort of continue to have little islands, like Rancho muggle war and. And continue to show that, Hey, you can grow your own food and you can return most of it to the planet and you can compost and you can recycle your water and I mean, yeah, well, yeah, there's just so many restaurants. Yeah. Now in the valley, there's N it's, there's not. Go fly a drone over the valley that there's not that many gardens planted that people say we're growing our own food. It's just, it's just not Alan: Like grapes for show.. Drew: Um, and, and, and I just, you know, it's like anything else, the number of wineries have increased exponentially here in the area, but the number of perusal vineyards, not at the same rate. So where are those grapes coming from? Where's that juice coming from? And there's a million answers to that, to that question. As we grow up as a valley, I mean, maybe that's not the right way to say it, but as, as it continues to change, there's obviously, a lot that needs to be done to ensure that. Sort of the essence and the spirit of the valley is, is retained even the face of, of, of this growth. Alan: Yeah. Drew Deckman Clip 7 Jill on Valle Vibe Jill: It's interesting too, because the pandemic has changed the valley pretty dramatically. When we started coming down, let's say 10 years ago. It was quiet right there. It was quiet. It was Drew's place. It was a couple of places and some wineries. And then five years ago it became this crazy place. And then two years ago it became even more crazy. It was van after van and you couldn't the traffic. It was awful. And then when the pandemic hit, it just stopped. And we were, I just remember being here and like, we were going my gosh, there's nobody on the road. It's beautiful. It was awesome. It wasn't, it wasn't awesome for the businesses, but I also think that it weeded some of the businesses out. I don't know. Maybe that's true. Maybe that's not true. I don't know for sure, but there's just a lot of. Groups coming in here, putting in nightclubs and kind of changing the, the vibe I think of the valley. And I hope that doesn't continue because that's what makes it so unique and so special is just the quietness of it and being in nature and just like we're sitting here right now under these beautiful trees. BEAT Drew Deckman Clip 12 Covid Safety Kinsee: You know, as the science developed, it took, took a while, but, um, once people realized, oh, outside is pretty safe, you know, in terms of the virus. I mean, this just seems like such a naturally safer place…. Drew: Yeah, we had no idea. Yeah. In 2012 that we were preparing the perfect pandemic restaurant. Kinsee: Well, congratulations, because that’s what you have here. Alan: You channeled the future. Kinsee: So do you think that helped you? Drew: I think it definitely helped us. I, I think that people felt very comfortable coming back. Uh, we were also very proactive working with the local health department and state health department to develop. Protocols for when we did reopen, uh, and we made a lot of changes based on their recommendations. And then they came to us after we had opened. Is it, do you mind if we document what you've done so we can use it as a reference for other restaurants, which was cool, but we took two and a half months as the laws were changing every single day. And so we were able, because we're gifted with a lot of space, A meter and a half or six feet between table, we were able to go eight or 10. And we were also able to, uh, really change the way we did business in the sense of extending, opening hours to reduce the number of people that were actually in the space at one time. And, and it worked out really well. And a lot of people have sort of forgotten that there's still a pandemic going on and you go into places and they've stopped most of their protocols. And we're still, maybe 85% as militant as we have been in the past. We've relaxed a little bit, but still. We're still taking temperatures. We're still writing down where you're coming from and it's own only reservations so we can control the number of people that are coming in at any one time. ….very simple, minimal controls applied to, to people flow. BEAT FADE Drew Deckman Clip 14 End of Interview Kinsee: And how do you feel when you look out at the restaurant now and see it's busy and people are showing up right and...? Drew: It feels really good. You know, we obviously had no idea what was going to happen when we reopened. Are people going to be showing up? Obviously the world's not going back ever to what it was before, at least not for a long time and for the better, in my opinion, you know, there's a lot of really good things that are even just a, you know, a refocus on family and in free time, uh, you know, how I know is, is the office space going to be something that's going to be real in the future? We made it a year and a half. Do you really need to spend that money on a big fancy office? Probably not. You know, so a lot of things are going to start changing. Alan: I'm curious else... I think the pandemic recontextualize a lot of our relationships to the things we love doing. How have your aspirations, your, like, your dreams, your visions for the future of this whole thing, or your like, of your craft? How has that been changed? Drew: Uh, you know, I think probably more than anything, uh, it's sort of reignited, uh, some of the passion that I may have had covered with dust. I don't, I don't think passion never dies. I think it just gets sort of covered up with like with like corrosion or something. Because we, we were victims of our own growth here in the restaurant. We had gotten to a point where the volume of people that we were doing was more than what was established in my romantic dream image of what this place was. So now I had a disconnect between the cerebral image of what my restaurant was and what the reality was. And I started to feel uncomfortable being in my own space. So I started to go to chef show. Festivals and guest, chef and travel and this and that, and take on events and other places. And being closed for five months really gave us a chance to deconstruct and reconstruct and deconstruct and over and over again, uh, what we have. And when it was reborn, it was way more similar to what we were five years ago than to what we were. Five months before, and I like being here….again. We went from six days open to five days open because my entire team said, God it was really nice having a couple of days off. You know, we were working double shifts, everybody six days a week, and now we do two shifts, two groups of people, nobody works more than nine hours a day. Two days off a week. Now you can do your laundry, go to the bank and sleep for a whole day. The big part of what we learned is. Uh, you know, where do you trim away the excess? There was so much excess, not only in, uh, you know, our, our staff, our, everything we were doing. It was just, it was fat just because we were being very successful. You know, it was a lot of things going on positive, but the result of that was sort of this gout, if you would from, you know, excess, uh, maybe that's kind of like that word, the restaurant had gout, but, but it was, it was, uh, and it sorta got covered up a little bit because of the volume and the velocity. and so that was just, it was a really unbelievable gift from the universe to be able to reset. we've definitely become more, um, efficient, efficient is probably the word. Yeah. And really we took the time to look and, and analyze everything we were doing while we were, you know, we weren't just sitting there going, you know, God we're closed. What's going to happen. You know, it was like, Hey, we need to be active, proactive, because when it does reopen, it's gonna have a little different structure and we're not going to have the capital we’re accustomed to having. And we don't know if people are actually going to be coming back and we don't know how many and in what capacity are they going to be to consume it? You know, what, how do we maintain it? And, and instead of, you know, maintaining, I think we just recreated. It's really positive. BEAT And...we’re gonna end it right there on a positive note. And that’s our show for today. You can watch “Ingrediente” online anytime at “video dot kpbs dot org or anywhere you get the free PBS video app.” *** Port of Entry is hosted by Alan Lilienthal. This episode was written and produced by me, Kinsee Morlan. Emily Jankowski is the co-producer and director of sound design. Alisa Barba is our editor. Lisa Morissette is operations manager and John Decker is the interim associate general manager of content. This program is made possible (in part) by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people."