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Introducing "The Pandemic Pivot"

 April 12, 2020 at 4:13 AM PDT

When restaurants across the city started closing down… Troy Johnson’s inbox started filling up. Beat Clip 1 Getting Sad Emails troyjohnson_interview everything unfolded just over a series of days. It just kept on getting worse and worse and worse for people in my industry, the restaurateurs who are small business owners, you know, were emailing me dozens and dozens and dozens of emails a day, you know, explaining their stories. And how much their livelihoods are at risk. Troy’s a food critic. Part television star, part magazine writer. Over the years, he’s amassed a decent following of foodies. So, he was someone a lot of local restaurant folks thought of when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Beat They saw Troy as a human life raft of sorts. A way to help them reach customers who might be able to keep their businesses afloat through the pandemic. So, they shot Troy email after email, text after text, begging for help. Clip 1 Getting Sad Emails troyjohnson_interview I was waking up every single day to a new flurry. I mean, 10, 20....30 there was the first couple days I had over a hundred every single day saying, please help me tell my story, help me get people to do takeout from my restaurant. I just opened it up. I mean, just, you can't take that much heartbreak. Beat Clip 1 Getting Sad Emails troyjohnson_interview ...There are people that are better journalists that I am who can see that sort of carnage and see that heartbreak and you know, process it to compartmentalize it and be like, okay, well let's do what we can. And I did as much as I could. Beat Clip 1 Getting Sad Emails troyjohnson_interview It crushes you. I think there was about the third or fourth day, I looked at my wife and went its too much. I can't, I just can't hear the stories anymore. I mean, I just, I need to take a break. I need to look at some stupid memes. I need to, you know, watch Tiger King. I need to do something, you know, to just take my mind off of all of this dire news. Beat So, Troy disconnected. Tuned out. Beat But the sad stories kept haunting him. And so, after binging Tiger King just like you, me and millions others did as we adjusted to our new lives in isolation….Troy decided to do something to help. Bypassing the whole long process of reporting, fact checking and editing…. He went right to his audience. TROY INSTA LIVE CLIP Clips Troyjohnson Took to instagram live to get info out quickly The community that I was speaking to needed fast access to my readers, to my viewers. And luckily over the years I've been able to, you know, amass, not a huge following, but through social media, there's 60,000 people that follow me, you know, and I was, I'm like, you know what? Let's take down all those walls. I'm just going to start Instagram live-ing from my couch and let people from the community into my Instagram live to talk to my followers directly. Troy insta live clip here What are you selling? Where are you open? Where's your hours? What precautions are you taking? And they were able to tell the story directly instead of me being the intermediary in it and kind of a slow intermediary, to be quite honest with you. You know, my whole job shifted. I just, I need to do information triage now instead of information. Um, you know, massage. processing...Exactly. Exactly. Thinking about things long term was a luxury, Beat I’m Kinsee Morlan, and this is a pop-up podcast series we’re calling “The Pandemic Pivot.” We’re checking in with our community to see how we’re coming up with creative ways to navigate our new lives with COVID-19. Talking to people who’ve done this pivot.” Look, we’re all feeling really scared right now. Confused. Isolated and alone. Anxiety is now a permanent fixture in most of our lives. The KPBS news room is working overtime to bring you the latest local breaking news related to the coronavirus. You can find that live coverage online at kpbs dot org slash coronavirus, or weekdays right here in the San Diego News Matters podcast feed. In this Sunday pop-up series, we won’t be bringing you that kind of breaking news. Instead, our goal is to make you, me and everyone who listens feel just a little less alone, or at least alone together. Beat We’re all still part of this larger community, even though we’re all going through this thing isolated in our own homes. We want this podcast series to be some of the virtual glue that’s can keep our community connected. If you want to join the conversation and share a story of hope, resilience, creativity or you just need to vent, text or call (619) 452-0228‬. Now … more than ever… We want to hear your voice. So, if you can, go ahead and send us a voice memo - recorded on your phone -- about what is keeping YOU connected. Midroll 1 Ad So, Troy Johnson is no stranger to big economic shocks to the system. Beat Clips troyjohnson 2008 Recession was a game changer One of the most transformative things in my life was 2008 when the economy collapsed. You know, I lost both a city beat and you know, a city beat. I lost the TV show, Fox rocks, and I lost, um, a pregame show for the San Diego Padres that I was hosting. But Troy didn’t stay down for long. Instead, he pivoted and left behind the local music and baseball scenes he’d been covering for years. Clips troyjohnson 2008 Recession was a game changer And so I took a job at a magazine. They said I was going to have to write about food. And I was like, Oh God, I don't want to write my food. That sounds so pretentious. And then I fell in love with it. Once I started setting, I studied it, I studied and I studied and I fell in love with it. And fans of food, well, a lot of them sorta fell in love with Troy, too. Since 2011, he’s been on the food network and writing for San Diego Magazine. And now he’s up there with some of the most well-known food personalities in the business. Clip from Troy Sizzle Reel Can you pick something that sounds clever/funny/good here, Emily? Troy is undeniably, charismatic, clever and super funny. He’s not horrible looking either, which helps with the TV gigs. He’s basically the perfect human recipe for a food celebrity. Clip from Troy Sizzle Reel Can you pick another clip that sounds clever/funny/good here, Emily? Head over to Twitter, type in @_troyjohnson and you’ll see just how funny this guy is. I mean, sometimes it’s clear that his one-liner tweets are spaghetti thrown against the virtual wall that is a perpetually streaming social media feed… Not everything sticks…. But a surprising amount of it does. I swear, Troy’s averaging making me lol at least a few times a week. Beat But Troy’s knack for humor is just one of the things that has cultivated his crop of foodies following him. When Troy sits down and really digs deep into a topic...when he does his think pieces… That’s when he has me and others… well... salivating over his every word. Beat When the pandemic got real for California, Troy came out with this print piece that just stuck in my head. And my heart. Clips troy Johnson Ordering Pizza in a Pandemic it's so interesting ordering pizza in the time of a pandemic. The article is on the San Diego Magazine website is called “Ordering Pizza in a Pandemic.” It came out pretty quickly in March after the County of San Diego ordered all bars closed, and closed all dine-in spaces, allowing only takeout and delivery. It was the very beginning of what will surely be the restraunt apocalypse for so, so many small mom and pop shops. Beat Ostensibly, Troy was just writing about picking up a pie from Tribute pizza in North Park. But his piece just captures the coronavirus zeitgeist and angst so, so well. Clips troy Johnson Ordering Pizza in a Pandemic So the way that they've set this up is that you call them. Or, or you order online and you can order a CSA box to go with your pizza if you want. Um, there's different sizes, 25, $50, and you place your order, you drive up, you curbside park, you call them, they walk out with gloves and a smile, and you give them six feet, you know, and they will put the pizza on your, on the hood of your car. You know, so they don't come in contact with the interior of your car or they will put it in the trunk if you, if you prefer. And these guys are taking so many precautions and they're putting themselves at risk every single day. You know, like any employee that's at a restaurant right now dealing with the general public is putting themselves at risk. Clips troyjohnson Wiping Down To Go Bags Crazy So she came out and put the CSA box and my pizza in the back. I got some soft serve ice cream to go, you know, and then I got home and I'm totally cool, crazy, you know? So I, I started wiping off with hand sanitizers and to go back, you know, I, I, and I looked at my wife and I said, look, is that, is that nuts? Is it crazy, you know? Beat Clips troyjohnson Wiping Down To Go Bags Crazy And I, I, you know, and then you just think of, it'll leave being shut down and you think of the healthcare worker, the images of them just crying on the hospital floor. And, you know, I'm like, I, this is not crazy. And if it is crazy, I'm going to be crazy for awhile. I want to make sure that I'm not a carrier of this thing that breaks, you know, a hospital or it makes it so that somebody can't get a hospital bed or whatever. Yeah. Maybe there is no comfortable way to eat in a pandemic. That’s what Troy has ultimately decided. But he thinks people need to do their best to get over their nerves. Yes, wipe down the containers. Yes, heat up the food. Do all the things you need to do to be extra safe right now. But if you can muster the courage, Troy thinks you should keep ordering food from local restaurants. Clips troyjohnson Restaurant kitchens cleaner than ours Here's what you have to realize. And again, I'm not speaking as a health expert here. I'm a guy who has written about restaurants for 12 years and I know their operations really well. And what you do have to realize though, is that they have been in the business of path pathogen control. For decades. They are, their kitchens are, if done reasonably well, are way cleaner than ours at home. I mean, they are micromanaged and sanitized every single day, even before a pandemic. And right now they're up in the concentration of their sanitation. They're not allowing their chefs or cooks or even servers to use their phone. And if they do use their phone, they can. You're making them sanitize their hands religiously. I mean, I have to believe, and again, not giving health devices, and I want to do, I have to believe that their kitchens are far cleaner than ours. Clips Troyjohnson Essential Business And more importantly, the reason why restaurants have been called an essential business by Kevin Newsome is that we need food security in this time. If we go through it, a feud, food insecure moment on top of a pandemic, we're screwed. Beat/Transition The ripple effect is real. Ripple sound? When the world shut down, all kinds of industries shut down with it. Restaurants and other small businesses are being hit particularly hard. But the media that covers those things...well, they’ve been smacked down, too. Overnight, two-thirds of Troy’s income was quote “postponed.” San Diego Magazine stopped publishing, it’s owners saying they’d start back up once things settled down. And the two food shows he’s starring in….they froze in place, too. Beat Clips troyjohnson Everything is postponed I mean, my, my wellbeing varies from minute to minute depending on what I've eaten. If it's a gallon of ice cream, probably likely it's not doing well, you know, but the, here it is. I mean, as a freelancer, I've been the food writer for San Diego magazine. That's one third of my career. I do guy's grocery games on food network as a judge. That's another third. And then I have a show called big. Um, our campus eats in the big 10 network. That's another third. You parcelized together a career as a, and you know, I was like, that was like last year. It was like they had left the 11th, March 11th. I was supposed to go on the road for about six weeks to record this TV show, and then we started getting the news about the Coronavirus. And we're really nervous. I'm talking to the producers and I'm like, you know, I don't know. I want to make sure that they're not endangering people, but I also know that our. Our TV show helps restaurants and restaurants are hurting right now, so what's the right thing to do here? You don't want to be on the wrong side of history. And then they, um, the, who declared it a pandemic, we canceled everything. So that TV show is now postpone. Everything is postponed.. You know, every business, every TV show, every magazine, every media outlet. I mean, not every single one I'm going, but a lot of them are sheltering and exactly like we're doing, you know? And that's what San Diego magazine is doing. Beat Clips troyjohnson ideally it will pay off I'm going to be getting an employment. I'm going to be looking for, you know, different kinds of work that's, I want to get the book out. So hopefully, you know, that's a little bit of a revenue source or somebody sees that work and it's like, Oh my God, I need you for this project. I don't know. You know, you just, you keep on head down writing, do good work, and ideally it'll pay off. Beat So, I’ll be honest. I ordered a pizza in the pandemic. But just one. Then my husband and I decided we just couldn’t do it anymore. Images of sneezing chefs clouded our brains. What Troy said earlier though...he’s right. I’m 200 percent sure restaurants kitchens are waaaay cleaner than my kitchen. My kitchen these days looks like a highly officiant dirty-dish assembly line. The amount of crusty stuff that’s piled up next to the sink is just unreal. And yet… My family ordering out right’s just not in the coronavirus cards. Troy gets that. And he says for wimpos like me, there are other ways to support the restaurants we love. Clips troyjohnson how to support local food spots One of the most heartening things that I heard in this process was somebody walked into garden kitchen, which is a tiny little farm to table restaurant and Rolando and you know, may have walked in and said, you know, I'd like to get a $750 gift certificate. You know, I got like $750 gift certificate and he said, I'll see you guys on this is over. People can buy gift certificates, you can buy merchandise, you know, the gift certificate. The way I like to look at it is it's a, an investment in your, you know, Corona is dead party that you're going to have eventually. You know, eventually this is going to be over. And that's a way that you can kind of, you know, buy futures and a restaurant by futures. And that small local piece drove, because the sad thing is, is that chain restaurants are going to be fine during it. Not fine. They're going to get hurt too, but they're going to have the financial backing to survive. This is the small mom and pop restaurants that are at risk the most. They are are elderly with the Corona virus. They are our at risk patients with their coronavirus. [00:01:00] Small mom and pop restaurants are the most at risk Beat Clips troyjohnson how to support local food spots And so I, I'm telling people, find your local bistro. Find that local, you know, independent place that you want to keep alive and buy 20 t-shirts for Christmas by emerge. I buy by gift card, by their mugs, you know, do whatever you possibly can. It's not going to help. Unfortunately, the people that have to be let off in this time, you know, like the bussers, the dishwashers, the cooks, the servers, the hosts, everybody else. But it is going to help that small restaurant owner keep the lights on so those people have a job to come back to when this is all over. Beat Troy himself is still ordering out. So are lots of other folks out there. And the food writer’s other contribution of doing what he can to keep the local food scene alive has been these online videos. TROY INSTAGRAM VIDEO CLIP HERE Clips troyjohnson_interview So these Instagram live videos, basically I'm setting up a few a week. Um, I haven't had a regular schedule because I'm not a regular person. Clips troyjohnson big joke insta live The big joke right now is like, Oh my God, the Instagram live pandemic, you know? It's, it's tough because you want to get these people's stories out, but now people are getting a little bit overwhelmed by all these Instagram live, um, popups that are happening. You know, it's, it's a fascinating time to be doing information distribution Clip from Troy Instagram Live Video So far, Troy’s been averaging about 10 restaurant tours and interviews a week on instagram live….His handle, by the way, is @heytroyjohnson, if you search for him on Facebook, you can see recordings of the live video there, too. Clip from Troy Instagram Live Video The videos are often these empathetic check-ins that are part purely promotional, but also these incredibly intimate glances inside the minds of local restaurateurs who are really really struggling right now. And Troy also manages to capture a few solid moments of hope and creativity. Clip from Troy Instagram Live Video Beat Troy isn’t the only one out there who’s taken to social media to keep the local food and beer scenes alive through this isolation. Beth Dam on Beer Clip And restaurant owners themselves are taking to social media to stay connected to their clients. Check the #sdfoodie hashtag on instagram or just make sure to follow some of your favorite spots for those direct updates. Personally, I’ve been enjoying Drew Deckman, a chef and restaurateur from Guadalupe Valley in Baja. you can find him on instagram at @bajafishingchef. Drew Deckman clip And who could forget Sam Zien, aka Sam the Cooking Guy? Sam cooking guy clip Beat/transition The internet can be so ugly sometimes. So full of hate from people hiding behind anonymity. But right now, the internet is doing what we all know it can do so well sometimes. It’s our portal to the outside world. A window into other people’s hearts and minds. It’s keeping us connected. Beat Clip 2 Amazing Things Too troyjohnson_interview There are great, amazing things coming out of this too. It's not all doom and gloom to see this community rally with one another is, I mean. Fucking me. Shockingly human. You know, there's just so many people that are like, I'm staying open for the community. I'm not making any money. These lines from Troy’s ‘pizza in a pandemi c’ piece stuck with me. “Restaurants have never been about food. They’re about people. And now the people need to be about restaurants.” This Pandemic Pivot pop-up podcast is written, produced and hosted by me, Kinsee Morlan. It’s edited by Alisa Barba. Emily Jankowski is the master of sound design. Lisa Morissette is operations manager. And John Decker is director of programming. Thanks for listening.

Ways To Subscribe
This is the first of a new pop-up podcast series dropping in the San Diego News Matters feed on Sundays. We're calling it "The Pandemic Pivot," and it's about people who are doing creative and innovative things to keep the community connected through COVID-19 isolation. Our goal is to make you, me and everyone who listens feel just a little less alone, or at least alone together. We want this podcast series to be some of the virtual glue that’s currently keeping our community connected. The plan is to drop new episodes on Sundays. The first episode features food critic Troy Johnson Because when restaurants across the city started closing down, Troy’s inbox started filling up. Over the years, he’s amassed a decent following of foodies. So, he was someone a lot of local restaurant folks thought of when the coronavirus pandemic hit. They saw Troy as a human life raft of sorts. A way to help them reach customers who might be able to keep their businesses afloat through the pandemic. So, they shot Troy email after email, text after text, begging for help. And so, after binging "Tiger King" just like you, me and millions others did as we adjusted to our new lives in isolation, Troy decided to do something to help. Follow Troy here: