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Episode 13  |  43:33 min

S2:EP13 - Jamie Simpson, From Rockstar to Vegetable Mastermind

Episode 13  |  43:33 min  |  01.26.2021

S2:EP13 - Jamie Simpson, From Rockstar to Vegetable Mastermind

This is a podcast episode titled, S2:EP13 - Jamie Simpson, From Rockstar to Vegetable Mastermind. The summary for this episode is: In this episode, I interview Jamie Simpson, the Executive Chef of the Culinary Vegetable Institute. Jamie has an interesting background- he was previously in a rock band before becoming a chef and compares an ingredient as a note in a chord. "A great dish is a great song and a great restaurant is an absolute symphony." His role in providing hundreds of fresh vegetables across the United States and the emphasis on creating a more sustainable food industry makes this an extremely interesting episode!

In this episode, I interview Jamie Simpson, the Executive Chef of the Culinary Vegetable Institute.

Jamie has an interesting background- he was previously in a rock band before becoming a chef and compares an ingredient as a note in a chord.

"A great dish is a great song and a great restaurant is an absolute symphony."

His role in providing hundreds of fresh vegetables across the United States and the institutes emphasis on creating a more sustainable food industry makes this an extremely interesting episode!

Jamie Simpson
Executive Chef
Jamie Simpson started as a rock musician before leaving the recording studio for the kitchen. Since becoming a chef, he has worked at some of the best restaurants in the United States and is the Executive Chef at The Culinary Vegetable Institute.

Brett Linkletter: What's up guys? Brett here, and in this episode I interview Jamie Simpson, who's the executive chef of the Culinary Vegetable Institute. Jamie's got a really cool, interesting background. He actually started out as a musician and he was in a punk rock band touring the country. Really interesting. Really awesome. And now he's a chef, he's living on a farm, and at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, they're supplying vegetables for hundreds of restaurants all over the states. They've also created a new home delivery program which has been thriving because of COVID, as you can imagine, right? They've had to change their approach, but it's something that, for them, has been extremely profitable, something they're going to definitely keep moving forward with. Jamie's a really cool guy and we talk about a lot of interesting points as far as food sustainability, how we can be better in that, and some of the practices they use at the institute. So without further ado, let's dive right in. Hi. My name is Brett Linkletter, CEO and founder of Misfit Media, best damn restaurant marketing agency on the planet. Here at Misfit we help restaurant owners grow and scale their business through strategic online marketing practices. Right now you're listening to our podcast Restaurant Misfits. We'll discuss all things related to restaurant marketing, management, and everything else in between growing a restaurant business. This podcast is also brought to you in collaboration with Total Food Service. For over 30 years, Total Food Service has provided the restaurant and food service industry with exclusive interviews, to the latest news on products, trends, associations, and events. You can sign up for your free monthly subscription by visiting totalfood. com today. And from all the misfits over here, we hope you enjoy the show. Cheers. Jamie, how you doing?

Jamie Simpson: I'm so good, considering the circumstances. Yeah, it's great out here.

Brett Linkletter: Right, right. It is crazy. Something feels better about being in the new year though. I know obviously we're still going through all this craziness, but the new year feels fresher, feels newer for us I guess, right? A little bit?

Jamie Simpson: For sure.

Brett Linkletter: For some reason.

Jamie Simpson: For sure. Yeah. You know, living and working on a farm, we really mark our existence really by the seasons. As spring shifts into summer, it's not like a tomorrow is summer officially. There's always the sort of slow progress through the world that we really admire. Because I know I don't necessarily buy into January 1st, 2021, new day, new year.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Jamie Simpson: But it's definitely leaning in that direction, yeah.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. So, I'm the same way. I hear what you're saying. Well tell us, for everyone just listening and doesn't really know who you are, tell us about yourself and really what you do.

Jamie Simpson: Yeah. I'm the chef liaison here where we are, in the dining room of the Culinary Vegetable Institute. The Culinary Vegetable Institute is this unbelievable place that was designed by some of the greatest pillars of our food service ecosystem, which was Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller and Danielle Balud. They got their heads together, a bunch of chefs, to build a kitchen on a farm in the middle of the agricultural belt of America, in my opinion, which is the Midwest. The farm is called The Chef's Garden. We have been growing vegetables for restaurants in 14 countries. We grow about 600 varieties of vegetables, and this place was really established to give people in the industry a better understanding of where their food comes from; of who grows it, how it's grown, and what to do with it when you get it out of the ground. So we have got a kitchen here that really kind of suits those purposes really well. It's beautiful.

Brett Linkletter: Amazing. And how many restaurants do you guys currently serve?

Jamie Simpson: Today? Outside of Chicago and New York and Disney, several hundred.

Brett Linkletter: Amazing. Amazing. And how long has it been around for?

Jamie Simpson: 30 years, almost 35 years The Chef's Garden has existed. This place is on its 20th year anniversary this year. It started with the Jones family farmers. Many of you in this audience will definitely know Farmer Lee Jones clad in his blue denim suspenders and a red bow tie and a white shirt, and I think they were in a more conventional farming back in the day, the early'80s. High interest rates and a hail storm wiped it out and forced them to re- evaluate the business model as a whole. " Let's look at starting over, a completely new direction." And at that time, there wasn't any really specialty purveyors. You don't look that old, and I'm certainly not, but I can definitely in my youth remember a time where the produce section in a grocery store was even a complete afterthought.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Jamie Simpson: So they were really embarking on a new world of unusual varieties of vegetables, and the only audience that really latched onto that were chefs and restaurants.

Brett Linkletter: Got it. Got it. How did you even get into this space? I actually was looking at, you used to be a musician, right? A rock musician?

Jamie Simpson: Yeah. For several years in my youth, traveled the country in a punk band and played music.

Brett Linkletter: No way!

Jamie Simpson: Loved to travel. It was not a sustainable way of living, and it was ultimately not the future for me. I cooked in a kitchen during the day, and worked in a great hotel, and things were sort of lining up in a path that I had a little bit more control over, which was cooking.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. No, but that's really cool. It's funny because even when I was... man, middle school, early high school, actually I used to sing in a rock band. So I saw that and I was like, " That's really damn cool. That's awesome."

Jamie Simpson: I think there's a lot of us.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Jamie Simpson: Even in terms of misfits in general, most cooks sort of land in the kitchen because they're accepted there and they somewhat can be at home with other weirdos. It seems like a natural progression for musicians to somehow crosstalk

Brett Linkletter: It is weird, right? You know, our company is called Misfit Media. Literally —

Jamie Simpson: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: The whole reason is I really saw myself as a misfit. You just said it. We're all kind of misfits, we're all kind of like, we want to do things differently. And hey, we're both kind of in the food space. Obviously you a lot more than me, but I'm a restaurant marketer, so it's interesting how that goes down.

Jamie Simpson: There are so many different directions... and I tell this to culinary students and prospects, industry people all the time... that you can very well navigate this industry and you don't have to work in a restaurant. You don't have to be a chef. For your perspective, just focus entirely on food service marketing, there's food stylists and photographers and book writers and all kinds of people around our world. It's really cool.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. 100%. I understand that you guys at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, you guys have some kind of new home delivery program, right? Is that something that's happened because of the pandemic or... ?

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, absolutely. It just turned our business over. We thought we were diverse because we had restaurants in multiple countries or we had high end and quick service and hotels and stuff like that, but that ultimately was not a diverse business model, so when every restaurant on the planet closed at once and the farm keeps farming, we were left with one decision, which was find a new customer. And very rapidly, fortunately, Ohio was one of the first states to shut down restaurants. We felt it first and were able to turn really quickly, and by the support of chefs and the support of friends in the industry, we were able to build a pretty great market very quickly for homes.

Brett Linkletter: Got it. Got it.

Jamie Simpson: That's where my whole world has really been, yeah.

Brett Linkletter: And so obviously the supply chains of who you're serving obviously has changed a lot, but how have you guys adjusted the business in that way? What are some of the challenges that you had to go through to make that happen?

Jamie Simpson: You know, we always live by the line that every part of a plant life offers something new and unique to the plate. It's how, with 600 varieties of vegetables, we can produce 10, 000 SKUs on our farm; the idea that a little tiny cucumber, and then a little tiny cucumber with a bloom attached, and then a slightly larger cucumber, and the leaves and the tendrils and all these parts of these plants ultimately work in our favor in a more sustainable business model. One of our challenges really became that nobody at home wants cucumber blooms in general. They do, and are interested in the novel idea of a couple of them, but it just... We had to then grow those cucumbers out to larger size. Or like squash blossoms became squash. Across the entire kaleidoscope of agriculture, where we used to sell a bunch of little carrots to restaurants all over the world, we just grew them a little bigger and people at home could then relate to them and use them.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Jamie Simpson: It worked out overall with very little loss, and what was potential agricultural waste, we have developed basically a food production facility here where we're making dried line of teas and bars of soap and vinegars and hot sauces and all kinds of stuff that would ultimately have been lost.

Brett Linkletter: Wow. I've always thought it would be just so badass to open up a hot sauce line, just something like that. Have you ever had Truff hot sauce? Have you tried that before? Have you heard of it?

Jamie Simpson: No.

Brett Linkletter: It's like this truffle infused hot sauce. Oh my god, it is... I just sent him a message on Instagram and I said, " You guys are so cool. I'd love to try it." They sent me a full box. You guys have got to try it. I mean, it is incredible if you're a hot sauce guy. I don't make any money by mentioning them but they're legit. I love what they're doing. It's really good.

Jamie Simpson: Cool. That's amazing. I love it.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. It's really interesting. Okay, so now with the home delivery program, that's obviously opened up a new revenue opportunity for you guys. Do you see that sticking around for the long term for you guys, forever, or do you think crosstalk

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, it's not going anywhere right now. We're looking to double it again this year and hopefully keep that restaurant model alive, as well as restaurants are doing. We're rooting for our chefs. We're really in that corner, and the farm is ultimately supportive of every element of recovery for restaurant models. We have been doing so many really fun special projects for chefs that are just trying to hang on, too. It's really cool.

Brett Linkletter: Amazing. No, I love that. I love that. Based on what you guys have seen in the food space and the restaurant industry this year, what are some things that you've noticed have been major problems? Other than obviously the shutdowns and this and that. What are some of the issues you currently see in the restaurant space?

Jamie Simpson: I think the model overall is just broken. I feel somewhat jaded and kind of disappointed. But some of the greatest restaurants on the planet, with awards and accolades and everything else, only have 10 to 12 days of cash flow without a regular service. And that makes no sense. It's a financial model that's just done. If let's say 95% of our income then goes back into a community, that's great, but if the business is unsustainable then the model is broken. And I think that I see a way. There's got to be a really creative model coming around the corner that'll really help buffer restaurants in the future.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. What about the business model is not sustainable? Because a lot of people tell me this, and I have to agree to some degree, but tell me about what in specific about the business model is broken?

Jamie Simpson: I mean, there's a race to the bottom in terms of menu prices and competitive rates. Let's say I buy some product and it costs me$8. How much can I sell that for to build in enough revenue where we're actually making money? And if I'm not able to generate enough revenue from that because of the other costs of these damn linens, centerpieces, cleaning floors, obviously labor, it's not enough. I think that people aren't actually paying the true price of food, the lives required to put it together. Farmers as a result are struggling too. So farmers have to do more for less, you know what I mean? There was a secretary of agriculture, Earl Butz, who most famously said... This was in the'70s. He said, " Get big or get out." And what that meant was that the farmers had to produce more, get more land and make more food and do it for less, or just get out of farming. That has really crippled our sustainability.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Jamie Simpson: It's like, why should a turnip cost nothing? Why are we expected to pay very little for food? And then it happens at the grocery stores even. It's why this farm is not involved in grocery stores, is because the model is just like a mosh pit for beating up farmers.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. It is kind of crazy, you said why are we expected to pay nothing for food, but you're totally right. I mean, if you look at what's happened over the years with a number of things... let's just say the way the economy's going, the way that the minimum wage has gone up, some of the inflation... but then the food cost isn't going up a whole lot, right? So the margins are getting smaller and smaller and smaller. How do we combat this? Do you have any kind of ideas? Is it an educational thing for the customer base? Because you're totally right. I hear our clients say it all the time. They're like, " Brett, if I just increase my prices by$ 1, sometimes even 50 cents, the uproar from the customer base is ridiculous!"

Jamie Simpson: Yep. Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: They're like, " Our hands are tied! I don't know what to do!"

Jamie Simpson: My girlfriend, partner Morgan Tucker and I also own two coffee shops in town, and you don't mess with someone's coffee. One thing I've learned is you can't raise, even 10 cents, you can't touch it, so we have got to find ways outside of that in the periphery to bring up check averages. That model works for restaurants as well. You're seeing it with basically like grocery stores essentially, like markets. So you go in, you can buy a meal, but exit through the gift shop and pick up mise en place along the way. Food waste is a really fun way to look at additional revenue models of byproducts, essentially, that get tossed. How do you turn that into something else, something shelf stable that can also be purchased? Fermentation is a really fun way to look at buying things at a low cost, building a lot of it and serving it over time, which is really good. I don't know if there's one answer. I think you've got to look at the cost of new equipment. You've got to look at allowing technology to do some of your heavy lifting. In the kitchen space there's so many manufacturers out there that are making equipment to do the heavy lifting really.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Jamie Simpson: So that helps support some of the labor cost situation. It's a tricky one.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. That's the thing I've noticed too, especially because of COVID and everything that's been going on, is people knew the restaurant model, the business model was somewhat broken of course, but I think the pandemic made everyone realize it even more, right? " Wow, we really have way too many employees. Wow, we really are paying for way too many things. We definitely are way too cheap. What the heck? We have got to fix this." I mean, I'll tell you this for some of our clients that I've done some of the things in store, where you're scanning a QR code and maybe you're ordering through a QR code versus even a server now. Maybe they had four servers; now they only have two because there's less people having to take orders because now people are ordering with technology. Now, that's sad for those employees that are now unemployed, but unfortunately, because we can't drive up food costs because everyone freaks out, this is what's happening. It's crazy.

Jamie Simpson: Yeah. And I think vegetables are an important part of the future. You look at those items and vegetables in general, they cost less per pound and inaudible beef or chicken or anything really. They cost less, and so you're able to really do a lot more with really fun, versatile, easy techniques. You're not competing against your own menu prices, because you're not raising prices on existing menu items, you're creating new menu items and you can bring the price up on those, even comparable to the other dishes. So now if I'm getting$ 13 for a chicken pot pie and I've just added another$ 13 carrot pot roast next to it on the menu, the cost difference is pretty great.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Jamie Simpson: The margins are then grown on that item.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. Jamie, what are some of the sustainable practices that you guys practice at the Culinary Vegetable Institute?

Jamie Simpson: We have a crazy little system. We're not a restaurant. We're only open to the public maybe once a month. We do private dinners all the time, and we do lots of video shoots and stuff like that, but because of our basic business model, there's a huge potential for waste. If I bring ingredients for a single thing and you don't have another single thing in a couple days... We really looked at building a little ecosystem of ingredients. One of our biggest ways was first by kind of slowly weeding out all of our purveyors. We still have some, we still rely on some for basic pantry staples, but we let the farm write our menus, we harvest only what we need, we cook what we need or we take advantage of the season when it's giving us things in abundance. That abundance then makes its way into our root cellar, like your grandmother's; the old- fashioned way of canning and larding and drying and fermenting and jarring stuff. That stuff then works its way back into the cycle when needed. And the overage from that... of trim, peels, things like that... that goes to the chickens. And then the chickens lend back eggs, which is really great. For many years, when we had a lot of events, we had a herd of heritage pigs on property. Those pigs were a great outlet for overage, and they would turn themselves magically into ham every once in a while.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. I love how you illustrated that. Yeah. That's amazing. No, no, that is amazing. It seems like right now... I mean look, I'm a restaurant marketer, I'm not a restaurateur, but what I have heard from our clients and I think I've seen from you guys... What I've seen you guys talk about online is it just seems like there's an enormous amount of waste in general in the States, right? Overall.

Jamie Simpson: Yeah. It seems like it's by design, too. It's part of the system. It's illegal to make hot sauce the proper way. In many outlets, it's illegal for them to, say, dry something. I think that's really sad. You have to have this constant coal chain distribution. Let's say you put a bunch of fruit out on a buffet, and then in that model it's just garbage. It will not come back into the kitchen. It makes no sense. We did a project with Marriott last year and Marriott basically, their largest waste item was fruit from breakfast buffets.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Jamie Simpson: That's a lot. That's a lot.

Brett Linkletter: Because they're just doing breakfast buffets, putting fruit out, and then it just goes to waste?

Jamie Simpson: Yeah. It has to be in abundance, it has to look bountiful and consumable. It's just...

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Jamie Simpson: So you're the last guy in line and the buffet still looks great.

Brett Linkletter: Got it. Got it. Interesting. No, I mean, you're totally right. Like you said, we're kind of wasteful by design. It's kind of like the American way. Everything's bigger. More food. I've got a lot of friends who are foreigners, and when they first time come to the States, all they can say is, " Oh my god. Everything you order, there's so much food. This is crazy."

Jamie Simpson: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: And then we wonder why everyone's overweight, too. Americans are always saying, "I've got to finish my plate." If you're hungry, stop eating, first of all. If you're not hungry, stop eating. Just stop.

Jamie Simpson: That's another thing is, yeah, presenting some more realistic portion sizes. But I think restaurants in general are going to start picking up on that. There's still a few places that are just obsessive and excessive, absurd, but I think in general, as a category, we're sort of figuring that out.

Brett Linkletter: And Jamie, you said earlier that you guys, you're doing a lot of filming on the farm, you're doing a lot of online kind of stuff. Tell me about that. Is it for marketing purposes? Do you have kind of a fan base that watches your guys' stuff? Tell me more about the content you guys are producing.

Jamie Simpson: We always had an in- house video team, photography team, marketing team. We've always needed to educate a customer on the products that we use. In history, that was chefs. " This new rare variety of tuber from Peru is now available. What do you do with it?" So our role at that point was to develop some content around it, give some context to chefs and our sales team and help them sort of make sense of it all.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Jamie Simpson: Today it's really been on home cooks, where we're looking at purple cauliflower. It's easy enough for a chef to wrap his head around purple cauliflower, but for home cooks that's a different animal. So we're just making new content. We also just recorded a pilot episode for a new series that we're looking to produce on vegetables.

Brett Linkletter: No way!

Jamie Simpson: Last week. That has been underwritten by one of our equipment manufacturers, Waring, who's really interested in telling stories about food waste and sustainable agriculture and sustainable living and things like that.

Brett Linkletter: That is so amazing.

Jamie Simpson: We just spent the last 18 months working on a cookbook for home cooks. It's a 700- page vegetable guide. We're really excited for that, and it is now available. We haven't announced it yet. You're actually the first guy to know. The book is now available. I think we're probably going to announce it in about a month. It releases mid- April and it's a monster project, and it has been a big part of our day- to- day here for the last two years. So we're excited for that, and that'll be just a great resource for both chefs and home cooks, for people to get a better understanding of vegetable, where their food comes from, what to do with them. So there's a ton of recipes in it. We're really excited about it.

Brett Linkletter: That's amazing. I'll check it out, for sure. That's amazing, man. So, so awesome. What else do you guys use that content for? You said it's also for your marketing and sales team. Do they use that content in the marketing pieces, I'm assuming? For you guys?

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, 100%. Even if we inaudible dinner here, we do these vegetable showcase dinners and it might be five or six courses of a single ingredient. We'll do a photo shoot on those dinners for guests, but those photos then work their way into the Chef's Garden marketing component.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. Very, very cool. Question for you in general, Jamie. It seems like, kind of like yourself, you have kind of your own obviously personal brand that you've obviously attached to the Culinary Institute. Has that been a pretty instrumental thing, I think, for the business overall?

Jamie Simpson: I don't know. It's hard to measure marketing, and maybe you're better at it than I am, but inaudible the efforts of a podcast like this. What ultimately does it do? I do a lot of these kinds of conversations, and we love to do them, but you never really know and how to pinpoint where the success was. We have a pretty good idea, but we never really know for sure. That's probably a fault of our own, but yeah, we have definitely built a brand around vegetables and really have continued to be somewhat of an authoritative voice on produce and how to deal with it and how to make sense of it and how to inspire with it. I think that's really fun. That's a new category. crosstalk I am on the perfect sous vide short rib and the perfect sauce for it, and then the onions or something that they serve with it is sort of an afterthought.

Brett Linkletter: Well tell me this. I want to do something that I actually don't typically do on a podcast, but I'm kind of curious. So tell me about your guys marketing to sales process; how you go about, let's say, acquiring a new restaurant to work with and supply vegetables for. How does that process typically go?

Jamie Simpson: We have a group of people on the farm, and that group of people is all about... We call it, they're product specialists. It's a relationship business. The farm has never paid a dollar for advertising, for magazine, digital, print, whatever. They don't pay for advertising, and that's probably difficult for a guy like you to get behind. But I think it's interesting because it's a test amid relationships in general. So chefs move around a lot. Our product specialists really kind of live and land with those people. They exist with them and go from restaurant to restaurant with them. One person is one relationship, and they really, really become good friends with the people they work with. For new restaurants, we don't do a lot of real active marketing to build new relationships. I think that's one of our current goals and projects right now, is getting a better understanding of... It's a big world out there and we're kind of in a small little bubble of it, or a part of it.

Brett Linkletter: Well, I'll tell you this, what you guys are currently doing... Obviously you've been in business over 30 years, so obviously you guys have built some kind of status. You guys have built a reputation, and that's obviously been leading you guys and is obviously the reason for your success today, right? Which is fantastic for you guys. All I can say though is the opportunities in marketing and advertising... as obviously I have a bias towards it; I run an ad agency... but what I tell people is this. If your business has grown through word of mouth, which it sounds like it has reputation, the success you've seen, the relationships. All marketing and advertising can do is help accelerate the success you're already seeing. I say it's a truth accelerator. If you guys are already killing it, all this is going to do is help you accelerate the success you're already seeing. Plain and simple, that's how it works, right? Now I'll tell you, for me, the first year we broke a million dollars in sales, I went from three to 12 employees that year. And it was because I really figured out my own marketing system for my internal marketing, right? Being able to run ads profitably, to acquire customers profitably, and then work with them, and then keep them because we're doing a good job. But I would say whoever's on the marketing team for you guys, that's something definitely look into, because you guys... From what I can see online and from what we talked about today, you guys are absolutely killing it. There's no doubt. You guys are awesome. Now we just need more people to know about you guys, that's all.

Jamie Simpson: Yeah. That's kind of what we're after. That's what we want to do. We want to —

Brett Linkletter: It's cool.

Jamie Simpson: We're talking to the same little ecosystem. We need to get outside of that and grow the overall awareness. I think as long as you know about this place and you get into it, you'll love it.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, but it's one of those interesting things in the world. I would look at... Let's look at this as like starting with a product, because that's really where my life is. There's a new variety of sweet potato that we have developed with Louisiana State University, and it's completely white and it tastes like vanilla ice cream or something. So we first identify that item. We would then put it in product, figure out yield, output, and then overall success of growth. If it's a green light, then it comes here to the institute and we get to do some culinary exploration with this thing to try and find new applications for it, or really interesting delicious things to do with it. That information goes to both marketing and sales. Sales takes that information to share it with their people, and marketing takes that information to get it on the website and get everything else packaged around it that's important.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Jamie Simpson: And it's a really cool process from that perspective. Really beautiful sort of collection of farmers and photographers and chefs and people that are passionate about vegetables. It's a cool thing how it comes together.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. 100%. I'm assuming you guys probably have a pretty massive database of emails and a community of some sort that you guys have collected?

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, the marketing team has done a really great job of maintaining relationships digitally as well. Yeah, they have a good, nice little system going.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. And then the last thing I saw, Jamie, with you is I saw on your Instagram you hold the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest dinner party?

Jamie Simpson: Actually it's on this Tuesday.

Brett Linkletter: Oh, it's going to be this Tuesday?

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, it's coming up. It's an attempt, so we just released the link and stuff to it, but this next week we're going to put together the world's largest virtual dinner party.

Brett Linkletter: Wow! You said it's this Tuesday coming up?

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, it's coming up! Sign up the link crosstalk

Brett Linkletter: Oh my god.

Jamie Simpson: All you have to do is tune in. You don't have to buy a box from us, you don't have to buy anything really, just have dinner in front of your computer and prove that you were there. It's pretty straightforward.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, it's going to be really fun. We have done so many of these cook- along videos and these live cooking things, and we have done these workshops and stuff, and I'm excited about this one because it's just like unplug and tune in and hang out. We have got an hour of entertainment with some of our partner, sponsors. The Aussie Beef& Lamb is all about sustainable agriculture as well, so there's a good partnership there. We have got chefs and TikTok stars and Instagram crosstalk

Brett Linkletter: Oh, this is amazing!

Jamie Simpson: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: This is so cool! Okay, I'm definitely going to tune to this. What we'll do also man, and I would love to do this for you guys, is we have got a pretty massive email list of restaurateurs and people just interested in the food space. We're going to do a blast for you guys on this.

Jamie Simpson: Awesome!

Brett Linkletter: I love this!

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, it's a fun thing to participate in, and anybody anywhere that wants to tune in can help break a world record. How fun.

Brett Linkletter: Damn! It's funny because you mentioned, you said you saw Australian meat farmers, or you said that they're a lot more sustainable than Americans in general? Is that what you were saying?

Jamie Simpson: inaudible 100%. I mean, Australia's government as a whole puts a lot of... It's a very different dynamic. In the US, you're incentivized to get big or get out, like I said. You grow more, you've got to do it for less, and great. But Australia, as a farmer, you're incentivized for doing it right. Do it properly. Have the right amount of cattle per land mass. They're shooting for carbon zero livestock production in Australia and that's crosstalk

Brett Linkletter: It's funny you mention this. My girlfriend's Australian and she always gives us shit, saying, " We actually have better burgers in Australia than you guys do in the States." I was like, " What? Come on, that's our thing." Who know?

Jamie Simpson: They put beets crosstalk

Brett Linkletter: Yeah they do.

Jamie Simpson: I was in Australia last year. It's beets. It makes no sense.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah, it is weird. I haven't been to Australia, so I guess I'll probably be going at some point, maybe later this year, and we'll see. I know that with COVID there's a lot of restrictions, so we'll see. I'll give my two cents. Last thing you just mentioned which was kind of interesting to me, because a lot of restaurants have been asking me about it, is TikTok. Do you guys see TikTok as a marketing channel for you guys potentially? Are you on TikTok?

Jamie Simpson: No I'm not, but potentially. With taking existing content and sort of repackaging it for a different... I don't necessarily right now at this point see the TikTok audience as our customer, but I do see that there's a lot of value in the sense of marketing to a new audience.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Jamie Simpson: Yeah. It's not out of the question by any means.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. I mean, I'll be honest, I got on it probably a few months ago. Again, I think I have to agree with you... it is a younger audience... but so was Instagram early days, and even Facebook started with college kids, so I don't know. It might be kind of interesting. Maybe something to consider. Because a lot of my clients have been asking, " Can we start doing this?" We're not there yet, but I'm looking into it for you guys. Anyway, Jamie, this has been really cool, man. It's been awesome getting to know you and more about what you guys do. If anyone's listening or watching this and they want to learn more about you and the institute, how do they do so?

Jamie Simpson: We stick to all sorts of channel. Our most active place is social media. That kind of gives us a day- to- day sort of window into the world of what the CVI is working on. Whether it's virtual workshops or online cooking classes or trying to break a world record, our social media channels are really the direction to kind of follow up. If it's more like vegetable at home you're after, just check out our websites, any of them. We have The Chef's Garden, Farmer Jones Farm is that home delivery segment, and the Culinary Vegetable Institute. We have got a lot of fun projects in the pipe. Really excited about this book launch, and once all that's sort of rolling, hopefully we'll... We're pretty lined up for a great year.

Brett Linkletter: Hell yeah. Okay, one more thing I just remembered that popped in my mind is, you guys said you're doing a lot of live content too. Has that been pretty cool for you guys overall?

Jamie Simpson: It's been tough. We tried it a couple of ways. We do pre- recorded content that we then stream live to a live audience and then do some post Q& A, and we're doing a lot of just ad hoc sort of like grab a camera and let's walk through the garden real quick.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Jamie Simpson: The value I think in them for us we have seen is just being they don't disappear, so when these videos are done, they still exist. So we may not have 700 chefs on at once actively asking questions and stuff like that, but then you do end up getting the views and response from it over time. I think that's probably good. I like them too because there's not as much of a production on our end. It's just really a walk through the garden. We have got a couple of people lined up, and those guys are going to pull some carrots. He wants to talk about them. Let's head over to the cauliflower. crosstalk

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Jamie Simpson: And that stuff's fun. I think it's really cool what some of those things have—

Brett Linkletter: It is cool. I mean, I like that you guys are... It sound like you've experimented with a lot of different things. Live is another thing for us as an agency that I think honestly is something that more people need more of. That's how you connect with people, right? Just seeing someone live doing something, that's how you really, really, really connect with someone, build a community, and build that relationship to hopefully work together, right? So anyway, man, thank you so much for your time.

Jamie Simpson: Yeah, thank you for your time. I appreciate it. We're grateful for Total Food Service, grateful for you, we're grateful for Morgan Tucker who lined this up, and it'll be fun to see it.

Brett Linkletter: Absolutely, man. So this will probably go live in the next couple of weeks. Or, sorry, probably less than a week, actually. Looking forward to it, man. Again, we'll be in touch, but thank you so much for your time today.

Jamie Simpson: Yeah. Thank you.

Brett Linkletter: Alrighty, man. Chat soon then. See you, Jamie.

Jamie Simpson: Bye.

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