WNYC Studios’ “The Sporkful” Presents "Who Is This Restaurant For?"

WNYC Studios’ “The Sporkful” Presents “WHO IS THIS RESTAURANT FOR?”

A Four-Part Podcast Series Exploring Intersections of Food, Race, and Culture in Restaurants

Guests include comedian W. KAMAU BELL and KAT CHOW of NPR’s Code Switch

New Episodes Daily through Thursday, October 13th

(New York, NY – October 11, 2016) – The lunch counter was one of the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement.

This week, WNYC Studios’ food podcast THE SPORKFUL presents “Who Is This Restaurant For?,” a four-part series looking at the subtle and unexpected ways race continues to play out in restaurants. Host Dan Pashman speaks with prominent food writers, restaurateurs, chefs, and cultural commentators to examine the signals—or codes—used to attract particular groups of customers.

In the first episode, Pashman and Code Switch’s Kat Chow (NPR) visit three different restaurants in Washington D.C.—Busboys and Poets, Sankofa Video Books & Café, and Slim’s Diner—to talk with the owners about their strategies to promote diverse clienteles. They also speak with former restaurant critic Todd Kliman who reveals how some restaurateurs have anxiety relating to the racial makeup of their customer base.

Additional episodes released daily through Thursday, October 13th include:

  • “Looking The Part” – What judgments do we make about the food in a restaurant, based on what the people working there look like? Indian-American food entrepreneur Kal Gullapalli recounts purchasing an Italian butcher shop in suburban New York City and facing skepticism and suspicion from customers. Ken Lin of the satirical rap-metal group Notorious MSG discusses working as a Japanese sushi chef despite his Chinese heritage. And Krishnendu Ray, Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, explains the common dynamic of “ethnic playacting” in restaurants.
  • “One Sign for Hipsters, Another for Arabs” – How do restaurants use different signals to attract different groups of customers at the same time? Taped live at the 2016 Taste Talks food festival in Brooklyn, this episode features a panel of acclaimed chefs: Sohui Kim of The Good Fork and Insa restaurants in Brooklyn; Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy, located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side; and Hasan Diab of Duzan Mediterranean Grill in Queens. The three restaurateurs break down the decision-making that goes into designing restaurants to appeal to specific types of customers.
  • “W. Kamau Bell Goes To Brunch” – In the final episode of the series, comedian and TV host W. Kamau Bell (United Shades of America) reflects on his personal experiences with race as a restaurant customer. (“Mark Zuckerberg can walk in [in] a hoodie and jeans… whereas if I walk in dressed that way, it just means something completely different.”) He also discusses a racially-charged incident that occurred two years ago at a café near his home in Berkeley, California, which he has addressed in a widely-circulated blog post.

THE SPORKFUL is all about exploring the details of food and eating in order to ask bigger questions about people,” said Pashman. “Food is a central part of how we conceive culture, identity, and race. We hope this series will add to our understanding of these complex issues in an unexpected way and lead to further conversations across the dinner table.”

“Who Is This Restaurant For?” is part of THE SPORKFUL’s continuing examination of race and food, which kicked off this past March with Other People’s Food.”

THE SPORKFUL is available on http://www.sporkful.com, iTunes, and all other places where podcasts may be downloaded.



WNYC Studios is the premier producer of on-demand and broadcast audio. Born from the team that created some of the most critically acclaimed and popular podcasts of the last decade, WNYC Studios is leading the new golden age in audio with high-quality storytelling that informs, inspires, and delights millions of intellectually curious and highly engaged listeners across digital, mobile, and broadcast platforms. WNYC Studios creates some of the most beloved audio series, including Radiolab2 Dope QueensThe New Yorker Radio HourFreakonomics RadioDeath, Sex & MoneyHere’s the Thing with Alec BaldwinNote to SelfOn the MediaThe Takeaway, and Studio 360. Their programs include personal narratives, deep journalism, interviews that reveal, and smart entertainment as varied and intimate as the human voice itself. For more information, visit http://wnycstudios.wnyc.org