Podcast Episode 102

How to Start a Career in Restaurant Public Relations with Shari Bayer

Shari Bayer | 56 Minutes | February 20, 2024

In today’s episode, we speak with our guest Shari Bayer, founder & president of Bayer Public Relations, as well as host & producer of All in the Industry podcast.

With over 30 years in the industry, Shari established her PR agency in 2003, representing chefs, restaurants, and culinary-focused clients. As a Les Dames d’Escoffier NY member since 2010 and former president of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, Shari sheds light on the pivotal role of “networking” in her career.

Listen as Shari shares stories of solo dining adventures, discusses writing her first book, Chefwise, and reveals the secrets to building an exciting career in restaurant public relations.

Watch the podcast episode:

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Notes & Transcript


Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann, and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with the remarkable Shari Bayer, Founder and President of Bayer Public Relations, the host and producer of “All in the Industry” podcast, and writer and author of “Chefwise: Life Lessons from Leading Chefs Around the World.”

Shari’s journey spans over three decades in the industry, beginning with her impactful tenure on the floors of Charlie Trotter’s iconic restaurant in Chicago, Illinois.

In the early 2000s, she took a leap and established Bayer Public Relations where she currently represents a suite of restaurants, chefs, and culinary-focused clients.

In spring 2023, Shari achieved a huge milestone with the publication of her first book, “Chefwise: Life Lessons from Leading Chefs Around the World.”

Shari’s passion for the culinary world is further exemplified by her roles as a former president of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, and her long-standing membership in Les Dames d’Escoffier New York since 2010, where she serves as a committee co-chair.

She’s also earned recognition in Total Food Service’s “Top Women in Metro New York Food Service and Hospitality” – a well-deserved place in the Heritage Radio Network’s Hall of Fame.

So join us today as we talk about tips for starting a career in food PR, how networking can elevate your career, and much, much more!

And there she is. Good morning! Can I tell you, I’m exhausted after that intro! Oh my Lord! There’s a lot there.

Shari Bayer: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Kirk Bachmann: You’re smiling, so it brings back memories, all that stuff. What a career! I love it. I love it.

Shari Bayer: Thank you. Yeah. Career kind of happened by accident in a sense, but here I am. I’ve done a lot. Thank you so much for having me.

Kirk Bachmann: Absolutely. Sometimes the best things in the world happen by accident. Right?

I have to comment on the beautiful background. Are you in your home studio this morning?

Shari Bayer: Yes, my home studio in Manhattan.

Kirk Bachmann: This is your pass. You’re at the pass this morning.

Shari Bayer: I am. If you need anything, let me know. I do have coffee going.

The Wealth of New York

Kirk Bachmann: I bet you do.

Before we dive in – and there’s so much – ironically enough I was just in New York, partly for work, partly for play. Just last week. We had a blast. We did the restaurant thing. I’m just really curious: where do you sit in New York, how long have you been in New York, and how spoiled are New Yorkers by the wealth of amazing food?

Shari Bayer: Yes, we are. I’ve been in New York since 1998. I’ve been here 25 years. Sometimes I think about moving, and I don’t know where to go because there’s no place like New York.

Kirk Bachmann: There really isn’t.

Shari Bayer: I’m here. I love living in the city. I’m in Manhattan. It’s great. One of the things amazing about Manhattan, or just New York, is that you can walk everywhere. A lot of times my nights or days become a little more spontaneous because you’re walking around and you notice new restaurants or bars, or things opening. You might even pop in. The accessibility of that. As someone who dines out all the time, loves to dine out, I still can’t get to all the restaurants because there’s new ones constantly opening. Then, it’s the places that I love that I just haven’t been to, I realized, in five years! “Oh, I have to get back there,” because we do have an abundance of amazing restaurants and choices. We are spoiled.

Kirk Bachmann: Some of those restaurants – I’ll pick on one in particular in a very good way – Gramercy Tavern. Gosh. I didn’t even realize that Michael Anthony was still there. It seems like he’s been there for so long. Whether you sit in the back or you sit in the tavern, it’s just electric. It’s exciting. We went last week. I think we were there Thursday night.

Shari, I can’t begin to tell you what a small world it is. We’ll talk about this a little bit more. You and I just met last September at the Roots conference in Ohio with Farmer Lee. I’m so glad that we did. So we’re at Gramercy. We’re up front. We have great seats. I don’t know why, but we had a great table. Just a great table. Everything was happening at once.

Shari Bayer: I don’t think there’s a bad table. That’s why.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, you’re right. It was packed. It was just packed, as always. Our server was phenomenal. Her name was Alexis. She was really chatty with the kids and all that. Then we started talking to the sommelier a little bit. It all came about because we talked about A) we’re from Boulder. We’re going home tomorrow. Alexis let us know, “One of my colleagues has to go to Boulder for something tomorrow. Let me bring him over. He happens to be the sommelier.” We talked for a while. It turns out, he’s a graduate of my little school here in Boulder, Colorado.

Shari Bayer: Amazing. Small world.

Kirk Bachmann: Right! So then the conversation took on a life of its own.

I say some of that to set up the first part of our chat here. This idea of dining out and travel, the serendipitous, spontaneous things that happen. I so love following your social media, your solo travel, and your dining content on Instagram which you really fell in love with after I met you in September. I imagine – I’m not, but I imagine that many are intimidated. I love the idea of it. I imagine many are intimidated by this idea of solo adventuring. Could you first define for our audience what that is, what that means, and how long has that been a thing? What appeals to you the most about solo adventuring?

Shari Bayer: Thank you. Before I get into that, I have to say, though, I went back to Gramercy Tavern over the holidays. I went with a friend because the decor there is so warm and welcoming and festive. It’s just such an amazing restaurant. Michael Anthony and the whole team [are] amazing. I recently went back there. I got the burger.

Kirk Bachmann: I did too!

Shari Bayer: I do tend to focus a little more on the new places. I got back, and I’m glad you visited.

Kirk Bachmann: Absolutely, and it’s so beautiful in the holidays.

Shari Bayer: It is. They have the hospitality thing down. Perfectly.

Kirk Bachmann: They do.

Adventures in Solo Dining

Shari Bayer: But solo dining. I think it was probably a dozen or more years ago when I worked for myself. I love to travel. I love restaurants. I’m single. I just realized, I can travel, and see the world, and just go. I can work from anywhere. I just started traveling more. The more I traveled by myself, I just really embraced it. I was always traveling to check out restaurants and dining places solo. Living in New York, too, just going out. I have friends. I do make plans with people, but it’s very easy to just show up by yourself as a walk-in, or make a reservation by yourself. If I decide I want to go to a new restaurant, I can just make the reservation[and] go. You don’t have to go to the back and forth of making plans.

I just started dining out more by myself, and the more I did it, the more I really just embraced it. When you’re by yourself at a restaurant, I don’t feel lonely. You’re surrounded by people. You can be as social, in a sense, as you want. You can sit at the bar. You can be chatty with your neighbors, or you can just sit and be quiet by yourself and enjoy the experience of the food, the service, what you’re there for. When people tell me I’m brave for dining out by myself, I never get it because it’s not being brave. It’s just showing up and just taking in the experience which is just there for us to enjoy. I’m a big cheerleader of it, and I think people who follow me know that, but I don’t do it for any reason other than I love restaurants and I love going out.

And I love meeting people, too. I’ve met people all around the world in restaurants a lot because when you’re solo, you also are more open to those conversations with other people. You’re not just focused on the person or the people you’re with.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that. It’s super genuine. It’s not just about nourishment; it’s about the experience, as well. To your point, you’re watching what’s happening. Do you prefer, or is it different depending on your mood, to sit at the bar and get into great conversations sitting around there, maybe doing the same thing you are? Or do you like to sit in the dining room and watch the majesty?

Shari Bayer: I like it all. It depends on my mood. Sometimes it depends on the restaurant. I like bars sometimes. Sometimes I like just sitting at the table. I’ve done fine dining, white tablecloth restaurants. I’ve done a lot of tasting menus by myself, which I think are amazing and I highly recommend them to people because a tasting menu restaurant – there’s a lot happening. It’s like theater, really.

Kirk Bachmann: It really is.

Shari Bayer: New dishes are coming. Chefs are coming out of the kitchen sometimes and explaining the dishes to you. You can really focus on the food and the experience. Most people don’t think about doing a long tasting menu by themselves, but I highly recommend it.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it.

What about ‘24? We’re just getting started in this year. Do you have a specific agenda for this year? “I’ve got to get here. I’ve got to fly down to D.C. I’ve got to see what’s happening in Miami.” Or are you very spontaneous about that and just let it come to you?

Shari Bayer: It’s a little of both. As much as I travel, I have so many places I want to go or haven’t been to or want to get back to. Some of my travel for this year I know coming up is centered around culinary and hospitality events that I know I want to go to. The James Beard Awards in Chicago, or the World’s 50 Best is going to Las Vegas in June. I’m hoping to go to that. I did go last year to 50 Best in Valencia, which was really exciting, and then I ended up going to Rio for the Latin America’s 50 Best. I had William Drew from 50 Best on my show before the awards. I always wanted to go. I made the ask as I was covering it for my podcast. It was planned but not planned. I think when I’m having opportunities to go places, I’m seizing them. Why not? This is what I love to do.

Some of it’s planned, and some of it is more spontaneous. I don’t have 2024 mapped out at all, but I know in June those two events are happening. We’ll see if I can make both of them.

Chicago Treasures

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. Where’s the exciting place to go in Chicago these days? That’s where I’m from originally. It’s where I was born and raised. When I read about your time at Charlie Trotter’s – I have one of his menus from 1991, right down here. It’s not hanging. It’s on the ground there. I think he was there 25 years or so. I had a restaurant in the mountains of Colorado in those years. There was no internet. There wasn’t a direct way to understand what chefs were doing unless you got magazines like “Food and Wine” and “Gourmet,” or you went to the restaurants. I pick up the phone, and I call Charlie Trotter’s. At the time, I was young, and I liked to put menus of different chefs in the restaurant. Preferably I had dined there, but not always. Somebody lovely answered the phone there, and two weeks later because it was snail mail, I got a beautiful package in the mail with two menus. One was the first all-vegetarian menu. I had never even thought of something like that, but he had it in ‘91. That one I have since gifted to Farmer Lee, by the way. The other one I held on to. In years after that, I had the opportunity to dine there a few times, but I was so touched by the fact that I picked up the phone, they listened to what I said, Charlie signed the menus – “Keep on cooking. Charlie Trotter” – and shipped them off. Who was I, this young restaurateur? So it’s always stayed with me.

When I read about your history at Charlie Trotters. We’ll get to that in a minute. I’m super curious of what gets you excited about the Chicago food scene. Back then, Chicago wasn’t a food scene. Charlie Trotter was one of the first to really put Chicago on the map.

Shari Bayer: True. I lived there after college. ‘95 to ‘98, and then I moved here in ‘98. I was three years there. I lived in Wrigleyville and Lake View. I worked at Rock Bottom Brewery. I worked at BW-3 as a bar manager. I worked at Charlie Trotter’s at the high end of serving. I don’t know if you knew this: I was a garde manger cook at a jazz club called Green Dolphin Street. That was my last job before moving here. I tested those waters.

To your point, there wasn’t a West Loop.

Kirk Bachmann: You’re right.

Shari Bayer: There’s a West Loop now. The last time when I was there last year for the James Beard Awards, I stayed at the Hoxton in the West Loop. It’s thriving. There’s so many restaurants. Blackbird is the restaurant that opened in, I think, ‘98 right when I was leaving. It put that area on the map. This last time I was there, I went back to avec, which has celebrated its 20-year mark. As far as those – One Off Hospitality Group and the Boka Restaurant Group, and Au Cheval, those guys with Hogsalt. Chicago’s interesting because it has “Let Us Entertain You.” It has a few, four or five big restaurant groups that have a lot of the restaurants, and then there’s one-offs.

I’m excited to go. Doug Psaltis has a new place that I’d like to check out. There’s a place called Indian that I haven’t been to. There’s a lot, and I’m sure there’s going to be more in the next couple months.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. We have a good friend in Curtis Duffy who has found great success in Chicago over the years. He’s a wonderful person.

Let’s really get into the restaurant scene. Thirty years experience or more. Shari, did you always know that you needed…you went to the University of Michigan. Congratulations!

Shari Bayer: Go blue!

Dabbling to Discovering PR

Kirk Bachmann: Go blue! Did you always know that you needed to be part of the restaurant scene? Was this in your DNA? Was your family really big about dining around the table?

Shari Bayer: My family, my parents, my love of restaurants and the hospitality industry and everything I do didn’t come from Mom and Dad even though we did a family meal. We ate together every night when we could, and that was important as a family. My mom’s a good cook, but she has to follow a recipe to the T. She will not venture off of a recipe, and keeps it simple.

Kirk Bachmann: And that’s okay. That’s safe. Way to go, Mom.

Shari Bayer: It is. But my parents are not restaurant people. They’re like me. When I go down to Miami, which is where I’m from, they are so supportive and love doing things I like to do. They like to go to restaurants when I come down, but I’m the one who’s making the reservations and saying, “This is where we need to go.”

I’ve always been a worker and someone who is just driven. I got my first job when I was sixteen – as a soon as I could drive – at a Mexican restaurant in Miami as a hostess. I was drawn to the industry back then. I had summer jobs at Bennigan’s and Chili’s, and I just always worked on the side even when I was in school. I was passionate about being around restaurants.

I went to Michigan and I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated, or even the four years I was there. I thought it was important to get a degree in a well-balanced education. There’s one thing, the books, the academic part of school, but it’s also the social part. Michigan – I loved going to school there. We had the football. We had the culture. We just had a lot going on. It was a beautiful campus to be on. Ann Arbor. We had Zingerman’s.

Kirk Bachmann: Yes. Yes.

Shari Bayer: So after college, I moved to Chicago and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was drawn to restaurants, so I kind of, as I said, it was kind of accidental, my whole career, how it’s turned about. But when I was in Chicago, I decided I wanted to go to cooking school because I had a moment when I thought I wanted to be a chef. I did a six-month culinary program in Chicago. That was right before I got hired at Charlie Trotter’s.

Trotter’s came about because I had his book. I didn’t have many books back then, cookbooks, but I had his beautiful book. I remember just flipping through it and being like, “How do you make these dishes? This is art!” I ended up going in there and interviewing to be a server, front-of-the-house person. I had more experience front than back, so I got hired. That was like grad school for me in the culinary arts.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s great.

Shari Bayer: it wasn’t planned. I actually thought I was going to go to Europe and cook. That was my idea. I ended up at Charlie Trotter’s, and I’m very happy and proud that I did because it was an amazing experience.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. 100 percent.

I don’t know a ton of detail. Last time I talked to Farmer, it looked like Charlie’s son was going to take a run at reopening. I don’t know if that’s happened yet. I imagine that will be a very emotional time in the city of Chicago if he gets that off the ground.

Shari Bayer: There are so many people that came from [Trotter’s]. Curtis Duffy. People. There’s a lot of people I know in New York now like John Winterman and Markus Glocker. They weren’t there when I was there. I just missed John. We have this connection because of the history of working there.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah.

Fast forward a little bit. You earned your BA from the University of Michigan, went to culinary school, grad school as you put it. I love that. At what point did you decide that food PR was your way forward?

Shari Bayer: I moved to New York in 1998, and I started at NYU’s food studies program, which was in its second year at the time. Again, I still really didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my career. It was a great opportunity to be a part of that program. It made some introductions to me. Mitchell Davis was one of my teachers, [who was] with the James Beard Foundation. He was with them for a long time. I got a connection to James Beard through that. I was recipe testing for them for the newsletter for a little while. I dabbled in food styling. I was a little all over the place.

I ended up in 2000 getting an opportunity to work at a PR company that mostly did restaurant PR. That was when I had the aha moment, “This is maybe what I could do with my career. I could work with restaurants and chefs and help promote them and get their message out there. I don’t necessarily have to be the one cooking or running my own restaurant.”

At that time, we worked with Bobby Flay and Todd English and opened Tao and Sushisamba, and Lotus, which was a thriving club/bar/lounge, a very happening place in the meatpacking district that lasted a very long run for a bar/lounge. It was very exciting. I learned PR on the job. I never studied it. It was just one of those things, doing it. PR is a lot about relationships.

I’ve been working for myself now for twenty years and doing PR, and my contacts are very strong in the food and restaurant space because I’ve been in it for a long time, and I go to a lot of events and meet people. When you first start out, you have to just get yourself out there and meet people and just start networking. I don’t know how you teach that except for doing it. PR is something I learned from doing.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that. If I could say to embarrass you a little bit, you just glow. You can see your smile, and your face just lights up when you talk about the industry. Part of me, Shari, thinks that’s a gift. I don’t know how you teach someone to love what they do as you clearly do, as much as you do.

In 2003, you launched your own PR firm, obviously generating publicity for quality chefs, restaurants, products, that sort of thing. For those who are not familiar with the PR space – you’ve touched on it a little bit – but what would the elevator speech be? What is the mission or the mission statement or the vision of a PR expert like yourself?

Shari Bayer: Well, thank you. Thank you for saying that.

I don’t know what it is about restaurants or being a part of this industry that I love, but it’s in me, and I don’t know if you could teach that.

Passion, and How PR is Different

Kirk Bachmann: It’s in this, too. It comes on every page. I know a lot of it’s from the people you talk to. You don’t get to put a book together like this without putting in twenty years of work like you did, smiling, shaking hands, and doing the hard work, like Denzel Washington always says. “See you at work.”

I get passionate about this a little bit because we have a lot of students that come our way, whether online or in Austin or in Boulder, that were probably very much like you back in the day when you went to school. “What do I really want to do?” Today, 2024, people are looking for other avenues. They don’t all want to be behind the stove. They know they can’t. Some want to be in the front of the house, but some are probably fascinated by the idea of being connected to the industry in a similar way that you are: supporting it, [loving] it, smiling about it, glowing about. To me, it was one of the main reasons I really wanted to chat with you. To better understand how exciting this career really is – not downplaying the hard work. That’s obvious.

Shari Bayer: Thank you. PR, I would say, it’s not an easy job. It’s about relationships, which I touched on. PR is basically the middle man between the person you’re working with or representing – your client – and the media. Being the connector. I still put together press releases and fact sheets when I work with a new client because it’s like putting together your information packet about the concept. Then it’s sending it and reaching out to the people who might want to tell the story of the restaurants or the chefs or the products, whatever you’re working with.

I stick with culinary and hospitality PR. I’ve worked mostly with restaurants. Those have been my clients. I’ve done a few products and a few events, but I stick with that because my relationships are in the food and beverage space. Really, you’re the middle man. I think communication is a big part of PR. Having good communication with your client, whether that’s emailing or texting, however you can get the information. When there’s opportunities to be a part of a story, or when someone from a TV station wants to come in and cover your opening, you have to be able to set that up and communicate back and forth between the chef or the owner and the media. It’s about making those connections.

You can’t guarantee press. Advertising is different than PR because advertising you can buy an ad in the paper, and you know you can write the copy. You know exactly what it’s going to look like. PR, you’re relying on editorial coverage or reviews, which you don’t know what you’re going to get, but when you get that endorsement from a reviewer or a writer, it has a lot of value. If any PR person tells you, “I can guarantee you…I will get you a New York Times review with so many stars,” they really can’t because we don’t know. But you can show your past record. “I’ve worked with these clients before, and the New York Times has written about them or covered them.”

It’s a little uncertain what you’re going to get, but I have to work with people and concepts I believe in. As you’ve pointed out, I’m genuine. I love what I do, but I can’t tell someone something’s great if I don’t think it’s great. It won’t work for me. I stick with working with people that are good people who I admire who are doing great things.

Networking and Social Media

Kirk Bachmann: How big of a role does trusted networking play in all of that? I imagine to secure a prestigious client, a well-known client, I imagine referrals are the best thing in the world. Same in our business. That’s free advertising when you get a beautiful referral.

Shari Bayer: Most of my business, I have to say, does now come through referrals because I’ve been around for a while. I’m a small company. I’m really mostly a one-woman show, really a one-woman show. I’ve hired freelancers along the way, but I didn’t grow into a big company because I like doing the work and I like having the relationships. I don’t need that many clients to keep me busy. Referrals are big.

Networking is big. I like networking. I like being social. I think during the pandemic that was challenging because that was taken away from us. The social aspect of everything of what I do and we do, and I think people really realized the value. Even if they don’t dine out as much as I do or go to as many events, but they realized how important being social was in our lives and socializing.

I have always gone to lots of events and gone to festivals and conferences around the country because I love doing. It’s a way that I’ve met lots of people. Going back to solo dining or being solo: most of the events and things I’ve gone to I go to solo. When you’re walking around, you end up meeting other people and chit-chatting and making connections, which, I think, is how I’ve gotten to know a lot of people.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that response. Thank you for that. It’s really good advice, particularly for students, because we try to work on their soft skills or power skills as they call it today, so they can advocate for themselves when they’re out there in the industry. Networking is really important.

You started to mention challenges, the pandemic in particular. I’m curious given the dynamic and competitive food scene in New York City, let’s say. What would you say are some of the most unique challenges that someone in your position faces when they’re promoting chefs or restaurants and concepts? And a second part to that: how do you navigate those challenges? Outside of the pandemic, let’s say.

Shari Bayer: I think the fact that you can’t guarantee what you’re going to get. You don’t know. Sometimes client’s expectations don’t meet. They’re hiring you to publicize their restaurant and to get the word out. Managing expectations and just being a sounding board for people. I think you have to be there. I’m always realistic with my pitching and my approach. I pitch what makes sense, at least to me. I’m not going to pitch a chef to be on TV if they don’t want to do TV or they’re not comfortable on TV. You have to think.

Every client is different, which is also – I think – great and cool because even though there’s a little bit of a formula to PR. Let’s say you put together press materials and reach out to the press, but every client is different and has a different story to tell. You really have to get to know or understand what is special about them and why people want to tell their story.

I’ll also add, though, that when I started, there wasn’t social media. That’s been a game changer in PR and marketing. Marketing ties into public relations as well. I call my company Bayer Public Relations, but I’ve always done marketing too. Events. It’s just a lot of crossover. Social media is a big part of being in communications now. I think Instagram is the main social media outlet that the industry has embraced. Most of the chefs are now on it because they realize you can do it on your own and you can, in a sense, control the messaging getting out there and share what your food looks like and your menus. If you go back to the days of when I was at Trotter’s. If you wanted to know what Charlie Trotter’s food looked like, you had to go to his restaurant, or you could buy one of his beautiful books. He wasn’t putting up images.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s interesting that you say that. My next question was going to be, since 2003 when you got into the business, how’s the landscape of PR changed to today. Social media’s obviously at the top of that podium.

For those, Shari, interested in pursuing a career, again, understanding how hard the work is, are there any specific or unique steps they can take to set themselves up? Is it an advertising degree that would be helpful, a marketing degree that would be helpful? A culinary “grad” degree, as you said, that would help them? Obviously, PR encompasses many different genres and fields, but specifically in our space, food.

Shari Bayer: I think a general liberal arts degree is great. My degree at University of Michigan was organizational studies, which is a little bit of everything. Actually, when I was working on my book, organizational skills were a big part of putting the book together, being organized. But it touched on a lot of different [things] from business to philosophy and basic liberal arts education, which I think is good. I think you can study PR. You can study marketing and communications. Those are all amazing degrees out there.

I think getting in the field and doing internships or getting work experience is really important. I love that I did a six-month culinary program because even though I didn’t pursue a career. I didn’t become a chef, I can relate. I have some knowledge about what a mother sauce is, or mise en place, and what it takes to create beautiful dishes and run a kitchen and all that. I think getting hands-on experience. If you’re looking to get into the culinary space even if you’re not thinking about being a chef, I think doing a culinary program, I would totally advise it. I love the hands-on experience, too. It was exciting for me.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s the best part of it.

Shari Bayer: Yeah.

A Decade of Podcasts

Kirk Bachmann: Since we’re chatting today on a podcast, I’d love to ask: we’ve been doing the Ultimate Dish for about three years, and I feel like I’m always learning, particularly when I chat with experienced and knowledgeable people like yourself. You launched in 2014 “All in the Industry.” People don’t realize the work that goes on behind the scenes, as I’m sure you do, as I do. I try to get as prepared as I can for a show out of respect for the guest and out of general curiosity so we can have a great conversation. I’m truly interested in the topic and in the subject, in learning. You’ve released 350 episodes already.

Shari Bayer: 374, not that I’m counting!

Kirk Bachmann: Not that you’re counting. Almost four times as many we’ve launched. Quite honestly, I always joke with our marketing team. “Yeah, I landed in this seat because I drew the shortest straw.” But no. It was an idea. Let’s do a podcast. Let’s talk to thought leaders and just really interesting people about the industry. I thought, “Okay, that’ll be cool. We’ll do a few episodes and then you’ll be tired of me.” And here we are, going into ‘24. It’s gaining steam. But
350 episodes! I don’t even know if Dax Shepard has done that many episodes. It feels like you – I don’t have the years down perfectly, but isn’t that right about the time where this medium really took off? People really started listening to podcasts?

Shari Bayer: First, I’d like to say before I forget because if I forget to say it, I’ll be angry at myself. I’m so honored to be on your show. Your show is amazing. Thank you for having me.

Kirk Bachmann: We’re having fun, right!

Shari Bayer: Your prep and your interest and all that, I really appreciate. So yesterday on Facebook, I opened Facebook up. You know it shares memories with you sometimes. The picture pops up, and the picture pops up yesterday from January 8, 2014 of me and Steven Kamali, and it says, “All smiles after our first live show.” Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of me podcasting. So I reposted that picture.

Kirk Bachmann: And you should! The chills that I just got by hearing you say that are just absolutely amazing. Ten years. Wow! What was it like at the beginning? I’m totally getting off topic. What was it like in 2014 when you called somebody up and you said, “Hey, I want you to be on my show.” Did people even know what it was? What a leap of faith!

Shari Bayer: I was at the ten-year mark with my PR company and I was looking for something to do. “What else can I be doing?” So that’s when I came up with the idea for my show of “All in the Industry: Behind the scenes talent in hospitality” because I knew a lot of people in the industry from networking that did different things than I did. Whether they design restaurants or they did the cocktail program. That was how my idea came about.

I reached out to Heritage Radio Network, which started their Radio Network of podcasting five years earlier. They only had a few shows, but I knew a few people that had them. I reached out to them, and then got the opportunity to do a show, and I’ve just been at it since. One of the longest-running now.

Back then there weren’t [as many]. There are so many podcasts out there. I think during the pandemic, a lot of people created podcasts, too. They realized it was something they could be doing. Everyone has their phone and likes listening to things when you’re walking around doing other things. Podcasting, I think, has become really hot in the past couple years.

But when I started, there were more podcasts, but it just wasn’t as popular. I did my show live at the beginning, too. I went out to Bushwick in the backyard of Roberta’s are two shipping containers. They’re still there, and I still go out sometimes and do my show. Back in the beginning, I went out every week, Wednesdays at four o’clock, and recorded it, and it went live. I still record my show like it’s live. I might do some mild editing here and there. It was very nerve-wracking. I remember how nervous I was the first probably fifty shows. I still get a little nervous. I think that’s a part of it. It was very nerve-wracking at the beginning because this thing was going to go out there to the airwaves, and you couldn’t fix it.

Kirk Bachmann: Similar to the way we do it, we’re talking live here, but obviously we’ll doctor it up here or there when I have to cough or something like that. People get a different version, sometimes. That’s why sometimes we like to keep it running when we’re chatting, even off [topic] because sometimes some of the best stuff that you talk about is unplanned.

Shari Bayer: All of it.

The HOST Summit

Kirk Bachmann: Then in 2019, fast forward, you started All [in the Industry]. Is this a different multimedia company or new media company?

Shari Bayer: With All in the Industry?

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, All in the Industry.

Shari Bayer: I’m glad you brought it up because I often forget to mention it, which is crazy. Back in 2018 or 2019, I came up with the idea to do a conference based on my podcast. I did a conference before the pandemic. It was in January 2020. It was called HOST, which stands for Hospitality Operations Services and Technology. That was basically based on my podcast, bringing it to life, bringing people together to have these conversations. So I created All in the Industry LLC, the company because I was branching out and doing the podcast and I had the conference. That’s how that came about. And it was amazing. Farmer Lee came.

Kirk Bachmann: Of course. What an amazing person. That’s awesome.

Shari Bayer: He flew in for it. It was a full day of programming we did at the William Vale in Brooklyn and Williamsburg. I did a one-on-one conversation with Drew Nieporent. It was amazing. I had Glen Coben and Jimi Yui. One does kitchen design and one does front-of-the-house design of restaurants. I had them in conversations. I curated the whole program. There were some panel talks. It was really amazing.

People ask me if I’m going to bring it back. I thought it would be an annual thing, but as I said, it was January 2020. You know what happened in March. I’ve been meaning to bring it back, and I hope to, but when I was working on the book, I thought, “I can’t,” because the book was as big of an undertaking as a conference. I’m already doing PR and a podcast. I couldn’t add in a fourth thing at the same time.

Kirk Bachmann: We’re going to see each other at the end of the month in New York, but what a cool collaboration that could be. Stranger things have happened. Shari Bayer and Escoffier. We could bring it back. That would be a lot of fun.

Shari Bayer: We should talk because it’s cool that I have the first year of doing an event. You don’t know what you’re going to get. I’d never done a conference before. The fact that it was well-received and people are asking me if I’m bringing it back is amazing. The thing with me, as I said, I’m a worker. I love what I do – working – but I need a little support here and there. If you’re planning to do a conference, I’ll tell anyone listening, it’s a lot of work.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s a lot of work.

Shari Bayer: I thought it was going to be a lot of work, but it was even more than I thought.

Kirk Bachmann: Especially if you want to do it at the level that you probably did it. Quality and perfection.

Speaking of perfection, we’re probably going long, but I have a lot more to talk about. If you can hang, I can hang.

Shari Bayer: I can. I’m sorry if I’m talking too long.

Lessons from Chefs

Kirk Bachmann: No, I love it. I love it.

Let’s talk a little bit about this little gem here. “Life Lessons from Leading Chefs Around the World.” It doesn’t take [much] to see very quickly words of wisdom from Dominique Crenn, Massimo Bottura, Jeremy Chan, Eric Ripert, Clare Smith, Alice Waters. And by the way, they’ll probably edit this out, but my wife has made it really clear to me that she would leave me for Dominique Cren in a heartbeat. I don’t blame her! We love, love, love her book as well.

Shari Bayer: I love her energy.

Kirk Bachmann: And it’s such a beautiful story, and the reverence and love that she has for her father, her family. It’s just beautiful.

Getting back to Shari, through your writing you’ve had this unbelievable opportunity to explore the lives and experiences of various chefs. Some of it – You’ve got to buy the book! You’ve got to buy the book. I’ve bought the book for many of my chefs.

Shari Bayer: Thank you.

Kirk Bachmann: You bet. Everybody loves it. Can you share any particular insights, revelations that you gained about the culinary world, this world that you love, this space that you love? Maybe even the challenges that chefs face, or even better, the broader cultural impact of their work, which has changed over time. Are there any stories, Shari, or profound moments that have impacted you as a professional, as an author, let’s say. There’s a lot there. That’s a big question. Unfair.

Shari Bayer: All good.

Kirk Bachmann: Is there something that stands out?

Shari Bayer: The book was such a dream project for me to work on. I obviously love chefs and being a part of this industry. The fact that I got to collaborate with chefs who I admire all around the world and get their advice, there’s so much advice in the book. I know it’s my book, but I think one thing about the book, just to note is, it’s not even a book you need to or are even advised to read cover to cover. You could just pick it up and read a quote. There’s some pull quotes in it. There’s fourteen chapters. There aren’t recipes. It’s a more business, life lesson-y type of book.

What was cool about it, chefs who I was reaching out to all around the world, whether they were in Dubai or Singapore or Los Angeles, there was a lot of consistency, in a sense, talking about how important teamwork is, or leadership and mentorship, or work-life balance, or how hard it is. Nobody in the book said it was easy, or this was a career you should do to make lots of money and be famous. Everyone said, “It’s hard. You’ve got to pay your dues. You’ve got to do it because you’re passionate about it.” Nobody was an overnight success. Even Massimo Bottura. People think, [because] these people are so famous and well-known and have restaurants around the world and are on 50 Best lists that you think they’ve just been there forever. They haven’t. People talk about the struggles in the book and the failures.

Rodolfo Guzman of Borago in Santiago. That was a spontaneous trip I took last year to go visit him before his spring menu was ending. “Why don’t you come now?” I’m like, “Okay.” So I flew out there to experience his menu. He’s in the book. I’ve interviewed him on my podcast as well. The restaurant wasn’t doing well and then he got a break. He got on a list, and things changed. A lot of chefs talked about really how hard it is, and that you have to do it because you’re passionate. To keep going, and surround yourself with good people.

I’ll just share, too. This is my one special book that I’ve been carrying around with me. I was at the awards, and I got a lot of signatures of the chefs in the book.

Kirk Bachmann: Oh, that’s great.

Shari Bayer: When I’m going to their restaurants, I’m finding their page in the book and getting them to sign. We’ll see. I think I have about thirty signatures at this point.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s brilliant.

You took a concept. I can remember years ago when I was traveling around a lot more. I have a few of these journals, and when I ran into somebody that I admired, I had them sign that journal. Sometimes they wrote a couple of things, and sometimes they didn’t. This book took care of that for a lot of us.

One of my favorites: I mentioned that I went to the University of Oregon, so I spent some time in Portland as well. Naomi Pomeroy, she said, as you know, “Get to know and really be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.” I’ve sent this out to my team on a couple of different occasions, giving Naomi credit, of course. I think Beast is closed now, but that was a restaurant, like Le Pigeon in the day, that was an unbelievable experience. It’s almost like she was angry in the kitchen. She was just so passionate.

Shari Bayer: I got to go once.

Kirk Bachmann: Did you?

Shari Bayer: Because I went out to Portland for Feast. It was a culinary conference that they did that was really wonderful. I got to dine there once and meet her. Not all the chefs in the book [had] I been to their restaurant or met them, but Naomi is someone who I knew from going to events. A lot of chefs I knew from going to events, which is why I think going to events is putting yourself out there. You never know what’s going to come of it. At the time when I was meeting her, I didn’t think one day I would be reaching out to her and be like, “Hey, do you want to be a part of my book?” But I did.

On Mentors

Kirk Bachmann: Networking, right?

This is an interesting question. I didn’t think about this until right now. I was going to ask you if you believe that it’s critical for young – I was going to say “young chefs” – but let’s just say young people who are trying to find their way, to have a mentor from the start? And, the second part of that is, did you have a mentor when you decided to do what you wanted to do in life?

Shari Bayer: Actually not really. I feel like there have been people who have given me advice and been sounding boards over the years. Certainly, I haven’t gotten here on my own without people supporting me, but I’m not a person who can really say, “Oh, this particular person I give all the credit to.” I think it’s lots of people. I think mentorship is important if you can find someone that you trust and believes in you and you believe in them. I think you can learn a lot from someone else. I think it’s cool.

In the book, Claudia Fleming and Tom Colicchio are both in the book. Claudia talks about Tom being her mentor, someone she learned things from along the way. I guess I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all for anyone. I’m a very self-contained. I’m a self-doer. I don’t know how you’d put it. I tend to do most things on my own, and not even tell people until I share it with the world. That’s my personality. I think getting people that you trust and admire what they do.

I will say, one of the jobs I had, before PR. I did an internship at “Food Arts” magazine and got a little experience in the publishing side of things. Michael Batterberry, he’s someone I would cite as a bit of a mentor, as someone I really admired. We’d have team meetings. I was just an intern, and he would look to me be like, “And what do you think about this?” Really cared to know my opinion and have a conversation. He was amazing. He passed many years ago, but I feel really lucky I got the opportunity to work with him as well.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s so well said. Thanks for bringing that up. [I’m] dating myself as well. When “Food Arts” came out, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Shari Bayer: Such an amazing magazine.

Kirk Bachmann: Couldn’t wait for the issues to come. “Art Culinaire” is a little bit like that these days as well.

Shari, how can listeners stay in touch with you? I do have one last question, but we have to be able to plug you for sure. If you want to share your Instagram handle, or any way that listeners and viewers can connect.

Shari Bayer: Sure. I have a bunch of websites. I have BayerPublicRelations.com, ShariBayer.com, and AllintheIndustry.com. I’m on social media @ShariBayer, @BayerPR, and @allindustry. I’m mostly on Instagram where you can find me. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m very google-able.

Shari Bayer’s Ultimate Dish

Kirk Bachmann: You’re google-able. When we edit and push this out, we’ll add all those tags as well so people can find you. But before I let you sneak out of here – and thank you so much for your precious time today. The name of this little podcast is The Ultimate Dish, so I can’t let you go until you tell me, in your mind – it could be a memory, but I can’t wait because you probably dine more than most – what is the ultimate dish?

Shari Bayer: This is the hardest question!

Kirk Bachmann: It’s a tough question!

Shari Bayer: Because I have been really spoiled. I dine. I’ve eaten very well, and I continue to. I’m very lucky. I’m very grateful. All the chefs are so generous in their hospitality. It does. It fills me up.

But I was thinking about this. How can I answer this question? I’ll say one of the ultimate dishes which I recently had was [when] I went back to Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I actually had a deconstruction bagel and lox, so I could kind of put it together myself. But I think bagel and lox is the ultimate dish that I would go to at any time for comfort food, and something I really enjoy.

Kirk Bachmann: I think that is a perfect ultimate dish. No one’s said that before. And having just come from New York where I think [we] truly introduced our kids to bagels and lox, true bagels and lox. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for that. I love it. Bagels and lox.

Shari Bayer: It’s awesome. Also Russ & Daughters in New York City. We’re talking about amazing restaurants in New York. The bagel and lox thing we have down here. I recommend it for a visit.

Kirk Bachmann: You said the word “deconstructed.” How was that deconstructed?

Shari Bayer: It was a smaller platter. It was like the bagel, the cream cheese, the lox. I wanted sablefish, which is one of the ways I got it that way. So I got the sable, and then I got a side of capers. It had the tomato, onion, lettuce, so you could make your own sandwich. You could also go there and say, “I want an everything bagel with lox or nova and cream cheese,” and they’ll make it for you, but I made it myself.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it.

Shari, thank you so much for the time. I’m so appreciative. You’re delightful. You’re a breath of fresh air. I can’t wait to see you later in the month in New York City when we celebrate Michele Escoffier at the Tin Building, and Jean-Georges and the whole crew. Let’s stay in touch. I’m going to bug you about that idea.

Shari Bayer: Thank you. Congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished. I hope to get out to Boulder one of these days and visit you there.

Kirk Bachmann: Welcome. Welcome any time. Thanks so much.

Shari Bayer: Thank you.

Kirk Bachmann: Thank you for listening to the Ultimate Dish podcast, brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit escoffier.edu/podcast, where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links and other resources. And if you can, please leave us a rating on Apple or Spotify, and subscribe to support our show. This helps us to reach more aspiring individuals ready to take the next step toward their dream careers. Thanks for listening.

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