In this episode we speak with Tiffany Moore, a U.S. Army Veteran, entrepreneur, and co-owner of the exquisite Event Hall @ Cascade, located in South West Atlanta.
While deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tiffany suffered an injury downrange that required multiple cervical spine surgeries and rendered her unable to walk for a time. Doctors told her that due to the injury, she would never be able to open a restaurant or work in the culinary industry, since it demands significant physical labor.
However, through sheer grit and determination, Tiffany was able to graduate with honors from Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in 2019 and win multiple grants to start her very own restaurant, Lola Pecan.
Listen as we chat with Tiffany about starting a restaurant, culinary education, adjusting to civilian life after the military, and how to achieve your goals despite overwhelming setbacks.
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Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode we’re speaking with Tiffany Moore, an United States Army veteran, entrepreneur, and co-owner of the exquisite Event Hall @ Cascade located in southwest Atlanta.
While deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tiffany suffered an injury downrange that required multiple cervical spine surgeries and rendered her unable to walk for a time. Although doctors told her that she would never be able to pursue her dream of opening a restaurant or to work in the culinary field, through an incredible determination Tiffany graduated with honors from Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in 2019. And then went on to win multiple grants to start her own restaurant, Lola Pecan.
Join us today as we chat with Tiffany about starting a restaurant, culinary education, military life, and how to stay focused on achieving your goals, despite overwhelming setbacks.
Tiffany Moore: Hello, Hello.
Kirk Bachmann: How are you? You look great. So good to be here with you.
Tiffany Moore: Thank you. That was an amazing introduction. Oh my gosh! (laughter)
Kirk Bachmann: You liked that intro? (laughter) Yeah, I’m good at the intros. But it’s easy when someone’s as amazing as you. I’m not gonna lie, I’m sort of overwhelmed by it all. It’s unbelievable.
Tiffany Moore: It is.
Kirk Bachmann: It truly is an honor to to spend some time with you today. We’ve got some great questions, but also just time to chat. We’ll talk about anything that you want to talk about. Your story is fascinating and like I said, the more I continue to read or view, the more amazed I become. I love the perseverance. I love the the determination, the grit, I like to say. So first and foremost, 100% thank you for serving our country. I truly mean that. Absolutely. So it’s clear Tiffany that you have this unbelievable, internal passion for life. Walk us through if you could, your time in the military and then how that segued into culinary school. How did culinary school come into the picture after serving our country?
Tiffany Moore: Well, I always wanted to go into the culinary field. I wanted to be an animal doctor, and own a cafe. (laughter)
Kirk Bachmann: Okay. I like the combination. (laughter)
Tiffany Moore: So I love animals and I got accepted to Tuskegee University. I had a full dance scholarship. My mother said “You’re not going down there shaking your butt.” You can go to community college, or you can go to the military. I was like, “I got into Tuskegee. I’m better than a community college.” (laughter) I ended up joining the army. I wanted to join the army as a cook and the recruiter at the MEF stations that “You really don’t want to do that. You’re going to work on holidays, you’re going to work on weekends, you’re going to work evenings.”
Kirk Bachmann: Just like the industry. Just like the industry, right?
Tiffany Moore: Right. I don’t think I want to do that because I really didn’t want to join the military anyway until after college. So I ended up joining ammunition and every time I got stationed at different posts, it was like I’m always in the kitchen getting to know the cooks: “What are y’all doing? What do you got going on? How do you use that piece of equipment?” It just never escaped me. So I found myself in the barracks in Germany cooking for the guys in the barracks, selling food in the barracks. This is like 2002. Then we ended up getting deployed and I bought a portable oven off of walmart.com and they shipped it all the way to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
Kirk Bachmann: Amazing. Was cooking something that was already part of your life? Yhat’s why you wanted to cook a military as well?
Tiffany Moore: Yes, my grandma, my great-grandma, my aunts, they all grew up in the industry cooking and working at different hospitals and catering companies and stuff. But I just didn’t let my mother know that I wanted to cook that bad. (laughter) Because I would have been in the kitchen when home during the holidays, Nobody got time for that.
Kirk Bachmann: So now you’re in the military and you are cooking, you’re deployed. You’re in Germany and then what happens?
Tiffany Moore: I’m just cooking for leisure. I’m deployed to Kuwait. I’m cooking for leisure for everybody because we’re missing home cooked meals and then I end up getting injured. I got medivac to (unintelligible). My medical went downhill from there. I started to go back to culinary school brick and mortar when I got back and they’re like “No.”
Kirk Bachmann: Can you share a little bit about what happened? It was a very significant injury and the diagnosis was not a good one, right?
Tiffany Moore: Yeah, the injury was small in the beginning but the fact that they waited so long to treat me. Me and another soldier were picking up a pallet of 40 mike-mikes. A half a pallet, it wasn’t that heavy. 40 mike-mikes are small missiles and someone made a joke and she dropped her end of the pallet. And when she dropped her end, my neck like…
Kirk Bachmann: Oh no…
Tiffany Moore: …it popped like that. So the next day I woke up in our tent, and I couldn’t move.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh my gosh.
Tiffany Moore: So that was 2004. I didn’t stop walking until 2012, it took that long.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh, my goodness.
Tiffany Moore: I used to wake up and I’d be paralyzed from the neck down. I’d be trying to tell my body to move. My mind is telling my body “Move your arms, move your leg,” they’re not moving. And my C4/5 pushed through my spinal cord and cut off my spinal fluid flow.
Kirk Bachmann: So where does the motivation come from then? Is it all you? Is it internal? Is it your family? Was it just, “This is not going to beat me. I’m going to pursue my dreams”? Where does that come from? It’s special.
Tiffany Moore: Ultimately, it’s internal. But I’m a single mom, single parent, so I had to be a perfect example for my son. When I medically retired, he was in the third or fourth grade. I used to be in so much pain, on so much pain medication and he’d come home from school and say,” Mom, you just sat in the bed all day?” Or he’ll come in the house and say,”I don’t smell nothing cooking. You just sat the bed all day?” And about the fourth time he did that, I was like, “You know what, I’m not setting a good example. Let me get my butt up.” So I had to become the perfect example in my home for my son because I didn’t want him to be lazy. Or to think that this is what happens when you get injured. You just give up on life.
Kirk Bachmann: How proud is your son of you today?
Tiffany Moore: Yeah, he’s proud.
Kirk Bachmann: He’s pretty proud.
Tiffany Moore: I see him smiling and blushing and “Oh, yeah, that’s my mom” and stuff like that. Now he’s a teenager. He just graduated high school, and I can definitely see it. And it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished the biggest goal.
Kirk Bachmann: That’s such a beautiful story. beautiful story. And you have so much to be proud of. Every time that you look at him. And he looks at you, right. I really, really appreciate that story. So you’ve mentioned that the recovery was long and at that time, you had served already in the military for 11 years. Would you have continued to serve had it not been for this injury?
Tiffany Moore: Oh, yeah. This would have been my 20th year. 2021 would be my 20th year in the military. I would have been retiring this year. For real, for real.
Kirk Bachmann: Big thanks to mom, right? You didn’t want to go into the military.
Tiffany Moore: Right. (laughter) I throw that back in her face all the time. “I’m retired. You may need to join the army.” (laughter)
Kirk Bachmann: It’s just such a great story and so appreciated. We move forward then and your prognosis becomes better and better. And a lot of it’s because your heart, and your mind ,and your son, and your motivation. So Escoffier comes into the…the cooking has not left your passion. You’re still thinking about it. And so Escoffier’s online modality becomes the catalyst to you realizing your dream, right? Tell me about how that all came about. How did you discover Escoffier and get started?
Tiffany Moore: So I finally realized, my kid is about to graduate high school in a couple of years. It’s time for me to get back on the path of alignment for what I’ve been wanting to do my whole life and that’s to finally graduate culinary school. I went to the VA, did all the vocational rehab testing and to see if they will allow me to go back to school, and they told me no. They said, “if you go back to a brick and mortar school or work in the culinary field, it’s gonna exacerbate your injuries more.”
Kirk Bachmann: It was dangerous. It was dangerous for you to continue.
Tiffany Moore: Correct. And so I was like, “This is the only thing that I want to do.” And I remember the lady said, “I’m sorry, Miss Moore, I can’t help you.” And I sat there in the parking lot and cried. As I’m scrolling on Instagram, you know social media fills our time. I said, “Wait a minute, what is this? Online culinary school? I had this idea in 2006.” I went and filled out the information.
Kirk Bachmann: It was meant to be.
Tiffany Moore: Yeah that’s what I thought. It was meant to be. I filled out the information right there in the car and by the time I got home, which was about 45 minutes away, someone was calling me and I was enrolled in the next two weeks.
Kirk Bachmann: Unbelievable story. So the VA, they were comfortable with that?
Tiffany Moore: I couldn’t use vocational rehab. I had to use my regular GI Bill.
Kirk Bachmann: Got it. Okay.
Tiffany Moore: So there’s two separate pots that I had to look forward to, yeah.
Kirk Bachmann: Then you’re enrolled in school, pursuing your dream. It’s all kind of coming together and then another hiccup, as I understand it?
Tiffany Moore: Another hiccup. The pain, even though I’ve had two cervical spine surgeries, I’m in pain every single day, and it feels like somebody has hit me on the back of the head with a two by four. So I’m constantly going to the doctor because my arms are still going out on me, especially while I’m doing knife skills with schoolwork and stuff like that. The doctors think I have multiple sclerosis and I got to have a third spine surgery.
Kirk Bachmann: Unbelievable.
Tiffany Moore: So I had to get a spinal tap and multiple CT and MRI scans and all of that stuff. It was just like, “I’m never going to be able to complete this.” But I had to push past the limits of my mind to complete this goal that I’ve always wanted because I knew I wasn’t going to be happy.
Kirk Bachmann: I’m just jotting that down. Push past the limits…
Tiffany Moore: …the limits of my mind. I said that in my graduation speech too. I gave the commencement speech when I graduated.
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, it’s brilliant. It’s brilliant. your courage. I’m at a loss for any other word than courage. Your courage is inspiring. It really is Tiffany. For those listening, what would you share in terms of your takeaway, or any advice? Because we all have setbacks as we go through life, and we try to pursue our dreams. You not only went on to graduate, but you went on to graduate with honors. And as you mentioned, you spoke at the commencement ceremony. Gosh.
Tiffany Moore: I had a dream that the administration was going to ask me. I had that dream back in like, February, March, and I woke up out of my sleep, and I wrote the graduation speech then. When they sent me an email, asking me to do and I said, “Oh, I’ll have it to you in 24 hours. I wrote this out three months ago, don’t worry.”
Kirk Bachmann: Meant to be, meant to be. Like you did during the speech, what are your your words of advice for others who are struggling? Whether you know, with the pandemic, or just in life, in general, to keep going. Where do you find the courage?
Tiffany Moore: I think to myself, and now tell people and I said in my graduation speech, “Are you limited by your mind? Or is your mind limitless?” To get through life, you’re going to have to be mentally strong. Your mind is the strongest muscle, strongest system in your body. It controls everything you do along with your nervous system. So if you lose the mental race, everything else goes away. It doesn’t matter. But if you can stay mentally strong, you can get through anything in life.
Kirk Bachmann: Such great advice. So let’s move a little bit forward. Let’s chat about Lola Pecan, incredible name. I love it. Where did the inspiration come from? Not just the name but but the concept? Farm-to-Table, is that fair to say? That’s the concept, right? So let’s talk about it. This is your chance for a plug. This is a plug for Lola Pecan. (laughter)
Tiffany Moore: Lola Pecan will be a Farm-to-Table restaurant in Atlanta. I love growing my own food. I feel that my purpose in this universe is to feed life. Educating and feeding life into people prolongs healthy living, mental stability. And this is what helped me get through my issues in life. “Lola” is my grandmother’s name. She passed away last year right before the pandemic, February 20, 2020. And they said she passed from H1N1, I think it was COVID, but whatever. And “Pecan”, we had two big pecan trees growing up in the front of my house growing up. I used to hate picking up the pecans out of the driveway. But some of my teachers love pecans so I would pick them up and give them as gifts. And I just got on their good side. (laughter)
Kirk Bachmann: You have been giving for a long, long, long time. So what part of Atlanta?
Tiffany Moore: Southwest Atlanta. I wanted it to be Southwest Atlanta. My mother bought me some land about three years ago. So I got it on three acres. She’s given me an acre of land to build Lola Pecan, so I’m just trying to win as much grants as possible before I take out a loan.
Kirk Bachmann: I’m so excited for you. So let’s talk about the grants that you’ve received or won. Streetshares and Fiserv, is that correct?
Tiffany Moore: Fiserv, yes sir.
Kirk Bachmann: Fiserv. What’s that process about, to receive those types of grants? That’s wonderful.
Tiffany Moore: So the first grant I received was from Sreetshares. It’s a nonprofit for military veterans to help you pursue your entrepreneurial dream. And out of 160 applicants, I was a top 18/13 and then out of that I was a top three. Then out of that I was the top one. I pitched my Farm-to-Table concept at a Military Influencers Conference, the day before Veterans Day, November 2020. And I came in first place. With coming in first place, I won $15,000. One of the judges, she owns Fiserv Financial Services, Clover / First Data, the tech company. While I’m giving my speech, apparently she was getting texts saying “That’s Chef Tiffany Moore, she catered our event three years ago.” So when I got off stage, she ran up to me said “Oh my gosh, I did not know that was you. I’ve been getting text messages. Send me an email right now. I have a grant for you. I have something for you.” So I did exactly what she asked and she put me in for a grant with her company for $10,000. Then at the last minute a law firm, Holland & Knight, they have offices all over the state and internationally, they gave me $20,000 in free legal fees. It has been an amazing journey since graduating from Escoffier. It’s like the doors are just opening up because they’re on the path that I never left.
Kirk Bachmann: The world comes together in a beautiful way, doesn’t it? Through perseverance and determination. So what was that journey? Yet another chapter in your life? Well you’re still on that journey, opening a restaurant. Especially for our students listening. So you’re an entrepreneur and a celebrity. But what’s that process like? Securing funding is one thing but there’s so much that goes into a business plan, right?
Tiffany Moore: I think the business plan has been the main portion of spending the money because they are expensive. It’s a lot of redoing it and researching and do this and do that. And I’m like, “Oh, my God, I didn’t not…” I just thought I could just get money just go open up something and it doesn’t work like that. (laughter) Because I definitely don’t want to fail once I’ve been through all of this. I have to have a sound business plan. Have discipline about how I’m spending the funds, make sure I’m doing it and using them, allocating them appropriately. So yeah, it’s a lot. It’s not as easy as I thought it was gonna be or how easy people make it seem. Definitely not. It’s all about location.
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, the location, the business plan. Talk about the menu, talk about what that process feels like. What’s the menu going to be like? And are you testing?
Tiffany Moore: The menu is going to have of course Farm-to-Table foods. I’m gonna grow my own on my property, and then also source locally from other local farms. I make my own seasonings already and I know other chefs that make their own seasonings. So I’m going to recycle the dollars for small business owners and entrepreneurs and other chefs. I’m going to have vegan food as well. I do a lot of good vegan food. I’m not vegan. I say I’m vegan-ish. Because when I smell pork ribs, it’s over. (laughter) So I’m definitely going to have some barbecue. I think I’m one of the only women that makes the best barbecue in the world.
Kirk Bachmann: You’re confident, I like that. (laughter)
Tiffany Moore: But I’m just gonna have a little bit of everything. I’m definitely gonna play on the last name of “Pecan.” Because I make my own semifreddos, I got my own pecan pancakes, I got my own gelatos. I have a pecan vinaigrette. So I’m definitely gonna have pecans incorporated in the menu as well.
Kirk Bachmann: It’s just incredible. Atlanta is in for a treat, right?
Tiffany Moore: They are.
Kirk Bachmann: Well, maybe the whole nation is going to be in for a treat. What a story. I hope you come back. Because I think we have more to talk about. It’s such an amazing story. What advice, not just for our listening audience, but for other members of the military, for life after the military, what advice do you have for your colleagues?
Tiffany Moore: That’s a good one. If you get stuck and stagnant and stuck on “Well, when I did this, when I was in the military…”, and you never learn how to adjust to the civilian world, you will get lost, you will get depressed. And the more and more you pull away from your friends and family, you’re going to get lonely. That is not the place you want to be. 22 soldiers on average commit suicide every day. They do that because they have not adapted to the real world that’s around them yet. I see it all the time. That is the main thing. It’s hard to adjust. I joined the military at 18 like a lot of us. When you join straight out of high school or that young, it’s easier to shape and mold your mind. When you get out 20 years later, and you’re 42 years old, even at 18 it’s like “Wait a minute, it’s hard to adapt.”
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah.
Tiffany Moore: It’s hard to adapt. Especially if you’re in a leadership position. No one is going to listen to your authority because you have none out here. You have none outside those gates of posts. So I find it very difficult for a lot of people to adjust and you’re going to have to learn how to adjust. You’re going to have to learn how to co-mingle back into society, or you’re going to get left behind. You’re going to feel lost. You’re not going to be happy, nobody’s gonna want to be around you.
Kirk Bachmann: Have friends reached out?
Tiffany Moore: Oh, yeah. Always for advice, filing benefits,being mentally strong. “How are you doing this TiMo? What’s going on with you? I’ve been looking up to you since you left Germany. You haven’t stopped.” I can’t stop. And the fact that I know that people are looking up to me, that’s another reason I can’t stop. Because if I fail, that means they’re going to think that it’s okay to fail and it’s not okay to fail. Not on your own. Not knowingly, purposely failing.
Kirk Bachmann: So 18 you joined and were you immediately deployed to Germany? Was that the first country you went to?
Tiffany Moore: Yeah, I joined a week before 9/11.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh my goodness. When does the book come out? Can I just ask that? When does the book come out?
Tiffany Moore: I’m working on it. (laughter)
Kirk Bachmann: I expect a signed copy.
Tiffany Moore: Yes sir.
Kirk Bachmann: And then the movie. (laughter) The movie will be shortly thereafter. What an amazing story. So are you able to divulge or share…you’ve got the restaurant going on, you’re raising your son, you’re supporting fellow military…what else is going on? Is there room for anything else? Oh, she’s batting her eyes. Okay. (laugher)
Tiffany Moore: There’s always room. I may or may not be a TV chef soon.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness.
Tiffany Moore: Yeah so a couple of shows have reached out to me. I’ve always been against culinary competition shows, because I just don’t see how you can do all of that stuff in the timeframe they give you. But I think I’m gonna give one show a chance.
Kirk Bachmann: Okay. Well, that was coy and very politically correct. So I appreciate that. That’s a really great comment. The timing for a cooking show like that, there must be so much that goes on behind the scenes, right?
Tiffany Moore: Yeah.
Kirk Bachmann: So are you learning more about it?
Tiffany Moore: Yeah, I’m learning more about it. I don’t like it. (laughter)
Kirk Bachmann: You see, I’m prying. I’m prying a little bit here.
Tiffany Moore: I don’t like it. That’s not my thing. When I’m in the kitchen I need my jazz music playing. I create edible plates of artistry. I can’t do that iff my mind is in a disarray, because we’re rushing this and rushing that. Like I needed to be okay. I think I’m a Michelin star chef in my head. (laughter) I need time, I need patience.
Kirk Bachmann: Confidence, confidence. Is that a goal? To be recognized at that level?
Tiffany Moore: It was a goal until one of the chef instructors at Escoffier asked me to research and find out about why Michelin even exists in the first place. Once I did my research, I was like, “Wow, well, that’s not really exciting anymore.” (laughter)
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, just cook for you. Cook for you. That’s the important piece. Will your son be involved? Is he going to be involved in the business?
Tiffany Moore: He’s going off to Albany State and study Business Management. He has his own dreams that he’s going to pursue.
Kirk Bachmann: His mom set a good example.
Tiffany Moore: He knows how to cook, but he doesn’t want to cook. (laughter)
Kirk Bachmann: I love it. Do you see additional education in your future? So you had a great time at Escoffier. You love to cook. Could there be a cooking school associated with Lola Pecan perhaps? Oh, I just gave her an idea.
Tiffany Moore: You did just give me an idea. Because during the pandemic, I had companies hitting me up asking me to give virtual cooking classes. I did some for some sororities, I did something for sustainable waste industries company after they saw my video for the grant that I won. So I don’t know people hit me up all the time about it. I had fun doing it so I don’t know.
Kirk Bachmann: People love to cook and they love to come together. So let’s back up again to the pandemic because you’re on this path. You’re about to open up a restaurant, you’ve got the catering stuff going on as well. Did you have to hit the brakes a little bit because of the pandemic? Did things get put on hold a little bit?
Tiffany Moore: Not really. With the Event Hall, my mother and I own an event venue and that’s where I do my catering and stuff at. We paid it off three years ago.
Kirk Bachmann: Okay. Okay.
Tiffany Moore: So we didn’t really get hit financially in that aspect. We had just paid the money to put a kitchen, a full on bigger kitchen, and renovate the kitchen inside the venue, though. So that had to come to an halt. But I just got back on my grind and started focusing on me. I had applied for that grant that I won in November. I had applied in April, and I didn’t get selected. So I just went back to the drawing board working on my menus, my recipes, getting my recipe book together for when I finally opened the restaurant. So I just focus on the base.
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah.
Tiffany Moore: I did a lot of Chef TifMo to-go meals, to test out my menus and stuff like that. I’ve made more in the pandemic than I did the year before. So I didn’t get any type of PPP, EIDL, no nothing or the RFF, I didn’t get any of that. Because I made more money in the pandemic than I did the year prior.
Kirk Bachmann: Success, success. So we didn’t talk about the catering business. Is this ongoing as well on the side?
Tiffany Moore: Yes, I still have it. Yeah.
Kirk Bachmann: And is that located in Atlanta as well?
Tiffany Moore: Yes, it is. Mhmm.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh my gosh, I don’t know where you find the time. I don’t know where you find the time. So we’re getting to a point where we’ll wrap it up. But I always like to first of all, welcome you back again. When the restaurant opens, I want to chat more. You know, speaking of which, this day and age, what’s the menuphysically going to be like? Are you going online? Are you doing a code? Are you going to go old school with the menu that gets presented to the customers? I miss getting a menu.
Tiffany Moore: Yeah, I gotta have a menu, because it’s gonna change.
Kirk Bachmann: There you go. Well Farm-to-Table, right, so you’re gonna you’re gonna follow the season and the harvest and all of that.
Tiffany Moore: You can follow my mind whenever I feel like cooking. Whatever I create.
Kirk Bachmann: There you go. It’s it’s the special way.
Tiffany Moore: I always say: “If you’re in my kitchen, you’re in my mind.”
Kirk Bachmann: Oh, I love it. That should be on the on the cover of the menu. I like that a lot. So speaking of menus, the name of the podcast is The Ultimate Dish. So Tiffany, what in your mind is the ultimate dish?
Tiffany Moore: Hmm..the ultimate dish to me is good friends, family, great times, just eating great food and imbibing on some adult beverages. And seeing people’s faces light up when they taste something interesting to them that they would have never tasted before. And the fact that I’m introducing it to them, and they trust me enough to eat it. I love introducing people to new flavors, new items, new new food groups, I love that. That makes me feel great and I’m sure it makes my friends and family and customers feel great as well. To see their faces light up. Because you know, when you get some good food in you, you do a little dance. I love seeing people do that.
Kirk Bachmann: Absolutely. So that’s a great answer. Right? So it’s really about the ambiance and it’s around who’s around the table with you. Then the food is just part of that. I love that. That’s a great, great, great response. Tiffany, I want to thank you. I’m so inspired by you and I know so many of Escoffier’s alumni, and current students are motivated by you to get to the finish line. I wish you only the best in the future. When I get a chance to come down to Atlanta, I hope you have a table for me. (laughter)
Tiffany Moore: Yes sir I will.
Kirk Bachmann: Thank you again, Tiffany.
Tiffany Moore: Thank you.
Kirk Bachmann: Thank you for listening to The Ultimate Dish podcast brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit a escoffier.edu/podcast where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links, and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.