CJ Jacobson, Chef Partner at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

In the Kitchen with Chef CJ Jacobson

October 29, 2020 | 31:03

Cooking takes place in a high-performance environment but also requires teamwork. Join Hugo and CJ Jacobson, former member of the U.S. National Volleyball Team and current chef partner at Chicago restaurants Aba and Ēma, for a discussion about food and sports, creativity and process, and how COVID has changed the restaurant industry.

Meet Our Moderator

Hugo Scott-Gall, Partner

00:40 Hugo introduces CJ Jacobson and asks about his journey.
03:55 Hugo and CJ talk about teamwork and hiring.
09:33 How does creativity fit into CJ’s process?
14:21 The conversation turns toward the influence of others and menu planning.
20:43 Hugo wonders about CJ’s work-life balance and thoughts on the aftermath of COVID-19.
27:28 The episode ends with discussion of music in restaurants.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Today I am delighted to have with me Chef CJ Jacobson. CJ is the chef partner at restaurants Aba and Ēma located in Chicago. Before beginning his culinary career, CJ attended Pepperdine University in Malibu on a volleyball scholarship and played for the US National Volleyball Team. He later attended Le Cordon Bleu affiliated College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. He’s appeared on two seasons of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” most recently winning “Top Chef” duels in 2014. CJ’s also participated in the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour and started at the world-renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma. CJ, welcome and thank you for being here. Thank you for being the first chef on the show.

CJ Jacobson: Thank you, I’m flattered. Thanks for having me.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Let’s start at the start. The first thing I want to ask you, because I don’t actually know that many chefs and hopefully we’re going to become friends after this. But I really want to know about your kind of journey. I know you did volleyball, we’ve already talked about that and flagged that. That is interesting and want to talk about that. But did you always know you wanted to be a chef? When did you realize you wanted to be a chef? When you were 10 years old, what did you think you wanted to be?

CJ Jacobson: 10 years old, I think I was still wanting to be Indiana Jones or like some sort of astronaut that had some sort of fighter pilot in space, that’s what I wanted to be.

I was a very creative kid, that said. And I was always drawing or building something. So, I think I always needed some sort of creative outlet. As I got older and as I got more athletic, I’m very, very tall, I’m 6’8”. You can’t tell that from me here, we’re looking at each other. I’m much shorter sitting. But as I got tall enough and more athletic, I kind of went in a direction that sort of satisfied a lot of the things around me, the things I was into at that time.

So, to answer your question, I think the first time I wanted to be a chef, I would find myself wandering around restaurant supply stores because they had all these cool pots and pans, they had all these gadgets. And I’d pick up the pans and I’d start feeling it. I was watching all these cooking shows at the time. It sort of flooded me with sort of emotion of the synergy of academia, the history, the science, how beautiful it is, and in the end I get to actually give what I make to somebody.

That’s when I decided that I’m going to give this a shot. I was around 23, 24, which is a little late to get a start.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yes, that’s when you were sort of hanging up your volleyball kit. So, I guess volleyball to chef, seems to me there is a connection. I’m sure you deliberately didn’t make the connection. But you’re in a high-performance environment, you’re part of a team. Is that right? Is that relevant?

CJ Jacobson: It’s absolutely relevant. I think that what’s amazing, I’m sure we’ll touch on this throughout, team sports, you learn very, very quickly that you’re doing a job together and that I don’t need to like that person next to me. It’s very, very obvious. I think in a working environment it’s a little less obvious and people struggle with that quite a bit and the team mentality isn’t there right away.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And does that really follow through into the kitchen? I guess we all know a lot more about kitchens now that there are way more TV shows about kitchens. They seem to be very hard and tough places.

How do you foster teamwork in places that are really quite kind of hostile. Maybe they’re less hostile than they used to be but they are still tough places to be. Without teamwork, it grinds to a halt, right?

CJ Jacobson: Yes, it absolutely grinds to a halt. It’s not just that they are tough, there is a lot to accomplish in a small amount of time. A lot of the work done is when sometimes you come in a couple hours early and you stay a couple hours later. It develops a comradery. It almost forces you into that. I think in a team sport, you have an obvious goal. And sometimes in restaurants you don’t have that goal so it’s tougher for it to come together. You can tell the people that have played team sports because they don’t mind being arm-to-arm next to someone in a space when they have to do something or achieve a task instead of kind of being bothered by it right away.

I find now I’m not in the crazy harder kitchens I was say 15 years ago. So, there’s a newer group coming up. I always try to hire people that played sports because they get along much easier.

They understand sort of we’re all in this together, there’s this team sort of goal. It’s kind of obvious in a way.

Hugo Scott-Gall: That all makes sense. You can see it in our industry, as well, there’s a reasonable correlation between people who have done well in our industry and have done sports as well. I guess there is a difference though. In sport, you’re kind of crescendoing. You might be competing once a week. You might even be building towards a tournament every year or every two years. In a kitchen, you’ve got to do it every day.

CJ Jacobson: Yeah. And oftentimes, we have recovery days that are as important as practice days in sports. You know, you have to take that day or else you won’t really be able to perform. It happens with pitchers in baseball. It happens with many athletes. That’s why they just don’t play game after game after game. But in kitchens, a lot of restaurants are open lunch and dinner every single day. And sometimes, the chef has to work seven days a week. I think what sports teaches you is like a mental toughness, just a foundational layer of what hard work is.

It’s done in a way where—I think when you’re younger you learn how to do team speaks and are like well, I have to work hard to get here. And it’s a little bit more—you can analyze it more when you’re in a place and you just enter a kitchen. We’re getting a lot of people that are cooking for the first time in our kitchen from the very beginning. It’s intimidating. There are many, many factors.

Hugo Scott-Gall: In a minute, I want to get on to creativity and process because a common thread running through our podcast series has been a lot of focus on process and particularly creative people, what is that process, how they do it. But before we get there, just a bit more on related to teamwork, and I guess you touched on it a bit, is hiring. How do you look for people who are good at sports, for sure, but how do you assess people who can make it in a kitchen? How do you work out whether they’ve got what it takes, whether they’ve got the general curiosity, hunger, reliance? Those things, we know they’re important but they’re hard to test for.

CJ Jacobson: They are indeed hard to test for. I think the most important thing for us—

And I don’t mean to jump ahead to COVID times and how we’re dealing with that, but this now than ever, COVID times, it’s said between 20 and 30% of people that work in restaurants and hospitality have left. So, I kind of believe most of those were back of the house. If you have time to think about it, wow, why am I working so hard if I’m not passionate about it.

So, when I hire somebody, the most important thing is do I like them. I think that’s most everywhere. With our company, are they a good person and do you like them? Because you have to spend a lot of time, almost too much time with people. As far as curiosity and passion, I like to deliver that. But I also know I can’t spread myself too thin. I have a lot to give. But we need to make sure when we get the right person in the door, if we like them more, we’re more, obviously, apt to care for them. And we ask them to also care for themselves. I think I’m going off course a little bit.

Hugo Scott-Gall: No, I was just asking, I think the eternal difficult hiring question, which is somethings you know are important and they’re easy to measure, and that’s fine.

Somethings you know they’re really important but they’re hard to measure and they’re harder to spot. I think in different industries, you often get similar answers, which is you kind of just know. After a while, you’ve seen enough, you recognize these qualities even if it’s more gut feel than a precise calculation.

CJ Jacobson: Right. I think gut feel is a huge part of it. I try to get to know the person a lot. There’s a few ways I do. One is do I like them? I can find that out just by my sequencing of questions. I oftentimes will ask them what do you like to cook? From that answer I can tell how far along they possibly are. If they say, “Oh, I was inspired by this Thai dish last weekend. It’s my third time at this restaurant and I’m really trying to explore their menu,” I’m like, “Wow, that’s fantastic. What did you have? How did you make it when you came home? How did you interpret it?” Then you can see there’s a real interest there.

If there’s not a real interest there, it doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be a good employee. A lot of people take hospitality jobs because they want a job and they want that 9-5 40 hours a week job.

And that, you know, once I got out of more fine dining kitchens where everyone’s chocked in there and really banging heads to get to the—because they want to be the chef or get as much information as they can, that’s kind of like a period of time, I think in a chef’s career. You find there’s lots of different types of restaurants. There are employees that aren’t just trying to be the best they possibly can. So, you have to be kind of aware of those go-getters and also the employees that will hold down a station, show up on time, and be part of your engine.

Hugo Scott-Gall: That all makes sense. As I said, I want to get on to creativity and process. Is it fair to sort of, not reduce, but summarize and try to capture what you do as perfection alongside discipline, organization in the midst of semi-chaos. How do you find the space to be creative? You can’t just decide to be creative. So, how does it actually happen? Is it a matter of creating space? Is it a matter of writing things down in a book every day and then looking at them? Is it just happens in the moment? How do you think your creative process works?

CJ Jacobson: There was kind of a lot there. There’s a few different aspects of it. Service is absolutely chaos. But also, the creative process itself is chaos. My process is many different ways. Since I have started here at Aba, where we opened it three years ago and we’ve since opened one more and we’re about to open another one. We’re very fortunate that it’s so popular. But it being popular in that this weekend we’ll do probably 1,000 people a day. Now, I never worked in a restaurant where I do 1,000 people a day.

The food I create here demands a different sort of creativity from say when I first joined Lettuce and it was called intro and it was a five-month stint as a chef. It was sort of me showcasing the food I would love to cook or I love cooking. Which is, I would say, California cuisine with a lot of foraging. I didn’t do a lot foraging here in Illinois because it was freezing at that time, but I did do a little bit.

So, I really expressed, like a lot of chefs say, the terroir of the area and that’s how you feel one with it. Through expressing that terroir of the area, you showcase what you want to say with food, whatever that is. And you can be inspired by whatever it might be. If I went foraging and I found some sarsaparilla roots, I never really worked with that before. But man, there’s a few other foraged things around that area that really kind support a flavor profile, then, boom, I’m excited about that dish and I’ll pursue that.

At Aba, however, we are a California Mediterranean restaurant. It’s a little bit different because I need to be able to make 350 of each kabob or more. I have to have gallons and gallons of humus so it’s a little bit faster. So, the creative process is how can I make this three or four movements down the line to make it easier for my line cooks? They only have seven or eight dishes that they’re responsible for. And how can it still be beautiful, represent our brand, and for me to be proud of it?

I mean, I could spend like 20 minutes on each little plate, even of humus, to make it as beautiful as I possibly could. Maybe not humus. So, that’s where a different sort of aspect of my creativity comes in.

I never thought I’d ever exercise it ever. I was much more serendipity, look up into the trees and see patterns and be inspired that way or wake up in the middle of the night, write down three cabbage dishes. These things still happen. But as I get older and we’re running a business here, I find myself going down different avenues. That doesn’t mean that I won’t still have cabbage dreams or even exercise those dishes. But I do have plans to open other restaurants. But for now, my creative process has changed in this way.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And do you put pressure on yourself saying look, the last month, whatever, two months, three months, you haven’t been that creative, come on, let’s go again? Or is it external or is it internal?

CJ Jacobson: Well, we kind of have a system set up. So, every Tuesday here at noon I will put up like three or four new dishes.

We try to aim for like two that will win. If I’ve got a lot of things going on, a lot of travel, I might just put up two dishes. I just put up two dishes a couple days ago and they were both sort of victories. So, we set in place, sort of, I guess a schedule of creativity. But I’m always thinking, always thinking, always thinking.

I also found my creative process is spurred and strengthened, I didn’t even know this until I was on “Top Chef,” which is, if you’re unfamiliar, it’s a competition show where you only have a little bit of time to sort of create something with—you’re kind of put in the corner. And I realized I kind of came alive when I had a very little bit of time and my brain worked faster and more accurately when the pressure was on. Since then, the first time I was on it was 12 years ago, I just relish the pressure more, and more, and more. So, I’ll kind of make mock situations where I don’t know what else to do here on Tuesday to put up for my partners. But I know I’m going to use this, this and this.

And I’ll be in that sort of situation. Say the this, this, and this will be pomegranate, some sort of pumpkin, and then I have a protein. I’ve got to incorporate these things and kind of also have a nod to the food stylistically. So, I’ll kind of go from there, put myself in a position to come up with something like that in that way.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, Picasso is supposed to have said good artists copy, great artists steal. You lived abroad. Did that make a big difference? Do you spend a lot of time looking at your other mentors, competitors, or I guess heroes?

CJ Jacobson: They’re all those things. You love them, hate them, jealous, at least me, anyway. I know I’m not supposed to be envious of people but I totally have that. I meditate a lot and I really try to find my serenity. And I do have it. I think oftentimes, my creative mind gets me very passionate. We’re on Instagram now and, yes, I spend way too many hours.

In fact, I think I just got my report and I’m not going to tell you how long I spent on there. But most of it is all chefs, so I am looking at all these people. My time in Copenhagen changed everything because there was an entirely different flavor profile there that a kid from Southern California is not used to. All of a sudden, I’m tasting things like cider vinegars, pine flavors, lots of dill, and tons and tons of yogurt. These were flavors I didn’t really deal with. It’s kind of great having worked there, and I worked in the test kitchen with Rene, it was a time in life where I was really forced to taste a lot.

I don’t know if you’re into wine or you love coffee or you really like to focus on tasting, tasting, tasting. If you do that for 14 hours, it’s totally exhausting. It’s so hard. But you develop a palate that you wouldn’t in any other way. In that regard, I’ll have great memories at my time at Noma. I’ll never taste things the same ever again because I focused so hard on it. Like coffee for me, we always have two or three different types of coffee in my house and lots of different mechanical widgets and so forth to make it.

And I taste, taste, taste. I think my whole life is tasting now.

So, yes, I envy many of the dishes. I’m inspired by many of them. I saw my first pumpkin dish three days ago because fall is coming. It was entirely different what I came up with. Everything around you, social media, the breeze, farmer’s markets, they all inspire.

Hugo Scott-Gall: It’s like never before, right, the food scene in countless cities in the U.S., across Europe, around the world has really, really changed. And one of the things for me pre-COVID, Chicago is my second home and I lived in New York before.

CJ Jacobson: Oh, cool. I didn’t know that.

Hugo Scott-Gall: I was very impressed with Chicago food scene.

CJ Jacobson: Yeah, we have a new chef because we’re opening an Aba in Miami in summer 2022. But our chef is from Turkey. And he didn’t know much about Chicago. He’s like, “Chef, this food scene here is really good. It’s really impressive. You guys have better produce than we do in Miami.” I’m like that’s not good news because I’m from Southern California.

But yeah, the food scene here in Chicago is great. How much time do you spend here?

Hugo Scott-Gall: I was doing, pre-COVID, I have to say that about everything now, I was doing almost one week a month. I was fighting the jetlag but I would try to go out and eat because I think it’s a great way to see a city and learn about people. Seeing a busy restaurant in whichever city you’re in, I think you get a real feel for what’s going on. So, yeah, I would try to go out a lot. And I obviously can’t wait to come visit your restaurant as soon as we can go into the U.S. again.

CJ Jacobson: Who knows now, man.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Who knows. It’s crazy, it’s crazy. I suppose I’m getting the sense that you’re sort of bottom up. You design the menu you want to design. You don’t sort of start with how am I going to beat the competition. You say, “I want to do this kind of food. This is what I believe in.” So, that would be sort of bottom up, this is the food I want to make and serve or this is a very competitive space, how am I going to win? Let’s work out how am I going to win. Which way do you sort of come at it?

CJ Jacobson: Yeah, it’s very perceptive. For me, it’s that battle every single day all the time. My creative juices want to make something more esoteric, but at the same time do they really? I like making the customer happy. I like making the business strong. So, we have these key dishes, say our kabobs, things that people come here time and time again for. We strengthen those all the time. We get feedback all the time, whether it be, unfortunately, Yelp or whatever. Someone just saying, “Wow, that was fantastic.” And we strengthen them. And then that leaves other places in the menu that you can have more fun seasonally with. And to kind of get an ingredient and kind to play with it and see where it fits in the menu, kind of menu mix.

Aba is a California Mediterranean restaurant, like I said. We’ve got five or six spreads, meaning hummus and so forth. Then we have some cold mezze, a couple different salads, some crutos, three or four. And then some hot mezze, say falafel, some crispy potatoes, things like that. Kabobs, then some other dishes. So, we have this kind of menu mix that’s kind of always swirling around and changing.

But I’m not changing too much. Staying the same but things are going in and out of each one. I’m constantly aware of what the seasonality is. How things are in Texas because we have different things are more popular, more spicy things are more popular there. So, everything is kind of turned up a bit with the spice. We have a lot more grilled items there. Then when I open Miami, I’m going to have to consider what the audience has there. So, sticking with what Aba is and what it’s brand is. For me, that’s a lot of fun, going to new places and playing with new ingredients.

So, the process is always changing. I am trying to start with I’m excited about this, and that’s how some dishes are created. And other times, I come in like tough, let’s make these things as best we can. But I know when they’re good and they can’t be overworked, so I have to be satisfied with that.

Hugo Scott-Gall: You know the product is good, you believe in the product, and therefore it will work versus working backwards from there’s a hole in the market so I need to fill it with that.

CJ Jacobson: Sometimes I’ll have eaten somewhere else. I think a lot of chefs that travel quite a bit. When I was sitting last night at dinner with this new chef we hired from Turkey. He was talking about these different types of food in the area where he grew up. It sounds so delicious and no one’s ever seen that here, especially in the Midwest. Possibly in New York or where there’s some Turkish populations. So, chefs that get to actually go travel and see these places can also bring back something that’s never been to the market. So, they’ll probably try to do it as close to what they saw but may not be able to get that ingredient.

Kind of like the original immigrants in America, what their food kind of came up. So, that’s another way creativity comes into play. We’re like, oh, I guess it’s kind of stealing, like you said prior, but you’ll bring it in and kind of put your little twist on it.

Hugo Scott-Gall: How do you manage the work/life balance? Staying on an even keel? Because I imagine that’s a challenge in your industry. I imagine that’s a challenge for you.

You’re a creative person but you’re clearly driven, you want to win. And yet, the hours you spend in the restaurant business are pretty substantial. How do you stop becoming too obsessed with it? How do you kind of regulate yourself there?

CJ Jacobson: Well, she’ll tell me. Like I mentioned earlier, a notable percentage of hospitality has left and I think that’s because of COVID and all of a sudden this pause in this race you were talking about. We have to stop. We can’t go into work today. We can’t go in tomorrow and the next day. It was a good couple of weeks that I didn’t do any work at all. Just the time in general made me think about my time and place in life. I’m a 45-year-old man and now I have a fiancée. And that kind of came out of this, as well. We’ve been together for a little while. I just looked at my life and I’m like what do I want? To perfectly honest, do I want to spend the rest of my life in Chicago? I don’t. I want to be around nature. So, I’m now I’m making a plan to do that.

Obviously, I have obligations here in Chicago. I have two restaurants. So, how am I going to make that work? Where am I going to live? I’m trying to figure that out right now. And I’m also trying to think of what kind of restaurant I can be in a place I want to live. Which could be someplace that has produce year-round, I think. Maybe not Southern California because it’s so expensive. But perhaps Portland or somewhere Pacific Northwest. I don’t know how I’m going to make it happen. But I never knew I was going to make all this happen.

A lot of people say they expect to kind of get things. I don’t think it’s quite expectation at this point but, I don’t know, educated driver or maneuvers to get to where you need to go. And my company’s happy with me now. The businesses are doing well. So, that’s the next step. You asked a very poignant question.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Congratulations on your fiancé and getting married. So, I guess we have to talk COVID. Then I want to ask you about music. So, let’s do COVID first. The important question, and these are sort of very important questions for my team and our business as we think about–we’re investors, so we’re thinking about which industries are more impacted by COVID, less impacted, short term, long term.

It’s hard to do this. It’s hard to say what does this industry look like three years, five years’ time. What do you think can structurally change? Whether that is on the product offered, the way it’s consumed, the way it’s made. Do you any of these things change as a result of COVID? Or it’s really just a timing thing before we get back to normal?

CJ Jacobson: I see there’s a little more time. But I think my industry, in particular, there’s so many things sort of coming together that have been widely talked about. It was Me Too, then the work environment everywhere, especially kitchens being so tough and working so hard, long hours. Generally, it’s kind of general rudeness, I think, in most kitchens back in the day. But also food costs a lot of money. What we’re experiencing right now is like 20 and 30, sometimes 50% surges in food costs. The whole supply chain is pretty jacked up.

How it’s all going to pan out? I’m not quite sure. I think delivery is still going to stay strong. I don’t think it’s going anywhere. Our delivery sales here have gone down by maybe 10% but they’re still so strong. We just opened in Austin, Texas, Luckily a large part of our business is outside, like a lot of places in Austin. We have a strong to-go presence right out of the gates. So, I think that will continue to be strong.

I’m wondering how delivery will change. I don’t have any real forecasts there. I think, generally, healthier deliverable food will be a lot more prevalent. And I think we’re going to see a lot more companies go green or sort of green, or a lot more responsible. I don’t think they’re going to have a choice.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah, we would agree with that. I think a lot of that shines with how we’re thinking. I think delivery, yes. I think shift to healthier, shift to I want to know a lot more.

I just want to know a lot more about what I’m consuming.

CJ Jacobson: Right.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And I think that’s just not food, that’s just across the board.

CJ Jacobson: Now what I hope is that through all this and like seeing how much restaurant and restaurant employees have struggled, and continue to struggle, and will struggle, more and more will close. I hope that the value for food and dining out, like that moment you go with your partner out to eat and you’re sitting there, everything in the entire space for you in that moment, that costs a lot. There’s rent, there’s everything. I think things just need to cost more in restaurants. I know that we need to do that to pay for things currently.

I think more of a respect and understanding for how much work is put in the process would be my hope to come out of it.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah. I guess such an experiential product and I think we’re all in COVID been missing our physical, touch, sensory experiences. So, I think there will be—

This is my guess, what do I know. I think there’ll be a greater appreciation of that. You have something taken away and then you get it back. You really think about why it is I missed it so much or why I enjoyed it so much.

CJ Jacobson: Yeah. I mean, it’s cool to be outside. It’s cold out there and you get a little snow and you get a little heater in this weird little igloo thing. You’re shivering while you’re eating your food and you’re like I don’t want to keep eating like that. Nobody wants that. No server wants to keep doing that. What about that nice cozy place where you know you’re going to get a great meal and you can celebrate something nice, enjoy your partner, it costs money.

Hugo Scott-Gall: In my sort of research for doing this interview, I read that your favorite burger in Chicago is from Au Cheval. I would concur and agree with you. The first time I went to Au Cheval I was blown away by the burger, high expectations. But I also remember as I walked in there they were playing The Smiths, great British band.

CJ Jacobson: And they’re playing it reel-to-reel.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah, they were, exactly. Stones came on, David Bowie.

CJ Jacobson: And it’s loud as shit. That’s what’s so cool.

It’s that scene.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Well, exactly. But your memories kind of choose themselves. You don’t just remember the food, you remember the experience and the music feeds into the experience. So, I’m just wondering how you think about that whole sort of sensory experience because It’s more than just food. In some restaurants, music isn’t appropriate. It isn’t necessary. But in others, it really adds to the experience. I was just wondering, reading about it, you are a big music fan, certainly more heavy rock than I am.

CJ Jacobson: Well, I’m an indie-rock kid at heart. I love indie to death. But sometimes I think people hear more about louder music. But go ahead.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah, so I was just wondering how you think about that in the total experience and whether that is something you put a lot of thought into in your own restaurants. Do we have any music? If we have music, what sort of music? How do we change it?

CJ Jacobson: It’s a tough question because absolutely, to answer your question, I think it’s so important. And some of my favorite places, the ambiance is so set by the music.

Au Cheval, them playing like – I’ve been in there and they’re playing Jesus and Mary Chain. I’ve been in there when they’re playing just great stuff. You know when you’re by yourself and they’re playing it pretty loud and you’re kind of getting emotional, like little chills and stuff. But just walk into Au Cheval and they’re playing that, you’re like holy shit, this is my place. That’s something that grabs you right away.

Abi is a very large restaurant. We play a little more like poppy music. We mostly pick songs, I think, for beat cadence, sort of. So, it’s not techno-ie. But we have a service that kind of does it. And also, there’s a guy the company uses that kind of does it. So, I don’t like, unfortunately, get to pick and choose what’s happening. I could always lobby for a few different songs. But there’s like movements. Brunch music is the same as 12 a.m. on Saturday music, obviously. So, there’s ebbs and flows to things, just like there’s ebbs and flows to lighting.

For me personally, yes, I would like things much louder. It really wouldn’t make much sense at a restaurant like Aba or Ēma, my other restaurant because they’re just not that type of restaurant. Au Cheval is that kind of rock and roll restaurant.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, look, I think we are done. What I wanted to say is I can’t wait to visit your restaurants.

CJ Jacobson: I’d love to have you here.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Thank you very much. It’s been great having you on the show.

CJ Jacobson: Thank you.

Meet Our Moderator

Hugo Scott-Gall, Partner

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