Dave Sands’ podcast delves into how restaurateurs got their start.
Dave Sands has tried a number of career paths since becoming a professional chef after graduating from the City College of San Francisco’s Hotel and Restaurant Program.
The San Francisco native and Redwood City resident spent five years in the food industry before he got burnt out.
So Sands switched paths, first working in customer service for a car dealer before landing what he says was a dream opportunity as an officer with the San Francisco Police Department. He worked there for about 15 years.
Then 2019 hit. Sands was injured on the job, wounding his shoulder, and his mom died. For the past couple of years, he’s been dealing with surgeries and trying to rehabilitate from his injuries.
“Cooking became my therapy,” he says. But, he adds, “I’m still in pain every day.”
Sands finds himself again exploring a new career path. Returning to his food roots, his podcast, “Food Origins” highlights the culinary histories and backgrounds of local chefs and food leaders.
“I’m enjoying it,” he says. “It’s not an easy process at all.”
As a regular listener to various podcasts, he says, “I never thought I’d have one of my own.”
Sands began the process of preparing his new podcast in October 2021 and debuted it in April 2022. In addition to hosting the podcast, he’s been getting back into cooking and catering. He recently joined a team of chefs that competed and won the award for “Best Bite of the Day” at Cochon 555’s Heritage Fire Tour in Napa, a food and wine tour.
Now nearly a year since starting “Food Origins,” Sands has had conversations with a number of people in the Peninsula food scene, including Bobby Takahashi of Takahashi Market, Joe Costarella of Costarella Seafoods, Max and Julia Gambirazio of Papachay Coffee, and Geoffroy Raby of Cuisinett French Bistro and Market.
Episodes often run about an hour in length and are a platform for guests to talk casually and openly about their food preferences, backgrounds and career paths. Alongside each episode on the podcast website are extensive notes covering everything from what gear the interviewee uses to his or her favorite local restaurants. In addition to notes on each episode, Sands has assembled a map of all of the different restaurants and locations referenced by podcast guests.
Sands records each episode on-site and feels that there’s something special that comes from conducting his interviews in person.
“You get a sense of who they are, being in front of them,” he says.
He prioritizes letting his subjects talk and share their stories without being interrupted. At the end of each episode, he says, he gives his subjects the floor to share advice or promote something.
“If they had a shitty childhood and want to talk about it we can, but I leave it up to them,” he says. “I let them tell their story.”
Sands has unearthed a number of fascinating anecdotes from his interviewees. Bobby Takahashi talked about how a previous generation of his family had to make deliveries to San Francisco via horse when Takahashi Market was in its early days. The founders of MAC BBQ talked about how they first got serious about barbecue because the Niners were having a disappointing season and they wanted to make sure they’d have a good tailgate experience regardless of each game’s outcome. And Max Gambirazio of Papachay Coffee talks about how he got involved in the coffee business when his motorcycle broke down near a coffee plantation in his home country of Peru. He would go on to buy 30 acres of that farm and build a career in coffee cultivation and roasting.
Sands is also interested in hearing specific recommendations from guests, whether it’s a dish, recipe or cooking technique. He plans to start recording videos to go with the podcast in some cases, inviting Costarella of Costarella Seafoods to provide an oyster demonstration.
As he’s recorded more interviews, Sands says he has begun to get recommendations from within the local network of chefs and their friends. For instance, three of his guests, Raby of Cuisinett French Bistro and Market, Guillaume Bienaimé of Zola (to be featured in an upcoming episode) and Lars Smith of State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria are all friends who have been talking to each other about how to run their businesses through COVID.
He’s also keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s happening more broadly in the restaurant industry. What he’s hearing from podcast guests is that the most challenging problems facing restaurants right now have to do with employee retention and hiring, followed by supply chain issues, he says.”Support your local favorites to help them sustain these hard times and get to know your owners, chefs, farmers, markets (and) purveyors so you have a better connection to them,” he says. “Everybody’s got a story.”