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Anita Lo vs. the Sea Creature That Refused to Die

You've never heard a fishing story quite like this one

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Anita Lo has defeated Mario Batali on Iron Chef America and competed on Top Chef Masters, and she's the author of the gorgeous book Cooking Without Borders, but her real love is cooking refined, exciting dishes at her restaurant, Annisa, in Manhattan's West Village. Actually, scratch that — her real love is probably fishing, but cooking at Annisa is pretty high up there. Lo hasn't lead a typical life in restaurants, and her food reflects that.

Raised in a globe-trotting family, majoring in French at Columbia, and landing in the kitchen at ultra-influential New York restaurant Bouley at the peak of its innovative years in the 1980s, it's no surprise that Lo wound up cooking globally-influenced dishes informed by impeccable French technique. In the third episode of The Eater Upsell (transcript below), Eater's podcast hosted by Greg Morabito and Helen Rosner, Lo dishes on what it takes to open your own restaurant, the fine art of critic-spotting, and (brace yourselves) tells us arguably the greatest fishing story of all time.

As always, you can get the Eater Upsell on iTunes, listen on Soundcloud, or subscribe via RSS or search your favorite podcast app. You can also get the entire archive of episodes — plus transcripts, behind-the-scenes photos, and more — right here on Eater.


Here's the transcript of our conversation in The Eater Upsell Episode 3: Anita Lo, edited to the main interview. If you want to hear Greg and Helen explore the ontological difference between weekend brunch and weekend lunch (and declare an absolute winner between the two), you'll just have to listen to the audio above.

Greg Morabito: What I want to know, Anita – growing up were you into food? Somebody that wanted to get behind the stove as a teenager or anything?

Anita Lo: Not particularly, but my family was absolutely food obsessed. I loved eating. I was definitely very interested in different cuisines and we traveled a lot. I just remember being in Scandinavia and wanting to eat deer.

Greg: Wow.

Anita: As like, a seven year old.

Helen Rosner: Like because it was different?

Anita: I think it's part of Chinese culture to be food obsessed.

Greg: Cool, and as a kid, you must have had a kind of open palate then, yeah? If you were like, "Cool, reindeer in Scandinavia."

Anita: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Helen: You didn't set out to be a chef from your earliest age, right? You studied — was it English in college?

Anita: I studied French.

Helen: French.

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: The opposite of English.

Anita: No, not quite. It was down to either being a math major or a French major. Math was going to be really difficult. I was like, "OK. I've got to do this French thing." I was spending some time in France and that's a food obsessed culture. I kind of fell into it.

Helen: How do you go from being someone who is really into consuming food, to being someone who's really into making it?

Anita: You go to college and you're forced to cook for yourself.

Greg: That was it? That was the thing that got you cookin'?

Helen: Dorm food.

Anita: Absolutely. I mean, we cooked a little bit with my family growing up. Not much. I remember helping my mom batter eggplant and stuff like that, or we definitely made dumplings as a family. When I went to college, she sent me off with a whole bunch of recipes, like really easy recipes. I just really got obsessed with it. My sister was going to cooking school in Paris, I followed suit, and that was the end of it all.

Helen: Maybe this is far-fetched but when I was in college, I studied quantitative philosophy and a lot of computational linguistics, and this feels sort of like math and French languages and patterns. For me, the thing that got me into food was studying recipes as a form of computational language.

Anita: Cool.

Greg: Whoa.

Helen: Fun fact about Helen, I'm like the hugest nerd.

Anita: I love that.

Greg: That makes me think of Russell Crowe writing equations on a painted window or whatever.

Helen: Yeah, that was not me. I mean, I was not that cool. I was like Googling recipes and thinking about — If you think about a recipe as a written piece of information, you can write it in a beautiful literary way but it really is just like a series of inputs and outputs, it's a function.

Anita: Right.

Helen: The processing element for the function is just like, the human body. You reach for the salt and you measure out a certain amount of it. I've always felt like there is this sort of beautiful inherent connection between math and cooking.

Anita: This may just be a generalization, this is a generalization but you know, you're into the finite. You're into being very exact about things — and cooking, professionally at least, requires that.

Helen: What's your favorite place to buy food?

Anita: Oh gosh.

Helen: Or favorite type of food shopping?

Anita: Just really anything. When I was a kid, even when we were older, when my parents would come to town we would go over to what was then called Yaohan, which is now called Mitsuwa in New Jersey just to go to that big Japanese grocery store. That was our sightseeing for the day.

Helen: New York is great for this, a lot of big cities too, you have these massive suburban-style grocery stores that feel almost like they were picked up and dropped in from another country.

Anita: Yeah, I love those, yeah.

Helen: It's so amazing. It's not just like going to the little corner tea shop that's Japanese and has those great little sort of spongy-bread Japanese sandwiches, it's five thousand square feet of stepping into Japan and there's like four hundred and seventy types of rice cooker.

Anita: Yeah, I love that.

Greg: What was your first personal job cooking?

Anita: As soon as I graduated from college I went to work at Bouley. I had wanted to go work in a French restaurant, I mean that was the "It" thing at the time.

Greg: What year was this? Like 90's?

Anita: 1980.

Greg: 1980?

Anita: No, '88.

Greg: '88?

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: That was like peak Bouley.

Anita: Yes.

Helen: That restaurant was essential.

Anita: It was coming up at that point.

Greg: Tribeca was on the map at that point and then —

Anita: Yes.

Helen: What kind of food was he making then?

"For me, red pepper coulis just screams the 90's"Anita: This was the late 80's, when I worked the lunch shift we were making things like goat cheese salads with Crottin de Chavignol — the little cheese knobs of goat cheese on little toast with mesclun. Mesclun was new then, and fancy. We were making duck salads with raspberry vinaigrette —

Helen: Oh wow.

Anita: Yeah, for me, red pepper coulis just screams the nineties, I'm not quite sure why.

Greg: It kind of blows my mind to hear that Bouley was serving some late eighties, early nineties hits. Did they originate there or was it just something that was in the air?

Anita: A lot of things did originate there, I believe. He's always said he's not out to recreate the wheel.

Helen: What's amazing is that that food is finally starting to come back, I think. It was this period where like arugula was like public enemy number one on the menu. Arugula salads with strawberries, and then goat cheese en croute or something — it was like, oh my god, is this restaurant really serving — are we at a terrible wedding in a tiny, terrible city? Now these flavors, which were these incredible Mediterranean-ish inspired things, are now starting to come back.

Greg: Maybe that's a great restaurant concept for New York. Wedding in a small town, but actually very good or something.

Helen: Really good small town wedding catering?

Greg: Yeah.

Helen: But that is what this food of the late eighties and early nineties was. That's the trickle down effect.

Anita: Yeah, exactly.

Helen: It's twenty-five years later, it's the height of fashion.

Anita: We did it well at Boule, I have to say it. I wouldn't mind eating that.

Helen: It's delicious, it's totally delicious.

Anita: Yeah, old fashioned food is great as long as it's well prepared.

Greg: That place was hot back then, and I'm assuming you worked there probably when it had four stars, right?

Anita: No, I think we had two at the time.

Greg: Oh, really?

Anita: Yeah. I believe we had two at the time and I believe it got four after I left.

Helen: You didn't read anything into that, did you?

Anita: Yeah, well no. Yeah.

Helen: Where did you go after Bouley?

Anita: I went back to France. I got my degree after Bouley.

Helen: Your cooking degree?

Anita: Yeah, my cooking degree, yeah.

Helen: What's your new Paris?

Anita: I'm going to Israel next month, which I'm really excited about. I'm going to India in September, I'm very excited about that as well.

Helen: Both for just eating your way through the — ?

Anita: Israel is about eating my way through. I'm cooking for a charity in India.

Helen: Have you been to India before?

Anita: No, I've never been, so I'm really excited and I love doing these things where I'm cooking there because you get to see it from the inside which is nice.

Helen: As opposed to just being on the tour bus and getting the sanitized, curated view of the culture.

Anita: Yeah, exactly, yeah.

Helen: Are you going to go buy your ingredients and do your thing?

Anita: I'm not quite sure. We're probably cooking in a hotel, but I think I'm cooking in both Mumbai and Delhi. Nothing's settled yet, but it will be interesting.

Helen: The food that you cook at Annisa's is very informed by that classical French technique —

Anita: Sure.

Helen: — but I feel like I would hesitate to describe it as French food.

Anita: Oh not at all, yeah.

Helen: How would you describe it?

Anita: I mean, I call it Contemporary American. I bring in influences from all over the world. I have a multicultural upbringing myself, so that's who I am and that's what comes across on the plate, I believe.

Helen: Have you found that as your attention to various parts of the world has shifted, the menu at Annisa has followed suit?

Anita: Yeah, I guess so. I've always been really interested in Japanese cuisine, so there's a lot of that on the menu.

Greg: What was the impetus behind that restaurant? What was the conversation you had that, we're going to do this restaurant in this location and it's going to be like this? How did it come together?

Anita: I had been cooking at Mirezi and it was just difficult. The owners were great people, but it was owned by a very large corporation that didn't really understand high-end New York restaurants — or at least, they hired somebody that was new at this. We just had an identity problem, and the owners wanted certain things and everybody else wanted different things. At that point, I just needed — I never really wanted my own restaurant because it looked insane and it is insane.

Greg: You were smart.

"I never really wanted my own restaurant because it looked insane. And it is insane."

Anita: Yeah. If you don't need to do that, why would you do that? Why you need to do it is because I needed creative control, and fifty seats is a great way to actually control the quality and to still have your hand in the food.

Greg: That's awesome. You knew that fifty seats is about what you could do and still do something that was personal and creative? Was that the idea?

Anita: Yeah, I guess. I had worked at Chanterelle, which was also a fifty-seat restaurant, and that was comfortable to me. That was where I had spent most of my time cooking. I was very influenced by that.

Greg: Wow. Why Barrow street? Why the West — it's on Barrow street, right?

Anita: Yes.

Greg: Yeah.

Anita: I live in the West Village, I love the West Village. We had been looking at a lot of different spaces. When we first saw it, I really kind of hated it. But my then-partner, Jen, was an interior designer and she did a layout that was amazing. I was like, "Okay, you can fix this thing." Because it just seemed all wrong, but she really fixed it and it's just beautiful because we've got the waiter station in an area where the customers can't really see it. The dining room's elevated. I thought that was just brilliant and I was like, "Okay, yes, this is the place to do this."

Helen: Also, the food that you serve has been very true to itself over the years, I think.

Anita: Yeah. We try to keep up with the times and we change the menu all the time seasonally. We're definitely not trying to reinvent ourselves. If it ain't broke —

Helen: Something that's interesting about you as a chef is that you have this very high profile and you're on TV and you're a nationally known figure, but you have one perfect restaurant.

Anita: I tried, I did more, believe me. Well, I had Bar Q, which I opened in 2008 and you know what happened in 2008.

Helen: That was not a good year for anybody.

Greg: Yeah.

Anita: Not a good year for anybody. I closed that.

Greg: I remember you had a rough few years. There was a fire in Bar Q?

Anita: Oh God, it was awful, yeah.

Greg: Yeah.

Anita: That's why we got feng shui-ed, I was like, why am I having so much bad luck?

Helen: You brought in a feng shui expert?

Anita: When we reopened Annisa — and it wasn't my idea. I don't really believe in those things, but I was like, well, it can't hurt.

Helen: Can't hurt.

Greg: There was a fire at Annisa, and what year was that? That was also 2008 or 2009?

Anita: 2009, yeah.

Greg: Wow. Did you ever think for a second, you're like, "We're not going to reopen this." Was that ever something?

Anita: Oh yeah. We were in our ninth year so we were running out of our lease, our lease was ending and there was no way I was going to rebuild it without a new lease. You're basically just giving it to —

Greg: Right.

Anita: We were just having a really hard time negotiating then. There was at least three times where I was like, okay, let's just pack up and we'll do something else. At the very eleventh hour, we got it signed and then reopened.

Greg: That's great, I feel like when it reopened it was like everybody rediscovered it. Everyone was talking about it once again.

Helen: You got re-reviewed a lot.

Greg: You know what I mean?

Anita: Yeah.

Greg: You got re-reviewed.

Anita: Yeah, we got re-reviewed twice, I was like, ouch.

Greg: That's right, yeah.

Helen: Wait, it was an ouch to get re-reviewed?

Anita: Well no, we got re-reviewed once cause it was this huge build up and I was working so hard, so hard, so hard and then we got the same star which was fine.

Helen: Who was the Times critic then? Was that Bruni?

Greg: Sifton, right?

Helen: Sifton.

Anita: Sifton.

Helen: It was Sifton.

Anita: Sifton. And then we got re-reviewed by Pete Wells last year and that was scary because we missed him. Every single time I've ever been reviewed by the Times, I've known.

Greg: For real?

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: Except for Pete?

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: Is it that you don't know what he looks like or that you just —

Anita: Just like everybody else, we had his picture on the wall, but we were looking for someone taller and less — I guess he has a lot of facial hair now.

Greg: I feel like there's something about him in the way that he not only looks but acts in a restaurant. He's a bit of a chameleon or something.

Helen: He's an everyman! The facial hair thing is funny, I was talking to another restaurant critic a couple days ago, who will not be named, who currently has a beard, who says that he changes his facial hair all the time because it's his best disguise against people spotting him.

Anita: Right.

Helen: If someone has a mustache, or doesn't have a mustache, they're clearly the same person, but he says if he puts on his glasses or takes off his glasses or if he does a full beard or is clean shaven, he's totally transformed and in restaurants where he knows he's been made, he can come back after shaving his beard and they're not going to have a clue it's him.

Greg: Right.

Helen: It's like we have facial hair blindness.

Anita: Right.

Greg: When you guys got the call from the Times and they're like, "We're going to take the photo," were you like, "For real? Like, again?"

Anita: Yeah, I was like, oh my God. I was so scared. We had to wait like a whole week to see what it was. I was like, oh Jesus.

Greg: Wow.

Helen: Do you remember the day? What it was like waiting for the — It goes up on Tuesday nights before the paper comes out, right?

Greg: Right, right.

Helen: Was it Tuesday and you were just leaping out of your skin?

Greg: Yeah.

Helen: Did you have someone constantly refreshing the Times website?

Anita: Yeah, actually Charlotte Druckman was the first person to let me know actually, which was kind of great, who is my cookbook author.

Helen: What did you do?

Anita: Yeah, we opened some champagne, of course.

Greg: To dip back into your biography here for a second, something else I'm curious, is how did you get involved with Iron Chef?

Anita: They came to me. Oddly enough, the day that they came to eat at my restaurant, the executive producer came in. I was doing a corn menu, I'm not quite sure why, but I was running a corn menu that month or that week, I'm not quite sure. This was in 2001 or I don't even remember. It was like five or seven courses that all had corn in them.

Helen: Classic Iron Chef.

Anita: Yeah, exactly. Then they just called me in.

Greg: Wow.

Helen: What was that experience like?

Anita: It was so much fun. Mario [Batali] is hysterical, he's so smart and he's such a great entertainer.

Greg: Did you know him at all before working on the show?

Anita: Yeah, I mean not well but from the neighborhood, he was a chef and an owner at Po, which was in my neighborhood. The culinary world is pretty small. It was just fun. It's just one day which is great and the pantry is nice.

Helen: What was your ingredient for that episode?

Anita: Mushrooms.

Helen: Mushrooms? I should have remembered that. I think that was the very first episode of Iron Chef America I ever watched.

Anita: Oh, okay.

Helen: And I remember it aired a lot in reruns too, and I was unemployed for a while, I would watch it all the time and I thought you were the coolest. I mean, I still think you're the coolest.

Anita: Oh, thank you.

Greg: Iron Chef's a juggernaut. I feel like it was always on for a few years or maybe it still is.

Helen: Are they still doing Iron Chef?

Greg: I don't know. I don't watch it that much anymore.

Anita: Yeah, that was the first season of Iron Chef America.

Greg: Wow.

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: And you won, right?

Anita: Yes.

Helen: This is very important: you defeated Mario Batali on national television, making an entire menu of mushrooms, which then profoundly affected my life.

Greg: Yeah. Did that open up any other doors in that showbiz world?

Anita: Probably. The Food Network had called me right when we opened Annisa and I just like, "I don't have time," for a series called Melting Pot or something like that.

"I watched all my peers who had taken that on, their careers just rose. And I was like 'Oh shit, I should have done that.'"

Greg: Great name for some kind of show.

Anita: Yeah. I just watched all of my peers who had taken that on, their careers just rose. And I was like, "Oh shit, I should have done that." Then we did this and that was great. It really saved the restaurant, we were not doing very well at that time. People were not coming to my restaurant and it brought a whole new clientele in and it was great.

Greg: Wow.

Helen: It's a way to put your food out there and yourself as a personality. We've talked to chefs before who have mentioned that the sort of other edge of the double-edged sword that is TV celebrity is that your persona can eclipse your cooking. And one of the great things about Iron Chef is that, the persona is there and it's your face on TV, and you get to be funny and interesting and do your thing and work really hard, but it is just ultimately what are you cooking and how creative are you and how delicious is your food.

Anita: Yeah. I think it's harder for people who really have big personalities like Bobby Flay, but I'm not anywhere near that.

Helen: So Anita, one of the things when you and I first met, or had a conversation a couple of years ago, I remember one of the things we bonded over was our mutual love for fishing.

Anita: Oh, yeah. I'm obsessed, yeah.

Helen: How did you get into fishing?

Anita: Right before I opened Annisa, we had a lot of time on our hands. Jennifer [Scism], who was my partner in life and also in the restaurant, we were spending time in Ohio, in Cleveland, because her father was very ill. We just had a lot of time on our hands and one day she was like, "Let's go fishing." We went to K-Mart and just bought some poles and we had no idea what we were doing and we threw a line into Lake Erie, which was very polluted but there was a ton of pike there. Didn't catch anything, and then just learned. I think my mother's boyfriend taught us how to cast, and then when we came back to New York, we started going to Pier 40.

Helen: Here in Manhattan?

Anita: Right here in Manhattan where we were parking our car, where I still park my car. They actually have a fishing program there now —

Helen: Really?

Anita: — where they give poles, because there's a lot of fish in the Hudson River and it's getting cleaner.

Helen: It's a process.

Greg: Are you taking the fish and bringing it down to Annisa?

Anita: No, no, no, no, no, that would be completely illegal. I don't fish in the Hudson anymore, but back then, this was how we just spent our time and it was this really great motley crew of people from all walks of life just fishing there. It was just really fun and sometimes people would light up a barbecue and have — It was just so much fun. I met Matt Umanov who owns the guitar store on —

Greg: Oh yeah, on Bleeker, right?

Anita: I met him at a vending machine. It was a bait vending machine, which they had at Pier 40.

Helen: Like live bait?

Anita: Live bait, you could buy worms and stuff like that. You put in your dollar or whatever it was, like when you go buy a Coke, and press it and it just comes down.

Helen: Except it's worms instead of a Coke. I love that.

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: Terrifying.

Anita: Right yeah. I think you helped me with that story or I sent it to you? The skate story.

Helen: Oh, the story about your skate. Oh my god. Tell Greg the skate story. This is amazing.

Anita: Jen and I — this was before we opened Annisa. We drove out to Shinnecock Canal, which is in the middle of Long Island and we were trying to catch a striped bass and they were everywhere. You could see they were chasing herring or something up the canal. We were throwing everything at them and they wouldn't bite anything. And then, along comes this cute skate and it's big but it's cute and happy and it's just trying to eat everything. We're trying to get it to eat our lures and it's trying, it's totally trying. But it just keeps missing and so then Jen takes a treble hook, which is something that you throw into pods of bait fish and you can snag them that way and then you can use that as bait. So she throws a treble hook at it, gets it hooked in its snout, and tries to land it that way, but it breaks off because it's huge. It's maybe an eight-pound skate or something like that.

Helen: And skates are really flat so it's like two and a half, three feet wide probably.

Anita: Yeah, it's a ray. Yeah. It's like a big triangle with a tail. So it just swims off and there's some kids down at the end and they have a big net and they basically just scoop this thing up and land it. We go down and we're like, "Can I have my treble hook back because it's stuck in it's nose?" And they're like, "Do you want the skate?" I was like, "Sure. I love skate, I'll eat it."

Helen: Yeah, delicious.

Anita: We take it and we basically cut through between its eyes like maybe a four inch gash and —

Greg: Whoa.

Helen: Is this how you kill it? Is this standard practice?

Anita: I don't know. We didn't know what we were doing.

Greg: Didn't quite know what you were doing, but —

Anita: Yeah. This was when we were first starting to learn how to fish.

Greg: Moving on instinct, yeah.

Helen: It's like a pretty good guess that if you stab something between its eyes, it will die.

Anita: Right. I stab it between the eyes and I don't remember what happened, but we're fishing some more and we've thrown in the trunk and right before we leave, we look inside and it's still moving around so we take it out and we cut another gash between its eyes. It's like a Charles Manson sort of like cross in its head. And finally, we're like, "Okay, we're not going to catch a striped bass." Throw it into this five gallon bucket and throw it into the trunk of the car and then drive home. It takes like three hours to get home because there's a lot of traffic and you've got to put the car away, everything.

Greg: Right.

Anita: We get it up to my apartment and we had stayed there, so it was maybe four hours later —

Greg: Yeah.

Helen: The skate has been out of the water for —

Anita: Hours, and stabbed for hours.

Greg: I have a feeling I know where this story is going but yes. So it's been a long time that this has been "dead."

Anita: It was so scary. And I'm not squeamish by any means, but I go to try to take the wing off and it literally seizes up six inches off of the cutting board and I scream. It doesn't fit in my refrigerator so I can't just leave it.

Greg: Yeah, you've taken this creature from the deep and it's flopping around in your kitchen —

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: Refusing to let you kill it, as is its prerogative I guess.

Anita: To cut off its wing, I couldn't cut off its wing. It doesn't fit in my little refrigerator and there's nothing I can do. I'm trying and it just keeps on moving and we're trying to hold it down with a sharpening steel, while I cut. It just kept on seizing and so finally we're like, "I can't do this anymore." We go and we watch TV for like a couple of hours and every once in a while we hear it like slurp, slurp.

Greg: Oh my god.

Anita: Like it's still moving and so finally we're like, "We have to do this now because we can't just leave it on our kitchen counter. We just can't do this."

Greg: Whoa.

Anita: We finally get the wings off and we don't filet it, we put it in the refrigerator and then we take the body. I feel bad about the body because it's so much waste, I'm like, "Okay, we've got to give this back to the —

Greg: To Mother Nature or something.

Anita: — to Mother Nature. So we ride it down to the Hudson River and sort of just throw it over the railing into the Hudson River so at least some other fish or being can eat it down there and it can help that.

Greg: It's like that scene in Goodfellas, the one that starts the movie with the guy in the trunk.

Anita: Oh my God, yeah. I was kind of worried that people were going to see us, like thinking that we were —

Greg: Like disposing of a body? Yeah.

Anita: And we were disposing of a body.

Helen: Were you scared that it was going to pull a full Rasputin and like come crawling out of the river after you?

Greg: Right and be like, "You take me from the deep — "

Helen: "I take you back with me."

Anita: Right.

Greg: Wow.

Helen: But, was it delicious?

Anita: It was really delicious and actually, when I went to filet it the next morning, it was still sort of tingling around.

Greg: Ugh.

Anita: It was just light and really sweet.

Greg: I gotta say, the next time I have a skate wing, and I love skate wings, I think forever now, I'm going to think of that story.

Anita: Sorry.

Greg: No, I appreciate it.

Helen: No, in a good way. Feel like, you deserve this.

Greg: Yeah, yeah.

Helen: You freaked Anita Lo out, I'm going to eat you.

Greg: Yes. Wow. At this point, how old is Annisa? I'm going to guess it's thirteen years old now. Fourteen?

Anita: Fourteen.

Greg: Fourteen.

Helen: It's Bar Mitzvah.

Anita: Right.

Greg: You're happy with the one restaurant now. Do you ever think about doing something else?

Anita: You know, I love having the one thing. I would be interested in another project. I'm definitely interested in working on new — I don't know.

Greg: Ideas or something?

Anita: New ideas and stuff like that. I don't really want to do it on my own now, I think I wouldn't mind doing something with a company that has a good track record where I wouldn't have to be the operator, the day to day operator.

Greg: You could be the ideas and the execution but somebody else would figure out —

Anita: Exactly. Then I could come in and just make sure that it's —

Helen: You could do the good parts.

Anita: Exactly. Yeah. I don't want to be fixing the stove and calling.

Helen: Yeah. That's the realities of running a restaurant are so — especially now that food culture has become so pervasive, there are so many people with these beautiful fantasies of opening a little bistro and then it turns out that you have to double as a stove repair guy.

Anita: Right. A nurse, a —

Helen: A psychotherapist.

Anita: Exactly.

Greg: Right.

Helen: A heavy object lifter.

Anita: Right.

Helen: Well, that would be the dream, getting to do all the fun creative.

Anita: Yeah, some people get to do it so why not me?

Helen: Okay. Before we wrap up, we have our lightning round for you.

Anita: Okay.

Helen: Everyone gets the same questions, don't think about it too hard, just say the first thing that comes to mind.

Anita: Okay.

Helen: When you're on a road trip, what is your favorite song to blast in the car?

Anita: Elton John.

Helen: Any Elton John.

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: Is there a particular Elton John that will always get you to sing along?

Anita: I think they all do. I love ballads.

Helen: Ballads are good car music.

Greg: What is your airport vice?

Anita: Oh gosh. You can eat better in airports now but I love hot dogs. I love McDonald's actually.

Helen: What's your McDonald's order?

Anita: I get the number one, which is the Big Mac, fries, Diet Coke for some silly reason.

Greg: You know the number, I'm impressed.

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: It's number one, it's right there.

Anita: I only do that maybe twice a year.

Greg: That's good. Twice a year keeps you grounded, you know what I mean?

Helen: What's your favorite form of social media?

Anita: Twitter. I still have the Blackberry.

Greg: Whoa.

Anita: Everyone makes fun of me.

Helen: What's your Twitter handle?

Anita: @AnitaLoNYC.

Greg: What is your favorite cocktail?

Anita: Oh, that's a hard one.

Greg: Or drink period.

Anita: I love a Pisco sour.

Helen: Oh, that's a good answer.

Greg: Yeah.

Helen: That's a really good answer. I think you might be the first person to not say a whiskey drink.

Anita: Ah.

Greg: I haven't thought about Pisco sours in a long time but it's about that time of the year, I'll put it that way.

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: Peruvian food, I think in general is like the food and drink culture that is always about to happen.

Anita: Right.

Greg: Sometimes it gets melded in with some other thing, like it's Peruvian-Asian fusion or something.

Helen: If you were not a chef, what would you be doing with your life?

Anita: I always say that I would like to be a travel writer.

Helen: That's another one of those dream jobs, that's cool.

Anita: Yeah.

Helen: Yeah.

Greg: Very cool.

Anita: With a big trust fund.

Greg: Yeah. Travel writer with a trust fund.

Helen: I would like to be that too.

Anita: Yeah.

Greg: Well Anita, thank you so much coming by the Eater studio here today.

Anita: Thank you for having me.

Greg: It was great hearing your fishing stories and like I said, I will never look at a skate wing again — the same way again.

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