Two College of Idaho graduates are finding success with their culinary podcast ”Copper & Heat.”
On the podcast, Katy and Ricardo Osuna highlight the longstanding — what may be considered archaic — and unspoken rules in the culinary industry, and they focus on how the restaurant industry can be more inclusive.
“We wanted to talk about things we don’t normally talk about in this industry,” said Katy Osana, executive producer and host. “Things like sexism and racism that should really be addressed.”
The podcast does all of that and more. Now in its third season, the show has been extremely successful, and story editor Rachel Palmer was brought on board.
“Copper & Heat” won the 2019 James Beard Media Award for Best Food Podcast. The creators do an excellent job bringing personal stories from underrepresented people into the light while examining the power structures within the industry.
Both Katy and Ricardo graduated from The College of Idaho before moving to the San Francisco Bay area, where Katy pursued a career in the culinary arts. Although her original degree was a double major in environmental studies and anthropology, the work always centered around food. She landed a job at a Michelin 3-star restaurant.
“So I was working in kitchens and noticing the power dynamics, and I was blogging about it,” she said. “The industry is mostly (run) by white men, and there’s a lot of sexism. I was often told as a woman that I’m being too nice or other women being called a bitch because they’re straightforward, just a lot of things that I thought should be addressed.”
She said more than blatant sexism, restaurant workers have been sexually assaulted in kitchens, and many people of color have their stories overlooked. In addition, the podcast also dives into issues of safety and economic stability for food industry workers.
In the first season titled “Be a Girl,” the podcast took up the question of why women only represent a small number of chefs across the world; only 19% of chefs and 7% of head chefs are women.
Katy said the first season was more of a personal essay style of her own experiences. Ricardo, her partner, is the sound designer, composer and producer.
The show gained interest and in the second season started sharing other people’s stories.
“While I was doing season one, a lot of people started emailing us bringing up the economics of the industry,” Katy said. “So we decided to make that the focus of season two, and in the second season we had a chef from L.A. discussing the economic impact of border crackdowns on restaurants.”
People love the podcast — and not just people in the restaurant industry. Katy said they get emails from people from all walks of life. She said the response was completely unexpected, and the James Beard Award was icing on the cake. They applied on a whim because the organization let people apply for free this year.
“It was a complete shock and came with mixed emotions,” she said. “I’m so grateful for the recognition, but at the same time I take it with a grain of salt and I question my privilege as a white woman.”
It’s probably that kind of self-reflection that’s led to the success of the podcast.
The show is tackling even more issues with the third season, titled “Pre-shift.” It’s named after the pre-shift meetings restaurants have before a service where everyone gets the information needed. The season is focused on the way COVID has changed the industry and on helping people who work in the industry get the information they may need regarding mental health, equity and diversity.
They even talk to experts about how people can learn to cope with stress and have live Q&A follow-ups on Instagram. Katy said a lot of industry workers are dealing with the added stress of the pandemic.
“There’s a lot of chat about demanding restaurants stay open, but there’s little to no consideration for the people that work in them,” she said.
Katy also said that although the podcast is centered on the restaurant industry, the tips in season three are helpful to anyone, because the podcast is about more than just food, it’s about people.
“I think it’s so cool that food media is starting to dig deeper,” she said. “They traditionally profile chefs and restaurants, but what about staff and community? We dig deeper than just, ‘Is the food good?’ and people seem to like it.”
Tune in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.