tv Ezra Edelman and David Chang Speak at the Washington Ideas Forum CSPAN January 2, 2017 2:05am-2:41am EST
are you ready guys? ♪ [video playing] >> you expect it of yourself. you hear the crowds but you don't. you know they are cheering. when i'm running, that is how it is supposed to be. this is the natural state of things. i know that whenever i have done it, my feelings have always been that this is nothing yet. i'm going to do it again. >> simpson had that shine. the sun hit him and he really was that great. he really was that great. ♪ >> it has been my deal to come out of the ghetto and get everything i've got. i need -- i think that what is driving o.j. simpson is the need
to be liked. that is o.j. simpson. when i walked on the street, people will know me. ♪ >> i think you were able to do something in the stone that all artists aspire to do. summon conflicting emotions at the same time. i felt this all the way through. i see the genius of a beautiful athlete. and at the same time, and his own words afterwards, i kind of see the foreshadowing of the tragedy that is going to befall him and others. how are you able to do that?
ezra: throwing me off. look. i think we collectively decided to forget who he once was. and i think in doing that, you forget how a story came to be. how it came to be was that we needed, once upon a time, this was a guy we fell in love with as an athlete who was that beautiful. he was that alluring of a presence. he's a understand and feel those emotions again in order to understand that cognitive dissonance. so for me, starting out, it it was one of the greatest running backs of all time. he was the guy on our tv screens for over a decade, almost two decades. in a capacity in which we loved him. we were seduced by him. so i knew that in order to get to the essence of the story, emotionally, you needed to feel
the emotions again. you needed to fall in love with him. you needed to be in all of him. and five seconds before that, there is a clip where a film director compares him and you see that beauty and grace. and you say oh, he was that guy. host: the moment when he falls and he just gets back up and keeps going. and what is in that and what is implicit in what you just said is our desire to forget. our desire to think of him and let us off the hook. and ignore the fact that we were seduced. ezra: and in fact, we created him. it is a two-way street. yes, he did win the genetic lottery. he was that good looking and charismatic and charming. but you needed those fans. we propped up.
and we allowed him to sort of -- evolve or default as a character. so i think that, yes. it is simplistic for us to say yes, he is a monster. and that makes us feel better. but the reason why this was such an event in those two years is because we all are complicit. we all were involved in the creation. host: along with this idea with the conflicting ideas in this piece, in the piece, it is not conflicting at all. when we talk about this, i think we take a vantage of the two notions. yes, o.j. simpson did in fact kill his wife and the jury got it right. did you feel that way when you started off? and once you decided that was how you felt, how did you tackle that as a filmmaker? ezra: there were certain things that i was more interested in explaining. i was never interested in the
question of his guilt. i have my opinions and i felt that i wanted to examine him as a character. host: how did you feel, going in? ezra: that he did it. it was so matter-of-factly not a driving principle for me. i was more interested in why people align themselves the way they did during the trial. why people responded the way they did after the trial. why, 20 years later, people are still entrenched in those viewpoints and they didn't seem to understand why african-americans would have been celebrating that verdict in the way that confused me, because i didn't understand. and that was an operating principle. i also thought that if i didn't address the question in that way, it would have been a cop out.
so i do want you to understand that with the history and that context, what they have been living through four -- not five years, but decades -- and going back to when thousands of people migrated there in the 40's, 50's and 60's, there was a constant injustice. and again, it is the same thing about emotionally engaging with him as a football player. you needed to engage with that struggle. with those incidences with the police. going back. two, as a viewer, feel that pain. so then when you get to the trial, you go, oh. you understand. and when you get to the trial, there is a policeman with a racist past two allegedly plants a glove -- and then you understand it is not so crazy that people would think that and believe that. and it certainly is not crazy
then that not only did the jury vote the way they did but then the people reacted the way they did afterwards. and that is what i was trying to do. and if you absorb that the weight that you did, than we did something right. host: one thing you do very well in episode one is that you don't start the story of black l.a. -- people think it is such a genetic europe, but you go back to migration. were you worried about losing your audience? ezra: i was worried about getting it done. i was worried about it making sense. but to your point, the first 20 minutes of the film were the hardest to get right. even as we spend months and months putting this together, that -- really the first half hour -- that was something we worked on and till the end. because how are you going to frame the story? where do you start? you go back to the beginning of time. it is still a story about o.j. simpson but there is the other narrative. and that was the hardest thing to get right.
host: how long did you work on it? ezra: two years. host: how did you do with losing the ability to see it? if you work on something for so long, send them to conduct her your ability to actually see the thing in a way that somebody coming at it for the first time sees it. so how did you deal with that problem? ezra: i ignored it and didn't think about it. and frankly, dealt with it on a micro level. you got from a to b to c to d. it wasn't something is going to be able to absorb. and in that way, having the framework and structure of putting it up where i could still deal with part one or part two or part three -- i thought it out architecturally in a way where it all made sense.
as long as there were enough things that agreed and made sense, i was ok on a macro level. but because i was doing something that long, which, honestly, can be that -- for our viewers, it is a little offensive. making an eight hour movie and watch it. it will be good. -- sure. [laughter] ezra: so all you can do is to make sure that at every point, it works. make sure it moves. and that is what i focused on more than anything else. host: the amazing thing to me, when i heard about it i said it was way too long. that is what you think. you do think that. but when i started watching it, i couldn't get up. i wanted to keep going. and so i think it is the narrative tension that you are talking about as a storyteller.
one thing that occurred to me is the mission and making it a bit more complex for people to understand where black people were coming from. but they ultimately celebrated the acquittal. there are two views that one could take. yes, art has the ability to change people's minds. document people offended by the celebrations. they might say well, i understand it now. but then, people don't want to understand. people are entrenched in a certain place because they want to. so many people make that effort to try to get people to understand. i wonder -- you have done -- i don't know how many q and a's, do you feel that people are getting that complexity? ezra: i think so.
the sad thing is that we still end up talking about this along racial lines. but there were people who said that they never knew all of this. i think there was that objective on that end. and there also was a need for a lot of black folks to check themselves and say, why was i celebrating? why was i invested in the trial in that way? i think that when you look at the celebration, you wonder -- are people going to be slightly less comfortable engaging with this 20 years later? especially if you see how we spent those 20 years. and then everyone can reckon with that. host: another question -- how do you deal with that? ezra: i am not going to swear on this stage. [laughter] ezra: but get that -- out of here. host: i thought he did it. it really humanizes nicole brown simpson. i mean, i knew. but had the photos never been seen? ezra: the photos probably have been seen by someone but we have never shown them in that way. and that is what you needed to reckon with. what happened that night? host: the abuse photos -- it is
something you need to go ahead and watch. but it is a way in which a human being can become an abstraction. you hear a name and you just say oh, that is the woman that o.j. simpson killed. but one of the successful things at the time is that he really took a human life. to human lives. you get the whole human and i way. was that something you really thought about, going in? ezra: of course. and frankly there is very little archival footage of her that exists. but this is where you realize that as much as this is a huge story about race in america, it is about a lot of things. including masculinity and domestic abuse. and you need to know that nicole was 18 years old, just a few months out of high school when she met him and moved in with him. and she didn't have an opportunity to feel her way through the world on her own. and that informed so much of
what that story was in terms of his sense of control and his need for control. and yes, so i tried my best to humanize her and i'm glad you felt that way. host: i think it is a way where you can get caught into the arqule types. i wiped woman and black man and all the metaphors that people put on the case that ultimately of secure the human beings who were in that place, at that time. ezra: the whole thing is about the symbols of who people became.
who o.j. simpson became. and that is why there is a notion of this guy being framed by the lapd and considering the choices that he made at his relationship with the cops. how did this all become what it did? let's strip it down to the essence and reengage with who they were, as people. host: one thing that i had difficulty with, even with it being pretty clear, o.j. simpson had murdered and taken two lives -- it was the inability to give his legal team respect. the parameters of what a trial is. the idea of what a trial actually is. i thought they were spectacular, man. a desire to write that off and say they bent the rules but if somebody had my life in their hands?
that is the way the system is setup to act. i felt like it was a very -- it is very hard for people to come to the idea of a cop doing his job, for instance. ezra: they are all just doing their jobs. and there are different planes that we want to absorb this. and in the end, the defense attorneys did their job and they did it spectacularly. host: and these are folks who cut their teeth doing -- in other words, the struggle with which o.j. simpson wanted no part of, that is what made them perfect people to defend o.j. simpson. ezra: and if johnny cochran were around, there is a fundamental question i would like to ask him. what was he truly engaged by? did he truly believes this was a story in the continuum of police abuse and brutality? or, was this -- something else? host: you guys have to answer
that yourself. for all of you have not seen this -- you must. you must. do not be scared by the time. it is tremendous. it is the best documentary i have seen. the best when i've seen this year. thank you guys, so much. [applause] [indiscernible] >> good afternoon, everyone. welcome, david. thank you so much for doing this. it is a thrill for me. yesterday, i interviewed the head of the cia appeared but i mistakenly come out with the questions for you. [laughter] host: so i had to wing it. i wasn't really going to ask him
about the noodles. but for you, let me ask, what is your drone policy? [laughter] host: actually, you know what? what is your drone policy? how many people have eaten in one of his restaurants? [applause] [cheers] host: you are in a time of rapid expansion. you are expanding in format and the ways that you deliver food to people, including in new york -- how far away are we from drone delivered food? david: i laughed, initially. i think it will happen in our lifetime. i know nothing about drone technology but all of the technology be polite talk to think it will happen, or something that is an automated delivery system. host: why don't we do this? for those of you who don't know your story -- you are part of
this generation of chef entrepreneurs, one of the most successful in america. take one or two minutes and walk through how you went from a guy at georgetown prep, cooking and you come out of a restaurant family, but how did you go from chef to almost a global presence? you come out of a restaurant family, but how did you go from walk us through that quickly. david: born and raised in this town. my dad wanted to make sure i never would work in restaurants. host: anything but what i'm doing right now. he knows how hard it is. and i had a few false starts in college. in my started to work in a real job, a desk job, i realized that -- host: what was your desk job? david: i did private wealth asset management in connecticut.
host: really? david: you just shuffled papers around. i just realized that life was something i was headed towards the middle. even though i was good at it, i would be terrible at it. it wasn't something i wanted to do. without the food industry -- i thought the food industry was going to my calling, but as someone who is allergic to work, i thought maybe this is something i should be doing. host: how did you go from one restaurant to what you are doing right now? david: i felt we had everything on the line. if we had invested in the first restaurant, don't the guy would be here today.
failure wasn't an option. host: you did this off alone from your father. david: first one, the magic of bank loan out. we put our money and time and time again. when you are in that situation, you can learn so many different things you never thought. you can delegate that stuff. besides just making the food, myself and the people around me take care of everything else. host: if you have a mentor or a plan to get to where you are? david: i have learned that growing organically means not having any fucking idea what you are doing. [laughter] host: i think that will be the signature quote of the entire washington ideas forum. david: our first restaurant was in sydney, australia. host: how did you come to that decision? david: it just seemed like a good idea. i like australia. this is what went through my head. on a map, it's only like four inches away.
i swear to god. [laughter] host: that sounds like a drug-induced decision. the next restaurant we opened was in toronto. there was no real plan. host: you somehow got there. talk about the policy challenges. we talked before about the policy challenges that face a rapidly growing business in an area that more and more people are interested in an more and more people are eating out than ever and more and more people are demanding good food. you are under tremendous strain in any number of areas. one of them is maintaining the quality of essentially a blue-collar workforce in a very white-collar world. talk about the pressure on you to keep your food affordable while maintaining the lives and supporting the lives of almost 1000 employees. then we turned immigration.
david: [laughter] host: and then donald trump. and we will go back to sydney, australia. david: i started cooking and got paid $9.75 an hour. the current wage average in new york city is maybe $12.50 an hour. $13 tops. pay our cooks as much a similar possible. i'm always going to be an advocate for the cooks. in a couple of our restaurants, a server could make $100,000 in a 50 hour workweek, tops. maybe more depending on the week. but the cook is sort of stuck at -- there are couple of places we are paying $15 an hour, and that's just not enough. everything has gotten more expensive in new york city. but how we pay our cooks. that is the struggle i have, is how do we reengineer our business, because i want to pay my cooks as much as i can. i want them to have a better
quality of life because it's a blue-collar labor in a white-collar environment very but we are still paying people not as much as i would like. host: where does it break? david: it breaks on the consumers and. most of the response ability is on our shoulders. the consumer has to understand that food should be more expensive trade not just for us, but for the farmers, the environment, for the many costs that are hidden. it is something we're really trying to figure out. we toyed around unsuccessfully with a no chip policy restaurant. the margins in the business, even a very successful restaurant, are slim to none. the first thing people want to get out of there had been a busy restaurant doesn't mean they are just raking in the money. it's going to take some time to figure out. i tell people when i get criticism from other people like you are not paying your cooks enough money, i said we are trying to make this work for everybody.
for that same reason, do you pay trash people to pick up your trash or people who clean your house, or cleanup bathrooms. it's the same's are labor force. you should be paying them as much money as possible. host: tell me about the immigration controversy in america right now. david: without the hispanic labor force, there would be no restaurants in america. [applause] david: i mean that. it would die out. not just to, but -- i'm trying to say stuff is not going to get me a lot of trouble. host: no, no, say that. david: i have a lot of my guys, that's with a talk about. they are scared about the future. host: in this particular political moment. david: they might be completely free, where there are now tougher standards. i may not be able to hire someone that i very much want to
hire. and that sucks. or i have a guy who's been with me 10 plus years, and there are people who live with him in his apartment as he is afraid might have to leave. that's a terrible thing to go to work every day and worry about. so, yeah. i think things need to change across the board, particularly -- host: why do you think people don't understand this? david: people that want to know anything about their food. it's just the truth. something died to make this burger you are eating. somebody picked this piece of fruit for your salad. host: let's talk about, just for a minute, scale and the challenges the con with scale. i am dredging up what might be an unpleasant subject for you. a recent people's review in the new york times that was written about in a new yorker profile. people think you are a
tremendously gifted chef. he wants an almost nostalgic day for you to be the chef that you were 10 or 15 years ago, cooking amazing things in one spot. do you give any credence to the idea that at your level, the very top of your industry, the you guys are spread too thin? in a restaurants are no longer is original as they once were because you are doing too much? host: feel free to make this a commentary on journalism as well. david: i disagree with pete, i feel sad that he is shaping the culinary industry. he has taken down a lot of the titans. if we didn't deliver, we didn't deliver. and that is something i try to tell myself.
but at the end of the day, these guys and women are doing amazing work and because of their amazing work, they are growing. i don't know how we should be punished for trying to take care of our guys. if you ask everyone of them, if you talk to those a, he says i'm in this to take care of my guys. i have done enough to take care of myself, and as i mature and get older, it's like we shouldn't be doing the same things. host: do you think reviewing is becoming entertainment? david: it is entertainment. that is what sells. it sells because you are either criticizing someone or praise -- praise doesn't sell. mediocre reviews don't sell. host: too many people looking for the takedown. you live in a very unforgiving media environment, where everyone is an expert, everyone on trip advisor or yelp is a food critic.
mi i wrong in saying it is rougher now than ever? david: for someone who has complained to the last seven years about this, i now realize that we just have to get better. that's it. how we outreach, how we talk to people the right reviews from a bloggers perspective or someone at rights and post on instagram, they just want to big knowledge. if we didn't do that in our food, that thomas. that's just what i'm thinking about now. host: this is a very washington heavy audience. talk about the food scene here. you are a local boy, a major name in -- you made your name in new york. give us an assessment of how washington's food scene has changed for the better, and also tell us what you like here. i want to go.
david: food is better than ever across the country. it's really hard to find a city that doesn't have a spectacular restaurant. i can say this for my own cooks that have worked another top restaurants -- people are looking for some stability. where it's more than just the next hot thing. at least from the cook's perspective, people want to build on this momentum, so it's not just a flash in the pan. there are great things happening in d.c. probably one of the hottest restaurants in the country's aaron silverman's roses luxury. the thing i would like other people in d.c. to recognize is aaron worked at the best restaurants. not just in america, but all over the place. for many years. every year, he used to work for me. host: do you consider this as good as new york in terms of creativity?
david: i don't think new york is a strong as it used to be, not just because doing worse work, every thing else has been elevated. new york used to be like ted williams. targeted at 400 because every thing else is better. that's why. i'm never knocking new york and i'm not a knock on my hometown of d.c., but it's better to even ever before. i would like to see more ethnic eateries, even hate using the word ethnic eateries. i think d.c. good embraces diversity. there are so many good things that you might not normally say let's go out to dinner. host: one person clapping for diversity. [applause] host: thank you. david: ethiopian food here is great. but people still don't know that. you have an amazing ecuadorian population, salvador in food. no one needs that. not that i know of. they are delicious. it's all here, people need to go further.
go out and eat it. host: do you ever dream of chucking it all? we were sitting on top of an empire now. do everything i just want to go into the kitchen in one place and cook all day? david: yeah, all the time. if you talk to a lot of my friends among the all talk about banding and all, i joke about burning it all down just to have some freedom. i think about this 15 to 30 minutes every day. [laughter] david: it's true. now i'm in a position where i don't know what i'm doing. i'm trained to cook, not to manage. managing, i don't love managing. it's not that much fun. but it is something i have to get better at. host: do you want to get better at this, or do you want to grow it and sell it and find something else. david: i have the opportunity to sell, and i didn't.
i want to make money, but i has to be a way that i don't have survivors guilt. i want to grow this company to the point where my team can benefit, and the people that we purchase from can benefit. that is a great opportunity. we will see how far we can take this thing. all collapses, it's on my shoulders. >> host: and you can still go back and cook. thank you very much. [applause] >> now, a discussion with the presidents of harvard and georgetown university. they will talk about how slavery played a role in the history of their institutions and a local community. this is also from the washington ideas for. it's 25 minutes. [applause] >> this is a thrill for me.
i was joking as we were coming down the stair ways that 20 minutes is not enough time. i won't say by who. it's just enough time for a person to not get into trouble. around the country and particularly at colleges and universities, i guess more specifically where folks are having to at least reckon with the long effects of history. i think there is no problem with reckoning with the effects of history, but now we are being forced to reckon some of those things that don't necessarily reflect well. the names are changing that have been requested. maybe the things on it, slave holders and down in south carolina and the confederate flag and other states. we can see that in georgetown
with the recent efforts. the president, i wonder if you would talk us through what in fact is happening and to reconcile them. >> thank you. thank you very much. it's an honor to be with both of you. we had a tragic moment in the early years of our history that we have been trying to come to terms with. in 1838, the priests in maryland on plantations in 1838 arranged a transaction to sell 272, virtually all of them to a landowner in louisiana. with that sale, some of the proceeds were sent to georgetown and we benefitted through that sale and the institution of slavery. >> do you have a working group
on racial justice at georgetown -- what we can account for a male is $25,000 of which we received $17,000, which are probably be worth about 500,000 today. we didn't actually think that it the number for us because unfolded and we recognized deeper commitments that we were prepared to it make. two years ago we began this work , internally you are trying to come to terms and reconcile with our history and it was inspired by the fact that we had a building waiting for the person responsible for this make. transaction. oure wasn't a person in hundred