A Strange Loop, the Tony-winning queer black best new musical

This is an audio transcript of the FT Weekend podcast episode: A Strange Loop, the Tony-winning queer black best new musical

Lilah Raptopoulos
Just a quick warning before we start: this episode contains some adult themes and language.

The other day, I went to see what’s considered to be the hottest musical on Broadway. It’s called A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson. It was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, and it won two of them this month in some of the most important categories: Best New Musical and Best Book for Michael’s original script.

[SOUND CLIP FROM THE MUSICAL PLAYING]

Lilah Raptopoulos
A Strange Loop is definitely out to push boundaries. There’s this one pretty unforgettable scene where the main character, he’s black and gay and he’s dressed up like a preacher, and he’s leading the sermon on stage.

Sound clip from A Strange Loop
 . . . remember what God’s word . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
And it’s got gospel music and the audience is invited to clap along. But the sermon is really homophobic.

Sound clip from A Strange Loop
(Singing) Aids is God’s punishment . . . 

Sing your song, brothers, sing your song.

Lilah Raptopoulos
It’s about how Aids is a punishment for the sin of being gay. It’s very uncomfortable.

[SOUND CLIP FROM THE MUSICAL PLAYING]

Lilah Raptopoulos
But the music is so catchy that when the audience is invited to clap along, a bunch of people did start clapping and the rest of us were looking around, totally bewildered. I asked Michael why he’d written it that way.

Yeah, so tell me about that, because you kind of, as an audience member, you turn around and you think, oh, I turn to, turn around at that, while people are clapping. (Laughter)

Michael R. Jackson
Yeah. And I, that’s the thing. Well, they’re invited to . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Michael R. Jackson
And I invite the audience to have an authentic response. If you don’t feel comfortable clapping, you don’t have to. But if you want to clap along, you should. And I find that moment to be thrilling because the audience has to really check in with themselves about what to do. And then they start looking to their neighbour to see what they’re doing, and then their neighbour is looking to them. And then maybe those two responses don’t match.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Michael R. Jackson
And then some people are mad that white people are clapping. Some white people feel nervous that black people aren’t clapping. So (laughter), or there are people who are not white or black who don’t know what the hell is going on. Like it’s a mix of everything. And that mix . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Michael R. Jackson
And that confusion is what it’s like to be Usher.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Usher, who Michael just mentioned, is the main character in the show, and he’s having a hard time. He’s struggling to wade through these mixed messages that society is giving him. But somehow, Michael has made that struggle really entertaining to watch.

Sound clip from A Strange Loop
(Singing) Blackness, queerness, fighting back to fill this cis-het, all-white space, with a portrait . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
Today, we talk to Michael about A Strange Loop, about being black and queer on Broadway, and about how he managed so successfully to pull audiences into Usher’s mind. Then we talk with Imogen West-Knights, who spoke with dozens of restaurant workers in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is a mecca of fine dining, and workers there have come from all over the world thinking they’d learn from the best. But instead, they describe a culture of physical and verbal abuse, overwork and exhaustion. This is FT Weekend. I’m Lilah Raptopoulos.

So what is a strange loop? It’s actually a neuroscientific term, and it’s a way of thinking about identity. For Michael, it’s when how you feel on the inside isn’t how the mainstream culture sees you on the outside. And then you just keep going in a loop trying to figure out which version is really you.

[SOUND CLIP FROM THE MUSICAL PLAYING]

Lilah Raptopoulos
It’s also this meta-musical.

Sound clip from A Strange Loop
(Singing . . . Usher. I’m barely scraping by. My discontentment comes in many shapes and sizes . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
This musical is about a guy who is black and gay and works as an usher on Broadway’s The Lion King. And he’s writing a musical about a guy who’s black and gay and works as an usher on The Lion King. And, of course, it’s written by Michael R. Jackson, a guy who, you get the idea. And Usher is struggling. His ideas are constantly getting rejected. He’s getting rejected. But his biggest problem isn’t a lack of money or that he can’t find a boyfriend. It’s self-doubt. Self-doubt has been personified in the musical and cast as six different actors on stage. All of them are also black and queer.

Michael R. Jackson
And so you had, you know, thought to portray his daily self-loathing. That’s a character.

Sound clip from A Strange Loop
 . . . I have some time to kill. I thought I’d stop by to remind you just how truly worthless you are . . . 

Michael R. Jackson
And then there’s a character called Sympathetic Ear who sort of gives him some good advice at a crucial moment. But there’s a good character called Financial Faggotry and many others that are just sort of there to represent these, like, struggles that he’s sort of embroiled in as he’s trying to write this musical about someone writing a musical.

Lilah Raptopoulos
As you’ve probably gathered, Michael isn’t shy, and if the language he just used makes you uncomfortable, you should know that Strange Loop uses far stronger, including racial slurs. That’s because it wants to show that Usher’s perception of himself has been shaped in large part by a world that is hostile to him. He’s internalised these slurs, and he’s grappling with it. So Usher is trying to write his musical, but he’s also trying to exorcise his demons. He’s trying to have a better relationship with his religious parents. He’s trying to be daring and creative. He’s trying to date, which everyone, including his doctor, tells him he needs to do more of. There are three things that Usher has to give up before he can believe in himself by the end of the show. And one of them is an oppressive, mainstream gay culture. I asked Michael why that was so important.

Michael R. Jackson
Yeah. So, you know, early in the musical, Usher goes to his doctor who . . . it’s, again, an exaggerated version of an interaction that I had with my doctor when I was much younger, who was sort of bewildered by why I wasn’t sexually active and, like, just really out there being a young gay in the city. And the answer to that was because I felt really lost in what I term in the musical “Gay Bill”. It was like the sort of white gay-run social scene and, like, you either were in or you were out or that’s what it felt like. And you get a lot of negative body image stuff because Usher’s that and I have a style and like it just is very confusing. And so, but in the meanwhile, you’re supposed to be, everybody’s supposed to be so, you know, out and proud and sex positive and all these things. And yet you’re constantly hearing, no, no, no, no, I won’t date you. No, no, no, I won’t sleep with you. No, no, no, you’re not the right size, height, colour. Blah blah blah. Everybody has a preference. But somehow that preference is never you.

Lilah Raptopoulos
The second thing Usher has to give up is Tyler Perry. You know Tyler Perry, right? He’s the guy who made all those Madea movies. He’s black, too. And he’s made a fortune off his films and TV shows, which feature almost entirely black casts. Michael and a lot of others think that his work uses really tired tropes and that it caricaturises black people. There’s very little nuance.

Michael R. Jackson
And he’s somebody who has often sort of held up as like a real black success story and somebody who other black artists and writers should really sort of aspire to be and look up to. And in the musical, Usher, and, I guess by extension, me, a real critical response to his actual work.

Lilah Raptopoulos
What Usher has to give up is comparing himself to Tyler Perry because he doesn’t even want to make that kind of work. And the final thing Usher has to give up is his inner white girl. That’s an alter ego inspired by the music of artists like Liz Phair, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell.

Sound clip from A Strange Loop
(Singing) White girls can do anything and play and they can play . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
What does she stand for?

Michael R. Jackson
So the inner white girl is a couple of things, but she’s mainly an abstract concept that has to deal with Usher’s sort of love for these, like white female singer-songwriters who had this ability within their work to really show a full range of emotions and an expression that he feels as a black artist and as a black man, that he’s not sort of afforded the space to express. And, you know, because there’s this, there’s all these expectations that you’re gonna be like the next Tyler Perry or something, and not like the next self-made whatever you want to be. You know, there’s no stereotype of like, black man as being shy and introspective. Do you know what I mean?

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Michael R. Jackson
And, like, and so he takes this sort of both strength from these, like, white female singer-songwriter ladies. But also there’s a criticism within there, too, because they get to sort of, in his mind, be both sort of powerful and oppressive and vulnerable and sort of seen and taken care of. That’s in his mind.

Lilah Raptopoulos
And in the show, even in debating these things, he is the full range.

Michael R. Jackson
Yes. And that’s the strange loop of it all, because that’s sort of the loop of the show in many ways, is that he spends the whole time up until the last possible second . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
(Laughter) Right.

Michael R. Jackson
 . . . be like, I have to change. I have to change. I have to change. I have to change. And if he realises, oh, maybe I don’t need changing. And when he realises that, he changes.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Right. But by two-thirds of the way through the show, Usher hasn’t given up any of these forces yet. He’s still navigating calls from his parents who are wondering if he’s still gay and if he’s making any money yet. He’s accepted a job that’s basically his worst nightmare, which is to ghostwrite a Tyler Perry gospel musical. In case you were wondering, Michael himself actually loves the work of white girl singer-songwriters like Liz Phair. He doesn’t like the work of Tyler Perry.

What is the criticism of it? Sort of like, whereas like, sort of, could you kind of explain what Usher is fighting?

Michael R. Jackson
Well, I mean, on one level, I mean, I just think dramaturgically, it, like, does not hold up. It always falls apart for me and for us. But also there’s a component to one part of it that was very specific, which is that I saw his 2013 film Confessions of a Marriage Counsellor, that has this message in it that’s I feel really irresponsible around HIV and Aids. And that just hit me very hard because there’s a lot of people in the black community for whom HIV/Aids has been a death sentence. And then what happened was, in my own life, a very dear friend of mine passed away three years ago because he had been sort of hiding his diagnosis for a decade. And a lot of that was due in part to a lot of these, this kind of messaging.

Lilah Raptopoulos
So in the gospel scene that I mentioned at the top, Usher is embodying this message that he knows is hateful to him, and he’s participating in a type of theatre that he hates. But he’s doing it anyway. And we, as the audience, have been invited into Usher’s mind. Michael actually thinks of the audience as the seven thought in addition to the six actors on stage. So when we can’t decide if we like the gospel scene or we hate it, if we should clap or if we shouldn’t, we’re asked to do what Usher does: hold two things at once, live with the discomfort. And in turn, we are also in the strange loop.

Michael R. Jackson
I’m always thrilled by just watching people respond to the different . . . There’s a lot of reference points within the show for a lot of sort of attitudes and modes and expressions that are sort of tailored to one audience and then another and then another. And, like, it’s all mixed up together. And then you’re all learning about, you know, how to take in a gospel play throughout the piece. And then you see a gospel play . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
Right.

Michael R. Jackson
And everybody is invited to participate in that in a certain way. And that for me, is part of pulling the audience even further into the loop of Usher’s selfhood and really putting the audience, like, in his sort of mind. And it’s one of my favourite parts of the show because it literally does put it totally in your hands. Literally, (clap) in your hand.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Michael R. Jackson
And I did that because Usher is trying to show people what it’s like. And for me, as Michael R Jackson, what it’s like to be a black gay man growing up in a religious family and in a religious, you know, community, my experience of it was that it was beautiful, beautiful music. And I loved, always loved the singing. It was my favourite part and I played piano for choirs while I was growing up. But it also was like, you get these like terrible messages about sexuality and gayness and so forth. And so both those things are mixed up together.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Right.

Michael R. Jackson
And that’s what it feels like. It feels like I want to enjoy this, but it’s hard. It’s ugly. It’s beautiful. It’s all of it.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

A Strange Loop took 18 years to write, from the first monologue to its off-Broadway launch. Then the team had to wait two years for Broadway because of Covid. Before I let him go, I wanted to ask Michael to reflect on that experience.

There’s a lot of the musical that sort of critiques Broadway and also is a bit of a love letter to it. I’m curious if you think that Broadway has changed since you began writing the musical?

Michael R. Jackson
That’s always such a hard question for me to assess, because the answer is like yes in a certain sense, like . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
Right.

Michael R. Jackson
But no in other ways. And also it remains to be seen.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Right.

Michael R. Jackson
You know? So . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
OK. Yeah, that’s . . . Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Michael R. Jackson
Well, I mean, certainly, you know, this season right now has been sort of an unprecedented number of works, specifically by black authors that have made it to Broadway. But I would also point to the off-Broadway season that A Strange Loop was in, though nobody really talked about that in my, in my view, and what that meant or didn’t mean. And so that’s why I’m like, I feel all this stuff is kind of in the eye of the beholder.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Michael R. Jackson
That’s why I’m always banging the drum for we have to actually evaluate the quality of the works, because if you just sort of go “Is it enough of us?” you’re never gonna really be able to measure what “change” means, in my opinion.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Mm-hmm.

Michael R. Jackson
Like we have to like have robust conversations, criticism, dialogues about what the, are pieces actually are. Otherwise, I mean, I don’t normally like to be this crude, but like, otherwise, we’re just sort of objects on an auction block.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Mmm.

Michael R. Jackson
And I don’t think that anybody really wants that. And I don’t think that it does anything to move the needle forward in terms of actual representation. But this is where my bias is, because I spent 18 years working on one thing.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah. Yeah. Michael, thank you for your work and your time. This is a real pleasure.

Michael R. Jackson
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to speak with you.

Lilah Raptopoulos
A Strange Loop is on Broadway through November 6th. Michael’s next show, which is called White Girl in Danger, is expected to be out early next year.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Lilah Raptopoulos
If you ask a food lover to name the best cities in the world for restaurants, it’s likely they’ll mention the capital of Denmark: Copenhagen. It’s become this epicentre of the modern fine-dining scene with a huge proportion of the world’s best restaurants. My colleague Imogen West-Knights was there recently for a story. She ate at a Nordic-Korean restaurant called Koan.

Imogen West-Knights
The food is almost to a degree sort of incidental, like the food is why you’re there. But so much of the feeling of the luxury comes from everything else. It’s the crockery, it’s the furniture, it’s the lighting, it’s the music. It’s the choreography of the, of the waiters. And I do mean choreography. They arrive at exactly the right time. They know exactly when everything is supposed to be going to each table.

Lilah Raptopoulos
The day after Imogen’s night of indulgence, she saw a very different scene. She was actually in Copenhagen to investigate the back of house at other restaurants because there are two stories running here in tandem. One’s coming from the dining room and the other less public one is happening in the kitchen. So Imogen met with someone who worked in the industry. To be clear, we don’t know which restaurant her source worked at, but it wasn’t Koan.

The morning after you went to this beautiful meal, you met with an employee. And can you tell us what they told you?

Imogen West-Knights
Yeah. They told me about punishing work hours and struggling to feed themselves and having the time to do anything other than work. I think it was just one of the, one of the most sort of moving and representative moments of my reporting was that, you know, we came to the, about halfway through talking and they looked down at their empty mug and were like, “This is the only thing that I let myself do is have a cup of coffee on my day off because I can’t afford any other luxuries”.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Wow.

Imogen West-Knights
Yeah. It really sort of hit home, especially after having, like, I was still full of that food, being like, wow, what cost did my enjoyment come at?

Lilah Raptopoulos
Can you tell me about the fine-dining scene in Copenhagen . . .

Imogen West-Knights
Yeah.

Lilah Raptopoulos
. . . in general? Sort of what is its reputation?

Imogen West-Knights
So 15, 20 years ago, Danish food wasn’t really a thing.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Mm-hmm.

Imogen West-Knights
And then it kind of got single-handedly created by Claus Meyer and René Redzepi, who are two chefs in Copenhagen, who launched this new food movement called New Nordic, which was sort of hyperlocal, focused on sustainable ingredients from the Nordic region. And they set up a restaurant called Noma, which is a portmanteau of “Nordisk mad”, “Nordic food”. And it was this massive runaway success, kind of reinvigorated not only the Danish food scene, but the world food scene and has kind of spread its tentacles all over the world now and now, like I think a quarter of tourists who go to Copenhagen are there primarily for the food.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Mm-hmm.

Imogen West-Knights
And Noma has been the world’s best restaurant, I think three times?

Lilah Raptopoulos
I think five.

Imogen West-Knights
Five, five.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah. It’s been five times. And it is officially right now . . .

Imogen West-Knights
It is right now the world’s best restaurant.

Lilah Raptopoulos
 . . . the world’s best restaurant.

So here’s the picture. There’s Noma, the crown jewel of the food scene. There’s Geranium, which is the world’s second best restaurant, which is also in Copenhagen. And then there are a handful of other Danish restaurants further down the list: Selma, Juno, Alouette. It’s food heaven for tourists. And with the tourists have come restaurant workers who moved to Copenhagen from around the world to learn from the best. Often they come to do these three-month internships that are unpaid.

Imogen West-Knights
They’re called stagiaires, and it’s called doing a stage, doing this sort of unpaid internship thing. It’s super common in the restaurant world, it exists everywhere. And people come from all over the world to do it in Copenhagen because Copenhagen food is so celebrated.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Many of these workers stay in the dining system after their stage, and they’re just now starting to speak out about what it’s like. Imogen spoke to 30 people from around the restaurant industry, most of whom asked to stay anonymous. They told her about sexual harassment, homophobia, dangerous work conditions, and in some instances, physical violence. But the most common thread across most of these stories was mental and physical exhaustion. That probably comes as no surprise if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant. It’s built into the fabric of the service industry all the way down to its daily routine.

If you work at a fine-dining restaurant in Copenhagen, what is a day like? You know, what’s the grind?

Imogen West-Knights
So let’s take like a hypothetical bad one. Then you might get in the morning early to help set up your station unpaid, you know, an additional 2 hours and then you might work midday to two in the morning and go home, sleep a little bit, come back, do the same thing the next day. And the atmosphere that people described in some of these places is almost intolerable, really. Like people would talk about waking up in the morning and just feeling just this dread in their body of having to go back to these environments where at any moment they might be subject to screaming abuse or I mean, and physical violence as well. I mean, people kept talking about being kicked at work . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
Mmm.

Imogen West-Knights
That’s like, that’s kind of weird and playground-y to me. Like, why are they kicking each other? That’s so strange. And then I, the penny dropped eventually that a lot of these kitchens are open kitchens.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Mmm.

Imogen West-Knights
So the only place you can hurt somebody without the guests seeing is by kicking them in the legs.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Wow.

Imogen West-Knights
And people said that sometimes people would crouch down and punch people in the, like crazy stuff.

Lilah Raptopoulos
This can be self-perpetuating because think about it, if a chef learns their trade in a toxic environment, they bring it into their own restaurants and so on and so on. Imogen kept hearing similar stories with similar language.

Imogen West-Knights
So they talked about it being like a cult. They talked about it being like the military. Yeah, I was really struck and kind of disturbed by the number of people who said that they thought the system of chefs learning bad behaviour in the kitchen and revisiting it on the people lower down them when they have their own places like families, when children are victims of abuse, who then go on to commit abuse, which is like a really extreme way of talking about it, but actually I think is justifiably extreme.

Lilah Raptopoulos
This is an industry with high commitment and low margins, which creates a cycle. There are long hours which make staff sick, but then taking sick leave means you’ll miss your shift, which will force more work on your colleagues. So no one has a day off. If you’re doing a stage, the unpaid internship, you can work up to 16 hours a day. Those types of days are common at Noma.

So, Imogen, can you tell me about the system of people who are coming to work in these restaurants in Copenhagen? Like, lay it out. Who’s working?

Imogen West-Knights
What do they do?

Lilah Raptopoulos
What do they do?

Imogen West-Knights
So I spoke to people who are from South America and Asia and all over Europe who often will save up working in kitchens in their home countries and come to Copenhagen and self-finance this three-month period. And it varies very much by restaurant, what they’re actually doing. But at its worst, it can be you get put on one element of one dish in a fine-dining restaurant and you, you know, smearing sauce for 16 hours a day.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Restaurants are known to be hard to work in. But what really stands out in this story is that this is Denmark. Denmark is seen as a worker’s utopia.

I was really surprised when I read your story that this was happening in a country that’s so well known for happiness and welfare. And I’m curious, you know, why you think that is. Is it that the people working in these restaurants are often not Danish, that they’re coming to work there? Is it something else?

Imogen West-Knights
It is strange because labour laws are pretty tight in Denmark and generally I mean as across all of Scandinavia, people don’t work very long hours and they’re usually pretty well remunerated for it. But the hospitality industry has kind of been siloed from that, partly, I think because, you know, someone put it to me that it’s very un-Danish to be the best at something. This is like a cultural thing they have. So then they have something that was the best. And people are reluctant to do anything that would disrupt that ecosystem, like demanding that people get that 37.5 hours of work rather than 60 or whatever it is that some people are working. The trade unions aren’t very strong. And also, it’s all happened so quickly. I think 20 years for a whole massive industry to build up is not so long.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Imogen West-Knights
And that a lot of, there’s some catching up to do, I think, for the legal system to understand how people are actually working in this industry and how they can be protected.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Did you get a reaction from, like, the people in Denmark that are meant to regulate this industry?

Imogen West-Knights
What I mostly heard from Danish . . . I spoke to some Danish journalists who know the food scene very well and they were like, Yeah, people are just not that interested in talking about this because it’s the golden goose. They don’t want to destroy this amazing industry that’s been built in Denmark.

Lilah Raptopoulos
In Denmark, most roads lead back to René Redzepi of Noma.

One of the big offenders seems to be René Redzepi himself. The best chef in the world, this huge name. What are some of the allegations that were made against him?

Imogen West-Knights
So Redzepi is interesting because, you know, he didn’t invent the figure of the, like, screaming chef. He’s a product of that whole culture himself. And he was very young when he started Noma, he’s like 25. He’s interesting because he has kind of run out ahead of a lot of this stuff and admitted in certain forms that he is, well, can be verbally aggressive, has physically assaulted people in his kitchens and has made a good bit of noise about how he’s changing.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Here’s Redzepi talking to a British magazine called The Upcoming in April of this year.

René Redzepi
At some years where I was very angry and I became the thing I said I would never be. And so for me to have a moment, almost like an epiphany, to say, I need either to change this or I’m leaving, I’m gone, you know, I have to finish. And then starting to implement the change. That is the biggest lessons I’ve learnt, and it has been the biggest reward as well.

Imogen West-Knights
And I think to be fair to him, I think that that’s all true. But across the industry, there’s a way to go. You know, I spoke to someone who was like, “Oh, yeah, René doesn’t hit people any more.” Like that. Like . . . (Laughter) It’s all over because he doesn’t hit people, I was like (inaudible) . . . (Laughter). Is that the, is that the bar? The bar’s on the floor.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Lilah Raptopoulos
I should say that Noma is making changes. As Imogen was reporting the story, it announced that it would be paying interns next year. But this is just one change in one restaurant.

This seems sort of like this perpetual problem that there could be individual restaurants that do it better, individual things that happen. But the whole system still seems to be sort of plagued. Do you have a sense from your reporting of whether there are models that are better or of just what we need to change?

Imogen West-Knights
Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. I had asked a lot of people what they thought should be done about any of this. And it’s difficult because the system has been in place for so long. But I was thinking of a column that Jay Rayner wrote in The Observer about paying more for our food, because we’re all very used to being able to go out for a meal and you can choose to spend not very much and get some food outside of your home, or you can choose to spend loads of money. But the one thing that we’re kind of allergic to is prices rising. We don’t want to pay too much for those things. But I think we are probably generally paying too little.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah. I wrote a piece last summer about chefs doing good and what it means to do good. And some of the chefs that I spoke to for that piece were like, it’s a hard industry, and if you really want to be a chef and you really want to learn and you really want to build the skill, then you got to work 80-hour weeks and you got to, like, be all in. And you want to ask your sort of chef for advice. And I want that for my employees. And my employees want to work fewer hours. And then, you know, the plus side of that is that everybody deserves good mental health, et cetera. And the downside of that is that, that sort of passion gets lost. What do you think about that?

Imogen West-Knights
Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? I asked quite a lot of chefs whether they thought that it was an integral part of learning to be a chef, these really long hours and intense working environment. And most of them said no. I mean, most of them said, well, that is how I had it. But there’s nothing inherent about making food that means you have to have this terrible pressure cooker thing and that you have to make people work all these hours. It’s . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Imogen West-Knights
It feels very intimately linked because it has been that way for a long time. But actually that’s a choice that is being made in restaurants. A lot of people were really, really committed to making things different, and there are plenty of restaurants who do it differently.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Imogen West-Knights
It’s not a necessity, I don’t think.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah. Thank you so much, Imogen.

Imogen West-Knights
Thank you.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Lilah Raptopoulos
That’s the show this week. Thank you for listening to FT Weekend, the podcast from the Financial Times. We love hearing from you. Please do keep in touch. You can reach out to us and say hi in a few ways. You can email us at ftweekendpodcast@FT.com or on Twitter @FTWeekendPod, and you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @LilahRap. I put a lot of behind-the-scenes podcast stuff on my Instagram. Links to everything mentioned today are in the show notes alongside a link to the best offers available on a subscription to the FT, including 50 per cent off a digital subscription and a really great deal on FT Weekend in print every Saturday. Those offers are at FT.com/weekendpodcast. Make sure to use that link.

I’m Lilah Raptopoulos, and here is my team. Katya Kumkova is our senior producer. Lulu Smith is our assistant producer. Our sound engineers are Breen Turner and Sam Giovinco, with original music by Metaphor Music. Niamh Rowe is our intern. Zoe Sullivan is our contributing producer. Topher Forhecz is our executive producer. And thanks go as ever to Cheryl Brumley and Renée Kaplan. Please take care. Have a great weekend and we’ll find each other again next week.

This transcript has been automatically generated. If by any chance there is an error please send the details for a correction to: typo@ft.com. We will do our best to make the amendment as soon as possible.


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