C Davidson and Angelo Vangelopoulos

Recorded June 17, 2021 Archived June 16, 2021 40:31 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby020799


Friends C "Simon" Davidson (46) and Angelo Vangelopoulos (50) share a conversation about a restaurant experience auction Simon created to donate money to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. They discuss the creation of the auction, Angelo's involvement with his own restaurant, and the greater community impact of Simon's work.

Subject Log / Time Code

SD describes how his auction of "once-in-a-lifetime" restaurant experiences began: with his food blog highlighting Charlottesville restaurants. AV talks about the importance of giving back, and caring for people.
AV and SD discuss a dinner that helped SD realize that he could do more with his food blog.
SD and AV talk about the many requests restaurants receive, and what motivated AV to help with SD's particular project.
SD describes the evolving involvement of a particular restaurant in the auction, and the influence of AV's generosity. SD and AV discuss the finances behind putting on these restaurant experiences, and the importance of understanding the auction as a donation.
AV asks SD how he feels about the impact he's had on the community and its restaurants. SD talks about being a food writer.
AV talks about the current state of the restaurant industry, and how his restaurant practices have changed since the COVID pandemic.
SD and AV reflect on things they will miss about life during COVID.


  • C Davidson
  • Angelo Vangelopoulos

Recording Location

Virtual Recording

Partnership Type



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00:00 My name is Simon Davidson and I am 46 years. Old. Today is Thursday, June 17th, and I am calling in from Charlottesville, Virginia, and I will be speaking today with Angelo vangelopoulos. Who's the longtime good friend.

00:22 My name is Angelo vangelopoulos. IM, 50 years old. Today's date is Thursday, June 17th. 2021. I'm in Charlottesville, Virginia. I'm speaking today with Simon Davidson. Who's an old friend.

00:36 Thanks, Angela.

00:40 You know that the Blue Ridge area Food Bank asked us to get together to the chat and frankly sometimes I'm not sure why anybody would want to listen to. I was trying to think about certain requests. On what were you and I haven't talked about the auctions and and how we went from

01:06 Point A to point B in point of being nothing. Some random starting point to winding up creating with the Charlottesville restaurants, a million meals for the needy in the area. And so, I was thinking about, I guess where it started from. You got to go all the way back to the beginning of the website that I have the Charlottesville 29. And, and that's 9 or 10 years old now and in that whole idea for that. And I don't know if you and I have ever talked about this, but you don't need to talk about yourself. This is a great opportunity for you to die. Right? And you give me a story but talk about myself, but I guess it's kind of irrelevant.

01:57 And the whole idea was to celebrate Charlottesville restaurants. I love our restaurant scene. It's a big part of what makes Charles will specialize including you, obviously, and I didn't see anyone from a writing perspective that was doing Justice to that. And so that's what I wanted to do and initially thought about doing a book, but that seemed too daunting too many hurdles. And then I learned that you can just get on the internet and start writing and

02:35 And it starts in the automatically published. What is there only 29 restaurants in Charlotte for what would be ideal 29? And that's, of course, and after Route 29, that runs right through Charlottesville and each one. So when I added each restaurant, one of the time, it took a long time and longer than I expected. And by the time I was done, it was about 3 or 4 years later. By the time I finish the 29 and, and that's the point I'm getting to is at that point. I'm like, now, what, you know, you've, you've you've completed this, this guide for this story behind each restaurant and all that, and it's sort of become a brand of that time. And, and by Design, I've never made any money out of it. The website doesn't make any money.

03:27 So the question is, like, what can we do? What can I do that? Might be helpful Beyond us now that it's done. And that's where the idea for the auctions came from, which was what if we asked each one of these restaurants to create some once-in-a-lifetime experience, the restaurants, you know, would meet with need to donate that and then we put them up for auction one at a time. And then since the restaurants are donating it all, the money goes directly to the lyrics.

04:04 And I was back in 2016, and

04:09 I'll stop talking a second, but you were a huge help with that because you merely grasp, exactly what I was trying to do. What I was trying to do was

04:23 People have this really deep fondness for restaurants that love restaurant. I love going out to you. They love special experiences and they, they values for something beyond that, like somebody really special treatment that you wouldn't usually get if your usual customer and you immediately last on to that concept. Is that something we could sell. But, here's something, you may be a regular this restaurant. You need me to get treated very well, but

04:58 Here's something that no customers. This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal and if you dangle that and he say to people,

05:12 Here's an opportunity to donate money directly to the food bank, and you, you mean, well, get to go and knock it out. The park you were here. When the first people to respond. Yes. I'm going in and and then here is my unbelievable over-the-top experience, which really, you know, set the standard for everyone else. I sent it out to the other 28 restaurants and I remember one guy wrote back. Damn, you Angelo because they're accustomed to you, you know, that that kind of generosity. So, I've always been so appreciative for that because if you had said that standard,

06:01 Yeah, it's the really neat part about it. Is that it's she's on itself right through the generosity or the the charity, you know, whatever, Howard Hill. The way you want to act like when someone gives it makes you want to give to you and you know, that's why. I mean that's why I like live auctions work. So well, especially when they're for a charity function, for example, I mean, just go up in up higher than you can imagine. Before you start. This one was a little bit unique, you were doing it for a long line with emailing you in the bed and I was thinking about it everyday. You're basically for 29 days are releasing one of the packages having to deal with, you know, the incoming business going and going and going. I was just like outside looking in at what was happening and how much money that you raised.

07:01 Wow, you know, you wish so much money with that first one. And then we had another one. I don't even know how much more you raise this time, but it was

07:13 Amazing how the community continues to just step up when I finish the 29 and now he's the one where you just set the bar. And that's the year, the goal that year was to raise $29,000 and that the thought was, this is a really big ask if a restaurant like to create and donate an experience. That's worth $1,000. I guess. That's pretty good. Either. We raised $79,000, right? When the goal was 29 and and then back in.

07:59 Took a couple years off. I did tell the restaurants. This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. So I didn't want to show up at his restaurant.

08:18 Knocking again, you know, two years later and and then that year we set a goal of hundred thousand just because you know that generosity was so amazing and and the needs of the community hadn't change which which is really looking to see what it was all for and that you're just sinuses contagious, you know, and and you started that

08:59 That Butterfly Effects to wear just one one thing led to another someone would see how do you know that? You know, we can do that too. And then I grew and grew and grew and so many people wanted to jump in and help and donate my services related to it. And and not really don't think that any of things would have followed is if you hadn't last on immediately to for the concept and and and knocked it out of the park. The way you did never really consider myself to be the one leading the way and everything Odyssey, where an old old restaurant. And we've got old-school thinking and we've got old school service, and, you know, there's a lot of really great people in our community cooking and doing things. The restaurant that I think you're awesome.

10:02 Drive me to work everyday, to give something back and provided me with my family and something be proud of every day. And I never thought big picture coming into this. I didn't really have a five-year plan on a movie called Soul. 1995. Like it was just sort of like a bare-bones business plan, but we were just going to come and might be nice to people and cook. What I thought was good food.

11:02 I have this feeling to thank for it. It's the people here to support of us to have a unique opportunity to get back. Was just let me take one step back because the first fundraiser, I feel like shorts what's going on kind of bush and got behind was that was sort of like maybe the first time you realized that there was something else you could be doing with Charles between. I'm running out of weekly remaining bi-weekly article that you're putting out talking about you, the restaurants and things and you know, at what point did you mean for me? That's the first time I feel like you recognize. Wow, I can do something with this blog. I started randomly.

12:02 That I think was

12:07 That exact same concept and where that occurred to me. You're right. Going to because you know that dinner where we said these are the views of the shaft of a long in the Mount Rushmore. I think we actually added a fifth because she said, monster who had a monster it at one of the restaurant. But it was in that this is something that you're never going to get eat. These are the five Mount Rushmore Chef. They've been here twenty years. I've helped build the Charlottesville industry, but you know what is never done before it's cooked together. And so what if we brought them all together for one night, you know sold tickets for 250 ahead and and dangled that for for Charles Kaplan and so fast. And I think you're right and I didn't I'd forgotten that is sort of

13:06 Probably planted the seed later to come back and say okay. What can we do now? And I actually remember talking about that.

13:20 The Mount Rushmore dinner. We are like, what? We talked with the food bank, so we can do something similar to that again. And think about those is those events in those big charity? Galas, is they require Hannah effort and

13:40 You're limited to what you can get out of it. Cuz y'all, you can get out of the ticket price. And so that got the wheels rolling. Well, you know, what? If we just ask each, interesting, individual restaurant to create something on their own. And then we've got 29 desperate separate experiences. And if we auction off each one of those that could soar exponentially increase the benefit to those in need but you're right. That's exactly where it came from. Was Mount Rushmore,. Some people, you know, and you know, we we loved it and we may do it again eventually, but are you getting that ticket price out of it? I don't think I've ever asked you. Those what?

14:36 What particular about this and maybe it was a Mount Rushmore on the heels of Mount Rushmore, but I know haven't seen your running right restaurants. The last 10 years that.

14:48 First of all, I know that margins are not very large, you know, you guys are not like building houses in the Hamptons based on based on you know, what you making a night or a week or a year. And and so I know that you know that, you know, we don't go to

15:13 Some reason we always come to restaurants and ask them for handouts and it's a low-margin industry. If we don't, we all go to lawyers and say can you turn off you or your services or or mountains? Look at those are never in the giveaways, you know? That the so you got the margins are relatively low and the other half. You know, it does look Charities, you know, everyone know, bless their heart believes deeply in whatever their charity or their organization isn't. So they come around and say hi and I know

16:07 But you guys get hit up and people ask for gift certificates and things like that is that I'm a lot. Correct, but I had no idea that every single Elementary School, you know within shooting distance is good as a fundraiser every year. And somebody's kid is friends with my kid or somebody's wife is place has with my wife or whatever the connection is. And you know, we were always very eager to help. But yeah, it's definitely like and we've got a file and that's a big part of it, but a hundred-dollar diamond value in my restaurant doesn't cost me $100. And really, and truly that the putting out there, if you know, I always pay you back, then. We don't ever truly. I don't think we don't get hit up for once in a lifetime packages all the time.

17:07 I certainly take a little more thought a little bit more resources to me. Food is community. It's great. What was different about this one?

17:30 Cuz I asked you that like what?

17:34 Like you say, you can't not everyone that comes along and can you say okay. We're going to take the patio and all these cool ideas on the back of the patio. So that's that was turning the IV in patio into

18:11 What motivated you in this case. Just knock it out of the park and and do what you did remember is my Beach vacation date went live in like two days before you were like, you know, and so have another date like his very I remember very well and I was pretty shocked at what it how high I got. I had several friends and customers also got several like it. Put together some people together, but the

19:11 Just to let you know, amazing. Generosity is always just, you know, but why I mean part back on it, like, Charlie it was there. So I was unique. Ask and so it was an opportunity to let you know. It's not a gift certificate for 2 and it's actually something I want to do something to promote. You know, what makes you or your family, but you know, you talking to me.

19:52 Getting an opportunity to showcase my family Roots. A little bit at my restaurant is an exciting idea. And you know, I've always followed the trial 29er honored to be a part of it and honored to be named in it and it was like, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I guess it was amazing. And like what you said before about

20:25 Set a reminder theme of kindness is contagious like

20:29 Restaurants getting hit up all the time.

20:33 Is one restaurant. One of the restaurants where I don't have a long relationship with them quite as well, and I remember,

20:42 When I text you that I did too. Damn.

20:46 They wrote back with the $50 gift certificate.

20:58 A week or so later when I started circulating that they change their their experience. And they they said, you know, actually, you know, we want to do this and it was extremely generous experience and then another two weeks fast and they emailed me again and said, you know what, we'd like to change it again and then they create an even more amazing experience and they ended up being one of the three or four auction went for one of those top three or four numbers of anyone. But it's amazing the way like your generosity sets, an example. And then others follow one again, and again and before you know it, you know, we've raised $79,000 note.

21:49 This is the first time round back in 2016. Our first time we were up around, 300,000 something wheels, and then the second time, a million wishes while, things were trying to take advantage of also is what you mentioned. $100 gift certificate doesn't cost you $100.

22:23 And I was trying to exploit that sort of gas with the restaurant experiences to, because

22:33 By making them special make them once in a lifetime making these unique experiences.

22:38 It's about. Those are obviously Casa restaurant money. But there's a pretty good guy. I think probably, you know, what? That Greek Taverna experience in. Literally bottom line cost is going to get tossed, user versus what it cost you to come. And I think that's, that's what I was trying to release play for the benefit of those in need. And so it is that right through the auction for our, for our package. I can't, I can't even remember. Now, what the number was, it was again. It was way above what I had ever imagined, in my head, a budget. Since you people really well, and give him something fun and kind of cool to do, like, nevermind.

23:38 Mr. Some of my time, but you know, what would probably would have cost about $1,000 and that's what we did to the food bank.

24:06 Do you think that because of that Gap that there's opportunities for restaurants?

24:11 The pitch, those things as the customers as a package, I mean,

24:18 That there's an enormous Gap but the margin if if it's if I guess they lose maybe some appeal if it because they're not one. Is that part of? It mean that I don't know about you. But I'm always willing to pay a little more for something when I'm actually getting back something to the right. So

24:51 Never mind, we'll just tickle side of like, throwing an event. Like that is a whole lot of work. I don't think that I could probably charge what would really make it worth it. Let me know, just like all the money raised that made it worth it.

25:17 But I think that that's all and you make a good point about that. Obviously people are more willing to to pay for minutes early donation. And I really mean that I try to push a lot. I got a lot of feedback constructive critique from some Bitters and info.

25:53 I'm saying the big one, big one was you? You need to post what the value is. And I always resisted that a lot of people that have disposable income or more disposable income than I do. They are accustomed to these things. They're used to seeing on the auction item here is, here's the estimated value, right? And

26:25 The reason I always resisted it is because similar what you're saying is,

26:30 I don't want people to think, in terms of purchasing this, like I want them to think I'm making a donation to help those in need. And and meanwhile, I'm getting this once in awhile. I also didn't want them to think that really had about you, like, the whole point. Now, this is for you, so you can't put a price on it, but you're right, the input, and

27:11 Usually I would just leave it at that rather than because if I would,

27:17 If I would try to explain why I'm not, I don't I think inherent in that is your wrong and these are potential bidder. So even usually I can be very diplomatic. But in that particular situation, I didn't see any way that I could effectively communicate you're wrong.

27:52 I was trying to put myself in their shoes and if they if they believe up and down you need to value on there. Like there's nothing I was going to be able to say that, you know, how do you steal or have you had a chance to sort of reflect on what you've been able to impact how you be able impact, and then like, and actually just leaving some most recently, you know, you're right with the gift certificate program, the restaurants with your voice, your stage. So to speak. Crossword, 29 to encourage people to community. To. Number one, support culture take out the number to to buy gift certificates for restaurants, cuz it can help them right now when they're when stuck at home.

28:52 You know, I mean, I'm going to just let me to take remind me. I mean, I am, I am so proud of you for being able to do that should be able to give you don't like the attention. You say a little bit of a private guy and you kind of had to like throw it out there for everybody and say, hey, this is important and I'm so thankful that you did it impacted us a lot. I don't, I don't know. I don't have a friend to didn't at some point in time mentioned to me the culture take out the impact, it had on them as a family and their habits for eating, you know early on in last summer like it touched a lot of people and help a lot of help us too. So I'm thankful and proud of you for him being with you. If you have a chance,

29:46 Not till just now. You should I know you. I know you don't want to.

29:58 I read somewhere that.

30:01 Food writers is one of the few types of writers who in a crisis, become Advocates, become advocates in a crisis, and I'm fortunate in that. I'm not a real food writer in that.

30:21 Show me Corrections.

30:33 I remembered.

30:37 Having dinner with Tom sietsema, the longtime Washington Post critic and this is early on when I was getting started and he said

30:48 He said if you care what people think about you, this is not for you. He's like, you know, you don't you don't want to do this and he said one of the oddest things about his life. His existence is that he's been 20 years.

31:04 Rewriting that restaurants and that his job requires him to be distant from us. So he's writing about these in this industry, you feel some affection to it. It feels close to it, but he can't have my personal relationship. You can't have that and you know, obviously it was invaluable advice for someone who wants to be that kind of food writer, but I have no interest in. It is I have my own website so I can do whatever I want. I can write about whatever I want. I can be as close to the people. I write about as I want, you know, I'm, I'm comfortable that I don't let things that I shouldn't influence of food writer in foot. Like, I'm comfortable in that, in my skin, in that out. I try not to have a cup color. Would I write about?

31:55 All of that is a long Windwood way of getting back to all right, March 2020. So, you know, I spent years writing about restaurants be coming close to the people like you and I saw what was coming. I said I saw it was coming in other cities. I saw that your New York. This is going to be really really really bad and I just remembered thinking we got to do something and I'm fortunate that I had that vehicle like I wasn't starting from scratch, you know, I had a visible site and so

32:37 You know how we going to get our community to Rally around restaurants and the restaurants?

32:47 We do. So many things are restaurants, birthdays, and special occasions, and they're such a huge part of our lives, and then they've given to us forever. Not just through that experience. But also, that was our time, like they're not going to be here. We need to help them. That's where that came from and I'm grateful that we had sort of the platform that could could help. Thank you for that. Well, I hope it made some difference. You never, you never can tell it's anecdotal, but I assure you. It made a big difference that we just pushed hard and just really try to encourage people.

33:39 You know.

33:41 Even though times are tossed. His offense. You can, you know, treat yourself and I will help you and I'll help the restaurant same time. Like, I mean, they're not all the way better, but

33:57 I feel like, where did you guys feel that the industry? But yeah, pretty much everybody. I talk to is things are improving by the day, the labor, shortages. Everybody knows every word in Australian history and all the sudden now come back to work and worked really, really hard and won't pay that much. If you've been looking for other employment the entire time, I get it or you went back to school. I mean those kinds of things but yeah, it's it's the comeback heart. No, doubts. Are you guys back to normal? Or as far as business? Or I would say that we were closed briefly and then we go and take out at first because, you know, what, a $35, entree, and a plastic box, is luke warm by the time you get home.

34:57 I really wasn't sure if people again do your efforts and partially do the people just don't want to cook every single day and I don't like it was definitely Embrace quickly. And so we learned a lot of lessons along the way and a lot of how we used to do things. We're not that interested in doing any more, whether it's really, really large groups, or renting out the patio and things like that, just sort of like bricks and logistically inside or like the tarp, the parking lots overflowing and things like that, which things we want to get back to you and I. So, it's such a shame this for sure. So I'd say that we're back to normal as much as we want today. We took out tables for the social distancing aspect did not put them all back.

35:50 We, we put them, we put a couple. But anytime we just felt like, you know, we don't need to squeeze this many people in this room like this. A lot better. It's a lot quieter. No one waiting to get. This is actually kind of liberating. Is that arriving at the moment?

36:25 Ramirez, lower-income dollars are lower and it's about us figuring out like how to make that work last year. I would love to work a little bit less. Try to figure out what that means. We're close today that we were restaurant.

37:13 Forced everyone to take inventory on what matters most and prioritize, you know is if if our revenues a little lower but that we get two days, you know, we're not at the restaurant, you know, that that's where we got a few less people in here and it's not quite as hectic if, you know everything like that. That, that was one of the weird.

37:51 And maybe some good came out of that. I can save person speaking. It's definitely helped us. We work and we think we're doing and I don't know if you're coming back. My kids are.

38:04 I was home with them, you know.

38:07 Old school you guys working remotely. And that's

38:13 I think about next school year and like they're going to be going to the school bus and they're going to go to school and how much I miss this year like I've ever come up.

38:26 Another coming from lunch time and I make him lunch everyday.

38:37 What is free to spend everyday all day with the kids?

38:45 Chamomile everyday. And actually having the time when we would take out only, we have the time for our staff to sit down after we were done around 8, or 8:30 every night and have dinner together.

38:59 Understand why it was such a highlight.

39:04 That we can't all reconnect after a tough shift or, you know, just kind of crazy. It's the general of craziness of the restaurant. You know, he's like we sat down on the side of the glass.

39:24 That's right. That's awesome. And unfortunately, I'm getting back to business as usual. That means it's 11 p.m. And nobody wants to be done at 11. So it's a quickie on the Fly and go home. Try to connect another way. Thank you for

39:46 Where was the first scientist to thank you for?

39:51 For your generosity setting. The example for everyone else.

39:57 Are these auctions created almost 1.5 million meals for the area's hungry and the food bank will always be grateful for that. And

40:13 And thanks also for taking this time to talk cuz we don't get to do that very often even working business in life gets in the way, but this is really special. Thank you.