How Are You, Who Are You? with Daniel McLaughlin
Christopher Plant: [00:00:00] Welcome to RADIOKISMET Live with Christopher Plant radio. Kismet live is a partnership with Kismet Co-Work and is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
We are live at RADIOKISMET. I am Christopher Plant, and we are here in our social distance studio located at 448 North 10th street in Philadelphia. Today, our guest is a dear. Dear friend, Daniel McLaughlin. What’s up AKAD money in the house there. We have it. I was I’m lucky enough to, I moved to Philadelphia in 2002 and I met Daniel in 2003, working with a legendary crew at OMA to Cuba back in the day.
And Daniel was about 13. So currently on what would you call like it and aggressively accelerated program at Drexel university where they let in kids had not had yet been put into high school?
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:01:02] Yes, exactly. I was a savant. Yeah. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:01:05] And you were studying architecture. And you’re
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:01:07] from where from the DC area, from Maryland, just outside DC.
Christopher Plant: [00:01:11] But now you are a true
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:01:13] Philadelphia. I really am. I’ve been here more than half my life now in institution
Christopher Plant: [00:01:17] and institution. And so by brief way of summary you own a restaurant right now, don’t you? I do
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:01:23] called Mission Tacqueria. Right here in center city.
Christopher Plant: [00:01:25] Is it any good? It’s okay.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:01:26] Yeah. It’s okay. Yeah.
Yeah. We went more for sex appeal and less for quality. Yeah. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:01:32] And so you found your way to being an owner of this restaurant. You’ve been in the food service industry for a long time. Yep.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:01:38] Pretty much. Yeah. Since 2000. So since just a couple of years before I met you,
Christopher Plant: [00:01:41] and it was funny because you went to school, this rigorous program at Drexel university, and you discovered that you did not want to be an architect.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:01:48] Yeah.
Which is a thing to do after going through such a program, it’s
Christopher Plant: [00:01:54] an expensive way to learn what you don’t want to do.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:01:56] I know we really. Did I dearly did punish myself that way. Yeah, I just think in the end, as I was going through, I think I was getting a simultaneous education in the restaurant industry from friends.
Like you, when people as meeting as I went along and not that was enticing me necessarily to go towards. The restaurant
are hospitalized. We made it too easy because we had such an incredible crew there and we were all senior for sure. Okay.
Yeah. I graduated high school when I was like barely 17.
I think I’d just turned 17 two weeks before I graduated. Yeah. So I skipped a grade in elementary school. So I was always younger as I came up. And so that felt very true when I got into the real world of restaurant folk
Christopher Plant: [00:02:36] and we were all, most of us were over 30 and we’d been in the business forever.
And the joke was that like the managers. We’re just bored because they have nothing to do. There was nothing to tell them. No,
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:02:46] we were completely self-sufficient. We were having our own fun and getting the job done all at the same time.
Christopher Plant: [00:02:51] Yeah. And for those of you who don’t know Daniel McLaughlin, who now looks like he’s 30 at the time he looked like he was 18.
He’s a gorgeous gingerwith the full face of of ginger hair there. And but it was just, it was a lot of fun because we were. Older people. We were seasoned veterans and here was Daniel and he was just a shining star. And luckily enough, after I left that job to become involved in real estate Daniel and I stayed in touch.
And I got involved in real estate in 2005. I started buying houses in point breeze. And you as a. Pretty young man decided you wanted to own a piece of real estate and
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:03:26] you talked me into it, brother. Was it just, you got a lot to do with a shirt
really? You do. I think cause that was 2006. So I’m coming up on 15 years in that same house.
Which is wild to think about is man. And that neighborhood has just completely changed. And it took about 15 years to do it instead of the five years. I think we might be thought it would. But I, so a little
Christopher Plant: [00:03:44] aggressive and we did not see 2008 coming down the pike.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:03:48] There was that hiccup in the arc of this story.
But I could not be more grateful for that house and for what it’s all afforded me and Then just that location in Philly too.
Christopher Plant: [00:03:58] And it’s also, you took a piece of architecture and I love it when people do this and they, you really made it an extension of your character and who you were totally.
Pull the walls down, open it up. It happened to be a gorgeous, big, how row house at the corner lot. And and then I love the high ceilings there and then, and we’re going to, we’re going to skip around here because I do want to move into this because you not being from Philadelphia and I’m not technically from Philadelphia either.
And, but we’re both very social, we’re very community minded and you used your house. To build the community that you wanted. Totally. And so you had, what year was that? The first friends giving was 08. Yeah. So pretty fast. Yeah. It took you here to, yeah, cause it
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:04:38] took a lot of work year and a half to redo the whole house.
Cause I was pretty much doing it by myself with the help of friends and family. And then yeah. I had my house warming in September of 08 and the first friends giving was November of 08. And then did that party for 10 years in that house? Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:04:53] Did it grow?
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:04:53] A bit.
Christopher Plant: [00:04:56] Every year was like, it was like an illustration of just how vital community can be and how interesting and fun it is to invite people into your life and to open a door for people to help.
Yeah. And that was a real lesson for me. Being more self-sufficient and going through the college experience, going through the restaurant experience and being younger, my whole life. I was used to having to do the work myself and then show up as this mature, polished.
Person human so that I wouldn’t, appear as young as I may have numerically been, but old souls. But that ha
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:05:31] I
Christopher Plant: [00:05:31] building the house, yes. First was that big lesson of knowing how to ask for help and being in way over my head. And yeah. Knowing that I, yeah, I’m just going to move into this house and tear it all apart and live in it the entire time.
I like houses. I can
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:05:44] fix houses. That’s easy. And learned how not easy that in fact was, but then I had to get beat down by the process.
Christopher Plant: [00:05:52] Yeah. And I would say I probably was it six or seven of the of the friends’ givings and, was more, I trended on the early side as one of the elders and as a person that owned children.
And we’re true
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:06:05] children at the time who were
Christopher Plant: [00:06:06] true to be fair. Yeah. And so I would come in, I’d always be on like the early side and maybe bring a chair or two, or move something around and start to do drawings on the tablecloth. But, it got to the point where it was like a hundred people in
that little Roadhouse.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:06:18] It’s true. Packed them in. That was the last year. I remember cause I have notebooks, like you’ve seen from my lists and everything. And I have one from, I have so many, but I have all of the lists of the friends giving invites from over the years. And the last one, the 10th anniversary was 107 people in my South Philly row home.
Yeah. But I love that it was so great and something that is unimaginable in our, from our COVID perspective of having that many people crowded into the center. I know. And
the bands and dancing and the slobbering and a kissy kissing
out the yeah. The orgy that the gravy smothered orgy that it became at the end of the meal.
It was great. Cause we, the table was as big as it could be. It was from the kitchen counter to the front door and then we would break down half of it and turn the living room into a dance party. But that, I just loved. That energy and just having that, there was no excuse not to meet people and talk to people.
And for these friends from different parts of my life to be converged on that one day, every year was so special to me. And you just couldn’t not meet each other. No. Yeah. So I love that because you were sitting on top of each other, somebody
Christopher Plant: [00:07:21] still hot. Yeah, pretty much. So it was like, yo, you’re done eating, get out of that seat.
Cause I wouldn’t sit down and eat
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:07:26] now. I know I, it was. Part of the joy out of that experience was just that
Christopher Plant: [00:07:31] you just, it was always decorated lovingly. There was a a gigantic clawfoot bathtub that was brought into the home, filled with it. Yeah. Just filled with delicious those. And by the way, we are lubricating ourselves here.
In the studio, Daniel is a mezcal master and he brought a a little Firewater in here to get us. I got it again.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:07:54] What are we drinking? We’re drinking us and mez cow. But this is one of our, this is one of my first loves. This is a brand called Bon as that has a special place in my heart because when we
there. But yeah we two years ago we took a trip down to a haka. And mission prep mid mission, cause we’d been two years opened by that point, but this was like a field trip that kind of deepened my love for mezcal and my BA improve my understanding of it. And I got to go to the polling case to the farms and meet one of the growers and the Mescaleros and drink out of the, still as it was being fired up.
And it’s just there’s a romance to it that just got me good. And now we’ve literally just started as of the first of this year, we started a mission mezcal club where we’re doing a subscription-based service to try to educate more people about the beauty of mezcal and deepen that program for mission.
Christopher Plant: [00:08:45] I think it’s fantastic. And I have listened to you talk about this and how growing this sort of new component to your business. And I guess now’s a great time to talk about the fact that you in your current location, you started with oyster house as that, that you were general manager there.
And for how many years? Five. Yeah. And you were like the man to know, to get a table under crazy Friday night. Yeah. At the oyster house, which is one of the greatest, very simple Philadelphia restaurants have been around for a long time. You always knew that if you went in there, you were eating like super, super fresh.
It was like getting smacked in the face by a wave. And Really
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:09:24] loved it. It’s such a special place. So yeah, it’s been there for almost 45 years. So it’s a Philadelphia institution and now mission sits right on top of it. It’s on the second floor. But yeah, it was a great evolution of learning.
Managerial skill and just my place in the hospitality world, within Philadelphia at this iconic place. And then being able to partner with the owner there to create mission. And for that to really feel like my own thing and to develop my myself professionally and work on passions and focuses of like mezcal and arts and party gatherings and things that I already was working
Christopher Plant: [00:10:00] and also Like the relentlessness of.
The food service industry. Yes. And I, there would be times when I’d be downtown on a Sunday and I’d want an oyster. And I’d be like, dammit, they’re close. They’re closed. Yeah. But the restaurant industry is brutal. It is it’s rough, even when you’re doing well. And there’s no.
You, you can’t give up your guard, you got to pay attention. You got to get going. You’re staffing. And at oyster house, how many people did you have?
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:10:25] 70 employees. I know.
Christopher Plant: [00:10:27] 70 employment mission. Yeah. That’s
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:10:30] crazy, but we this year certainly learned about that relentless citizen to new ways something happened this year.
I don’t know if you heard about this pandemic thing that’s been happening that really affected our industry
Christopher Plant: [00:10:41] it or not. And you, mission is, as I used to, like the, it’s like a guacamole orgy term Ortiz a second time that’s come up.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:10:50] I just have a way of curating that. But yeah, it’s.
So we’re to take mission from what it grew to be over the first four years of its life. And now we’re like in that fifth year but it’s yeah, that used to be all about events, all about packing it in and all about happy hour, all about crowds and because of where we are just a block from city hall, like it’s a very easy gathering place for people.
And it became this launching point launching calling. Yeah. Yeah for you and you would stop by, you would get a ground around round of drinks before you went to dinner somewhere, or went to see a show or you’d come in afterwards. And it became, I would refer to it as the neighborhood bar for center city, because you could just where you
Christopher Plant: [00:11:23] didn’t get like a venereal
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:11:25] disease like that, actually your feet didn’t stick to the floor.
So it w it was great. And I loved that energy and that’s part of what I always loved about throwing parties and things was just like that gathering and like strangers that not knowing and the mystique and the fun of being in a room full of beautiful people who are all like, just having a good time.
Christopher Plant: [00:11:44] And really, I think that the thing that, that, that may come through this, but you were like a vibe merchant and the design of the space was very casual. It was very colorful, but It was like mindset. Yeah. You were transported and and does it, design was gorgeous and yeah.
Where did you have a big part of the design? Yeah,
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:12:04] we’re worked with our friend hope who designed it for us, but yeah, it was like dusting off all that design background for myself and engaging that. And this new process for something that was much more personal and having known it as the microbrewery that it was before and trying to train, transform it from this
Christopher Plant: [00:12:19] not nodding head, for those of you who are old heads, who are mad.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:12:22] place was here for 15 years and was an extension of the monks the world, which is still that same kind of like dark wooden. Old pub style. And so we literally inverse that and made it into this light, bright space, which is immediately comforting to people as they come to the top of the stairs.
And it just, it does feel I say often it feels like eternal summer. Like you’ll be there in the middle of January, typically and sipping on a frozen margarita feeling like you’re. Down in Tulum or something. Even though it’s 30 degrees outside and lots of Plants and neon and concrete, and I think hope did a really good job of capturing like next can design aesthetic without making it feel themematic, or corny.
And I, after. Living in this space for going on five years, I have never gotten tired of it, but like my eyes land on something new every day. And because of all that natural light, it just feels uplifting.
Christopher Plant: [00:13:13] And and for everybody who doesn’t know it has a central atrium. And what you did there was you were joining two upper floors that hadn’t been completely.
Put together and you had to bring in massive beam. It was not an easy process.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:13:27] No, it was a year and nine months of construction. Yeah. Gosh, just think of that. Yeah. It was about as long as my house took, but it was because we had to, take down a line. Yeah. And we had to put in beams and we were all doing this while operating a restaurant right underneath of us while our house was still in motion.
But yeah, there was this, it’s this very unique architectural detail that existed because the buildings were separated. And then when we combine them, there’s this lightwell that used to service skylights in the floor underneath of us that aren’t there anymore. So we turned it into a little courtyard which just provides light and air in the space in a way that’s really welcoming.
And then evolved that even, and started doing art shows in there. Yeah. With the streets department with Conrad. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:14:05] Buddy of yours now a buddy of mine, frequent guests in these rooms
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:14:08] right here. We are that guy. So we got to work in together and he started connecting artists to mission to do build-outs in this indoor outdoor.
A gallery, that’s surrounded by 360 degrees of glass and is in the center of a dining room that gets, at the time on average would see about 500 people a day. So it was cool. 500 patches a day. Yeah. Busy Saturdays. You’d get close to a thousand people that would pass through that front door.
So it was. It was a cool selling point, turn turn. And it was that pass through in a way where people would stop by for just a drink or they would hang out for a full dinner, but it was an enticing thing for artists to be able to say Hey, we’ve got serious foot traffic here and you get to be in this focal point.
And that was just a point of pride for me. It was something I’d wanted to do for a long time in the first two years of mission. And then when I met Conrad, More officially more thoroughly. We developed the Arctic mission program together and he was curating that space for us.
Christopher Plant: [00:15:06] And it’s also led to the inclusion of a sort of performative element there.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:15:11] Yeah. We would do drag shows. We would do we had some live music, performance DJ shows. The space was just so flexible. You could do anything in it. And it was. Something that I enjoyed doing, like breaking out beyond just food and drink and trying to think of restaurants as the vibe I’m like building that out for ourselves and making us
Christopher Plant: [00:15:31] Well dementia.
Thought it was a fantastic addition and it was one of those things where again, and who knows how we’ll get back to this sort of the madness that was like people just being all over one another. Yeah. You think about it now where you would like literally sanitize a glass like six times before you would drink out of it after somebody else had done it.
But there, you were like leaning over people’s shoulders and dip it in guac and salsa, bubbles that you didn’t even know who owned it. And everybody’s didn’t, the,
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:15:58] Yeah. But I think like that. In my mind becomes the future of how restaurants reopen.
I think we’ve been already trying to think of how we include artists. So we include performers within our space because we had those relationships before those performers and artists are suffering just as much as the restaurants are. Because if venues are closed, just like we have been. And like we can provide hopefully soon an alternative venue perhaps to get people back out there again.
And I think, yeah. Restaurants have certainly had to reinvent themselves 18 different times in the last year. Open, not open, not open and take out delivery, tacos on horseback, whatever we had to come up with to try to get through this. We literally opened our restaurant in a parking garage last summer.
Yeah, we did
Christopher Plant: [00:16:42] a up, that was a very like interesting innovation. Like it was very easy to come up with this idea about putting stuff into the street. I thought that was a great partnership where. Number one, it showed that you were a great community member because they were very open to it.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:16:55] Totally.
It was the sweetest thing. And it was very much a comfort having these relationships in, nearly 20 years in the hospitality industry of just being able to ask for something crazy and for people to just say yes, because they want to help.
Christopher Plant: [00:17:09] And you were ready to pay for that. And they offered it to you for free.
They did. And they were like, we want to see you when you know, you’re here. And And that was, I think that’s a fantastic sort of shines on who you guys were in that neighborhood who guys are. And and I thought that was great. And you went over to the board and of course called it the Sansom street surf club we
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:17:28] did.
And we met, we got. No, everybody’s from clip collective to light it and put in speakers that would play ocean sounds and like crashing waves. We serve drinks and hollowed out pineapples and coconuts, and we ran our sweaty asses off. Awesome.
Christopher Plant: [00:17:43] I know, but like nine
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:17:45] from your kitchen. Oh my God. It was so far I was logging like 28,000 steps a day.
And, my ass looks great, but it was hard. Fought, worked out, it worked, it was like, it made us busy enough where we were able to bring them, bring people back and keep people employed and keep ourselves afloat. But it was like, we’ve been. A scrappy crew all the while in the restaurant industry.
Christopher Plant: [00:18:07] I think this year, you guys are very close. But it’s interesting because you and I talk all the time and there were dark moments in this pandemic where sure you. It’s brought into question is this worth it? Should I close down for months? Why am I in this business? What is my responsibility to my employees?
What is my responsibility to some, a special class of my employees. Yeah. And like what was that like as a, you’re a leader and you evolved into it, but you certainly didn’t start off in this. Universe thinking like you were going to be responsible for 70 people
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:18:40] certainly did not. It made everything very real, very quickly.
And I think just the way that I did come up to have mission and be an owner of that restaurant is it was just very organic and I was just along for the ride of my life. And then there became this huge disruption where all of a sudden it’s fuck. Yeah, I’m in charge.
Christopher Plant: [00:18:56] Yeah.
Like I have to make these, no, we had a lot of labor intensive hour conversations where it was like, what the hell should I do? I know what I want to do. Sure. And I am, all of that is brought into question by I can’t just drop this like a hot rock and yeah. Head down to Duluth to do some more research, close it out and wait for a better day, you had to work through some really tough stuff.
And there were some incredible people here in town, Nicole Markey from city Vedge and a lot of people who were like really out there and you moved your politics into your restaurant.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:19:30] Yeah. It was tempting there for a bit to adjust. Take a break. Yeah, because we all had to, and we were closed for six weeks officially where there was nothing happening.
And it was the first time in my life where I had a break.
Christopher Plant: [00:19:44] I remember coming to your house. And you were literally turned your house upside down. Oh yeah. You were taking everything out of everything. And then all of a sudden The universe opened back up and you’re like, I don’t know if I’m
ready for this.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:19:59] Yeah, it definitely was like that childhood end of summer. Wait, what? Okay. We got a PPP loan. Okay. I guess we can go back to work now. But yeah, it was the. So much of what informed that decision is just how many people depend on mission for their livelihoods and for their families. And that’s so important to me and just became much more real as part of this whole experience.
And so while it was nice to have a little break and to not feel and just get some time with myself. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:20:28] And that goes to this unrelenting part where you you know, both of us. More of a chaos magnet than you are, but you run hard and when you’re done work, you have gone far out of your way to make sure that you are spending time with your people and that you are leading as balanced a life as you can within this industry.
And, When we’re finding that time to reflect. And I think that this is an interesting part of what this pandemic I think ultimately will do for a lot of people and who are still putting together their response is what, what will change. And I think you remember that, that essay I shared about the total repair for the ultimate gaslighting, you have this opportunity where you come to this full stock and then it’s like, what are you going to put back in?
Yeah. And I just think that’s so interesting. And I know that you went through. A lot of different permutations, there were moments when the business that you had, during the pandemic, wasn’t the business that you wanted.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:21:20] Sure. There were a lot of moments where it was like, what are we doing this for?
But then, that, that article was great. And that was going around about what do you want to put back into your life? And I think that was because of the way I organically came up into mission. There wasn’t really that. That true pause or interruption of consideration where I could actually say these are the things I am intentionally putting into this business, but I sent that email to our managers.
I was like, this is something I want all of us to think about. And I want it to feel like this is an opportunity. And while it’s coming in a. Raw way. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:21:52] That doesn’t mean that’s and the, epi, phonic moments are rarely introduced in I felt the same way I busted my ass building all the Kismets and yeah.
People person and a people business in a world that hates
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:22:02] people, othering spaces, you’ve got to call working spaces. Yeah, I, we server off rough and I think we’ve done a good job of just taking our heads out of the clouds for a second. And just considering what all we do and what restaurants have the unique opportunity to do because of.
Because of the nature of the work, like anybody can do restaurant work, as long as you’re, kind generous person who can willingly the spirit willing to give. So you don’t need a college education, you don’t need to be the citizen even. And so it’s something that like with our undocumented workers, that was a huge weight.
Considering that they would have no recourse. Like they don’t, they can’t get unemployment benefits. They can’t necessarily go get a COVID test or go to the hospital, even if they can, they might not want to, because they’re afraid. Or if I’m
Christopher Plant: [00:22:51] working in a different industry, I work in a different, and that would sustain them in a way
that is meaningful.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:22:54] For sure. And so we were, considering that we might lose some of those employees because they needed to take work and other jobs. Just to make the ends meet. We were fortunate enough to be able to pay people while we were closed to try to keep them afloat while we were figuring our stuff out.
But I just liked that part of the restaurant industry that we can. We can give homes and income and comfort to people who are maybe non-traditional learners or maybe who the college route wasn’t right for them. But this is a viable industry. And it’s, something that has been written about many times throughout the pandemic period, because this used to be the, just do this while you’re in college.
And it’s a means to something else. Now it’s a billion dollar a year industry. It’s it’s it gives so many jobs and I recognize how, mission is existing in an, in the industry in a way that wasn’t possible 20 years ago. And I, I. I am excited about that role, about what restaurants can do moving forward to try to make it a career oriented thing for people who
might not without feeling like you are somehow shortchanging yourself, right?
Cause they think that was
Christopher Plant: [00:23:59] building meaning into it and, creating the sustained. Capacity to, to not, cause one huge part of the early food scene, even when it was emerging and people were constantly moving around, they’re looking for new things. And it was treated as a stop gap.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:24:14] And it was a job you could get anywhere. If you wanted to relocate somewhere, you could just wait tables and pay your rent until you found a job doing what you really wanted to be doing. And even for my own thinking. Going through, like a field like architecture, where you feel like this is a legitimate career and you go to college, this is serious, a serious, I had to really talk myself into that.
This was okay. You feel okay about that? No, I was
Christopher Plant: [00:24:37] there. I was there. When I came into I two kids, I was working in the restaurant industry and we met. People were, Oh,
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:24:44] I feel bad for you. And the relationships, the relationship part of the restaurant industry is so much of why I’m attracted to it.
And I think why it attracted me was because I could connect with people you would never meet otherwise and develop relationships that have lasted 15 years. And it’s
Christopher Plant: [00:24:58] the intensity. And I think that that the universe inside every restaurant is compelling in its own way, whether it’s a great restaurant or a crab shack, the reality is that you were forced into such close proximity and the, the ways that it all works, you’re sitting around and you’re sitting around and a boom. If you’re working in a great place, you just get slammed at the tense, you’re in the weeds. And I had, I. I feel like I’ve had some of the greatest, like three to four hour periods of my life where you just like your brain.
I have a busy brain restless mind, and I would get in there. And if you know what you’re doing, and you’re great at your job and you just turn off and you’re just performing. And in a lot of ways, it may be like how sports athletes feel when they’re on the field. But Jen. I imagine like me and Kobi were like the same figure skating, but no, it’s just, it is an incredible poetry to it.
You feel, and, you’re like above yourself, literally pinballing off of people and bouncing into walls and behind you and this and that. And they’re such complex
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:25:56] organisms. And if if you could watch them from above and see all the moving parts that make a restaurant come to life, it’s truly amazing.
And I think if you’re that kind of personality. That it has like it’s satisfying and it’s exhilarating. And I think that this year, as hard as it was, I think that there, that we all have a bond in a way that we’ve been through a war together, we sweated through that parking garage. Now we’re freezing our asses off serving people in January and street.
And we like
Christopher Plant: [00:26:24] what needed to happen to make Americans resilient. We have to like. You can only meet people out in
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:26:29] 30 degree weather. Yeah. And I think it’s, he’s saying that human beings can adapt to new conditions and they have but I think our team especially has done such a good job and I’m so grateful to all of them, but I think there is this unexpected morale boost that has come from just surviving this thing together.
And that we were already the type of people who were turned on by a challenge, but this was the ultimate challenge and that we got through it together. It feels uplifting. There’s
Christopher Plant: [00:26:57] a strange
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:26:57] grimace on his face and it’s Danielle completely soul crushing the uplifting.
Christopher Plant: [00:27:02] Yeah, I think, but like the reality of just making shit happen.
Yeah. And I had a A friend of mine who many years ago, I saw a presentation where he spoke of this reality where leadership is lonely. And and I know that many of the challenges that, that you had were were that the intensity of knowing that this weight was something that you had to carry.
And when you are a very. Casual in your friendships and are able to be you present lightly. People meet you. He’s super friendly. He’s funny and engaging. And then, but there was a lot of like really serious
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:27:40] shit. Yeah. And that was like, I remember when we did the grateful I was
Christopher Plant: [00:27:44] going to get that.
That’s cool. Cool. To talk about that. Yeah. We in October, no, November of 2018, I organized one of my first big ideas festivals and I went to Daniel and I asked him to speak because he. His engaging, I adore him and I knew he had something to say. And tell me a little bit about what
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:28:03] you spoke about you had that was.
I, I’m so grateful to you and our friendship for so many reasons, but then grateful felt like such a true and genuine extension of yourself and how you connect people and how you are. You do what I do at a different level with many more people than I do, but it’s it’s it was a very flattering opportunity to be asked to be a part of it.
And it was the first time I’d really been challenged to do any kind of public speaking, anything that was literally on a stage with lights. And
Christopher Plant: [00:28:30] it wasn’t necessarily super focused. You could, Daniel’s well known for climbing on a table and captivating the attention with his little gong and speaking very fluently, but this was.
Pushing you beyond your like just a narrative around a particular event, which is easy for you, but this was
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:28:49] kind, it was a challenging. Sure. And it was, I’m used to being on that table in my own house. Like it’s my turf. I can feel much more comfortable their home court. And I think that’s interesting, like a lot of people in the restaurant industry, you think bartenders are super gregarious and extroverted, but I feel like more and more, the more I pay attention to personalities within the restaurant industry, they’re very introverted.
And are just about taking care of other people. And that’s
Christopher Plant: [00:29:11] kind of what I spoke about it once you get into this little hug, like people meet me, they think that I’m a super extrovert and that I’m a natural performer, which is not the case. I was terrified for years and years.
I actually ran a nightclub for three and a half years and it would stand there paralyzed. Like I would be like, go. Go assume the life that, you want get on that stage, grab that mic and kill it. And I’d be like, Nope, not going to do it. And it was horrible. And it took a lie.
It was like It was doing the skate park. And I said, I’m taking every opportunity to speak publicly just to hurl myself out there. But and you, you were nervous about doing the,
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:29:48] I remember being backstage and pacing back and forth, reading off my iPhone, like all the notes I had prepared about what I was going to say.
And then it ended up becoming something super vulnerable and about like, how does one become hospitable? While I said earlier that anybody can do this job. Not everybody can do this. No. It’s you have to have some empathy. And where does that come from? And I think, speaking for myself, I talked about, coming up as a a young gay kid and a Christian.
Now we never, you
Christopher Plant: [00:30:15] never talked about that. Oh, you talked about that in a grateful. Yeah. Great. We haven’t talked about that here. But
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:30:18] I say now, right now we know, but that was when I was reviewing what I was going to say. Cause you didn’t give me a prompt. You were just like talking about what you want to talk about.
I trust you. I trust you. And I, without having that prompt, I was just like, how does somebody do this? How am I good at this? How are. How am I, who I am. And I asked that question sometimes of other people in intimate settings as like, how are you who you are? And I think for me in answering that question for myself, it was about like all the, survival tactics you learn as you’re growing up and just, being.
Christopher Plant: [00:30:49] You had a double, you had the gay part and this Christian part, which wasn’t something, the conflict of interest. Yeah. I was going to say one, one, one, one, one part of it. You were like really into the other part of, you’re not so much in to, but
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:31:00] at the time you’re living in your parents’ house, you’re young, you can’t really live both halves.
So growing up in a crazy Christian household and being gay at the same time, and then also being, growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood and. I like in Southeast DC and just being white and red haired and very visible and also being nerdy and smart. And I was visible in ways I didn’t want to be visible.
And so I learned how to. Make other people feel comfortable so that they wouldn’t come after me. And that was just something that I learned indirectly as I needed to survive my equivalency, for sure. And that happens to translate very well to taking care of people and restaurants and making people feel comfortable.
And that’s the thing I’m most proud of with mission is that a variety of people, of all creeds can come up there and feel. Comfortable and feel at home and feel welcome to make that space, but they need it to be for themselves. And I don’t think I’d really define that for myself as thoroughly, before grateful before I’m standing on that stage and seeing it in front of
Christopher Plant: [00:32:02] well, you crushed it.
People absolutely loved your talk and it was and I think that this is one of the things that, that I adore about you is your willingness to present your vulnerability to the world.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:32:14] Yeah, it’s a real part of all of us. I think even just you describing your introverted half or part, or it’s probably like 5%, but I think it’s
Christopher Plant: [00:32:23] just crushing me.
Like I wanted to be a performer and I just couldn’t do it. Yeah, but
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:32:27] you were the supporter for the performers. So you learned what your role was that, and I, I’m not the person who’s meant to be on stage either, but I think I know how to make different personalities work well together in different people from different backgrounds work well together, like the producer role.
For the producer role. And so that’s there’s other actors in our restaurant who go out on stage every night and do the thing, but I’m there to support them and make sure that they feel empowered to do it and feel comfortable doing it within our space
Christopher Plant: [00:32:52] inching towards the stage.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:32:55] I think we’re on it right now.
Christopher Plant: [00:32:56] We know we are right now, but that’s why we’re on the rodeo. And but I think that it’s interesting and I…
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:33:03] faces aren’t meant for now.
Christopher Plant: [00:33:04] But I think that one of the interesting things is this challenge of questioning who you are, how you present and then doing it. And, the realities of that are. They come supernaturally to some people. I remember, I don’t know if you remember that 12 year old kid I had perform at my wedding who played the guitar who played Blackbird, who else actually was at grateful as well.
He did that, that, that song where he said, fuck, I’m ready. Same kid. I adore that kid. And I asked him to sing
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:33:31] Blackbird. That was his first time performing. Wasn’t it?
Christopher Plant: [00:33:33] Your wedding? . , but it was not as full-time performing, but he was so good. So here we are, we were supposed to have the wedding outside.
It started to rain, everybody like in very wedding convivial way cleared out the whole first floor of our house and just jammed in. There was like a rock concert. People were standing on everything. And here’s Jackson I’m sweating like crazy. I’m nervous. I’m like everything’s changing.
And here’s this 12 year old kid that I’ve invited to, to open up the festivities with Blackbird. And I was like, Jackson, are you ready? And he’s yeah, And I was like, okay, seriously, I was scared for him. He like walks up and no big deal, like just sits down and start playing Blackbird.
And everybody was just like, yeah, everybody just shut the hell up. And a really interesting how that happens. But the. Talking about vulnerability and presenting yourself. Do you remember that, that letter you wrote about not finding love? I do. Yeah. You willing to talk about that?
Sure. Daniel is cute as a fucking button and was not finding what he wanted. In his love life here in Philadelphia. And to the point that you were almost ready to leave. Yeah. I remember you were going to move to London. You had some bunch of ideas about where you’re going to go. Yeah.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:34:40] And I started checking out cities that I considered livable for myself or that I was attracted to London being one of them, San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, and made trips to each of those places to see how they felt.
And they all felt fine. And A vacationy way, but not in a livable way at the time. And I’m glad that they didn’t because I love what Philly has provided me and how much I’ve been able to do because of what Philadelphia is. And I feel like I’ve grown up in parallel with how the city has grown up.
But that was a big. That is one of the things I still say is the one thing that Philadelphia hasn’t provided is any kind of like relationship department, a person. Yeah. Which is perplexing in that, like how many friends I have we’ve got a solid gay scene here and it just has never really happened for me.
And that’s fine. It is what it is. But at one point I did write an email soul bearing too. A bunch of close friends to just say, Hey, I, in case you didn’t know this about me, I am looking for a person. And if for some reason you’ve been sitting on somebody who you were just like, Oh, Daniel’s not interested.
I’m just here saying I am interested. And that I I asked you to take 90 seconds to scroll through your contacts in your phone. And if somebody comes across.
Christopher Plant: [00:35:59] Dmoney is more than a party favor, more than a party. Let’s find some love for this guy,
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:36:05] I am the party.
Christopher Plant: [00:36:07] I liked what you said and it was it was an incredibly moving Missive that had a deep impact on a lot of the people. And I think forced them a sense of reflection even on their own lives and what our jobs are, because both you and I’ve committed massive parts of my life to connecting people.
For sure. Even when they didn’t ask it or, always like meeting somebody and being like, okay how can I. Make this person’s life better. And and I think that for me, I adore you. I love you. We’re brothers, we’ve spent an enormous amount of time together and that, that idea that you could.
You say that we’ve spent so much time getting through our day being hard, getting punched in the face repeatedly and then, being able to write something like that and share something like that is, is fantastic. So
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:36:52] thanks. It was, I think that was more, the response that I got was from people who were single friends who felt the same way about their own lives or a couple of friends who were being sympathetic and, honoring.
This share the honesty and then silence.
Nothing. Yeah, it was a big move for me. I think. That’s something, I also kinda think ties into how I’m in the restaurant industry is this like seeking of love and seeking Just meaningful relationships at every level. And it’s something I really pride myself on and the crew that we have at mission currently and oyster house before it, and how like I’m very personally involved in who joins our team, because I want to make sure that it feels cohesive and that everybody’s working together and everybody’s sharing in our commitment.
And I think that I just, I’m thrilled when people. Like watching some of our younger employees become friends and become partners. I love that connection. I know the same way you do. And I just, it’s never worked out for me, but yet, and I’m not worried about it as much as I think I was back then.
But I think that part of me that loves seeker in me is. Part of what makes me love the restaurant world is that I want to create that opportunity for others, even if they’re just customers, but some of the people who are part of our family now, I think that’s a big motivator
Christopher Plant: [00:38:13] for me. Yeah. Want to get out of the restaurant world and, the you did your 10 years of friends giving at home You knew that you had something special you wanted to do something even larger with that.
And so what did you do?
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:38:25] I made it that big party. Even bigger. Yeah. I, you moved it, you
Christopher Plant: [00:38:28] evolved it. You,
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:38:29] yeah. Yeah. I retired that party at the 10 year Mark. I think to everyone there was a, an audible.
Christopher Plant: [00:38:35] No, no people were upset, but I think that people understood that, you’re not going to willingly put out the same old.
Sure. And I think that most people were happy that you
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:38:45] evolved. Yeah. And it, and I think, I didn’t really tell many people that the tenure was going to be the last one. So when I got up on the table and I did my toast, as I usually do to start the day there, there was a lot of, I was expecting there to be a reaction and there wasn’t.
It was just silent. Yeah. And I was like,
Christopher Plant: [00:39:01] People were trying to recalibrate what the fuck they were going to do the weekend before.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:39:06] Do I have to see my family? So that was a moment. But then I told everybody at that time that I was going to make it into something else and that friends giving wasn’t going away forever, it was just going to become something different.
And then I had the idea because I knew I had something special to try to evolve the party, to have. A greater impact and not just be a party for our friends. Yeah. And so the year after that, year 11 with your help, I found a spot just around the corner from where we’re sitting now and went into a very storied building in Philadelphia to host the reboot of friendsgiving.
And it was in
Christopher Plant: [00:39:40] 2.5. Amount of
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:39:42] the people. Yes, exactly. We were 200 plus that day and it became a fundraiser for the food trust. We were doing this in a space that’s now called Banca, which used to be called the bank, which was Stephen Starr’s original club. And one of his four first forays into the business world in Philly.
And he was one of my first bosses. So it just felt like this moment of, and I used to dance there when it was transit. Yeah. Get sweaty in that basement. And then I was some other things I remember walking into Banca when it was like freshly polished and like having these synapse refires and I’m like, Oh, I’ve done things in this building.
Christopher Plant: [00:40:22] I won’t go in that bathroom.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:40:23] Nope. Just tell me about it later.
Christopher Plant: [00:40:26] I did to just get it back to the event. Yeah. You did it again as a very strong community building tool, raising money, you invited how many shifts.
It was 12 chefs and we had been doing a taco lab series at mission monthly.
There’s some ones that talking about, we didn’t talk about taco lab. I know we didn’t talk about 13 diet. There’s so many things I want to talk to you about.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:40:46] I’ve been throwing parties, revolving around food for a lot of my life. And I will not stop. So this is, the taco lab series was a monthly thing we would do, which is like a literal taco co-lab taco lab where we would collaborate with different chefs around
Christopher Plant: [00:40:58] Philly one.
It was like sparking innovation with them. This very codafide. World of tacos and you wanted to open it up and broaden it and change
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:41:08] Yes, we would do barbecue tacos, Thai tacos, Malaysian tacos. Like we went, really ran the gamut and we work with some incredible people. So at the end of a year’s worth of doing that series once a month, I had 12 chefs to work with for this fundraiser.
And so I just challenged each of them to then make a potluck style dish to provide to my new. Ben devolved 2.0, version of a friends giving potluck dinner. So same vibes, trying to re really recreate what it was in my home, but on this larger scale where it was two 90 foot long tables that we had custom built for the occasion.
And this is where
Christopher Plant: [00:41:43] forethought comes in. I know that these tables will be danced on that
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:41:48] same color to make it to be very surely sound and which are in
Christopher Plant: [00:41:51] my
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:41:52] basement exactly. In your house. And they were in our parking garage. They’ve more than paid for themselves, but yeah, just having everybody crammed in.
And I remember the person who was running bok at the time was like, this is the capacity. And I’m like, Nope, we’re going to push that number. And they’re like, there’s no way you can see that number of people. And I’m like, yeah,
Christopher Plant: [00:42:09] you believe what you want to
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:42:10] believe. Just show up on day of, in your face. And I remember him coming in and counting the chairs that we had set up the night before.
And he’s you’re way over your number. And I’m like, We’re fine. And everybody showed up and it was delightfully packed and the same thing needed to happen. You needed to meet these strangers. You needed to be shoulder to shoulder. You couldn’t just, I didn’t want this to feel like a fundraiser. I didn’t want this to feel like some stodgy black tie event or you go because you’re, you feel obliged to go or you think it’s going to be cool.
And then it ends up not being cool. Like I wanted it to carry over the same energy. So I think I did a good job insulating
Christopher Plant: [00:42:41] now. Yeah, no, the food was great. You had like cool little photo setups. The cocktails were good. Yeah. The dinner was great. And then somebody lit a stick of fucking dynamite in that place.
And it blew up and drag Queens on those tables, Antoinette pop in the worm. It was,
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:42:57] I was so proud of that day. We really worked hard to make it happen. It did translate in a way that felt good to me and that I honored. I honored the 10 years of tradition that I’d created the friends that did hadn’t been at all those years in my house, came to this event and felt like they were at the same event, only on a bigger grander scale.
And that we raised, $32,000 food trust and helped feed food, insecure people in Philadelphia by, a little bit of a Robin hood method of taking people who have disposable income to dine out who came to this party and we got to pay it back in a way. And
Christopher Plant: [00:43:29] then you had to. Throw down at your house at night,
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:43:33] we had to tie it in, tie it back to the original setting.
So we had an after party at the house, which was great. I remember walking in
Christopher Plant: [00:43:40] there and it was bananas. There was like a full brass band in your tiny little row home in point
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:43:46] breeze. That was great. And I, at the end of that night, I don’t even know if you were there at that point or yeah. I might still be there physically there.
But I remember getting crowd surfed in my own living room and just shouting at the ceiling, just yes. And it just like feeling like this huge achievement and it was, it felt so great to like really succeed in evolving it in the ways that I wanted to which I think when you have a party for that long is a really delicate.
Thing to try to transition and keep the vibes intact. So I was really looking forward to doing year 12 this past November, and no deal. Just take a gap year and hopefully, I don’t know, maybe a little bit better try to do it again this year.
Christopher Plant: [00:44:25] I can see it. Yeah. I think that, I think, yeah, look, let’s transition.
W what’s it going to take to build. Community, like we used to both celebrate, what’s it going to take to do that?
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:44:38] It’s something I was actively talking about yesterday with our Theresa who runs our events program and just trying to shape what events look like moving forward and the idea of what a reunion might feel like for people and how we can do that in a way that feels safe and feels comfortable.
And trying to help people enjoy gathering and seeing each other in the ways that we used to. And it might be too soon to tell, but I think the craving is there. Like we see it. We just got indoor dining back a week ago and instantly people yeah, just hungry to hang out and they want to see each other.
They will, they just want to be together. It’s such a human, we.
Christopher Plant: [00:45:22] Want to do. I just, I literally just put a whole giant weekend event for Valentine’s day and an outdoor beer garden. And I was so excited. Yeah. And everybody was like, yeah. Yeah. And then, like 12 hours after somebody agreed to run the whole like cultural art piece of it, they’d call back and they’re like, the plague.
And so it’ll be interesting. And so I literally. Yeah, it caused me a reflection. know, Of course, if I had even told Jessica I was going to do it, she would have smacked me down. But yeah. And and I ended up canceling it
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:45:55] and many of those moments throughout this where it’s, cause we got to chill.
Christopher Plant: [00:46:00] We did, we got to kill this thing. We got to get it to a place where moving forward feels good. It feels safe to hang.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:46:07] Yeah it’s something we really need beings like you and me really
Christopher Plant: [00:46:11] needed it. It’s funny to even think back to earlier this year we talk all the time and we were talking about the future fund.
Yeah. And we wanted to do a podcast with DDO. Martha Graham Cracker, the three of us were going to do this thing and we had this all set up. We had the primer set up, we had a little sizzle trailer. We were all ready to go. We’re gonna talk about the future of fun and.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:46:35] Lloyd fan fund got
Christopher Plant: [00:46:37] severely pushed out.
It was just like, boom, we cannot do this. And it was this past 12 months has been so real hurry
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:46:44] level. And it’s hard to imagine how we go back to it. And I just, believe in. Us as humans that we need it, and that it is good for us. It is group therapy in a way for all of us to gather and be together.
And we’ve had to do that for, with, serious intent over the last year. And it’s been incredible to be in Philly for so many of these moments. The election victory most
Christopher Plant: [00:47:09] recently. Oh my God. And I saw you on election day. I tracked you down in independence square.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:47:15] I needed a cape. I felt like I was a hero on top of the world.
It was like, I didn’t do this myself by any means. I just had my one vote, but I did it. We did it Philly did it. And it was, it felt good for
Christopher Plant: [00:47:29] that, that day in Philadelphia will go down. As a serious memory. I was at home. Yeah. At 1130 when they called it. And I was like jacked and Jess came home and she’s Oh boy.
Okay. She’s just go just, and I was like, okay. She’s she knew she wouldn’t be able to keep up with me. And so I threw my bicycle in my van and I drove to Chestnut Hill and it was all over the place there. And then drove down and parked my van at at Logan circle and visited like 20 people.
Yeah. I was everywhere without, for 12 hours and just like the city was electrified in a way. Now, granted we live in a sort of one dimensional universe in terms of our politics here. But that certainly wasn’t we do
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:48:11] celebrate. Yeah, seriously. I, I’m not a sports guy at all, but I’ve lived here for the world series.
I’ve lived here for the Superbowl. I’ve lived here for it now this, and this was the most impactful. It was the most proud. And I remember like we were setting up the restaurant that day, getting ready for Saturday brunch and I. Like I could hear because we’re, we are at 15th and Sansom. So I’m like, we’re not far from the convention center.
I could literally hear the horns, like Fu Suela us. And I was like, wait. And then I heard it was, felt so old school. It was like, I heard it on the radio in the parking garage. It was like, It’s real. It’s finally real. And then everybody started crying and embracing, and it was just another huge moment that also revolved around me being in my restaurant.
It was just like, this is, and, just hugging friends and members of our own staff to just like embrace and feel relief. After four years of punishment.
Christopher Plant: [00:49:02] Yeah. Yeah. And it’s not totally over, but it’s certainly better than yeah, it was for sure. Yeah. We’re moving on up. All right. So here we are wrapping up at RADIOKISMET and I could talk to Daniel McLaughlin for another six years.
I hope to be in like old tottering rocking chairs with this guy in 30 years. If you don’t know Mission Tacqueria search it out. Yeah. He somehow created like an incredibly magic food, a magic space, a magic vibe, Daniel McLaughlin, himself, looking for love. Find him, he is he’s a guy where do we find you on social?
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:49:35] Mission Taqueria is me. So that’s who I am. And then I’m Wharton Heights, otherwise my two homes
Christopher Plant: [00:49:41] and you’re
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:49:42] everywhere. I’m everywhere. I’m those two places and everywhere
all at once.
Christopher Plant: [00:49:47] I love you.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:49:47] Love you too.
Christopher Plant: [00:49:48] Thanks for coming in.
Daniel McLaughlin: [00:49:49] Thanks for having me here.
Christopher Plant: [00:49:50] We are live from RADIOKISMET with Christopher Plant signing off with yet another fascinating interview with an amazing person.
Check out RADIOKISMET www.RADIOKISMET.com. Go ahead and search out mission tuckeria and join the mezcal club so you can taste the Firewater like we have, and we’ll see you soon at RADIOKISMET.com.
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