The Dining Duo: Michael Epstein And Scott Schwimer Talk Food, Cars & Art

Episode 116

Video Transcription

Jackie Keller: Welcome to Food Exposed, where each week we take a close
look at what’s on your plate. My name is Jackie Keller, and I’m the
founding director of NutriFit, Los Angeles leading healthy food
company. Let’s talking about eating out and the whole healthy food
movement; while they are not always synonymous, these two are becoming
increasingly paired in conversation, both written and verbal. So
exactly how popular are the healthy restaurant menus these days? And
I’m not talking about fast food. Well, my company NutriFit is a member
of the California Restaurant Association which is a part of the
National Restaurant Association.

I was looking at their reports and figured out that about 71 percent
of adults are trying to eat healthier at restaurants. In fact the top
restaurant culinary theme includes children’s nutrition, gluten-free
cuisine, and healthy nutrition. Other menu trends include local
sourcing, whole grain items, lower sodium, lower calorie items, and
people are even asking for restaurants to offer smaller or half-size
portions at a lower price. Today’s consumers seem to be more
interested than ever in what they eat, and where their food comes
from. And this is reflected in many trends. And that was a quote from
the National Restaurant Association’s Vice President. So this is
really good news since eating out continues to be on the rise.

According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, nearly half of every
dollar spent on food is spent on food away from home, home away from
food. So here are some interesting restaurant statistics. Nine out of
ten consumers say that they enjoy going out to a restaurant. Seven out
of ten say that restaurants provide taste sensations that aren’t
easily duplicated at home. And eight in ten look for their favorite
menu items. Nine in ten go out to restaurants for good service and
seven in ten go out to restaurants because they have a convenient
location. So how do we choose our restaurants? Ease of parking, decor,
atmosphere, some place new, and a place that serves food that they
haven’t tried before. These are all things that seem to factor into

Did you know that six out of ten are looking for eco-friendly
practices that restaurants use and locally sourced ingredients? Seven
out of ten are interested in having some healthier options on the
menu. So it’s really no surprise that I met my guest in a venue
dedicated to healthy lifestyles. Michael Epstein and Scott Schwimer
have taken on the food and hotel scene around the globe. They are
lovers of food, life, and each other, and they know more about luxury
hotels and the restaurant scene than any other couple I know. Michael
Epstein became the youngest jaguar dealer in the country at the age of
19 following his passion for automobiles, and today, he remains an
avid car collector. Michael founded System 800 International in 1986,
which went on to become the largest reseller of 800-phone line service
in the United States, and pioneered touch-tone technology for credit
card processing. After going public in 1988, the company merged with
Independent Entertainment Group, and produced pay per view events for
cable t.v.

A native Angelino, Scott E. Schwimer was appropriately born in the
year of the Monkey. He received his BA from Stanford University, and
his JD from Loyola Law School. He worked on Capitol Hill before
jumping into his career as an Entertainment Attorney for both
Television and Motion Pictures. Scott’s passions also include being an
artist, photographer, painter, sculptor, writer, producer and world-
traveler; and of course, he is passionate about eating and dining.

Michael and Scott have been collecting photography for over twenty-two
years. And they have one of the largest collections of glamour
photography archives in the world. They’re the publisher’s of George
Hurrell’s work, as well as Mel Roberts’, Henry Langdon’s and Ian
Wright’s photos. The Dining Duo travels the globe and takes on the
foodie scene in L.A. and other hot spots. Lovers of food and each
other, they know more about the restaurant scene. These two partners
who eat out at least 21 meals a week for about 26, 27 years together,
they have a world to share with us. Michael and Scott welcome to Food
Exposed. I’m so glad you could come today.

Michael Epstein: We’re glad to be here.

Scott Schwimer: Thank you for that intro.

Jackie Keller: Thank you so much. Well it really is true. It is true,
you eat out meal?

Michael Epstein: We do.

Scott Schwimer: Yes.

Jackie Keller: Every single meal?

Scott Schwimer: It used to be an embarrassment to say something like
that, but now we get to gloat about it.

Jackie Keller: And we talked about a little bit earlier about how people
make choices for restaurants and what they look for. How do you guys
decide like where should we go? You’ve probably been to most every
place in LA?

Scott Schwimer: Well, we have in fact, but it’s not always going out to a
fancy restaurant. It’s not always about that. Sometimes we’ll choose
something that is, as you just said in your introduction, someplace
close to our home.

Michael Epstein: Easy to park.

Scott Schwimer: Easy to park. Healthy is a big consideration. And then
we, of course, do like to treat ourselves and go to really wonderful
places, unique restaurants, one of a kind type places. It’s just
really how we feel and how we’re doing that day.

Jackie Keller: Do restaurants let you know that they, are you on a list
to get a little special treatment in there?

Michael Epstein: We like to go incognito, although, obviously, people know
who we are because of our names. But we choose restaurants that we
really enjoy, the food and the quality of food. In fact, one of our
favorites is right in this neighborhood, Providence, which is probably
the best restaurant in Los Angeles as far as we’re concerned, one of
the best anyway.

Scott Schwimer: And in fact, we’re all in Los Angeles very lucky, because
they open up for lunch on Fridays.

Michael Epstein: That’s a good point.

Jackie Keller: So how do your passion for art and cars intersect with
your love for food?

Michael Epstein: Well I think food is an art and Scott has been very adept
at photographing food now, and food has really become an art for him.
And it’s changed a lot over the last, I’m going to be 60 years old,
and I’ve seen so many changes, because I was raised with basically
some gourmet food at really fine restaurants. But the food was always
prepared beautifully, but now it has to be photographable so that has
certainly changed over the years. And as far as the cars go, you know
we like restaurants where we can park close and we can keep an eye on
our cars when we’re driving something special.

Scott Schwimer: And I noticed in the introduction that you had a picture
of our dog Triple, our beloved dog. And so oftentimes he will
accompany us in the car,

Jackie Keller: Oh, does he?

Scottt Schwimer: In the car.

Jackie Keller: Does he come into the restaurant.

Michael Epstein: No, he doesn’t.

Scott Schwimer: But we have to be able to keep an eye on him.

Michael Epstein: Well, if it’s a restaurant with an outside patio.

Scott Schwimer: And there are some restaurants that are quite animal
friendly. In fact we also live in the desert, and there are numerous
restaurants there that will allow you to bring your pet, and they
bring out bowls and all sorts of other things. So restaurants have
become quite friendly.

Jackie Keller: Interesting. So what do you see as the top trends in
restaurant menus, I mean what do you see?

Michael Epstein: Some of the things that you mentioned, Jackie. It’s about
locally-sourced ingredients more now than ever. Scott and I don’t
really get the gluten-free concept unless you have celiac disease. But
this is like the hot button as you know in this business, and every
restaurant we’re seeing now is popping up with gluten-free menus and
gluten-free items on the menu. Scott will tell you about our big
button recently which is sodium.

Scott Schwimer: Yes, well, we’ve discovered, I know you showed our
pictures a little earlier in the introduction, and we don’t quite look
like that anymore. But as we’ve been getting older, we realized that
when you get that horrible feeling, a lot of restaurants feel like
they have to create flavor by adding a high amount of sodium. And when
we wake up in the morning, we’re completely swollen; we realize it’s
swelling our organs on the inside and not just the outside. So we have
been instructing restaurants on low sodium usage. We find that they’re
starting to get a trend now.

Jackie Keller: That’s interesting.

Scott Schwimer: Yeah, so we hope that trend will continue, because we
really don’t need salt in order to enjoy the food.

Jackie Keller: Interesting. So is there a stigma attached to the word
healthy when you go to a restaurant and you ask for a lower sodium
option? You ask them to keep it on the healthy side?

Michael Epstein: No. I don’t think so at all. I think that is to be
expected nowadays.

Jackie Keller: Even in the finer restaurants? I know you guys go to some
pretty fancy places.

Scott Schwimer: I think especially in the finer restaurants. They’re a
lot more accustomed to accommodating a menu. We went to a new
restaurant that we tried out on this last week, and I asked for
something that was low sodium, and they just looked at me like a deer
in the headlights, because apparently, everything had high sodium. So
I think that as you go up to a more expensive and tailored experience,
then they are happy to accommodate you. And hopefully, the trend will
go in that direction with the other restaurants.

Jackie Keller: I think if consumers demand it, then you’re going to see
more of it.

Michael Epstein: Yeah, and you, Jackie, being in the food business, I’m
sure you noticed that pre-processed foods, I mean, we’re just in
amazement, 30, 40 percent sodium in products. It’s scary.

Jackie Keller: It is scary. And there’s a lot of learning that has to
take place, I think, at the consumer level in order to avoid ending up
with a saltier product than needs to happen. So when you’re on the
down low and you just want to go slumming, where do you go? Is it
Tommy’s? Is it Pings?

Scott Schwimer: That’s very funny. I can’t handle any of those. I
actually don’t eat red meat, probably for about…

Michael Epstein: Beef, you don’t eat beef.

Scott Schwimer: Beef, for about years now. I haven’t had a hamburger
since my sophomore year in college. Michael has joined suit because…

Michael Epstein: My cholesterol was a little high. I’m a big burger lover,
but I tend to switch to turkey burgers now. But if I am going to treat
myself to a beef burger, I go to Five Guys or to [inaudible 11:25].
Some of my favorites are the [inaudible 11:27] which are grass fed so
at least it’s somewhat healthy.

Scott Schwimer: And one of our favorite guilty pleasures is Motza, which
has the best pizza that we have found really anywhere and the best
chopped salad, and fantastic lemonade, and they have a fantastic
desert selection. I feel like I’m promoting Motza, but it is a really
a good guilty pleasure.

Jackie Keller: Well, I asked you, and it’s nice to know that there are
places out there that you can go and enjoy that are really good
quality food.

Scott Schwimer: And not spend a fortune.

Jackie Keller: And not spend a fortune. Well, I thought it would be fun
if we spend a few minutes creating something healthy and low sodium
and fun that you might find in a restaurant if you were looking for it
here today. Are you game?

Scott Schwimer: Sounds great.

Michael Epstein: Let’s do it.

Jackie Keller: You know, one of the things that I love most are salads.
I’m a big salad person, and it really annoys me when I get to a
restaurant and the salad is soggy or I can feel the greasy, and I
usually try to ask for everything on the side. But some things are
already mixed in, and you’re just stuck with it. And so I thought it
would be fun to show how good sesame chicken salad can be without
having it being loaded with oil, loaded with fat, and unhealthy. So I
got the ingredients together to make a really quick simple, this is
sort of, it’s not really Chinese chicken salad. It’s a sesame tahini
style, like a Middle Eastern chicken salad. So I thought we’d put it
together real quick and…

Scott Schwimer: It sounds great. You’re making me hungry.

Michael Epstein: Teach us something.

Jackie Keller: Who’s going to hold the whisk? You’re going to whisk, and
I’m going to make the dressing.

Michael Epstein: We eat out every meal…

Jackie Keller: So this is a little bit of sesame tahini paste. And this
is, of course, ground sesame seed, so it is high in oil, but it’s a
very healthy fat.

Scott Schwimer: How do you do that though? How do you grind the seeds?

Jackie Keller: You can even use a coffee grinder.

Scott Schwimer: Seriously?

Jackie Keller: And grind it to…

Michael Epstein: So what makes it liquidly?

Jackie Keller: The seeds eventually, it’s the oil in the seeds, right?
So I have some vinegar here. And this, by the way, is the sesame
tahini if you wanted to buy it and cheat. You don’t have to grind your
own seeds. You can just go to the Middle Eastern store and buy it.
Some of the better stock supermarkets will have it, but you can also
find it at the Middle Eastern market and get that.

Scott Schwimer: Smells wonderful.

Jackie Keller: So we’re going to add a little bit more liquid to that to
get it to thin out. So I’m adding a little white vinegar to it.

Michael Epstein: Are you taking notes?

Scott Schwimer: Yes, I’m taking notes.

Jackie Keller: And a little cayenne pepper. Now this is…

Michael Epstein: I love cayenne pepper.

Jackie Keller: I noticed that, Michael. I looked you up in our system
from the time that you got a couple of meals from us and I know that
you like it spicy.

Michael Epstein: I do like it spicy.

Scott Schwimer: He certainly does.

Jackie Keller: Now here is where we get into trouble in restaurants,
with the soy sauce. And so I have low sodium soy sauce. This is not a
fancy one, but if we put a little bit of this in, it will add just…

Scott Schwimer: Now where do you get low sodium?

Jackie Keller: Now that’s the sesame oil. This is the sodium.

Scott Schwimer: Okay.

Michael Epstein: How low is it, Jackie?

Jackie Keller: Well, Michael, you have your glasses on, and you can
[inaudible 15:17] I do.

Michael Epstein: Okay.

Jackie Keller: So yeah, you want to sit that down and keep it away from
that pretty shirt. Close that.

Michael Epstein: Okay, so it’s got 19 percent, so that’s not too terrible.

Jackie Keller: No, because we’re going to spread this out over multiple
servings, so that’s another thing to keep in mind, is that you can
dilute this by adding in just a little bit of water. And if you want,
or a little bit more of the vinegar to cut through the fat a little
bit, and to reduce the sodium. So that’s enough dressing for five
servings, easily.

Scott Schwimer: Jackie, or one serving for him.

Michael Epstein: I like dressing. But, Jackie, is this something that if I
am on your food program, this is something you serve?

Jackie Keller: Yeah, this in the NutriFit menu. We use the base of
romaine hearts for this, and then the chicken, which has just been
poached. Now, all I did was bring some water up to a boil. I added a
little bit of ginger, a little bit of lemon to the water, put the
chicken in, turned the heat off, and let the chicken poach for 20
minutes. That’s it, on very, very, very low heat and then we hand
shred the chicken, so this goes here.

Michael Epstein: Now, do you need to learn how to do that?

Scott Schwimer: I think it’s easier to just order it from you.

Jackie Keller: Well, first you have to taste it. So let’s put in some
green onion and a little bit of cilantro.

Michael Epstein: The cilantro, it looks great.

Jackie Keller: And now we’re going to get the dressing in, so…

Scott Schwimer: By the way, it smells amazing.

Michael Epstein: Doesn’t that smell amazing?

Jackie Keller: So let’s pour that in.

Scott Schwimer: Okay, here we go.

Michael Epstein: I think that is really what defines Jackie from other
food delivery services is that the food is really so tasty.

Jackie Keller: Thank you, Michael. That’s so sweet of you.

Scott Schwimmer: Well, we know. We’ve experienced it.

Michael Epstein: So we’re putting all of this in?

Jackie Keller: Yeah, we’re going to put all of this in because I know
this is multiple servings. And, of course, we have more lettuce, and
you can always add more lettuce. No. Bad. Have you been hanging out
with Triple too much?

Scott Schwimer: That’s our doggy.

Jackie Keller: All right, Michael. Do you want to just hand me that
plate, and we’ll just plate a little of this salad up, and you guys
can give it a taste. And remember we didn’t measure anything, so you
know, you’ll have to tell me.

Scott Schwimer: It looks delicious.

Jackie Keller: There you go.

Michael Epstein: It does look delicious, yum. Is it good?

Scott Schwimer: Sensational.

Jackie Keller: Sensational is a great word; you sweetie pie. Oh, thank
you. That makes me so happy.

Scott Schwimer: Too bad you guys aren’t getting any, because this is

Michael Epstein: This is really tasty. And is it low calorie, Jackie?

Jackie Keller: Yes, it is. It’s low calorie. It’s healthy. It’s low in
fat. Of course, for you guys, it’s low in sodium.

Scott Schwimer: Fantastic, fantastic.

Jackie Keller: Thank you so much.

Michael Epstein: Will that be enough for all of us?

Jackie Keller: We’ll have to take a take home..

Scott Schwimer: And this is really good.

Michael Epstein: It’s really tasty.

Jackie Keller: Thank you.

Scott Schwimer: Thanks so much for having us.

Jackie Keller: You’re welcome.

Michael Epstein: This was really fun.

Jackie Keller: I know that the audience wants to follow the Dining Duo.
Your site is so much fun. I know you’re big in Instagram as well, and
you post pictures constantly of places you’ve been. Some of them look
so fun. It’s fun to look vicariously. So if you could tell us how
people can find you.

Michael Epstein: Oh, thank you so much. Well, if you go to
www.thediningduo, and it’s really important to put in the t-h-e,, or follow up on face book. We have lots and lots of
visitors. We review all sorts of restaurants, all sorts of exclusive

Scott Schwimer: Tell them where we’re off too.

Michael Epstein: And we’re off to Mexico City, because there is a huge
food scene explosion in Mexico City.

Jackie Keller: Oh my goodness.

Scott Schwimer: Everybody’s heading to Mexico City over the summer.

Michael Epstein: We’re leaving next week.

Jackie Keller: I’ve never been. Can I go in the suitcase or something?

Michael Epstein: Absolutely.

Jackie Keller: Just send me lots of pictures.

Michael Epstein: You know if you put a little tequila right in here, it
would be perfect.

Jackie Keller: Well, I wish you safe travels, healthy travels, and lots
of fun, and come back and visit us when you get back.

Michael Epstein: It’s been really fun. Thank you for having us.

Scott Schwimer: We’ll see you out in the restaurants.

Jackie Keller: Yeah, absolutely. One of my favorite parts of coaching
involves the use of metaphors. Just as a reminder, a metaphor is the
expression of an understanding of one concept by relating it to
another similar concept. And artists use metaphors all of the time as
do authors. So here is a metaphorical story that you might be able to
relate to. It’s called the tree. It was a warm sunny day in the
magical forest, and several rabbits frolicked by the side of the
forest pond as the gentle breeze rippled through the largest oak
overlooking the water making the leaves dance and tingle softly, the
unmistakable scent of wild lavender in the air. I can do a lot better
than this declared the largest branch on the tree. Soon I’m going to
branch out on my own. I’m almost as big as the entire tree now. I take
most of the light around here and absorb the food and catch most of
the rainfall.

On top of that, I provide the best shade for travelers in the summer and
the majority of acorns for future growth, food for the squirrels, and
rabbit population. I am supreme said the largest branch. The other
branches on the tree agreed. They had to accept what the big branch
said. He was indeed the most predominant in most ways. His only
failings being a lack of modesty in understanding that all parts of
the tree were one. The trunk of the tree in his usual manner said
nothing. Unnoticed, he just quietly kept on supporting the chattering
branches as he had done year in and year out since ancient times.

Late one year when the cold nights were drawing in and all of the golden
leaves had stumbled sleepily to the ground, a woodcutter appeared and
eyed the large branch. That’ll keep us warm for the winter, he said to
his apprentice. With no more ado, he sawed off that large branch and
dragged it away to his hut. The smaller branches were panic stricken
thinking that their turn was next. Your time is yet to come groaned
the trunk in a deep grumbling voice for his body ached where the big
branch had been chopped off. He felt not only had he lost an arm but a
son as well. Everyone’s turn will come, even mine. So be advised that
you can survive longer and be happier if you don’t get noticed or too
big for your boots like he did. So a tree is just one branch. The same
way as a branch without twigs and dancing leaves is barren neither is
a trunk alone a tree. I am but nothing without branches and roots, and
that’s the metaphor.

Thanks for joining me today on Food Exposed. Make sure to tune in next week
for another close look at what’s on your plate. And if you have
questions or comments, reach out to me at
For more Food Exposed, check me out on and until next
week, remember, make food your best friend and exercise your companion
for life.