We had the good fortune of connecting with Mikey Knab and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mikey, what matters most to you?
It’s tough to choose one thing, as I think a combination of a few is closer to being foundational for me. Those would be: empathy, patience, and kindness. My perspective is that the greatest outcomes arise from understanding each other, which takes objectivity and time. To improve our outlook as a society or community, I think we must commit to kindness, but it won’t matter if we haven’t taken the time to get to know each other first.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I was young, I wanted to draw comic books for a living. That didn’t work out, so I started working in restaurants while I figured out what else I could do. While I attempted a couple other paths – Hollywood Publicist, University Professor – it turned out that restaurants were where I felt best. I found that people communing over food and socializing over drinks offered exactly the kind of “public square” discourse I found so alluring in University life, but less stuffy. There’s a reason that it’s called ‘hospitality’ and that the word ‘restaurant’ is derived from ‘restore.’ This is where we go to heal ourselves and each other – it’s literal and figurative sustenance. I have always loved being part of that. Over time, I have become more and more animated by expanding the reach of that feeling. This has led me to non-profit and advocacy work. It started innocently enough when I joined the Board of Directors of the Adams Avenue Business Association in 2009. I got to know some local elected officials and their staffs. Then I went full nerd, trying to figure out how the voice of small or independent businesses could be better represented in policies that affect our teams and our communities. So, with the help of other business owners and operators, we founded Business For Good SD in 2017. We’ve worked hard to give progressive San Diego business owners a seat at the table, and it’s working! Recently, I’ve found a way to marry my two passions: restaurants and advocacy through my new role as National Strategy Director for RAISE High Road Restaurants. All day long, I get to talk to restaurant owners and workers across the country, trying to gain an understanding of their challenges, so that I can then speak with policy makers to advocate for positive change, particularly regarding wage justice and race and gender equity in the restaurant industry. I feel like the right work found me, and I’m so grateful to be doing something I care so deeply about. I do still wish I could draw comics sometimes though.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m going to answer this as if COVID were not a concern, because I don’t think anyone should come visit me for a week right now. The best parts of San Diego are (in no particular order) Balboa Park, Tijuana/Valle de Guadalupe, and really amazing people. If I had a friend visit for a week, we’d spend the first day in TJ at Telefonica and Mision19, head down to Valle for the night, then wine taste and eat delicious food there. We’d probably eat at Deckman’s and watch the sunset at Cuatro Cuatros, heading back to San Diego by 10pm. Next day includes a walking tour of Balboa Park, including any amazing museum exhibits that might be happening. If there is Jazz at Panama 66, we’re there. Some other places I’d make sure we go in order to interact with the diverse and fantastic people of San Diego: The Casbah for live music, Angkorian Pikestaff for plate lunch, Por Vida coffee in Barrio Logan, so we can explore that unique cultural landmark, Convoy for more tasty food, The Lion’s Share for cocktails with Jason O’Bryan, San Diego’s best bartender, Turf Club for the best neighborhood vibe there is, Glider Port for sunrise views, Bali Hai for Mai Tais, Fathom Bistro for fishing and conversation with Dennis, Juene et Jolie for welcoming design and insane food while we explore Carlsbad Village, probably a Padres game, because Petco Park is really nice, and of course, Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant, the greatest place on earth.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have been fortunate in my life to be surrounded and inspired by undeniably talented dynamic women. These are just some of the women who have inspired and motivated me: my sister Andrea Knab for her infectious laugh and insatiable love of life; my confident and dearest friend Rocio Meza for her massive heart and never-ending thoughtfulness; my hero Saru Jayaraman for her unending dedication to empowering people and her ability to see the best in everyone; my partner Jeanie Chunn for her fierce adherence to honesty and integrity; my colleague Lauren Gratten for her perfectly aimed curiosity and ability to bridge exceptionalism with silly jokes; and my Mom Mary Knab for her infinite well of care and inability to forget all of the best things each of us has ever done.