Today we chat with Max Trujillo and Matt Weiss, the founders, producers and hosts of the NC Food & Beverage Podcast and hospitality industry veterans.
This Q&A is a part of our series called interviews with locals where we interview local Raleigh business owners and entrepreneurs to share their story with our community.
Where did you grow up and go to school? How long have you lived in Raleigh?
Max: I was born and raised in San Jose, CA then moved to Los Angeles at 20 years old, where I originally acted and performed in bands. Eventually, I started bar-tending at restaurants. In addition to some junior college, I received a recording certificate from the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood in 2004.
I also worked as a sommelier and restaurant manager over the course of 15 years in Los Angeles. I got married in 2005 and have 2 beautiful girls. I moved to Raleigh in 2013 for a better place to raise my kids and continue my work in the restaurant industry.
Matt: I grew up in Great Neck, NY, it’s just over the Queens border in Long Island. I graduated from Great Neck South High School where I was the Captain of the football team.
I have lived in Raleigh for 5 years, my wife who was 7 months pregnant at the time were a bit fatigued with New York City. We wanted a better quality of life and affordability. My cousin and his family had moved to Cary 30 years ago and my good buddy Max Trujillo moved his family to Raleigh 4 years before. I also wanted to start my own business.
How did you get into the industry you are in now?
Max: I became the co-host/producer for the NC F&B Podcast based on my partner Matthew Weiss’ intention of moving he and his family from New York to Raleigh. He and I had long-worked in the industry, both together and separately, and now both living in Raleigh.
When you put our food and beverage education, mixed with many years of performing in front of people, and my education in audio production, it made sense to start a podcast about food and beverage.
Matt: With regards to podcasting, I had been listening to a lot of the I’ll Drink To That Podcast which is about wine and I thought it was fascinating and inspirational. I have been in the wine business and in restaurants for over 20 years and knew the inns and outs of the businesses.
When I was thinking about moving down here I would chat with Max and I could hear an enormous enthusiasm about the burgeoning food scene in North Carolina. Max and I had also been talking about how we wanted our own business. Max had a background in audio engineering, and is also good at public speaking.
One day, I was hosting a “known personality” in the spirits world and we had an event for local mixxologists and bar people at Plates Restaurant. Lynn House was speaking about building your own brand as a beverage personality, I was sitting behind her as she was speaking to the crowd, Max was in the audience, Lynn’s words inspired me and the light bulb went off.
I got my phone out and texted Max one word “Podcast.” I saw him look at his phone, he looked up, our eyes locked and we both nodded an emphatic YES! We began preliminary recordings that weekend and the rest is history.
Give us your 30 second elevator pitch for your business?
Our NC Food and Beverage Podcast gives an insider perspective from the food and beverage industry to tell the stories of the people that make it happen, the Chef’s, sommeliers, brewers, distillers, farmers or anyone that has an impact in the culinary world.
We release a new episode every Thursday and are about to celebrate 5 years and over 300+ episodes of original content. Our studios are in downtown Raleigh however, we cover the entire state and sometimes more.
What product/service do you provide your listeners?
Our biggest request we have to our audience is to subscribe to our podcast and write reviews on iTunes and other platforms. We do not sell anything directly to our audience, though as a media company, we sell ad space to be a sponsor on the podcast.
Sponsorships tend to reflect the interests of our listeners and from time to time we create live events to connect with our audience and peers.
What would a traveler learn about North Carolina by listening to your podcast?
If you have interest in where to eat and drink in NC, then we have you covered. But not only do we talk about various places to eat and drink, but we help a traveler know the landscape and vibe of the area. NC is a unique place for small business and creativity.
If you had a friend visiting, where in Raleigh would you take them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
- Breakfast: Union Special Bread – Owner Andrew Ullom is creating something special over there.
- Lunch: Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing for an afternoon of delicious burgers, beers and cocktails while viewing the Downtown Raleigh skyline.
- Dinner: Treat yourself to an adventurous but laid-back dining experience at Stanbury. Hidden away in a residential neighborhood, Stanbury gives you a feel of the local scene, while also keeping up with the national culinary and beverage culture.
Best thing about living in Raleigh?
If you want it, you can make it happen on your own. This city embraces the entrepreneurial spirit and is still financially viable for upstart businesses to thrive. The city is always moving forward.
Matt: Sunset over the Boylan Bridge with the skyline of Raleigh.
Least favorite thing about living in Raleigh?
Max: I am hopeful to see a resurgence of Downtown Raleigh after the chaos that ensued last year. Many buildings were destroyed and haven’t reopened yet. I’m excited to see Downtown come back to life.
Matt: Inability to find someone who gives a proper beard trim.
Can’t miss experience in Raleigh for an out-of-town visitor?
Max: You have to try NC BBQ – which is pulled pork. It’s a staple of the region and is a must try. From Lawrence BBQ to Sam Jones to Longleaf Swine BBQ to many more, there is some damn good BBQ in Raleigh.
Your favorite business in Raleigh that you like to frequent?
Max: I enjoy treating my family to Two Roosters ice cream.
What excites you about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10 years?
Max: The people are coming! With Apple and Amazon setting up shop, the expected growth will bring the masses so the food and beverage businesses out here are going to be busy, and that excites me more than anything!
Matt: The easy access to the most influential people and the willingness to grow.
What concerns you about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10 years?
Max: Those same people are coming! Hahaha… but in all seriousness, with dramatic plans for growth, we have to be prepared for prices to go up, corporate business to take over, infrastructure to be strained, such as highways, parking lots and simply waiting in line for everything.
It’s why Los Angeles became unattractive to me. So we have to do it right and grow responsibly. The good part is I see a much better plan in Raleigh than I’ve seen in other growing cities.
Matt: The potential for huge inflation and overcrowding due to big tech companies coming to the area.
Which local Raleigh entrepreneur inspires you to do better?
Max: I love what Andrew Ullom is doing at Union special. He’s growing but keeping his eye on the social development of his business as much as the bottom line. We could all learn from his plan.
Matt: Preethi Waas from Cheeni Raleigh.
What advice you would give to someone wanting to start a business in Raleigh?
Max: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Very few of us can do many different things correctly. So hire the right people, work with the right vendors and then simply believe in them. Trust goes a long way.
Matt: Self belief is truly the most important, if you believe in yourself and your product you are going to figure out a way to make it successful.
Keep things simple, business is ultimately how to spend the least amount of money and make the most without compromising quality and being able to maintain ethics. Also, do what you do best and pay others to do the rest.
What is your favorite thing about running your business?
Max: It’s the fact that’s it’s my business. Matthew and I work well together and dictate how we want to run our business, and therefore, it runs with our ideologies. Being an entrepreneur have given me the freedom I didn’t think was possible.
Matt: I love it when we get to make things and collaborate on a project/product. For example when we made our own wine “Bottled Up Opinions,” with Botanist & Barrel. Might be something in the works for an NC F&Bourbon shh.
Drink of choice? Where in Raleigh do you get it?
Max: I love beer. I once thought it was super lame to admit you like IPAs because they’re so trendy. But dammit, that’s what I like. So maybe I’m super basic, but give me an IPA from Fullsteam, Crank Arm, Trophy, Wye Hill, or any other great local brewery and I’ll be as happy as a soccer mom during pumpkin-spice-latte-season.
Matt: A Last Word made with Mezcal at Rosewater Kitchen & Bar in North Hills.
Favorite getaway spot in North Carolina?
Max: It’s a toss up between the two best things NC has to offer: The Beach and the Mountains. I’m happy if I’m in Asheville on a hike in the daytime and then dinner at a super rad restaurant at night, or renting a beach house in Topsail for a weekend and not doing a damn thing but grill out and tossing back a few IPAs.
Matt: The Eno River, close to Raleigh and beautiful.
When you hear the words “THIS IS RALEIGH” what comes to mind?
Max: I think of that adorable Australian family that decided to make Raleigh their home and how we all agree that Raleigh is such a beautiful city.
This Is Raleigh gives me pride in the city that I call my new home. I get the visions of the “All Are Welcome Raleigh” mural on the side of Pooleside Pies and the scent of vinegar-based BBQ wafting in the air. Darn it, now I’m hungry.
Matt: I think of all the pics in front of The Welcome To Raleigh Y’ALL sign outside of Poole’s diner. I also think about the beautiful skyline when driving into downtown Raleigh off of Salisbury street, I think of the sun setting over Wye Hill and a crowded patio with not only adults imbibing but also their children running around and enjoying.