Todd Graves literally and figuratively built his multi-billion dollar fast food company, Raising Cane’s, from the ground up. A single location expanded to more than 500 restaurants in the United States and the Middle East 25 years ago. However, the CEO’s success has not been without its challenges, including the unpredictability of a recent global pandemic.
Knowing how lucky he was, Graves decided to repay it and help the struggling small business owners, as described in the series Rest in the restaurant. As the season progresses, Graves enlists the help of well-known entertainers and sports figures to help rebuild these popular dining establishments after the COVID-19 paralyzed them.
After streaming on Discovery +, episodes will be served on the Cooking Channel. In the episode, which premieres on June 29, Graves teams up with actor and comedian Rob Schneider and soccer player DeAndre Hopkins to help Phoenix Indian restaurant Curry Corner rise from the ashes. We invited Graves and Schneider to reflect on the impact of their efforts.
How deep is your friendship
Rob Schneider: Todd loves pop culture and is a huge sports fan. I sat down with him and his son Charlie while we watched sports. We went fishing together. I caught the biggest fish of my life with Todd in about 45 minutes. Of course he helped me catch up. Whether it’s catching up on a big fish or helping a restaurant or my movie, he’s one of those people who want to help when he can. I would recommend everyone to have a todd in their life.
Todd, what did it mean to you that your famous friends like Rob believed in your cause?
Todd: It means the world. During my chicken finger adventures of life, I have met some really famous people. I’ve always resonated with those who share the same values as me. Rob and I are family people. Rob and I are community people and we help other people. Likewise Shaq, Nelly, Archie Manning and Michael Thomas. I wanted to make famous friends that I know will resonate. It was an easy question for me. Not only did they use their fame to lift people’s spirits, but like Rob, they also provided some in-depth business tips. It meant a lot. Small business support is the message.
Rob, what did you learn from Curry Corner’s story as a businessman in the entertainment business?
Rob: I check out Curry Corner which is not just Farrah Khalid’s restaurant but a culture and way of life. At this point they have never been under so much pressure and see no way out. During this economic crisis, Omar and his mother Farrah lost more than 90 percent of their business. We lost more than 100,000 restaurants in the United States. Omar put his entire life on hold to help his mother full time and invest her savings in it. To see that hope and people help was very powerful. You literally shed tears. It’s hard not to want to interfere.
Todd, how did you decide which restaurants to focus on?
Todd: It was hard. The ones I focused on were really iconic and important to their communities. In addition, it was their individual stories and sacrifices that they made during their lifetime. I think of Chili John’s. It was Walt Disney’s favorite restaurant in Burbank. It has as many grandfather aspects as the little bar. Quentin Tarantino put it in his last film Once upon a time in Hollywood. This family invested their savings and they would go away if we didn’t help them. [And] Crown Candy Kitchen that Nelly helped me out [with] in St. Louis. It survived the 1918 Spanish flu with three generations in the same family. We went to restaurants with so much culture and character, variety of thoughts and creativity.
Rob, are you a foodie?
Rob: When you travel and do these tours and promote a movie, you are not just locked in your hotel room. You go out and see things. A big part of that is food. Todd and I are both foodies. We’re always looking for restaurants to try out. Every city has a great little place and they often have in common that there are all generations. When these places are lost, you lose a fabric of society that makes life interesting and fun.
Have you left since we were filming Curry Corner?
Rob: I want to go back. I want that well. The way they traditionally cook it is nice. It has such a beautiful story. They literally use a clay pot and throw their hands into it. It seems they are risking their fingers. They have been doing this for 100 years.
Todd: Rob also risked his fingers in the process. I was impressed. When we finished the show, Rob started his new movie, which he will produce, direct and act with his daughter Dad daughter outing. He even gave me a little cameo as a present. He took me back to Phoenix so I saw the family and spent time with them. They are all fine. It was great to see smiles on their faces.
Are there any plans to continue as restaurants see new challenges from the pandemic, be it in terms of manpower or product shortages?
Todd: The show was really a COVID response for me because I saw the damage this pandemic has done to the industry. If you give, you get more in return. I really enjoyed it. I was very proud that my team was able to help these people. If we think about it, there will always be a hurricane, a fire, or a tragedy. We think about it a lot. The only holding back for me is that getting it right is a lot of work. I am overwhelmed by Raising Cane’s expanding my business. Although there may be a second season.
Rob, what’s it like to be back on the set?
Rob: It’s great to be outside. To shut down your business, I can really refer to these restaurants. We took a lot for granted. People die to get out of the house. Every show I do is sold out. It applies to all tour acts. That fear disappears and people have more control over what they can do. I’ve never seen people so excited to enjoy comedy, concerts, festivals, and restaurants.
Rest in the restaurant, Tuesdays, 8 / 7c, Kochkanal. Episodes can also be streamed on Discovery +