New Restaurateur Doubles As Capitol Hill Aide (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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New Restaurateur Doubles As Capitol Hill Aide

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and this week we're meeting some of Washington's moonlighters. Earlier in the hour, we heard from an executive recruiter/dog rescuer. We rocked out with D.C. parents moonlighting as musicians and in just a bit, we'll hear from folks who've taken their moonlighting gig and transformed it into a full-time day job. But now, we return to a place we visited on the show not too long ago...

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:32
All right. Here we are on M Street.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:34
...a certain eatery that opened earlier this year.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:36
Heading west, walking back to Unum.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:40
You may recall on our Global D.C. show how we met Unum's owner and chef, Phillip Blaine, whose internationally inspired dishes represent a long-held dream of opening his very own restaurant. But this time around, we're here to meet Blaine's fellow dreamer and his wife, Unum's other owner, Laura Schiller. And tonight, Schiller is greeting and seating dinnertime customers.

MS. LAURA SCHILLER

00:01:03
Hi, welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ONE

00:01:05
Melvin for four, but we're only three.

SHEIR

00:01:08
As Unum's hostess.

ONE

00:01:09
We lost one on the way.

SCHILLER

00:01:10
On the drive over?

SHEIR

00:01:13
At least that's what the long time foodie, cook and mother of a toddler does by night. But by day...

SHEIR

00:01:18
Can you tell us where we're standing right now?

SHEIR

00:01:20
...her job's a little big different.

SCHILLER

00:01:22
We're standing in front of the Hart Building which is where our office is. You can see my office right over there.

SHEIR

00:01:29
That's the Hart Building, as in the Senate Hart Office Building and Laura Schiller holds a rather distinguished position in this nine-story structure on Constitution Avenue Northeast. She's chief of staff to Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California.

SHEIR

00:01:42
How did you get involved with Senator Boxer?

SCHILLER

00:01:45
Well, I grew up in the Bay area in her congressional district. I knew of her and even had a play date with her daughter when I was in second grade. And actually my first politically memory is really of Senator Boxer coming out to the car with campaign literature and legend has it that her husband coached me in soccer at one point along the way as well.

SHEIR

00:02:04
Fast forward to 1992 when Schiller worked on the campaign that propelled Barbara Boxer from the U.S. House of Representatives to the Senate. Schiller moved to D.C. where she helped Boxer with legislative and policy stuff for a while. Then came a stint as First Lady Hilary Clinton's speech writer, another stint as the head of a consulting business and in 2005, Laura Schiller returned to the Boxer camp to become the Senator's chief of staff.

SHEIR

00:02:26
So people who watched the "West Wing," they kind of know what the presidential chief of staff does. Can you talk about what your job entails?

SCHILLER

00:02:33
You know, my job really is help her to best serve, you know, the 38 million Californians and the nation and really at the same time to help our amazing staff grow and serve her in the best possible way that they can.

SHEIR

00:02:47
And speaking of that amazing staff, I had the chance to interview two of Schiller's colleagues, executive assistant, Kelly Boyer, and communications director, Zachary Coile, both of whom, of course, see Schiller in the office every day.

SHEIR

00:02:58
What is she like at her day job?

MR. ZACHARY COILE

00:03:00
Wow, extremely energetic, I mean, just on the go all the time.

SHEIR

00:03:04
And they've also seen her at night as diners at Unum.

SHEIR

00:03:07
What you guys think of your meal?

MS. KELLY BOYER

00:03:08
It was delicious. Extremely filling.

COILE

00:03:10
Yes, I mean, the beet salad was incredible.

SHEIR

00:03:13
What's also incredible, Coile says, is his boss's ability to juggle two such demanding careers.

COILE

00:03:19
Because this is an incredible job that you have to do here in the Senate, it's not a 38-hour a week job. It's a really intense 60, can be 70 hour a week job and then on top of that be raising a great son and pull off opening a restaurant. It's a pretty incredible accomplishment. So we're very happy for her.

SHEIR

00:03:34
But at first, Laura Schiller says, they were actually kind of weirded out.

SCHILLER

00:03:39
I had to sort of convince them that they needed to let me take their coat. They needed to let me, you know, bring them their menus and help serve them. And that was an amusing transition. But once I did it, they were relishing it. They loved having me serve them.

SHEIR

00:03:54
Nothing like having the boss serve you.

COILE

00:03:56
It's kind of nice.

SCHILLER

00:03:59
Hi, how are you? Welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ONE

00:04:02
Hi, my friend Christy had a reservation for four at 7:00. I don't know if she's here?

SCHILLER

00:04:06
They have not arrived yet. Would you like to sit down, sit at the bar? Either way is fine.

ONE

00:04:11
Okay.

SCHILLER

00:04:11
Great.

SHEIR

00:04:12
Laura Schiller and her staff may kid about the benefits of having a boss serve her employees. But all joking aside, she says it's service that actually connects the dots between her two seemingly disparate gigs.

SCHILLER

00:04:24
Both of them are about trying to make life better for other people, whether it's trying to get them better health care or whether it's about serving them food, which is such a universal bind that brings people together.

SHEIR

00:04:37
And that, she says, is also pretty refreshing. Because after a long day of partisan politicking on Capitol Hill, any sort of "universal bind," especially one that's created over a meal with friends or family, can be a very welcome thing, indeed.

SHEIR

00:04:55
To read more about Laura Schiller and take a gander at Unum's menu, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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