About the Q&A Cafe

          The weekly Nathans Q&A Cafe began in the fall of 2001 as The Nathans Community Lunch, a response to the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Carol Ross Joynt, a veteran journalist and network news producer, sensed a need for community members to come together to talk and learn and, most of all, get answers to ease their fears and anxiety. The first official lunch featured an interview by Carol with Chuck Vance, a noted security expert, who accepted her invitation to appear for a casual Q&A. Patrons were served a plate of chicken, tuna and vegetable salads and were charged $15. Joynt asked the patrons to submit their own questions, jotted down on index cards, for her to include in the interview. Vance answered all of them, including, "Are there gas masks for pets?" The lunch was a success and Joynt scheduled another, featuring a grief specialist and a personal trainer, to focus on stress and healing, and then another, featuring 60 Minutes producer Leslie Cockburn, to answer the question, "Who is Osama bin Laden?"

          Throughout that fall and winter the lunches happened every other week and focused almost exclusively on the impact of the terrorist attacks: on peoples' lives, the economy, the government, politics. A range of important, informed guests participated. As time went on, the menu shifted from scoops of salad to hot meals that featured grilled salmon, chicken, beef, veal; a variety of stews, pasta dishes and good desserts. The price went up to $20, and is now, in 2006, $30. The program has stayed the same: the patrons participate in the interview through their written questions, much like the calls from listeners on a broadcast talk show. It is a satisfying arrangement for the guests and the patrons.

          In 2002 the themes of the lunches began to branch out to other subjects: spy scandals, fashion, sports, big business, politics, the economy, religion, murder, international relations, media. One special lunch, where the guest was the NewsHour' s Terrence Smith, was dedicated to the memory of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, with proceeds going to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At another, Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson taught everyone how to properly "skol." Fred Smith told the patrons how he founded FedEx, Tom Brokaw gave a behind the scenes portrayal of the Anthrax scare among his personal staff, C.Z. Guest talked about what it meant to be one of Truman Capote' s "swans," Saudi official Adel al-Jubeir explained the thinking of the Saudi royal family.

          In September 2003, the lunch series began its third season. Among other special guests, the Minister of Investment and Planning for the country of Vietnam came with almost 30 Vietnamese government and corporate leaders, who sat among the American patrons, and talked about rebuilding the relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam. Minister Phuc talked intimately about the impact of the war on him and his family, prompting many in the room to do the same.

          What makes the Nathans Q&A Cafe unique is that it is not a lecture program, but a free-flowing question and answer session in an intimate setting; a talk show in a dining room. Washington is a city over-saturated with speeches. These lunches provide a "speech-free zone." The regulars, and there are many regulars, call it a salon. The doors open at noon, the program begins promptly at 12:30, and the last question is asked at 1:30, allowing everyone to get back to their jobs, their homes or on to the carpool line.

          The Q&A Cafe is not held during school holidays or summer vacation. See Q&A Schedule.

contact carol joynt:   carol@nathansgeorgetown.com

  Q&A Schedule