Special Sauce with Ed Levine

By Serious Eats

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A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 10, 2018

Description

Serious Eats' podcast Special Sauce enables food lovers everywhere to eavesdrop on an intimate conversation about food and life between host and Serious Eats founder Ed Levine and his well-known/famous friends and acquaintances both in and out of the food culture.

Episode Date
Sam Kass on How What You See Shapes What You Eat [2/2]
21:08
In part two of my interview with former Obama personal chef and Obama White House food activist Sam Kass, I got schooled big-time about the role visuals play in how you eat at home. "The first lesson that I learned, that I think is maybe most helpful for people, is you eat what you see. How you set your home up can have a transformational impact on what you actually consume. Basically, the things you're trying to eat more of, you should put out in plain sight, and the things you're trying to eat less of, you should put on the top shelf or the back of the freezer, in the bottom of the drawer, because you see the bag of cookies on the counter, and then you say to yourself, 'Oh, I'd like a cookie.'" That's what Kass taught the Obama family, and if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me and probably for most serious eaters as well.
 
Though he served as one of the leading figures in the good-food movement, via his position as executive director of Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative, Kass doesn't have time for the purists: "It pisses me off, to be quite honest with you, that we make people feel a certain way about how they're wrong when it comes to how they're eating. This book"—Kass's recently published Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World—"is really an attempt to celebrate progress over the ideals, and also to give people strategies about how to actually do it, 'cause we spend so much of our time talking about what you should or shouldn't do, but no time on how to actually get it done."
 
And ditto for the kind of elitism that tends to be reflected in conversations around nutrition: "If we want to change the food system, you have to change most people. We're too satisfied in the food world with doing it really great for a really small number of people. Scale matters. That's one of the things the White House showed me, is that the world functions on a huge scale, way bigger than we can comprehend and way bigger than most people even have any sense of.... If you want to have an impact, you've got to deal with millions of people and millions of acres and huge supply chains. That means you're going to have to make some compromises. It means you're going to have to make compromises in what you're asking of people. If you can get a lot of people to eat just one or two more servings of vegetables a week, that's a big impact."
 
Sam Kass has a lot to say in his provocative new book, Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World, and he also has plenty to say in part two of my conversation with him on Special Sauce. You won't want to miss it.
 
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The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats.
Aug 09, 2018
Sam Kass on Cooking for the Obamas [1/2]
34:28

All right, I admit it: I've always fantasized about having one of the Obamas as a guest on Special Sauce. And while I haven't given up hope entirely, I realize that Sam Kass, my guest on Special Sauce this week, might be as close as I get to that particular dream.

Sam is an author and food policy activist, and I first heard about him when he was tapped by Michelle Obama in 2013 to be the executive director of her Let's Move campaign, which focused on changing attitudes about food and nutrition in America. By that point in time, Sam had already been working at the White House for about four years, both as a chef and as an advisor.

Sam has since taken some of the lessons he tried to impart there and written the cookbook Eat A Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World, which is also something of a gentle food manifesto.

We started the conversation off with what it was like for Sam growing up, and he said that he started cooking for his family when he was nine; part of his allowance was even budgeted for the shopping. But he didn't really use recipes. "I would just make it up," Sam said, "I remember I cooked chicken thighs with a bunch of dried herbs and some onions, and maybe some mushrooms that I just sort of threw together. It came out actually really well...I got lucky, I think. Because then I tried to do it the next time, and put so many dried herbs into it that it was basically inedible."

Such is life as a nine-year-old chef.

As we talked, it seemed like Sam and I were bonding quite nicely. Well, at least until I brought up Chicago's deep dish pizzas, which turned out to be a sore subject. Here's a bit of the transcript:

Ed Levine: How did you feel about Chicago pizza? Were you a lover of deep dish pizza?

Sam Kass: Of course. Are you kidding me?

Ed Levine: I ask that because when I, I wrote a pizza book. A book all about pizza. In it I uttered some blasphemous statements about Chicago pizza.

Sam Kass: I'm amazed you're still alive.

I hope you'll check out both this week and next week's podcast to listen to how the talented and thoughtful Sam Kass became an invaluable member of the Obamas' White House team.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found here at Serious Eats.

Aug 03, 2018
Rick Bragg on Why Cooks Are the High Priests of Good Living [2/2]
34:34

On this week's episode of Special Sauce, the Pulitzer Prize–winning but ridiculously down-to-earth Rick Bragg digs deep into his mom, the subject of his latest book, The Best Cook in the World.

For one thing, Bragg's mother was not in the least interested in trendsetting: "Well, the first time she ever heard the term 'farm-to-table,' the puzzled look on her face—like, 'Well, how else are they gonna do it?...' They had it back in her day, too. They called it a flatbed truck."

Bragg's mother wasn't initially keen on the idea of a book about her cooking.

"Well, it wasn't that she didn't so much like the idea of telling the stories of her food. She didn't like the ego it would require to call it The Best Cook in the World.... When I told her she said, 'What would you even call it?' And I told her the title, and she said, 'I wasn't even the best cook that lived on our road.' And I said, 'Well, that may be true, but calling it The Third Best Cook on Roy Webb Road don't sing.' So here we are."

But a diagnosis of cancer and the ensuing years of treatment helped break down his mother's reluctance, and strengthened Bragg's own resolve:

"I began to think about what would be lost, but I did not want to imagine a world without my momma in it.... I would not do this when my momma was gone, I just couldn't bear to do it. I had to do it while she was looking me in the face."

Did Bragg's mother, who spent many years working in kitchens of all kinds, including restaurant kitchens, consider herself a chef? "She did but she.... The word 'chef,' and believe me, I understand the culture, and I understand the hierarchy. I mean, they insist on being called 'Chef' if they're a chef, and I get it, and I understand the importance. But to her, she went about it with the same blue-collar notion that she went about everything else, and she saw it as the best thing that she could do...with the limited resources she had, for the people she loved. Some people sew, some people kill themselves in a factory. My momma cooked."

And, he said, it was both the only thing she thought she could do well and a marker of prestige. "I never will forget her telling me, 'Your Aunt Jo can dance, and your Aunt Juanita can climb a tree like a man. But all I could ever do was cook.' And she said that not with any...in any kind of self-pitying way, but with a great deal of fierce pride. A cook holds an almost...and it's not just my culture, it holds an almost magical place in the eyes of, especially, working folks, and I've seen it in the Dominican Republic, seen it in Cuba, seen it in Miami and the Cuban community there, seen it in places all over the world. The cook is kinda like a high priest of good living."

There's truth and magic at work when Bragg talks about his mother and her cooking. Listen to this week's episode of Special Sauce, and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Jul 25, 2018
Author Rick Bragg on His Mom, the Best Cook in the World [1/2]
27:31
We don't often get a chance to have a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist on Special Sauce–Jonathan Gold was the first–so I jumped at the chance to have Rick Bragg, one of my favorite writers of all time, on the podcast. Of course, Rick isn't known as a food or a cookbook writer, but his new book The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Momma's Table, is both an incredibly evocative portrait of his mother and a collection of his mother's recipes. 
 
Parts of the book read like poetry, so I asked Rick to read one of my favorite paragraphs to give readers unfamiliar with his work a taste of what they've been missing: "I did not know then like I know now that my momma never ate until we were done, or maybe I did know but was too young to understand why. I did not know then that she picked all the meat out of the soup and stew and put it on our plates. I did not hear her scraping pots, pans, and skillets to make her own plate after her three little pigs ate most of what we had, but I can still see her sliding the bones off plates and gnawing them clean after we were done saying how she just liked the meat close to the bone, that we just didn't know what we were missing. It's not that we were starving, just that the quality of life for her children inched up a little if she did without."
 
Though his family was literally dirt-poor, Rick says meals at his family table were most often filled with joy: "Well, it was the best time of day. It was the greatest time of day. My people don't think I have a real job because I don't get dirty, or usually I don't. I don't get dirty. If you have a real job, you have to comb the cotton lint out of your hair or you have to get some Octagon soap and wash the grease off your hands. I think they think I cut out paper dolls for a living or something delicate and easy. For those folks, my folks, the reward was, especially the worldly one, was being able to come home, they ate their lunch out of a sack mostly, but being able to come home, and it might be very plain. It might be beans and cornbread, sliced tomatoes, maybe sliced onion, maybe some greens. It may be something from a garden or it may be ... In wintertime, it was maybe fried potatoes and white beans, but it was savory, and it was good."
 
I could give you many more of Rick's poetic utterances, but then you would miss the joy of listening to the man say them himself. Although of course you can always just read the transcript, but I strongly urge you to make the time to check out both this week's and next week's Special Sauce episodes. They'll be worth your while, I promise. 
Jul 17, 2018
Rodney Scott on Bourdain and Letting the Barbecue Speak for Itself [2/2]
22:28
In part two of my terrific conversation with James Beard Award-winning pitmaster Rodney Scott, we discuss the fact that barbecue, like jazz, was developed by African-Americans, and yet most well-known pitmasters are white.
 
"I respect any human being, man or woman, that takes the approach to be a pitmaster...Black, white, tall, short, it don't matter," Rodney said. "I see dedicated people who stuck to what they believed in. Kept trying at it, kept going, and they finally got something recognized, the same way I got recognized...So my whole thing is whether that person is white or black, it doesn't matter. If you're working hard and producing a product that you're proud of that's good, that's gonna speak for itself regardless of who you are."
 
As we were talking, Rodney confessed to a few guilty pleasures, one of which might surprise some people. "McDonald’s. I go to the window, pretend I'm on the phone, and I cover up my brand. Keep my head turned away from the window. And I order happy meals so that they think I'm picking it up for my nine-year-old." 
 
Rodney was featured on the late Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations, and Rodney talked a bit about some of the advice Bourdain gave him. "He basically said, 'Rodney, don't eat the sh*t sandwich...Don't ever let the producers and the fame of people tell you how to do your thing.' He says, 'You do what you want. If they start telling you what to do, don't accept it. Stand behind what you believe in.'" 
 
To find out what else Rodney believes in, check out this week's Special Sauce. 
 
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The full transcript for this week's episode can be found here at Serious Eats.
Jul 12, 2018
Rodney Scott Was Born and Raised to Be a Pitmaster [1/2]
24:24

Barbecue pitmasters are amongst our nation's greatest storytellers—they learn that all-important skill tending to their 'cue all night. But Rodney Scott, South Carolina pitmaster and James Beard Award winner, might just have the best story of all to tell, as you'll hear on this week's Special Sauce. 

When Scott was growing up, his family started making barbecue one day a week at their general store in the tiny town of Hemingway, South Carolina, two hours' drive from Charleston. As Rodney tells it, "We did whole-hog barbecue sandwiches like most gas stations do hot dogs. It was just an extra income, just a quick side meal. And we did it on Thursdays." But demand gradually grew until, finally, the barbecue itself became the core business, and with that shift came a huge increase in the hard work of producing it, all of it shared by young Rodney, an only child.
 
It started with cutting down trees and splitting wood to make the charcoal. "If we did two hogs, or four hogs, whatever, we had to have enough wood to get it done," Scott told me. "And my dad would never let you lay around in the afternoons. You got off the school bus, you did homework, you went to work.... Of course, after cutting wood, you had to load it, haul it, help unload at the barbecue pit. And if you were out of school, you had to cook.... My high school graduation, I'm 17 years old, I walk out and speak to my dad, hold up my diploma, and he says, 'You need to be at the barbecue pit at 12 o'clock tonight.'"
 
After he graduated, the work became even more intense. "Three nights a week, we worked all night long. We had guys there in the daytime, and I was there all night. So being there all night, you had to keep the fire going to keep enough hot coals to fire up your hogs.... You had to have enough coals to fire anywhere from two to 15 hogs, because you never knew how many you were going to cook."
 
Not only did this upbringing develop Scott's lifelong love for barbecue, the discipline and work ethic it instilled in him clearly assisted in his journey from driving a tractor as a six-year-old kid on a tobacco farm, to cooking for John T. Edge, to opening his own restaurant in Charleston and winning the Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.
 
To get the whole story, you're just going to have to listen to the episode.

You won't be disappointed, only inspired.

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The full transcript for this week's episode can be found here at Serious Eats.
Jul 06, 2018
David Lebovitz on Blogging, Cookbooks, and Moving to Paris [2/2]
33:07

On this week's Special Sauce, seminal food blogger, pastry chef, and author David Lebovitz and I took a trip back into the past. And we had a blast.

David worked in the Chez Panisse kitchen for 13 years before he realized it was time to leave. "I left because I was getting older, and when your body hits a certain age," David explained. "It's hard to stand up for eight and a half hours. It's like, I need to listen to my body, I need to go to the bathroom when I have to go to the bathroom without someone knocking on the door asking where the desserts are."

How was his first cookbook Room for Dessert conceived? "I was kind of burnt out, and I'd had all these dessert recipes in my repertoire, and I had spoken to Alice Waters [about writing a book]. Lindsey Shere wrote the first Chez Panisse dessert book, and I said, 'Well, maybe I should write the second one. Would that be interesting?' And, she said, 'Write your own.'" And so David's first book was born.

That book was the reason why David started his eponymous food blog in 1999; David wanted to give readers an opportunity to ask him about his recipes, which made him one of the first food blogging pioneers. "I had thought my first book's coming out, and I should use this internet thing, and if people have problems with recipes they can contact me. Because, often you make something from a book and you think, 'Oh, well, this recipe, I don't understand what the author means,' or something."

Around the same time, David decided to leave the Bay Area for Paris. He explained that in part it was because his life partner died, which, combined with his leaving Chez Panisse, left him feeling unmoored. Or, as he said, "It gave me the moment to say, 'You know what? I don't have anything here left.' I pretty much lost everything, and it was like, 'What do I do now?'" David continued, "I just realized this recently, that the reason I moved to France was because it was sort of a horizontal move, it is very similar to Northern California, the climate, the food was similar—goat cheese, garlic, wine—and it seemed like a horizontal move to go to Paris."

From Chez Panisse to early food blogger to best-selling author, David's story is full of twists and turns. Which of course makes for an excellent episode of Special Sauce.

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The full transcript for this episode can be found over at Serious Eats.

Jun 28, 2018
David Lebovitz on Renovating His Home in Paris [1/2]
35:54

My guest on this week's Special Sauce is the extraordinary blogger, author, and pastry chef David Lebovitz, whose latest book is L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home. David and I started off our conversation with the early days of blogging, and I asked him about whether he had ever intended to make money from his path-breaking blog. It is a question he frequently fielded at blogging conferences, where attendees would ask how they, too, could make a profit, to which he'd respond, "Do it for free for eight years."

"The whole idea of monetization didn't occur [to me]," David said. "I remember the first there were Google Ads, and you might make like $9 and you were so excited." For some people, it started becoming a business over the years, but that was never the focus of my blog."

David has had a number of interesting jobs in Paris. He was, for a very short time, a fishmonger. "I did that because I wanted to learn how to cut up fish, and because the guys who worked at this fish shop were unusually handsome. Even my straight male friends were like, 'Yes, those guys are really, really handsome.'"

Though L'Appart is ostensibly about his misadventures renovating a Paris apartment, David said it's also about something else. "It's how to live like a local, and be careful what you wish for. Everyone's like, 'I want to live like a local.' I'm like, 'No, be a tourist. Come visit, have a great trip, go home with your sanity intact.'"

As to what he learned renovating his apartment, David says, "Well, I learned if you want to be comfortable, stay home. You know, if you want life to be...you know, you want to watch TV, watch your favorite shows, not have to worry about returning things, stay home and that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. You know, you take a chance and that's when...you took a chance creating Serious Eats. It might have not worked out, and it...you know, it happened to have worked out, but you took a chance. If you didn't take a chance, it wouldn't have happened. So taking a chance is usually an okay thing, and it's also okay to fail at things."

I will say, finally, that David Lebovitz is quietly one of the bravest souls I know. Why do I say that? Listen to this episode of Special Sauce to find out.

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The full transcript for this week's episode can be found here on Serious Eats.

Jun 21, 2018
Matt Goulding on Why Italian Food Can Evolve [2/2]
32:35

Listening to Roads and Kingdom co-founder Matt Goulding talk about the food culture in Italy on this week's Special Sauce was a real treat for me. Matt spent months eating his way through the country for his extraordinary new book, Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy's Food Culture, and he explains that what he found in his travels was a vibrant and evolving food culture, not one that is frozen in time. Or, as he so eloquently says, "I wanted to toss off this idea of this calcified cuisine that's encased in amber, that Italian food is a museum piece...So what this book is really about is, yes, the traditions are beautiful and they shouldn't be screwed with half-heartedly. They need to be taken very seriously, but to say that Italian food is the same as it has always been...overlooks the fact that there are incredible chefs, young and old, and artisans and innovators that are doing amazing things with pizza in Naples or ragu in Emilia-Romagna."

Matt illustrated the tensions between staying true to time-honored traditions even as younger generations are looking to do something new with an anecdote about a burrata-making family in Puglia. "I realized very quickly that within their own family the entire complexity of this push and pull between past and present and future was contained between mother and father and then their three young sons...The mother and father thought the idea of putting matcha powder into burrata was fucking nuts and grandma's rolling over in her grave...These guys were like, 'Well we just came back from Japan. We brought burrata to them and now we want to bring Japan to burrata. Why can't we do that?'"

I do hope you'll tune in to this episode, as I expect you'll find Matt to be as entertaining as he is insightful.

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The full transcript for this episode of Special Sauce can be found here at Serious Eats.

Jun 14, 2018
Chef Ed Lee on Cultural Appropriation Versus Collaboration [2/2]
40:32
In part 2 of my conversation with the remarkable chef and writer Edward Lee, we take a deep dive into his terrific new memoir-with-recipes Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine.
 
Lee writes in the book, "Much of what we think of as traditional American cuisine is being challenged. We're witnessing a reshaping of the food landscape, and it is thrilling to some, obscene to others, but that is when it becomes interesting. When the tension between two vastly different cultures creates something new."
 
Lee, a Korean-American, explains that one of the goals of the book was to emphasize how that collision between cultures is a good thing. Or, as he says, “I really wanted to write this book to celebrate the diversity of food that we have in America, but also to understand that's our strength, that what we have in common is that we all love to eat these crazy combinations of food, and that's what it means...to be American."
 
This line of thinking, of course, leads to issues of cultural appropriation. “This entire book, the recipes are all based on experiences that I have from other cultures, and I kind of lend my own sort of twist. Having said that, I think appropriation is about stealing, and the opposite of appropriation is collaboration, which is about sharing. Hopefully, we do it from a standpoint of respect, meaningfulness, and we give credit where credit is due."
 
Lee is just as insightful in his book as he is in conversation, and he is also full of surprises, like the revelation that his favorite pastrami sandwich in America is made and served in Indianapolis, Indiana. Where is it served? Well, for that delicious bit of info you’re just going to have to listen to the episode.
 
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The transcript for this episode of Special Sauce can be found at Serious Eats.
Jun 07, 2018
Edward Lee on Finding Home in a Bowl of Collard Greens [1/2]
34:49

 

Having chef and memoirist Edward Lee on Special Sauce was the happiest of accidents. Sitting on top of a pile of books on Special Sauce associate producer Marissa Chen's desk was Lee's evocative and moving memoir, Buttermilk Graffiti. I read a chapter, was knocked out by it, and emailed his publicist asking if Lee–chef/owner at three restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky, and culinary director at another in Washington, DC, and Maryland–was going to be in NYC any time soon. By some miracle, he was, and you can hear the results of all this serendipity on this week's episode of Special Sauce (and next's).

Growing up in the then-polyglot neighborhood of Canarsie, Brooklyn, Lee was exposed to all kinds of food, and he and his friends ate anything and everything: "We're going to get a beef patty, and then we're going to eat some Pakistani food, and then get a slice of pizza." But, he says, the household he was raised in didn't exactly encourage his interest in cooking from a young age. "It was interesting back then, coming from a traditional, patriarchal Korean family. I was not going to be the one to cook. I had an older sister, and it's the girl that the recipes get passed down to, not the boy in the family. I'm supposed to go off and do whatever boys do. I literally had to fight my way into the kitchen. I was very persistent, even as a little kid.... I basically said, 'Listen, I'm not leaving.' [My grandmother] would let me hang out in the kitchen. She wouldn't tell me what she was doing, but she would just let me hang out in the kitchen, and she would just be like, 'Well, if you're going to be here, be here, but I'm not going to tell you anything about this.'"

When he told his parents he was going to become a chef, they were not pleased: "For my parents, they said to me, they said, 'You're being a servant. You're choosing a life of servitude.' Of course, my rebuttal was, 'Hey, you become an accountant, you're still serving someone.' They didn't want to hear that. I was kind of a smart aleck. They didn't like those answers. There were no celebrity chefs back then. There was no ownership of your destiny, ownership of your career."

Before Lee truly embarked on that career, however, he fell in love with graffiti, an outlet that, to him, represented art at its most democratic and most ephemeral. For many of the young people he grew up around, it was a "futile attempt at leaving some permanence on the world, knowing that this thing was going to get covered up in a week or two, or month. There was something both tragic and beautiful about it.... Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but I make the comparison now that food is so much the same way. Food is so much about.... It's just a moment."

Lee eventually found his way to Louisville, where he encountered his first bowl of collard greens at a local soul food restaurant and was drawn in by the multiethnic nature of Southern food culture. You'll hear more about how his exposure to Southern culture transformed his approach to food, plus the important life lessons he learned during his stint as a short-order cook in college, when you tune in.

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The transcript for this episode of Special Sauce can be found over at Serious Eats.

May 31, 2018
Special Sauce: Artist and Author Maira Kalman on Savoring Moments of Cake [2/2]
35:10

In part 2 of the Special Sauce interview with artist and author Maira Kalman, we were joined by Barbara Scott-Goodman, who co-authored Cake, and, of course, we talked cake. What else would we talk about?

The first question I asked was how the book came to be. Scott-Goodman said that she had always wanted to write a book about cake, but not one that dipped into the realm of baking bibles or took itself too seriously. She wanted a book "about moments of cake." And so she approached Kalman (they have known each other for years) and simply said "I want to do a book about cake." And that was that.

Of course, the way the collaboration worked was slightly unorthodox. "That process took a little while to figure out," Scott-Goodman said. "I work as a cookbook writer and think in terms of, 'First we'll do this and that' and when I said something about the yellow pound cake Maira said 'Well, then that would be the picture of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein.'"

But an unorthodox process was totally appropriate, in light of what they produced. "'Is it a cake book? Is it a memoir?'" Kalman said. "It's both of these things beautifully tied together."

One of my favorite moments of the interview (admittedly one I engineered) was when Kalman read one of my favorite passages from the book:

The Cakes of People I Do Not Know

All over the world, all the time, people are eating cake.

They always have and they always will.

A group of children have stopped playing to have cake.

A man taking a nap on a comfortable sofa will wake up to a lovely cake.

Together, or alone, celebrating or sitting quietly and thinking, someone is savoring a moment of cake.

The words on a page don't do this cake poem justice. To really feel the power contained in them you'll just have to listen to the podcast.

 

https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/05/special-sauce-artist-and-author-maira-kalman-on-savoring-moments-of-cake.html

May 25, 2018
Writer and Illustrator Maira Kalman on Room Service and Moments of Joy [1/2]
34:04

I don't know how many serious eaters have heard of the brilliant, food-loving, and thought-provoking artist and writer Maira Kalman, but I've been a huge fan of hers for a long time now. So when I heard that she had recently co-written (with Barbara Scott-Goodman) and illustrated a cookbook, Cake, I knew I had to have her on Special Sauce.

Kalman worked with her late husband, Tibor, at the influential M & Co. design firm, where she worked on projects such as magazine covers and album design for David Byrne, and eventually took over the business. She's also the author and/or illustrator of many books, including Beloved Dog, And the Pursuit of Happiness, and The Principles of Uncertainty, and she famously provided the art for a new edition of The Elements of Style.

As an artist, Kalman seeks to represent joyful, meaningful moments: "All comfort is temporary. We know that to be a fact. But when you understand that, then you can really allow yourself to look at those moments during the day, and they become very important, and they're very shining moments.... And I think those are the happiest moments that people have, when you're alone and a fleeting something happens, and you feel a sense of joy. So, I'm looking for those."

Having established that she's passionate on the subject of food, we talked about Kalman's ideal setting for a meal:

"Room service breakfast in bed. Let's start with the basics. Usually, I've spent time traveling a lot, and I order breakfast in bed because I want to see how they serve it and what the dishes are and what's the tray in, what's the napkin, and I photograph it, and I do drawings, and I've done pieces for magazines. So, it's professional on my part. It's professional research. But I adore all the trappings of table settings and what goes around it. I would like to work in a hotel. I worked as a maid in an Irish castle for a few weeks, and that was heaven. I can see doing that. I'd like to get a job in a hotel, serving somebody else breakfast.

In this episode, you'll hear about what she'd serve for that hotel breakfast (in great detail), plus why she dislikes dinner parties and her special love for chairs that have been abandoned on the street.

Next week, we'll get into Kalman's new book, Cake, but this week's conversation will provide plenty of sustenance in the meantime.

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The full transcript for this week's podcast episode can be found at Serious Eats.

May 17, 2018
Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman on the Perils of Publishing [2/2]
36:35

In part two of my terrific interview with Smitten Kitchen's Deb Perelman, we move from the creation of her blog into book writing (her second book Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites was just published in October 2017), and how social media has (or hasn't) changed what she does.

The first thing I learned was that writing books was never part of Deb's grand master plan: "From 2003, I had been hearing from agents and editors. No, I did not think I needed to write a book. I thought it was like...'Why would I need a book? The web is all I'll ever need.' And that was really very much my mindset. It's so ridiculous to say this, and it's so insulting to somebody who really wants to write a cookbook, that I was so flippant about it, but I had to be talked into it."

Deb admitted that she was more "terrified" than anything else when her first book was published, particularly about how it might be received: "It was actually going to ruin...take the blog down with it when the book was panned. These were live and real things that were in my head, until the first day that it maybe hit the bestseller list, and then I was like, "Okay, one week of not thinking this way. Let me see if I can make it to next week."

I guess it isn't surprising that it did so well, in light of the fact that 85% of the recipes were new and couldn't be found on her blog: "I wanted it to be of value. I was really concerned about long-term readers feeling like this was not a book for them. It had to be of value to them. I wasn't going to ask you to buy stuff I'd been giving you for free, like you didn't know how money worked, you know?"

Deb's concern for her readers getting the most out of the work she does also plays into the way she uses social media: "You have to know what you're selling, I guess. For me, it's the stories, it's the recipes. So, I always felt social media has to meet people where they are. If you want to find out about my site on Facebook, let me show up on Facebook and be there. If you want to get your news on Twitter, I will be in all those places. I will meet you there. But I'm still going to tell you what I'm doing, where I'm doing it, if that makes sense."

Perhaps what's so surprising about Deb's success, in the end, is that she has kept Smitten Kitchen a one-woman show. "It's not the smartest thing I've ever done...It's not making me feel younger. I do my own everything. And part of it is that I...You could say I'm a control freak, but it's more that who else...How are you going to answer email for me? How are you going to write for me? How are you going to edit photos? It's all my vision."

To hear more about that vision and what makes the person behind Smitten Kitchen tick, you're just going to have to tune into the show.

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The full transcript for this week's podcast can be found over at Serious Eats.

May 10, 2018
Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman on Not Pretending to Be Perfect [1/2]
35:59

 

A week after sitting down with Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes, I got to reminisce with another seminal food blogger: Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. Deb started Smitten Kitchen in 2006, the same year that Serious Eats launched. Twelve years later, Smitten Kitchen has millions of readers who come to the site for both her fine recipes and her realistic portrayal of her insanely busy city life, testing recipes and posting on her blog with two young children underfoot. Somehow she's managed to also write two best-selling cookbooks, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and her recently published Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites.

When I posited that one of the reasons Smitten Kitchen resonated with so many people is Deb's ability to laugh at herself and readily admit to failure, she responded, "Yeah, I thought that was so strange, that we were supposed to pretend we were perfect. How hard would that be to maintain? I'd last maybe a day, like a week perhaps...That's not life."

What explains the success of Smitten Kitchen? Deb isn't sure, but she said, "I'm hoping that I'm speaking about things in real language. I hope that I'm not pretending to be something I'm not, pretending cooking is something that it's not. I just think, 'Okay, so this is super hard to try to cook this with like a kid underfoot.' Why would I lie about that? Because this is real and we're all dealing with this. I kind of do it [the blog] to share the burden a little bit, like, 'Why should I feel like I'm carrying all this myself when we're all dealing with this?'"

Perelman is ever hopeful, whether it comes to the latest recipe she's testing or the future of food blogs. "I really do like the fact that that you can have a long, crappy day, and make a recipe that's new and fun, and it can be the highlight of your day." As for food blogging, Deb said, "You know, it didn't begin and end with me, and...I know that blogs sound like a very dated thing, but I always feel like if you're trying to get yourself out there, put yourself out there. So what if you have ten people reading? When somebody wants a link to your clips, there it is."

For more pearls of wisdom from Deb Perelman, check out part 1 of her Special Sauce interview. 

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The full transcript for this week's episode can be found over at Serious Eats.

May 02, 2018
Elise Bauer on Turning a Food Blog Into a Business [2/2]
34:43

At the end of part 1 of my Special Sauce interview with Elise Bauer, she had just described starting Simply Recipes in 2004 after coming home to live with her parents in Sacramento to recover from a serious case of chronic fatigue syndrome, and in this week's episode we pick up where we left off. At the outset, Elise says she was making enough money to splurge on movie tickets, but then things started to change. "The more content I added...the more we got picked up in search and the more traffic we got." And back then, as I can personally attest, more traffic meant more revenue.

But then, just as Simply Recipes was starting to take off, Elise suffered a relapse. Was it because she attempted the swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco again? "I didn't go back to Alcatraz but...I actually think it was hot yoga that got me into trouble...I spent the entire summer of 2005 in bed." It would take her another five years to fully recover. "I didn't go on a date for seven years," Elise says.

In addition to talking about her getting Simply Recipes off the ground, Elise and I got into a very lively discussion about the evolution of digital food media, particularly about the impact social media has had on the industry. "It used to be that if you had a blog, a good quality blog, people would then come visit your blog. Now you're expected to have your content show up where those people are, not the other way around," Elise says. "Social media's become a lot more important in terms of having a presence in the marketplace. It used to be it was 80% content, 20% marketing. Now I think it's 20% content, 80% marketing and marketing from social media."

Elise also offers up three important pieces of advice for anyone embarking on a digital food media adventure. But to hear what one of food blogging's true pioneers has to say about that, you're just going to have to listen to this week's episode of Special Sauce.

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The full transcript of this week's episode can be found over here at Serious Eats.

Apr 27, 2018
Simply Recipes’ Elise Bauer on Alcatraz Swims and Blogging as Medicine [1/2]
28:48
My guest on this week's Special Sauce is Simply Recipes founder Elise Bauer, who was a veteran of Silicon Valley start-ups long before she started her blog. "In the late '90's I worked with a start-up and helped raise $35 million on Wall Street for what was similar to what is now Skype. But it was also in the late '90's when, what do they say, what's that great saying of venture capitalists, 'In a strong wind, even turkeys fly.'"
 
It failed and Bauer took its demise to heart. "The company went bankrupt, I decided I'm gonna take a year off and get into shape. And I was living in San Francisco and so I decided what better way to get in shape than to do ocean swimming. The ocean there is about 60 degrees in the summertime and what better thing to do with one's time, right? And I loved ocean swimming. I actually did the [swim from] Alcatraz to San Francisco twice."
 
But after the attacks of 9/11, and after unsuccessfully trying to nurse one of her best friends back to health through a protracted illness, she developed chronic fatigue syndrome. Unable to work or swim, she packed up her laptop, left San Francisco, and moved back to Sacramento to be near her parents and regroup. "When I moved home, I gave myself a year where I would only do things that brought me joy...Doing things that make you happy, that's pretty good life medicine."
 
So in 2003 she decided to launch her blog Simply Recipes to keep a record of her parents' recipes. The only problem? There was no readily available blogging software available at that moment, and so she had to hand-code all the HTML, the CSS, the recipe pages, and the navigation. "No one does it anymore, but that's what you did back then. Because there wasn't blogging software. And then when someone told me, 'Guess what? There's blogging software out there.' I looked into it. I thought, 'Oh my gosh. I don't have to hand-code every single page on my website in order to put up a recipe or put up an article.'"
 
Elise was expending every ounce of energy she had left on Simply Recipes, and she found it incredibly worthwhile despite the initial lack of compensation. Why? "Because food is fun and I think it's important to write this stuff down and I believe in sharing knowledge. I don't believe in secret recipes. I don't think you should take recipes to your grave. I think the way we as a culture improve and grow is by sharing information and learning from each other. So it really is ... I want everybody to know how to cook well because if everyone cooks well, then I'm gonna eat better."
 
Elise's story is remarkable and life-affirming in so many other ways, as you'll find out when you listen to this week's episode. As for how Simply Recipes became the food blog juggernaut it is today? You're just going to have to wait until next week to find out.

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The full transcript for this week's episode can be found here at Serious Eats.

Apr 19, 2018
Sara Moulton on Why Female Chefs Should Head West [2/2]
32:33

In part 2 of my Special Sauce interview with Sara Moulton, she plunges headfirst into the issues women face as chefs. "When I first moved to New York...I couldn't get a job. But not only that, about every five years there'd be an article in the New York Times saying, "Where are all the women chefs?" It pissed me off, because I'd be like, "I know where they are. Being kept down or going to California where it's far easier to get a job, because nobody will give them a job here."

Here she is on why she thinks she lost her long-running show on the Food Network: "The way I see it is, competition and cleavage took over. I had cleavage, but they didn't want to see mine. But that's all right. And that's not what I was there for. I'll be honest, I was devastated."

Sara also talks about checking in with women in the industry periodically: "I always talk to them and try to find out what's the deal, how we're doing, how are we moving forward? I mean, I'm no longer doing that. But, how are women chefs doing? What they say consistently is they're still not getting the same publicity, and they're still not getting the same real estate deals and backing for new restaurants. They're still being treated like second-class citizens."

As for what she would tell a young woman chef about how to proceed: "The advice I would give to them is pretty much the same as what I used to [say]: 'Head West, young lady. California is so much better a place.'"

As a mother of two children who has been married for a long time, I asked her what she tells women chefs about having it all: "That is still a really difficult question and answer. I have no idea. You either have to have a partner who is willing to stay home...I mean, Jody Adams, you know, from Rialto*, her husband stayed home...If you can set that up, yes, you can make it work. But...it's striking when you think that this is not an issue for a man to be working 80 hours a week and [have] a family. But it is for most women. That is where I always hit a wall. I have no answers except the one I just gave you. It's rare to find the person who's willing to just stay home."

*Editor's note: Rialto shuttered in 2016. Adams is now chef and owner of the restaurants Porto, Saloniki, and TRADE.

Sara Moulton is smart, savvy, talented and pulls no punches. Listen in and I'm sure you'll agree.

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The transcript for this week's episode can be found over at Serious Eats.

Apr 12, 2018
Sara Moulton on Leftovers, College Gig, and Not Looking for Attention [1/2]
38:12

This week's guest on Special Sauce is food television personality and pioneering chef Sara Moulton, who is as unpretentious as she is accomplished. And when I say accomplished I mean accomplished. Sara is currently the host of the PBS series Sara's Weeknight Meals and the co-host of Milk Street Radio. She previously was the host of the live television show Cooking Live on the Food Network for almost ten years. Suffice it to say, Sara should be familiar to anyone who has watched cooking shows on television.

Want an example of her lack of pretense? Here is her take on leftovers: "I'd rather open up a refrigerator filled with leftovers than start with a blank canvas. Leftovers talk to me." Or how about this detail from one of her many food-related jobs in college: "I was a waitress at an all-night diner where we had to wear a DayGlo orange uniform and white nurse's shoes." It may have been the uniform, and it may just have been the job itself, but whatever it was, Sara's mother was horrified by her situation, and tried to help her in a way that would only make sense to a parent: "My mother wrote to Craig Claiborne and Julia Child, did not ask me, and asked them what her daughter should do if she wanted to become a chef."

After her many years on television, I was surprised when I found out that Sara was a reluctant TV host. "I thought that was vulgar," she explains. "Being a good WASP, it's like, "Oh, then you're looking for attention." I also loved hearing the advice she'd give to guests on Cooking Live: "Smile constantly for no particular reason."

As for her pioneering days as a young woman chef, Sara has some harrowing stories, but for those you're just going to have to tune into part 1 of her Special Sauce interview.

*Ed note: For those of you wondering where part 2 of my Special Sauce interview with Matt Goulding is, we'll be publishing it in a couple of months.

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The transcript for this episode can be found over at Serious Eats.

Apr 05, 2018
Roads & Kingdoms’ Matt Goulding On Moms, Tweets, and Bourdain [1/2]
46:53

As you can probably tell, I love interviewing people for Special Sauce. That's because we book guests who have compelling food-related stories to share with us. But Roads & Kingdoms co-founder and author Matt Goulding had so many interesting things to say about food and life that I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I probably enjoyed the time I spent gabbing with Matt more than any other interview I've done for the podcast.

Here's Matt on his dad: "My dad, I should say, as many men are, was a great griller and was great with eggs. It seems to be two things that men generally feel comfortable cooking, even in a relatively limited culinary household."

And here he is how he views his debilitating Crohn's Disease diagnosis: "The two ironies of my food life is, one, that I come from a family that didn't really value food, and the other is that I ended up being deeply in love with this world of food but nevertheless have a digestive illness that presents all these interesting challenges."

Matt is just as good about how he got into writing as he is about his personal life. His first editorial job was at Student Traveler Magazine, an experience he describes as definitive: "That was my entryway into actually being paid for writing, at ten cents a word, but it was a check, and it was a drug. Immediately there was this high of seeing your name in print, being able to tell your story. Anyone who's deranged and narcissistic enough to become a writer knows what that high feels like, and I was hooked pretty quickly."

He went on to become the food editor at Men's Health magazine, where he finally got his fellow editors to understand where he was coming from: "Finally at an editorial meeting I think I said something like, "The kitchen is the new garage."

Matt ended up co-writing 18 volumes of the Eat This, Not That series, which grew out of a column he wrote at Men's Health and ended up selling millions of copies. Why were those books so successful? "It was a brilliant four words. The convergence of syllables was extraordinary," he says.

What does he find so compelling about writing about food? "I can't stop moving. So one thing I realized is it's going to be a really lonely life unless I find a way to connect with people as quickly as possible. It's always, every single instance, food, no matter where you are, was just an instant entry point into a culture, into someone's home, into their lives. It happened over and over again, so to be able to share those stories in some way, it would be stupid not to."

And, finally, here's Matt's description of how Roads & Kingdoms, the James Beard award-winning website he co-founded with Nathan Thornburgh, transformed from being something only their mothers would read to the must-read site for anyone who has an interest in the intersection between travel, culture, and food, all because of the power of a single tweet: "We just kept writing these 5,000-word narrative pieces about the most random convergence of culture and politics that we could find. But we woke up at one in the morning on this houseboat after a long night out at Noma, and it was clear looking at my phone, something was happening. The phone was literally pulsating or something. Open up the phone, and it turns out that Anthony Bourdain had just sent out a tweet. It was very simple, but it said, 'These guys do consistently fine work.' It was just a link to the Roads & Kingdoms home page, and that was it."

If you want to find out how that tweet led to Bourdain being the one and only outside investor in Roads & Kingdoms you're just going to have to listen to Part 1 of my extraordinary conversation with the equally extraordinary Matt Goulding.

Find the full transcript of this episode over at Serious Eats.

Mar 29, 2018
Andrew Friedman on the Evolution of Chef Culture in America [2/2]
41:17

In part two of my interview with Andrew Friedman, the author of Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll, he and I take a really deep dive into the book. Here's Friedman talking about the origins of the American chef culture:

"If you were an American kid [in the 1970s]...it was all but unheard of to come from a "good home" and turn to your parents one day and say, 'Hey, you know what, guys? I think I might want to be a cook'...The reaction of their parents was concern, fear, anger, horror, they thought their kids were throwing their lives away, they thought they were basically entering basically a blue-collar profession, very often having paid for college, or in many cases law school, or something like that." One prominent chef told him, "Cooking was not respected. It was the first thing you did after the Army, and the last thing you did before you went to prison." In fact, Friedman pointed out that in the 1950s the US Labor Department still designated chefs as "domestic" or service workers.

Although the book names lots of famous names and it's full of revealing details about the many power struggles that went on between restaurateurs and chefs (chefs were supposed to be neither seen nor heard right up to the late '60s), there isn't much salacious gossip in the book. While sex in the walk-in is referred to as a commonplace occurrence, Friedman made a conscious effort not to overdo it with the details. "I didn't feel the need to be specific about who was having sex in the walk-in. Now if more people had offered that up, or answered my questions very directly, I would have put it in." He points out, "This book opens up with [seminal LA chef] Bruce Marder, who I never met in my life, telling me about dropping acid in this van in Morocco. I'm very grateful to Bruce. There's a lot of people who wouldn't have even told me that story."

Though Friedman conducted hundreds of interviews with fancy-pants chefs for the book, he admitted to me that even he can't resist the siren call of some of the not-so-finer things in life: "I mean I eat all kinds of garbage. There are nights when presented with the choice between a Big Mac, fries, and one of those disgusting sundaes at McDonald's, I would pick that over anything else on planet Earth."

For more revelations and trenchant observations about the chef culture in America, take a listen to this episode of Special Sauce.

 

https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/03/special-sauce-cookbook-collaborator-andrew-friedman-on-why-chefs-are-like-snowflakes-2.html

Mar 22, 2018
Author Andrew Friedman on Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll [1/2]
32:47

No writer has spent more time working and hanging out with great chefs than Andrew Friedman. So when I heard that his long-awaited book chronicling chef culture in the US—Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll—had finally been published, how could I not invite him on Special Sauce? 

Friedman has collaborated with outstanding chefs on more than two dozen cookbooks, and he's not even as old as me. What intrigues him about this world? "Chefs are like snowflakes. I mean, no two are alike. The way people come to this profession, the way they develop...their style, their palate, their knowledge base, their skill set; I like the sort of peripatetic nature of it. You kind of assemble your own curriculum as you go from job to job, and often that means going all over the country, or all over the world."
 
How does he decide whom to work with? "The most important thing for me... is a point of view. I tell people, I cannot manufacture a point of view... If somebody's just coming to me with a collection of recipes, I can't help them. I mean, I could write the book, but I don't want to write that book. I've done too many books. It'll seem phoned in. I need something that's gonna engage me."
 
If you're at all interested in chefs or the culture that's grown up around them, part one of my interview with Andrew Friedman will definitely engage you. Next week, he and I talk about Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll, his new deep dive of a book. Great title, don't you think? 
 
Mar 16, 2018
The Knife Skills Team and Life After the Oscars [2/2]
28:49

It's been several days since the Oscars, and I'll admit it: I was keenly disappointed when Knife Skills didn't win for Best Documentary Short. But now that I've had a few days to reflect on the Oscars as a whole (go, Frances McDormand, go!), and now that I've listened to part two of my interview with Knife Skills filmmaker Tom Lennon and Cleveland chef-restaurateur Brandon Chrostowski, I've realized that it was a winner regardless of Sunday's outcome. 

Why? Because the film has succeeded in making more people aware of the multifaceted problems recently released convicts face in reentering the community. And that awareness has resulted in positive steps by the restaurant that stars in the film, Edwins, and the related Edwins Leadership Institute. As Brandon notes: "Since the time of the shooting, we built a campus, so there's housing for people; there's a fitness center, a library. There's graduate housing. Got another building, working on a butcher shop. We're [Edwins Leadership Institute] in 13 prisons now." 
 
What makes the film even more amazing is that, as you'll hear in this episode, Knife Skills was shot on a shoestring budget and was turned down by Netflix, HBO, and Hulu—which is why serious eaters can watch it for free on The New Yorker's website. 
 
That's why I think Knife Skills comes out on top, no matter how the Academy voted. The film represents a triumph of determination, artistic expression, and genuinely life-affirming extended-family values.  Watch it, listen to our conversation, and decide for yourself. 
 
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The transcript for this episode can be found here on Serious Eats.
Mar 09, 2018
The Team Behind Knife Skills, the Oscar-Nominated Documentary [1/2]
44:50

We don't usually make a big deal about the Oscars on Special Sauce, but when I saw the brilliant Oscar-nominated documentary short Knife Skills, I knew I wanted to talk about it. The film shows what happens when Cleveland chef/restaurateur Brandon Chrostowski opens Edwins, a white-tablecloth French restaurant staffed almost entirely by recently released convicts who are reentering the workforce. As I previously wrote on Serious Eats, Knife Skills is funny, deeply moving, and brimming with humanity. So this week, in anticipation of this weekend's Oscars ceremony, I invited Brandon and the filmmaker behind the documentary, Tom Lennon, a longtime friend of mine, to come on Special Sauce to talk about their extraordinary collaboration.  

For Brandon, a hardscrabble childhood that nearly ended in incarceration was saved by a demanding chef and mentor he worked for in Detroit when he was 18. "I finally found a place that would push back on whatever energy level I would exert.... There was always something to do, and there were so many personalities. It just fit with the way my body and mind are wired." While working for the late, great Charlie Trotter in Chicago, he learned that "you can do anything with what you have, no matter what the situation or how deep or how tough." 
 
With Edwins, and the Leadership Institute he created alongside it, Brandon set a lofty goal: "changing the face of reentry, and that's going to take a couple of lifetimes, but I knew that the right lens could accelerate that." That lens turned out to be Tom Lennon's, and Knife Skills was the result. 
 
Was the making of Knife Skills a political statement? Tom says no: "I didn't have any agenda. I just stumbled into this, it sounded like a good story, and I just filmed what I found. I think that that was an advantage. I'm not sitting here preaching to you about a political assertion I'm already confident in. That's not what it is. I'm just having you encounter a bunch of people in a very, very dramatic and difficult situation at a very difficult stage in their lives...really anxious, vulnerable, complex people who are yearning to not screw up again.... Then you, the viewer, I'm asking you to think about what you saw."
 
Take Marley, who says in Knife Skills that, in the throes of her drug addiction, "I'd wake up and be so mad to be alive." Marley has her ups and downs in the film, but all Brandon can do is provide a path to forgiveness: "I can't tell someone to be ready for this opportunity. What I can do is always leave that door open." Thinking about the process, Brandon told me: "When you're demanding excellence, you understand that maybe someone's not going to be able to do that, but can they do that for a moment, and can we make that moment a little longer each day, so that they can do that for an entire shift?.... If you get the right heart in there, that has the right energy and affection, that will breed hospitality. We'll work on the finer points, but just give me someone who cares and is going to work hard."
 
When you listen to this moving episode of Special Sauce, you can't help but notice how honest Tom and Brandon are, much like the film itself. You can watch the film here. And after you do, I bet you'll join me in rooting for Knife Skills when you watch the Oscars. 
 
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Mar 01, 2018
Phil Rosenthal on Stepping Out of His Comfort Zone [2/2]
30:01

Back in the day, we used to say that Serious Eats was a website focused on celebrating and sharing our enthusiasm for food with the online community. In Part 2 of my interview with fellow food enthusiast Phil Rosenthal, he reveals that Somebody Feed Phil, his new Netflix show, is really about the same thing, if you just added "travel" to food and substituted "family" for the online community.

Food, travel, and family are at the heart of the show; in each episode, we see Phil interacting with a family he's met in whatever city he's exploring. And, for good measure, Phil's elderly and utterly hilarious parents make appearances in each episode via Skype.

Phil tells me, "What I learned from [Everybody Loves Raymond] is that every show is about a family, and what I mean is, your news broadcast that you tune into every night, that's a family of people that you enjoy being with. Right? That's another reason why my parents are in the show...because that's what makes a television show."

Phil explains that one of the reasons he loves travel is that it forces him out of his comfort zone. Like the time he found himself in Thailand, sandwiched between two elephants as he was trying to leave their habitat. After a few tense moments he was able to leave unharmed, though not before one of the elephants swatted him with his tail. Phil explains, "Once you're through that moment, it's the best experience of your life. It's one of the highlights of your life that you will never forget, and you are so happy that you took that step outside your comfort zone. It's the only way we get anything in life. When you see the pretty girl across the room, will I ask her to dance? If you didn't, you wouldn't have the dance. Maybe you wouldn't have the girlfriend. Maybe you wouldn't have the wife. Maybe you wouldn't have the family...we all have to go outside our comfort zone sometimes."

Then there's the vicarious thrill viewers get when Phil makes a food discovery. Like the crab omelet made by Jay Fai he ate in Thailand. "This is somebody, she's been venerated as one of the best street food vendors in the whole world. She makes a crab omelet, there's a pound, pound and a half of fresh crab meat in this omelet, which she's cooking over a hot wok. It's just again, street food, on the side of the street. She has a few tables beside the stove, but [the] fire is going, real fire. The wok is on the fire. She pours the crab into the eggs that are in the wok, with butter, then as she starts turning it, and the omelet starts to form around the crab, she starts ladling fresh egg over it and turning that. So, it's tender, layers and layers of egg, until you have, really, a football filled with crab....This lady, right after we filmed...she got a Michelin star. For a shack...and just this week, she wants to give the star back. There's too many people now. She's 73 years old."

To hear Phil elaborate on the crab omelet lady, to hear more about the elephant walk and other hilarious situations in which Phil found himself way outside of his comfort zone, check out part 2 of his Special Sauce interview and the full transcript on Serious Eats.

Feb 22, 2018
Phil Rosenthal Is Anthony Bourdain, Except Afraid of Everything [1/2]
30:26

My friend Phil Rosenthal, the creator and host of the new Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil is as much fun to talk to as he is to eat with. When I asked him how the show ended up on Netflix, he replied, "The way I sold the show...I said, 'I'm exactly like Anthony Bourdain if he was afraid of everything....I mean, I'm the guy watching him, not really wanting to go to Borneo and have a tattoo pounded into my chest with nails.'"

When I sit down with Phil no subject is off limits. We revisited (admittedly at my behest) the moment in 2006 when I asked him to invest in Serious Eats. I just thought that the food-obsessed creator of Everybody Loves Raymond would leap at the opportunity to get in on the ground floor. "By the way," he said, laughing, "my business manager told me not to give you money then. I was ready. I was like, 'This sounds good.' But he said, 'No, no, no, no, don't, don't.'" That's four "nos" and two "don'ts" for those of you counting at home.

If you listen, you'll find that the Phil Rosenthal you hear on Special Sauce is the same guy you see on Somebody Feed Phil. He's funny–really funny–smart, and generously spirited (he always picks up the check, on the show and in real life). And, oh yeah, Phil's also a great storyteller who has somehow managed to maintain an optimistic but realistic outlook on life. Why? Because as his friend Ed. Weinberger, the legendary sitcom director and creator, told him when he was shooting the Everybody Loves Raymond pilot, "Phil, you might as well make the show you want to make because at the end, they're going to cancel you anyway." As Phil pointed out, "Isn't that a great philosophy of life? We all get cancelled one day. Live your life."

So enliven your life, Serious Eaters, by listening to Part 1 of the Special Sauce interview with Phil Rosenthal. You'll be laughing in the first minute. (And for those of you who prefer their interviews in written form, we've included an edited transcript of the conversation on our website.)

Feb 16, 2018
JJ Johnson on Hoops With Steph Curry and the Pleasures of Rice [2/2]
24:37
In part 2 of my interview with JJ Johnson, the charismatic chef and co-author of Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day, I had to ask him to explain the book's lengthy subtitle word by word, and to explain what he and his co-author Alexander Smalls set out to do with it. The book, JJ says, "represents who we are and the food we cook. And there's nothing really out there that represents the African-American culture...who they are and where they come from and the makeup of the food."
 
As for what's next, JJ has big plans and even bigger dreams. First, he wants to open a rice-centric restaurant: "Everywhere in the world, there's a mother grain that represents the culture. Everywhere I've traveled over the last five years, rice has been the center of the table...and I've developed a concept around rice. And you're going to have four, five different rices prepared a different way. There'll be a dumpling, there'll be some roti, two salads. Order from the counter. And it will feel like you're at a Caribbean beach, but the vibe will give you '80s and '90s New York City."
 
But that's not all; JJ has both short-term goals, like starting a brand empire, and more ambitious long-term goals. "Short term goals, my own restaurant like a flagship, where you can come and see me every day. And then I would say a big goal is just developing the JJ brand around the world, where you could eat my food in the bottom of a hotel or in a mall or at a rest stop. Because what I'm doing is just not putting JJ or the name of my restaurant somewhere. For me, it's bigger than that. Like, I'm creating jobs for people that look like me...I'm giving them a safe place to work. Somewhere where they can create their ideas. Someplace where they get an opportunity and a chance." And for the long term? Aside from helping the food of the African diaspora enter the mainstream, JJ says his ultimate long-term goal would be to have his own Nike sneaker. 
 
When our producer sent us the final edit of this episode, he wrote, "Wonderful that such an ambitious man could have such an unpretentious relaxed chat... Will make listeners hungry for both justice and ribs."
 
I couldn't agree more. Take a listen, and I bet you will, too.
Feb 08, 2018
JJ Johnson on Embracing the Food of the African Diaspora [1/2]
34:42

My guest this week on Special Sauce is chef and cookbook author Joseph "JJ" Johnson. When I say he gravitated to kitchen work at an early age, I mean really early. He started cooking with his grandmother when he was four: "I didn't really watch cartoons...I'd step on like a milk crate. She would give me a peeler, which was probably like a phony play peeler, like Fisher-Price, and I would peel vegetables or I would scoop things out." Five years later, when he was nine, he saw an ad on television that sealed the deal: "So I saw a commercial back then for [The] Culinary Institute of America, when they used to run commercials, and I just said one day...I'm going to go to that school." Now that's what I call a really, really early decision application.

After graduating from the CIA and doing a few stints in serious New York kitchens, JJ appeared on an episode of Rocco's Dinner Party, which led to an unlikely introduction to Alexander Smalls, the seminal African-American chef/restaurateur and Tony Award-winning opera singer (that's quite a combo, isn't it?). Smalls invited JJ on a trip to Ghana, and gave him an education on the food of the African diaspora, which was both foreign and familiar: "It also was a lightbulb moment for me because I grew up in the diaspora...So there was these things that would happen and I would say, I remember that flavor or I remember that scent. It really helped me develop who I was."

JJ would go on to open The Cecil with Smalls, and although it is now, sadly, closed, it was named America's best new restaurant by Esquire Magazine in 2014. Since then, J. J. and Smalls have co-authored the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day, and he's done a whole lot more, including cooking for Beyoncé. To find out just what those things are, you'll have to check out both this week's and next week's episodes of Special Sauce.

Feb 01, 2018
Jenny Allen on the Joy of Eating a Turkey Burger All by Yourself [2/2]
35:26

Here's how the delightful and brave Jenny Allen describes the food at her family table in Part 2 of her Special Sauce interview: "Such bad food...and so little of it."

As that quote can attest, you can be sure there's no shortage of pithy insights or jokes as Jenny and I talk about everything from the food at gallery openings ("Please, don't invite me to an art opening with the only food being peanuts....I resent that. Terrible. How hard is it to get a little cheese and crackers there?") and our shared love of Mounds bars to the topic of eating alone as a woman, which she writes about in her new book Would Everybody Please Stop: Reflections on Life and Other Bad Ideas: "A lot of women are shy about going out to eat alone. They think they look needy or sad, or they just feel unprotected or something. I don't feel that way."

We also managed to talk about subjects other than food, such as the way Jenny has watched in amazement as her actor-playright-television writer daughter Halley Feiffer has fearlessly blazed her own creative path with no hesitation. For those unfamiliar with her work, by the time Halley turned 21 she had already starred in The Squid and the Whale and won the National Young Playwrights' Contest. Since then, Halley has had her plays produced in leading theaters all over the country, has starred on Broadway, and has written for Mozart in the Jungle. Jenny wants someone to write a book about mothers and daughters in terms of the work they do in large part because she thinks that the fearlessness she sees in her daughter is echoed among her peers. "I feel like, among my friends, more than several of our daughters are doing the things that we do, only sooner, better, braver," Jenny says. "It's just wonderful to watch."

Just as it is wonderful to listen to Jenny Allen talk about anything at all–it's a treat that Serious Eaters won't want to miss.

Jan 25, 2018
Author and Playwright Jenny Allen on Chocolate Mousse and Writing Funny [1/2]
30:39

Jenny Allen, the humorist and author of the guffaw-inducing new book Would Everybody Please Stop: Reflections on Life and Other Bad Ideas, derives as much pleasure from eating as anyone I know. Consider this anecdote she shared with me about her food-loving stepmother: "One day she said, 'I made you something. I thought you'd like it.' It was an entire mixing bowl full of chocolate mousse...It was a huge bowl, and I just took it up to my room and just read and ate it all afternoon. I'm sure I felt sick afterwards, but it was...oh, my God, the best present ever."

The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz, who is no slouch in the humor department has called Jenny one of the funniest writers alive, and so I had to ask her for the one piece of advice she would give to aspiring humor writers: "Something I say sometimes, which is I think even true for me is, when you think the piece is so eccentric or so idiosyncratic or so neurotic or so weird and so personally your own peccadilloes and anxieties, just when I think, boy, I'm gonna send this in, and my editor's gonna think, this woman is really nuts. That's when it's ready to send. And not before that."

Jenny also happens to be one of the bravest souls I've ever met; her hilarious and moving one-woman play I Got Sick Then I Got Better, which describes her experience as a cancer survivor, is a testament to that. And I think anyone who listens to her in Part 1 of her Special Sauce interview will come away with more than a little inkling of her humor and her wonderful character, and will be left wanting more.

(But that's what Part 2 is for.)

Jan 19, 2018
Resy's Ben Leventhal on the Growing Pains of Internet Start-Ups [2/2]
33:13

When Resy's Ben Leventhal, who has been involved in at least five food-related start-ups, speaks about entrepreneurship, I am all ears. Here are just a couple of the pearls of wisdom that came out of our in-depth conversation:

"What I do try to say to people that haven't been through a couple of cycles is you got to understand how hard this is about to be. People say, 'Oh, I want to start a company. I want to do that. I want to go out on my own.' I say, 'That's great, but it's really fucking hard.'"

"It's gruesome. Every day of a startup is gruesome. If it's not gruesome, something is wrong. Something is off...Every day is a battle."

And here's Ben on putting together a team: "Well, look, I mean, you got to understand that you have to have the long view. You're building something from scratch. The people that you're lucky enough to have working with you, the people that take a risk with you, the first ten employees, they're taking almost as big a risk as you are, and in some cases, they're taking a bigger risk because they got to trust [you]...That's really important, and you have to make sure that those people feel almost minute to minute like they made the right choice."

Ben talks about how he's applied these hard-earned lessons to Resy, a two year-old start-up that so far seems to have successfully taken on OpenTable, the granddaddy of online reservation systems. How exactly did he and his partners do that? You're just going to have to listen to find out.

Jan 11, 2018
Eater Cofounder Ben Leventhal on the Early Days of Web 2.0 [1/2]
32:13

The members list of the non-existent Digital Food Entrepreneur's Club would be quite small, but it would have to include Ben Leventhal, who is both this and next week's guest on Special Sauce. Ben cofounded Eater in 2005 and is now one of the cofounders of Resy, the popular restaurant reservations app. On this week's episode, he and I reminisce about the good and bad and definitely crazy old days of both Eater and Serious Eats. And even though we really weren't direct competitors then (or even now), it was fun to talk about the battle scars we both suffered in the early days of what was called the Web 2.0 era.

I love what Ben has to say about risk: "I think risk tolerance has got to be one of the three most important things you need as an entrepreneur. I think you have to be willing to take risks. You have to have a real understanding of what you're good at and you should take risks on the basis of what you're good at, and you need enough self-awareness to know what's not going to work. And, as Ben and I discuss, you have to have a real optimistic streak. As he puts it, "You've got to have a strategy to get through those days where it looks like it's the last day."

If you love to go to restaurants (and who doesn't?) or you've ever thought about taking the entrepreneurial leap into a food-related digital business, this episode of Special Sauce is made especially for you.

Jan 04, 2018
[Rerun] Ask Special Sauce, The Holiday Edition: Kenji and Stella on Pie Crusts, Fudge, and Gizzards
34:28
This week we've got a special holiday episode of Ask Special Sauce. With Kenji and Stella serving as my co-pilots from the comforts of their own homes, we endeavored to answer some of the questions Serious Eaters and Special Sauce devotees have about holiday cooking and baking. Though we were thousands of miles apart, the exchanges crackled with energy and holiday cheer, with more than a heaping helping of incredibly helpful intel on the side.
 
Kenji and Stella cheerfully sparred on their respective pie crust theories. (My role as the Serious Eats overlord requires that I remain resolutely neutral on this freighted topic, at least publicly.) They also weighed in on tempering chocolate when making peppermint bark, the best way to make fudge, and whether it's possible to make caramel and toffee when it's raining (Spoiler alert: it is, and using the right kind of kosher salt is key). And if you've ever wanted to know what a gizzard is, what its function is in a turkey, and what holiday cooks can use them for, this is the episode of Special Sauce for you. So listen up! I am confident it will make your holidays a little bit merrier and a lot more delicious.
 
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, Serious Eaters and Special Sauce-ers! See you in 2018. 
Dec 29, 2017
Ask Special Sauce, The Holiday Edition: Kenji and Stella on Pie Crusts, Fudge, and Gizzards
34:28
This week we've got a special holiday episode of Ask Special Sauce. With Kenji and Stella serving as my co-pilots from the comforts of their own homes, we endeavored to answer some of the questions Serious Eaters and Special Sauce devotees have about holiday cooking and baking. Though we were thousands of miles apart, the exchanges crackled with energy and holiday cheer, with more than a heaping helping of incredibly helpful intel on the side.
 
Kenji and Stella cheerfully sparred on their respective pie crust theories. (My role as the Serious Eats overlord requires that I remain resolutely neutral on this freighted topic, at least publicly.) They also weighed in on tempering chocolate when making peppermint bark, the best way to make fudge, and whether it's possible to make caramel and toffee when it's raining (Spoiler alert: it is, and using the right kind of kosher salt is key). And if you've ever wanted to know what a gizzard is, what its function is in a turkey, and what holiday cooks can use them for, this is the episode of Special Sauce for you. So listen up! I am confident it will make your holidays a little bit merrier and a lot more delicious.
 
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, Serious Eaters and Special Sauce-ers! See you in 2018.
Dec 21, 2017
Andrew Rea on Life After Going Viral [2/2]
28:52

As we came to the end of the first part of our conversation, Andrew Rea had just started producing and hosting Binging with Babish, which I think is the most exciting, engaging, and just plain fun short-form cooking video series out there. Andrew still had his day job, and his obsessive, perfectionist nature meant that sleep was at a premium. (How obsessive is Andrew? He irons his apron at least three times for each episode.)

On today's episode of Special Sauce, we find out just how Binging with Babish became a true viral sensation, and how it became both his meal ticket and his vehicle for realizing all his creative dreams. In addition to Binging with Babish, Andrew now hosts a more interactive show called Basics with Babish (which, thanks to Switcher, allows viewers to cook along with Andrew in real time and even comment) and he's published his first book Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook for Movie Lovers. The way Andrew tells it, it involved a lot of hard work, luck, vision, and more than a little craft.

As to his what he thinks his special sauce is, Andrew says, "I try to do everything I can do to push myself out of my comfort zone. It's rewarded me the whole way. There have been stumbles of course but...The point of the story is that, yes, it's scary, but sometimes you've got to see if you can swim. You've got to jump in the deep end."

So if you've ever been tempted to jump into the deep end with a creative project, or if you just want to hear a unique digital media success story, you'll want to dive into the second part of my conversation with Andrew Rea.

Dec 14, 2017
Andrew Rea on the Wild Success of Binging With Babish [1/2]
29:50

I have to say that most YouTube cooking shows leave me cold. There's a little too much shaky cam footage and a few too many unfunny asides, and not enough serious, engaged cooking for my taste. So when Kenji told me about Binging with Babish, I watched one episode and got hooked. And I'm not alone: More than two million people now subscribe to the show.

I got so hooked that I had to have its creator, Andrew Rea, on Special Sauce. And I'm glad I managed to track him down: During our chat, Andrew revealed himself to be as smart and interesting and focused and idiosyncratic as the show itself. Which makes sense if you listen to how he puts the show together: "Every episode takes a bare minimum of 30 hours, sometimes up to 60 or 70 because I'm a one man band. I shoot it myself, I edit it myself, I color correct, I do the voiceover, all in my apartment, just me."

Here's the kicker: Up until a few months ago he also had a demanding full-time job, forcing him to work on Binging with Babish in the spare time he didn't really have. So if you've ever wondered what it takes to both produce a YouTube cooking series worth watching and develop a huge audience for it, check out this week's Special Sauce, which is just part one of my chat with Andrew (or should I say Mr. Babish?). When you do, I'm sure you will check out Binging with Babish yourself, and maybe his new series, Basics with Babish, too.

Dec 07, 2017
Bill Yosses on White House Dirt and Fake News [2/2]
34:38
If you interview someone like Bill Yosses, who was the White House pastry chef for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, you hope and pray that you can shake loose some dirt to titillate your listeners. But when you listen to part 2 of my interview with the ever-thoughtful Bill, the only dirt he dishes is about actual dirt, as in the soil in the White House Garden.
 
Here's Bill on the cruel honeymoon that every garden has in its first year: "It [gardening] is addictive. You get your first year free. You go and you turn over the dirt, and you plant a bunch of things. They come up. It's beautiful. It's magic. But the reason is the pests haven't discovered you yet. The fungus, the bacteria, the pests, the nematodes, I don't know what they are, but they don't know you're there. They don't care. All that was there before was just dirt and grass. They're just trying to get you hooked on gardening. Then the next year, all chaos breaks out. There are monsters everywhere." It turns out that pests don't regard the White House lawn as off-limits, and even the Secret Service can't stop them from doing their thing. 
 
Bill also lays to rest the rumor that he left his gig at the White House because of a disagreement with Michelle Obama. That turns out to be an actual example of fake news. "That whole thing came about because Marian Burros, a great writer, started her story out with a line, "Bill left the White House because of Mrs. Obama" in [The New York] Times. She announced that I was resigning. The next line was, "He was so inspired by her 'Let's Move' initiative that he wanted to have greater impact outside the White House." 
 
Bill returns to President Obama's fondness for pie for his next presidential dish on the podcast: "At the end of 100 days, there's a press conference. That is where all the press come in and they grill the President about, 'Well, this is the 100-day mark. Now, what have you accomplished?' One of the questions was, 'What was the most enchanting thing about your first 100 days at the White House?' I saw him later that day and he said, 'Bill, I swear to God. I was tempted to say the pastry chef.' But he said, 'I knew I'd have to call a second press conference if I said that.'"
 
I think we hit many a sweet spot with this episode, which is only fitting given the title of Bill's new book, The Sweet Spot: Dialing Back Sugar and Amping Up Flavor
Nov 30, 2017
[Rerun] Ask Special Sauce: Kenji and Stella Troubleshoot Your Thanksgiving
38:57
When I was mulling over what we could do on Special Sauce for Thanksgiving, I immediately thought about stress reduction. Making the big dinner can be stressful for any number of reasons, and while we design all our Thanksgiving offerings with an eye to making the holiday as hassle-free as possible, I decided to continue with that theme in this special edition of Ask Special Sauce. I invited Kenji and Stella on to answer as many questions from our community as we could, since they know a lot about a lot of Thanksgiving-related topics.
 
The two of them delve into a myriad of tips and tricks, from figuring out what to do with leftovers and accommodating your guests' allergies and dietary restrictions, and they discuss the differences between stuffing and dressing. (Kenji even has an ingenious solution for people who would like to cook their stuffing in their bird without overcooking the meat.)
 
We will also provide a full transcript of our conversation on our website, for those of you who'd prefer to read it, and have included highlights and links to the recipes mentioned in this episode below.
 
There are so many people that I have to thank concerning Special Sauce.  I'm thankful for everyone who makes the podcast a joy to create. Our producer, Marty Goldensohn, our associate producer, Marissa Chen, everyone here both at CDM Studios and the other Serious Eats' Special Sauce home, The Radio Foundation. And a big thank you especially to our listeners, whether you're new to the podcast or tune in weekly.  Without you, there would be no Special Sauce.
 
Happy Thanksgiving, Serious Eaters, from me and all of us here at Serious Eats!
 

-------------------------------

3:23  Kenji addresses a question about make-ahead savory foods for the holidays.

Recipes: Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon and Hazelnut Vinaigrette, Make-Ahead Roasted Squash and Kale Salad

6:27  Stella’s tips for make-ahead desserts.

Recipes: Pumpkin Layer Cake, Pumpkin Pie, Cherry Pie

8:28  Kenji explains how to get the most out of kitchen space when planning your Thanksgiving menu.

Recipes: Mashed Potatoes, Mashed Sweet Potatoes

10:25  Debate: Should pies be reheated?

11:57  The team debates the differences between stuffing and dressing. Kenji is going to steal Stella’s dad’s idea for including brown butter in a stuffing recipe this year.  

Recipes: Slow-Cooker Sage and Sausage Stuffing, View all stuffing recipes

18:51  Is it possible to make gluten-free pies or other desserts that are actually delicious?

Recipe: Flaky and Crisp Gluten-Free Pie Crust

22:33  Are expensive turkeys better than ‘typical’ turkeys?  Kenji, Stella and Ed discuss heritage vs. organic vs. free-range vs. commercial turkeys. Advice from Kenji: Use a thermometer and don’t overcook. Animal rights issues and farmers.

Video: How to Take the Temperature of Your Turkey

27:50  Kenji and Stella offer suggestions of what to do with leftover pumpkin purée.  

Recipes: The Best Pumpkin Pizza RecipeSpicy Spring pizza, Sweet Potato Pancakes Made With Leftover Mashed Sweet Potatoes, The Food Lab: How to Make Kickass Quesadillas

30:18  Is sous-vide a useful technique for Thanksgiving?  Kenji says yes, it’s great for turkey, leftovers, and heating make-ahead dishes.

Recipes: Sous Vide Turkey Breast, Deep-Fried Sous Vide Turkey Porchetta (Turchetta), Gravy

Nov 24, 2017
Ask Special Sauce: Kenji and Stella Troubleshoot Your Thanksgiving
38:57
When I was mulling over what we could do on Special Sauce for Thanksgiving, I immediately thought about stress reduction. Making the big dinner can be stressful for any number of reasons, and while we design all our Thanksgiving offerings with an eye to making the holiday as hassle-free as possible, I decided to continue with that theme in this special edition of Ask Special Sauce. I invited Kenji and Stella on to answer as many questions from our community as we could, since they know a lot about a lot of Thanksgiving-related topics.
 
The two of them delve into a myriad of tips and tricks, from figuring out what to do with leftovers and accommodating your guests' allergies and dietary restrictions, and they discuss the differences between stuffing and dressing. (Kenji even has an ingenious solution for people who would like to cook their stuffing in their bird without overcooking the meat.)
 
We will also provide a full transcript of our conversation on our website, for those of you who'd prefer to read it, and have included highlights and links to the recipes mentioned in this episode below.
 
There are so many people that I have to thank concerning Special Sauce.  I'm thankful for everyone who makes the podcast a joy to create. Our producer, Marty Goldensohn, our associate producer, Marissa Chen, everyone here both at CDM Studios and the other Serious Eats' Special Sauce home, the Radio Foundation. And a big thank you especially to our listeners, whether you're new to the podcast or tune in weekly.  Without you, there would be no Special Sauce.
 
Happy Thanksgiving, Serious Eaters, from me and all of us here at Serious Eats!
 

-------------------------------

3:23  Kenji addresses a question about make-ahead savory foods for the holidays.

Recipes: Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon and Hazelnut Vinaigrette, Make-Ahead Roasted Squash and Kale Salad

6:27  Stella’s tips for make-ahead desserts.

Recipes: Pumpkin Layer Cake, Pumpkin Pie, Cherry Pie

8:28  Kenji explains how to get the most out of kitchen space when planning your Thanksgiving menu.

Recipes: Mashed Potatoes, Mashed Sweet Potatoes

10:25  Debate: Should pies be reheated?

11:57  The team debates the differences between stuffing and dressing. Kenji is going to steal Stella’s dad’s idea for including brown butter in a stuffing recipe this year.  

Recipes: Slow-Cooker Sage and Sausage Stuffing, View all stuffing recipes

18:51  Is it possible to make gluten-free pies or other desserts that are actually delicious?

Recipe: Flaky and Crisp Gluten-Free Pie Crust

22:33  Are expensive turkeys better than ‘typical’ turkeys?  Kenji, Stella and Ed discuss heritage vs. organic vs. free-range vs. commercial turkeys. Advice from Kenji: Use a thermometer and don’t overcook. Animal rights issues and farmers.

Video: How to Take the Temperature of Your Turkey

27:50  Kenji and Stella offer suggestions of what to do with leftover pumpkin purée.  

Recipes: The Best Pumpkin Pizza RecipeSpicy Spring pizza, Sweet Potato Pancakes Made With Leftover Mashed Sweet Potatoes, The Food Lab: How to Make Kickass Quesadillas

30:18  Is sous-vide a useful technique for Thanksgiving?  Kenji says yes, it’s great for turkey, leftovers, and heating make-ahead dishes.

Recipes: Sous Vide Turkey Breast, Deep-Fried Sous Vide Turkey Porchetta (Turchetta), Gravy

Nov 16, 2017
Bill Yosses on President Obama's Love of Pie [1/2]
31:52

This week's guest on Special Sauce is Bill Yosses, who was the White House pastry chef from 2007 to 2014 and is the author of the just-published The Sweet Spot: Dialing Back Sugar and Amping Up Flavor.

Bill isn't your (White House) garden variety pastry chef: He's a James Beard Foundation Who's Who inductee, and he's given lectures on science and cooking at Harvard. He's also the founder of the Kitchen Garden Laboratory, which uses science to teach children about healthy cooking.

Even though Bill is extremely discreet, I did get him to spill the beans about former President Barack Obama reprimanding him for making such delicious pie. "The first thing that President Obama ever said to me... We had all gone to meet him in the East Room, and so we were all circled around the outside of the room. He's going around, shaking hands with everybody. We had already served some desserts, so I was sort of standing there, ready for his accolades. He comes around and says, 'Oh, the pastry chef. You make the pies.' 'Yes, sir.' 'Stop making so damn many pies.' "

Bill's a born Serious Eater and a worthy guest on Special Sauce, and I'm sure you all will agree. Be sure to catch him in a couple of weeks, too, in part two of our conversation.

Nov 10, 2017
David Tanis on Chez Panisse and the Hideousness of Writing Cookbooks
46:59

One of the many reasons I love doing Special Sauce is I get to talk to many people I have long admired from afar and never met. This week's guest is one of those people: David Tanis, one of the best and most thoughtful chefs and cookbook writers working today. I first heard his name when he was the chef at Chez Panisse. He wrote his first book, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, while working there, and for the past seven years he's been the City Kitchen columnist for the New York Times.

Now he's just published his fourth cookbook, David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient. David explains that, for him, shopping for food at open-air markets is about much more than gathering the freshest possible ingredients. It's therapy. "I live not very far from Chinatown [in Manhattan] and when I'm sort of feeling a little blue, I go down to Chinatown, it takes me ten minutes to walk there and walk around the market stands, and oh, I feel better in a minute. Seriously." That's my kind of therapy.

David also takes his ingredients seriously. How seriously? This is how much he loves his garlic soup recipe: "There are some great dishes [in the book], for instance, the garlic soup, which is made with just garlic and water and sage leaves. People need to know about that. I don't mind putting that in every book. It takes 15 minutes to make."

And here's what's happening on David Tanis Day all over the world: "Everyone is eating beans."

When you listen to this episode of Special Sauce, you'll realize that David Tanis is full of beans and so much more.

Nov 02, 2017
Jacques Torres Explains the Chocolate Color Wheel [2/2]
41:56

Serious Eaters who are as curious about all things chocolate as I am are going to love the second part of my Special Sauce interview with Jacques Torres, a.k.a. Mr. Chocolate.

Jacques gives a simple, succinct, and comprehensive explanation of the bean-to-bar chocolate process, and explains how his chocolate obsession has led him to buy 5,000 trees on a coffee plantation in Central America. He also clearly articulates the difference between dark, milk, white, and pink chocolate, which is relatively new. Which type of chocolate does Jacques prefer? All I can tell you is that he told me that good "dark chocolate is magical." I couldn't agree more.

As for the attendees to Jacques's last supper? Leonardo da Vinci is the first person he named without hesitation. His next choice was a shocker, and it's someone whose chocolate products are consumed by the ton every day around the world. To find out his name you're just going to have to listen to this chocolate-coated episode of Special Sauce.

 

Wanted: Your Holiday Cooking & Baking Questions

As the holiday season approaches, we're planning a brand-new episode of Ask Special Sauce, starring our team of superstar recipe developers and all of your most pressing holiday-cooking questions! Need tips on Thanksgiving menu planning? Make-ahead dishes you can throw in the backseat for the drive to Aunt Becky's house? Guidance on safely deep-frying a turkey? E-mail us the whole story at specialsauce@seriouseats.com, and your cooking conundrum just might get featured on Special Sauce.

Oct 26, 2017
Jacques Torres on Becoming Mr. Chocolate [1/2]
33:46
If you love chocolate–and what Serious Eater doesn't–you won't want to wait to savor every morsel of the Special Sauce episodes featuring Mr. Chocolate himself: chocolatier and pastry chef extraordinaire Jacques Torres. 
 
Jacques knows more than a few things about chocolate. He grew up in Bandol in Provence, France, and first started working at the local pastry shop when he was fourteen. He says he was hooked on the very first day. "Oh my God,' he recalls, "That sweet sticky stuff, I want to do that for the rest of my life." Jacques has since won a James Beard Pastry Chef of the Year Award, established his own bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing facility in Brooklyn, and he's even opened Choco Story New York, an interactive chocolate museum in Lower Manhattan. 
 
On today's episode Jacques has some hilariously pointed advice for the best way to store chocolate: "The best way to store chocolates that we make in a store like mine, the best way to store them is in your stomach, because they don't age very well. Eat them fresh." 
 
His pastry- and chocolate-centered life has had many (mostly sweet) twists and turns, but for more specifics, you'll have to listen. Just make sure you have a piece of chocolate handy when you do.
Oct 20, 2017
Chris Kimball on the Grateful Dead and Life After America's Test Kitchen [2/2]
38:38
I'm going to go out on a limb here, or perhaps I should say on a sprig of rosemary: For those who care deeply about the state of home cooking today, the food-journalism landscape, or the Grateful Dead, this week's episode of Special Sauce, part two of my conversation with Milk Street founder Chris Kimball, is a must-listen. Going back over the transcript, I marveled anew at just how smart and thought-provoking and, yes, persnickety the bespectacled, bow tie–wearing Mr. Kimball really is, on every subject: how Serious Eats culinary director, Kenji López-Alt, was just as science-driven and obsessive about rigorous testing when he worked for Chris at Cook's Illustrated as he is now, the humorous side of Abraham Lincoln, the range of spices found in the cuisine of the Ottoman Empire, and the benefits of not just giving home cooks what they want, to name a few. It may be my favorite Special Sauce ever—it's that good—and if this podcast weren't already free, I'd offer a money-back guarantee that serious eaters everywhere will feel the same way after listening. (And if you don't, let us know. We'd love to hear your feedback.)
Oct 12, 2017
Chris Kimball on the Joy of Arguments and the Future of Food Media [1/2]
33:46
If you're interested at all in food media you're going to love my Special Sauce conversation with Milk Street founder and seminal food publishing guru Chris Kimball. Chris is insanely smart, incredibly provocative, and very good company if you like your company opinionated, outspoken, and a little bit prickly.
 
Here are a few gems (or should I say crumbs?) from the first part of our conversation: "You know, I just did a Twitter contest about bad substitutions. Two of my favorites were, 'Instead of mint I use mint toothpaste,' which I just love. And my other one, which was a kid's, said, "Instead of chocolate they use chocolate ex-lax because it kind of looks like chocolate." But when you get into that muddy world..."
 
Of course, I asked Chris what life was like at the Kimball family table: "[It] was formal, seven o'clock every night, jacket and tie, fingernails clean. I'm not making this up...Well, the best thing about the table ... I mean the food was good, but the conversation was great. I mean we were expected at an early age to know what's going on and say something intelligent. So we were part of the conversation. So I developed an early love of argument or discussion. I love arguments."
 
Chris also has some strong opinions on whether people should pay for content: "People always said, 'Why do you charge for your content online?' And I said, 'Well why should I give it away? I mean this costs a lot of money.' I have people flying to South Africa and to the Middle East and doing this new project. It's expensive. And we have cooks, and we pay a lot of money in rent, and you know we need money to pay our bills. And so I'm perfectly happy to say to people, 'Look. If you'd like to participate it's $20 or $30 a year. It's sure money."
 
I had a blast talking to Chris, and I think Serious Eaters everywhere will have a blast listening to him, too.
Oct 05, 2017
Adam Driver on Choosing Roles and Eating a Chicken a Day [2/2]
21:31
When–and it should be when, not if–you listen to part two of my Special Sauce interview with Adam Driver, my guess is you'll be as awed as I was by his bandwidth, his intellectual curiosity, and the way he thinks about food and life. You'll learn, for instance, that he chooses roles based in large part on the director involved in the project, which makes sense in light of the fact that he's worked with directors like Joel and Ethan Coen, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Soderbergh. And you'll learn that Adam had been working in theater for years with world-class playwrights like Tony Kushner (he played the role of Louis Ironson in the 2011 Signature Theater revival of Angels in America) for years before anyone saw him in Girls.
 
I'd read somewhere that Adam had, at one point, eaten a whole chicken every day for lunch. When I asked him why, he laughed and said, "I don't know. I couldn't answer that. I put myself on this big physical regime coming right from the military that I thought was...to challenge myself, and a whole chicken was part of it. One day I had a whole chicken and a foot-long sub from Subway and I'm like, 'This has got to stop.'"
 
We also talked about who he'd invite to the table for his last supper (family wasn't allowed) of meatloaf: Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Stanley Kubrick, and Cy Twombly. And, as usual, I asked him about what people around the world would be doing on a holiday held in his name. You're going to have to listen to find out what he said, but suffice it to say it involves a lot of wind sprints and taking care of stray dogs, and that the world might be a better place if we did in fact celebrate Adam Driver Day. 
Sep 28, 2017
Adam Driver on Marines, MREs, and Postprandial Cereal [1/2]
25:12
For the first episode of the new season of Special Sauce I invited on a very special guest: the brilliant, original, and always thoughtful Adam Driver. We talked about his unusual path to an acting career, which took him through the Marines. His time in the armed services had a profound influence on his life and work, which he talks about in poignant detail. And we talked about Arts in the Armed Forces, the extraordinary non-profit he and his wife, Joanne Tucker, founded. The organization puts on performances of monologues and music for military personnel and their families both domestically and all around the world.
 
Adam and I spoke about a range of other topics, including how he managed to lose 50 pounds for his role in Martin Scorsese's "Silence," and how he has taken up cooking–he admits to not being very good at it–on his infrequent breaks. I also got the opportunity to ask about the dinner Kenji had recently cooked for Adam and Joanne.
 
Adam Driver is funny, smart, thoughtful, and loves to eat and cook. In short, he's the perfect Special Sauce guest, as you'll find out when you check out Part 1 of his visit to the Special Sauce studios. 
Sep 22, 2017
Chris Bianco, the Pizzaiolo With a James Beard
27:09
In part two of my far-ranging conversation with chef, pizzaiolo, and pizza poet laureate Chris Bianco, we talk about so many things, including his reaction to winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest in 2003. He was the first and only pizza chef to win a regional award. Chris was surprised, to say the least. "I'm incredibly grateful for any recognition from peers," he says, but he also notes that it was unsettling. "I was uncomfortable with it because I never believed in the the best of anything...I'm just a guy that went to work., and I've been fortunate and I've worked hard...It was very humbling and I was very grateful, but it was probably the first time when people came to check me out instead of eating, which kind of broke my heart, you know?"
 
Chris also reluctantly discusses his very public lifelong battle with asthma, which he credits with keeping him grounded as it gave him "a sense of mortality." But his choice of profession and his work ethic exacerbated his condition. "After years of breathing and inhaling flour, it gave me...they called it like a baker's lung kind of a thing." A doctor gave him a rather explicit warning: "Hey, man, you might want to redirect your energies if you want to hang around." 
 
So Chris stepped away from the oven and set out to achieve the same balance in his life that he had achieved with his transcendent pizza. He started growing and canning delicious tomatoes with two partners. He got married and started a family. But working the oven, which he mans like a ballet dancer, still holds a special allure for him: "I worked a double shift on Sunday. One of my guys went on vacation. And it was great fun for me, and I loved it so much to be at the oven. I just can't do it 18 hours a day, seven days a week anymore."
 
What would he do for his last supper? Chris says he'd eat cheese (maybe a Stilton) and crackers accompanied by a great bottle of wine, by himself. As for what would happen all over the world on Chris Bianco Day, there was laughter in his voice when he said, "Probably people are writing their mayors right now saying, "Who okayed this?"
Aug 31, 2017
Chris Bianco, the Poet Laureate of Pizza
34:03

My guest on this week's Special Sauce is Chris Bianco, the man who makes my favorite pizza in the world. The pies he puts out at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ, would definitely be on the table at my last supper. And while Chris is also the author of the new book Bianco: Pizza, Pasta, and Other Food I Like, which every aspiring pizzaiolo should pick up, I invited Chris onto the podcast because he's the poet laureate of pizza, someone who truly connects the dots of food and life in unique fashion.

The centrality of food and cooking to his identity is evident in everything he talks about, from the lesson he learned as a child at the Bianco family table ("Food was really as important as your breath, basically.") to the reason why he thinks he has gravitated toward cooking: "I think that I've been very insecure just in my existence, like where I fit in. I wanted to make you happy...I wanted you to like me, whoever you were."

And while he's passionate about food, he still has a sense of humor. Consider his description of the way he got started making money cooking in Phoenix: "I was making pasta and mozzarella in my apartment, and I was selling to a couple Italian restaurants at the time. They paid me cash. And I was like, if I got busted, how much time can you do for mozzarella?"

Chris also has some sage advice for young chefs: "What I challenge them to do is take everything out of their apartment, their spiritual apartment, and put it on their front lawn, and to see what they have they want to bring back in, and redecorate their life with or their inspirations with." And as for his poetic bent, Chris once told me, "I'm on a mission. I have a responsibility to do something with integrity and dignity. My menu might be small, but to me, it's the biggest thing in the world. Pizza inspires me, fascinates me, and gives me hope."

To hear more of Chris's wise words you're just going to have to listen to both this and next week's episodes of Special Sauce.

Aug 25, 2017
Daniel Boulud on Making Airplane Food Taste (Pretty) Good
25:16

In part two of my illuminating interview with French-American super chef Daniel Boulud, he and I talk about—believe it or not—airline food. Daniel has designed some business class meals for Air France, and the airline flew me over to Paris to experience his food in the air. While the food was tasty, it wasn't perfect. (Having worked on airline food as a consultant, believe me when I say that "tasty but not perfect" is about as good airline food is going to get.) I asked Daniel how it felt to work within the constraints of airline food preparation, particularly as a self-confessed obsessive perfectionist. "I enjoy the challenge," he replied. "And I hope people appreciate the fact that I'm just trying to elevate the offering."

Daniel also talks about a remarkable older book of his, Letters to a Young Chef, which he has updated and is being reissued in October. I asked him about the qualities a young cook has to possess to become a successful chef-restaurateur. "You have to have the passion for hospitality, the passion for making people happy," he said, adding that that passion has to come through in a "respectful, intelligent way."

Daniel has a whole lot more to say about his career and his success in the restaurant business, and he also lets me in on how he'd like the world to celebrate a hypothetical Daniel Boulud Day, and on which band he'd like to perform at his last supper. You'll just have to listen to the episode to find out.

Aug 18, 2017
The Culinary Education of Daniel Boulud
39:29

My guest on this week's Special Sauce is Daniel Boulud, whom I have known for more than 25 years. We first met when Alex Lee, his longtime chef de cuisine and my regular squash partner, asked me to take Daniel on a New York Eats food adventure (Alex now works for über restaurateur Stephen Starr). Over the course of that afternoon, Daniel tasted everything from Nova Scotia smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel at Russ & Daughters to superb Polish ham made by Kurowycky and Sons in the East Village (which, sadly, is no longer with us). I found myself in awe of Daniel's insatiable intellectual curiosity about everything and everybody in the food culture, his devotion to his craft, and his passion for deliciousness. And I think you'll immediately notice all those characteristics on full display in this week's episode.

How devoted is Daniel to his craft? He started cooking professionally at the tender age of fourteen—at a Michelin three-star restaurant, no less. A month later he was plucking pheasants and other game birds in a restaurant basement for 14 or 15 hours at a stretch. Did it phase him? Nah, he'd already been doing similar work at his family's farm outside Lyon for many years.

If you listen to him rhapsodize about learning to make a dish like ecrevisses à la nage (crayfish in a vegetable broth), I promise it will make you hungry. You'll also hear how well his curiosity served him when he ate a breakfast of tête de veau (calf's head) washed down with Beaujolais, with many of France's leading chefs, at the big market at Lyon. That's quite a breakfast, but, then again, Daniel's quite a chef.

I hope all you Serious Eaters will listen to, learn from, and enjoy this week's Special Sauce episode, which is entirely devoted to the culinary education of one of the greatest chefs in the world.

 
Aug 11, 2017
Nobu Designer David Rockwell on the Perils of Pursuing Timeless Design
32:24
Welcome back for part two of my Special Sauce interview with designer and architect David Rockwell. In this week's episode, David talks about what the initial design process for projects is like, and about some of the challenges he faces when talking to his clients: "One of the catchphrases for clients to say is, 'You know, I'd really like a timeless design.' Well, who would not like a timeless design? Timeless design has to be a result, not an intention. I think if you're afraid to go through timely to get to timeless, you end up with petrified."
 
As someone who was a consultant for many years before I started Serious Eats, I laughed really hard when he said that. And I asked him how he deals with the inevitable ego clashes in his line of work. He quoted Jack O'Brien, one of his favorite theater directors, in response: "'Don't put a hat on a hat.' From a design perspective I take that to mean, you don't want to engage in a project where everyone's going to do the same thing. If you have a client that feels like they know what they want visually, that's a little constricting. I'd rather work with a client who knows what they want emotionally, knows where they want to land."
 
I also got to ask David which person, living or dead, he'd most like to have lunch with (other than Frank Lloyd Wright). His answer was deceptively obvious: "I think Picasso would be more fun to sit and talk with and get him to scribble on a napkin. God, can you imagine?" 
Aug 04, 2017
Nobu Designer David Rockwell on His Tricks of the Trade
33:34

On this week's episode of the Special Sauce podcast, host Ed Levine talks to David Rockwell, the architect and designer behind every Nobu around the globe, as well as multiple airline terminals and the theater in which the Academy Awards are held.

Jul 28, 2017
Fuchsia Dunlop on "Magic Ingredients" and Stocking the Chinese Pantry
39:52

In part two of my Special Sauce interview with Chinese-food and -culture writer Fuchsia Dunlop, we tackle common misconceptions about cooking Chinese food at home. Fuchsia addresses those intimidated about diving in, explaining that "people often think that Chinese cooking is very complicated–that you're gonna need all kinds of weird ingredients–and also there's this idea often that Chinese food's not very healthy; there's a lot of deep-frying and that kind of thing." But, she says, "I think the important thing to remember is that Chinese food is what most people in China just cook at home every night. People there, they don't have a lot of time. They want to rustle something up that's tasty and healthy and within their budget for their family."

The Land of Fish and Rice author also shares how to stock our kitchens with just a few Chinese items, including what she calls "magic ingredients." But she doesn't stop at pantry essentials–you'll hear all about why mud snails are "absolutely divine." They are, I learned, "eaten raw and pickled in rice wine ice cold. You crunch it, complete with its shell."

Even if you're not quite ready to take the mud-snail plunge, though, she has plenty of recommendations for inquisitive minds and palates. She recommends the five-volume Chinese novel that should be required reading for everyone interested in China, and dishes on what famous distant ancestor would be at her last supper–someone I just had to allow, even though I usually bar family from the list. To hear what everyone would be doing on Fuchsia Dunlop Day, you'll just have to listen. I will say that Kenji will be very happy when he hears it.

Jul 21, 2017
Fuchsia Dunlop on Her Enduring Love Affair With Chinese Cooking
42:57

What a story: A young, food-obsessed British student at Cambridge University named Fuchsia (God, I love that name) heads to China in the '90s to study, and manages to become the first Westerner to attend the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. After that, she zigzags between China and London and, in the process, becomes one of today's best English-language writers on Chinese cuisine.

That's Fuchsia Dunlop's story, as you'll hear on this extraordinary episode of Special Sauce (part one of a riveting two-parter). Why has she devoted so much of her working life to writing about China and Chinese food, culminating in her latest cookbook, Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China? Fuchsia explains: "I really do think that Chinese gastronomy and Chinese cuisine is both an amazing creation as culture and as expression of human creativity and inventiveness and so on. It also has many important lessons for everyone in terms of health. There's no other cuisine, perhaps, that combines pleasure and notions of health and balance like Chinese.... That's something that, in the West, in the whole world, we're struggling with. How do you eat well in a way that's both pleasurable and also good for health and environmentally sustainable? I think we can find many of the answers and solutions in traditional Chinese cuisine."

When you listen, you'll learn, as I did, some Chinese cooking terms that defy easy English translation: zhi jia pian, ma er duo, gu pai pian, niu shi pian. What do they mean? I'm not going to tell you. You'll have to listen to find out.

Jul 14, 2017
'Queen of the Loser Class' Barbara Lynch on Helping Young Cooks Thrive
24:51

Welcome back for part two of my Special Sauce interview with Southie street urchin-turned-chef-restaurateur Barbara Lynch. This week we talk a little bit more about her memoir, Out of Line: A Life of Playing With Fire, but Barbara also manages to surprise me with a few additional tidbits of information, like the distinguished company she keeps (one of her "great friends" is an acclaimed presidential historian whose initials are DKG).

Barbara and I discuss what spurred her to continue to open up restaurants ("I get bored easily," she says. "I always have to challenge myself.") And we also touch upon why, despite her expansive success, she's resisted the siren song of opening up a restaurant in Vegas, and the impression she was left with after meeting with mega-hotelier, Steve Wynn.

We also reflect on the pleasures of setting up your employees for future success (for those Serious Eaters who don't know, Kenji first learned how to cook in one of Barbara's kitchens), and on the necessity of keeping a big box of original Cheez-Its in your car at all times.

But if you want to hear about the inspired guest list at her last meal, or about its simple yet entirely appropriate menu, you'll just have to listen.

Jul 07, 2017
Barbara Lynch on Her Journey From the Police Blotter to the Time 100
30:22
Boston-based chef-restaurateur Barbara Lynch has had an eventful year. First, her memoir, Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire, was published; it's a moving, brutally honest, no-holds-barred account of her hardscrabble upbringing in a South Boston housing project. And then Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Since I couldn't put down her book and I rarely get to talk to people on Time's list, I had to have her on Special Sauce. And she didn't disappoint.
 
Here's Barbara on why compliments from diners about her food endeared her to cooking: "I think I tried to please my mother her whole life. I would never get a compliment so it's kind of like when you get a compliment, it makes you feel good."
 
Here she is on why her childhood was so chaotic and problematic: "I think my mother had her hands full, basically. She raised all six of us without a husband. She slept with the police radio to know when her kids were arrested or not."
 
And here she describes the question that is at the heart of Out of Line
"How did I get from point A to point B without a high school education or any education whatsoever? Now look at me. I'm still in shock, especially with the Time 100. That just floored me. And then seven successful restaurants? I thought I'd always own a sub joint."
 
The story of how Barbara Lynch, street urchin, became Barbara Lynch, James Beard Award-winning chef-restaurateur and restaurant empire builder, has to be listened to to be believed. As a bonus, you'll get to hear all the head-shaking details I left out. 
Jun 30, 2017
John T. Edge on His Love-Hate Relationship With the South
34:25
Part two of my interview with my old runnin' partner, John T. Edge, delves into the genesis and development of his new book,  The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of The Modern South. I thought I'd just give you a taste of what John T. has to say regarding misconceptions about Southern culture and the importance of the region's food; a few auditory breadcrumbs, if you will.
 
"To speak of Southern culture, for the longest time people heard 'white Southern culture' when they heard that, or they heard 'Confederate-grounded Southern culture.' And the reality is that the South is as black as it is white. And, if anything, the imprint of black peoples on the region, and on its food and on its music, is actually primary, not secondary. And once you embrace that, a world of tolerance opens, a world of inclusivity opens, but we need to get there." 
 
"I mean food offered me a way to think through my belief in this place, my anger in this place, this place being the South. That's always been the issue for me, and for many Southerners. It's Faulknerian in its roots; like, you love this place, you loathe this place, how do you resolve?"
 
"For the longest time people have tended to frame the South as a bunker of tradition. This place that was a stronghold against encroachment of new things, new peoples, new ideas. And that's just not true. It never has been true, and it's certainly not true today. So to apprehend Southern cuisine today is to travel to Houston, which I think of as kind of the twenty-first-century creole city of the South. If New Orleans was the nineteenth and twentieth centuries' creole city–small 'c' creole city of the South–Houston is the twenty-first-century creole city of the South. And to sit down at a place like Crawfish & Noodles or various other restaurants in Houston where they're Vietnamese-owned and they're doing Cajun-style crawfish."
 
I hope these morsels entice you to take a listen, because you'll discover even tastier stuff. You'll be glad you did. I promise.
Jun 23, 2017
John T. Edge on What Southern Food Stories Reveal
23:29

This week on Special Sauce my guest is the great Southern food chronicler John T. Edge. I've been discussing food as seen through the lenses of race, class, and ethnicity with John T. for almost 20 years now (no one, not even his wife, calls him just "John"). So when I heard that his magnum opus, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, had been published, I knew it was the perfect excuse to continue our discussion, but with both of us miked up.

As usual, John T. has plenty to say regarding the issues he has devoted his life to writing about. He describes his work as a kind of settling of debts, particularly with those who have given so much to him, even as they remained nameless. As he says, "The South is a place to parse out racism and its impact. I grew up not knowing the name of the BBQ pit masters who worked the pits at my favorite place just down the road. I loved Miss Colter, the owner, I can tell you what her face looks right now, I can picture that kind of serious gray curls on top of her head. But I don't know the names of the men who actually cooked the BBQ I grew up loving. And that recognition has driven me throughout my career as a writer."

Check out this episode of Special Sauce, which is, in the best Southern tradition, drenched in both redeye gravy and provocative notions, thanks to my friend John T. And tune in next week when he and I take a deep dive into The Potlikker Papers, which is a must-read for all Serious Eaters.

Jun 16, 2017
Michel Nischan on Butch Cassidy and the Fight for Good Food
33:21

Last week's episode of Special Sauce ended with Michel Nischan and I discussing his groundbreaking restaurant, Heartbeat, and his efforts to serve food that was healthy and actually delicious.

This week we pick up where we left off and talk about how leaving Heartbeat led to Michel becoming a trailblazing sustainable food consultant for major airlines, hotel groups, and corporations looking to develop healthier menus by sourcing better, organic ingredients.  It was this consulting work that led him to develop a friendship and partnership with the late actor, entrepreneur, and activist, Paul Newman, with whom he operated the former farm-to-table Dressing Room Restaurant in Westport, CT.  Michel and Newman hit it off, in part, because Michel hadn't seen any of his movies. "One day he finally said, 'Have you seen any of my movies?' I said, 'I've seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.'" Newman looked at him a moment and then replied, "I knew I liked you for a reason."

Newman also served as the catalyst for Michel to found his remarkable nonprofit, Wholesome Wave, the goal of which is to increase access to healthy, locally and regionally grown food in underserved communities. Michel discusses the nonprofit's remarkable growth, and describes—with much-deserved pride—its accomplishments, like influencing the 2014 Farm Bill for the better.

There's a whole lot more to our discussion, including Michel's thoughts on ways to get involved in fighting for iamportant food policy issues, and of course the usual grab-bag of Special Sauce questions. I do hope you listen; Michel is doing admirable work.

Jun 09, 2017
Michel Nischan on Truck Stop Diners, Edgar Winter, and Juicing
35:29

This week on Special Sauce, I have as my guest my old friend, Michel Nischan, the three-time James Beard award-winning chef, author, and food equity advocate. Michel's a busy guy. Between his work as the founder and CEO of Wholesome Wave, which aims to increase affordable, healthy food access for underserved consumers, and his work with the Chef's Action Network, which he co-founded, he doesn't have a lot of free time, so I'm delighted that he had the time to join me.

Michel has had a long and storied career, so we've broken up the interview into two parts. This week we focus on his origins, and how he went from being a broke, teenager playing music with some legendary names–think The Edgar Winter Band and Rick Derringer–to becoming a kind of savant line cook, due to ample exposure to good cooking at home. At his first job at a truck stop diner, he took one look at the griddle and all the breakfast meats and proposed to the owner that they make biscuits and gravy from scratch. "The guy thought I was stoned or something."

From there, he worked his way through a number of kitchens in the late 1970s and the '80s, moving every time he was given an incremental wage increase. "Two bucks more an hour in 1979 is like, wow. Sold."

But it wasn't until he started cooking at Heartbeat in New York City that he connected all the disparate elements of his life and career and began producing food that was way ahead of its time; healthy, yet still tasty. I do hope you take the time to listen to Michel's incredible story–particularly since he embodies the ideal of chefs who care about the people they cook for. And this week is just about his restaurant career; next week we'll get into how he's trying change the world.

Jun 02, 2017
Entrepreneur Seth Godin on How to Launch Your Own Food Enterprise
01:05:14
Today, my guest is Seth Godin, the insanely popular business blogger and best-selling author (his book, Tribes, is the most inspiring on leadership I've ever read). Seth has been encouraging and inspiring future leaders of every stripe imaginable for over thirty years, and since he loves to eat and cook and talk about food and life, I think he's perfect for Special Sauce.
 
Seth has some unique and seemingly counterintuitive advice for aspiring restaurateurs: "The goal [in opening a restaurant] is not the biggest possible audience. The goal is the smallest possible audience. By possible I mean sustainable. So if you can build a restaurant on 1,000 people and make a living, then obsess about a restaurant for 1,000 people. By focusing on what they need and delighting them, they're going to tell their friends."
 
Seth also believes that anyone interested in the food business has to understand how much human beings crave novelty and crave connection. And when it comes to fear of failure, he says, "You can't make the fear go away, you have to learn to dance with it." He adds, "Pablo Picasso painted 10,000 paintings, only a hundred of them are amazing, fifty changed the world, which means he failed 9,900 times." While we're on the subject of Picasso, here's Seth's definition of an artist: "What it means to be an artist is to do work that matters in a human way that changes someone else."
 
I hope you enjoy this remarkable episode of Special Sauce. It just might change the way you think about your life and work.
May 26, 2017
Andy Ricker on Why He Doesn't Call Himself a Chef
37:45
On this week's Special Sauce, Andy Ricker explains his idiosyncratic take on what he does for a living, which he articulated in his book, Pok Pok: "I'm not a chef. I didn't invent this stuff. The food at my restaurants is not my take on Thai food." When I asked him what he meant by that, he replied, "The approach of most chefs is to go and study a food, usually in a cursory manner these days, and then kind of absorb some of the techniques and the flavors and stuff and try to recreate it in their own image somehow. For me, the food that I was encountering [in Thailand] didn't need any help... As good as it was, the food didn't need anything else. It was great."
 
Ricker also speaks reverently about his friend, Mr. Lit, a Thai rotisserie chicken master: "He started out as a salesman for a chicken company and he decided he wanted to do roast chicken. It took him two and a half years to perfect his chickens. He did it for 35 years, and then he turned it over to his daughter and son-in-law and wife, and they've been doing it for a further eight or ten years since then."He pauses and then finishes his thought: "He's retired and they're still making the same damn menu." 
 
As for who he'd have as a guest for his last supper, I will give all of you Serious Eaters a hint about one of them: He was the lead singer of the Box Tops. 
 
May 19, 2017
Andy Ricker on the Birth of Pok Pok
34:28
My guest on Special Sauce both this week and next is chef-restaurateur Andy Ricker, whose Pok Pok restaurants in Portland, Oregon, and in Brooklyn introduced me to the joys of Northern Thai food.
 
We delve into his hippie roots growing up in rural Vermont, his varied professional background ranging from working in low- and high-end restaurants to playing in several bands to house painting, and how his extensive travels helped transform his perspective of cooking from a way to get by into a passion.
 
When it opened, Ricker didn't call Pok Pok a Thai restaurant for a variety of reasons. I'll leave you here with just one of them: He didn't want people saying, "You're a white dude. How dare you claim tradition and authenticity." For the rest of them, you're just going to have to listen to both this week's episode and next week's, as well, when Andy and I take a deeper dive into the issues of authenticity and cultural appropriation. Don't worry. It will be time well spent.
May 12, 2017
Dan Barber on the Future of Food
38:12

This week on Special Sauce features the second part of my far-reaching conversation with Dan Barber, and he and I cover a lot of ground. He defines each of the three plates that are the subject of his groundbreaking book, The Third Plate. I'll let you in on what the first plate is here: it's meat and potatoes, "the classic American dinner," according to Dan. But to find out what the other two plates are, you're just going to have to listen (you can, of course, read his book, too).

Dan and I also discuss his relationship with the late environmentalist and philanthropist David Rockefeller, who built the restaurant that is part of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. And Dan makes it clear he has some strong feelings about corn cultivation in the country. He calls it "the most inefficient use of land resources in the history of the world."

Finally, Dan reflects on how having two young daughters has changed the way he feels about spending so much time in his restaurant kitchens. "It's very hard to be inspired in the kitchen," Dan says, "I just generally feel a bit angry."

I hope you have the time to listen in on our conversation–it's really Dan Barber as you've never heard him.

May 05, 2017
Dan Barber on Mentors, Tough Love, and Anger Management
28:35

I think it's safe to say that Dan Barber, the visionary chef of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, has led an interesting life. I'm sure you'll agree after listening to this week's episode of Special Sauce.

Barber's dad loved good restaurants, so he was exposed to some pretty great places at a very young age. But, on the other hand, his father was also a practitioner of tough love. He used to say, "You're a humble son, Daniel, but you have a lot to be humble about."

His kitchen career got off to a rocky start at Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery, where he got fired for forgetting to add salt to 1,200 pounds of rosemary bread dough, ruining the entire batch. Barber overheard Silverton say, "I can't let this kid ruin me." He was 22 years old at the time.

Barber includes the legendary French chef Michel Rostang among his mentors, noting that Rostang has suffered four heart attacks in the kitchen as he's tried to secure a third Michelin star, an achievement that has eluded the Rostang family for three generations. Barber says that Rostang's commitment and drive affected him deeply, even as it made him wonder, "What is it about this whole restaurant, cooking, chef-ing thing that drives people half-mad?"

And Barber admits that he has his own regrettable moments in the kitchen, which is something he's trying to address. "I had one last night that I regret... I let it loose," he says. "And I'm a little bit cruel... I really am trying very hard."

Barber had so much interesting stuff to say about his early career and becoming an award-winning chef that you're going to have to wait until next week's episode of Special Sauce to get the scoop on his groundbreaking book, The Third Plate, and wastED, his pop-up restaurant concept, which just finished a five-week run in London. Until then, I hope you enjoy the first part of our fascinating conversation.

Apr 28, 2017
Mark Ladner on Cooking Pasta in 10 Seconds Flat
29:05

Last week, I promised that you'd get to hear why Mark Ladner decided to walk away from Del Posto, which was awarded four stars by the New York Times, to open a fast-casual pasta joint, and this week I make good on that promise.  In this week's episode, Ladner and I discuss how he came up with the idea for his start-up, Pasta Flyer, and the challenges specific to figuring out how to make a good pasta that cooks up fast. He also reflects on how the experience is a kind of culmination of all the work he's done and everything he's been through in his life to date, from his first cooking jobs in the 1980s to working for Mario Batali, and how he considers his long and successful career in fine dining "a detour." As Ladner says, "I don't know how I necessarily got here, but this is what I was supposed to do."

But there's more (as there always is on Special Sauce): Ladner lets us in on the answers to some last-supper questions–who'd be invited, what they'd have–and the surprising dish he cooks up for himself after a long day slinging pasta.

Apr 20, 2017
Mark Ladner on What it Takes to Make 4-Star Italian Food
33:41

In the first of my two-part interview with chef Mark Ladner, we focus on his indirect yet hard-earned path to helming Del Posto, the New York Times four-starred restaurant he ran for twelve years. And why did the only chef to earn those four stars by cooking Italian food leave that palatial restaurant kitchen to open up a fast-casual joint where the pasta cooks in ten seconds? Framed against this cosmic question, he speaks volumes about where food is headed in America in his typically low-key and thoughtful way. You'll have to wait until next week's episode to hear the answer in its entirety, but it's worth the wait. 

Apr 14, 2017
Dumpling Master Helen You's Inspiring Story
30:53

You probably won't be able to hear it, but I was moved to tears by my interview with dumpling queen Helen You on this week's Special Sauce. Helen is the owner of Dumpling Galaxy, the finest dumpling shop in NYC, and the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook, written alongside former Serious Eats editor Max Falkowitz. Her dumplings, as good as they are, weren't what got to me, though—it was her remarkable personal story. I won't reveal any more of it here, but my guess is you'll be reduced to tears as well. It's okay. We all need a good cry, especially when it comes with a happy ending.

Apr 07, 2017
Mario Batali on the Joys of Pig Jell-O
35:12
"Hot pig Jell-O" may not sound like a draw to most people, but that's exactly how Mario Batali describes the headcheese that he got me to try—and even like!—more than 20 years ago. How he managed that feat, his nose-to-tail approach to cooking (though not exclusive to him), how he hires so many people who start out as line cooks and end up as chef-partners, and what he regrets about giving author Bill Buford an all-access pass for his terrific book Heat are just some of the many tidbits serious eaters will come away with after listening to this, the second installment of my conversation with the superstar chef and restaurateur.
Mar 31, 2017
Mario Batali's Advice to Young Chefs: Study Liberal Arts First
28:53

I have been dying to get Mario Batali, whom I have known for more than a quarter century, on Special Sauce since I first dreamed up the idea for our podcast, more than a year ago. And, when all you serious eaters listen to Mario on this week's episode, you'll know why. The man is funny, smart, hyper-articulate, and both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Mario has so many interesting things to say—enough that we had to make this interview a two-parter. Next week, we'll delve into his accidental television career and chef-restaurateur stardom. 

Mar 24, 2017
Craig Kanarick on Life After the Tech Bubble
57:21

Many serious eaters know the pleasures associated with ordering something delicious from the online food retailer Mouth.com.  But not many people know the fascinating backstory of Mouth's cofounder Craig Kanarick. That's where this week's episode of Special Sauce comes in.  How Craig went from telling Fortune 500 companies what to do at Razorfish to finding the next great jam-maker at Mouth is a terrific story of risk and reinvention, and you can hear every detail on this episode of Special Sauce.

 
Mar 17, 2017
Missy Robbins on Not Worrying About Stars
30:01
I call part two of my interview with Missy Robbins "The Comeback Episode," because we learn what happened when Missy returned from her self-imposed hiatus from her career as a chef. Missy delves into how the time away helped shape her personal philosophy and, inevitably, the development and opening of Lilia, her much-lauded Italian restaurant in Brooklyn and her first as a chef-restaurateur. Contrary to prior emphasis on garnering accolades and critical acclaim, Missy says she wanted Lilia to have no part in striving for Michelin or New York Times stars; she just wanted to cook great food. And, glowing reviews, while good for the ego, are besides the point now. The mantra she tells her staff? "Let's welcome people into our home and make them feel great when they leave here, and let's make them crave the food."  A laudable goal, don't you think?
 
Mar 10, 2017
Missy Robbins on the 20-Year Journey to Opening a Place of Her Own
37:14

On this week's Special Sauce I chat with Missy Robbins, the chef and owner of Lilia in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Missy describes her 20-year journey to opening her own place with such sharp clarity that after we finished recording, I was unable to think about anything else for hours. And when we tried to edit our conversation down to one episode we found that we couldn't, so this week's episode is just part one.

 

Mar 03, 2017
Frank Bruni on What Makes a Good Restaurant Critic
25:40

In this first of a two-part interview with The New York Times Op-Ed Columnist and former restaurant critic, Frank Bruni, we delve into everything from his earlier days as Rome bureau chief for that same paper, why it feels as if readers of his memoir, Born Round: A Story of Family, Food, and a Ferocious Appetite, have "essentially been in bed" with him, and what he feels are the true qualifications for a restaurant critic.

Feb 17, 2017
Ivan Orkin on Slurping, the State of Ramen in the U.S., and More
26:16

On this week's Special Sauce, I continue my far-reaching conversation with great cook and ramen master, Ivan Orkin, aka Ivan Ramen.  What is his recommendation on the best way to eat ramen, how did he make it as an American ramen chef in Tokyo, why did he return to the U.S. after so much success in Japan, and what non-noodle project does he have in the works in New York City?  You'll just have to tune in to find out.

Feb 10, 2017
Ivan Orkin on Love, Loss, and the Tastiest Chicken Bits
34:40

In this first part of a Special Sauce double-header, Ivan Orkin, of Ivan Ramen and Slurp Shop in NYC, talks about life before he became a celebrity in Japan as a gaijin (foreigner) ramen chef: the Orkin family table growing up on Long Island, NY, how a high school job working as a dishwasher in a local Japanese restaurant helped first develop his palate, his early years teaching English in Tokyo, the restaurant cooking experiences in the U.S. that shaped his philosophy on hospitality, and how he was able to overcome tremendous loss.

Feb 03, 2017
Chef Bill Telepan on Neighborhood Restaurants and School Food
53:13

This week's guest on Special Sauce is chef and school food activist Bill Telepan, who is now at the helm of New York's Oceana Restaurant.  Bill shares some particularly insightful observations about why chef-driven neighborhood restaurants across the country are struggling, his mother's reaction to his decision to drop out of college and attend cooking school ("You're kidding, right?"), and why young cooks at a restaurant should think twice before suggesting new dishes for the menu.

But I suppose the most important lesson Serious Eaters may learn about after listening to our conversation is the importance of doing something you love, day in and day out. Now that's some Special Sauce worth listening to.

 

Jan 27, 2017
Marcus Samuelsson on Fried Chicken, Russian Invasions, and Jazz
20:00
In part two of my conversation with Marcus Samuelsson, we chat a little about the profound Russian influence on everyday Swedish cuisine, the driving inspiration and ethos behind opening his Harlem restaurant, The Red Rooster, and how he was able to stop obsessing over creating a technically perfect fried chicken recipe and embrace it as "an emotional endeavor"–with a little tough love from a famous singer.
 
Who was that singer, what does jazz have to do with the way he approaches cooking, and which late legendary Motown star would Marcus have loved to lunch with?  You're just going to have to listen to find out.
Jan 20, 2017
Marcus Samuelsson's Story Will Move You To Tears
24:36

This week's Special Sauce features Chef Marcus Samuelsson, whose restaurant, The Red Rooster, is arguably ground zero of the Harlem food and drink renaissance.  I found Marcus's story so inspiring and moving that I decided it merited two episodes. In fact, this is the first interview I've done for the show that has brought me to tears. There's so much to Marcus's remarkable story, so tune in to part one of this extraordinary interview. 

 
Jan 13, 2017
Daniel Rose on Finding Joy at the Table
58:53

Chef Daniel Rose of Le Coucou, the best new restaurant in New York City, reflects on his career and kitchen philosophy.

Jan 06, 2017
Call Special Sauce: BraveTart on Bake Sale, Pie Anxiety, and Danger Brownies
32:30
Our first Call Special Sauce with Stella Parks was so nice, we decided to do it twice. Leah from DC wanted to come up with ideas for baked goods that "would just really light people on fire" at her daughter's school's bake sale table—in a metaphorical sense, that is. Both Carol from Connecticut and Kelly from Massachusetts had holiday pie questions, which Stella deftly handled, advising on blind baking, the best fat to flour ratio to keep moisture at bay in a dough, and highlighting salt's role in effective browning.
 
We also talked about the notion that there are "cake people" and "pie people" in this world. Stella doesn't buy it: "I think it's a false dichotomy that's meant to pit us against ourselves. There is cake, and there is pie, and there is room for both in our hearts." I love the way Stella humanizes almost everything in the baking universe. 
 
Want to learn more, including how Stella's "Danger Brownies" got their name? You're just going to have to listen. Happy holiday baking, Serious Eaters. 
Dec 23, 2016
Call Special Sauce: BraveTart, Trashy Snacks, and Holiday Baking
45:59

Let's face it: One of the main reasons we look forward to the holiday season is the copious amount of baked goods we get to make and eat. So, with that in mind, I invited our pastry wizard, Stella Parks (aka BraveTart), to take calls on a special holiday baking episode of Call Special Sauce. And I strongly urge serious eaters everywhere to take a listen. Why? Mostly because Stella is so knowledgable and unpretentious. But it's also because no matter what she's talking about–whether it's on the difference between a French tart and a pie ("To me, it comes down to a ratio issue.") or on why she quit making brownies in Kentucky to move to Japan, without knowing a single word of Japanese ("That was when I had my quarter-life crisis.")–listening to her wax down-home poetic on baking and life is as much fun as eating an entire baking sheet of perfect chocolate chip cookies.

Dec 16, 2016
Call Special Sauce: Ed and Kenji on Boats, Galleys, and Unintentionally Aged Foods
50:35
On today's episode of Special Sauce, Kenji and I fielded a wide variety of potentially vexing questions about cooking on a boat (Mike in Cyprus), preparing acidic foods in cast iron cookware (Julia in New York), making the most of small kitchens (Andrew in New York), marinades vs. brines (Kevin in DC), and leaving out food overnight (Philip in Pittsburgh).  This episode was truly all over the map, and we loved every minute of it. I hope you will, too.
 
By the way, don't miss the holiday baking questions we saved for next week, when our very own BraveTart, a.k.a. Stella Parks, will join me on the next installment of Call Special Sauce. 
Dec 09, 2016
Ruth Reichl on Gourmet's Demise and the Future of Food Journalism
31:50

In a million years, I would never have guessed Ruth Reichl's guilty pleasure: "Onion rings," she told me during part two of our conversation on Special Sauce. "I can't resist a good onion ring."

That's not the only surprising answer you'll hear on this week's episode from the woman I call the first rock star food journalist. Take a listen to hear her take on the digital revolution in food journalism or her unique choice of guests at her last dinner on earth–you won't regret it. 

Dec 02, 2016
Call Special Sauce: Ed and Kenji Take Your Thanksgiving Questions
43:08

In this week's episode of Special Sauce, Kenji and I field our listeners' call-in questions, and tackle the pressing concerns that plague Thanksgiving cooks (and their guests) around the country.

We trust that our listeners and questioners will be thankful for the thoughtful (and hopefully amusing) answers we provide. We know we're thankful that millions of people trust Serious Eats to make their food lives better. Happy Turkey Day, everyone.

Nov 18, 2016
Ruth Reichl on the Birth of a Food Revolution
32:56
If you've ever read one of Ruth Reichl's restaurant reviews, let alone one of her books, then you know what a wonderful, natural storyteller she is.  Great storytellers and great stories are the heart and soul of Special Sauce, so when Ruth emailed me to say that she could record an episode with us, our crew scrambled to make it happen.  Her episodes (yes, there will be a part two, taking us through her Gourmet years to the present day) don't disappoint. 

 

Nov 11, 2016
How Rob Kaufelt Built Murray's Cheese From the Rind Up
57:33

I like to call this week's Special Sauce guest, Rob Kaufelt, the cheese whisperer. Finding and selling great cheese seems to be what Rob was put on this earth to do. Over the years, the Murray's Cheese Shop owner has brought serious cheese to millions of Americans–his current empire includes two New York storefronts; an eponymous, cheese-centric restaurant; a fast-growing mail-order business; and a whopping 350 Murray's Cheese counters stationed in Kroger's supermarkets around the the country. 

But how did he go from the tiny, lone cheese shop that he'd purchased in Greenwich Village to leading the country's artisanal cheese revolution? You'll have to take a listen to this week's episode to find out.

 

Nov 04, 2016
Einat Admony: From RV Park Chef to Budding Falafel Magnate
43:21

The background of this week's guest on Special Sauce—chef, restaurateur, and aspiring falafel magnate Einat Admony—isn't that of your typical chef. She grew up in Israel, learning how to make couscous from her Moroccan neighbor, and, while in the army, quickly switched from driving a jeep to cooking for officers in the air force. Einat then spent four years bumming around Germany, living in an RV and cooking for all her neighbors in the RV park. (I kidded her about being the first and only executive chef at an RV park I had ever interviewed.) Her path to culinary success was hardly bump-free: Shortly after opening the original Taïm on a Greenwich Village side street, with $70,000 she and her husband,Stefan, had saved working in restaurants—she as a chef, he as a waiter—Stefan told her that they should close. The business was failing, and, oh yes, Einat was also pregnant with their first child.

How did they keep it open? And how are they introducing their uniquely delicious falafel to the rest of the country? You'll just have to listen to find out. 

Oct 28, 2016
Lidia Bastianich: From Refugee to Culinary Star
40:28

Considering her many restaurants, books, and television shows, plus her involvement in the gourmet Italian marketplace Eataly, Lidia Bastianich might seem like a known quantity to serious eaters all over America. But take a listen to this week's Special Sauce and you'll realize just how extraordinary a woman she is, and what an incredible life she's led.

Oct 21, 2016
Serious Eats Culinary Director Daniel Gritzer Sings for His Supper
50:36

Daniel Gritzer, Serious Eats' culinary director, is in many ways our not-so-secret weapon. To learn more about the surprisingly nonlinear career path that landed him at Serious Eats (which involved two stints herding sheep in Europe), and about the martial art he practices (one he describes as physical, real-time chess), you're just going to have to listen.

Oct 14, 2016
Alex Guarnaschelli on Cooking for Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Prince
37:04

This week's guest on Special Sauce, Alex Guarnaschelli, is constantly juggling the roles of TV chef (she's a regular judge on Chopped), working chef (at the two Butter locations in Manhattan), and mom (to one beautiful daughter). When you're faced with all those demands, it probably doesn't hurt to be whip-smart and funny as hell, which Alex most definitely is. What more could a podcast host ask for?

Oct 07, 2016
Jane and Michael Stern on the Origins of Roadfood
44:44

Serious eaters who have been around awhile, like me, know that the idea of driving across America in search of the best regional food originated with Roadfood authors Jane and Michael Stern, not Guy Fieri: They published their first edition of the guide in 1977–one of 30 books they've written to date, including 10 editions of Roadfood–decades before Guy started tooling around in his convertible on TV. Along with Calvin Trillin, the Sterns have been my greatest inspirations, so I jumped at the chance to interview them on Special Sauce. 

Sep 30, 2016
Paulie Gee on the Fear and Joy of Quitting Your Day Job
52:20

Pizza lovers know Paulie Gee, a.k.a. Paul Giannone, this week's Special Sauce guest, as the owner of the eponymous pizzeria founded in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. But as good as his pies are, and they're damn good, his unlikely path to pizza entrepreneur–there are now Paulie Gee's outposts in Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore; Chicago; and Miami, each opened with the help of pizza-obsessed locals–is even more impressive. 

Sep 23, 2016
Call Special Sauce: "Taste Is Fabricated In Our Brain"
34:00

In our latest call-in episode of Special Sauce, Kenji and Ed address listener concerns over how to rebuild a pantry and how a food’s appearance affects taste. And, of course, we make some time for good-natured ribbing, too.

Sep 16, 2016
Kenji and Ed Tackle Listener Questions of Authenticity and More
46:45

In this third episode of Call Special Sauce, Kenji and Ed wrestle with tricky questions from Serious Eaters on food allergies, electric stovetops, and authenticity.

Sep 09, 2016
Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman on Why Failure Is the Key to Success
54:31

The arts of making French charcuterie and its Italian cousin, salumi, are two of the highest forms of the craft of cooking. So when I heard that chef and cooking teacher Brian Polcyn and journalist Michael Ruhlman, the authors of the two definitive books on those subjects, had come out with an app for lovers of charcuterie and salumi everywhere - and there are a lot of them; their book Charcuterie has sold more than 200,000 copies - I knew they had to join me on Special Sauce.

Sep 01, 2016
Dinosaur BBQ's John Stage on His Unlikely Path to Pitmaster
43:15

On this week's Special Sauce, John Stage, founder of the insanely popular barbecue mini-chain Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, reveals the unusual way he discovered his calling. Growing up, Stage had a soft spot for his mother's Italian-American cooking, especially her lasagna; his father, Stage tells us with a chuckle, was the one who taught him to drink. But he didn't take an interest in cooking for a living until he ran afoul of the law at age 18.

Aug 25, 2016
Pastry Wizard Stella Parks (BraveTart) on Iconic American Desserts
43:52

Serious Eats' pastry expert, Stella Parks, a.k.a. BraveTart, is so disarmingly charming as our guest on Special Sauce, you'll undoubtedly fall in love with her the way all of us have. After attending the Culinary Institute of America, working in restaurants in Lexington, Kentucky, and living in Japan, Stella now has her hands full with testing and writing Serious Eats' dessert recipes while she finishes her upcoming cookbook, titled BraveTart after her online moniker.

Aug 19, 2016
Danny Meyer Tells the Shake Shack Origin Story
36:37

In the middle of part 2 of Danny Meyer's interview on Special Sauce comes a shocking admission. In 2001 the first incarnation of the enterprise that became the global phenomenon Shake Shack was a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park that was part of an art project featuring two taxi cabs. Did Meyer have any idea that that hot dog cart would eventually become a publicly traded global phenomenon? On this episode you'll also hear about the origins of Blue Smoke, and how he has managed to forgive me for the post I wrote titled, "Why do the French fries at Blue Smoke Suck?"

Aug 11, 2016