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Special Sauce with Ed Levine

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.
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Dec 14, 2017

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 7, 2017

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.

Nov 30, 2017
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</em>. 
Nov 24, 2017
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
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 10, 2017

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 2, 2017

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.

Oct 26, 2017

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 20, 2017
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 12, 2017
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 5, 2017
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.
Sep 28, 2017
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 22, 2017
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. 
Aug 31, 2017
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 25, 2017

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 18, 2017

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 11, 2017

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 4, 2017
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?" 
Jul 28, 2017

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 21, 2017

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 14, 2017

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 7, 2017

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.

Jun 30, 2017
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 23, 2017
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 16, 2017

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.

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