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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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Now displaying: May, 2017
May 26, 2017
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 19, 2017
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 12, 2017
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 5, 2017

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.

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