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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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Special Sauce with Ed Levine
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Mar 24, 2017

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 17, 2017

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 10, 2017
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 3, 2017

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.

 

Feb 17, 2017

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 10, 2017

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 3, 2017

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.

Jan 27, 2017

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 20, 2017
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 13, 2017

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 6, 2017

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

Dec 23, 2016
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 16, 2016

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 9, 2016
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 2, 2016

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. 

Nov 18, 2016

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 11, 2016
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 4, 2016

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.

 

Oct 28, 2016

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 21, 2016

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 14, 2016

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 7, 2016

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?

Sep 30, 2016

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 23, 2016

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 16, 2016

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.

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