Ed Levine first met Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez eight years ago, when he happened upon her and her mother selling handmade tortillas at a tiny farmers market in West Harlem. Even back then, he could tell that Jessamyn was a force to be reckoned with. She embraces her life's work with equal parts humanity, passion, and focus.
In recent years, Jessamyn's nonprofit and bakery, Hot Bread Kitchen, has been preserving baking traditions from around the world by hiring immigrant women to make the breads of their home countries in the organization's headquarters in Manhattan. Along the way, Hot Bread Kitchen has essentially become a wildly successful job-training program for the thousands of women who have passed through its doors. It's an awe-inspiring operation, and when you listen to this episode of Special Sauce, you'll understand that it takes a force of nature like Jessamyn Rodriguez to undertake this kind of initiative.
This week's Special Sauce guest, bread baker extraordinaire Jim Lahey, is a man of strong opinions, provocative ideas, and many talents. He's not on the fence about anything. So I figured that if we just gave Jim a mike and let him rip, serious eaters would be in for a treat. It turned out I was right.
You'll hear about how Jim came to bread baking after suffering through 37 bad jobs; how he started his baking business by setting up a folding table in New York's Greenwich Village after baking all night in his barely habitable apartment; and how he happened upon his revolutionary no-knead bread recipe by accident. This year, he was inducted into the JBF's Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America. So take a listen to this no-holds-barred episode of Special Sauce—at the very least, you shouldn't miss the great baker's Bernie Sanders impression.
Roy Blount Jr. is one of the funniest writers on the planet. And he loves to eat, and talk about what he's eaten, so he's a made-to-order guest on Special Sauce. On this week's episode, you'll hear Roy wax poetic about the dangers of eating foam (he's "anti-abstract and pro-substantial" when it comes to food) and why we should all save room for pie, which, not so coincidentally, is the name of his new book.
Who knew, in an age of huge magazine companies being sold off like rusty used cars, that you could create a quarterly, delightfully idiosyncratic food magazine and get more than a hundred thousand people to pony up $28 a year to subscribe? On this week's Special Sauce, editor in chief of Lucky Peach, Chris Ying, joins us to discuss food, life, and his remarkable career success.
In this episode, we discuss how Dominique Ansel went from army KP duty to the kitchens of Fauchon in Paris (where he arrived in a clunker he bought for $400), to being the pastry chef at New York gastronomic palace Daniel. We also talk about what inspires him to do the impossible in the face of doubt, and why his gut is the only thing he trusts when it comes to running his business. The dessert master also tells us why he considers great vanilla ice cream one thing you're hard-pressed to find.
The Sweetgreen team has watched their business grow over the past nine years from a single 500-square-foot storefront location in DC's Georgetown, which they opened when they were still college students, to what will be 60 restaurants nationwide by the end of 2016. How did they pull it off? Jammet tells us that and more in this episode of our podcast.
In this episode, we get into some Sporkful-inspired debates about the purpose of hot dog buns and the ideal shape of pie. We discuss the divide in the podcasting world, as well as what makes his often contrarian—and always funny—show great.
In this episode of Special Sauce, Lam and I discuss how he tends to "go for the cheeks" and why his parents are proud of him for doing so. He also talks about how normal it is for writers to hate writing—but why he still encourages aspiring authors to explore their passion for the craft. Finally, Francis and I have a spirited discussion about cultural appropriation and sensitivity in the American food culture.
Brooks Headley, the punk-rocking, vegetable-whispering owner of Superiority Burger in NYC, says he's "almost insistent upon only being in bands with extremely volatile characters, myself included." In this week's episode of Special Sauce, I talk with Headley, the author of Fancy Desserts, about food and music—the connection between the two obsessions goes way back for him, though he doesn't allow any music in his restaurant kitchen.
"Don't start with your sister's wedding cake," suggests baker and author Dorie Greenspan on this week's episode of Special Sauce. Greenspan has come far from the self-described "sweet little home baker" that she once was, and has a lot of advice for aspiring bakers who want to get their hands in the dough.
Colicchio is a passionate guitar player and music aficionado, as you'll hear when he sings one of the riffs in the Stevie Ray Vaughan song that we want to use as the Special Sauce theme song in the near future. We also chatted about his seminal book, Think Like Chef, Colicchio explains that the book took shape only when the recipe testing for it failed in a major way.
This week, Colicchio discusses three key things he's learned over the course of his career — the things he thinks every aspiring chef should keep in mind. You'll learn about how a prison library book pushed Colicchio into the kitchen, and how the judges on Top Chef really determine a winner. Next week, you'll learn even more about his work to improve food policy, so stay tuned for part two.
This week, Canora discusses what he thinks restaurateurs and diners misunderstand about the service industry. You'll learn about how he deals with those issues, his guilty pleasures, and why sometimes it's good to have someone remind you to just calm down.
In this episode of Special Sauce - which, I must warn you, is a bit NSFW, unless you're surrounded by some really adventurous eaters with good senses of humor - Gold, Gabbert, and I discuss our shared passion for music and why there might be a connection between music lovers and serious eaters.
On this week's Special Sauce, journalist, author, professor, and activist Michael Pollan - author of In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and The Botany of Desire - discusses what's kept him in the garden, in the kitchen, and writing over the past 30 years.
In this second half of my interview with The New Yorker staff writer, Calvin Trillin, you'll learn what major roux-related mistake would keep him from revisiting a restaurant, some of his secrets for speechwriting (or not writing, rather), and why he's envious of Cole Porter.
In this episode of our podcast, you'll find out how Calvin Trillin came to be a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of 30 books, including American Fried; Alice, Let's Eat; and Third Helpings, which are now collectively known as The Tummy Trilogy. These books inspired succeeding generations of serious eaters (including yours truly) to devote themselves to writing about the pleasures of indigenous regional food.
While enjoying our own lunch around the corner from his home, Trillin and I discuss how sliced bread got him into Yale and the reason he's never cared about covering fine dining. The best part? This interview is a two-parter. Stay tuned for more conversation with Trillin next week.
Pete Wells of the New York Times is perhaps the nation's most influential and powerful restaurant critic, but, as you'll hear on this week's Special Sauce podcast, he's soft-spoken, funny, and thoughtful-and eminently fair-minded.
"Cooking is the way I can give a piece of my heart to someone," says The Chew's Carla Hall. On this week's Special Sauce, I chat with Hall about how she hopped around on her career journey, going from being an accountant at Price Waterhouse ("Accounting was my safety job, but I hated it," she recalls) to modeling in Europe (she often paid for her lodging there by cooking for her hosts) to running a lunch delivery service in Washington, DC, to becoming a contestant on Top Chef.
"In America, you don't get what you don't ask for," says chef-restaurateur, Top Chef contestant, and cookbook author Dale Talde. "You have to punch and kick and scream to get what you want." On this week's episode of Special Sauce, I talk to Talde-one of the truly original, provocative thinkers in the food world today-about the foods he was raised on and the struggles he's faced.
On this week's episode of Special Sauce, Ed talks to Brian about his undying-and sometimes heretical-love for pizza, how gluttony ties into his upcoming Showtime series, Billions, and the moment when Wonderama broadened his culinary horizons. You'll laugh, you'll think, and you'll probably want to be a whole lot more productive-this is a guy who puts pen to paper every morning without fail and spends years researching each project he takes on. As for his desert-island fridge? You'll just have to listen to find out.
On this week's Special Sauce, I talk to David Simon—one of the smartest, funniest, and most thoughtful serious eaters I have ever broken bread with—about how his years as a beat reporter made their way into his television work. He shares how homicide detectives use a McDonald's order to get info out of suspects. And he reveals his secret to losing weight: "I got out of New Orleans," he says, "where batter is a food group."
"I'm a very average cook, but I'm a very happy cook," crime novelist Laura Lippman explained to me on this week's podcast. Lippman is far from your average writer, though. The Washington Post has called her "one of the best novelists around, period." And the Chicago Sun-Times went a bit further, saying, "Lippman has enriched literature as a whole."
Why did I want her on Special Sauce? Because, besides being a terrific writer, Lippman is thoughtful, funny, and, in her own quiet way, quite obsessed with food.
As you'll find out on this week's podcast, Lippman went from 20 years of newspaper journalism to becoming an award-winning novelist after a chance meeting at a 70s theme party where Malcolm Gladwell was dancing to "Kung Fu Fighting" in the other room.
I've known the great comedian and actress Susie Essman for nearly 20 years, and I've always been disappointed that she'd never cursed me out the way she did her TV husband, Jeff Garlin, on Curb Your Enthusiasm. So I asked her to let me have it right away on this week's episode of Special Sauce. As you'll hear, she happily obliged.
Rich Torrisi's name hits headlines all the time, but the renowned chef—and managing partner of one of New York City's hottest restaurant groups—admits that he doesn't much care for all the media attention. "I don't have a taste for it, I don't really enjoy that part of it," he explains. In fact, of the trio behind Major Food Group, which owns icons like Parm, Carbone, and ZZ's Clam Bar, Torrisi is far and away the shiest. But I've also found that, given the chance to open up, he's one of the most articulate and thoughtful chefs I've had the pleasure of speaking with.