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.
When I first met her more than a decade ago, Gail Simmons was no television personality. She was the not-at-all-lowly assistant to Jeffrey Steingarten, the feared and revered Vogue food critic. (And she had to survive a ridiculously arduous interview process to get there, which included wine tasting, a pop quiz about sushi, and translating a Ferran Adria text from Spanish and a Pierre Hermé recipe from French.)
There's so much more to Gail than just the charming Top Chef star, but it's fun to hear about how she became a reluctant—but grateful—television personality. On this week's episode of Special Sauce, she also reveals the contents of her desert island fridge and the menu for her last supper (which I desperately want to be invited to). I can promise that both will make your mouth water.
Even if you've read every one of his columns on Serious Eats and every page of his weighty tome "The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science", you'll still find out some surprising—and funny—stuff about Kenji López-Alt when you listen to Episode 2 of Special Sauce. I promise. In fact, I bet even his mom will learn some things.
The first episode features my good friend Phil Rosenthal, who's a successful restaurant investor and the creator of Emmy Award-winning TV show Everybody Loves Raymond. PBS is now airing his latest creative endeavor, I'll Have What Phil's Having, a funny, big-hearted, intelligent food and travel show that gives me hope for the medium. Phil is smart, hilarious, and as generously spirited a human being as I know.
On our podcast, you'll learn about Phil's adventures as an out-of-work actor, a successful sitcom creator, and yes, you'll have to listen to find out Phil's secret sauce: the advice that he got from legendary sitcom writer-director-creator Ed Weinberger (Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi) that I often use as a guidepost in my own creative endeavors. He'll also share some travel discoveries, restaurant pet peeves, and what we'd find in his desert island fridge.