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Amid a sea of options, it can be hard to tell which food podcasts are the best.
Thanks to the runaway success of last year’s podcast Serial, the popularity of radio shows has skyrocketed. There are podcasts about mysteries, and politics, and sports, and sex—there are even podcasts about podcasts. Of course, we’re mostly interested in those that cover all things food—but which ones are the best? Amid a sea of options, it can be hard to tell. We reached out to chefs across the country for a survey of their must-listens, and in the process we discovered a slew of amazing food-related programming. (Plus: one clear favorite.) Whether it’s a show that takes a scientific approach to its topics or one that delves into the history of a certain ingredient, these great shows will teach you plenty about how to have a great year in food. Here’s what some of our favorite chefs are listening to.
The Winner: Food Is The New Rock
This Los Angeles-based podcast, hosted by Zach Brooks, founder of the popular Midtown Lunch blog, and a rotating cast of guest co-hosts, explores the relationship between food and music; the two hosts talk to chefs about music, and to musicians about food. Chefs, for one, seem to love it: Robbie Wilson, Bruce Kalman, Jeni Britton Bauer, Jamie Bissonnette, and Marc Vetri all put this podcast at the top of their list.
As Wilson, the owner/chef of Mattei’s Tavern in Santa Barbara, puts it, “It’s basically the world’s best garage-band of industry-related podcasts—unfiltered, unsponsored, and raw. Upon conclusion of each episode, there are never any misunderstandings whatsoever.”
Bauer, of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, points to the quality of the show’s guests as the primary source of its greatness: “Because the hosts are so good, they manage to get both emerging talent and top-tier guests like Grant Achatz, Big Gay Ice Cream’s Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff, Mike D., and Roy Choi,” she says. “It's the show everyone wants to be on, and I had quite a lot of fun myself when I did it.”
As for a few favorite episodes, Bissonnette—a Food & Wine Best New Chef and the owner of Toro (New York, Boston) and Coppa (Boston)—points to episodes that featured David Chang and Noelle Scaggs from Fitz and the Tantrums.
Listen to an episode featuring Rohan Marley:
Here, more chefs share their podcast picks, from Good Food to Underground Airwaves.
The chef of Union in Pasadena and Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market—the latest addition to Los Angeles’s Grand Central Market—is a fan of both Food is the New Rock and Pass the Salt. Hosted by a threesome of restaurant pros and a writer/actor, Pass the Salt tackles topics that bridge pop culture and the food world at large. “Ironically, an episode that sticks out in my mind is when Zach Brooks of Food is the New Rock was on the show discussing how rock bands and restaurants relate,” Kalman says. “They attempted to answer the question, ‘When the singer/chef leaves the band/restaurant, do we still go see them play?’”
The chef de cuisine at Menton in Boston—the city’s only Relais & Chateaux restaurant, owned by chef Barbara Lynch—listens to Gastropod, which combines food and science. “What could be more perfect?” says Jones. “One of my favorite episodes is “Say Cheese!”, which is all about the science of cheese and microbial communities. The episode features Benjamin Wolfe, one of the world’s foremost cheese microbe experts—and my husband.”
The chef at the modern American spot Redbird in Los Angeles loves KCRW’s Good Food, which is hosted by Evan Kleiman, a fixture of L.A.’s dining scene and the founder of the city’s Slow Food chapter. The show highlights everything from news (like the reopening of the long-shuttered Clifton’s Cafeteria) to history (of things like sugar and punch) to current issues (“The Gluten-Free Backlash”). "I think she does a great job of representing local stories and topics that get me out of my daily routine,” Fraser says. “Her recent episode on flips actually inspired me to try something new at Redbird: a beer cocktail cooked with a hot poker."
When the James Beard Award winner isn’t busy at Lantern, her restaurant in Chapel Hill, or running the F&B program at the new Durham hotel, she tunes into the aforementioned Gastropod as well as Underground Airwaves, which is produced by the Portland-based environmental nonprofit Ecotrust and hosted by Chris Seigel, a farmer. "One of the most fascinating episodes is a co-production of both podcasts, and uses a visit to a banana ripening facility to explore the effect of refrigeration on food," says Reusing.
The former Food & Wine Best New Chef runs a mini-empire of restaurants in Georgia, with spots in Athens (5&10, The National), Atlanta (Empire State South), and Savannah (The Florence). His dedication to the South extends to his choice of podcasts, including Gravy, Tina Antolini’s show for the Southern Foodways Alliance. Recent episodes have showcased a salt-making family in West Virginia and how New Orleans’s food scene has changed post-Katrina. He also likes The Alton Browncast, during which Alton Brown sits down with everyone from chefs like Jonathan Sawyer to George Peterson, the director of dive programs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
You can find the executive chef of Portland, Oregon’s Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern (and a 2012 Food & Wine Best New Chef) tuning into The Feed, a podcast from James Beard Award-winning food journalist Steve Dolinsky and chef Rick Bayless. Based out of Chicago, it highlights topics as varied as the cuisine of the Yucatan (for which Bayless travels to Merida) and urban agriculture. “It's so smart and thoughtful since those two know so much and have lots of experience,” says Louis, whose debut cookbook Pasta By Hand came out last spring.
The chef of New York’s Red Cat tunes into Heritage Radio, a station based out of the Brooklyn pizza hotspot Roberta’s. “The organization puts on tons of great programming featuring industry professionals from all corners of the country and the globe,” Bradley says. His top podcast picks: Beer Sessions, “for great recommendations and unexpected beer drinking advice,” and Chef's Story from Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the founder and CEO of the International Culinary Center. “She gets influential chefs to share their advice for younger aspiring cooks, all based on their own paths,” he says. “It's an advice podcast of sorts, and it's interesting to listen to individuals' different experiences coming up in the industry."
Why does the Los Angeles-based Greenspan, the chef/partner of The Roof on Wilshire and Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, like The Tasting Room podcast from Tom Leykis? “Tom is straight-forward about things that he loves, and he doesn’t overly intellectualize something that doesn’t need to be,” he says. “He's just a guy who loves food and wine and cocktails." Some of his most memorable episodes featured Roy Choi and Michael Chiarello.
Another podcast that doesn’t take itself too seriously is The Splendid Table—which is precisely why the chef of New York’s Hearth and Terroir calls it his favorite. "In addition to the laid-back nature of the conversation, I like the diversity of topics,” Canora says. Hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, it was first developed as a live call-in show on Minnesota Public Radio. Now, the James Beard Award-winning show is broadcast on more than 400 stations.
The Splendid Table is also the podcast of choice for Lomonaco, the executive chef/partner of Porter House New York, who first met Lynne Rossetto Kasper in the 90’s. “I’ve been impacted by her ever since,” he says. “Lynne’s passion for cooking, chefs, food producers, farmers, and all things and people gastronomic continues to lend an air of authenticity and realness to her work. The weekly podcast keeps me thinking and dreaming of food long after I’ve listened to it.” His must-hear episodes are about ethical eating (with Dan Barber), tomatoes and heirlooms, and frogs’ legs.
The beloved pastry chef—who recently opened a namesake bakery in Tokyo—can’t get enough of Dinner Party Download, which covers a mix of culture (including film and books), food, and drinks. "They always have a really fun mix of guests on, and not necessarily just food people, so the conversations can go in any direction,” Ansel says. “Amy Schumer was on an episode a few months ago—I think she’s hilarious.” Other recent guests include Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert and Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal, host of a new food and travel show on PBS.
F&W's new series reveals the best ways to maximize your food year through travel, wine, cooking, tech, style, events and experiences. Use #BESTFOODYEAR on Twitter and Instagram to tell us about the ones you want to try. We'll continue to share more tips with the hashtag throughout the year and want to hear about how you celebrate food every day, too.