100 episodes

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.

Special Sauce with Ed Levine Serious Eats

    • Food
    • 4.2, 247 Ratings

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.

    Special Sauce: Cookbook Author Susan Spungen on Craving Togetherness [1/2]

    Special Sauce: Cookbook Author Susan Spungen on Craving Togetherness [1/2]

    Special Sauce has obviously changed a lot with the advent of the pandemic. But before we changed the format a couple of months ago to adapt to the times, we'd already recorded a couple of great interviews.

    One of them was with my old friend, cookbook writer and food stylist extraordinaire Susan Spungen. Susan's new book, Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings, came out 17 days before New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his stay-at-home order. Susan's bag was already packed for a national book tour, but obviously that tour never happened.

    With the country slowly opening back up for small gatherings, I thought it would be a great time to check back in with Susan. I figured she might have some interesting things to say about what a properly socially distanced gathering would look like and what we would eat there.  As she says, we've arrived at a moment when "people are craving togetherness and they like to eat together and be together." We should note that Susan's comments and mine are impressionistic and most assuredly not prescriptive. People should consult trusted sources like the CDC to find out how they can gather and eat.

    We also went back in and edited some of her original interview into this episode. With so many people out of a job today wondering about what the future holds for them work-wise, I found it comforting to hear about Susan Spungen's circuitous career path. She went from dropping out of art school to making omelets to order at a hotel buffet to working side by side with Martha Stewart for ten years. I hope Serious Eaters will find it comforting as well.
    --
    The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:
    https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/05/special-sauce-susan-spungen.html

    • 46 min
    Special Sauce: NYT’s Pete Wells on the Future of Restaurant Criticism [2/2]

    Special Sauce: NYT’s Pete Wells on the Future of Restaurant Criticism [2/2]

    On this week's Special Sauce, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, who's been used to eating out six nights a week, tells us about cooking lunch and dinner for his two teenaged sons now that he's home every day. Pete explains that he's really enjoyed returning to the kitchen every day; he notes that he originally got into food writing because he loved to cook.

    I asked him if his sons appreciate his culinary efforts? "At least they're not complaining," Pete says, which is about the best you can hope for with teenagers. But you'll also want to tune into the episode to hear Pete's thoughts about how the role of the restaurant critic will need to adapt to the restaurant landscape, which, as everyone knows, has been overturned by the coronavirus pandemic.
    --
    The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: 
    ttps://www.seriouseats.com/2020/05/special-sauce-nyts-pete-wells-on-the-future-of-restaurant-criticism.html

    • 20 min
    Special Sauce: NYT Restaurant Critic Pete Wells on the State of the Industry [1/2]

    Special Sauce: NYT Restaurant Critic Pete Wells on the State of the Industry [1/2]

    What does a restaurant critic do when there are no restaurants to review? The San Francisco Chronicle's Soleil Ho has shifted to primarily covering how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the restaurant industry in the Bay Area, while also writing profiles of people like the Indonesian artist known as Nao, who publishes drawings of toast that, according to Soleil, "have garnered her a legion of followers who swoon at the accuracy of her char marks, the glorious shimmer of her half-melted butter and the detailed brush strokes in her crusts."
    And this week's Special Sauce guest, Pete Wells of the New York Times has similarly broadened the scope of his work. He recently wrote a terrific piece with Jennifer Steinhauer about the ripple effects of restaurant closures, particularly in areas where restaurant booms have helped sustain local economies. The story really struck a chord with me, so I decided to ring Pete up and find out more about what he's been up to for the last two months.
    Our thought-provoking, far-reaching conversation covered so many bases that we've split it into two episodes. The first one covers how the restaurant industry has shifted, and how those changes have affected cities throughout the U.S.; in part two, which we’ll publish next week, you’ll hear more about how his job and life as a whole has changed.
    And, again, if you care about the fate of restaurants as much as Pete and I do, please go to saverestaurants.com to find out what you can do. Or donate what you can to Jose Andres's organization, World Central Kitchen. Through its Chefs for America initiative, it has served over seven million meals to people in need during the pandemic and has activated many restaurant kitchens in the process.
    --
    The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:
    https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/05/special-sauce-pete-wells-coronavirus-1.html

    • 27 min
    Special Sauce: Why DC-Based Restaurant Owner Ezekiel Vázquez-Ger Is Feeling Optimistic

    Special Sauce: Why DC-Based Restaurant Owner Ezekiel Vázquez-Ger Is Feeling Optimistic

    According to Ezekiel Vázquez-Ger, my guest on this week's Special Sauce, everything was going swimmingly at his new Washington, DC, restaurant, Seven Reasons. The place was packed almost from the minute it opened its doors in April of 2019. A rave review followed in The Washington Post in October, and then, a month later, Esquire named it America's Best New Restaurant of the year. It even survived a fire that started at the bar next door.
    It was all good, until it wasn't. The coronavirus pandemic hit, and Ezekiel had to close his doors in March and lay off all of his employees. But, as you'll hear Ezekiel describe, he and his chef and co-owner, Enrique Limardo, along with their employees, banded together in creative ways in order to survive.
    The Seven Reasons story is hardly unique. The pandemic is forcing independent restaurant owners and all the people that make up those restaurants' supply chain to tap their creativity to reimagine their businesses in ways that go way beyond take-out and delivery.
    The outcome for these endeavors is uncertain, but if you care about the vibrant food culture we've created in this country, you can't help but root for all of these folks to succeed. We need as many of these people to make it to the other side as possible.
    Once you hear Ezekiel tell his story, I'm sure you'll want to do something about the situation he and the hundreds of thousands of small food business owners, and their millions of employees, find themselves in. I urge you to visit the website for the Independent Restaurant Coalition to find out what you can do to help.
    --
    The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:
    https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/05/special-sauce-ezekiel-vazquez-ger.html

    • 28 min
    Small Businesses Need More Help Now, Says Ovenly Co-Founder Agatha Kulaga

    Small Businesses Need More Help Now, Says Ovenly Co-Founder Agatha Kulaga

    In 2010, Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin founded Ovenly, which they originally envisioned as a bar-snack business, providing bars with better alternatives to beer nuts and potato chips. Over the course of ten years, Ovenly transformed into a combination wholesale/retail bakery, with four retail locations and a healthy wholesale business selling to coffee bars and upscale grocers. By March of 2020 it had grown into a business with more than fifty employees and a new, about-to-open location at Kennedy Airport.
    Then, when the pandemic struck, it had to close up shop both as a baked goods retailer and as a wholesaler. And in what Agatha called the most heartbreaking decision she has had to make as a pro-socially-minded businesswoman (many of their employees were people who have faced high hurdles entering the workforce), Agatha and Erin had to lay off just about their entire staff. On this episode of Special Sauce, we get to hear the Ovenly story in Agatha's own words. 
    Once you hear Agatha tell her story I'm sure you'll want to do something about the situation she and the hundreds of thousands of small food-business owners, and their millions of employees, find themselves in. I urge you to visit the Independent Restaurant Coalition's website to find out what you can do. 
    --
    The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats:
    https://www.seriouseats.com/preview?record=453144

    • 30 min
    Special Sauce: Will Xi'an Famous Foods Survive the Coronavirus Lockdown?

    Special Sauce: Will Xi'an Famous Foods Survive the Coronavirus Lockdown?

    As part of our special Special Sauce series on the pandemic's effects on the various constituents of the food community, I reached out to Xi'an Famous Foods co-founder Jason Wang. Jason had told his remarkable story previously on Special Sauce, so I was confident that his experiences as a Chinese-American, his knowledge of financial matters, and his experience as a restaurateur serving his justifiably famous hand-pulled noodles would give him a unique vantage point on the pandemic. 
    As you'll hear, I was right on all counts. Jason shut down all Xi'an Famous Foods locations a few days before he was mandated to, and his previously healthy cash flow was reduced to zero immediately. And, unlike many of his colleagues, he isn't serving take-out or doing delivery in an attempt to survive. That doesn't mean he's short on ideas about how to create a sustainable business model in the future. But you'll have to listen to the episode to hear about why he's not doing take-out and what his ideas for the future are. 
    His take on the situation he and his fellow independent restaurateurs are facing is a must-listen for anyone interested in the future of restaurants like Xi'an Famous Foods. 
    I feel compelled once again to underline the perilous plight of independent restaurants during the pandemic. If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, please contact your representatives in Congress. And, if you can afford to, give what you can to one of the many terrific organizations that have been formed to support the millions of restaurant workers that have already lost their jobs, like Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen.
    ---
    The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: 
    https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/04/special-sauce-will-xian-famous-foods-survive-the-coronavirus-lockdown.html

    • 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
247 Ratings

247 Ratings

Pod Love ,

Sam Benrubi

2.0

Evilgizmo ,

Something Different

I love this is more about the people behind the food than the food itself. There are 1000s of podcasts about cooking, but listening to the people behind food is awesome. Keep up the great work.

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No politics please

Save political commentary for a political podcast. You risk offending, at a minimum, half the country when you inject politics into a food podcast.

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