438 episodes

The Food Chain examines the business, science and cultural significance of food, and what it takes to put food on your plate.

The Food Chain BBC World Service

    • Arts
    • 4.7 • 298 Ratings

The Food Chain examines the business, science and cultural significance of food, and what it takes to put food on your plate.

    Hungry at sea

    Hungry at sea

    Over two million people work in the international shipping trade, and they are often at sea for months at a time.
    That’s a lot of meals being made by the cook on board, and their work is crucial for keeping the crew happy.
    Ruth Alexander hears from seafarers about why that makes “cookie” the most important person on board a ship and why, in some cases, crew members are going hungry.
    A former captain of merchant vessels tells us how food is used for so-called “facilitation payments” to corrupt officials, and why crews can sometimes be powerless to stop port officials filling up suitcases with food from the ship’s stores.
    We also hear about international efforts to try to tackle corruption in ports and increase welfare standards for seafarers.
    If you would like to share your own experience, please email: thefoodchain@bbc.co.uk
    Presenter: Ruth Alexander
    Producers: Izzy Greenfield and Hannah Bewley
    (Image: A container ship at sea. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 26 min
    Food double-acts: TV chefs

    Food double-acts: TV chefs

    What’s the secret behind the on-screen chemistry shared by some TV chef duos?
    The recent death of Dave Myers, one half of ‘The Hairy Bikers’ with Si King, has prompted this programme celebrating successful food friendships. Dave and Si made food shows and cookbooks that took their fans all over the world, and off-screen they were close friends.
    In this programme Ruth Alexander speaks to two chefs who have found success in food with a good friend.
    Ruth Rogers, co-founder of The River Cafe restaurant in London, talks about her partnership with the late Rose Gray, who died in 2010. Together they presented ‘The Italian Kitchen’ for Channel 4 in the UK in 1998.
    Italian chef Gennaro Contaldo talks about his long friendship and work with the late chef Antonio Carluccio, and the TV series they made together for the BBC, ‘Two Greedy Italians’ in 2011 and 2012. Gennaro also talks about his friendship with the chef Jamie Oliver to whom he’s been a mentor.
    Presented by Ruth Alexander.
    Produced by Beatrice Pickup.
    (Image: Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray plating dishes at The River Cafe restaurant in London. Credit: Maurice ROUGEMONT/Getty Images/ BBC)

    • 29 min
    How to run a restaurant

    How to run a restaurant

    These are tough times for restaurants. If the pandemic's rolling lockdowns were not bad enough, independent eateries now find themselves caught on a conveyor belt of crises: inflation, labour shortages and high rents. That is without mentioning the post-Covid agoraphobic “hermit consumer", who prefers to hunker down indoors than splash the cash on going out.
    If the stats are to be believed 60% of restaurants fail in the first year, 80% after five. And yet despite the long odds many are still seduced by TV dramas like The Bear into turning their passion for cooking into a business. We hear from some of the best in the business for a steer on how to keep this labour of love alive.
    David Reid speaks to leading restaurant critic Jay Rayner, culinary specialist Ashley Godfrey, top chef Joseph Otway and restaurant operations manager, Sam Wheatley as they lift the lid on the trade secrets they have accumulated from years on the restaurant front-line. The programme also asks what a world without independent restaurants would be like and what we as strapped consumers can do to save the flagging middle of the restaurant market from going under.
    Presenter/producer: David Reid
    (Image: A waitress lays a table in a restaurant. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 26 min
    The real Willy Wonkas

    The real Willy Wonkas

    Step inside the chocolate factory to hear the secrets of what it’s like to invent sweet treats for a living.
    Find out why chocolatiers think the raw material is like a “needy child”, but can also bring great joy to people’s lives.
    And hear the family story of the invention of one of the best-known British chocolate bars, with a trip to an archive of hidden stories from the confectionary industry – and some well-preserved sweets.
    If you would like to get in touch with the show, please email: thefoodchain@bbc.co.uk
    Presenter: Ruth Alexander
    Producer: Hannah Bewley
    (Image: Chocolate bars on a colourful background. Credit: Getty)

    • 27 min
    Fasting and feasting

    Fasting and feasting

    Fasting has been a religious and cultural practice for thousands of years, why do people do it? What happens to your body when you fast? The Food Chain speaks to a British family breaking their fast during Ramadan, a woman in India completing a day long fast for Mahashivratri and explores why the practices around Lent have changed over the years. An expert on intermittent fasting talks us through what is happening to our bodies, and why it might have hidden benefits.
    In this programme, Rumella Dasgupta explores the tradition of religious fasting with what to eat and what not to eat in three major faiths.
    If you would like to get in touch with the programme, email thefoodchain@bbc.co.uk.
    Presented by Rumella Dasgupta.
    (Image: a family in Manchester breaks their fast together with dishes spread out on a cloth on the floor. Credit: BBC)

    • 32 min
    Why we love dumplings

    Why we love dumplings

    Dumplings feature prominently in cuisines around the world.
    Some, like the Ghanaian kenkey, or the Irish dumpling, are balls of dough. But in many countries they’re filled with other ingredients.
    From the Russian pelmeni, to the Japanese gyoza, for centuries we’ve been putting meat, vegetables or cheese in small pouches of pastry, and making delicious snacks.
    So where did this idea originate? And are all these differently named dumplings connected?
    Ruth Alexander explores the history of this humble comfort food and hears how different dumplings are made.
    If you would like to get in touch with the programme, email thefoodchain@bbc.co.uk.
    Presenter: Ruth Alexander.
    Producers: Julia Paul and Rumella Dasgupta
    (Image: Dumplings and bowls of dipping sauce. Credit: BBC)

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
298 Ratings

298 Ratings

freya bubbles ,

Love love love

My new favorite podcast!

midwestBlue ,

who owns the seeds

Excellent podcast. very informative. the bbc is always enlightening me. never go away. thank you!

😉💙🙃 ,

What do astronauts eat? October 19th

They are forced to drink their own purified urine, since they can not travel with massive amounts of weight.

Top Podcasts In Arts

Fresh Air
NPR
The Moth
The Moth
99% Invisible
Roman Mars
Fashion People
Audacy | Puck
Fantasy Fangirls
Fantasy Fangirls
McCartney: A Life in Lyrics
iHeartPodcasts and Pushkin Industries

You Might Also Like

The Food Programme
BBC Radio 4
Good Food
Immediate Media
The Kitchen Cabinet
BBC Radio 4
CrowdScience
BBC World Service
Inside Health
BBC Radio 4
Health Check
BBC World Service

More by BBC

Global News Podcast
BBC World Service
6 Minute English
BBC Radio
You're Dead to Me
BBC Radio 4
In Our Time
BBC Radio 4
Newshour
BBC World Service
The English We Speak
BBC Radio