Special Sauce With Ed Levine



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

    07/05/2020 Duración: 28min

    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 outc

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

    30/04/2020 Duración: 30min

    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 sur

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

    23/04/2020 Duración: 33min

    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 t

  • Special Sauce: Tom Colicchio on How to Save Restaurants

    16/04/2020 Duración: 28min

    As we all try to deal with the crisis confronting us, I thought we'd follow up on the Special Sauce episodes that focused on Kenji's stories with other voices from the food and beverage industry. In the coming weeks you're going to hear the stories of farmers, bakers, cheesemakers, bartenders, servers, chefs, and anyone else in our food supply chain that should be heard from in these troubled times. This week, food activist, chef-restaurateur, and Top Chef co-host Tom Colicchio gives us the lowdown on the goals of the newly formed The Independent Restaurant Coalition, an organization formed on the spot to lobby Congress to do right by the more than 500,000 independent restaurants that employ nearly 11 million people—a big part of the nearly $1 trillion dollar hospitality business. Tom knows his way around food policy—he has been working on the issue of food insecurity in this country for years, as when he worked on the terrific documentary, A Place at the Table, which was produced and directed by Kristi Jacob

  • Special Sauce: Kenji on His Food Safety Article

    02/04/2020 Duración: 16min

    It's obviously still not business as usual at Serious Eats (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter), so we're going to continue to produce Special Sauce episodes that deal with the coronavirus pandemic. On this week's episode, we once again hear from Serious Eats's Chief Culinary Advisor Kenji López-Alt. Kenji has been pitching in mightily on so many coronavirus-fighting efforts, both on Serious Eats and off. On Serious Eats, he published an epic post on coronavirus and food safety that millions of people have found useful. We followed that with our first Special Sauce episode focused on the impact of coronavirus, which detailed what's happened at Kenji's restaurant Wursthall since the pandemic broke out. Then we released a video featuring Kenji in which he answered many of the questions he posed in the original post. To complete this multimedia effort, this week's Special Sauce episode features the audio track from the aforementioned video, since we think the information is that important. Here ar

  • Special Sauce: Kenji on Coronavirus and Its Impact on Restaurants

    26/03/2020 Duración: 24min

    Editor's note: The Coronavirus story is unfolding at a breakneck pace. That means that something said that was true at the time may no longer be so. On this episode please note that Lola, the Tom Douglas restaurant in the Hotel Andra in Seattle, is now closed, as is the hotel itself. Before the sh*t hit the proverbial fan, I had the next several episodes of Special Sauce all queued up. They were going to feature Susan Spungen, the founding food editor of Martha Stewart Living and author of Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings; and Alexander Smalls, an opera singer turned chef-restaurateur and cookbook author (Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes From My African American Kitchen). But when the coronavirus pandemic struck with full force, destabilizing and eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs in our industry, I realized that we needed to put those episodes on hold and change up the Special Sauce MO. So over the coming weeks, the podcast will be focused on the virus' effect on people in the industr

  • Special Sauce: Claudia Fleming on the Pitfalls of Your Passion [2/2]

    05/03/2020 Duración: 36min

    On this week's Special Sauce, I continue my conversation with visionary pastry chef Claudia Fleming. But before we get to Claudia's captivating story, Kenji fields a question from Serious Eater Joan Moore, who wants to know how long the blade on her Cuisinart food processor should last. After Kenji delivers his characteristically thoughtful answer, Claudia and I pick up where we left off last week, and talk about her harrowing and moving journey. We start off by examining why she and her late husband, the prodigiously talented chef Gerry Hayden, decided to pack up their knives and scrapers, leave New York City, and buy an inn on the North Fork of Long Island, despite the fact that at the time, Claudia was, as she says, "kind of the it-girl when we left. I was on top of the world." Turns out, the move was made in part for Gerry. "I felt like I was eclipsing the larger talent in the relationship," Claudia says. "He devoted his entire life to being a chef, a cook. I loved him very much and wanted him to have his

  • Special Sauce: Kenji on Vegetarian Chile Verde, Claudia Fleming on Lego Desserts [1/2]

    28/02/2020 Duración: 31min

    There are forgotten giants in the food world, people who have profoundly influenced what we eat, but whose names we barely know. James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Claudia Fleming is one of those people. She is the author, along with Melissa Clark of the New York Times, of The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, which you'll find on the bookshelf of anyone who's serious about dessert. She is also my guest on the next two episodes of Special Sauce, and man does she have some stories to tell! First, in this week's episode, Claudia talks about ice cream, dance, and dessert construction; then, in next week's episode, she'll talk about love and loss. When Claudia first became a pastry chef, it was the era of vertical desserts, which she wasn't thrilled about. As she says in the book, "I wasn't very interested in Legos. I wanted it to taste like something." She expanded on that notion in the interview. "They make things that stacked on top of each other and how high can we make it before it falls down

  • Special Sauce: Misha Collins on Pasta With Jam Sauce and Random Acts of Kindness [2/2]

    14/02/2020 Duración: 45min

    In part two of my conversation with Supernatural star Misha Collins, we dive into his family's eating habits, which eventually lead to The Adventurous Eaters Club: Mastering the Art of Family Meal Time, which he wrote with his wife, Vicki. Their children Maison and West had adopted the chicken nuggets-centric diet typical of many children in America until West, seemingly at random, put some Jerusalem artichokes into the shopping cart. From that moment on their food lives changed forever. All of a sudden the Collins family started making things like kale chips at home. Of course, the Collins children's newfound food agency did lead to some-ahem-unusual recipes, which are documented in the book, like the pasta with jam sauce (Misha readily admits it's not a recipe to be made). I don't want to give away the whole recipe here, but I can tell you it includes chocolate chips, Goldfish, and popcorn for a garnish. On a more serious note, Misha also talks about his extraordinary charity, Random Acts, which will recei

  • Special Sauce: Supernatural Star Misha Collins [1/2]

    06/02/2020 Duración: 32min

    One of the things I love about Special Sauce is how often I am surprised and moved by my guests. And this episode, in which I interview Supernatural star Misha Collins, who, with his wife Vicki, just published The Adventurous Eaters Club: Mastering the Art of Family Mealtime, is a perfect example. Collins had a peripatetic childhood- "I think I lived in 15 places by the time I was 15," he tells me—and often found himself living in parks and teepees. Yet his "idiosyncratic and eccentric" mother somehow managed to almost always gather the family at dinnertime, even if what they were eating was procured by shoplifting. When your mother teaches you how to shoplift a peach, I would say that that's more than idiosyncratic and eccentric. Before I was mesmerized by my conversation with Misha, Kenji answered Serious Eater Ryan Daugherty's question about when to use dried or fresh herbs in preparing food. And to close out the episode, Daniel Gritzer schools us on the joys of making sous vide chicken wings. I hop

  • Special Sauce: Maangchi on Being the Korean Julia Child [2/2]

    31/01/2020 Duración: 35min

    This week's Special Sauce features part two of my conversation with the online cooking star Maangchi, but first we get to hear from Kenji, who answered a question from Serious Eater Kyle Johnson about whether or not you can freeze the base for his white chili with chicken. Kenji being Kenji, he doesn't just limit himself to yes or no, but he offers a few pears of food-freezing wisdom, like "Flat things freeze faster and they defrost faster." Maangchi and I mostly discussed her new book Maangchi's Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine, in which she wrote that Korean food "embodies generosity, innovation, patience, compassion, frugality, practicality, flexibility, and resourcefulness." But she also told me about how she was surprised by the fact that people have called her "YouTube's Korean Julia Child." In fact, she said, "Actually, when I heard the Julia Child...I didn't know who she was. I'm telling you the truth." Finally, we close out the episode with SE Culinary Director

  • Special Sauce: Kenji on Cooking for His Kid, and Maangchi on Becoming a YouTube Sensation [1/2]

    23/01/2020 Duración: 42min

    Maangchi. Maangchi. Maangchi! Need I say more? On this week's Special Sauce I had a chance to sit down with YouTube cooking sensation Maangchi, who, in addition to being an inspiration to all of us here at Serious Eats, is our associate producer Grace's hero. And I discovered she's an impossibly engaging woman, as charming and disarmingly forthright as anyone we've had on. And her path to success was definitely unorthodox: Maangchi went from living in a room in the back of her father's seafood auction house in Korea, to cooking fried chicken and burritos for her grocery store manager boss in Toronto, to becoming a master video gamer (that's when she came up with her nom de game, Maangchi), to teaching millions of people on YouTube how to cook real Korean food. Her life would make a great movie. But before we get to Maangchi's story in this episode, Serious Eater Little Chefs Dubai asked Kenji, "What are your favorites to cook with [your daughter] Alicia?" I won't give away Kenji's answer, but I will tell you

  • Special Sauce: Sean Brock on the Distinction Between Happiness and Success [2/2]

    16/01/2020 Duración: 40min

    On this week's far-ranging Special Sauce we cover a lot of territory- and I mean a lot- of territory. We've got Sean Brock on the highs and lows of an extended stay in rehab, and the joys of parenthood; Kenji on being a Juicy Lucy skeptic; and Stella on making an olive cake so delicious and so easy it can be in your mouth in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Billions. Before we get to Sean Brock's ongoing battle with recovery, Serious Eater Mike Suade wants to know if Kenji will join him in Minneapolis for a Juicy Lucy (two hamburger patties stuffed with cheese), which is most assuredly not Kenji's favorite style of burger. "I've probably said in the past that Juicy Lucys just don't sound like a great idea." Sean Brock talks honestly and painfully about the non-linear path of recovery he embarked on when he checked into The Meadows rehab facility. He also reflects on the unadulterated joy of parenthood. Finally, he discusses the pleasures of letting go of his compulsion to control everything in h

  • Special Sauce: Chef Sean Brock on the Perils of Working Too Hard [1/2]

    09/01/2020 Duración: 38min

    On the first new Special Sauce episode of 2020, we go deep and wide on a whole range of topics. First the insanely talented chef Sean Brock, whose new book, South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations, has just been published, takes us on part of his extraordinary journey as a chef. Brock talks about picking vegetables in his grandmother's kitchen and getting his first job in a restaurant kitchen as a teenager, which he describes as feeling like walking on to a pirate ship. He then delves into how that first restaurant job set him on the path to becoming a James Beard Award-winning chef. But Brock doesn't just talk about his success; he also reveals how his proclivity for obsessively going down culinary rabbit holes and working in fits of manic intensity threatened his mental and physical health and well-being. But before we get to Brock, Serious Eater Zack Kreines asked Kenji about his favorite cut of meat, and his answer might surprise you, and our pastry wizard Stella Parks rounds out the episode with t

  • Ask Special Sauce: Kenji and Stella Answer Your Holiday Questions

    19/12/2019 Duración: 36min

    This year, my wife and I managed to get through Thanksgiving without any major mishaps or blow-ups. That domestic and culinary tranquility was thanks (at least in part) to the answers Kenji and Stella gave on our special episode of “Ask Special Sauce.” This week, “Ask Special Sauce” returns with even more reassuring answers to an impressive array of holiday cooking questions posed by serious eaters all over the US and Canada.  We got straightforward inquiries, like how to navigate holiday baking when you’re avoiding gluten, dairy, and refined sugars or what’s the best way to crisp up sweet potatoes. But we also helped untangle some tricky family traditions. Listener Heather North came to us for advice, explaining, "My in-laws grew up using primarily box desserts, jello, cream cheese, Cool Whip, that sort of thing. And they continued those traditions.” Heather explained that every year she offers to make pastries or bake a pie, but her in-laws always request things like “that yellow salad with the pretzels or

  • Special Sauce: Kenji on Eggs, Plus Wisdom From Two Master Bakers [2/2]

    13/12/2019 Duración: 57min

    In part two of my conversation with the extraordinary bakers Amy Scherber of Amy's Bread and Melissa Weller of High Street on Hudson, we take a deep dive into what makes a proper (and I would say perfect) bagel, keeping wholesale bread fresh and high-quality, as well as the balancing act required to make entrepreneurship, marriage, and parenthood work. Both bakers have overcome extraordinary hurdles in the process of building their baking empires. Melissa recounts making bread in an outdoor wood-burning oven, without easy access to running water. Amy gets into the importance of crafting a unique product and opens up about the experience of juggling work, motherhood, and marriage- especially difficult when your husband is your VP of sales. Also in today's episode, Kenji helps Serious Eater Nate the Greatest answer two egg-related queries. First, he wants to know whether boiling eggs in a flavored broth imparts any flavor, and second, whether marinating the cooked egg in that broth has any additional effect. Ke

  • Special Sauce: Kenji on Pizza Dough; Amy Scherber and Melissa Weller on the Business of Baking [1/2]

    05/12/2019 Duración: 31min

    This week's Special Sauce episode unintentionally turned into a carb fest. Although I knew I was having on a couple of the finest bakers in the land- Amy Scherber, the founder of Amy's Bread, and Melissa Weller, a baker and partner at High Street on Hudson- I had not anticipated that the other segments of the show would have a similarly starchy focus. But let's start with the bread-bakers: Scherber founded Amy's Bread way back in 1992, and it was one of the first artisanal bread-baking businesses in New York City, established long before "artisanal" became such a ubiquitous marketing term. Weller, who used to be the head baker at Per Se and has overseen a number of well-regarded baking operations around New York, is now turning out some of the finest bagels in the city (and that's saying something). The two of them gave me some much-needed insight into what it was like to earn their chef stripes in all-male kitchens and, more importantly, what it takes to finally say, "Screw it!" and start your own business.

  • Ask Special Sauce: Kenji and Stella Answer Your Thanksgiving FAQs

    21/11/2019 Duración: 37min

    I don't know about the rest of you Thanksgiving hosts out there, but my wife and I tend to become increasingly stressed as the holiday approaches each year. On more than one occasion, I've reached out to Kenji and Stella to help relieve my cooking-related anxiety. It was during one such conversation that I came up with the idea of having a call-in Thanksgiving episode of Special Sauce co-hosted by Stella and Kenji. We put out the call for your Thanksgiving-related cooking and baking questions and Serious Eaters from all over the country submitted their most pressing questions. As usual, Kenji and Stella had answers in spades. We fielded inquiries about what foods travel well for a Thanksgiving feast, how to get pumpkin pie filling to set properly, and whether it's better to cook stuffing in or out of the bird. From Lani Houck’s question about whether turkey can receive the reverse sear treatment to Adrianna Lahti’s request for an improved take on her mother’s questionable pie crust, Kenji and Stella offered

  • Special Sauce: Kenji on Competitive Cooking; Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying on Being Gaijin [2/2]

    14/11/2019 Duración: 46min

    On this week's Special Sauce, we take a deep dive into The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider, the new cookbook from Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying. We pick up where we left off in last week's conversation, and Chris and Ivan talk about how this new project came about. They said that while their previous collaboration, Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint was received well, they decided they'd like to try writing a book that was more focused on cooking. And, as Chris tells me, as they tried to figure out what that book would look like, "I wanted to figure out specifically what it was that made a Japanese cookbook from Ivan and me worth buying or what the perspective was that made sense. We...pretty quickly arrived at this thing that Ivan's a gaijin. I'm a Chinese guy; I'm a gaijin. We can't hide that. There's no pretending otherwise." After they figured out an approach, the rest was relatively simple: Ivan supplying the

  • Special Sauce: Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying on The Gaijin Cookbook [1/2]

    07/11/2019 Duración: 42min

    Sometimes, my Special Sauce interviews are the best way to catch up with old friends and colleagues. I was reminded of that when Chris Ying and Ivan Orkin, co-authors of The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider, walked into the studio. The first thing you have to know about Ivan and Chris is that they are great company. The second is that, since they've worked together for long enough that they've established an easy rapport, one that comes through in every one of their exchanges. Consider this snippet of our conversation, when we on what role cleaning plays in becoming a chef or cook in a restaurant. Ivan: I was a dishwasher. Chris: As all good cooks should start. Ivan: I agree. If you don't know how to clean, then you can't cook. Chris: If you don't love cleaning... Ivan: I have to say, that as I become a better cook I've learned to actually love cleaning. I mean, when I cook, man, you should see it. I mean it is sparkly...When I talk to a young cook it's alway

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