What’s better than talking about good food (aside from eating it?) Why, listening to people who seriously know their onions talking about food…

You don’t have to be that rarefied thing – a serious self-styled ‘foodie’ – to be a serial downloader of the culinary podcast. Food is, after all, a daily necessity in our lives and, at its best, a joy. The best gastro chat ditches ideas of haute cuisine altogether and rightly concentrates not on the exclusivity that can accompany the foodie scene, but on the universal: what it is to eat, how food figures in shaping our lives, and the feelings it elicits, now and in our personal and collective pasts. And to truly hit the sweet spot, the food podcast should pack enough appeal to not only to produce tummy rumbles, but full on belly laughs too. Here’s our pick of the crop.

The Kitchen is on Fire

This is absolutely essential listening for anyone who likes discursive, daft and irreverent conversation that centres around food. The comedy-meets-culinary chat comes courtesy of cookery writer, James Ramsden, and his musician/co-restaurateur friend, Sam Herlihy, who banter their way through all the pressing gastronomic issues of the day and ask the big questions: should, for example, a fork should have three or four prongs? And does Cher actually, truly enjoy a sharing plate? The duo, who together own Hackney restaurant, Pidgin which serves up a weekly changing no-choice tasting menu, invite big name foodie guests, such as the reliably sweary Giles Coren, to share the limelight. Rambling, random matey chat, with lots of impious side-eye at the London restaurant scene and some genuine insights through the silliness.

Table Manners

A singer-songwriter and her ex-social worker mum – with occasional contributions from small children in the background – may not seem the most likely hosts for a foodie podcast. But Jessie Ware and her brilliant mother Lennie, who record their hour-long chats from Jessie’s east London kitchen, are so listenable that they now even have their own cookbook. The duo busy themselves in the kitchen creating excellent and at times, ahem, experimental home-cooked dishes for a series of series of famous guests – Sam Smith, former Girls Aloud singer, Cheryl, Jay Rayner, Richard Curtis and Emma Freud – over which the talk turns to the food they love and loathe, the oddest things they’ve eaten and their stand out food memories. Things we’ve learned: if you’re ever in the unlikely position of having to cook for Richard Curtis, ‘anything and rice’ will make him a happy man; Mark Ronson can cook almost nothing other than Paleo brownies; and Cheryl is a feeder who favours a beef gravy on chicken. The animal. The kind of chat that makes you want to grab a mug of builders’ tea, put your slippers on and chip in.

The Sporkful

No food podcast edit would be complete without The Sporkful. It comes with some serious plaudits, having been thrice garlanded with the Best Food Podcast gong at the James Beard Awards, the Webby Awards and the Saveur Awards. Host, Dan Pashman, is a former radio and print journalist who previously wrote on wide-ranging topics – news, politics, music and culture – but curiously not food. However, his journalistic inquisitiveness serves this podcast and its listeners well. Each episode features a new guest, whom Pashman gets to know via obsessing over the details of food and eating. He asks questions such as how you can change your palette, and what it’s like to eat in a restaurant as a wheelchair user. Race, culture, body image – all are prime topics for this insightful show, one episode of which winningly dwells for a full 40 minutes on cultural references to jelly, from the Harlem Renaissance to Beyoncé.

Out to Lunch

Jay Rayner and AA Gill – with Giles Coren coming up the rear – must surely have held the joint crown for most revered and most feared restaurant critics in the land. With Gill’s tragic demise, the onerous accolade of striking terror into restaurateurs’ hearts must now fall solely to Rayner, The Observer’s sharp-tongued critic. Establishments who feature on his podcast, Out to Lunch, must then breathe a big sigh of relief. These are the ones who make his cut, and to which he chooses to take his guests – who range from Stanley Tucci to Grayson Perry – for wide-ranging chat articulating the big feelings centred around food. At the Drapers Arms in Islington, Perry talks proper pies, as well as the nature of shame; at Locanda Locatelli, Tucci shares his experiences cooking with Meryl Streep and delves into what it’s like to lose a partner; and at Soho’s Sartoria, Richard E Grant expounds on the joys of licking plates, but also on why he was estranged from his mother for a quarter of century. The meaty big things – the hearty filling – in a sandwich of the little things, all via food, and served up with a hearty dose of warmth and humour.

Desert Island Dishes

The sublime simplicity of this idea and its execution is hard to beat. Margie Nomara is a chef and food writer who, over the course of 40-odd minutes, discusses the five dishes that have meant most to her guests, the ones that have truly shaped their lives. Interviewees are exclusively chefs or those related to the food world, and afterwards, a recipes for one of their choices is posted on the accompanying website. Gino D’Acampo’s gnocchi with crispy sage and prosciutto, Tom Kerridge’s peanut butter brownies and the world’s best tomato sauce by the legendary Ruth Rogers all look so good that they’re now likely contenders for our own desert island dishes.

By Nancy Alsop
Updated August 2020


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