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Frank Bruni and his meatloaves
Nick Solares

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Frank Bruni Believes Meatloaf Can Heal America

A candid conversation with the dining critic-turned-political columnist

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It's more fun to be an ex-restaurant critic than a restaurant critic,” says Frank Bruni, who was the voice of culinary opinion for the New York Times from 2004 to 2009. He may have ended his tenure eight years ago, but that doesn’t mean he’s done with food. Now an op-ed columnist for the paper — where he spends, by his own estimate, 90 percent of his time writing about politics — he’s spent the last year obsessing over meatloaf. The humble dish is the star of the new cookbook A Meatloaf in Every Oven, which Bruni co-authored with his Times colleague Jennifer Steinhauer, also a writer on the political beat. Unsurprisingly, the resulting book has plenty of political flourishes, including a recipe contributed by none other than Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. (Step one: Kill your own deer.)

Bruni joined Eater Upsell hosts Greg Morabito and Helen Rosner to talk about how that Paul Ryan recipe came about — not to mention the current state of restaurant criticism, what to make of Donald Trump, and what makes a good food city a good food city. (LA has it down; DC — well, it’s a work in progress.) Listen to the full episode below, or read on for a transcript of the conversation.

As always, you can get the Eater Upsell on iTunes, listen on Soundcloud, subscribe via RSS, or search your favorite podcast app. You can also get the entire archive of episodes — plus transcripts, behind-the-scenes photos, and more  —  right here on Eater.

Read the transcript of the Eater Upsell Season 3, Episode 2: Frank Bruni, slightly edited for clarity, right here.

Greg Morabito: Mr. Frank Bruni, welcome to The Eater Upsell.

Frank Bruni: Hey, thanks for having me here.

Helen: We have so much we want to talk to you about!

Frank: Let's go then! Great. I'm here.

Helen: Where should we start? Should we start with the book? The book, the most recent book, the reason you're here —

Frank: The reason I'm here.

Helen: — is this very beautiful little volume that you published.

Frank: Isn't it pretty?

Helen: It's really — as physical objects go, it's lovely.

Frank: I know, I was so thrilled when I got it, 'cause you never know how you're going to feel about the cosmetics of your book until it's really all done and you hold the finished copy in your hand. And I love the look of this book. I really do. Hats off to the illustrator.

Helen: So, it's called A Meatloaf in Every Oven, which is an obliquely political title.

Frank: Yes! Very good. Yeah. I think it's a reference that's going, you know, common references age, and people forget about them, but —

Helen: Who was it who said “a chicken in every pot”? I wanna say it was Truman, but I don't think it was.

Frank: You know, I actually forget, but I know the sentiment, the general era, and that's absolutely what it’s a take-off from. But It will be fascinating to know how many people who see that title immediately flash on or hear “a chicken in every pot.”

Helen: What a beautifully simple political time, when you could run on a platform of “You should have chicken for dinner!”

Frank: People have run on even simpler platforms. I bring to you “Make America great again.”

Helen: I mean, yes, that’s grammatically simpler, but the implication of that is quite complex.

Frank: Well, it's interesting. Isn't there a lesson in the fact that we remember those two things? Even if it seems simplistic, even if it seems almost kind of elementary school, there is an effectiveness to the really blunt, really elementary slogan.

Greg: I was surprised to see that you were publishing a meatloaf cookbook, along with your co-author Jennifer Steinhauer. I guess because I think of you as many things — you know, a, a man of many talents — but because I work for Eater, I think of you mostly as a former New York Times critic, and meatloaf is not something that really came up very much during your tenure as a restaurant critic.

Frank: No, it didn't. It should have! I mean, in the sense that I think — I actually think, and not just because I did the book — I think it should be on more menus. Because we've been in this period for about 15 years, and I think accelerated in the last 10 years, where there's been a consistent trend of chefs of great talent and accomplishment turning their attention toward humble comfort foods. I mean, we've seen the hamburger interpreted infinite ways. The hot dog, you know, think back to when PDT put all of those newfangled hot dogs on their bar menu. Fried chicken over the last five years. And in a weird way, I think meatloaf has been left out. I suspect there's meatloaf bigotry out there. There's some meatloaf bigotry in your question, Greg.

Helen: Well, before you entered the studio, Greg and I were chatting, and Greg dropped some very negative opinions on meatloaf as a food. I'm just selling you out in front of our guest, so you know, I have no loyalty.

Greg: Well, this is what I was saying.

Frank: But Greg, have you made any of the meatloaves in this book?

Greg: No. And there's actually a few that I'm very curious about, like, April Bloomfield's, and some of the more traditional ones as well. But what I was saying is that when I think about taking on some sort of cooking project and going to the grocery store and getting all these ingredients, when I have that itch, I almost never think about making a meatloaf for some reason because it's not something I inherently believe —

Frank: You see, I love to make meatloaf because it’s the closest thing I think you can do in the kitchen to child's play. You know what I mean? The best way to mix most meatloaves is with your hands — you know, freshly cleaned hands, and in a restaurant kitchen, one would use plastic gloves, very thin gloves. But it's so reminiscent of Play-Doh as a kid. You not only get to put your fingers in your food, you're encouraged to put your fingers in your food.

And there's an ability to kind of throw any bunch of different things together in different proportions that brings me to mind of, like, those chemistry sets we had as children, where you would add different powders. I mean, there is a child's play aspect to meatloaf that I think makes it fun to cook. And if you're someone like me, and this is part of how this book came to be, I was always a very bashful, intimidated cooked. Meatloaf was approachable. It was a scalable mountain, you know?

Greg: One thing I will say, is I remember one of my most successful ever cooking-for-other-people experiences was actually making a meatloaf instead of a turkey on Thanksgiving one year. It was such a huge hit.

Frank: So there you go.

Greg: My friends still remember that, yeah.

Frank: So why did you turn your back on the meatloaf?

Greg: Well, I mean, maybe it's time to reconsider the meatloaf.

Frank: Oh, oh, it is time to reconsider the meatloaf.

Helen: You know, I have a book you could read, Greg.

Greg: Oh, really? Tell me more about it.

Helen: It’s very detailed on the subject. Frank, you and your co-author, Jennifer Steinhauer, who's a colleague of yours at the Times —

Frank: Yeah.

Helen: The subtitle of this cookbook is “Two Chatty Cooks, One Iconic Dish.” And it is really chatty!

Frank: Mm-hmm.

Helen: And I mean that in a complimentary way.

Greg: No, I think it's a fun book to read.

Helen: It's really funny.

Frank: Yeah. Oh, good, good, good.

Helen: It's very rare that cookbooks are funny.

Frank: We meant it to be. Oh, we hope that, yeah.

Helen: Each chapter opens with a dialogue between you and Jennifer, which I adore. It feels very platonic in the literal sense of Plato. It's the two of you talking about — I mean, you're engaging in the Socratic method to determine what makes a lamb meatloaf a lamb meatloaf. It's fun! How did you guys write the chats? Were you, like, g-chatting back and forth?

Frank: We do g-chat a lot. One of the reasons we wanted to do the chats at the beginning of the chapter is because so much of our relationship is that sort of chatting. You know, we're on g-chat all the time with each other, or we're text messaging. We are the closest of friends, and we are in constant communication but in a very modern way. It is least often on the phone. Although I will tell you this about our phone time — we had this weekend ritual even before we did the book, and we have it to this day, where if one of us is home on a weekend day, unloading the dishwasher, we decide that's the perfect time to multitask. So I'll get a text from her saying, "Is it dishwasher time?" And we'll get on the phone and we'll talk on the phone as we unload our dishwashers.

Helen: That's beautiful.

Frank: I know. And, and so we go slowly, so the conversation isn’t over. But so much of our relationship is those sort of staccato chats, and so much of our working on this book — you know, whether she was reporting on something she just cooked and tried or whether I was saying, "I have an idea." It was done by those sorts of chats — so we thought that we should really make that an element of the book. We constructed these particular chats by like, we would say, "Okay, Saturday, 90 minutes, let's open a Google doc." And we would do it in real time on a Google doc, and then go back and edit it very lightly. But it's, it's pretty much real-time genuine chats.

Helen: It reads very naturalistic, which I think is probably why it is successfully funny.

Frank: Thank you. I'm glad it's successful, because whenever you try out humor, it's an opportunity to fall flat on your face.

Helen: Yes. That's very true. I'm very jaded about humor, and I think something that someone once told me, which I often come back to, is that if you have to describe yourself as a humorist, you probably aren't.

Frank: Yes, I agree. And then there's that famous saying, and I'm gonna get it wrong, but: Dying is easy, comedy is hard, right?

Helen: Yeah (laughs).

Frank: Well, I think that comes from the same mindset. Yeah.

Greg: So in this book, you have a lot of recipes from some complete A-lister chefs — some people we've even had on this podcast before, like Michael Solomonov. I'm curious, what are some of your favorite recipes from these huge chef people?

Frank: I think all of them are good. And they were all so generous, and such champs. I mean, we, like everyone of them, said an instant yes. Um, some of them gave us recipes that they were making at home but had never publicized. Mario Batali is the only one that has actually appeared in publication elsewhere. Mike Solomonov from Zahav, he developed that recipe for this book. Michael Schwartz from Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami — and Zahav and Michael's Genuine are literally two of my favorite restaurants in the country, which is why we went to those guys — he developed this meatless loaf for us. And when Jennifer tested it and had trouble getting it to hold together as easily as he did, he tweaked it not one but two different times just for us. I mean, chefs are in the food and hospitality business for a reason, because they are just, by nature, generous people. So I can't pick a favorite among those chef meatloaves. All I can tell you is I was so touched and so impressed by how instantly, immediately, generous these chefs were with their time and with their ideas.

Helen: You mentioned in the book that — you tell this sort of cute little mini anecdote about how you dinged Bobby Flay when you were a critic at The Times, and yet one of his recipes appears here, this beautiful tale of the —

Frank: The healing power of meatloaf.

Helen: Yes.

Frank: Yeah. Meatloaf can heal the world.

Helen: Like the resurrection of your relationship.

Frank: Bobby and I — I had demoted Mesa Grill, which was his signature flagship restaurant for a long time. I had demoted it by a star when I was a critic. And, you know, chefs would sometimes get back in touch with you by phone or email — never face to face nor I face to face with them, when you're a critic — and some of them would get back in touch with you and complain about what you'd done. But then, there were the other ones who just always took a very high road.

Bobby, I remember at the time, sent me an email or left me a voicemail saying, "Obviously, this is a very, very sad day for me, but I respect your right to your opinion, and I thank you for paying attention to us, for your time and, and evaluation." It was really the epitome of class.

And after I left the job, somehow he and I ended up occasionally exchanging emails just about, you know, he would maybe compliment me on a column, I would maybe compliment him on a meal that I've had at Gato or something like that. And I somehow felt comfortable enough to ask him about the meatloaf. And somewhere, in all of this, I read an interview he did where he said his saddest moment in his career was when Mesa Grill had been demoted a star. And I thought, "Well, that's really something! He's never said it like that to me, but he is still willing to have a cordial social relationship and even willing to contribute to this book." So my hat goes off to Bobby Flay.

Helen: So it's been, as Greg mentioned, eight years or so since you were the critic at Times.

Frank: I stopped at the end of August 2009, so like, what's that — seven and a half years, yeah.

Helen: Seven and a half. Obviously, people will identify you as “former New York Times restaurant critic” forever.

Frank: Mm-hmm.

Helen: Do you feel like that is ever a burden?

Frank: No. I don't feel it's a burden at all. It was a privilege to do the job. And actually, it's more fun to be an ex-restaurant critic than a restaurant critic, because when you're a restaurant critic, it's incumbent upon you to keep an enormous distance from the chefs whose food you're eating. And often you're as curious about them as they are about you, because you have such effects on each other's lives. And you so respect what they do, which is why you're a restaurant critic because you really have a reverence for that form. It's frustrating sometimes not to be able to get to know them.

Now, some of them are friends. Restaurateurs are friends. Now, when I go into someone's restaurant, if they care that I'm there and if that somehow means something to them, they can come to the table and talk to me. They can say, "I'd really like you to try this one other thing." And it's not this stilted, fraught, tense thing. It was such a privilege to be a restaurant critic. It is such a privilege to be an ex-restaurant critic. And my guess is that anyone who's been in that job at the Times will probably have the same stories and tell you the same thing.

Helen: Do you make reservations under your own name now?

Frank: Well sure, because it would be the height of absurdity to use a different name because I no longer need to be anonymous. It would look so ridiculously deluded and self-important to be making phony reservations. So, yeah, I make them under my name, but it's not because I'm saying “Please know that I'm here.” And you know, in other cities, sometimes that name draws no notice. In New York, it pretty much is always recognized. But I also have heard repeatedly through the years from restaurateurs that there are people who make reservations in my name who are not me. So they often talk —

Helen: That never occurred to me.

Frank: Oh, yeah. People do it all the time.

Helen: Oh, that's brilliant.

Frank: Yeah. So, so a lot of chefs will say, "It's funny, I saw your name in the book." Some of them now know my phone number and all that. But they're like "I couldn't be 100 percent sure it was you until you walked in the door," you know?

Helen: It never occurred to me that people would fake being a critic.

Frank: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Greg: I feel like, during your tenure at the New York Times, you kind of had to rise to the occasion — it was kind of when the blogosphere was really starting to cycle ip, and you, you know, started writing blog posts —

Frank: Yeah, yeah. Well, it's when Eater really took off.

Greg: Yeah. That is true. And, you know, there was so much more information out there, and so many more opinions. And I think you really nimbly stayed on top of it all while still really leaving this huge mark and contextualizing all these trends — chefs and restaurants that would become so important, they're still so important. You were the one who was reviewing all the Momofuku restaurants when they opened.

Frank: That's right, yeah.

Greg: And seeing Eleven Madison Park go from two stars, to three stars, to four stars — those guys are, you know, taking over everything right now. And I'm just kind of curious, did you have to disengage from that when you stopped? Do you still obsessively track the stuff?

Frank: I did disengage to a large extent. I mean, partly as a matter of time and energy. You know, I mean, I'm busy enough doing the other stuff I'm doing that to keep on top — especially now in the first days of the Trump administration, but even before then — to keep on top of political news, which I'm supposed to do in this era of so many different sources of it. There's so many different blogs. I mean, that is hours and hours of reading a day. I also try to keep on top of a lot of college stuff, because that's a sort of sub area of interest. And so as a sheer matter of reading time, I can't keep on top of the food world and restaurants as much as I would like to, as a matter of genuine interest.

But I mean, I'm usually aware when new restaurants open as just a hobby. It's something I love to do. I try a lot of them. I still eat out more than the average bear does, but not in as targeted and in as obsessive and super knowledgeable way as when I was doing it full-time.

Helen: Speaking of the political beat, you have a recipe on this book from Paul Ryan.

Frank: We do.

Helen: I want to talk about that recipe right now, but also like I want to talk about it every second for the rest of my life.

Frank: That's a lot of Paul Ryan talk.

Helen: I guess I have many questions about this recipe. So the recipe in the book is called “Oh Deer” — D-E-E-R — “Speaker Paul Ryan's Loaf.”

Frank: Right. That was our title. He gave us the recipe. We put that title on it.

Helen: Among other amazing things he makes this meatloaf using a deer he kills himself.

Frank: Well, so, can I tell you about how that meatloaf came to be in the book?

Helen: Please. I want nothing more.

Frank: And then I'm gonna, and then I'm gonna validate for you that you’re right that it's metaphoric, but what's interesting is all four of the political meatloaves in the book turned out to be very metaphoric, I think.

So, Jennifer Steinhauer, my incredible, wonderful friend and co-author, she's been covering Congress for the Times for the last — I'm gonna get this wrong, five, seven years. I don't know. She's a spectacularly great political reporter and knows Congress well and is known by everyone there. One of the senators, whom she probably talks to the most in the hallways, et cetera, 'cause they're both food lovers and cooking lovers, is Susan Collins from Maine. Susan knew that Jennifer was developing recipes for this meatloaf book. I should say Senator Collins. And Senator Collins said to Jennifer, "I'd love to give you my family’s and my meatloaf recipe." And Jennifer said. "Great, sure," because we were taking meatloaves from elsewhere as we developed the book.

Months go by, Jennifer goes to do an interview with Paul Ryan, which she'd done before. Paul Ryan knows Jennifer, and vice versa. Someone on his staff had clearly done the obligatory Google search, you know, so he had a few social niceties to say to Jennifer at the start of the interview. And somewhere, there must have been mention of the meatloaf book. And so Speaker Ryan said to Jennifer, "Oh, I'd love to give you my venison meatloaf recipe." So she said, "Oh, okay, great, that'd be interesting." She called me and she said, "What do we now?" And I said, "Well, Jennifer this is really clear. We take his venison meatloaf recipe. We've now got a Republican senator and a Republican in the House. We now get two corresponding Democrats. And if we go to Nancy Pelosi and say we have a meatloaf recipe from Paul Ryan, I think she's gonna give us a meatloaf recipe and then we'll choose a Democrat in the Senate.” Chuck Schumer is whom we chose.

Greg: That's brilliant.

Frank: But what's interesting is if you look at Susan Collins's meatloaf recipe, the one we began with, it is just kind of — it is quintessential Americana, which is really her political identity and which, in a sense, is the state of Maine, which she represents.

Helen: Yeah.

Frank: Paul Ryan, a huge part of his personal mythology and political identity is the outdoorsman, the hyper-fit guy, the hunter. He does go hunting for deer with a bow, right? So he gives us a venison meatloaf. We go to Nancy Pelosi. She's from the West Coast, right? She represents, you know, the very kind of healthy living Bay Area, so her recipe is half bison, a beast, a beast of the West.

Helen: Also the least fatty.

Frank: A leaner meat! So there's the Bay Area. An instead of breadcrumbs, she uses torn bits of ciabatta.

Helen: Oh my god.

Frank: She's Italian, Nancy Pelosi, right? And so, I mean, Jennifer and I joked, but it's really not a joke — whether you're talking about those meatloaves or whether you're talking about other ones in the book, there's a real weird way in which meatloaf is a mirror. Like, you show me someone's family meatloaf or you show me the meatloaf they love best, and it almost always tells you something about that human being.

Helen: So this recipe from Paul Ryan — um, at what point in his descent into one of the top five villains in America did you acquire this meatloaf recipe from him?

Frank: Now, you're testing my memory. You know, all books are sort of set in stone a good six, five months before they actually appear in shelves. So it was more than five or six months ago. I think it was toward, it was very much toward the end of this — So it may have been eight or nine months ago that we got this recipe.

Helen: So it was clear that he was a horrible person who is destroying America. These are my words —

Greg: Wow.

Frank: Wow.

Helen: Sorry.

Frank: Listen, I have a lot of issues with Paul Ryan, but, um, wow.

Helen: It's okay.

Greg: It was several years after he took those photos in the gym, though, right?

Helen: But you do have the P90X joke in the headnote, which is great.

Frank: Of course, yeah. Of course, we do. You can't mention Paul Ryan without it. You know, I will tell you, we got it from him before — you may have already thought of him as one of the great villains — but we got it from him before, I would say, we had the number of instances that we have today of Trump accommodation.

I mean, to me, the big question about Paul Ryan right now is the big question about any Republican — other than the most proudly crazy extremist ones — is how much of what Donald Trump is doing fundamentally violates what you supposedly believe, even on a policy level. You know, Paul Ryan doesn't believe what Donald Trump does about protectionism when it comes to trade. You know, how much are you Paul Ryan, you Mitch McConnell, the rest of them, how much are you willing to turn a blind eye to? How much are you willing to be silent about? In the interest of getting those one or two things that you are convinced Donad Trump may deliver for you?

Paul Ryan — almost as one pines for a romantic object of one's affection, Paul Ryan has pined for tax reforms from the moment he got on Capitol Hill. He apparently believes Donald Trump may deliver that, and there's a whole lot he's willing to put up with. But I think the real story — of his political career right now and really the story of American politics and of what's going on in Washington right now — is how much will Republicans turn a blind eye to, when it comes to Trump and when it comes to the way in which he has dragged down the office of the Presidency? I mean, I am startled daily by what I see, hourly by what I hear. How much will they put up with and will they indulge because they think they're going to get something particular out of it? And how are they gonna justify getting that one particular thing giving away so very much more in my view?

Helen: I think that is exactly the fulcrum on which all of this rests, for sure.

Frank: Yes.

Helen: And part of what I imagine many people's increasing daily anxiety level hinges on is just a complete lack of ability to predict where the line is going to be — like, When are we going to know?

Frank: Right. Donald Trump has already moved so many lines that I didn't think, you know, it is just — And I don't know how political you wanna get here but —

Helen: We can get very political.

Frank: Yeah, no, but I mean, if you go back in time to some of his earliest outrages — one of the earliest ones in the political sense being the triumph and outrage of the birther campaign, the birther conspiracy — but if you just go back to this political campaign stuff that happened. I mean, for many politicians sitting on a stage with a camera on you and a microphone under you and saying that you didn't admire John McCain because you preferred veterans who were not captured? I mean, this is a man who spent years being tortured by the Vietnamese as a prisoner of war.

If you took Donald Trump out of the equation and you said, “There's this politician who's gonna run for president and he or she is gonna say this early on”? You'd say, "Well, that's a campaign ender." You know what I mean?

Helen: Sure.

Frank: That's akin to George Romney saying that he’d been brainwashed by the assessments that military officials had given him of the Vietnam war. But someone reminded me yesterday, because I'd already forgotten it because there are so many moments like this with Donald Trump, somebody reminded me of the moment when he seemed to be encouraging Second Amendment enthusiasts to take a shot at Hillary Clinton.

He has done a hundred things. Any one of them would have ended somebody else's candidacy or political career. And he gets away with them, in part, because they exist in this cloud of them. And so each one tends to be minimized by the bevy of them.

Helen: The baseline inappropriateness is so high, or low — it’s so extreme.

Frank: Right.

Helen: You know, to somewhat clumsily bring it back to meatloaf — but I do actually think this is very connected — one of the throughlines in the Trump campaign, and now into the Trump presidency, has been this idea of “not normalizing.” Or whatever term you want to use.

Frank: Right.

Helen: A lot of that has come to play in these areas like food, the things that Greg and I cover, or the fashion that Melania is wearing. People are saying, you know, "Don't talk about the softer, lifestyle-y elements of their lives.” The things that very frequently were used to sort of humanize other presidents, other Congresspeople — cookie recipes for the First Lady cookie bake off. Or in Trump's case, there was a recipe for his mother's meatloaf that was circulating early in the campaign. He's not really a noted food person, but —

Frank: There's even, if you or your listeners want to go online, there's even video of Donald Trump years ago with Melania making that meatloaf on Martha Stewart show.

Greg: Whaaaat?

Helen: My god. How did we not uncover that?

Greg: Oh man. How are we not fired? We should be fired.

Frank: You really should look at this, 'cause Melania's kitchen-wear is not the normal kitchen-wear, let’s just say.

Greg: You know, anytime you were down the rabbit hole of finding weird videos that involve Donald Trump — there’s just so many. There's Wrestlemania, there's Home Alone 2

Frank: That's true. Very true.

Helen: I actually have been having a lot of fun — well, “fun” is the wrong word, but I have been taking on an extracurricular activity of just doing deep dives into Trump on various things that are, in some way, related to the food or restaurant world, and hoping I find a story. And he has a cameo in the Woody Allen movie Celebrity

Greg: Oh!

Helen: Where he plays himself, or he plays a version of himself, in a scene that takes place at Jean-Georges, the restaurant in Trump Tower, which is not called Jean-Georges in the movie —

Frank: Right.

Helen: But he is interviewed by one of the characters and says he's just bought a cathedral or something. I mean, there are all of these weird ways that he has appeared everywhere in the fabric of American media.

Frank: Well, if you just look at his — it's a weird word to use, but if you just look at his filmography, I think, he's been in about two dozen movies.

Helen: Home Alone 2!

Frank: Yeah, exactly. And always kind of doing that sort of Donald Trump walk-through, yeah. But that's that's not incidental. Donald Trump understood early on, if you look at his business career — his name is on all these buildings that he actually doesn't own, or that he has, like, only the most tangential business relationship to. He would often give away certain things or negotiate things in a way that what he cared about was the name being in big gold letters. And the movie thing is the same thing: Donald Trump understood early on that if you had a sort of celebrity omnipresence, that in and of itself was marketable, and that in and of itself had value.

Helen: One of the various things about his finances that was revealed over the course of the campaign was that he makes far more money from his licensing than from his real estate.

Frank: Yeah. Just lending out his name.

Greg: I was just gonna say — I didn't know about that, Helen, about Trump in Celebrity, but I was surprised 'cause it just kind of makes sense. That movie, I mean, I see that as this great time capsule of a time and a place in New York, and it's kind of about huge ego, so it's kind of in retrospect —

Helen: He fits right in.

Greg: Yeah, yeah.

Helen: But back to the question of normalizing —

Frank: Mm-hmm, sorry.

Helen: When you do something like include Paul Ryan's recipe in a cookbook, and I suppose this applies on the other side, too, if a conservative reader would be put off by Nancy Pelosi's recipe — I mean, do you worry that treating a politician who makes serious decisions and possibly extraordinarily damaging decisions, in a light way, in a meatloaf context, is an improper way to handle him?

Frank: No, 'cause I think — it's a meatloaf book. And I've written other things about Paul Ryan and many other people writing other things about Paul Ryan — in the context of a meatloaf book, Paul Ryan being included in our meatloaf book, is not going to redeem him in the eyes of people who hate him, nor is it going deify him further in the eyes of people who adore him. It's just Paul Ryan in meatloaf book. But I will tell you what does matter to me about him being in this book and Susan Collins being in this book, and Chuck Schumer and, Nancy Pelosi — I worry very much — very much — about the growing inability in this country of people across the political divide to have sane, measured conversations. I worry very much about our inability to find common ground in places where it really shouldn't be that hard to find, because we're so ready to demonize the other side and we're so intent on creating a world of utter villains and utter heroes.

It matters to me, and I hope people see and take note, that there are two Democrats and two Republicans in this book. Each one of them knew the other one was there, and at least on the subject of food and on the common ground of meatloaf, everyone was able to play nicely. We’ve got to try — I mean, we have to fight our important political battles. We have to defend very aggressively the ideals we hold dearest. But we have to try in this country to do that in a way, that is less vitriolic, and that acknowledges that people do sometimes have genuine differences, and they can talk about those in a civilized way.

One of my many big issues with Donald Trump is that he drags down the vocabulary and the emotional temperature — or in that case, he ratchets it up — of our conversations in a way that's not constructive. So I'm not worried about, you know, normalizing Paul Ryan by him being in the book, or seeming to honor him in some way, nor am I worried about a conservative person seeing Nancy Pelosi in the book. I do care about, and I'm proud, that there are two politicians from each party and from each chamber of Congress in this book, and they found common ground here.

Helen: When you were reviewing restaurants, did to you ever feel like those were political acts?

Frank: No, not intrinsically. But I do think that — I don't think I've ever thought of him as political, but I did feel that people often, not lovers of restaurant reviews, but kind of people in general sometimes shortchange what can be the kind of meaning or — not profundity, but something short of that — of restaurant reviews, in the sense that I think they are real snapshot of a given city, of a given moment, of the way different people in a metropolis sort themselves. I don't think that makes them abundantly political, but it does make them about much, much more than food.

Greg: I think every era of like the different Times critics — I mean, I like all the New York Times critics. I like the guys that followed you and the ones that came before you. A lot of the things that I find most exciting about food and restaurants seemed to sort of bubble up and happen during your tenure there. And I feel like, you know, you and Peter Meehan, when he was writing the “$25 and Under” column —

Frank: Right. Great guy.

Greg: — you kind of introduced us to a lot of things that are still really popular right now and kind of helped demystify a lot of the New York culinary landscape.

Frank: Well, I think Peter and I had the interesting good fortune — I think if you look at our years, they almost perfectly dovetailed. I think we pretty much did those jobs in tandem for that whole time. And I think, something that began to happen before then, and that accelerated afterwards, but I think happened in the most intense way under our watch was, the disappearance, the wilful banishment, of so many of the rituals of conventional fine dining. And that was really exciting because it was an attempt, I think, to bring food of great discernment and food of great accomplishment to a wider audience of people.

Helen: A populist approach to high-quality food

Frank: It was a more populist approach, because one of the reasons that the rituals of fine dining were being banished was because a lot of those rituals added a lot of dollar signs and and decimal points to a meal without actually fundamentally changing what was on your plate. Maybe it was changing the plate that it came on. And so it changed the definition of fine dining, but it also made what it was under that new definition accessible to more people. And it's hard not to feel that that was a wonderful, wonderful change. It's impossible not to feel that. And it was cool to see that happening on our watch. All we could do was chronicle it, but I think both of us tried to champion it in different ways, because it was something that was so clearly an improvement, and, and a force of good.

Helen: I do think that what we're talking about at this sort of moment was, in many respects, basically a de-Frenchification of fine dining.

Frank: Yeah, well, yeah.

Helen: Like, even if a restaurant didn’t have “chez” in the name or explicitly bill itself as French, the legacies and structures and techniques of haute cuisine comprised the lens through which America and New York City and the New York Times decided what was the highest. And I mean, I remember when Ruth Reichl was critic — she faced so much backlash for talking about Chinese food in the same way that she talked about —

Frank: French food, yeah. And now if he didn't do that, people would be scandalized.

Helen: Absolutely.

Frank: That's how much the world has changed, yeah.

Helen: I think that, you know, that goes back to the question that I asked before: There is a perhaps subtle, but there is a politics to restaurant criticism, and to criticism in general, to say “This is the thing that we value enough to turn our critical lens on it.”

Frank: Well, I guess you could make the argument, and I think it would be a fair one, that if you are praising an egalitarian trajectory in the dining scene, you're showing some political colors. It's just hard for me to believe that anyone, even from the most elitist-slash-conservative — and those things are not synonymous — it's hard to believe anyone really thinks, “No! Fine dining must remain the privilege of the French and the privilege of people who can pay above a certain point.” But yes, the degree of enthusiasm one has for the more egalitarian direction of the restaurant scene, I guess, reflects something about one's politics and becomes something of a political statement.

Helen: I've heard anecdotally that this is why DC is not a great food city — which is its own contestable statement. Somebody may have actually linked me to a study, but I'm gonna say that this is anecdotal, that if you lean towards the politically conservative, you tend also to lean towards the culinarily conservative.

Frank: But why would you intrinsically say DC, which is, which is coming out of eight years of a Democratic administration?

Helen: Oh, right. So, so the, the connection to DC, I think was — gosh, now, I'm gonna lose the thread of where my thought was — it was, it was something about, I don't know, the halls of power. I mean, the colonial interior decorating style of Washington is also not that great.

Frank: I mean, someone, someone should write it, it'd be a fantastic essay. If one accepts the premise that DC punches below its weight, restaurant-wise — and I guess the city's weight would be determined by the metropolitan area's population and what kind of customer base you have — but if you accept the premise that it punches below its weight restaurant-wise, and I think it does, less so than before, but I think it's still does. There's a great essay on, Why is that? I think part of the reason is once a city's restaurant scene is already that way, it takes a really long time, you know, to kind of change that DNA and to kind of make up for the distance you lagged behind.

But I think there are other things. I mean, DC is a phenomenally transactional city, right? And it's a city in which I think people use "the best" or the most expensive restaurants in a very transactional business way. And they're focused less on the food than on the utility of that restaurant as a meeting place to make deals or whatever. My guess is that's one little component of it, but it would be a great, great essay for someone to write, for the right magazine. A full theory of DC restaurant inferiority.

Helen: I mean, clearly, the appetite is there, literally and figuratively. Every time I've been to DC and I've been to one of the incredible crop of restaurants that is quite wonderful there, they’re packed, they have infinite waits.

Frank: Oh, sure. Yeah.

Helen: Everybody is so excited for there to be fine or fine-ish dining that is not just another $75 steak at a steakhouse.

Frank: Cities don't follow a predictable restaurant logic. I think LA is a fantastic restaurant city and partly, yes, because of all of the ethnic cuisine on a lower price end. But I think it's a fantastic restaurant sitting on all levels, and that sort of defies reason because if you spent any time — and you live there, Greg, so I'd like you to chime in and tell me if I'm crazy — but if you spend any time dining in LA, you learn right away that everybody's self-identity is tethered to what they can and cannot eat. They invent things they can't eat based on some imaginary nutritionist, just because you cannot come to the table without enzyme pills. I can't count the number of people I've dined with in LA, who come to the table with what looked like a handful of multivitamins, but they're the special enzymes that their nutritionist has prescribed for them.

But my point is they turn eating into such a bizarrely — “fetishistic” isn't even the right word — and yet, and yet, this bizarre customer base, nonetheless, supports terrific restaurants, terrific restaurants that don't seem bound at the end of the day by the dining peculiarities or the nutritional peculiarities of their customers. All right. You live in LA, tell me what you think.

Greg: Uh, you know, I 100 percent agree with that assessment, and just generally think that there's a greater array of restaurants, of all tiers and cuisines, in LA for whatever reason. Maybe because so many different kinds of people live here, whereas in New York, you know, there's also tons of diversity in terms of dining, but at a certain level, if you're like at the Eater Heat Map level of restaurants that are hot and buzzy that we write about, there seems to be more homogenization.

Frank: You know, I think you're right. LA feels a little bit less predictable. And then of course, one can't talk about how good the restaurants are there without mentioning the access to product.

Helen: Yeah.

Frank: I mean, you're in California.

Helen: Right. You’re starting on third base, really.

Frank: Exactly. And that makes a big difference.

Helen: Well, Frank, we have come to the portion of our show that we like to call the lightning round, because we ask you unpredictable questions in a not terribly fast way.

Greg: All the questions are about lightning.

Frank: Well, well, I like, I like that you're doing it in a not-fast way 'cause that mean I can answer in a slower way.

Helen: Yes. We will all speak … incredibly ... slowly for the people who like to listen to their podcast at double speed. Which is apparently a thing! I did not know about this.

Greg: Oh, really?

Frank: I didn't know about this!

Helen: Everybody listens to their podcast at double speed, so they can make it through them twice as quickly

Frank: That's hilarious.

Greg: Not the point of podcasts!

Frank: So basically you have Mickey Mouse doing every — Wow.

Helen: Yeah. And I already speak quickly and have a somewhat high-pitched voice, so I think I just, like, ascend to dog frequency when people are listening.

Frank: Wow, wow.

Helen: And today, we have questions for you from a guest question asker. I'm gonna do a drum roll and Greg's gonna do it — dadadadada.

Greg: It's Eater's New York restaurant critic, Mr. Ryan Sutton!

Helen: Critic-on-critic lightning round!

Frank: Wow! High-concept!

Helen: Hi, Ryan. Welcome to the Eater Upsell. I hear you have some questions for Frank Bruni.

Ryan Sutton: Hi, Frank. This is Ryan Sutton. And I have some lightning-round questions for you. Who is the ideal candidate to be a food critic or a food writer in 2017?

Greg: That’s a real light question for you for the first one, I think.

Helen: Yeah. Way to kick if off with an easy one, Ryan.

Frank: I have to say, I mean, the formats have changed, you know, online, et cetera. But I think the ideal critic for 2017 is the same as the ideal critic for 1997, which is somebody who loves food, is discerning about it and has a frame of reference and history of experiences that enables him or her to truly know what's distinctive and what's just old hat and ordinary. I don't think that's changed. I don't think anything is different about 2017 than 1997 in terms of what makes someone a good restaurant critic

Helen: I like that answer.

Greg: Yeah.

Helen: Okay. We'll accept that. Let's move on. Ryan, what's your next question?

Ryan: How should regional newspapers, which are facing budget cuts and declining advertising revenues, approach food criticism?

Frank: Um —

Greg: Another softball.

Frank: Yeah, no, no. I mean, they're great questions. But I don't know that there's an answer for regional newspapers, because the one thing I would hate to see happen is for everyone just to turn it over to user-generated content. Because then you open yourself up to all sorts of manipulation that are difficult to police for and that are difficult to flag to readers. And one of the reasons I would always warn people against, say, Yelp or something like that, is you have no idea if you're reading a review by the chef's mother, or by the chef's archenemy in grammar school, who's exacting revenge. So I don't have an answer for how those newspapers are gonna find the money or a way to cover restaurants, but I know that if they decide to lean solely on user-generated content and essentially turn restaurant criticism into a public opinion poll, they're opening themselves up to manipulation that is going to render what they're producing meaningless.

Helen: I'm gonna piggyback on Ryan's very easy, light, lightning-round question with an easy, light question of my own —

Frank: See, I thought lightning round questions are supposed to be like the answers are proper nouns. And these are essay. This is not true-or-false. This is essay.

Greg: But this is a fascinating dialogue between, you know, two of the titans of restaurant criticism in New York.

Helen: But I want to piggyback on Ryan's question with a mean-spirited one —

Frank: Sure.

Helen: You don't have to name names, but are there critics working today who you think just suck, like they're not doing service to —

Frank: In food or in anywhere?

Helen: In food criticism. People who you think are not living up to the responsibility of a restaurant critic.

Frank: Yes. I would not name names, but yes. But I would say that in any field of criticism, and probably any moment of time, and I would say that is an opinion that is largely subjective.

Helen: Okay, cool.

Greg: I think that's very fair.

Helen: All right, Ryan, back to you for another easy, quick-to-answer question

Ryan: You awarded four stars to Masa in 2004. It was $300 before tip back then. Would you put it differently now that's $595 per person service included?

Frank: I would evaluate it with that price in mind. I would evaluate the quality of what I was getting with that price in mind. When I reviewed Masa, I think that price tag then was a shocking to as many people as the price tag that you just mentioned, Ryan, and it depends on what's being provided for that. And it becomes really difficult — you tell people what it costs. And it's sort of a personal value judgment whether they think that is an appropriate amount or a doable amount to spend for food. And I think your primary job [as a critic] is telling them what is the wondrousness that you will or won't experience. It's interesting to me — there's always a lot of hand-wringing in restaurant criticism about a very high-ticket meal like the one at Masa. But when people are doing fashion criticism, they never factor in the cost of the dress. And that's because what they're saying to you as "I'm telling you about the artistry of this and what that artistry represents in terms of accomplishment, in terms of the possibility of the genre." And then they leave it to you to decide, whether you think that price tag is something that's absolutely absurd for what's being discussed, or whether it's within reach.

I think restaurant criticism is, obviously, much, much more consumer focused by necessity than that, but there is this element of at the end of the day, if you lean too hard — I mean, who can say whether a 5 percent uptick in the majesty of a piece of sushi is worth a $20 uptick in the price tag? That's ultimately a value decision that has to be left with the diner.

Greg: Hey, I have a sub question related to this.

Frank: You guys and your sub questions.

Greg: I know, I know.

Helen: We’re journalists, man.

Greg: We're grilling you. Is there any kind of restaurant that you're just like, glad you don't have to go? You know, when you stop being the restaurant critic?

Frank: No because I actually have totally varied vary taste. So there's no, like, ethnic cuisine that I thought, "Thank God, I don't have to eat that anymore." No. The answer to that is no. I think I still go to a full gamut — is a gamut full? I have to write that, I don't know.

Helen: Yeah.

Frank: I still go to the full spectrum, the whole gamut of restaurants. The thing I do less often, and to be honest in some, in some sense, have felt a little bit unburdened by, is I don't dine as frequently in 3.5-hour 14-course restaurants. I loved doing it when I did it. I love doing it upon occasion now. But it is not like, if you're talking about my default setting as a diner, you know, my most intrinsic unforced sensibility as a human being, it's not to sit for three and a half hours. Now, I often end up sitting for three and a half hours, right? But it's by choice. It's not because we haven't gotten to course 15 yet, you know?

Helen: It's hard to complain about, but it is a real thing. I mean, Greg and I have talked, Ryan and I — we've all talked about it before. When you have to do those marathons for work, or if you just wind up doing them a lot, it, it really —

Greg: At a certain point, we stop enjoying it.

Frank: Right. So now if I do one of those marathons, I've elected to and I've chosen an evening and occasion where I'm pretty damn sure I'm gonna want the marathon. When you're a critic, in the same way you might end up at a burger joint on a night when that's not your mood, you frequently end up in those marathon meals when they're not quite — or you pick three companions, and it turns out the table conversation isn't as wonderful and easy as you thought it would be. And it's like, "Oh, dear. I ended up choosing them for a four-hour experience rather than a two-hour experience. We're all gonna be, stuck with each other for a long time.”

Helen: All right, Ryan, any more questions for us?

Ryan: Who do you think will reshape the New York restaurant scene over the next 10 years?

Helen: Easy questions.

Frank: Really easy, yeah. Um. This isn't the kind of answer you are looking for: I think diners will. I mean, at the end of the day, we talk so much in food journalism. There's so much focus on what chefs are doing, as if they're doing it in a vacuum and we're just kind of obediently following along. And the chefs who end up rising to great levels and becoming the tastemakers of our time, that only happens because they're doing something that actually turns out to be in utter concert with what diners want at a given moment.

So I mean, David Chang is a monumentally talented person. He was doing something that it turned out diners wanted at that moment in time. So the food scene of the next 10 years will be shaped by the appetites of people between the ages of 25 and 45 right now, and however their appetites change — appetites in terms of what they want to eat, in what sort of atmosphere they want to eat — they are the ones who are going to determine where we go. Because the chefs who succeed are going be succeeding not just based on their talents, there are a gazillion talented chefs. Well, not a gazillion, but there are many talented chefs out there. They'll be succeeding because they actually happened to be working in a way that satisfies the evolving appetites of diners, which are impossible to predict.

Helen: All right. Ryan, what's next?

Ryan: What is the —

Helen: Wait, I have a question. I want to jump in. Frank: If you could only write about politics, or only write about food, for the rest of your life, what would you do?

Frank: I would pick only writing about politics.

Helen: Really?

Frank: Sure. Well, I mean, A, I write very little about food now. I mean, we're here talking about a cookbook that I wrote, which was a joy to write and a lot of fun. But, right now, 90 percent of what I write is about politics and maybe 2 percent is about food. So that tells me something about my natural interests. I feel like I get to use a broader vocabulary in a lot of different ways writing about politics. Politics is everything. You could argue food is everything, too. But I feel like my parameters are wider and the world is more infinite, and I don't get stuck using the word “succulent” as often. In fact I'm trying to think of an occasion when I've written about politics or politicians when I've used the word “succulent,” and I'm coming up blank.

Helen: Well, I think, we should charge you with this — we're gonna keep eye on your columns over the next four months. We're gonna look for the word “succulent.”

Frank: Well, I think, I hope it’s okay to mention a competitor of yours and mine or whatever, but I think we really need to see a Buzzfeed list soon of “The 17 most succulent politicians on Capitol Hill.”

Helen: Oh, yeah. That's a great idea.

Frank: The most succulent politicians.

Greg: I could … not click on that. Yeah.

Frank: Who could ... Yeah, exactly. Already you're like, What are the pictures gonna be? What does succulent really mean? You know, if someone is as gristly as Paul Ryan, does he qualify?

Helen: Is he succulent? I mean, he does, he makes a point in his meatloaf recipe of calling for fatty ground beef. He's into the succulence of his meatloaf.

Frank: Well, we make a point in the meatloaf book of calling for fatty meats. Meatloaf is not, by and large, one of those things that you can turn into a diet food. And if you want, if you wanna eat something lean, in a low-fat diet —

Helen: If you're a Nancy Pelosi about this.

Frank: Well, see, interestingly, her recipe is half bison and half pork.

Helen: Oh.

Frank: Because if you just leave it to the bison, it's like —

Greg: The yin and the yang.

Frank: Yeah, it's like we say: When you wanna make a turkey meatloaf, absolutely, we're with you, we have recipes for you, just use dark meat turkey.

Greg: All right.

Helen: Is Chris Christie succulent?

Frank: Um. Well. Again, what do we mean by “succulent”?

Helen: I just think, you know, we're gonna need to triangulate this, right?

Frank: I mean, is succulent simply a yardstick of fat content? Or does it mean something you wanna —

Helen: Are we cooking with the politicians? Or are we attracted to them?

Frank: It just mean something we wanna bite into —

Helen: Am I making a meatloaf out of the politician, or am I making a meatloaf with the politician?

Greg: I think it might be a time to go to a lighter phase of the program!

Frank: We’ve now reached the Hannibal Lecter phase of the program? Aah!

Helen: Well, I don't know. I mean — “Top 17 Politicians You Would Probably Eat First If You Had to Eat Politicians.” I don't know. This is weird, right?

Frank: This is very, um.

Helen: I'm taking this to a dark place.

Frank: Yeah. This is very, like, what's that movie? Alive, where they eat each other on the top of the —

Greg: Yeah!

Frank: Where Ethan Hawke ends up eating human meat or I think he wandered off so we didn't have to eat the human meat

Helen: I have not seen this movie.

Frank: Oh, it has one of the best — Now, I'm serious here. If you are doing a list of movies with the best plane crashes, like the most harrowing visuals —

Helen: I really thought you were going to say movies with the best cannibalistic moments.

Frank: No, that's Silence of the Lambs clearly or, you know, or Hannibal, which had that horrible scene at the end with Ray Liotta’s head, we don't wanna go there —

Helen: I also did not see that.

Frank: Oh, you don't wanna see that. But no, there are some great plane crashes in movies. The plane crash in Cast Away is fantastic. The plane crash in what is it, Fearless? The one with Jeff Bridges and Rosie Perez —

Greg: I love Fearless.

Helen: So are you —

Frank: I'm a connoisseur of film plane crashes.

Helen: Really? Like is this a known thing about yourself?

Frank: Yeah. And then you’ve got the movie Flight, where the plane goes upside down with Denzel Washington —

Helen: Do you go out of your way to find movies with plane crashes in them?

Frank: You know, I didn't think I did, but now that we're talking about, I think obviously, I am pulled like metal to a magnet by movies with great plane crashes.

Helen: Well, we're gonna have to have you on for another episode of the Upsell, so we can plumb the depths of this particular —

Frank: We can talk about what meatloaf you should eat during a plane crash.

Helen: While, while you're descending, once you have survived — there's so many opportunities to eat meatloaf in and around a plane crash.

Frank: How to forage for your own meatloaf on the Castaway Island.

Helen: Yes, god, this is great.

Frank: Robinson Crusoe's favorite meatloaf.

Helen: There's so many. The sequel.

Frank: This is really the beginning. A Meatloaf in Every Oven is the beginning of an encyclopedic series of books.

Helen: We have only begun to meatloaf.

Frank: The sequel, A Meatloaf in Every Crockpot. And then we'll do A Meatloaf in Every Wok, right?

Helen: Oh my god. Every pressure cooker.

Greg: Yeah. The pressure cooker is so hot right now.

Frank: Instant Pot! Instant Pot!

Helen: The coolest kitchen appliance right now.

Greg: Do we have one more question from Ryan?

Frank: God I hope not. And that's no insult to Ryan. It's just, I was expecting a lightning round like “boxers or briefs?”

Helen: Boxers or briefs?

Frank: Briefs.

Helen: Right. There. You’ve got your lightning question. Now, we can move on to Ryan's final essay-format question.

Ryan: What is the most important food trend, or who is the most important chef, that the food media isn't paying attention to?

Frank: You know, I wish had an answer for that, but the thing is I'm so not in a food media mindset right now that I don't want to give an answer that's unintelligent, and the only answer I had to give to that is unintelligent. I'm just not paying close enough attention to the people on the rise to do justice to that question and name the person who deserves to be named.

Helen: I think your publicist would probably want you to say that more people should be eating meatloaf.

Frank: Okay. All right. She says that as she hands me the gorgeous book. It's gorgeous. I just wanna give a shout out to, um, Marilyn Pollack Naron, who did the illustrations. They're adorable.

As for the most important chef that doesn't get his or her due, let's say April Bloomfield, because she contributed a meatloaf to A Meatloaf in Every Oven. And I have to say, apart from that, I love the restaurant White Gold Butchers, in my neighborhood. I’m very mad at Pete Wells for giving it such a nice review, because up until a week ago, I could just walk in. It was not really being embraced by the Upper West Side around it as it should have done. And I'm actually headed there tonight with some friends, and I don't know what to expect, because it's always been like always a table open, and it could be a real cluster tonight.

Helen: Well, I think if you’re the one who gets screwed over by the Pete Wells effect, that's perfect ironic comeuppance.

Frank: Yeah, yeah.

Helen: Goddamn that New York Times restaurant critic, he's too influential.

Frank: How many people did I screw over by, like, taking their favorite unsung spots and then crowding them.

Helen: You deserve whatever is coming to you.

Frank: I do deserve everything I get.

Greg: We had Ken Friedman in here, and I asked him how that restaurant was doing. He was like, "Yeah, there's a lot of people that love good restaurants in the Upper West Side. I mean, it was like a no-brainer."

Helen: Whodathunk that those human beings enjoyed pleasure?

Frank: It may be doing real well, but I can tell you that in its first couple of months, there were many — I mean, I walked in, I never called Ken or emailed April — I walked in just as Joe Schmo from the street and there were always open tables. I will also tell you they, without a whole lot of fanfare or putting out much PR, they had a couple special takeaway dishes for the Super Bowl, and they don't have chili on their menu, at least when I've been there. But they were making chili by the quart that you could order and take out for Super Bowl Sunday. I happened to go in there, my partner and I, that morning, Super Bowl Sunday morning for egg sandwiches. And I saw people coming to pick up their chili, and I walked to the counter and I said, "Are you still?" And they had exactly two quarts of chili left, and we bought them, and we had some friends who were coming over Super Bowl, we served this chili, it was — oh my god, some of the best chili I've ever had. They should put it on the menu. And it makes me think that the two big restaurant trends that you're about to see? Chili. And meatloaf.

Greg: Yeah.

Helen: Meatloaf! Well, on that note, Frank Bruni, thank you so much for coming by to Eater Upsell.

Frank: Thank you for having me.

Helen: If our listeners want to find A Meatloaf in Every Oven, it's available now. And if they want to find you on social media, you are @FrankBruni on Twitter.

Frank: I'm @FrankBruni on Twitter, and I think I'm FrankBruniNYT on Facebook.

Helen: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming by.

Frank: Thank you, guys. Really my pleasure.

Greg: Thank you, Frank.

Helen: It's been a blast.

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The Eater Upsell is recorded at Vox Media Studios in Manhattan and Los Angeles
Hosts: Greg Morabito and Helen Rosner
Producers: Patrick Bulger and Maureen Giannone
Associate Producer/Editor: Daniel Geneen
Associate Producer: Kendra Vaculin

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