We’ve done a lot of talking this year at Eater, tackling countless topics and interviewing fascinating guests (and getting into just a few impassioned debates) on The Eater Upsell and Start to Sale.
On The Upsell, hosts Amanda Kludt and Daniel Geneen dove into timely food world conversations, from the plastic straw backlash to the hottest restaurants of 2018, with some excellent interviews in between. Meanwhile, Start to Sale zeroed in on business, bringing in the brightest entrepreneurial minds to discuss what it takes to build a company from launch to exit, with hosts Erin Patinkin (CEO and founder of Ovenly) and Natasha Case (CEO and founder of Coolhaus).
As 2018 winds down — and holiday travel filled with long car rides and plane trips ramps up — here are highlights for your listening pleasure.
1. The Upsell: Things that die in restaurants. What’s more fun than a podcast about... death?? This episode tackles death of eels (as murdered by chef Will Horowitz of Harry & Ida’s in New York); relationships (as witnessed by chefs Katrina Zito and Sarah Cooper at their restaurant St. Anselm, where the kitchen is intimately close to customers’ seats); and plants (as spotted, crawling with bugs and mold, by Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan). Subjects under consideration for a possible sequel episode: vermin, bugs, people.
2. The Upsell: Fall’s new restaurants, cookbooks, and TV shows. This episode distills the best from Eater’s 2018 fall preview. National critic Bill Addison discusses the season’s highly anticipated restaurant openings, including Simone, Nightshade, and Antico — all in Los Angeles, “the most exciting restaurant city in America.” Pop culture editor Greg Morabito talks Netflix’s power to change the food TV landscape, with new shows like Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and the superstar-filled The Final Table. And senior editor Daniela Galarza covers the buzziest new cookbooks, including Anita Lo’s beautifully written Solo and Cravings: Hungry for More, the much-anticipated sequel from Chrissy Teigen.
3. The Upsell: Trailing critic Robert Sietsema. Sietsema is Eater NY’s senior critic focused entirely on “cheap eats,” meaning he’s always hunting for (and rating) delicious but affordable food, the stuff that often flies under the radar of other critics and even diners. Host Dan Geneen followed Sietsema for the day, hitting up spots like Merit Farms deli for $1 samosas — “the real subway snack” — and Mama’s of Corona, an iconic sandwich shop in Queens, all the while talking about his life story and love of exploring through food.
4. The Upsell: A seed conversation with Dan Barber. The famed restaurateur and chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns discusses his newest initiative, seed company Row 7 Seeds. The goal of the company is to disrupt (yes, that pesky notion) the seed business, which typically caters to big retailers whose priority is scale, and therefore uniformity — and not taste. Barber explains how having a chef in the biz might change that.
5. Start to Sale: Ari Weinzweig’s “anarchist food empire.” Zingerman’s started as a deli, but is now a group of about 20 businesses based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Inspired by thinkers like anarchist Peter Kropotkin and anthropologist Ruth Benedict, founder Ari Weinzweig and his partner created a singular organization comprised of independent businesses that collaborate to support one another. Each business, for example, contributes a percentage of its sales to a central services organization that provides HR and finance resources. Weinzweig explains the innovative model in this enlightening conversation.
6. Start to Sale: Christina Tosi gets honest about business. Christina Tosi — chef, founder, and owner of Milk Bar — is a superstar pasty chef, but she achieved that superstar status not just through great baking, but through business savvy and grit. In this episode, she talks about the early days at Milk Bar, navigating the world of investors and fundraising, and her non-traditional plans for expansion.
7. The Upsell: Comedians in fancy restaurants ordering mocktails. Instead of comedians in cars getting coffee, the Upsell took comedians Sydnee Washington and Marie Faustin to get a meal at NYC restaurant Frenchette. The result? Hilarity, of course, as Faustin, Washington, and host Dan Geneen riff on restaurant trends (why would you put black pepper on a donut? Are “spirit-less” cocktails always a disappointment?), dining tropes (what should never be ordered “for the table”? Is the whole “don’t order fish on Mondays” dictum true?), and weird food stuff (why the hell are oysters considered aphrodisiacs?) as they recount their dining experience.
8. The Upsell: It’s time that Tex-Mex food gets its due. We’ve all eaten at (or at least driven by) a Taco Bell at least once. But too few people understand the Tex-Mex food — think fajitas, hard-shell tacos, chili — that the chain popularized, how it differs from traditional Mexican food, how it came to dominate American diets, and why it doesn’t earn the same respect as Texan barbecue. With help from special correspondent Meghan McCarron and taco journalist Mando Rayo, this episode dives into the history and evolution of Tex-Mex, a regional cuisine born from Tejanos pursuing Mexican culinary traditions with local Texas ingredients.
9. The Upsell: Samin Nosrat traces her path to Netflix fame. Samin’s name was suddenly on everyone’s tongues this fall, when her hit cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat was turned into a Netflix series. In this episode, we talked to the chef about her shift from restaurants to cookbooks, representation in food TV, and why you don’t need to be a celebrity to write a really great book.
10. The Upsell: Plastic straws’ sudden villainy, explained. 2018 saw plastic straws become a cultural villain practically overnight. Businesses from McDonald’s and Alaska Airlines to Ikea and Intelligentsia Coffee adopted plastic straw bans; cities passed ordinances against them; and reusable alternatives (hello, stainless steel) suddenly seemed ubiquitous. In this episode, Eater editor Brenna Houck dives into how the trend spread from a niche environmental cause to a widespread cultural phenomenon; researcher Sam Athey explains why straws are important in the fight against pollution; and David Rhodes of Aardvark Straws explains where paper straws fit into the equation.
11. The Upsell: How Uber is on its way to delivery domination. What’s the Uber of food delivery? Turns out, it’s... Uber. On this episode, Jason Droege, the head of Uber Eats, discusses how the ride-hailing app’s food delivery service has grown so quickly. Food delivery itself isn’t novel, but there are more varied, more complicated systems for placing and getting delivery food today. How Uber Eats is distinguishing itself (besides its own fleet of drivers)? By creating delivery-only food concepts inside actual brick-and-mortar restaurants, creating virtual restaurants that only exist on Uber Eats. Droege explains how it works, including allllll the user data involved.
12. The Upsell: Giada De Laurentiis lays it all out.
The Food Network star candidly discusses her professional path, including her tough love culinary education in Paris; fighting expectations and stereotypes, from her traditional Italian family and an industry that doesn’t think she “looks the part” of culinary heavyweight (the “you can’t trust a skinny chef” cliche dies hard, she says); and launching successful restaurants in Las Vegas (but not Los Angeles or NYC).