April 14, 2024

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Just for starters: 11 of the best food podcasts | Podcasts

4 min read

Launched by Jessie Ware in 2017 as a support act to her music career, this raucous, boozy podcast hosted with her mum Lennie has become a headliner in its own right. Over dinner at Lennie’s house in south London, the Wares grill celebrity guests from Paul McCartney to Pink Keir Starmer to Carol Vorderman while the champagne flows, loosening tongues all round.

“Food through the lens of science and history” is the tagline of this long-running podcast hosted by journalists Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley. The duo cram so many intriguing facts into each episode that you step away feeling like an expert on Native American cuisine, fortune cookies or whatever other subject they focus on. A recent episode on “humanure” – how human excreta could save agriculture and the planet – is particularly absorbing.

The first thing to say about UK podcast Lecker, which explores how food “shapes our lives in all sorts of ways”, is how beautiful it sounds. Host Lucy Dearlove is an experienced radio producer and her episodes (more than 50 since 2016) are filled with music, voices and the sounds of food being sizzled, chopped, bitten or torn. It’s a fascinating mix of conversations with chefs, cookery writers and ordinary food-lovers, often organised into miniseries – a recent one covered the all-important topic of breakfast.

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If you can’t afford to eat at the River Cafe and rub shoulders with its starry clientele, here’s a zero-cost audio alternative. Since mid-2021, co-founder Ruth Rogers has been sitting down at the west London institution (and occasionally abroad) with regular customers – from Edward Enninful to Frank Gehry, Emily Blunt to John McEnroe – to explore the role food has played in their lives. Highlights include Olivia Colman rhapsodising about butter and Paul McCartney on his first encounters with wine.

“What is English food?” was the animating question for this fascinating podcast from chef and researcher Lewis Bassett. In pursuit of the answer, Bassett spoke to food producers and chefs such as Anna Tobias and Andrew Wong, but also historians and economists. The first series examined English food through the lens of sheep, tea and fish-finger bhortas. More recent episodes, dropping once or twice a month, have looked at food prices and other hot topics.

Like its older sibling The Food Programme on Radio 4, this award-winning show from the BBC World Service is also available in podcast form and takes a similarly broad view of what we eat, exploring how food intersects with business, science and culture. Presented weekly by Ruth Alexander, it is global in focus, introducing us to rooftop farmers in Thailand, food bank founders in Kenya and cookbook ghost writers in New York.

This show launched on public radio in 1997, long before the advent of podcasting; now all of its 750-plus episodes are available to stream online. Its current presenter is the knowledgeable Francis Lam, who goes deep into cooking methods, food culture and socioeconomic stories with the likes of Tamar Adler, Claudia Roden and René Redzepi.

After the US entrepreneur Stephen Satterfield launched Whetstone magazine in 2016, it soon gave rise to a podcast called Point of Origin as well as Satterfield’s brilliant Netflix series High on the Hog. Now the podcast has mushroomed into 11 shows, using food to explore global politics, history and culture while giving voice to people of colour around the world. There’s so much to explore here, but start with Clarissa Wei’s Climate Cuisine, looking at how ingredients are grown in similar climate zones across the world.

Home cooks contact US food magazine Bon Appétit with a culinary query: how do I get more protein into a vegetarian diet? Cook more sustainably? Make gluten-free pizza that’s actually tasty? Host Chris Morocco and guest experts respond with in-depth solutions. There are some great ideas here, supported by recipes from the vast Bon Appétit back catalogue. For more rapid-fire dinner inspiration, seek out the now-ended, but excellent Home Cooking with Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway.

The Sporkful’s Dan Pashman
The Sporkful’s Dan Pashman. Photograph: Scott Gordon Bleicher

Another veteran of the US food podcasting scene, The Sporkful, hosted with snappy energy by Dan Pashman, winkles out great stories on subjects as diverse as food smuggling, Iranian beer and, recently, Barbie’s early aversion to cooking. Pashman’s three-year quest to invent a new pasta shape, cascatelli, was spun out into a nine-part Sporkful series entitled Mission: ImPASTAble.

Making a comedy podcast about food is risky: the chances of irritation are high. What elevates this US offering isn’t just the quality of the chat between hosts Josh Scherer and Nicole Enayati but also the concept, which involves tackling such controversial questions as “Does pineapple belong on pizza?”, “Are all noodles pasta?” and “Is cereal soup?” It helps that Scherer and Enayati aren’t just funny but properly knowledgeable too.


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