Last year I wrote that asking me to pick my favorite Special Sauce episodes of the year was like asking a father to choose his favorite child. I'm afraid picking this year's favorites was, if anything, even more difficult, mostly because of the variety of storytellers we had on Special Sauce this year, from Rick Bragg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and New Yorker humor writer Jenny Allen to Eater and Resy co-founder Ben Leventhal. And although Jenny and Ben's episodes could have very easily made the list, they didn't. I hope they'll still come back.
I really do love every episode equally, for the same reasons I love Serious Eats as a whole: I like putting together a strong team and watching each member do their thing.
In the case of Special Sauce, that means the teamwork of our new Associate Producer Grace Chen and producer/editor extraordinaire Marty Goldensohn; the editors at Serious Eats; and you, our listeners. Between selecting and researching guests, structuring and conducting the 90-minute interview, editing it in post-production, and writing up an article to accompany the audio, each Special Sauce episode is really a microcosm of Serious Eats as a whole. Both on the site and on Special Sauce we're trying to tell the best, most well-informed food-related stories in whatever form is appropriate, be it a recipe or technique, a video, a feature, or an equipment review.
All that being said, after great deliberation, I've chosen five Special Sauce episodes that I think exemplify the best audio storytelling we do. I hope I haven't offended my other Special Sauce "children," the other 45 we produced this year, because each of those contains many unforgettable gems, as well.
Pitmaster Rodney Scott's path to barbecue celebrity is a most unlikely one, as you'll hear. I don't know too many high school graduates who end up coming home to stay up all night cooking barbecue after their graduation ceremony.
Rick Bragg is one of my favorite non-fiction writers. He came on Special Sauce to talk about his mother-centric memoir-with-recipes, The Greatest Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table. What a wonderful storyteller and raconteur Bragg turned out to be!
You may know Edward Lee from his appearances on Top Chef and The Mind of a Chef, but I feel like I really got to know this hyper-articulate, thoughtful, Korean-American chef when he came in to record his episodes of Special Sauce, and I think you will, too.
Deb Perelman is, of course, the founder of Smitten Kitchen, and, as such, she is one of the original recipe bloggers. There's a reason why her site has legions of loyal followers, and although it doesn't exactly have to do with how wonderful she is to talk to in person, I believe you'll catch a glimpse of it in her conversation with me.
Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes, our Fexy stablemate, and like Perelman, she was a pioneer in the recipe blogging world. Listening to the two of them is like taking a class on the history of food blogging. There's also an incredible story behind Elise's site, which I am very happy to be able to share with all of our readers.
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