A Chat With Our New Editors Jamie and Niki

Niki, Erin, and Jamie. Robyn Lee

As of today, Jamie Feldmar will take over as the new managing editor of Serious Eats and our Slice lady Niki Achitoff-Gray will be stepping up as associate editor. I am bidding a fond farewell after five years with Serious Eats. It's been a wild and rewarding ride, full of many late nights and early mornings and sandwiches (so many sandwiches). I feel immensely grateful to have worked with everyone on our incredibly talented team here at SEHQ and our writers all over the globe.

Before I go— I wanted to introduce you to Jamie, chat with Niki, and let you know where I'm headed next.

Me: So, Jamie. Tell me more about what you've been up to before joining us at Serious Eats.

Jamie: Most recently, I come from the glamorous world of freelance journalism, and before that, I was on staff on Gothamist and also had some non-journalismy jobs like working at the Greenmarket, managing a few markets around the city. I've been freelance for the last year and a half, and earlier this year, spent three months traveling around Southeast Asia.

Me: How'd you end up in that part of the world? Also, remember when I was in Bangkok at the same time as you in January and we ate banana roti together? Mmm, banana roti.

Jamie: The first time I went to Asia was in college. I studied abroad in Shanghai and spent a month in Thailand. I really fell in love with Thailand and have been plotting a way to get back ever since. I knew I wanted to see more of that region and explore the neighboring countries—like Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. Because I'm a little bit neurotic, I wanted to go there for a purpose that wasn't just backpacking around. It took me a while to figure out what to do there. Eventually the pieces came together where I could turn it into a working trip and write a whole bunch of freelance stories while over there.

Me: Including stuff for us. Like this and this. I am particularly intrigued by your visit to Burma.

Jamie: Burma is like another planet. I kept telling people it looked like India mixed with the moon.

Me: What was the most only-in-Burma-thing, or things, that happened in Burma?

Jamie: Oh my, so many things. SO MANY THINGS...I got swarmed by a plague of biblical moths, drove a motorcycle, saw a woman possessed by evil spirits on the street, and drank beer in a rubble pit our first night, because that's totally normal.

Niki: Is that a thing? Like, okay, I'm off to a rubble pit...oh, which one?

Jamie: Yes. In Rangoon they are doing construction everywhere and it's really just normal to have tables and chairs set up outside in a sunken rubble pit on the street. Lit by a fluorescent light bulb strung up with a piece of dental floss.

Me: Best thing you ate in Burma? Not a tough question or anything.

Jamie: Obviously I ate a lot of awesome things in Asia. A lot of beautiful, well-balanced regional specialties that were deeply flavorful and exciting to eat, but I'm not going to tell you about any of those, ha! I am going to tell you about something else. In Burma, they love deep-frying things. Samosas, pakoras, and basically anything they can deep-fry they will. I only saw this at one place but it's a slice of white bread...

Me: Like Asian Wonder Bread?

Jamie: Yes, which I love. I cannot help it, I just love that stuff. The white bread was dipped in a puffy batter and then deep-fried into a giant blob and then sprinkled with raw sugar as soon as it came out of the fryer. It didn't look like bread at that point though, almost more like a football.

Niki: All the French toasts out there are green with envy right now.

Me: Will you please write more about all of the delicious things you ate in Asia?

Jamie: Yes, there are many more stories to tell about my trip, and I'll be writing them all down soon!

Me: What other kinds of pieces can we look forward to reading from you on Serious Eats? You know, once you settle in and decorate your new desk with succulents and all of that.

Jamie: Definitely more on Asian food. Also road food, barbecue and meat-related things in general. Cured meats, ham...HAM! I once took a road trip to visit Allan Benton's smokehouse in Madisonville, Tennessee.

Niki: Mmm, ham.

Jamie: Yes, my family is Jewish but we are for pork and shellfish all the way. I remember going to Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin every summer. [I grew up near Chicago] and being really homesick, daydreaming about pork dumplings from the Chinese place near home.

Niki: Oh, god yes. Another unholy Jew! I'm all about the pork and shellfish. I'm pretty sure I told this story before, when I was an intern at Serious Eats. The moment it became unmistakably clear that I was a serious eater was when I was about five years old. My mom stopped at the oyster bar in Grand Central on our way back from a trip, intent on getting her shellfish fix. I clearly inherited the gene, because she looked down and found me salivating, staring intently at the platter. She handed me an oyster and, to the surprise and amusement of everyone in the immediate vicinity, I "threw it back like a sailor" and politely asked for more.

Me: Oysters. That reminds me of all the oysters we ate last year. Purely in the name of research, of course.

Niki: Yeah, wow. It was probably the best day of my life when Max e-mailed me saying, you like oysters, right? Wanna do a round-up on the best oyster happy hours in New York? I completely lost my sh*t. I was one step away from stopping strangers on the street just to rub it in their faces.

Me: It was at those oyster happy hours that I also learned how much you love mayonnaise.

Niki: Hah well I actually hate mayonnaise...except for the fact that I may secretly love mayonnaise. When we were getting oysters and ordered that side of fries, I was suddenly like, let me have a tiny bit of fry with that mayo. Just keep it off the cold cuts!

Jamie: I don't know why I hate mayo so much since the principle ingredients in mayonnaise, I really like. And I love cholesterol in general. But there's something about the texture and mouthfeel that just horrifies me.

Me: Same. My dysfunctional relationship with mayo goes way back to childhood. I grew up in a house where there was a moratorium on mayonnaise—my dad said he was allergic but actually he just despised the stuff. So my mom would have to sneak a teeny travel-sized jar in the very back of the fridge for the occasional tuna sandwich. I was totally petrified of mayo until a few years ago.

Niki: When I was growing up, we had one of those Costco-sized jars of Hellman's mayo and I swear it was the same jar for my entire life. It never went got moldy or funky. There is something not right about that.

Me: OK awesome, so we all hate mayo.

Jamie: So Erin, why are you abandoning us?

Me: Hah I wouldn't call it abandoning so much as...handing over the wheel of this mighty ship to let you very capable people steer it. My next adventure is with a start-up called Good Eggs, an online marketplace connecting eaters to local farmers and foodmakers. You can shop for eggs, breads, milk, fresh produce and many other delicious things on the site. My job will be partnering with the farmers and foodmakers and growing the business here in New York (the company is headquartered in the Bay Area). So, still very much food-related. But change! Change is exhilarating and also terrifying, but I am excited for this new challenge.

Niki: You're not actually leaving us though, right?

Me: Nah, not really. I'll still be writing for the site and waiting for you to tell me what ridiculous foodstuff was just delivered to the office so I can come right over. And how about you, Niki? Will you still be eating pizza now that you're changing up roles?

Niki: Um, duh? Worry not, Slice'rs! I'll still be keeping a close eye on all things pizza. I doubt there's anything that could keep me away from a great big gooey pie, not to mention the kick ass readers and writers over at Slice. If anything, stepping into the associate editor position just means that I'll get to spread the food love around a little more. I'm really looking forward to joining the team on a full-time basis, and bringing some of my newfound culinary school skills to the table. And I know Jamie has some kitchen powers, because I'm stuffing my face with the awesome cake she made right now. So yeah...livin' the life.