Such is our appetite for food, we’re no longer content merely to eat it, cook it and scroll through Instagram looking at it – we now want to spend all day listening to the multi-sensory experience, too. Happily, there’s a growing number of fascinating food podcasts out there, by industry experts including London’s leading food critics and the finest chefs through to musician’s and their mum. Here, The Glossary’s Restaurant Editor Hilary Armstrong rounds up her favourites.
Brilliant Food Podcasts to Listen to Now
Comfort Eating with Grace Dent
You can tell a lot about a person by what they eat behind closed doors. That’s the premise of Guardian restaurant critic Grace Dent’s podcast, Comfort Eating. Dent, as listeners to her Radio 4 series The Untold will know, is a sympathetic listener possessing both the common touch and a wicked sense of humour. In between belly laughs and admissions of her own less than epicurean tastes (Peppa Pig pasta shapes are a fave), she quizzes a roll call of comedians, writers and actors on what they eat when it’s all getting too much. Guilty pleasures such as American comedian Desirée Burch’s rice with tuna, American cheese and French’s mustard and Stephen Fry’s old school tinned skippers (sprats) on toast make excellent conversation starters, and the anecdotes come thick and fast.
River Cafe Table 4
Ruth Rogers – ‘Ruthie’ to her friends – proves herself the best connected restaurateur in London, with a roll call of celebrity guests that leaves all other podcasts standing. Victoria Beckham, Sir Paul McCartney, Jake Gyllenhaal… is there an A-lister she hasn’t fed? Though luminaries to us, they’re friends and loyal customers to her, and Rogers meets them as equals. Conversation flows on the subject of food – the food they cook, the food they eat, the food of their memories. Steve McQueen is effusive on the subject of his mother’s West Indian fishcakes, while No Time To Die director Cary Joji Fukanaga shares a family recipe for fried rice with bacon and ketchup, improvised by his Japanese grandparents in a WW2 internment camp.
Table Manners with Jessie and Lennie Ware
Note the change to the title of this long-running podcast: singer-songwriter Jessie Ware now shares top billing with her endearingly dotty mother Lennie, whose job it is to cook up a storm for their celebrity guest. Everyone from Kylie Minogue to Nigella Lawson and Ed Sheeran has joined them at the table “for a bite and a bit of a natter. Oversharing guaranteed.” The Wares are good company, their mealtimes a snapshot of family life any middle-class Brit would recognise (the Sunday roasts, the mother-daughter bickering, the supermarket wine). Recent shows have included Tom Daley on knitting, fatherhood, and keeping his Speedos on; and Little Mixer Jade Thirlwall on in-flight meals and fancying Paul Hollywood.
Out To Lunch with Jay Rayner
The Observer’s Jay Rayner is the biggest extrovert on the restaurant critic beat. If there’s one thing he likes more than sitting down to lunch in a fabulous restaurant, it’s sitting down to lunch in a fabulous restaurant with a fabulous guest. His subjects are ‘the great and the good, the hilarious and the magnificent’, as illustrious as Dame Eileen Atkins, Mary Beard, David Hare and Jess Phillips. Every week, he’ll take one to a restaurant of his choosing (he and Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo ‘press for Champagne’ at Bob Bob Ricard) where the conversation flows over good food and good wine. Less about food than about his celebrity guests’ lives, Rayner could have a second career as a TV talk show host.
Fortnum’s Hungry Minds Podcast
Felicity Blunt takes the reins from Tom Parker-Bowles on the second series of Fortnum & Mason’s food-focused podcast, Hungry Minds. Blunt may not be a household name, but as the wife of famous foodie Stanley Tucci and the sister of actress Emily Blunt, she knows a thing or two about food and celebrity. She’s as comfortable chewing the fat with Stephen Fry as she is talking self-sufficiency with first-generation-farmer Julius Roberts, or the fallacy of culinary authenticity with Jikoni’s Ravinder Bhogal. The quickfire round is always revealing: describe your perfect cup of tea, your biggest kitchen disaster, your three essential store cupboard items. As classy a production as one would expect of Fortnums, Royal Warrant holders since 1955.
Honey & Co: The Food Sessions
Now in its ninth series, Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s popular podcast series demonstrates a greedy curiosity and thirst for knowledge with which regular readers of their FT Weekend column will already be familiar. The husband-and-wife duo (they own London Middle Eastern restaurant Honey & Co) follow their own enthusiasms rather than the demands of the press circuit to select their guests, such as former Great British Bake Off star Chetna Makan and pastry chef-cum-industry disruptor Ravneet Gill. (Delve into the back catalogue for star turns from Fay Maschler, Alison Roman, Andi Oliver and many more). Such is their appetite for food (and learning), they rarely stray off-topic. “I could talk about this for hours and I mustn’t,” says Central Asia specialist Caroline Eden, author of Black Sea and Red Sands. “No you must!” exclaims Srulovich. One for true foodies.
Lecker: A Food Podcast
Fitted kitchens, shared kitchens, outdoor kitchens, off-grid kitchens, prefab kitchens… Fortnum & Mason award-winning producer Lucy Dearlove turns her attention to the heart of the home in this engrossing series, Kitchens, under the ‘Lecker’ banner. It’s a knotty subject, one she unpacks through interviews with historians, designers, academics and regular folk like you or me, the underlying inquiry being how can we cook the food we love when our kitchens work against us? A favourite episode (episode three) features an interview with wheelchair-user and disability campaigner Katie Pennick, for whom the standard-issue ‘waist-height’ (whose waist?) kitchen counter absolutely does not work; and another with ‘unfitted kitchen’ pioneer Johnny Grey ( cookery writer Elizabeth David’s nephew), a must-listen for anyone embarking on a kitchen refurb.