One of the beautiful things about journalism, not unlike therapy, is that you get to talk to people about themselves. In this case, we have the enormous privilege of being able to take our notepads and recorders and iPhones into the kitchens and restaurants — or hotel lobbies and neighborhood coffee houses — of chefs and cookbook authors and other people in this industry. We ask them about their food, their projects, their lives, and they answer — sometimes telling stories far beyond this plate or that menu. It is a joy, sometimes even an honor.
So to mark the end of the year (yeah, yeah, we're in full Dick-Clark-Anderson-Cooper mode here) we've collected 10 of our favorite interviews from 2011. Oh, and while it is true that one of these technically took place in 2010, once you see who it is, you'll get why we fudged the dates a bit. Wouldn't you?
10. Mary Jo Pehl: Q & A with Mary Jo Pehl, Author of Man Saved By Condiments!: The Relative Joy of Arby's Horsey Sauce, Butter Conduits + Being Haunted by Ketchup. “He said he's had a long history with ketchup, that he was in a production called Macbeth's Awesome Scottish Castle Party in which other actors dipped kielbasa into ketchup on his head. He said, 'Ketchup is haunting me. Professionally.'”
9. Ambrose and Guy Pasquini: Q & A with Ambrose and Guy Pasquini: L.A.'s Single Espresso Origin. “We were invaded almost immediately by people from Hungary.”
8. Sang Yoon: Q & A With Sang Yoon: Lukshon's Test Kitchen, Issues of Heat + Ghetto Fish Sauce. “Fish sauce was not the coolest thing I made. No. Um, we made smoked sriracha. That was pretty awesome. We made a green sriracha and a white sriracha, all based on different types of chiles. There's a variety of jalapeno called a white jalapeño; I don't think it's really a white jalapeño, but they call it that.”
7. Wolfgang Puck: Q & A with Wolfgang Puck: The Hotel Bel-Air Interview. “If I would have to cook every day, I would kill myself.”
6. Benjamin Wade: Q & A With Survivor Coach Benjamin Wade: The Survivor Diet, Eating Termites + $320 Chicken Parmesan. “People ask me about going on the Survivor diet. I say yea, don't eat anything, don't sleep, try to get some parasites and you'll be on the right track.”
5. Eric Greenspan: Q & A with Eric Greenspan: Chef-as-Owner, The Grilled Cheesery + Humanizing Fine Dining. “Maybe 10 years from now I'll open a restaurant that will be back to what I was doing at Patina. [Snob voice] 'Huhhuhhuhhuh' and shit like that.”
4. Ken Burns: Ken Burns' Prohibition: Bootleggers, Organized Crime + The Glamorization of Getting Blitzed. “When you're working 14 hours a day the last thing you want is a drink. We're in Boston today and just an hour or so ago, we were in a bar, an old speakeasy, and at one point someone said, 'Can I serve you something?' and I was like, 'Are you kidding? It's 10 a.m. I'm working. I'll have some water, please.'”
3. Marco Pierre White. Q & A With Marco Pierre White: Escoffier, Television, Packaged Soup + The French Foreign Legion. “But I came from that old world of gastronomy. I stepped into Escoffier's world. And I saw the tail end of Escoffier's world — and that's why I retired.”
2. Matt Selman: Q & A With Simpsons Exec Producer Matt Selman: The Food Wife, Food Blogging + Dining at Jitlada With Matt Groening. “Guess what? My kids don't eat pine needle sorbet. They eat sherbet and pronounce it sherbert and wish it were ice cream.”
1. Evan Kleiman: Q & A With Evan Kleiman: More Pies, 6,000 Interviews + Trading Cooking Schools for Apprenticeships. “And those to me are the best interviews, when you can really be surprised by someone's passion, which always makes you look at that subject again and say, well, hmm, maybe I should grow a pumpkin that weighs 350 pounds.”