Andrew Friedman has been collaborating with and interviewing chefs for over twenty years, his latest book Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits, and Wanderers Created a New American Profession (2018), involved coast to coast travel and over 200 interviews which dovetailed perfectly with the format of his podcast which involves a face to face conversation with a chef.
“I’ve done 113 shows and not one of them has been remote,” says Andrew. “Every single one was in the same room. They were either people coming to New York, or when I was out on the road promoting my book two years ago, I brought my stuff. If I go to a festival or a conference I always bring my recording gear if I visit my family in Florida. I always bring my podcast bag.”
Last month, the restaurant industry convulsed with the shock of the coronavirus lockdown. Friedman, pivoted to a podcast focusing on the issues facing the entire industry at a time of unprecedented change.
So what is it that attracts Freidman to chefs as subjects?
“A lot of people talk about the kitchen as a sanctuary for people who don’t really fit in anywhere else,” he says. “They’re not people who fit into ‘normal’ office situations, many of them didn’t get on very well in school.
“If you come to them, and they have a sense that you understand them on a baseline level, you understand the environment in which they live and operate, and maybe a little bit about their background, I think they open up like no other people I’ve known. I think they will absolutely speak to you in the most unvarnished, naked terms. They are often very funny, in a unique way, not the sense of humour you get from 90% of the population.”
Indeed from a writer’s perspective and as an interviewer chefs present a rich vein of opportunity because, once you get into the subject’s interior life, there is almost always a unique story to tell.
“I also write about tennis and with tennis players at a certain point most of their biographies become every similar. The get into their teens, they join a tennis academy, they play tournaments and their whole lives become about playing tennis,” says Friedman.