October 17, 2011

Table Talk: 10 Juicy Questions for The Amateur Gourmet

Welcome to Table Talk, where we sit down to chat and talk gossip with noteworthy voices in the food world. Got a suggestion for an interviewee? Email me.

First up: Adam Roberts, "The Amateur Gourmet." Adam started his blog seven years ago and since then has become one of the biggest names in the food blogosphere. Along the way he has hosted an online show for the Food Network, written a book, and contributed to Serious Eats, Salon, The Huffington Post, Epicurious and more. His first cookbook will be released next year.

Today, Adam shares his thoughts on breakfast cereals, gays in the food world, and his plans to wear Lady Gaga's meat dress. Say what!? Read on to find out.

Will: What was your favorite breakfast cereal as a kid?

Adam: I loved all the sugary ones that came in those snack packs. Remember those? Corn Pops being the best one; I'd save that for last. I'd also enjoy Applejacks, Lucky Charms and Kix on occasion. (It's a wonder I wasn't more hyper as a kid.)

What drink would you order at the bar on a first date?

In summer, I'm a gin and tonic kind of guy; in the winter, I drink Scotch and soda. But now that I live in L.A. where it's warm all the time I'm going to have to shake things up. As far as a first date, I always think it's a good idea to order what your date orders. That way you can have a shared experience.

If Lady Gaga came over for dinner, what would you serve her?

Meat Dress Tartar!

Which chef or food personality would you like to share chocolate covered strawberries and red wine with?

Wow, this is getting a little racy. Nigella Lawson because she'd use such lascivious language to describe the experience I'd burst out laughing and she'd smack me and it'd make the news.

If a recipe was engraved on your tombstone, what would it be?

That's a morbid question! Roast chicken? Or a way to make stock with my bones?

So you started cooking in college (well, grad school). What would you say to 20-somethings who want to take up cooking, and why was it important for you?

I don't think anyone should take up cooking unless they have a natural, organic interest in it. If you're interested and excited about the idea of cooking, then you'll take to it quickly. The ones who have the worst times in the kitchen are the ones who drag themselves there unwillingly. Assuming, though, the interest is there, I'd say take chances, don't be afraid: if you have a big failure, that's great, that's normal, you'll learn from that! And you'll get better as you go.

In your book, you have a chapter about eating out with former New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl (she happens to be something of my personal idol). Did dining with one of the worlds most revered "eaters" change the way you think about eating?

Absolutely. In that chapter, I ask her all kinds of "should" questions: "should you order wine first or a cocktail?" "Should you have an appetizer, entree and dessert at every meal or just what you're in the mood for?" At one point she snapped at me and said, "Stop it with the word 'should'! There is no 'should!'" That totally changed my life, beyond just how it applies to dining out. Now when I think about how I go through my days and what I spend my time doing, I ignore the word "should" (if I'd continued to do what I "should" do, I'd be a lawyer in Boca Raton with a wife named Mitzi) and do what I feel is right.

In 2007, you wrote an article for Serious Eats entitled "Does Cooking Make You Gay?" discussing how few chefs and food personalities were openly gay. Today, there are more openly gay voices in the food world: you, Frank Bruni, Ted Allen, Cat Cora, David Lebovitz, The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, and more. Do you feel the LGBT community plays an important role in the food world, and has it changed since you wrote that article in 2007?

Absolutely the gay community has always played an important role in the food world. In fact, in David Kamp's essential book "The United States of Arugula" he credits modern American food culture to three people: Julia Child, Craig Claiborne and James Beard. It's no secret that the latter two were gay (very gay, in fact). What I find fascinating in the food world today is the power structure that exists between straight men (food editors like Pete Wells and food icons like Mark Bittman), straight women (like Dana Cowin of Food & Wine, Christine Muhlke at Bon Appetit) and gay men (James Oseland of Saveur, Bob Tuschman at Food Network) in the food world. It's an unusual dynamic, peculiar to this industry, where power shifts evenly between those three groups. One day I'd like to write about it more thoughtfully, but right now it's just something I think about every so often.

You have an exciting new cookbook coming out that's currently in the works. Any juicy gossip from the making of the book?

Oh there's tons of juicy gossip, but you'll have to ask me in private. I don't want to spoil anything before the book comes out!

What are you making for dinner tonight?

Tonight my parents are visiting me in L.A. and we're going to my dad's favorite L.A. restaurant Boa. I don't know anything about it, but I plan to wear a boa. Or Lady Gaga's meat dress.

Adam Roberts created the blog The Amateur Gourmet, wrote the book The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table Hop Like a Pro (Almost), and will be releasing a new cookbook soon. Follow him on twitter @amateurgourmet.