Thoughts, ramblings, and #BTS by the L&T Editorial Staff.

Be the Change.

Hello friends,

As I write this, I have an ice pack on my head—if only the cold would numb my soul and mind. Alas, I’ll settle for this constant headache to go away.

I’ll be real with you right now, this isn’t a PR-ready CEO letter during one of America’s darkest hours—I can only speak from the heart in this moment. It has been at the core of our values with our little publication to always advocate for inclusivity in the food industry—as a POC myself, that ethos has been paramount. And we directed our efforts toward shedding light on the most vulnerable people of color with our multi-season documentary series, The Migrant Kitchen. In fact, if it weren’t for Covid-19, my team of filmmakers would be all across the country shooting our fourth season of the show, capturing the many ways in which race and food intersect in America.

We are at a turning point in our generation, one that will be remembered and written about for many years to come. While I do hope many major outlets and publications look internally and work on diversity, it is critical to also recognize the ways in which oppression towards people of color in America often stems from food access and land ownership.

With natural resources withheld and stripped from communities, populations in those areas—primarily black and latino—are subject to the results of food apartheid, agricultural oppression and economic turmoil. History has demonstrated time and again that inaccess to the basic fundamental human need for food can translate to desperate tactics for survival.

The events that have led to these national protests and riots represent a boiling point. The death of Mr. George Floyd was the final match thrown on a history of systemic racism and oppression towards people of color in nearly every facet of America’s functioning society.

And the food industry is no different.

The food we eat today is literally picked by exploited labor. Because our accepted cost of food is astonishingly low, restaurant margins are razor thin, which means minority workers are underpaid. In low-income neighborhoods, you won’t find a Whole Foods or a farmers market. Instead, their source of food will be a corner store and come in packages or canned.

Hopefully, this is a time of clarity for many about how to move forward, but let us never forget to keep asking why? What led us to this place in the first place? We must continue to peel the onion of what creates societal oppression for some and privilege for others. And we need those answers so we can correct issues at the source and inform a more equitable, sustainable future.

Life & Thyme wouldn’t exist without our community and right now, our community needs us all. We may be 100% independent and the “little guys” compared to the behemoths that represent food media, but we will always operate based on what our hearts, guts and souls tell us is right. So effective immediately, revenue from new Life & Thyme memberships will be donated to Black Lives Matter through June 19.

We rely on paid memberships to fund our editorial budgets, but it’s what we can do right now to be a part of the change and help build a better tomorrow.

If you’d like to support Black Lives Matter and receive a Life & Thyme membership as a perk, you can do so here. If you rather gift a membership to a friend while supporting Black Lives Matter (or if you’re already a member), we’ll have that option available next week.

We have also revamped our homepage to reflect black voices from the food community. If you’d like to contribute a message, do not hesitate to reply back to this email.

I wish you good health, safety and clarity for what lies ahead.

Take care,

— Antonio
Life & Thyme Founder

Introducing the Pizza Theme

Philosophically speaking, I agree with almost everything the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles do, say, and stand for.

As a kid, I aligned my values with the reptilian brotherhood as a unit, but their personalities were diverse enough that I could evolve with them over the years. In pre-school, I toted around a stuffed version of the hard-partying Michaelangelo. When I became a very mature grade-schooler, I more closely identified with Leonardo—a serious, hard-lined leader type. Today, I’m probably more in the Donatello camp—curious, geeky, inquisitive and experimental.

But as different as the boys were, they were always united by more than a just mission to defeat the evil Shredder (and that weird brain-in-a-robot’s-body, Krang). As born and bred New Yorkers, they bonded over a shared love of something far more powerful: pizza.

Today, it feels almost metaphorical that these four characters could find peace and common ground over pepperoni slices—hold the anchovies (for all our similarities, this decision being one with which I strongly disagree; all the anchovies for me, please). It feels like the world could similarly solve its problems if we all had a round table around a pie.

Of course, how that pie looks, smells and tastes would be heavily dependent on where we had it. These days, it seems regions all over the country—and the world—have their own situation when it comes to the iconic flatbread/topping structure with which we’re so familiar. In the U.S., it may be New York or New Haven or Chicago, and now emerging styles like “Rhode Island” or “Providence,” as well as Detroit. In Rome, you can find pizza al taglio, and due south in Sicily, it’s sfincione. There is of course the napoletano that gave birth to Margherita, but Italy isn’t the only stop on the global pizza tour. In Japan, anori and katsuobushi are common add-ons to their own take. In France, caramelized onions and creme fraiche. Koreans enjoy a bulgogi option, and in Lebanon and Syria, a dish called sfiha can be found gilded with ground mutton. Germans have flammkuchen, or tarte flambé, and in Iceland, you can find bananas with blue cheese (giving the pineapple/ham combo a run for its money).

Evidently, it’s a food that has been around for more than 12,000 years, but pizza has a long history as a peasant food regardless of culture, and tracking its global travel over time is a study in economic insights. Today, chefs are elevating the humble dish to new heights, challenging expectations and changing the game. It’s been both maligned and celebrated by royalty, and in pop culture, pizza has been championed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Wolfgang Puck.

There is so much to learn and study when it comes to pizza, and naturally, at Life & Thyme, we got curious. So it is with gusto that we’ve decided to dedicate an entire theme to one of the world’s most beloved foods. Over the next few months, you can expect to read about different styles of pizza, as well as the people who make it for our enjoyment, the worlds and communities in which it proliferated and was popularized, and how it’s being pushed forward today.

Whether by the slice or the whole pie, folded in half or with a knife and fork, in a New York City sewer, or at your very own dining room table, we encourage you to order up and settle in for lots of pizza stories to come.

Contributor Spotlight: Carly DeFilippo

Editor’s Note: At Life & Thyme, we’re fortunate to connect with a vast array of talented individuals from across the globe that help support our mission to create food stories for the culturally curious. They inspire us through their own creative narratives––and we’re pleased to share those specialities here in our series, Life & Thyme Community Spotlight.

Today, we check in with one of our veteran contributors, Carly DeFilippo.

Outside of food, what are your major sources of inspiration?

I’ve always been interested in live music, foreign languages, art, architecture…and most specifically, the creative conversations or movements that drive these forms of expression. Food actually came later on, when I lived in Paris during grad school. The opinionated, hyper-detailed way that French people talk about food is one of my favorite things on earth. It’s even better than eating.

More generally, I find gaining access to experts in a field and learning what makes them tick to be incredibly inspiring. That’s why the interview process is my favorite part of writing, and it’s also why I enjoy doing brand identity work for small businesses. It’s such a gift to have a skilled artisan or a seasoned entrepreneur take the time to answer my questions. If I can hold up a mirror to their experiences and tell a story that feels true to the complexity of their experiences—that’s the ultimate compliment.

What do you think is one major issue facing the food industry today?

I think the average consumer has a pretty superficial relationship with food. I love Instagram as a source of information and inspiration, but it also motivates a performative kind of eating that is completely disconnected from appreciating flavor or craftsmanship. We don’t need bacon and truffles on everything. (Have you ever thought about what happens to the rest of the pig when all we want is bacon?) And we don’t need 16 multi-colored scoops of ice cream dripping down our hands. (How about one perfect scoop that is so chock-full of flavor you don’t even crave a second?) I’m just not terribly interested in excess—what I call the “melted cheese corner of the Internet.” It’s too much. And when you actually get used to eating quality ingredients that are prepared with skill, you realize how unappetizing all these flash-in-the-pan food trends really are.

What are some tips to make your subjects feel more comfortable during interviews?

I make it clear to my subjects that they are my primary audience. If the article doesn’t feel true to them, then I have failed. But beyond that, I think genuine interest and attentive listening go a long way. People can tell when you are planning your next move instead of paying attention. If you listen well, it’s easy to adapt in real time and sense where the “real” story might lie. I always prepare questions in advance, but the most interesting conversations exist further off-script than anything I could plan.

What memorable moments come to mind from the stories you’ve worked on for Life & Thyme?

You mean other than chasing a truffle dog through the lush green forests of Washington State? Or spending a whirlwind week in Italy learning about the world’s most incredibly engineered espresso machines? I bring up these examples because they were such improbable, wonderful life experiences. But the most resonant moments, for me, are much smaller. Interviewing Toby Cecchini, for example, felt really special. First up, Toby is an incredible writer. Read Cosmopolitan, if you haven’t already. But beyond that, he’s an obsessive craftsman. He will tweak a cocktail for years until he believes he has perfected the recipe. (And when Long Island Bar still served brunch, he did the same thing with the iced coffee. I’ve never had iced coffee like that since.)

I also name Toby because he embodies what makes a place special. It’s not about the line around the block. It’s not about the price. It’s about the fact that in a city like New York, where there’s always somewhere new to try, people go back to his bar over and over again. He has his own unapologetic style, which attracts like-minded customers, and his bar’s culture has taken on a life all its own. I’ve had many noteworthy adventures since writing that article, but interviewing Toby really set the tone for the stories I care about and the type of humans I want to continue to feature.

What scares you?

To stop learning or to get stuck in a rut. I thrive on stepping outside my comfort zone, and I believe that it’s not my job to be an expert. When I’m interviewing a business owner or an artisan, they clearly know more than I do about their area of expertise. My job is to listen as best I can and persuasively tell their story without imposing too much of my perspective. That’s pretty humbling, but also freeing. Because if my writing does a service to someone I respect, that gives me a real sense of purpose.

What did you have for breakfast?

Today, just whole grain rice cakes and crunchy sunflower butter. But when I’m feeling more ambitious, I like to make my own yogurt or quiche :)

Contributor Spotlight: Nicole Ziza Bauer

At Life & Thyme, we’re fortunate to connect with a vast array of talented individuals from across the globe that help support our mission to create food stories for the culturally curious. They inspire us through their own creative narratives––and we’re pleased to share those specialities here in our series, Life & Thyme Community Spotlight.

Today, we check in with Nicole Ziza Bauer, a contributor to Life & Thyme as a writer and one-time guest editor.

How did you get involved with food writing, and how would you advise someone looking to get into this world today?

Nicole Ziza Bauer: It started as a genuine interest, the “write what you know” philosophy or, in my case, “write what you love.” Food interests me because of how simple and complex it is: ingredients, techniques, tastes, cultures, personalities. It’s the experience of life itself, which is tirelessly fascinating and interconnected. When I first wanted to branch out with my freelance writing, I looked for outlets publishing stories similar to what I wanted to tell and that’s how I found Life & Thyme.

For someone looking to get into the world today, I’d suggest just…starting. Let your interests and curiosities fuel you to discover what is out there so that then, when you are able to reach out and finally connect with someone, it’s a meaningful connection. You know what you bring to the table and are able to offer a unique vantage point through your writing.

How do you approach developing an angle for a particular subject?

NZB: It’s a both/and. Usually there is some guidance or prompt from an editor, which then leaves the rest to me to figure out how to shape it. I brainstorm a lot, thinking through obvious angles first and then how to go deeper into quirks or specific touch points that then bring a piece full circle. Any story worth telling should have a hint of relevancy for the reader, so I like to think about that too. How can this build connection or bring insight so that a reader can have his or her own “aha” moment? No matter how big or small that is.

What are some tips for conducting better interviews?

NZB: An interview is just a vehicle for getting to know a person, so I like to think of it as a conversation. I prepare, of course, and have a list of questions that (I hope) feel fresh, fun, and open-ended, but I also go into them knowing they don’t have to be perfect scripts. No one wants to read a transcript without a compelling framework for who, what, or why it matters, so I try to take in everything about a meeting and ask follow-up questions even if I didn’t plan for them. Little, unexpected details can prove just as insightful and add life to an otherwise two-dimensional piece.

What memorable moments come to mind from the stories you’ve worked on for Life & Thyme?

NZB: Interviewing the chef and culinary staff at St. Jude Children’s Hospital was incredibly special for me. Before pursuing writing I had intended on becoming a doctor, so I had spent a lot of time working and volunteering specifically in pediatric oncology. It felt like a validated turn of events, using my professional skill set in new ways that still contributed to my most meaningful passions.

Additionally, I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to interview Jonathan Gold just a few months before his unexpected passing. His love for Los Angeles was palpable, as was the genuine desire to simply meet and eat with your neighbor. That alone has the potential to spark so much change for good, and he really paved the way for that.

What are you most excited about right now—work or otherwise?

NZB: A trip back to one of my most favorite places in the world, Bassano del Grappa, Italy, in April.

What did you have for breakfast?

NZB: Steel-cut oats with golden raisins, cinnamon, ginger, maple syrup, pistachio butter and mushroom powder. And coffee.

Introducing our latest theme: Sweets

There’s a photo of me that resurfaces usually around my birthday every year. I’m maybe about a year old, pudgy and cherry-cheeked, wearing a fuzzy pink onesie (which I desperately wish would still fit me), and in my very tiny hands I’m clutching a sugar dispenser for dear life. Another family favorite is from about nine years later, in which I’m sporting a ridiculous bowl cut and holding a tray of my grandmother’s multicolored holiday cookies, my eyes as big as dinner plates. So it probably surprised approximately no one that when I was twenty-six, I opened an ice cream shop, dedicating day and night to the chemistry behind the things I’ve always craved. Sugar has been a constant theme in my life, and perhaps one of my first and most pure loves. Even as I write this, I do so with a Du’s Donuts Blueberry Crumble by my side, trying not make too much of a sticky mess of my keyboard between bites. A losing battle.

Yes, there are plenty of people who would consider this a serious problem rather than something to write home about. And sure, we know the dark side of those tiny white granules and artificially bright treats now, but I’m a firm believer in enjoying a little of everything (hey, moderation!).

When we began thinking about a theme for this winter, a time of year when we all hope to put behind us any uncertainty and stress of the first three seasons, we knew we wanted to do something that would pair with the spirit of the holidays.

We sent our contributors on a mission: give us your stories about sweets, sugar and confections of all cultures and kinds. The results were as delightful as this rapidly disappearing donut. For the next few weeks, we intend to share those findings with you, from standard-issue sugary treats, like my breakfast here and its global cousins, to bakers blazing some seriously sweet trails—I’ll even share a little about how to eat ice cream like a seasoned pro. But we were also introduced to some less common confections: South African rusks, Turkish pudding, and exploration of Indian treats all sweetened the deal. And we couldn’t forget drinks, either: complex coffee concoctions, dessert wine, and malty Christmas beers made especially for the holidays help wash it all down.

Because some things are too delicious to only read about, we enlisted our friends to share some recipes: Chef Shannon Swindle of Craft in L.A. demonstrates how to tap into natural sweetness for an after-dinner option, and the pastry pros from the third season of our Emmy-winning documentary series, The Migrant Kitchen, give us a global array of desserts. Founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, Candace Nelson provides us a perfect party pleaser with her peppermint meringue, and Le Bernardin pastry guru Thomas Raquel steps away from his Michelin-starred kitchen to share humble home-cook-friendly pie.

I couldn’t know it when I was waddling around in my onesie pawing at sugar packets, but even natural sugars in meats and vegetables—the ones responsible for caramelization and the Maillard Reaction—can be just as enjoyable as pancakes or pumpkin pie. Sugar is a big part of what makes even the most wholesome foods wonderful. Imagine a ripe peach or pear, the honey or maple syrup produced effortlessly by nature.

The same way that spice or bitterness are a warning sign, sweetness is a signal to the body: this is enjoyable. And ‘tis the season to be a little sweeter—to one another, and to ourselves—because that, my friends, brings joy to the world.

The Migrant Kitchen: Season 3 Trailer

Six cultures. Four cities. A world of culinary tradition.

Coming this November 7, season three of our Emmy-winning, James Beard award-nominated series, The Migrant Kitchen returns with all new episodes on KCET/PBS (and streaming online).

Join the journey, from the hectic streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown and San Diego county’s Mexican border, to Los Angeles’ vibrant Thai town and the city’s legendary Jewish delis. Break bread with the Bay Area’s Palestinian community, and step inside new kind of sake brewery. These are the stories of the chefs, farmers and producers risking everything to revive, preserve and reinvent the cuisines of their heritage. Because the stories of cultural survival, of perseverance and humanity, of immigrants and soul, those are the stories of California.


THE MIGRANT KITCHEN will telecast as follows (subject to change):

“The Jewish Deli”- Wed., Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. PT on KCET /  Tues., Nov. 13 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV
The Jewish delis of Los Angeles serve an important role for connecting heritage to food. Factor’s Famous Deli has been a pillar in the community for 70 years while newcomers like Micah Wexler and Michael Kassar of Wexler’s Deli bring a fresh take to classic deli food traditions.

“Sequoia Sake” – Wed., Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. PT on KCET /  Tues., Nov. 20 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV
Jake Myrick and Noriko Kamei have taken their love for namazake and created Sequoia Sake, a small brewery in the heart of San Francisco. Rooted in the traditions of Japanese sake brewing, they work to resurrect an heirloom rice in California pioneering the young but growing craft sake movement in the U.S.

“El Jardín”- Wed., Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. PT on KCET /  Tues., Nov. 27 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV
Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins opens her new restaurant, El Jardín, in San Diego. Inspired by the traditions of generations of Mexican women and combining regional heirloom ingredients from across Mexico, Zepeda-Wilkins takes a huge risk to elevate the cuisine in her hometown.

“Mister Jiu’s Chinatown”- Wed., Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. PT on KCET /  Tues., Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV
In San Francisco’s Chinatown, Brandon Jew walks the line between his Chinese heritage and his American upbringing with his restaurant, Mister Jiu’s. With the rapid gentrification of the neighborhood, the face of the country’s oldest Chinatown is changing while a younger generation holds on to the traditions and flavors of the past.

“Man’oushe” – Wed., Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. PT on KCET /  Tues., Dec. 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV
Two extraordinary women of Palestinian descent, Reem Assil and Lamees Dahbour, use food to bring their misunderstood homeland closer to Western tolerance and acceptance.

“Louis & Jazz” – Wed., Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. PT on KCET /  Tues., Dec. 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV
Jazz Singsanong of Jitlada Thai and Louis Tikaram of E.P. & L.P. transport the palate around the world with the complex flavors of Thai cuisine. These chefs work to bring balance to the complexity of flavors that reflect the mixed cultural influences of their own backgrounds and experiences.

Join the conversation on social media using #migrantkitchen, #lifeandthyme

Edible Adventures: Stories of Eating and Drinking on the Go

When MFK Fisher launched her extensive writing career, she wrote about food in a way that was quite unexpected of the genre. She didn’t put together restaurant reviews or criticisms. Very few recipes came from her desk. Instead, she utilized all things culinary as metaphor—for life, for love, for death, even for sex. In fact, her work was so emotional that it made some readers (and fellow, threatened writers) uncomfortable. Through that work, she essentially created a genre: the food memoir.

What began with her essays blossomed into full length narrative inspired by all manner of human experience. It was a pretty sparse category for a while there, but these days, we’re seeing nearly as many food world recollections as we are cookbooks. In this roundup, we’ve decided to narrow the focus to just a few, those that speak to the restless soul, curious about all the many things related to cuisine.

Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting Pot Cuisine
By Edward Lee

Anyone familiar with Chef Edward Lee’s food, a flawless amalgamation of his influences from growing up in Brooklyn, New York and his heritage as a Korean American knows a serious amount of consideration is given to each and every dish. He’s a talented, thoughtful chef, and in this memoir, in which he traverses the U.S., stopping in cities from New Orleans to Paterson, New Jersey, Lee proves his insightful, curious and considerate nature goes far beyond the four walls of a kitchen—not to mention some serious writing chops.

The book reads as a sort of state of the union as told through the fabric of U.S. food, thoughtfully demonstrating that American will not likely ever become a single blanket culture, but a quilt of many.

The Monk of Mokha
By Dave Eggers

When author Dave Eggers heard the tale behind Mokhtar Alkhanshali’s coffee importing business, his storytelling radar must’ve gone haywire. He made it his mission to tell the tale, one of a Yemeni-American man that became possessed by the idea of reviving the and restoring to its former glory the coffee growing industry of his ancestors. The journey to doing so was so fraught with logistical and sociopolitical complications, corruption and mortal peril that at times it reads more like a modern war novel than a food and beverage biography.

Alkhanshali’s dogged determination and obsessive pride in his heritage make for an exhilarating, energizing adventure—caffeination not required.

By the Smoke and the Smell: My Search for the Rare and Sublime on the Spirits Trail
By Thad Vogler

Vogler is a San Francisco legend behind some of the city’s institutional bars, like Bar Agricole and Trou Normand, known especially for inventive cocktails and meticulously curated spirits lists. In this adventure memoir, he takes readers around the world to see where he sources those magical liquids, from French chateaus for armagnacs to off the grid distilleries in Havana, and other far flung spots. We get a glimpse into the world of “grower” spirits, traditions that are centuries old as well as some new ones, and get a deeper understanding of what makes those precious bottles fetch a pretty penny.

Godforsaken Grapes: A Slightly Tipsy Journey through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine
By Jason Wilson

Historically speaking, wine writing has often required a serious understanding of a very daunting and vast world. But this book invites in even the uninitiated, and by taking readers on a journey to some underrecognized viticultural areas in parts of Portugal and Austria, lesser known growing region of Italy, France and even the United States (Jersey born wine, anyone?),  it delivers as much for those with a case of wanderlust as well as the ones looking to case out some cool new wine destinations. I recommend reading up before you head to your next cocktail party; I’m not ashamed to admit that I even casually dropped the names of a few uncommon grapes into conversation with my wine geek friends, and I felt pretty darn cool for a minute there.

Meet the New Life & Thyme


Since the launch of Life & Thyme in 2012, it has been the relentless pursuit of our team to deliver quality culinary journalism from all over the globe. Examining world culture through food, be it from our home base in Los Angeles to the drought-stricken regions of South Africa, the mountain bakeries of Morocco to the refugee camps cooking in Lebanon or the vibrant street markets of Tokyo, we strive for a dynamic, comprehensive approach to food coverage. Holding ourselves to the highest standard remains our hallmark. Our commitment to representing the people and stories of our industry is stronger than ever.

As we enter a new era for Life & Thyme (with a brand new redesign), we also embark on a mission for independence and sustainability. Delivering thoughtful, carefully researched journalism is an endeavor that requires significant resources, and yet is not easy to monetize in the modern, turbulent media landscape. That’s why today, we ask you—our readers—for support, by becoming a Life & Thyme Member.

In subscribing to our Membership Program, your contributions directly support our independent coverage of the food industry, and our dedicated contributing writers, photographers and editors who work tirelessly to explore topics that impact each of us every day. You’ll also help jumpstart future projects, like podcasts, exclusive events and other endeavors that fuse creativity, storytelling and food culture.

We intend to continue providing the reliable reporting you’ve come to expect from Life & Thyme—from longform stories and industry commentary to cinematic short films and immersive photography. And we intend to continue to raise the bar, to always be improving the quality of our content, increasing frequency and breadth of our coverage as well. But we can only do it with your help. We thank you for your loyalty to and interest in Life & Thyme from the very start, and we hope you’ll join us in the next chapter of this journey.

Welcome to the new Life & Thyme.

Eye on the Ball

Many, many moons ago when I was only a little Italian tadpole, I tended goal for the traveling soccer team in my hometown. I had a good time doing the rough and tumble thing with my teammates, and I especially liked rolling around in the dirt when I had to make a diving save. But my soccer career came to a halt before I hit high school, when my interest shifted to much nerdier pursuits like student council and drama club. My memories of the sport––rules and regulations, teams and heroes and superstars––have been reduced to those soft-edged mental images of my fellow players and I hanging out at the local ice cream shop after games. Sometimes it meant celebrating a big win, but less successful days were just as satisfying when I could wrap my sorrows up in a smooth, creamy, sprinkle-spackled hug.

It was all ages ago. And so the advent of this year’s World Cup came and went for me with little fanfare. I knew it was going down, but I wasn’t the one getting up at five a.m. to switch on the television, or rallying the troops to relieve the corner bar of whatever drink specials were on tap for morning revelers.

But then some funny things happened. I first noticed at my local café, where I was the only patron in the place for an early lunch. The staff in the open kitchen were milling around, busying themselves with a few menial duties––I figure just trying to look busy. But the TV behind my head was what really had their attention. I glanced at the game, which was on mute, and then back at my kale salad. A few times I caught stymied reactions to what was happening on the screen behind me. It wasn’t a sports bar, and they were clearly trying to maintain some decorum in front of their customer. But about halfway through my meal, my server came over. “Excuse me, miss?” I tried to contain the forkful of greens I was stuffing in my mouth. “We were just wondering, would you mind terribly if we turned on the sound?” Of course not! I told him (with my eyes, while I swallowed like a civilized person). “Thanks,” he said. “There’s just something about watching soccer with the sound that changes the game.” He beamed, and the three dudes behind the tiny counter nodded to me, thumbs appreciatively up. A few minutes later, everyone in the place was rapt by the game––me included. Pretty quickly I found myself asking questions, taking notes and taking sides, and getting an education on what was happening in the wide world of the sport.

And from then on, it was everywhere I turned. When I came home to find the painters in my building’s vestibule huddled around an old radio shouting at them in Spanish, knuckles white around their brushes, awaiting news from the disembodied voice that had already gone hoarse from commentary. Then at my local market, while I was picking out some eggplant for dinner and the stockboys stopped emptying crates so they could stand around the tiny screen of someone’s cell phone. Customers put down their peppers and stepped away from the cheese section. We all––again, me included––made a human bottleneck of the whole produce area.

I will tell you that I still don’t know a whole lot more today than I did a few weeks ago about the game’s nuances, but I do know more about the people in my neighborhood. I know the guys at the café and where they come from. I know why they were rooting for one country over another, and maybe they even learned a little from me when I rambled on about the food customs of this one or that one.

And while I’ll never be an expert in the sport, I now know one thing for sure: soccer (football, futbol, whatever it is your people call it), is a lot like food. Both are universal languages. Both bring a little joy to what might otherwise be rote daily life. Both help us to dissolve the barriers that keep us apart on a regular basis. And in a world that feels deeply divided these days, it is through both that we can come together to celebrate a precious few things so elemental and exciting, and ultimately, unifying.

We’ve been fortunate to feature food stories from many of those countries that have participated in the competition, but to citizens of all the world, the ones watching the Cup in small cafés and in vestibules and markets around the globe, may we all observe—both victory and defeat—with something very delicious.

May I recommend the vanilla with rainbow sprinkles?

Loss Leaders

A few months back, I sent an email to Gabrielle Hamilton at Prune. It was around the time news of her second memoir was announced, and I was looking forward to the follow up to Blood, Bones, and Butter, which was a formative narrative for me. It proved Hamilton had serious writing chops—that she was not only a formidable chef, but a talented writer. It was an exciting combination in someone who had a powerful voice and platform in the industry.

Life & Thyme was running a theme around the concept of language; I wanted to discuss straddling those two disciplines, and how thoughtful words would be so important to the future of the food world. I received no response, which isn’t terribly uncommon for chefs at her level.

But as an admirer of her writing and lover of her food, I know the story I’d have likely written. About the ability of her simple style of food to speak volumes over the course of two decades in New York City. About inspiring a younger generation of chefs to be more contemplative, deliberate in business decisions (until now, she’d owned and operated only one restaurant while many of her peers have built veritable empires). About her example. About her leadership.

And now, I’d be looking back at the piece with a whole lot more questions. Because last week, Hamilton decided to extend a bailout to Ken Friedman, who has been accused of sexual harassment, and been one of the key figures at the center of the food world’s #metoo movement.

We in the food media have a lot on our minds lately. Most of us have barely had time to catch our breath between reports of disturbing allegations and accusations that have leveled empires and left gaping holes at our highest levels. And now The Spotted Pig fiasco has us all arguing amongst ourselves, second guessing figures we once considered future legends. Even heroes.

I had a chance to sit down with Mario Batali years ago, and as Babbo was perhaps the first restaurant with which I had a real love affair, it was a bit of a dream come true. The piece I subsequently wrote was as much about the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes as it was about the man who popularized it in New York City. But now, I cringe when I recall the contents. It was an honest work and I was proud of it, but what I once considered a solid piece has been removed from any samples I share. I cannot allow words—even ones once carefully chosen—to elevate the image of someone with such contemptible associations.

And I’m not alone; in this industry, we’ve loved our leaders and demonstrated it liberally. In everything from television shows to documentaries to weekly think pieces, we exalt the work of chefs around the world. We’re a business that has long enjoyed a lighter side of life. Certainly food and feeding people has always been tied tightly to complex politics—it’s not a business of total fluff, of course. But many of us are having the kind of crisis of faith that befalls worlds more accustomed to the corrupt or disenchanting—or (and to use a term that perhaps isn’t being used enough in conversations about sexual assault) the criminal.

It got me thinking about idolatry. And in our society, we love our idols. There’s a reason superhero movies dominate the box office. We’re a culture in search of heroes. Of action. Of leaders. The food business is no different. Ancient societies looked to these godlike figures to explain away mysteries, to help them understand the inexplicable. But do idols still have a place in our world? And is it too much to ask mere mortals to do the right thing?

What are we to do? We’re losing our leaders, and we’re losing them to behavior that poisons—or at the very least, pits us against one another, and against ourselves. Do we still have dinner at the Pig if we don’t agree with the new ownership structure? Do we try to support the staff there, who may have genuine intentions and are simply trying to make a living? Do we boycott a restaurant that once served as a setting for despicable actions? Do we still take anyone’s word that their dream is to just feed and nourish their community, provide a little joy in their lives, and a place for families and friends?

Our industry, perhaps more than other artistic disciplines, has experienced a dramatic amount of change in a short time. “Celebrity” is younger and newer to those in this business than many others, and those who have it now should recognize their responsibility.

Some of that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the food media as well. As our industry grows and faces more serious challenges, as professionals at our highest levels go from simply supporting their families or a small staff to literally hundreds of people, our coverage must become more discerning.

As journalists, we always do our best diligence, but along with questions about culinary philosophy and the latest sous vide technique, we must also consider what’s necessary to liberate such skeletons from the coat-check closets of fine dining restaurants and beyond. Not every chef profile needs to be an exposé, but it’s our job to hold those in positions of power to the standards of integrity any industry would demand of its upper echelon.

Because whether or not you put faith in idols, this is a business about human beings. And what we need right now are leaders. To inspire. To provoke positive thought and engagement, rather than the attention of local authorities. People who step up with the right intentions, with their feet on the ground. It’s time we take them off their pedestals and put them in a driver’s seat, where there are consequences if they take a wrong turn, steer under the intoxicating influence of ego or blind ambition or power—or something far worse. And remind them, they’re not piloting some flashy sports coupe, but a vehicle packed with people who rely on their every move.

Thank you, Anthony.

Anthony Bourdain was the voice of a generation. Of chefs and cooks, writers and readers, food lovers and diners, adventurers and daydreamers—and anyone with a curious and compassionate bone in their body.

His was a voice that encouraged us to learn, to step outside our comfort zones. One that made us both laugh at his playful bullying of Chef Eric Ripert, and ponder cultures foreign to our own. One that allowed us to live vicariously on a global scale from the safety of our own living rooms. Anthony Bourdain had the best job in the world. How do I know? Because he said it. He once was quoted that he had “the best job in the world, there’s no doubt about it.”

And just as he had no doubt of that fact, I have none that his work—as a writer and a documentarian—will always be remembered as a critical catalyst in jumpstarting a new wave of culinary storytelling, far beyond the reaches of any studio kitchen.

He inspired innumerable careers, including my own. He was a pioneer in his craft. Like a modern-day Indiana Jones, his hunger to uncover answers about society, and searching the deepest labyrinths in the farthest corners the world to find them, was a testament to the power of food. He was Bourdain being Bourdain. And he set the gold standard.

To Bourdain, food was merely a conduit for discourse. And that discourse wasn’t always about food—but it was always about humanity.

Photo by Former White House Photographer Pete Souza

Off the Menu: Issue Eight

Editor’s Note: Each week, Life & Thyme contributors are trotting the globe, taking in the sights and turning over all kinds of culinary stones for future stories. In our new weekly Off the Menu series, we ask for their favorite food-related finds from all over––and share them here.

Antonio Diaz, Life & Thyme Founder (Los Angeles), Antonio on Instagram

Friends of L&T and the music-meets-food podcast, Snacky Tunes, are throwing their first live show on March 13, 2018, at Los Angeles’ famed El Rey Theatre. There will be performances by soul singer-songwriter NIIA, Dave P x 2 (Making Time/This Is Who We Are Now) and Russell Alexander (Babilonia). There will also be an interview session with Chef Micah Wexler and Michael Kassar of Wexler’s Deli. Snag some tix here:

Stef Ferrari, Senior Editor (New York City); Stef on Instagram

I could not be more obsessed with this book, which chronicles the story of Yemeni-American coffee entrepreneur Mokhtar Alkhanshali. As a coffee nerd and bookworm, it seemed like a no-brainer. But with deep dives into science, chemistry and biology, history, world politics, culture and events through the eyes of a narrative hero you feel you can really get behind, The Monk of Mokah by Dave Eggers gives sorely needed context to so many subjects, and has changed the way I appreciate every sip of my morning joe. This is a perfect example of how we can learn so much about the world through what we eat and drink on a daily basis.

Ask your indie bookseller about this one. And be sure to have a strong cup primed for pairing.

Lauren di Matteo, Photographer (San Diego); Lauren on Instagram

Standing’s whole animal butcher shop is the the place to go for ethically raised, pastured meat. The quality and sheer deliciousness of it makes a weeknight meal taste like a special occasion—hello bacon cheeseburger sausage! I’m hoping to make it out for their upcoming beef butchery demo and tasting March 24th.


Anne Watson, Photographer (San Diego); Anne on Instagram

I just discovered the most amazing coffee product that launched this month – Dripkit for Pourovers-on-the-go. These magical little biodegradable packets of ethically-traded coffee (sourced from a family-owned farm in Guatemala) are designed to unfold & fit over your coffee cup – so all you need is hot water and you can have delicious gourmet coffee anytime, anywhere. They’re perfect for travel, or tucking into your desk at work, or just when you’d love to have a great cup of coffee at home and don’t want to brew a whole pot — I’m already addicted! So good.

Jim Sullivan, Photographer (San Diego); Jim on Instagram

Just picked up the WD-50 cookbook shot by my friend Eric Medsker. Beautifully shot! Love seeing my friends doing big things 🙏🏻😍

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