“Can’t Get Enough Carla Lalli Music” Transcript
Kelly Fields: Hi, I'm Kelly Fields and you're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe.
Kerry Diamond: Hi Bombesquad. You're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe, where we celebrate those women cooking up a storm, kicking down doors, and making the food world a better place. We're also the number one female-focused food podcast in the universe, and I'm your host, Kerry Diamond. Let's thank today's sponsors, Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Schools and Emmi, the makers of beautiful cheese from Switzerland.
Kerry Diamond: I hope everybody is doing well. I just got back from a trip to Paris and London, where I spent some time with the teams from Le Cordon Bleu, the world-famous culinary schools. I toured both schools and spent a lot of time talking to the alums of Le Cordon Bleu, or the Bleu Crew, as we like to call them. I met some incredible people who I'll be profiling in our next issue of the magazine, so stay tuned. If you want to see what I ate while I was abroad, and of course you do, I posted a lot on Instagram, so check it out @cherrybombe or @kerrybombe.
Kerry Diamond: What else is going on? It's the two-year anniversary of our cookbook. Those two years flew. If you don't have the Cherry Bombe cookbook, go get a copy. It features recipes from 100 of the most Bombe-tastic members of the Bombesquad, including Christina Tosi, Chrissy Teigen, and Mashama Bailey. You can buy a copy at cherrybombe.com or at your favorite indie bookstore. Support those bookstores, ladies. You know, I forgot to mention something about the cookbook. We literally tested all of those recipes in our own apartments, so it doesn't matter if you don't have a big, fancy kitchen. You will still be able to make everything in the cookbook.
Kerry Diamond: Are you ready for today's show? I am not sure if you're ready. I interviewed the one and only Carla Lalli Music. If you don't know Carla, let me give you a crash course. She's a cookbook author, mom, the Bon Appétit food editor, and a YouTube star. That's right, Carla is part of the beloved Bon Appétit YouTube team that is teaching a new generation how to be better and smarter in the kitchen. Carla's first cookbook, Where Cooking Begins, came out earlier this year, and each page is beautiful, helpful, and delicious. I had a blast talking to Carla over at Bon Appétit HQ, and I hope you enjoy our conversation. Before we hear from Carla, let's hear a word from Emmi cheeses from Switzerland.
Kerry Diamond: Hey Bombesquad, let's talk about Emmi cheese from Switzerland. Emmi's beautiful variety of cheeses are crafted from the freshest milk from local Swiss farms. One of our favorites is Emmi Le Gruyère AOP. With notes of candied walnuts, spice, and dried fruit, Emmi's Le Gruyère AOP is perfect for snacking, and if you want to get more creative, you can do what Chef Elizabeth Falkner does and make an apple and Le Gruyère crumble. This perfect fall recipe is fragrant with nutmeg and cinnamon, and the apple and Gruyère are perfect companions. Make it next level by melting some Emmi Raclette on top.
Kerry Diamond: Looking for something more savory? How about this special recipe from Chef Elizabeth, French onion soup pizza with Emmi Le Gruyère AOP, fresh thyme, and mushrooms. You can find these recipes and more at emmiusa.com, and you can find Emmi's delicious cheeses from Switzerland, the ones with the distinctive blue and red logo, at your favorite grocery store or cheesemonger.
Kerry Diamond: I have a million questions for you.
Carla Lalli Music: Awesome.
Kerry Diamond: It's so exciting to have you on the show.
Carla Lalli Music: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
Kerry Diamond: The first thing I need to say is thank you, not just for being on the show, but you were one of our Kickstarters. I don't know if you remember that.
Carla Lalli Music: When?
Kerry Diamond: 2013.
Carla Lalli Music: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally, first issue. I do remember that. I remember-
Kerry Diamond: So we have to say thank you.
Carla Lalli Music: ... being very excited to get that issue.
Kerry Diamond: We love our Kickstarters.
Carla Lalli Music: Awesome.
Kerry Diamond: So thank you.
Carla Lalli Music: My pleasure.
Kerry Diamond: We'd be nowhere without you, Carla Lalli Music.
Carla Lalli Music: You were trendy from the beginning. Just had to jump in there.
Kerry Diamond: So thank you. My next question, Shake Shack.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: You really were the first general manager of Shake Shack?
Carla Lalli Music: I was the first GM at the first full season of the Shake Shack. I was not the opening day. Shake Shack had been open for like a short season the summer before I came on, and that year, I worked on 22nd Street. That was when I still worked for Rocco DiSpirito and our office was on 22nd, and I used to go over just to get a breath of fresh air and I'd walk around Madison Square Park and that was when there was just ... first there was just the table and then there was just, the Shack had just opened and I used to just sit on a bench in the park and be like, "Who are these people, and what are they waiting for?" And then the next year, it was my gig.
Kerry Diamond: So in case you're like, "What the hell are you two talking about," the original Shake Shack was a shack ... I mean, it was nicer than a shack, but it was in Madison Square Park and people would line up forever, and this was before there were Shake Shacks everywhere.
Carla Lalli Music: They still do. I was just in Madison Square Park a couple weeks ago, and killing time before a dinner and was like, "Yup, people are still lined up."
Kerry Diamond: So wait, you worked for Rocco?
Carla Lalli Music: I did, yeah.
Kerry Diamond: I missed that part of your bio.
Carla Lalli Music: I did.
Kerry Diamond: What was his place, Union ...
Carla Lalli Music: Union Pacific. I was a line cook there. That was my second line cook job, was at Union Pacific, and-
Kerry Diamond: Union Pacific was the, pardon my French everybody, but the shit back then.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, it was. I know.
Kerry Diamond: I was working at Harper's Bazaar and we went there all the time. It was the-
Carla Lalli Music: For like power meals?
Kerry Diamond: Dinner. I mean, it was the place, and you felt like everybody in New York was there.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah. I was in the kitchen.
Kerry Diamond: The food was amazing.
Carla Lalli Music: It was.
Kerry Diamond: You're like, "I was there."
Carla Lalli Music: Yup, and then I became the kitchen manager there. That was when I kind of transitioned from being a cook to more of an operations person and learning the business side of food costs and schedules and I did all the purchasing and receiving. So I think I really learned a lot about the business of restaurants, which was also the moment when I think I realized I was not interested any longer in having my own restaurant business, which had been my goal when I started cooking.
Kerry Diamond: The dream had died.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, it was like, "Whew, this is a terrible business," you know what I mean?
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. That's why I started Cherry Bombe.
Carla Lalli Music: Right.
Kerry Diamond: Because I had those restaurants with my boyfriend and I was like, "What the hell have I gotten myself into?"
Carla Lalli Music: It's real tough. Then I went to Shake Shack and I was like, "Oh, I see now how you could make money doing this," but in a fine dining atmosphere, it was like a totally different story. But I really did learn as the ... I was the person who ordered all of the food, I tracked our inventory, I made relationships with purveyors, I went to the farmers market, and when I was working on my book, I realized how much that had informed the way I thought about raw ingredients and how to buy things and what to look for and even though I was picking up a giant styrofoam box with a huge piece of tuna and making sure that it weighed what we were getting charged for, I think that's where I learned how to buy food in that way.
Carla Lalli Music: Restaurants work very similarly to the way I advise people to shop for food at home, which is like we would take a lot of care with fish, meat, produce, hand pick things, really haggle over that stuff, really make sure you were getting the best, and then all of the dry goods, the oils, the vinegars, the nuts, that just all came from one source, really, because it was like once you knew what kind of dairy you liked, it didn't matter. So yeah, it seems like a very different mindset, but it was actually ... it taught me so much.
Kerry Diamond: So wait, so you also worked for Martha Stewart.
Carla Lalli Music: I did, I worked at Everyday Food for two years, which was a job I got not expecting to get hired. I was teaching culinary management at the Institute for Culinary Education, and a friend of mine had a friend who had become the editor-in-chief at Everyday Food, and she was like, "She's looking for people. I think she's kind of interested in people who haven't worked in magazines," and I was like, "Well, that's great. I'll go over there." I was teaching culinary management, but at that time, a lot of my students were really curious about food media as a career, and I didn't have much to tell them, so I thought, "Well, at the very least, I'll have this probably what will be a series of funny stories about going through the HR process at Martha."
Kerry Diamond: And the joke was on you.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, kind of. It took months and months to get hired. I kept going ... I wouldn't hear anything, and then I'd go back in for the third interview and the fourth interview, but one of the funnier things about that was in the middle of that interviewing process, I became pregnant with my second child, and I had already interviewed a couple of times when I wasn't pregnant, and then I was pregnant, but it was like, it's nobody's business, right, but my own. So I just kept showing up for interviews, and by the final interview, I was like noticeably pregnant ... I thought I was playing it off, I was like, "I'm good." I was wearing like a flowy dress, and I was like, "I've got this," and on the subway ride to what ended up being the last interview, I was like, "I've got this, I'm just wearing a flowy dress, no big deal," and on the train, this woman got up and offered me her seat and I was like, "Ooh. I don't know." Yeah, so I took that job-
Kerry Diamond: But you got the job.
Carla Lalli Music: Yup, I got that job and then went on maternity leave and then came back, yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Wow.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: That's an awkward thing to navigate.
Carla Lalli Music: It was. It was pretty weird.
Kerry Diamond: They were cool about it?
Carla Lalli Music: But they were cool about it, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kerry Diamond: That's great. That's great. Is that magazine still around?
Carla Lalli Music: No, it turned in ... It went all digital. So I worked there for two years before coming to Bon Appétit, so I was-
Kerry Diamond: So just tell people what that ... For those who never saw it in print.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, Everyday Food was actually ... It was cool. It was digest sized, so like the size of Prevention magazine, if you've ever seen that in the supermarket checkout aisle, and it was really a recipe booklet. It was born out of a section in Martha Stewart Living where they had this weeknight dinner section, and it was such a popular section that they turned it into a spinoff magazine. It was great because it was very little, there were no features, there was no long form, it was really meant to just be a very solid packet of recipes every month, and it was a great entrance for me into food media, having worked in restaurants for a long time and done management and teaching and my ... Very right out of college I worked in book publishing, so I had a sense of how-
Kerry Diamond: God, you've done so many things.
Carla Lalli Music: ... copy comes together. Yeah, so one good thing about getting old, you're like, "Look at the things I've done!"
Kerry Diamond: But you're not that old. What did you study at Brown?
Carla Lalli Music: Modern culture and media.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. Did you know you wanted a career in food?
Carla Lalli Music: No, not at all.
Kerry Diamond: Okay.
Carla Lalli Music: It was the farthest thing from my mind.
Kerry Diamond: Because your mom was a big deal in food.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, my mom was a food writer, and a critic and a magazine editor and published a lot of people as a cookbook editor at Simon & Schuster, so my whole life, I grew up with someone who ... She was an amazing cook, she was a great writer, she was a great editor, but also when we would go out to restaurants, people knew who she was and so as a little kid, you'd go to restaurants and be like, "Please don't do the tasting menu. Please don't do ..." you know, and we would sit down and all I wanted in the world was like fettuccine Alfredo and ranch dressing. It was all I wanted, and then we would go to a restaurant and-
Kerry Diamond: You would've loved my family.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, the chef would ... The waiter would come over and be like, "The chef would love to cook for you tonight," and I'd be like, "Damn it!"
Kerry Diamond: Oh no. We were like, everyone would order chicken parmigiana or something.
Carla Lalli Music: Nice, yeah. Chicken parm with a side of pasta.
Kerry Diamond: Exactly.
Carla Lalli Music: That was my dream, but I was like asleep under the table.
Kerry Diamond: And God forbid there was butter and parsley on the pasta for my little brothers, they would just-
Carla Lalli Music: Any green-
Kerry Diamond: ... lose it.
Carla Lalli Music: ... my son says green things. "Can you remove the green things?" Can I tweezer off the chopped parsley? No, I cannot.
Kerry Diamond: So even though your mom had this amazing career in food-
Carla Lalli Music: Right.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, where was she a critic?
Carla Lalli Music: At New West in L.A.
Kerry Diamond: Oh wow.
Carla Lalli Music: Yup.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, that was a big deal, that magazine. I remember that.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, Clay Felker.
Kerry Diamond: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, I thought when I started as a line cook, I was like, "Well, I've really shown everybody." I got this like modern culture and media and worked in book publishing, but then I really was in the trenches as a line cook, felt like I had chosen a very difficult path.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. When was culinary school?
Carla Lalli Music: After. So I came out of college, I worked in publishing for a few years, and then I went to French Culinary Institute, which is now a different name.
Kerry Diamond: Right.
Carla Lalli Music: Right, International Culinary Center. Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: All right, and now you are here at BonAp, and you are just like, you're it right now.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, I just had eight years here.
Kerry Diamond: No!
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, eight years.
Kerry Diamond: Has Adam been here eight years? That being Adam Rapoport, the editor-in-chief.
Carla Lalli Music: He's been here like eight and a half.
Kerry Diamond: Wow.
Carla Lalli Music: So I started in August and I think it was around February, March. So yeah, there's a couple of 2011s left.
Kerry Diamond: And you all have transformed the magazine completely.
Carla Lalli Music: Thank you. Yeah, I feel like the magazine has transformed us in a lot of ways.
Kerry Diamond: How so?
Carla Lalli Music: I think it's just funny to look back, like when I started, we made a magazine every month. The website existed, but we weren't developing original content for the website. It was really more of the model of everything that we put in the magazine would migrate online and then people would go online to get that stuff sort of forevermore, more of a digital archive or collection, and there were some ... there were articles, but it wasn't what it is now. Sometimes I look back and I'm like, "What were we so stressed out about all the time?" Because we were just making a magazine every month, and now we have the print magazine, Healthyish, Basically, ba.com-
Kerry Diamond: Healthyish and Basically being?
Carla Lalli Music: Verticals, like under the brand. But they're really separate, they're their own brands, but it all comes out of the same test kitchen, the same more or less group of editors are sort of moving back and forth between print and digital.
Kerry Diamond: And the premise being what they sound like?
Carla Lalli Music: Yes. Yes.
Kerry Diamond: Healthyish is ...
Carla Lalli Music: Healthyish is right, exactly. Right. But the food editors who develop recipes for Healthyish also develop for the print magazine, for ba.com, so there's a lot of ... Everyone kind of has their special thing that they have ownership over, but we're also all contributing into each other's things all the time.
Kerry Diamond: Let's talk about the YouTube-
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: ... pivot, or whatever you want to call it.
Carla Lalli Music: Right, and that's been, we were not spending half of our time or more making videos.
Kerry Diamond: Right, and you did not set out to be a YouTube star.
Carla Lalli Music: No, it was not a job description, although when I worked at Everyday Food, I had the opportunity to audition for, because they had a show, Everyday Food, which was on PBS, and they kind of opened it up, there was a slot for hosts, and I did an audition when I was there, and then they didn't renew their deal and they stopped taping, so it didn't go anywhere and then I ended up here anyway.
Kerry Diamond: Did you have to audition for Martha?
Carla Lalli Music: She might've seen the clip. I don't know. But I didn't ... I got feedback and then I never saw what was recorded or anything. But no, when I started at Bon Appétit, I wasn't thinking ... I had never thought about YouTube in my life. But over the years, it was definitely something that you see it's happening and something I was very excited to be a part of and try, and I'm pretty extroverted, so I just thought ... It sounded fun to me, whereas I think for other people the idea of being on camera's like, "No thank you. I'm good." My sister is terrified of public speaking. It would be her nightmare, and some of the people that I work with are like, "Get that camera away from me." But I just felt like it would be fun, and it has been a lot of fun.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. So you essentially are teaching a whole new generation of people to cook. What goes through your mind when you're preparing, planning, all of that?
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, I've learned ... So I don't think we exactly knew what the audience would be at the beginning, so it was more about the recipes and the way that we love to talk about food, to try to make that as normal as possible. So when we first started recording segments or filming, no one really knew how to be, because we have, I think, these models in like Food Network or for me, it was like Great Chefs of the World, or watching other people on screen and when you start doing it, you're like, "Oh, should I emulate this more formal, more polished, different version?" the TV version of yourself. And it wasn't the right vibe, and it was really Adam who finally was like, "Guys, everyone, stop overthinking this. You guys all talk about this all day long. Just do what you normally do, but talk to them," and that was the best advice, because it was just sort of permission to completely be yourself.
Carla Lalli Music: That, I think, is what has connect ... Obviously, we all love talking about food and showing how to make food, but I think it's the fact that no one had an idea of what it should feel like, except it should just feel like what it already felt like. Do you know what I mean? And it's a group of people who had been working together already and were very familiar and comfortable with each other, so it wasn't like we all got put into like "Okay, you guys are cast in a show together. You're the this person and you're the that person, and play your people." We were just like, "I'm just going to do what I always do," and then the more you do it, the more comfortable it gets. But if I go on set somewhere else, I'm like, "What is happening?"
Kerry Diamond: Do you feel there's a niche you occupy with your videos?
Carla Lalli Music: I think people really like that we ... They like the personalities a lot. I think people feel like they're getting who everybody is, sort of as authentically as you can be, because of course, it's like a slightly turned up version of yourself, and I think one of the things I've gotten a lot of feedback on is that people love that we show the mistakes, that it doesn't feel ... They know that obviously someone is helping us prepare, and we talk about Rhoda, who's the culinary director who preps food for us and has swaps and all that stuff. They know that there's a behind the scenes, but we just don't-
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, they get to see how the sausage is made.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, we don't make it this seamless environment and also, if I burn something or overcook something or something gets too dark, we don't do it over. We just kind of like, "Okay, right. So that's what I was talking about. If you let it go too far, it's going to look like this," and what I've heard from people is that it has given them kind of more courage and to not freak out about mistakes. It's a younger audience than I ever thought. It's a much younger audience, for example, than-
Kerry Diamond: Well, it's YouTube.
Carla Lalli Music: ... the magazine. Right.
Kerry Diamond: That's why I asked about you're essentially teaching a younger generation how to cook, because anybody I know under a certain age, I mean, it's all about YouTube.
Carla Lalli Music: Right.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, it's incredible.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, my kids are, that's ... I'm like, "What are you watching?" "YouTube." That's not a show. But basically, they're just saying like, "I'm just watching TV."
Kerry Diamond: Right. Right.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: So your cookbook.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Let's talk about that. It came out in the spring.
Carla Lalli Music: Mm-hmm (affirmative), in March.
Kerry Diamond: And everybody's obsessed with it.
Carla Lalli Music: Oh, thank you.
Kerry Diamond: It's a beautiful cookbook.
Carla Lalli Music: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: I love that you have two different ... I mean, this is like cookbook nerd stuff, but you have two different types of paper.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: How did you talk your publisher into that?
Carla Lalli Music: Well, it was the designers that I used, this firm called Decade, and it was their idea from the beginning-
Kerry Diamond: They did a great job.
Carla Lalli Music: I know. We-
Kerry Diamond: So the beginning, if you're like, "What the hell is Kerry talking about?" The paper in the front is glossy and then it moves into sort of like a more matte kind of textural paper.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah. That was their idea to separate, because there's a very kind of clear ... There are three sections, the shopping and technique and then ... Well, really shopping and strategy, and then the cooking techniques, and then the full-blown recipes. So it was a really smart idea of theirs to make those feel different as you're paging through it. I loved how it came out, and we shot those sections really differently, where the technique section has those neat little grids and it's the same prop and the same surface and the same light, and so that separated also.
Kerry Diamond: The design is great.
Carla Lalli Music: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: I remember when we came out with the Cherry Bombe cookbook, there were a handful of recipes that bubbled up, and you're just like, "Oh my God, why is everyone making the pink-
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, what were the ones?
Kerry Diamond: It was the pink spaghetti from Elettra Wiedemann, where you cook the pasta and then you mix it with a raw beet puree and some ricotta, and it literally stains the spaghetti pink throughout the whole dish. Then there's some walnuts and some parmigiana and microplaned lemon peel.
Carla Lalli Music: See, when people really make it, it's because it's actually good.
Kerry Diamond: Right, right.
Carla Lalli Music: Right? Not just that it's pink.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I think the fact that it was pink helped.
Carla Lalli Music: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: Which of yours have bubbled up?
Carla Lalli Music: A lot of people made, weirdly there's a charred broccoli salad with cheese and almonds and for whatever reason, a lot of people made that. I was like, "Oh, people love broccoli. Who knew?" But what's been cool is seeing how it changes now because I've had a couple seasons, like it came out in March, which was the no season, and people were making a lot of the broccoli salad and now I'm seeing a lot more of the galettes and the lately people are making the ... There's like a baked, it's a summer-
Kerry Diamond: Oh, the caprese?
Carla Lalli Music: ... caprese.
Kerry Diamond: I want to make that.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, and it's baked.
Kerry Diamond: I flagged it last night.
Carla Lalli Music: And it's like a great-
Kerry Diamond: Tell everybody what this is.
Carla Lalli Music: So it's a baked pasta based on the flavors of caprese, so it has fresh tomatoes, mozzarella-
Kerry Diamond: The title in the book is Caprese Mac and Cheese.
Carla Lalli Music: Exactly.
Kerry Diamond: It doesn't get better than that.
Carla Lalli Music: And it came out really well. I had never seen ... or I'm sure ... this is the other thing. Everything I'm sure exists somewhere else, but I had never made kind of caprese mac and cheese before, and there was a lot of experimentation of like, "Oh, that worked." So that's fun to see people making that one. In the spring or end of the winter and early spring, a lot of people made the pasta e fagioli, which made a lot of sense, and I noticed even that it was a weekend, like I would get tagged on Saturdays and Sundays, which I was like, "Right, because you don't make pasta e fagioli, which takes like four hours, on a Tuesday night." So then you see these things, certain days of the week get action.
Kerry Diamond: That's so funny. Is there one recipe that had like a funny story or that stands out in your mind? For me, it was our ... We have a chocolate chip cookie recipe from Avery Ruzicka, and she's a baking genius. She's at Manresa Bread out in California, and when she sent over a chocolate chip cookie recipe, I was like ... I felt like she was kind of dissing us, because I was like, "Oh God, she sent us a chocolate chip cookie recipe." It is the world's best chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Carla Lalli Music: Amazing. Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: It's got, I think, wheat flour, only brown sugar, toasted walnut chunks, chocolate chunks.
Carla Lalli Music: Yum.
Kerry Diamond: I think the entire recipe only makes 10 cookies, and you shape them into hockey pucks.
Carla Lalli Music: Oh wow.
Kerry Diamond: You have to refrigerate them, cook them at like 350, 10 minutes, you have to turn the-
Carla Lalli Music: Baking sheet around?
Kerry Diamond: ... cookie sheet after five minutes, and then let them rest, and they really are the best chocolate chip cookie you'll ever have. But no one follows all the directions, so ...
Carla Lalli Music: Right. Yes.
Kerry Diamond: So there's that. But I just remember her sending over the recipe and my initial reaction to it.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, there were a couple of recipes that didn't make it, and those were the ones that have maybe funny stories, like there was a soup that I really love that's just very rustic, like lentil, kale, sausage soup that I love and I make all the time, and I have a certain seasoning that I like with the lentils and whatever, and on the day of the shoot, Susie Theodorou, who is like a legend, she was our food stylist and did an incredible job, and then that day, we were getting set up for that shot and I was looking at the soup and I was like, "Why does it look like ..." and then you're like, "Does it always look like that? Am I just like ... Am I just not looking at it critically because I've been making it for my family and it looks the way it looks, but now that I'm looking at it on set, all of the sudden, you're much more critical of it?"
Carla Lalli Music: So something doesn't look right, and then we realized that in having seven different dishes going at once, that her assistant had accidentally put four times as much water in the pot, so it got really weird and watered out and diluted and just a funny color, and I was like, "It just doesn't look ..." So in the end, we couldn't really make it look appetizing, and that was one of the few that we cut. But yeah, it was also the process of developing recipes at home, I really learned the personalities of my husband and my children, because my husband would be like ... I would make something and be like, "What do you think of this?" and he'd be like, "Ooh, are we having it for dinner? I like it. Are we having it for dinner? It's really good." My younger son would taste something and be like, "I don't care for the green things." You know? Every time, he would be like, "It's good-
Kerry Diamond: How old are they?
Carla Lalli Music: He's nine, his brother is 15. He'd be like, "It's good, it's just not my cup of tea," and I was like, "Okay, you're useless." And then it turns out, my 15-year-old was the most sensitive ... He was so sensitive about giving feedback, you wish every editor would be like this. You know what I mean? Always said something positive, really encouraging, and then only when like a followup he would actually say the real constructive criticism. But almost all the time, he would say what I was thinking or that I thought the weakness was in a dish, and then I was like, "You're good, kid."
Kerry Diamond: That kid's got a future.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: All right, so we put some ... We posted about you this morning on Instagram to ask people questions-
Carla Lalli Music: Nice. I saw that, there was a picture of me and Ina.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's such a good picture. Oh, let me ... You know what I want to ask? This is my probing question, everybody. Your apron selection.
Carla Lalli Music: Oh.
Kerry Diamond: Do you feel a lot of pressure when you're choosing which apron you're wearing? Because I love the parade of aprons in the BonAp test kitchen.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, I love the aprons and we all have our favorites. We used to just have everything in one communal pile, and now everyone has kind of like secreted their favorites into their own cupboards. But I have a couple favorites. I don't remember ... That day, I was wearing one that actually very atypically is just a half, like it's just from the waist down. That day with Ina. Somehow I was like, "She's going to wear blue," and I wore blue and she wore blue and I was like, "Hey."
Kerry Diamond: I notice a lot of Hedley & Bennett and a lot of Tilit.
Carla Lalli Music: Yup.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, Molly loves Tilit. I have these couple of linen ones from Alder & Co, which is a store in Portland that I think now is just online, and they're beautiful. It was one that I wore in the video with Natalie Portman, it's like a pinstripe one, and someone stole it. It went ... Let's just say it went missing, and I recently replaced it and got my ... I was like, "You know what? I deserve to replace these, and I'm getting two." So now I have a blue one and a peach one that I love.
Kerry Diamond: Who does the dishes in the BonAp test kitchen?
Carla Lalli Music: Sonia. Yup, Sonia is the test kitchen assistant. She is a ... when she is not there, it's like, that's the difference between a good day and a bad day, and that's how it's always been, every restaurant I ever worked in. The people who make everything happen are working in the back kitchen.
Kerry Diamond: We'll be right back after this quick break.
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Kerry Diamond: Back to my conversation with Carla Lalli Music.
Kerry Diamond: Okay, let's get to some of these questions from the Bombesquad. Ready?
Carla Lalli Music: Okay. Cool.
Kerry Diamond: What dish, either from your book or in general, seems intimidating to make but really isn't that scary?
Carla Lalli Music: Oh, probably ... I think most people are intimidated, if they're savory cooks, they're intimidated by dessert. So I devoted a section to the galette dough, because I really wanted people to feel comfortable and to feel like they had a method that they could lean into. Nothing's perfect the first time, but if you feel like you understand how something gets put together, then you'll make it again and again, and you get better and better. So I would encourage people to try it.
Kerry Diamond: Which cookbooks do you regularly go back to?
Carla Lalli Music: It's funny, I go back to not cookbooks, but the books by Elizabeth Schneider, who is a food historian. She wrote Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables and she wrote Vegetables from A to Z, I think is the title of the other one, and they're beautifully ... One is illustrated, the other is photographed, and they're encyclopedic and they really remind me about a craft of scholarliness about food and food knowledge that I respect so much and I feel like is diluted in the age of easy access to information, much of which is suspect.
Carla Lalli Music: So those I keep right by my desk, and I feel like it's really important, even though half of our work is digital first, to be sure that what you're saying is correct, and I say a lot of stuff when I'm doing my videos and I'm like, "That may or may not be true." You know what I mean? I'm saying it in an authoritative way, but when I'm writing or editing somebody else, it's like, those moments where you get to stop and be like, "Is that true?" And if it is, great, but I have learned so much by just looking stuff up.
Kerry Diamond: What would you cook for your friends and family on a perfect day?
Carla Lalli Music: Well, I had kind of a perfect day on Saturday, because I was in Montauk, which is one of my favorite places to be, and it's just such a perfect time of year and we did kind of live by the premise of Where Cooking Begins, which is we went shopping for dinner without having a plan of what we were going to get. There was really beautiful tuna, I was at Gosman's, which is a fish market out there, and they had really, really good looking ... They had a lot of really good looking things, but I kind of was like, "Okay, if we get the tuna ..." in my mind, I was like, "Tuna, fish tacos, a thing and a thing," and then I was like, "Let's just do a big niçoise kind of a thing, which is also a recipe I have in the book.
Carla Lalli Music: So I grilled the tuna and then we just got all the great looking vegetables and I made an aioli and it was kind of chilly that night and it was just such a delicious, really produce-heavy, and we ate so much, but somehow eating fish and tons of vegetables, that ... and even with a half a cup of aioli probably, I'm full, but it still feels light. It was really perfect.
Kerry Diamond: I thought you were going to say, "and a few bottles of rosé."
Carla Lalli Music: Well yeah, we were drinking wine, too.
Kerry Diamond: Let's see. Your best tips for getting into food writing? That's a tough one.
Carla Lalli Music: That is a really tough one. I think ... Oh, God. What a pain in the butt. People ask me this a lot, how to ... I think you have to literally never give up. There's a lot of people I follow online and just talk about keeping your standards high. It feels like, at least in the freelance market right now, demanding to be kind of paid for your work is hugely important, and then I would say ... No one taught me ... I didn't go to journalism school, and I learned how to write by having a good editor in Adam and just writing about what you care about and doing it a lot. It's awful, though. Writing is the worst. It's impossible.
Kerry Diamond: I like writing. I just don't have time to do it, that's the hard part for me.
Carla Lalli Music: I like it when I'm done. I'm one of those, who I'm like, "I will like it when I'm done," and the process-
Kerry Diamond: I love the process.
Carla Lalli Music: You do?
Kerry Diamond: I love writing, I love revising. But I just never have chunks of time where I can really dive into it.
Carla Lalli Music: Every time I sat down to write, for the book especially, less at work, which is much shorter form, I would fall asleep immediately. It was insane, it was like this crazy psychological block. So I would sit down and be all set up, husband would be like, "I'm going to get the kids out of here. You're going to have like four hours." I'd be like, "Amazing," and 30 minutes later, I would be asleep.
Kerry Diamond: Carla and Cherry Bombe have the same publisher, Clarkson Potter, so for all the Clarkson editors listening, hello. I submitted the first batch of recipes just to make sure I was-
Carla Lalli Music: On the right track?
Kerry Diamond: ... on the right track, and they were like, "Your head notes are about 10 times too long than what they need to be." I was like, "What?" And we had 100 different women in the cookbook, and I was like, "I have to tell their story. I have to explain why this recipe is important to them," and they were like, "Yeah, you need to-
Carla Lalli Music: Do it shorter.
Kerry Diamond: ... cut that pronto."
Carla Lalli Music: I thought it was going to go really fast, because that's what I do here all day, every day for years and years and years. I was like, "Oh man, I've been writing every head note that ran in the magazine and online for the whole time I've been here, basically." And I sat down to do my own book, I was like, "This is impossible.'
Kerry Diamond: I love writing recipes. I have a hard time editing other people's recipes and just trying to find the cracks in them-
Carla Lalli Music: Totally.
Kerry Diamond: ... the little things that just aren't explained properly. It can be fun, but when you get one that's a mess, oy. That's tough.
Carla Lalli Music: Really takes a lot of time.
Kerry Diamond: All right, back to everybody's questions. Plans for future cookbooks?
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, I'm writing my second cookbook.
Kerry Diamond: Yay!
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: When is it coming out?
Carla Lalli Music: In two years. So yeah, that's the other thing about writing a book. You're like, "See you in two years. Make sure you like it, because you're going to live with it for a long time."
Kerry Diamond: This is a good one. Do you ever get cooking fatigue?
Carla Lalli Music: I do, yeah, for sure.
Kerry Diamond: It's a real thing when you work in food.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah. I go through periods here where I'm developing more recipes or less, depending on just what I've taken on, and I find that when I'm developing a lot for the magazine and I'm really in the kitchen cooking, I have no desire to cook when I get home, and I think kind of going through the sort of starting another big project where you're like, it's so daunting, because I haven't really nailed down a TOC with all my recipes yet, it's really intimidating and can give you stage fright. So eating out, weirdly, really helps with cooking fatigue, I think. If you can't get on a plane to go somewhere else, go eat food that you don't normally make for yourself. I find that to be really inspiring, because there ... get you out of your own flavor.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, get out of your comfort zone. What are some of your regular places in the city?
Carla Lalli Music: Gosh, it changes all the time. I really love Marlow & Sons. We still go to Roman's a lot. We live in Fort Greene. I've been going to Kopitiam, which is Malaysian and it's ... I mean, talk about other ... it's just an anchovy riot. My younger son would be like, "No thank ..." you know, he would walk in and be like, "Goodbye," but I've gone there with my older son and he loves it. So yeah, I find it very delicious.
Kerry Diamond: Let's see what's next. Ooh, what are your deep, dark farmers market secrets? We know you love a farmers market.
Carla Lalli Music: I do love a farmers market. I think one of the best things to do is to try to walk through without buying anything and just see what's there, and pay attention to things at multiple stands. So don't buy the first strawberries that you see, because there might be two, three, four strawberries. You shall sample, you shall double back. That's hard, because I get excited and then I buy the first one and then I'm like, "Well, now I have all of the strawberries."
Kerry Diamond: I fall into the sort of like farmers market rapture and just buy way too much.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: So I've started doing like meal prep so that I don't have to throw away any of the produce.
Carla Lalli Music: I mean, this is the arc of excitement, dread, anxiety, and hard work that we put ourselves through every weekend.
Kerry Diamond: Do you find yourself over-buying at the farmers markets?
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, it's a terrible curse.
Kerry Diamond: What do you do?
Carla Lalli Music: I have like five melons at home right now because I got, I was at Balsam Farms, which is a favorite stand and they have really beautiful melons and they had honeydews, which I'm like, I basically call BS on honeydews except I know that they're so exceptional. They smelled amazing. Then they had the little tiny tennis ball size-
Kerry Diamond: Wait, why'd you call bullshit on ...
Carla Lalli Music: Well, honeydew is one of those melons that-
Kerry Diamond: That's it, it's yeah, it's in every fruit cup.
Carla Lalli Music: ... it's just in every bad fruit cup, yeah, and every bad hotel buffet. But when it's good, it's so good, and I have had plenty of watermelon already. When you can't carry it anymore is a good time to leave.
Kerry Diamond: And do you spread out your purchases so that you're supporting as many farms as you can?
Carla Lalli Music: I do. I try to, yeah. Exactly.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I do that, too.
Carla Lalli Music: And that's why it's good to kind of like see what's available and then come back around, so you like, "Okay, these guys both have greens and I want to shop from both of them, so I'm going to do half and half." You know?
Kerry Diamond: And bring small bills.
Carla Lalli Music: Small bills is key.
Kerry Diamond: That's another ... That's how you can tell a rookie from a-
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, exactly.
Kerry Diamond: ... major league player at the farmers market.
Carla Lalli Music: Don't squeeze the tomatoes. Everybody knows that though, right?
Kerry Diamond: All right, a few other things. You said something really interesting in the beginning when you were interviewing at Martha Stewart Everyday Food, you were pregnant and interviewing.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: And it just got me thinking, being a mom is so hard, whatever industry you're in, and especially being pregnant while interviewing. I don't know if you have any advice for any of the moms out there on how you've navigated ... I mean, you've had an amazing career.
Carla Lalli Music: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: And you do have kids. How have you kind of navigated it?
Carla Lalli Music: I think wanting to have a family was one of the reasons that I knew that being a line cook, for me, was going to be unsustainable. Having a partner who doesn't work in the food business also created an amount of balance when I think I really needed it. When our first son was young, I was at Shake Shack, so he was like two, three years old and my husband at that time had his own company and that created this ability for me to have ... I didn't really have control over the end of my day, but he had a ton of flexibility and that I think was how we got through that, because it was a lot of partnership involved in parenting.
Carla Lalli Music: I think that's been one thing that I'm really grateful for, is we've had ... there's been two of us. I spent a lot of time, especially when I had my first baby, thinking single moms ... I mean, it's the most incredible accomplishment I ... Even though I had a partner, I would sit and think about like, "What would I do if he wasn't here and there was this barf and then like what would we do?"
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I don't know how single moms do it.
Carla Lalli Music: For me, I always wanted to work, and I felt like I could and should. There were definitely times, especially with little kids, toddlers and you miss a lot of stuff, but I had to believe that there's payoff in the future, and my mom worked. I think that's a big thing for me, was for me, it was modeled by a two, both parents were working in our household and they had both worked from being teenagers, both of them worked their way through college and all the way through.
Carla Lalli Music: So it wasn't even really a question, but I have been lucky to end up in workplaces that were very supportive and encouraging of families, and at Bon Appétit, especially, when I started here, there were so many editors and coworkers who we all had kids, and being able to kind of get up when you need to leave and walk out the door without anybody giving you stinkeye is like, that's huge.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I mean, that's a gift.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: All right, we have a few more minutes, let's talk about the Fall Playbook, the new issue of Bon Appétit. It's a great one.
Carla Lalli Music: I love this issue, yeah.
Kerry Diamond: I was dying laughing at galettes as a lifestyle.
Carla Lalli Music: Uh-huh (affirmative). I love a galette because it covers up the fact that I actually am not good at crimping, and there's a lot of technical challenge to a pie that ... I'm an okay baker, but I'm not a great baker. So I can get really great results from being okay at this instead of like maybe underwhelming results from trying as hard as I can with a pie. So that is my embrace of galettes.
Kerry Diamond: What's an awesome thing to put in a fall galette?
Carla Lalli Music: Figs would be ... We were just talking about figs. If you can get them, use them.
Kerry Diamond: We're team fig all the way.
Carla Lalli Music: I love a fig, because they're savory and sweet. I also-
Kerry Diamond: And pretty.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: And the baked potato is back.
Carla Lalli Music: Love a baked potato. I feel like baked potato was a huge thing when I was a kid.
Kerry Diamond: Same.
Carla Lalli Music: We had them at least once a week.
Kerry Diamond: Weren't there like chains ... Weren't there chains that sold baked potatoes-
Carla Lalli Music: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: ... and you could get it like stuffed with everything?
Carla Lalli Music: Go to the baked potato bar.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah.
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, like broccoli and cheddar, what? You know?
Kerry Diamond: So that's back.
Carla Lalli Music: But that was my favorite, I would sort of save my baked potato to the end of the ... You know, it was your basic carb side, but I would save it until the end and just like the butter, the black pepper, so much salt.
Kerry Diamond: What should we be stuffing in our baked potatoes today?
Carla Lalli Music: For me, it's still that. It's like, I want-
Kerry Diamond: The basics.
Carla Lalli Music: I want butter, a lot of black pepper, salt. Sometimes butter and sour cream. I know it sounds insane, but if you're going to go for it.
Kerry Diamond: You be you, Carla Lalli Music.
Carla Lalli Music: It's plant based. It's fine. Except for the dairy. Whatever.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I was going to say, I don't know if sour cream and butter are plant based. All right, let's switch over to the speed round.
Carla Lalli Music: Okay, cool.
Kerry Diamond: Song that makes you smile?
Carla Lalli Music: Oh my God. I think it's Cheese, Glorious Cheese, the commercial jingle. I think every time I see a piece of cheese, I sing, "Cheese, glorious cheese," to myself.
Kerry Diamond: You are the first to ever give us that answer, so congratulations. A cookbook at home that you just adore? It doesn't have to be your favorite, but just one that you really love.
Carla Lalli Music: I have the original River Cottage that has the pink metallic cover on it, and I bought it when I was a cook and I love looking ... the recipes are ridiculous. The ingredients are out of order, there's no salt and pepper but it calls for it, it doesn't matter. It's like, it transports you.
Kerry Diamond: Favorite kitchen tool?
Carla Lalli Music: Wooden spoon. Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Something you would never eat?
Carla Lalli Music: Calves brain.
Kerry Diamond: Dream vacation destination?
Carla Lalli Music: I have been to San Sebastián once, and I really want to go back, and I have never been to Argentina, and that would be a place to go.
Kerry Diamond: Oldest thing in your fridge?
Carla Lalli Music: Oh, there's got to be many years old mustard in there. No question about it.
Kerry Diamond: And if you had to be trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be?
Carla Lalli Music: Can I be with Julia?
Kerry Diamond: Sure.
Carla Lalli Music: Okay, good. Julia Child. We have the same birthday.
Kerry Diamond: You do?
Carla Lalli Music: Yeah, me, Julia Child, Napoleon. August 15th. I'm very energized by the Julia Child/Napoleon combo. I just think it is right on.
Kerry Diamond: Oh my God. Well, happy belated birthday.
Carla Lalli Music: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: So Carla, thank you so much. You are dynamite.
Carla Lalli Music: It was a pleasure. Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: It's just awesome to see how you're inspiring everybody to cook and be more comfortable in the kitchen.
Carla Lalli Music: Thank you so much.
Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to Carla Lalli Music for sitting down with me. Be sure to check out her cookbook, Where Cooking Begins, at your local bookstore. If you love all things Bon Appétit, you can check out the Bon Appétit Hot 10 Party on October 19th at Industry City in Brooklyn. Carla will be there along with other peeps from BA. Visit bahot10.com for tickets.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you to today's sponsors, Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Schools and Emmi cheeses from Switzerland. Radio Cherry Bombe is a production of Cherry Bombe Media. Our show is edited, engineered, and produced by Jess Zeidman. Cherry Bombe is powered by Lauren Goldstein, Audrey Payne, Kia Damon, Donna Yen, and Maria Sanchez, and our publisher is Kate Miller-Spencer. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Thanks for listening, everybody. You are the bombe.
When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.
Ali Banks: Hi, my name is Ali Banks, and I'm the culinary director at Chopt Creative Salad Company. Do you want to know who I think is the Bombe? Nancy Easton, the co-founder and executive director at Wellness in the Schools, because Nancy teaches kids healthy eating habits to learn and live better. WITS, who Chopt is proud to have been partnering with for over 10 years, is deeply passionate about providing kids in public schools with nutrition and fitness education, healthy scratch-cooked meals, and active recess periods.