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Wanderlust Transcript

 “The Wanderlust Episode” Transcript

Barbara Lynch: Hi, this is Barbara Lynch and you're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe because you know what? You're the bombe.

Kerry Diamond: Hi, Bombesquad. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the number one female focused food podcast in the universe. I'm your host Kerry Diamond. I'm sure a lot of you are traveling this week. I am. I'm headed to Indianapolis. We thought it would be fun to have a show dedicated to food and travel. Our culinary director, chef Kia Damon sat down with two cookbook authors whose beautiful new books gave us a serious case of wanderlust. First Kia chats with chef Whitney Otawka about her book, The Saltwater Table and the fresh food and perspective that comes with cooking in the tropical South of the United States.

Kerry Diamond: In the second half of the show, Kia sits down with Meredith Erickson about her new book, Alpine Cooking. After years of co-authoring cookbooks, this is Meredith's first solo cookbook and it's filled with delicious recipes and gorgeous photography. Thank you to our sponsors, Le Cordon Bleu culinary schools and Emmi cheese from Switzerland. You folks are the bombe. Thank you for supporting Radio Cherry Bombe.

Kerry Diamond: Before we get to today's episode, let's do some housekeeping. Philly Bombesquad, we will be at Triple Bottom Brewing on Monday, December 2nd for the last stop on the food for thought tour. Wow. I can't believe it's the very last stop. The event will be from 6:00 to 8:30 PM and will feature insightful talks, a panel discussion, delicious snacks and drinks and networking. Tickets are $30 and available on Thank you to our friends at Kerrygold for supporting our tour.

Kerry Diamond: What else? Issue 14 our very first fashion issue is out now. We have five incredible cover stories, which means that we have five amazing cover stories as well as lots of great interviews, recipes, photos, you name it. You can get a copy or subscribe at Also keep an eye on our website and on your email. If you subscribe to our emails, there might be some special sales coming this weekend because that's right. It's Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Before we get to today's show, let's hear a word from our pals at Emmi cheese 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 Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOP with notes of hazelnuts, black tea and dried stone fruit. Emmi Kaltbach Le Gruyère is the perfect addition to any cheeseboard or if you want to get more creative you can do what chef Elizabeth Falkner does and make a creamy farro with Emmi Kaltbach Le Gruyère fondue sauce. This wintry recipe combines fresh time parsnips and farro in a creamy béchamel fondue made with Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOP. It's the perfect dish for when the weather gets colder and all you want is something cheesy and delicious.

Kerry Diamond: Looking for something on the sweeter side. How about chef Elizabeth's milk chocolate and Kaltbach Le Gruyère cheese souffle with caramel sauce with milk chocolate, dark chocolate and Kaltbach Le Gruyère in both the souffle and the sauce. It's an unforgettable dessert that will surely bring something new to your table. You can find these recipes and more at 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: Here's Kia Damon with chef Whitney Otawka.

Kia Damon: Let's go back to the beginning and could you let us know about your interest in food? Were you always interested in food?

Whitney Otawka: It wasn't necessarily something I knew I wanted to do professionally. It wasn't something that was presented to me early in my youth as an option. I often say I didn't really know what a chef was when I was young. I grew up in a pretty small town. There wasn't Michelin star restaurants. My family didn't have money to go to fancy restaurants in LA which would have been a two hour drive for us out of the desert. I lived in the Mojave Desert, California, but I had an awareness of food. I made interesting culinary choices early on. I was a vegetarian when I was 12 at a time when nobody around me was.

Kia Damon: Okay.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah, I was the weird kid.

Kia Damon: What were you eating... I mean the rest of your family wasn't vegetarian as well.

Whitney Otawka: Well, my mother called me a cheesetarian at the time because I was pretty much cheese.

Kia Damon: Like string cheese.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah.

Kia Damon: Hahaha

Whitney Otawka: You know, I was just very like aware of the foods I was eating and my choices. I would say that my mother was a good cook and she cooked from scratch and we did have some family recipes. My father's side of the family is Eastern European, so there were some of those family dishes but that presented to me that I still favor to this day like cabbage rolls and things like that.

Kia Damon: Yes. Cabbage was also good.

Whitney Otawka: ...but it really was my move to the Bay Area that... I mean obviously if you move to the Bay Area you are exposed to amazing food. I went to UC Berkeley and I kind of fell into working at a little restaurant there and that really was the beginning for me.

Kia Damon: Around how old are you, I guess would you say? So you went to UC Berkeley. Was at like college age, I guess?

Whitney Otawka: Yeah, I moved there when I was 17, right out of high school. I found this posting in the French department at UC Berkeley for a waitress at a little traditional crêperie in Downtown Oakland, which was only like four blocks from where I was living at the time and I went in there, tried to apply for the waitressing job and the owner, Eric Laroy could see right through the fact that I had no waitressing experience and he instead put me in the kitchen.

Kia Damon: Wow.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah.

Kia Damon: I had a complete opposite effect. I was trying to get into the kitchen a lot and they were just like, why don't you go be a hostess?

Whitney Otawka: Oh, yeah. It's funny because later in my career I encountered that a lot more. The first time I walked into Five & Ten they were like, "Oh, we're not hiring waitresses right now." And I said, "Oh, I'm applying for a cook's position. Thank you very much."

Kia Damon: Make sure... I love it. Just, yes, my god, I'm here with my knife roll...

Whitney Otawka: I know. It's like, come on now.

Kia Damon: I love it. I love it. What would you say, I guess attracted you to your career of being a chef?

Whitney Otawka: You know, it's one of those things I always say I was naturally good at. I would love the multitasking. I loved the research. On the deepest end of it I loved that you're always learning something and I originally was going to school to be an archeologist and I really relate sort of anthropology and archeology to what I still do today. You know? It's like my love is to travel and to eat and to experience places. Nothing can be more in depth than sharing a meal with someone to begin to understand their culture.

Whitney Otawka: There's really that relation for me, but it goes back to that first restaurant really. That was the place that shaped me. We would sit down every night, Eric Laroy and I, the owner, it was just the two of us in the kitchen, but he would make dinner each night. Anything I wanted from the menu, it was just free. It's just the way he operated and we would talk about food and to sit and talk about food every day for a year and a half. Definitely begins to change and shape your perspective.

Kia Damon: Yeah maybe that actually into this all of a sudden.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah, and so being good at working in restaurants is not always a blessing.

Kia Damon: Yeah. Okay. It's like once they realize that you're good at this one thing and then it feels good to be good at it, so then it's like, we'll put you on this, we'll put you on this and then you're like knee deep in like on the grill with a full blow culinary career by accident.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah, exactly.

Kia Damon: Like how did I end up?

Whitney Otawka: Yeah, it happens that way.

Kia Damon: Well, I mean it looks like a really happy accident. Would you say?

Whitney Otawka: Oh yeah. I mean, I'm obsessed with food and sometimes when I get overwhelmed or busy and I'm thinking about, "Oh, I've got this menu to write in this event." I'm like, "Oh, but what I'm doing is writing menus and thinking about food all day and how lucky am I to get to do that."

Kia Damon: I love that. I love that there's always... I mean, I was in a restaurant in an executive chef before moving over and sometimes it does... the work gets rough, and it feels so good when you're just like, oh I have to go to this event, I have to go to this one and I have to do this and now I have to go through this dinner at this thing and then you're just like, yes I am going to this event and this event and I am writing and it's just this feeling of deep gratitude for your life and I feel like practicing gratitude is a good way to find the balance because it's tough work. It's still difficult and I'm like maybe I should be a hostess instead.

Whitney Otawka: They go home earlier than me...

Kia Damon: I'm like, may be I should. What's something that you've learned from chef life so far that you, I guess put into your everyday life as well?

Whitney Otawka: I mean there's so much. I mean I've been so immersed in this culture and this career for so long. There's so many things, it's shaped me in so many ways. Like from the basic thing, like every task I do, I have a list I work off of. Like every time I'm busy it's like I circle my task. I cross it off, I've done my task.

Kia Damon: Wow, we are... I feel like we're meant to be. I have my notebook and my tasks and I'm like, yes, scratch, scratch, circle, scratch, sub, sub, notes, scratch, scratch. Yeah, absolutely.

Whitney Otawka: And I think also multitasking, it's like you have to be aware of so many moving parts in a kitchen all the time from the people to what's on the stove, to what's happening tomorrow, to the event a week from now, to an email in your inbox. I think once you get into that rhythm, I think a lot of things are a little bit easier to handle. Some things you come across in life, people will be like, oh, it's going to be a lot of work and I'll be like, yeah, I'm a chef.

Kia Damon: I love... your whole life is just mic drop. It's just like, yeah, I'm a chef. Like it does give you that extra edge because you just, you begin to... I won't say compartmentalizing, but you start to section things off and you see things like a kitchen like, okay, you know what? You need to do this because that's more effective. You need to do this. I'm going to do this. Stop doing this now. We're going to jump on this, and then scratch this, this is quicker. Let that braise and just going through it.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah.

Kia Damon: Wow. I love that. You just published your first cookbook, The Saltwater Table. Please tell us about this gorgeous- For the people listening, I mean, get the book obviously, but there's a beautiful picture on the front and it looks like a shrimp oil?

Whitney Otawka: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It's a low country boil.

Kia Damon: A low country boil. I'm just like, this is amazing. Please tell us about this book.

Whitney Otawka: Sure so I mean, I have to dive a little bit into sort of where I live...

Kia Damon: Let's go.

Whitney Otawka: ...if that works for you.

Kia Damon: Absolutely.

Whitney Otawka: I live on Cumberland Island and I runned the culinary program at the Greyfield Inn.

Kia Damon: For the listeners, where would you describe the location of the island?

Whitney Otawka: Sure. The southern most island off the Georgia coast.

Kia Damon: Wow.

Whitney Otawka: It borders along Florida, we're a semi-tropical climate zone. It's only accessible by boat or plane and by plane I mean private plane because there's nowhere to land a plane really unless you're... it's like a bush plane basically. You have to land there. It's this really amazing national seashore, very isolated and there's one very old home, the Greyfield Inn like I mentioned. It's about 120 years old, the building itself, but the inn has been running since the '60s.

Whitney Otawka: I've been running this program, I've run it two different times in my life in this pastime I've been here on the island about five years, very close to me and near and dear to my heart. It was my first executive chef job and it's this amazing unique location. A lot of people along the way have been like, you should write a cookbook about it, and I'm like, oh, no.

Kia Damon: To go back, you said this was your second time?

Whitney Otawka: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Kia Damon: Because the first time you did it and then you went to...

Whitney Otawka: I was on Top Chef.

Kia Damon: Yes.

Whitney Otawka: After I filmed Top Chef, I left and the inn itself was sort of an evolutionary point also. It didn't have the garden that it has now so we have a garden that supplies the majority of our food. It was a smaller kitchen staff. It was a business that was growing and I had been on Top Chef and it was like, wow, I'm in a place a lot of people can't get to my cooking. Like how do I get out in the world, and so I left, someone offered me a restaurant opportunity back in Athens, Georgia, which I took and it's a whole another story that we can get into, but I close two restaurants before going back to Greyfield, which was heartbreaking and incredibly challenging and so many different learning experiences there.

Whitney Otawka: I went back to Cumberland because I didn't really achieve what I wanted to the first time. I went there because I thought it was a unique place to build something special. I thought it had a interesting voice to present in the landscape of Southern cooking, which is not just one identity. It's so many voices-

Kia Damon: So many.

Whitney Otawka: ...and cultures and so many things, right. I was like, this place is just so unique and so special. I need to go back and do what I didn't do. I was also, like I've said before, a wounded animal coming from a closed restaurants, right, and just so many, just like experiences.

Kia Damon: You just kind of come back and you're just like, who I love here and I was feeling like, yeah, and then you like... life roughs you up a bit and you come back and you're like, all right, I'm humble. I'm opened up. There's a lot of stuff that I do not know. What can we do now and I think that second time around, did you feel like, all right, this time it's really going to happen or like you're really going to get what you need from this experience.

Whitney Otawka: It was more like a homecoming. It's more like if you lived in a small town and you ran away from it and then you go back and think there's something special about this place that I love. It was like, I need to go back and do this thing. It's like, it was a really just... it was about returning to create something I didn't fully accomplish. In this amazing time that I'd been back, this book just like... I was like, oh no. I know I'm going to write a book one day, but if it's not... I'm not going to write a book yet and then one day it just like I saw the book. It's just like a weird experience for me anyway. It was just, I literally was on the boat, the Lucy Ferguson going to the island. It was like a... it was a rather cool day for June. It was kind of misty and rainy. You know how the weather is in Florida.

Kia Damon: It's funny. Yes, for the listeners. I am a Floridian, so I'm really loving this because I'm just like, yes, yes. I know.

Whitney Otawka: The weather is a personality in Florida. The weather is a force that is not to be reckoned with and when it rains and when it's hot, it's not just hot. It is hot.

Kia Damon: It is hot. Like H-A-U-T. Hot.

Whitney Otawka: The storms are the most beautiful, just magnificent things. Anyway, so it was one of those rainy days in June where it was just really beautiful and I just saw the book and Ben who I work with, my husband, I was like, oh I know the chapters of the book and I wrote the chapters, which are still the current chapters. I was like, it's divided by the ecology of the place.

Kia Damon: I wanted to ask you about that. When we talk about growing seasons and all of that, when I try to explain to people that Florida or just that general area. The seasons are... it's different and that sometimes I don't have the language for and what was so exciting looking through your book and reading everything, it's just like you... I feel like you found the language for how the seasons work. Could you let the listeners know about that.

Whitney Otawka: Sure. Yeah. Well, to speak on that, first is to say that if you live in a region like this, it's just like you are controlled by the weather, the tides, the course of nature especially in such a remote place, nature plays a part in everyday life. It became pretty clear to me that what the chapters of the book where they run in... there's five different chapters for me. It's oyster season, vegetable season, shrimp season, heat season and smoke and cedar. Vegetable season for me is the most prolific growing time for us and that runs from about March all the way to even June.

Whitney Otawka: A lot of these seasons kind of lead together to... they're not defined by months always. Heat season is a time of year when it's so hot you can't grow anything. I mean there's a point in August where tomatoes won't grow because it's so hot for us. We get peppers, we get okra, even the eggplant sometimes is struggling.

Kia Damon: The eggplant is like I can't.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah, but then we get like a second bump of like tomatoes like... so smoke and cedar is sort of the end of the book and that's more of a season for sort of like gathering outside again and preservation and building fires and enjoying that climate and oyster and shrimp season both speak to sort of really two big important industries that were in that region, so oyster... a lot of the old roads in the area were built out of oyster shells. The old houses, the tabby houses were built from oyster shells and then shrimp season, Amelia Island, Florida is sort of known as the home of modern day shrimping industry. Those shrimp boats that you kind of see all along the coasts was the blessing of the fleets. It's just a big part of why that area developed the way it did.

Kia Damon: I love it. I'm just like starry-eyed, like listening to that because I feel so deeply about Florida and about the South and being from Florida people don't categorize that as the South but I think something really great in your book is that you also just like... I think I read that you said that mangoes are just as much as part of the South as collard greens and I was like, yes. I was like that absolutely it's true because there's so much happening in that air. There's so much Caribbean influence as well and with the citrus and all of that, I'm a stand. I'm standing. You're also from the Mojave Desert?

Whitney Otawka: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kia Damon: How much of your California roots helped you conceptualize this book? Because some of the recipes also seemed like on the lighter side, brighter side, leafier side. How much of that was like California and then how much of it was just you diving into this new world and this new culture?

Whitney Otawka: I mean, there's always going to be that part of me that's looking for a balance in the way that I cook, in the way that I feed people because I do want people to feel good when they walk away from a meal. If I just saturate everything with butter and fat it's not always the best way to, you know...

Kia Damon: Right, it's good but you know, I'm like uh-huh.

Whitney Otawka: I didn't grow up cooking very traditional Southern foods in my household. I am married to someone from the South who grew up in a very small Southern town and had very firmly rooted traditions. We're still now, if you go to his grandmother's house, it's like, where's cornbread? You can't have a meal without cornbread.

Kia Damon: Where's the cornbread?

Whitney Otawka: It's sort of like, okay, somebody make cornbread.

Kia Damon: Someone please make cornbread. It's an emergency.

Whitney Otawka: But naturally it's sort of like... and I say this in the book too, there's a part of my California upbringing and my love of vegetables and my use of olive oil and you know, there's certain sauces in there like the guajillo chili sauce that's served with a pumpkin that clearly shows, I mean I have a deep love of Mexican cooking. It's something I grew up around but when you look at the flavors of a place like Florida, they are interestingly a little bit lighter sometimes, with those acidic marinades and things like that and the ceviches and the pumpkins and the squashes that come into play. There's so many different flavor profiles from this region and how I cook that I think I'll get translated into what I end up calling the tropical South.

Kia Damon: I like that.

Whitney Otawka: I think it's interesting what you're saying too about how Florida doesn't always get tied into the narrative of Southern cuisine and I just... drives me crazy sometimes.

Kia Damon: It is infuriating, I'm going like full Florida woman. Like I'm mad. I'm mad, I'm shaking the tables, I'm in distress cause I'm like why are you leaving us out of the conversation?

Whitney Otawka: So much beauty and I think I say it too, it's like so important to include so many of the cultures that are influencing that. Like let's bring it into the story. Let's bring those Caribbean flavors into our story. Like you see that more I think now when you look at the cooking in Louisiana, a lot of people talking about the Caribbean influence there, but I think it's really infiltrated a lot of part of the Southern cooking, so.

Kia Damon: Absolutely. There's so much more conversation to be had, which is something that fuels a lot of my research and just going really, really deep because I mean with just the history of America in general, lots of things have come in and out of all of these spaces and whether you know, settle down and merge with other things and I'm just like, I feel like it's such a disservice to the culinary world and our realm and all that, that not a lot of people are seeing that space for what it is, which is why I'm so excited. That's why just the name alone, The Salt Water Table is like yes, let's talk about it. Let's talk about it. How many of these recipes are similar to what you serve? The Greyfield like is it completely different or what could we expect?

Whitney Otawka: There are some similarities, but there are some differences because the book is designed to be utilized at home.

Kia Damon: Got it.

Whitney Otawka: It wasn't like I was trying to throw in some of our more technical-

Kia Damon: Right, recipes of the Greyfield.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah, exactly. Because it's more than that too. It's about the region. It's not a cookbook that's about Greyfield and cooking, but there are a lot of things that we do. I mean, we serve three meals a day, so inevitably we're working through some very particular dishes like the breakfast, like we have Ben's biscuits in there and Ben taught me how to make biscuits and they're beautiful and perfect and-

Kia Damon: They are beautiful and perfect. I was looking, I was like, okay, layers.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah. I mean he was a pastry chef and a baker before he started... we both run the kitchen together. He is very meticulous. Like he loves Martha Stewart and he loves to like make the perfect crest, that's like perfect. He's just amazing.

Kia Damon: How is that, just as a side note, you all like working together and living on this 50 person island.

Whitney Otawka: For us, it's awesome.

Kia Damon: Awesome.

Whitney Otawka: For most people, I don't know.

Kia Damon: I honestly, I wonder sometimes because you hear horror stories of course because I mean it's high intensity work, but I mean, I don't want to assume, but I imagine that just the peacefulness and the seclusion of that island maybe it's just like, maybe it's not like as high intensity stress I imagine as it would be like here on the corner of this and that in Manhattan where it's just like really intense.

Whitney Otawka: I think it's interesting for us, the one problem we have is we're always chefs essentially because when we get home we're still talking about menus and there's those people that are like, oh, we have a rule. We don't talk about it when we get home but that doesn't-

Kia Damon: You're just like, we're in bed and we're like babe so-

Whitney Otawka: I know and it's like even like talking about what's for dinner that night, it's like we end up about food all the time.

Kia Damon: I love that.

Whitney Otawka: I mean we definitely... there's still stress involved, but it's been... we've worked together for 12 years. We've dated for 10 and been married for four.

Kia Damon: Where did you meet?

Whitney Otawka: At Five and Ten

Kia Damon: At Five and Ten.

Whitney Otawka: He was the pastry chef and I was a prep cook when I started there. We would be like the only two people in the kitchen and he's younger than me and he's from the small town in the South and I was from California and I was like, who are you?

Kia Damon: Who are you? I love it.

Whitney Otawka: But we're just like best friends, so we love it. I mean, and you know, it's... when you're a chef, how much time do you have for a personal life?

Kia Damon: Listen, I have like seen lots of things in my life like die and just the relationship, spiritual, emotional sense and all that because this work is very draining and the spaces that we're in don't really lend to the need to take care of yourself, so then when you really have anything left for yourself and then you try to give to the next out of love, like then the love falls short sometimes because you just don't have it. I think it's like a lovely and beautiful and encouraging to like see that you have that for yourself. What was your favorite recipe to test?

Whitney Otawka: Oh, well, I mean-

Kia Damon: Or do you have any testing horror stories?

Whitney Otawka: No testing horror stories, thankfully.

Kia Damon: Oh, perfect.

Whitney Otawka: Thankfully, because some of them are like tried and true. I mean the biscuit, going back to the biscuit, it was an interesting challenge along the way because originally I wouldn't make biscuits because Ben made such perfect biscuits. I used to say I had no need to learn them, but then when I decided to start learning them, I became competitive. I thought-

Kia Damon: I love it. What's your sign?

Whitney Otawka: do I make them more... Scorpio.

Kia Damon: Wow. Oh wow. I love it. I love it.

Whitney Otawka: I was like, how do I make them more fluffy? How do I like-

Kia Damon: How do I destroy you at this thing that you are good at?

Whitney Otawka: But it's like it's his recipe, but like it's sort of what they say about women are better at like making pasta and doughs because of the gentle strength to us, right. The way that our hands work with those and things are a little bit different and so I always say like, oh, it translates to biscuits too, gentle strengths and I can-

Kia Damon: Yeah, gentle strength. Oh my God, I love it. I love it. What is your favorite coastal Southern ingredient? Because I imagine there's different stuff like red sea beans. I saw that... I was like what?

Whitney Otawka: Oh yeah, sea red beans.

Kia Damon: ...there's so much I don't have access to.

Whitney Otawka: I mean I love everything that Anson Mills makes. I mean their rice, just a part of their rice is so aromatic. It perfumes your house with this like beautiful sort of like toasting nutty smell and like you can just eat that with butter and it's so satisfying.

Kia Damon: I look at you say that because a lot of people, when I think about like, talk about putting butter in the rice, they're like, what? And I'm like, yeah, I'm like I don't do that and they're like, no and I'm like, yeah, me neither. I don't know what you're talking about.

Whitney Otawka: Listen, I tried to be healthy but-

Kia Damon: Somebody please put butter in this rice asap.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah, I mean I also love butter. I love what they're producing and that the heirloom grains and stuff. Produce wise, I mean as far as like... it bleeds over into other regions of the South too but I'm an eggplant lover. I love the tomatoes we grow in the South, I think they're some of the best, I mean okra is really one of my favorite like producer items.

Kia Damon: You just go out and just like take it right off the stock and just eat it. So good.

Whitney Otawka: It's so good.

Kia Damon: So good.

Whitney Otawka: It's so delicious.

Kia Damon: And then you get like the ants on them trying to tear them up as well because the ants also know like this stuff is delicious.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah. People that are like, oh I don't like okra. I'm like, you just haven't had it done for you well.

Kia Damon: Wow. Whitney, we are connected. We are connected. Every time someone tells me I don't like, okra. I don't like beets. I don't... I'm just like, because you haven't had it prepared the same way because I guarantee you this is the best thing you've ever tasted in your life and then you give it to them they're just like, I don't want to eat anything else and I'm like-

Whitney Otawka: Yes.

Kia Damon: Yes, of course. The South is the best place.

Whitney Otawka: You don't not like that thing. You just don't like the way it was prepared for you last time.

Kia Damon: Right, and then they're like I had it and it was slimy when I was like, I got this, okay.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah we can help you

Kia Damon: I was like it's okay. Along with the inspiration from just where you live in this beautiful island, are there any chefs or people in your life that also pushed you forward with this book and with your career and your cuisine?

Whitney Otawka: Well, yeah. I mean there's so many chefs that I've followed along the way, whether they know me or not.

Kia Damon: Anybody in particular?

Whitney Otawka: I mean... it's so many different levels. I mean, okay. I worked for Hugh Acheson and Linton Hopkins who both gave me some foundation, right, in the cuisine. I always admired Anne Quatrano from a distance. I love everything she does. I mean, anytime I throw an event I'm like, what would Anne Quatrano do? Because she knows how to set a table like nobody else. And then there's so many amazing chefs in my region. Of course, those are ones I had more close contact with.

Whitney Otawka: I deeply admire Jacques Pépin. I had the opportunity to cook for him about three years ago on the island and I met him and it was just one of the most important meals I've ever cooked in my life because he's really one of the people that has carved a path for us. I have a lot of respect for the people that have like taken on these roles in kitchen. Now it's a glorious job to be a chef and it's allotted but so much hard work has gone into it. The people, the history that have developed these recipes and anyway, Jacques Pépin is just one of the most admirable people, the sweetest, nicest man. He was very kind to offer an endorsement for the book and I just... I can email him and I just... you don't have access to legends very often.

Kia Damon: Yeah, you don't really have access to legends.

Whitney Otawka: No that I'm emailing him.

Kia Damon: No you right.

Whitney Otawka: ...regularly but I really appreciate the way he's been open to communication with me and, yeah.

Kia Damon: Wow, that's beautiful.

Whitney Otawka: It is.

Kia Damon: ...that support is so necessary. Wow, it seems like you are really loved by your community and your island and even here, like this is very... I mean I've only just met you. Everyone we just met, but I can just like feel the love that you have for this place. If anyone needed an intro to Southern cooking, what recipe would you suggest they tackle first?

Whitney Otawka: Is it from the book or?

Kia Damon: Yes.

Whitney Otawka: In the book, I guess I would point them to... I think some of the fun, interesting cultural recipes are things like the lowcountry boil and the oyster roast kind of building a fire and throwing oysters down over open fire. There's something really beautiful about that. I never really come across oyster roast as much anywhere else as I do in the South. You know, the Carolinas, South Carolina reveres it, oyster roast.

Kia Damon: Yes, absolutely.

Whitney Otawka: It's a social engagement.

Kia Damon: Honestly everyone, there's just a joy in the South when it comes to eating and-

Whitney Otawka: Oh, yeah.

Kia Damon: I feel like people see Southern cooking and see the way that we celebrate each other in our spaces over food and sometimes it's like either super casual or sometimes it's a bit hottie tottie.

Whitney Otawka: Yeah, a lot of the times.

Kia Damon: But you know, a lot of old times. A bit more of aristocratic and all of that, but there's just so much joy and a lot of the like farm to table or like family style that people are like talking about and achieving too. It's like that's in the South. That's what we do. That's the only thing we know how to do no matter the occasion. I feel like people should show us some respect and you absolutely have done us justice.

Whitney Otawka: Thank you so much.

Kia Damon: Thank you so very much.

Whitney Otawka: I really appreciate that.

Kia Damon: Thank you. This was such a great conversation. I've always been excited to do this. Let's hit this cute speed round. Song that makes you smile?

Whitney Otawka: Roy Rogers, Don't Fence Me In.

Kia Damon: Yes, okay. Great. Your favorite kitchen utensil.

Whitney Otawka: Ooh, my favorite. I mean it's probably my knife. How boring, but it's my life.

Kia Damon: It's okay. A treasured cookbook?

Whitney Otawka: Oh, I love the Hartwood cookbook. It's really so beautiful and it takes you to a place and it's like if I want to take a mini five minute vacation, I just open that book.

Kia Damon: I love it. Oldest thing in your fridge?

Whitney Otawka: Oh gosh, there's pint containers that are unrecognizable. Leftovers from the kitchen. They like build up in there.

Kia Damon: Culinary hero?

Whitney Otawka: Oh, Jacques Pépin. Yeah.

Kia Damon: Yeah. I was going say, should I just answer for you.

Whitney Otawka: But also I mean I really loved Bourdain, as so many of us did, such a voice of our generation and I don't usually get weepy about the passing of someone I didn't know personally, but for him it was one of those... someone who's a traveler and without him, I think a voice is missing in our culinary world.

Kia Damon: Yeah, I was just... I feel the same way.

Whitney Otawka: Feel honest.

Kia Damon: ...sometimes it's just like you can feel that he is not here anymore.

Whitney Otawka: Even in like what he produced, what he put on television, the people he gave a voice to, to have that platform. It's just like it's not there right now.

Kia Damon: It's one of my greatest sadness that I... there's a few people that have passed like Prince and Anthony Bourdain. I just like... I wish I could have just been in the same space for a moment. Yes. Favorite ingredient to cook with?

Whitney Otawka: I really love cabbage. Is that crazy?

Kia Damon: That's okay. No, cabbage is good. Cabbage roast.

Whitney Otawka: It's one of those like ingredients of my life.

Kia Damon: ...stewed cabbage, cabbage rolls, cabbage is delicious. Food you'd never eat?

Whitney Otawka: Well. Maybe an endangered animal. Dog, I would never eat dog.

Kia Damon: Okay, if you were trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be and why?

Whitney Otawka: One food celebrity. Goodness gracious. Lidia Bastianich.

Kia Damon: Wow. There we go. Thank you so much. This is... I feel like I've left with something from this conversation.

Whitney Otawka: Well, it's a pleasure speaking to you.

Kerry Diamond: We'll be right back with the second half of our show after this quick break.

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Kerry Diamond: Here's Cherry Bombe culinary director Kia Damon with Meredith Erickson.

Kia Damon: Thank you for being here with us, Meredith Erickson. You look very warm and cozy and you're-

Meredith Erickson: I am. Thank you.

Kia Damon: Also really awesome, tidiness like really fantastic. Really fantastic. Let's just get to it. Thank you for being here and we have your book, Alpine Cooking. Let's start from the beginning. Where did you grow up?

Meredith Erickson: I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, across from Detroit, Michigan.

Kia Damon: Oh shoot.

Meredith Erickson: Where there are no alps.

Kia Damon: Okay.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah, fan fact. I lived there until my high school years and then I went to college in Upstate New York and then from there I moved to Montreal and I was an editor during the day at this small magazine called Maisonneuve and then I worked in the restaurant business where I met Fred and Dave, and Fred and Dave were like... they were two chefs who worked in a restaurant called Globe and in 2004 they were like, let's leave. We want to open something that's more our speed and we opened Joe Beef a year later and that became... we kind of thought that this was just going to be a 10 seat restaurant that no one would ever pay attention to and it became-

Kia Damon: That's usually how it goes. You're like, no one's going to care that we're doing this.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: And everyone's like hey.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah, it became a much bigger thing and I guess about three years into it Tony Bourdain and Pete Meehan and Dave Chang came to the restaurant and were like, this is our favorite place to eat in the world and-

Kia Damon: Wow.

Meredith Erickson: ...we're just like... Meredith, you're a writer during the day and then you also have this restaurant-ologist food and wine knowledge. We think you should write a book. The book together, the Joe Beef cookbook and we devised the Art of Living according to Joe Beef and that came out in 2011 and was more successful than I really imagined and from there I had a lot of offers from Portland restaurants, like Olympia Provisions, Le Pigeon, Kristen Kish, who I know is a former Cherry Bombe cover girl. I did her book... yeah, three or four years ago. I did the Claridge’s book in London, but I guess it was in 2013, I was going to the mountains.

Meredith Erickson: I was living in London, England and I was going to the mountains on weekends and I was just like, man, this is the kind of food I was having and altitude was incredible across Switzerland, Italy, France and Austria and Random House would check in with me from time to time. I had a great editor, very loyal editor there, and he would just be like, what are you into? And I was like, man, I'm really into Alpine food.

Kia Damon: Wait, now, I'm going to go... but you said something when you were doing Joe Beef and they were talking about your like food and wine knowledge. What did that mean? Were you cooking in their space, were you just lending information you had wine-

Meredith Erickson: No, I was a waitress.

Kia Damon: Wow.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: You were waitressing there?

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: I guess how did you come into all of this food knowledge? It was just out of interest or proximity or like-

Meredith Erickson: Experience. You know like you... if you work in a great restaurant, as I'm sure you guys know, you have daily meetings. You're being tested on wine and if you want to work at that level, you have to be serious and kind of devote yourself to studying that world, so we are especially-

Kia Damon: That's a big message.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: To a lot of the food world things are always changing and I think that there's been a loss or maybe like a lull in the appreciation and understanding for like having to have that knowledge. If you're in the food world and I guess a serious capacity where you're just like, I want to make a career out of this, or maybe even not, maybe you're just passing, but there's so much power in just having knowledge about your job, having knowledge about wine, having knowledge about food and then in turn that can just lead you to all kinds of places, I feel like.

Meredith Erickson: For sure. I mean we just... beyond working as an editor during the day and then going to work. I work from like 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and then I would go to work restaurant service from 6:00 to 1:00. That's something you can only do like in your 20s, you know?

Kia Damon: Yeah.

Meredith Erickson: But that's also like all we did was go out to eat. Any money we made, we would fly to Paris. Any money, we would travel wherever and we were like completely devoted to that.

Kia Damon: That's amazing.

Meredith Erickson: And I think that if you are going to work in the restaurant business at a high level and devote yourself to service, you have to do that.

Kia Damon: No, without a doubt. Okay. I don't want to take that detour, so then we can go forward, forward, forward, forward, forward. Okay and you were talking about your very loyal editor.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah and so he was like, what are you into now? And I was like, I'm into the alps. Let's do it and I really over kind of... I don't think I knew at the time what I was getting into because I thought it was going to be two to three years and I would do 250 page book. Once I dipped my toe into that glacial water... elevated glacial water-

Kia Damon: How cool is that?

Meredith Erickson: It's (beep) cold. Once I did that, I realized... A project like this hasn't been done before and if you're going to do it, you have to go in all the way and that became a much more ambitious project than what we had originally laid out and so in the end of this book, took me six years to research, write travel, and then have Christina who photographed the book, she came in on the project in the last two years, so yeah, it was a mammoth.

Kia Damon: I mean, it's extremely... I know you can't see a podcast. We don't have that kind of technology. I guess that would be television if you could see the podcast but I'm looking at the book and I can say that is absolutely stunning.

Meredith Erickson: Thank you.

Kia Damon: Like when they first... Kia check this out and I look and I was just, I couldn't read anything yet because I'm just flipping through the photos and I'm like, this is absolutely stunning and I not quite sure where this place is but I want to go to that place and I feel like lots of good... great writing and especially like coupled up with like phenomenal photography. It should stir those feelings up in people that they just want to like go to.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah, I mean I know that it does and it's really crazy because I wake up every day to direct messages from people all over the world saying like, I have tears in my eyes because this reminded me when I grew up in Zurich and this is where I'm from and I had never... and you really nailed it in terms of the look and it made me nostalgia for Switzerland or Austria. I have a lot of gratitude to get those messages... to receive those messages. It's really nice feeling.

Kia Damon: Oh, I feel like I'm going to cry now. I'm going to cry now. Alpine Cooking is your first solo one?

Meredith Erickson: Yep, that's right.

Kia Damon: You've co-authored a few books, a lot of people that you mentioned earlier. How was this experience different from before, I guess doing it with someone else and then you said this was like an ambitious kind of project, so just how... if you could go deeper and just like how that's different maybe for people who might be going from-

Meredith Erickson: Sure.

Kia Damon: to just stepping out on their own.

Meredith Erickson: For me it was completely liberating, but the process was the same. If I was working with Fred and Dave on Joe Beef one, the kinds of... the vision that I would have for that book and the kinds of questions that I would ask them, I would just now ask myself. It's the same process. Where am I going? What is the vision of this project? What do I want people to feel? What do I want to find out? For the recipes, do I want them to be the story themselves? And the answer to that is never. The recipes are the punctuation for the longer travel log. You know, it's deeply personal and emotional, this book. A lot of things happened in my life during this book.

Meredith Erickson: I think it's kind of just like taking out the middleman. It was much easier to just do. It's completely my own thing. I think the only thing that I miss about collaborative projects is like when you go on tour it's like I'm used to being like-

Kia Damon: With people.

Meredith Erickson: With Fred and Dave... and like having jokes before we go on radio or TV and now it's solo which is alienating but also powerful at the same time.

Kia Damon: Absolutely. No, absolutely. Wow. This is so... I'm excited. No, the love that you have for this project. Whatever those people are feeling when they DM you, I feel it.

Meredith Erickson: You feel it too?

Kia Damon: Like yeah. Also you're just like radiating happiness from this project. I love it. How do you describe Alpine food?

Meredith Erickson: Yeah, that's a great question. I think there are just a couple things that make up Alpine food. First of all, in this book, I chose 1000 meters completely arbitrarily as... when we say Alpine, we're talking above 1000 meters. We're talking about cooking and products above that level. What also involves is usually intergenerational families who've been cooking the same way for hundreds and hundreds of years. People are... when I'm sitting on a plane and someone leans over, Alpine Cooking must be about a lot of cheese, like some sort of dad joke, like cool, but cheese is like part of the story because transhumans is part of the story and transhumans is when we move cows from the valley where they're stored in the wintertime, all cozy, up into the mountain to pasture and all of that grazing is giving us a completely different cheese.

Kia Damon: So these cows travel from, I guess a warm, cozy area all the way up.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah. In the spring time, the cows will move up to a completely different pasture and they'll stay at altitude from spring until fall and then they'll come back down and in the page that you have open, which has these cow bells.

Kia Damon: So beautiful.

Meredith Erickson: There's this procession called the Almabtrieb procession and they do it in Austria and they do it in a couple of places in Italy where it's kind of this ritual and tradition where they'll put the most beautiful head dresses on the cows and it's like this traditional moment to ward off any bad luck to kind of now... bring good vibes for the season to come. If a cow had died, they'll like sell it, they'll not celebrate it, but they'll celebrate the cows life going down.

Meredith Erickson: Cheese and cows is part of the story. What I say in my book is the mountains are for everyone. I think that there is a misnomer that people think of Alps as like Heli-skiing and Verbier or Chamonix or kind of like this rich lifestyle and you can't lie that aspect exists there, but that's not the story and you can go... I've provided in this book a lot of places for you to go on a very small budget. I have just as much of an authentic experience.

Kia Damon: Wow, I'm so blown-

Meredith Erickson: You blown away?

Kia Damon: I'm. I believe this whole episode is going to be like, wow. I honestly... just from what I have known or the information that I've had, I never would have guessed. When I think of people like, I'm going to the Swiss Alps and I'm just like, that's really fancy and I would never like be able to experience that at all but now looking through this book, it's just like, oh, this is a very large community that spans, what you said it's Austria and-

Meredith Erickson: This book I chose four main countries, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy. Now, you could go into the Jura, which is also part of France, but I don't include the Jura in my book. I don't include Slovenia and I don't include Bavaria and that's because most of those areas, although they're Alpine, they don't hit that thousand meter mark but that's also probably booked two in the future.

Kia Damon: Yeah, like, "So ummm what happens when we get below 1000 meters."

Meredith Erickson: But yeah, I mean I think it's like... just as you say, the Alps are completely multidimensional and you can penetrate into so many different levels culturally as well there and I think that people just see it all kind of as one Switzerland cheese and fondue and skiing.

Kia Damon: Wow.

Meredith Erickson: ...and there's so much more to it than that.

Kia Damon: Then what would be the influences of Alpine food... cheese is like part of it like, but it's not the whole story. What other, I guess, flavors can we find in that kind of cooking? Yeah.

Meredith Erickson: Sure. The ingredients of the Alps beyond dairy, you have a lot of root vegetables. Turnips, beets, there's a lot of horseradish used in the Alps. There's a lot of chicory, there's a lot of egg, because of the cows there's a lot of beef, and then when you're into rural Austria, you also have this very rich pastry tradition. You have Kaiserschmarren, which is the emperor's pancakes with a plum compote, you have marillenknödel, which is apricot dumplings, you have-

Kia Damon: I saw those, I was like what... inside the dumpling was like this apricots. I was like, yes.

Meredith Erickson: I mean I think what also defines the Alps is isolation. You'll have situations when you have a kitchen, let's say in a hotel at 3000 meters and the train isn't running, won't run for a week because of weather conditions. So then you have to become... I think that isolation in a way puts your blinders on and forces a certain sense of creativity and so for example, in the book I have cork cheesecake with canned peaches and everything in that recipe's shelf stable that can last in a cellar for four months.

Kia Damon: Wow.

Meredith Erickson: But it looks... because it's plated with nice cutlery and-

Kia Damon: Then you wouldn't think. You would think-

Meredith Erickson: No.

Kia Damon: It's like someone went and locally sourced and forage and you're like no babe, that's from the shelf and we get you off this for like four months if we needed to. Wow. No, this is great. I'm looking through the book and some recipes are like beautifully plated and all of that, and then some look like they can be made like in your home. Is there... I won't say like fancy restaurants but just like high dining and such.

Meredith Erickson: Do you see the red line?

Kia Damon: Yes.

Meredith Erickson: Okay. Throughout the book when you ski you have three options. You have a blue piece, which is easy. You have a medium which is a red line and you have a black or a double black diamond, which is a black... yeah, black line and so in this book I say it's mostly full of easy runs. Sure. The Mont Blanc tart is the... yeah and French chapter can be a bit difficult but I think that this book is really aimed for the home cook. It's not... yeah. To answer your question also, we filmed all over.

Meredith Erickson: We filmed in family's homes. We filmed in restaurants and credit to Christina from the jump. I was like, listen, even though we're film, it's not like a restaurant where we're in studio, we're going to be filming in four different countries, different lighting every day. Different people. We need to like set the tone of our look and I think that's why Christina and I we will work together again because we just intuitively have our look down pat at this point.

Kia Damon: Oh, that's tight.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: How did you compile a lot of these recipes?

Meredith Erickson: I went to as many restaurants as humanly possible over those six years and then I would kind of by elimination go through what I thought worked. I mean, this book is supposed to be the primer, so your first book about Alpine cooking. There's 75 recipes and also I chose 20-ish recipes from each country to include that I think are like the hits. I could have done a much deeper dive. If I could, I would have done a box set of four books. The Italian Alps, the Swiss Alps but I mean that would've been a decade of my life, but maybe that's coming. I don't know.

Kia Damon: Yeah, I'm just like let's go.

Meredith Erickson: Let's go.

Kia Damon: We have book one, right. We have book one. Yeah, so then what would be as you have like the easy, the medium and the, would it be difficult or like hard.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah, difficult.

Kia Damon: Easy, medium, dif... which I think is genius. What would be the best recipe to start with in your opinion?

Meredith Erickson: I think the best recipe to start with is the bread soup with chicory and egg. It's one of the first places. It's from this restaurant called SanBrite, just above Cortina. Cortina d'Ampezzo is in the Dolomites and it's where they're having the 2026 Olympics.

Kia Damon: Nice.

Meredith Erickson: And so this is a little dairy run by a couple, Ricky Ricardo and Ludovica, and they do this soup that's super easy. It's a bread soup made from puccia bread, which is an Italian bread. You just make the bread, which is not difficult. Then you buzz it in a blender and then you just add a vegetable broth and a bit of oil and then you fry it with some pancetta and then you add chicory and an egg and then you keep a couple of the crouton.

Kia Damon: How is the egg prepped? Is it like a boiled egg, a raw egg, scrambled egg?

Meredith Erickson: It's a boiled egg, or you could even do like kind of slip in a sunny side up in there if you want a poached, whatever. Yeah, it's easy. It's a good start to the Alps. It's a good start to the meal.

Kia Damon: Maybe I'll try it.

Meredith Erickson: Try that one.

Kia Damon: What were you just like, so what should I do first? Then what's a recipe in here that maybe somebody wouldn't expect?

Meredith Erickson: The Ricola ice cream. Ricola like the lozenges.

Kia Damon: Like Ricola.

Meredith Erickson: Ricola. That's the one.

Kia Damon: Like (singing) Ricola

Meredith Erickson: Yeah, so basically I was like I have to include something culturally kitsch in this book, so I think Ricola was the way to go and so I use this kind of an ovaltine cream base vanilla... vanilla ice cream base, and then I filtered down Ricola cough drops and then used like the essence in the syrup and then added that to as the ice cream machine is moving as it's working, you just add like the essence and then freeze not the very... when you're serving, just do like a couple crushed Ricolas garnish and it doesn't taste like a menthol, like spearmint at all it tastes... actually does have a slight spearmint like peppermint candy cane flavor, but it's sweet and it's very rich, the base, so it's subtle. It's a great recipe.

Kia Damon: What?

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: That is wild.

Meredith Erickson: That's wild.

Kia Damon: I'm blown away. If that isn't enough to make you get this book and figured out what the hell is going on with Alpine Cook and then you're out of your mind. That is... how did you even... wow.

Meredith Erickson: Just made it up. That's why it was there.

Kia Damon: Wow. I'm like what. I'm like who's making this, and you're like me. Oh wow. Before we got into the podcast, we were talking about schnitzel. I've never had it.

Meredith Erickson: That's crazy.

Kia Damon: ...and that is... I know there's so many things I haven't. Oh, rolling my eyes on myself but you said that the one in this book is the best.

Meredith Erickson: I think that we have the definitive schnitzel recipe in this book.

Kia Damon: Okay. What defines good schnitzel?

Meredith Erickson: Great question. What defines great schnitzel is this air-

Kia Damon: That's great.

Meredith Erickson: the air pocket. What you want to achieve when you're frying a schnitzel is you want to actually souffle it, so you never flip a schnitzel. You have your meat, you have it in breading, and then you have so much oil in the pan and you're lightly either basting the schnitzel or your souffle-ing the pan like this, so that the oil is running over top of the schnitzel. As it's running over top of the schnitzel, you're going to create an air pocket between the meat and the breading. When you, after three and a half minutes, have that air pocket. That's when you're golden and you're going to very delicately gingerly... you're going to place it on a plate and then you're going to finish on top of the schnitzel with a little nub of butter and you're going to keep that puffiness. You want puff.

Kia Damon: You want puff.

Meredith Erickson: That's what you want.

Kia Damon: Put it on shirt for you-

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: So you want puff. What kind of meat goes in-

Meredith Erickson: Veal.

Kia Damon: Schnitzel?

Meredith Erickson: Veal escalope.

Kia Damon: Veal.

Meredith Erickson: Vienna schnitzel... Viennese schnitzel. Yeah and I talk in the book that... probably pissing off a lot of Austrians. The first time we ever saw pounded veal is in one of the earliest Italian cookbooks on record in 1100s, which would be a cotoletta, which it's kind of like a veal milanese.

Kia Damon: You said the 1100s?

Meredith Erickson: Yeah. We went deep.

Kia Damon: Oh, wow.

Meredith Erickson: We're not fooling around over here.

Kia Damon: We're not fooling... you think we were fooling around for six years?

Meredith Erickson: No.

Kia Damon: We were in the 1100s.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah. We were just doing research to find out where the... I think if an Alpine cooking book can't give you the OG schnitzel recipe, then I've clearly failed so I had to do a bit of research.

Kia Damon: I'm like drop. I mean that makes sense and like that's... when you're doing something that's like an ambitious and like a passion project of sorts, that research to go that deep is not that difficult because you just start asking questions, right? You're just like, well, where did this thing come from? Like, oh, I heard that this thing came from this and then before you know it, you're like in some ancient library opening up dusty books to see like the first human beings make schnitzel and that sounds like a labor of love that you put in for the last six years.

Meredith Erickson: Oh yeah.

Kia Damon: Oh man. Please tell me some of your... what's your favorite like, I guess, Alpine condiment.

Meredith Erickson: Alpine condiment. Probably cucumber salad. A good schnitzel would always be served with a little cucumber salad with sour cream or deal on top. I like that with my schnitzel.

Kia Damon: What?

Meredith Erickson: So yeah.

Kia Damon: Quickly I want to ask... so a big part of this book is this photography.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: It's phenomenal.

Meredith Erickson: It's stunning.

Kia Damon: Like it's stunning, it's... we look at it and I'm like, I feel like I'm being transported to a completely... I mean, what is a completely different world that I can't quite put my finger on, but it all is wrapped together in a way that seems very... I want to say whimsical and fairytale and not in a way that's like infantasizes it, but like in a way that's just like, it's so charming.

Meredith Erickson: Thank you.

Kia Damon: It's so beautiful. How did you find... you said her name was Christina?

Meredith Erickson: Yeah. Christina and I-

Kia Damon: How did you find her?

Meredith Erickson: Christina came to work... I did a story for Saveur about fall in Montreal and Christina was the photographer on that shoot and we met and she instantly was like, I want to do your book. Like, like please like, pick me because I had already had someone else in mind but I saw Christina's photos-

Kia Damon: Oh, sorry.

Meredith Erickson: ...and I felt that... I've worked traditionally with a lot of men and I wanted my book for... I'm very feminine in terms of my vision and like the look that I wanted this book to have and I thought that it would need help like having another female on board and Christina really understood that too and I wanted a feminine touch and yeah, she was incredible. She did a great job with this project and I feel like she's extremely proud of it and I also want to say on the radio that December 12th she's having an exhibit.

Kia Damon: What?

Meredith Erickson: And so you can buy these prints.

Kia Damon: Where?

Meredith Erickson: I don't know, it's here in New York City.

Kia Damon: Oh, okay. Good.

Meredith Erickson: It's in New York and I will send you... I'll follow up and you guys-

Kia Damon: Please.

Meredith Erickson: ...can let your readers and listeners know because I think she's doing a special selection of the photos that look great blown up, which would look cool in any house.

Kia Damon: Yeah, I'm all about like, can I buy that print? Can I get this thing.

Meredith Erickson: I'll connect you with her for sure.

Kia Damon: Please, especially the photo with the cow on there and the-

Meredith Erickson: You need that above your bed.

Kia Damon: I do. I need it above my bed to bring good vibes when I wake up in the morning like it's absolutely... It's stunning, so it's safe to say that you and... once you go on this journey to maybe make this book set, it'll be you and Christina hand in hand.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: Like knocking it off.

Meredith Erickson: Yeah.

Kia Damon: Wow. That's awesome.

Meredith Erickson: Thank you.

Kia Damon: Meredith, thank you so much. Before I hit you with the speed round, do you just have any, I don't know, any general advice to anyone else thinking of embarking on maybe something that's a bit more, what's the word? Niche, I guess. This book isn't like anything else that we've ever seen and I think sometimes folks can get discouraged when thinking about... I'm going to make something someone's never seen before. Will people like it? You know what I mean? Will people embrace it? Do you have any, I guess, advice for anyone in that place?

Meredith Erickson: Yeah, I mean I think you need to fight to the death to do what you want to do.

Kia Damon: Yeah.

Meredith Erickson: And I think that a lot of... throughout different parts of this project, people were kind of... not they weren't rolling their eyes, but they were just like... I don't think a lot of people understood my vision and I held on to that very, very closely and sacrificed other things to make this happen and I would do it all over again. It was like... it was very painful in moments, but it was completely worth it. I just think having a good idea and following that all the way through and what it also meant was hey, like when I did this book, I was also doing Claridge's Joe Beef too at the same time to like finance the project.

Kia Damon: Wow.

Meredith Erickson: It was just like working my ass off but not like compromising. Not compromising at all, so by the time that we had the photos and we had the text and it was time to work with Betsy at Ten Speed Press on design, we went by page, by page, by page, I had her on text, I was throwing a million images at her and I was like, I know I'm a nightmare and she was like, you're actually the dream because you know exactly what it is that you want.

Kia Damon: Yeah.

Meredith Erickson: I mean, I just think that if you have that and you know what that is, you should just go to the end to make it happen.

Kia Damon: What's your sign, Meredith?

Meredith Erickson: Capricorn. Mountain goat. Obvi, obvi.

Kia Damon: Nice. Mountain goat in the house. I know a few Capricorns in my life and they were just like-

Meredith Erickson: Relentless.

Kia Damon: ...this is it. I'm going to get it. I'm going to do it. Yeah. I mean F off ha ha!

Meredith Erickson: With my therapist she's just like, I gave her the book and she's like, do we need to talk about like the mountain analogy, I'm like, no, it's boring. Like next. I got it. How about... what are you?

Kia Damon: I'm a Sagittarius.

Meredith Erickson: I like a Sag.

Kia Damon: Thank you.

Meredith Erickson: Sage and Scorpio we get along right.

Kia Damon: Right, okay. I'm a Scorpio cusp. I mean it's the sad season and I've already seen the hatred on a few TLs.

Meredith Erickson: Really?

Kia Damon: I know, It's just like one of those, you hate me because you hate me. I can't help that.

Meredith Erickson: When's your birthday?

Kia Damon: November 22nd. I'm right at the beginning. I'm a cuspy. Jess won't let me forget it. Just like you're a cusp.

Meredith Erickson: Are you Scorpio?

Jess Zeidman: Libra.

Meredith Erickson: Okay. I don't really know any Libras.

Kia Damon: Jess is a Libra. But we can not hear her. Wow. Thank you so much. This has been a joy. Feel like you've just lit up a fire in my heart to like cook my way through this book, to document it, to go out there and a lot... I mean a lot of good food and memories around food involve traveling and I definitely feel like I'm willing to travel for... if you tell me this meal, that's what... you said a thousand meters above altitude is worth getting all the way up there for, then I'm going to go.

Meredith Erickson: Do it.

Kia Damon: And I'm going to get it... Wow. Thank you. You ready for the speed round?

Meredith Erickson: I'm ready.

Kia Damon: Okay. Yeah, you're a Capricorn. You're ready. All right. Favorite cooking utensil?

Meredith Erickson: Slotted spoon.

Kia Damon: Nice.

Meredith Erickson: Dream vacation destination?

Kia Damon: Amalfi Coast.

Meredith Erickson: Okay.

Kia Damon: Song that makes you smile?

Meredith Erickson: I don't know. I feel like it's got to be some like... I grew up in like a very loving household and my mom and my stepdad like listened to a lot of like '90s Anita Baker. Like I love like RnB, Anita Baker.

Kia Damon: I love it.

Meredith Erickson: Maybe like rapture Anita.

Kia Damon: Oh no, gosh.

Meredith Erickson: I can't believe I dropped that.

Kia Damon: Very not Alpine cooking. This is great. Wow. Meredith hive. I have started the club. The Meredith hive. Oh my gosh. A treasured cookbook?

Meredith Erickson: Honey From A Weed by Patience Gray.

Kia Damon: Wow. Oldest thing in your fridge?

Meredith Erickson: Foie gras from like two years ago.

Kia Damon: What?

Meredith Erickson: ...that I just threw down on this goose liver for Christmas, but then we didn't eat it, but then it was so expensive that I can't throw it out. I don't know.

Kia Damon: How long does that live for?

Meredith Erickson: It lasts for one year.

Kia Damon: But you said it was how many years?

Meredith Erickson: I think it's two years. I'm going to crack it.

Kia Damon: Okay. If you are trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be and why?

Meredith Erickson: I'm going to go Ina.

Kia Damon: I said Ina.

Meredith Erickson: I feel like Ina just wouldn't be... she wouldn't be mad. She wouldn't be in a bad mood. She's resourceful.

Kia Damon: Yeah.

Meredith Erickson: She's generous.

Kia Damon: Absolutely.

Meredith Erickson: I think she's funny.

Kia Damon: She is hilarious.

Meredith Erickson: I feel like she could like do telepathy to get... to like find Jeffrey to come get us somehow.

Kia Damon: Yes and Jeffrey would be there.

Meredith Erickson: Jeffrey, thousand percent is going to show up.

Kia Damon: Jeffrey would be there like, are you making chicken? We're like, ha ha. No we're stranded.

Meredith Erickson: Jeffrey would just bring the Peuget.

Kia Damon: Yeah. Oh my gosh. We're on the same page. I feel like we're doing telepathy. Meredith, thank you so much. This was so wonderful. Please everyone, Alpine Cooking recipes and stories from Europe's grand mountain tops. This was awesome, Meredith Erickson.

Meredith Erickson: Thank you so much.

Kia Damon: Thank you so much.

Meredith Erickson: Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Meredith and Whitney for coming by. Both of their books are out now, so be sure to pick up copies at your favorite Indie bookstore. Also a huge thank you to Kia for filling in for me. Kia, you are the best. If you are not a subscriber to Cherry Bombe magazine, all I can say is what? Visit and get a subscription for yourself and for your favorite foodie, and don't forget we'll be in Philadelphia December 2nd for the very final stop on our food for thought tour. I'll be there and so will Radio Cherry Bombe producer Jess Zeidman. Thank you to Le Cordon Bleu culinary schools and EMMI cheese from Switzerland for supporting our show radio.

Kerry Diamond: Radio Cherry Bombe is edited, engineered and produced by Jess. Cherry Bombe is powered by Audrey Payne, Maria Sanchez, Donna Yen, Kia Damon and Nancy Pappas. Our publisher is Kate Miller Spencer and our theme song is All Fired Up by the band, Tralala. Thank you for listening everybody. You're the bomb.e

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Hallie Sharpless: Hey Bombesquad, I'm Hallie Sharpless, a college student and aspiring food stylist and photographer in Washington DC. You want know who I think is the bomb? My mentor, Maya Oren. Maya is the career director and visual strategists behind her company, Mojalvo. Maya's photography is not only beautiful, but it's powerful in the way that it tells a story of the connection that comes from food. It reminds me daily just how important it is in forming vibrant and healthy communities, which will inspire me for years to come.