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Wen Jay Amy Chaplin Transcript

 “Vegging Out With Wen-Jay Ying and Amy Chaplin”

Adeena Sussman: Hey. This is Adeena Sussman and you're listening to Cherry Bombe, bomb chicka bomb.

Kerry Diamond: Hi everyone. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the number one female focused food podcast in the universe. I'm your host Kerry Diamond. With so many people talking about plant based eating these days, we're excited to have interviews with two experts in this area. For the first half of the show, I sit down with Wen-Jay Ying, the founder of Local Roots NYC, a community supported agriculture initiative. Wen-Jay is one of the most stylish and cool folks in the CSA world and I loved talking to her. In the second half of the show, I chat with cookbook author Amy Chaplin about her latest book, Whole Food Cooking Every Day, and what she's craving and making right now.

Kerry Diamond: Today's show is sponsored by Sugar Free 3, the new book by author Michele Promaulayko, the former editor and chief of Women's Health and Cosmopolitan Magazine. It's the perfect book for people like me who have a wicked sweet tooth and want to get it under control. It's shocking how much sugar is snuck into the food you least expect it to be in like yogurt, wheat bread and salad dressing. Crush cravings and supercharge your health with this simple three-week plan. Sugar Free 3 by Michele Promaulayko is available at major booksellers nationwide.

Kerry Diamond: Before we get to today's episode, let's take care of some housekeeping. Tickets for our annual Jubilee conference in New York City are on sale right now. This event is taking place on Sunday, April 5th in Brooklyn and will be filled with insightful conversations, delicious food and lots of potential professional connections, plus it really is a lot of fun. Don't miss out. Get your ticket today on Now, here's my conversation with Wen-Jay Ying of Local Roots.

Kerry Diamond: You are here to talk about Local Roots-

Wen-Jay Ying: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: ... which is a company founded, how many years ago now?

Wen-Jay Ying: Eight and a half, almost nine years ago.

Kerry Diamond: Tell us the origin story.

Wen-Jay Ying: It depends how far back you want to go. But I guess the more exciting story is I was on stage with The Flaming Lips, which is this psychedelic rock band and it was my dream at the time to dance on the stage with this band. So there's confetti flying around me, I'm looking at The Leads, they're going like, "This is insane." And so after the show you hang out with the band, and Wayne, the main singer is asking me, I think I was like 23 at the time, he's like, "So what do you want to do with your life?" Since I was little, I always wanted to do something that gave back to the community. But I've also loved the idea of being like a store owner, occasionally greeting people.

Wen-Jay Ying: Anyways, so I told him, "Hey, I really want to actually move to New Orleans and help with hurricane relief." And his response was, "That's really great you want to do that, but don't forget that people in your dry community and your neighbors also always need your help. So maybe think about what your neighbors need." That really resonated with me. I've always loved New York City so much. So Local Roots essentially became my love letter to New York City, where I've realized after reading an article that there is a decline of supermarkets in New York City. People don't have the access to the kinds of food they want. And to me in a place with so much abundance where there are so many options, that we can't even access good food that tastes good and is good for us, it was insane to me.

Wen-Jay Ying: So essentially I volunteered at a food justice nonprofit through AmeriCorp for one year, learned all about this grassroots movement. I got introduced to CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and I absolutely fell in love with this combination of, one, building community in New York City where it's a place it's so hard to find connections, but then also supporting the underdog, which is a local farmer. As someone from Long Island who really grew up in a shopping mall, it felt like I finally found myself. I just loved bringing people together. I loved meeting other New Yorkers. I loved meeting other New Yorkers who are really nice and kind, and friendly. And I loved meeting these farmers who literally their entire passion is feeding people really good food, and taking care of their land. It's so giving.

Kerry Diamond: That was great advice from Wayne.

Wen-Jay Ying: I know Wayne, he has great hair and great advice.

Kerry Diamond: I think especially now when everything seems so overwhelming, and everybody just wants to change the world and make the world a better place, and you don't necessarily think you can literally start on your own block.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah. And also I come from the DIY underground music scene. When I met Wayne, I was playing lots of bands like booking my own shows and tours, and I really took that energy and applied that to the food movement where I thought, "Okay, nobody is giving us a kind of way to shop for food that I want. Nobody is giving us a kind of community that I want. I'm not going to just sit around and just be okay with what's given to me, I'm going to make that. I'm creating an achievable utopia around food."

Kerry Diamond: But farmers' markets exist in New York City. Why wasn't that enough for you?

Wen-Jay Ying: Well, because one, to me I think farmers' markets for my lifestyle is inconvenient. They usually end by the time I would finish work, or wake up exactly-

Kerry Diamond: If you're playing in band.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah, exactly. Like a weekend, Saturday morning farmers' market is not going to do well when you're playing a show at like 2:00 AM. But also I love the way that CSA is actually brought the same people together, the same day, the same week, and you really had a connection to your farms. At the farmers' markets, I love farmers' markets. It always feels so big to me. And to me that you're still shopping around, there's less of a connection, and a lot of people that work in the farmers' markets actually aren't the farmer. There are people in New York City who are doing the work. That's what I used to do. I used to work at farmers' markets, but I love the idea that you could actually visit the farm, you could talk to the farmer, you get these recipes. It's so community oriented.

Kerry Diamond: Can members of Local Roots Community Supported Agriculture go to the farms and visit them?

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah. So they can either visit on their own. A lot of our farms have their own agritourism or a wall plan like once a year a farm trip.

Kerry Diamond: That's cool.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah. I am technically millennial, so I try to make it a virtual tour of our farms on our Instagram. Right. So like just even pictures of what does kale look like, or what does it look like to be growing mushrooms indoors.

Kerry Diamond: So how did you even start to put this organization together? You'd never run a company before?

Wen-Jay Ying: No.

Kerry Diamond: All right. How the heck did you put a company together?

Wen-Jay Ying: I feel like putting a company together is so much easier than running and scaling a company. God, starting a company was like the easiest thing I've done in my entire life, which is insane. Seriously.

Kerry Diamond: I can relate. That's true. But you have outlasted people who have raised tons of investor capital, you've had a lot of people try to come into your space and muscle their way in, and they've come and gone in the time that you've been doing this.

Wen-Jay Ying: I'm actually a pretty big advocate of not taking investment money, unless you really, really, really need it, and even then you should also rethink, "Do I really need this money?" Because I mean, I started a business only to support a mission. So I had to think of a way to make sure I could live in New York City by doing something that I absolutely loved. So I've always had an incredible amount of passion, and I will do anything to make sure that we're getting produce to the people and we're supporting our farmers. I think, one, that dedication helps in not taking investment money. It also makes it so that I've always wanted to have more control over my company. I don't want to have to reach specific numbers and metrics just because someone gave me a ton of money, and then what am I going to do with this money.

Wen-Jay Ying: Anyway, so how I started my company is I was working for a farm. They actually decided to go corporate. So unlike any other industry, when a small business wants to go corporate, they tend to lay off the original staff so they can rehire. So I was left there with this idea that, "I know what I want to do with my life. There's literally no one in the world that has this job. I want to start CSAs and make them fun and convenient for people." And that job didn't exist. My mom was like, "Why don't you start your own business?" Which was very strange for a Chinese mom to say to someone, and I told her she was crazy. I actually remember, I got really mad at her. I was like 25, no business experience, who was going to trust a 25 year old?

Wen-Jay Ying: Food businesses, they're everywhere now. But when I started, this wasn't really an industry. Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm had just started. This was the beginning of like artisanal jam in Brooklyn. But I'm really bad at doing something I don't want to do so I just decided, why not just try this? And I had saved for the first like five years, it really felt like a hobby, is I never really considered myself a business person. I still have a hard time. I've still tried to learn how to do business and I always have these a couple of times a year, these like existential moral dilemmas of, can I run a business without being a shitty person? Am I going to survive without being cutthroat and competitive in New York City?

Wen-Jay Ying: And when it comes down to that question, I always think like, "Fuck it. I'm going to keep doing it the way I want to do it. If it doesn't work out, then that's what it is." But I think there is something special with the Local Roots brand, and it's because it comes from an authentic voice. So hopefully that's what resonates with people.

Kerry Diamond: So is this your only job or do you have a bunch of side hustles?

Wen-Jay Ying: This is my only job, which when you have a business, it consists of a million side hustles. So even if it's not directly a business thing, I'm always doing something related to food or sustainability.

Kerry Diamond: Are you able to pay yourself consistently?

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah. Consistently, yes. I'm not saying ... I don't make that much money. I probably make as much as like a recent college grad, but I have full control over my business and-

Kerry Diamond: And you're committed to this.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: So if people want to take part in Local Roots today, who can and how can they?

Wen-Jay Ying: Well, New Yorkers, anyone can take part if you live in New York City. So essentially modernized CSA for New Yorkers. If you don't know what a CSA is, then think of us as a subscription based customized farmers' market, we bring right to you. So if you want to take part in Local Roots, you subscribe on our website,, you're going to choose categories of food like organic vegetables, or artisanal cheese and pasture raised eggs, everything from within a farm within two hours of New York City and all sustainable. So you're going to choose these categories of food, and then once you place your order, you go to one of our many pickup locations in Brooklyn or Manhattan, they're all located at bars, cafes, or your office.

Wen-Jay Ying: And then you go bring a bag and you pick up your food. We also do home delivery. So the idea is, imagine yourself grocery shopping, but it's integrated into your social life. We give you recipe cards. So it's super easy. And the great thing about Local Roots, which is what I'm really proud of, is that we're making food and seasonal eating a lifestyle and not just a seasonal hobby, meaning that our markets go all year round. So if you do live in New York City, you probably know if you go to the farmers' markets, they end usually in November and they start back up in about May.

Wen-Jay Ying: But we work really hard to make sure our farmers are growing things, like they're storing vegetables for us to have in the winter months. But also we work with aeroponic farms and farms with the greenhouses, so we're still getting like tomatoes, and mustard greens, and leafy greens all year round. So yeah, you can always subscribe any time you want throughout the year, and you can always put your order on hold if you're traveling. So we're really thinking about the New York City lifestyle.

Kerry Diamond: How has your job changed? I'm guessing in the beginning that it was a lot of talking to farmers, spending time with farmers, and today you're dealing with a lot of logistics.

Wen-Jay Ying: It's all logistics. Yeah, because there's so much of the back end that people never think about. So let's say, yeah, in the beginning I was doing, everything was grassroots. I did every single thing. I didn't have an employee. I didn't have any startup money, so I did everything from like posting flyers in communities, to sign up for Local Roots, to driving everything and delivering, and being at the markets to greet our customers. So now I have this incredible staff. It's super small but they do a lot for me, and I'm able to spend more time really doing things like this. I mean, I'm obviously still very, very much involved in the day to day logistics, and I do all of our digital marketing, social media, that kind of stuff, partnerships. But it is really my goal to be a spokeswoman for local food and sustainability. So I'm focusing more time on that. I speak a lot about soil health, regenerative agriculture, how to live more sustainably in New York City, in your kitchen.

Kerry Diamond: How are things for the farmers today? How has it changed since you started?

Wen-Jay Ying: That's a great question. Weather obviously has changed a lot. Growing patterns have changed a lot. For example, strawberries, super rainy in the beginning of the summertime, so rainy that farmers couldn't really go out to harvest the strawberries. So the strawberry season was actually later than normal for us. A lot of crops are being ... The season is just later. We also work one time a year with a Louisiana citrus farmer because we can't get citrus in New York. We have this direct connection with this farmer in Louisiana. He grows in a specific region. It's like a Southern part of Louisiana that is known for their citrus, better than Florida, better than California. It's incredible.

Kerry Diamond: Those are fighting words Wen-Jay.

Wen-Jay Ying: I know. You can order it right now on our website. But he's one of the last farms in this area to be able to keep farming, because the weather is changing so much that people have to leave. So not only is weather impacting farms and the stability of ... I mean, there was never really a stability in being a farmer, but it's even making it harder. I would say, I was just reading that, I think like there's four main markets for food. It's like Kmart, Whole Foods, and I forgot the other two.

Kerry Diamond: Walmart, probably.

Wen-Jay Ying: Walmart, yeah. But yeah, we can just see this shift, and to me it feels like there is more popularity around organic food, but because it's more popular, it also becomes more competitive. So I would say the landscape of the organic farming industry and farming in general is changing a lot, and there's a lot of greenwashing I see. Greenwashing is really, if you just think about marketing terms that confuse customers to make them feel like a product is more sustainable or eco-friendly than it really is.

Kerry Diamond: The biodegradable one makes me crazy, because in New York City there's not a separate place to put all that biodegradable plastic.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah, I mean there's all these things that, of course our lives are so busy, how can we do all the research from point A to Z? But, so we're trying to trust brands to tell us a story, but we're not getting the full story from most of these companies, which is super frustrating to me. So yeah, you can go to a Whole Foods and you're going to see something labeled local, or you can go to Kmart and see something that says local or all natural, but there's no regulation around local or all natural. So how do you know what they're selling to you? How do you know who your money is going to or the quality of your product, if you just have this greenwashing term marketing it.

Kerry Diamond: Are you seeing more young farmers get into the business and stay? Because what I've heard is a lot of young people get into farming, they just don't stay in farming.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah. I mean I can't tell you statistically, but there's obviously a huge interest in farming. It's romanticized. It's a great way for someone to leave their finance job. But most people don't stay in farming because, well one, when you learn to be a farmer, most people aren't learning a business plan. They're not learning how to sell their product, so it becomes hard, how do you sell your product? And then people also realize, oh my God, there's actually no money or stability in farming unless you own your land, and own your land is super difficult also. So yeah, I can see there's significant trend of interest, but most people are not able to survive.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, that's rough.

Wen-Jay Ying: And also, sorry, the debt also for farmers have increased a lot. I forgot the number, but there's an increase in debt of farms. There's actually a higher rate of suicide, people are dropping out, it's pretty depressing.

Kerry Diamond: So all the farmers we have are, it's a miracle we have any farmers.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah, I'm every day honestly like just so honored that there's people that want to grow food the right way and the best way despite how much harder it is, and keep doing it despite how little profit there is.

Kerry Diamond: How about folks who are lower income? Can they get access to Local Roots? Do you price things a certain way?

Wen-Jay Ying: So right now it's actually really, New York City makes it really hard for CSAs, or the CSA model to accept SNAP. But what we're going to do is we're really trying to pilot like a Veggie RX program or a Health Bucks program. So we're working on that right now.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. The Greenmarket accepts SNAP though, correct?

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah. It's the difference between something subscription-based like a CSA. New York City doesn't really want to have people prepay for a season while using their SNAP benefits, so it makes it difficult. But I would say that a lot of our markets are run by volunteers, and our volunteers get free food in exchange. So that's a really great way right now for people to access Local Roots produce by just spending, well like two and a half hours a week, and it's a really great feeling to be the reason why your community is getting the fresh produce.

Kerry Diamond: Can they apply through your website?

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah,, we have a whole list of volunteer opportunities. We're actually going to have, we'll be launching something in addition to the Veggie RX program, but some other things that are really big that will be able to also having a scaling tiered pricing.

Kerry Diamond: One of the other things I wanted to ask you about is all these ugly produce companies that have sprung up, seemingly overnight. I see them advertised in the subway, I hear them advertised on radio. What's going on? Why has that boomed all of a sudden?

Wen-Jay Ying: I mean, why have they all come up at the same time? I think it's just a really, I mean, funny looking vegetables are an easy thing to market, right? They're super Instagrammy. It's cheaper for someone to purchase, for a company to purchase. I think it's incredible that there's all of a sudden so much information out there about how much food is wasted. It's really making people think about their impact in the environment. So I love this movement. I would say that I think Local Roots launched, we launched her and Perfect Vegetable Option like five or six years ago, and it was kind of before all these companies started and I was like, "This is going to be a thing people like."

Wen-Jay Ying: I would say actually one challenge we have with it is that, it's hard for us to source these products because a lot of our farmers, they sell to farmers' markets and CSAs. The things that look funny are already being sold anyway to regular markets. So we actually, it is the one challenge we have is finding enough funny looking vegetables to sell, which is kind of a weird thing to say. But I would also, I don't know much about these companies. I do remember having one experience with one of them, and they weren't, I don't know, I think there's-

Kerry Diamond: And you're trying to be diplomatic. Someone on our team had an experience with one of them and everything came completely over-packaged. A lot of the product was spoiled already, and beyond spoiled what you would expect.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah. It kind of seems it's very hypocritical and the marketing, their message just isn't holistic enough for me. Why aren't we talking about their packaging, just because they're marketing they have imperfect produce? Or why aren't we talking about how their farmers are growing their food? If we're talking about we want to buy these imperfect vegetables for an environmental reason, then you have to look at how these farmers are growing their food also. If they're not growing them well, sustainably, then one, like should we even ... I don't know. It just feels like there's this huge disconnect. And yeah, you can't talk about environmental factors without talking about soil health and farming practices. I feel to me there's been, there's no farm story, there's no connection with the farmer with these products. I also, I mean I'm always skeptical of anything with modest startup money. That's just me, because I always wonder like, why all the money is going to marketing.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, good point. And you've survived the song clearly by being so smart and scrappy.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah. I don't know. Thank you for saying that. I hope so.

Kerry Diamond: You're welcome. You've mentioned regenerative farming a few times, and I noticed it mentioned throughout your website. For folks who aren't sure what that is, can you give us a quick lesson?

Wen-Jay Ying: Regenerative farming is one of my favorite things to talk about. So regenerative farming means that the farmers are thinking about their soil health mostly, growing organically, doing things like crop rotation, using compost in their farm, minimal tillage. Tillage is like when you're, if you have that like quintessential image of a farm where they're like raking at the soil essentially.

Kerry Diamond: Plowing the fields.

Wen-Jay Ying: Plowing the fields, yes. So these are some of the checkup points for if someone is a regenerative farmer. Soil health is the forefront of this movement because soil is the biggest sponge for CO2. It can sequester carbon. So I think the Rodale Institute came out with this statistic that if we convert 100% of our farmland and pasture to regenerative agriculture, we can sequester 100% of our annual CO2 emissions. So yeah, essentially a healthy soil can take carbon dioxide from the environment and bring it back into the dirt where it belongs. Healthier soil also means healthier vegetables and tastier vegetables.

Wen-Jay Ying: So in a 20 year study, calcium levels in vegetables on average were depleted by 27% I believe. So, because of the ways that industrial agriculture has really negatively affected our soil, which if you think about it is the living, it's what nourishes any food, right? Because it's really stripped the soil off the nutrients, our vegetables aren't nutrient-dense anymore. So you could be buying food and eating your veggies and fruits, but you're not actually getting the nutrients you think you're getting. And to me that really pisses me off. It's like people don't know, like they think they're doing the right thing, and they just don't have the knowledge, or they're being like marketed incorrectly. But yeah, in addition to veggies, a veggie farmer is like doing the crop rotation, all those things I talked about.

Wen-Jay Ying: I'm a big advocate of supporting livestock managers who are taking care of their cattle with multi-paddock raising. If you want to get kind of nerdy about it it's, just imagine taking like having your cows graze, roam free on your land. They graze on one area of your land and are constantly moved throughout the day to different parts of your land. The reason why that's straight is that cows actually are an incredible way of also helping to sequester carbon. I don't want to go too deep into it, but just know that multi-paddock grazing and pasture-raised cattle is really, really good for sequestering carbon, and it's also for progenitive agriculture.

Kerry Diamond: A lot of natural fertilizer.

Wen-Jay Ying: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Exactly.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. And I noticed you can order meat, eggs, cheese, lots of different things, not just fruits and vegetables.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah. I mean you know we're obviously an advocate of eating mostly plants, but we are a full diet option, and I fully support the farmers that are doing their good work in raising really good eggs and really great cattle and heritage pork.

Kerry Diamond: We're going to do a speed round with you.

Wen-Jay Ying: Okay.

Kerry Diamond: Ready? Favorite kitchen utensil?

Wen-Jay Ying: Oh, my hands. I'm sorry, my hands.

Kerry Diamond: Your hands? Oh, that's a good one.

Wen-Jay Ying: I use them all the time, I'm a lazy cook.

Kerry Diamond: People don't give us that answer often. Song that makes you smile?

Wen-Jay Ying: Losing you, Solange.

Kerry Diamond: Dream vacation destination?

Wen-Jay Ying: There is a James Turrell temple he built in Japan in the woods that I really need to go to.

Kerry Diamond: I love him.

Wen-Jay Ying: He's the best.

Kerry Diamond: He's an amazing artist who does these really incredible installations with light in the sky, and et cetera. Food you would never eat?

Wen-Jay Ying: The really, really wet spoiled lettuce greens in a single lettuce mix. It's disgusting to me. It just represents so many things I hate.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my God, that's the best answer. I'm the same way. Yeah, I know I might sound like a spoiled brat, but I-

Wen-Jay Ying: I can't. It represents I think basic bitch salad mix, which is really just like, bland salad mix that every cafe buys. And then it reminds me of how long that salad must have been traveling from probably California to New York, and is sitting there decomposing. It's gross.

Kerry Diamond: Oldest thing in your fridge?

Wen-Jay Ying: It's probably, oh, I have this yuzu syrup that I use. I think it's like, it might be three years old. But there's so much sugar in it, so it's fine.

Kerry Diamond: So it might still be good. Okay.

Wen-Jay Ying: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: If you had to be trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be and why?

Wen-Jay Ying: I might actually say Gail Simmons. And I say that because we're friends and she's the nicest person and she's fun. So I just feel like why not party with your friend who can also cook you incredible food and make you laugh?

Kerry Diamond: That would be fun.

Wen-Jay Ying: Right?

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. We love Gail. All right, well Wen-Jay, we love you too. Thank you for stopping by. We'll be right back with Amy Chaplin after this quick break.

Jess Zeidman: Hello, this is producer Jess Zeidman. You know we have a podcast, but did you also know we have a magazine? We do, and we just released our 14th issue. It's all about the intersection of food and fashion. We have five incredible cover girls including chef and activist, Angela Dimayuga. And guess what? You might even see a story or two written by a certain Radio Cherry Bombe producer, about which footwear chefs prefer in the kitchen, and my favorite vegetable, cabbage. Subscribe now. For more information about all things, Cherry Bombe Magazine, visit

Kerry Diamond: So tell us about this book. What's it all about?

Amy Chaplin: Oh, yeah, this book. Well, you know after you write a book you're like, "Oh, I could ... Well, that's everything I know in that book." Like that's how the first one was sort of my journey to then. This came about from realizing that everything I make is pretty much the same as the first one. And as everything, I mean-

Kerry Diamond: That's a good way to sell the cookbook. Everything I make is the same

Amy Chaplin: It sounds terrible, but it really was like, what I teach in my classes and I cook privately for people, and I did in the five years between books, that's what I was doing. And so I was realizing like someone says to me, "Oh, I've got to eat warming spices and I want a nut butter." So I'd be like, "Oh, okay. Let's put them all in a walnut butter, or ginger and cinnamon, and some cardamom, and then some mesquite." And then, I realized like these base recipes are just what I spring from, and it's what I teach in my classes too. It's like once you know the formula for a simple pureed vegetable soup that doesn't need stock, just water and five other ingredients, then you can really make any. You have to add a bit more water, if you add herbs or curry or chili, there they all are in the book. And so there's one with like toasted hazelnut milk in it, with rosemary, and then it's like all fancy.

Kerry Diamond: So I should read the subhead, Transform the Way You Eat with 250 Vegetarian Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy, and Refined Sugar. So were you working on the book all five years?

Amy Chaplin: Well, I mean, I was trying to work out what I would do, and I didn't want to do ... Just, there's so many books that come out every week. Especially in my field now, it's not unusual what I do. It used to be. Now it's like mainstream, and there's so many great books every Tuesday that I see that are vegan and vegetarian. So how do you want to make it different and make it really useful. I felt like I touched on that in my first one with the sort of mixing and matching ideas, and really giving a lot of information about ingredients. And here I just really wanted to show like instead of just saying, "Oh, add macho or add turmeric, add whatever," it's like, now I want to show exactly how you do that. Because even I can say, "What? How? What do you first add first?" I have those questions when I read that in cookbooks.

Amy Chaplin: So I really just wanted to like do a base, and then show the variations written out in recipe form, so that it was really clear. So I feel like it's great for beginners, but it's also great for people that just like, they're making a porridge every day, but then how do you mix it up? Making a nut milk, it's like how many recipes for almond milk do you need? I mean, they're everywhere. They're free on Instagram, they're online. So the way I sort of elaborated on it was you can infuse the water that you use with teas and spices, and different flavorings and then add in other stuff. And here's like 20 different variations.

Kerry Diamond: You are the queen of a porridge.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah, bowl food. I mean the whole thing is mushy. I love bowl food.

Kerry Diamond: So you mentioned that the ideas that you've embraced for so long have become more mainstream. Is that exciting to you?

Amy Chaplin: Yeah, it's great. I mean, I love it. I love that now ... I mean it used to always be like, "Oh, I'm a chef. I'm vegetarian," and people are like, "Oh yeah, we're good. Bye. Next." But now I think people are much more interested obviously in plant-based, and actually, yeah, really value it, and want to know how you make things taste great, and have great texture, and things like that.

Kerry Diamond: So you mentioned that you're a fan of an over-stuffed cupboard, overstocked pantry, maybe because of dating back to your childhood. Walk us through your pantry. What's in there right now?

Amy Chaplin: Okay. Pretty messy. A lot of stuff left over. I mean still from my shoot I've decided that, because I was shooting upstate, and so it was like this whole complicated thing. I was ordering all this stuff as if I needed like five pounds of millet. It's like, "No, you don't." So I still have a lot of ingredients left over, and also freezed dried berries. You think I would have just gobbled them all up, but no, I just haven't gotten to them. So I've been trying to work out ways to use it up, not just recipes from there. But, so it has a lot of different things. I mean it's got stuff I experiment with like pearl powder or I've ordered some crazy mushroom powders.

Kerry Diamond: Wait. Tell everybody what pearl powder is.

Amy Chaplin: Well, it's a powder made from pearls. It's like a beauty food, and I ordered some and it's still there. I wouldn't have it wasted.

Kerry Diamond: What do you put it in?

Amy Chaplin: I put it in nut milk or a drink. I mean you could put it in anything. I'm not a smoothie eater, so that's where people probably normally put it.

Kerry Diamond: All right, what else is in there?

Amy Chaplin: Okay, so there's a lot of Rancho Gordo beans, which I kind of hoard, because they're so special.

Kerry Diamond: Love Rancho Gordo.

Amy Chaplin: Oh, God. Their beans and like-

Kerry Diamond: They're wonderful mail order. You can buy them in stores too, but they do a lot of mail order.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. I ordered a lot of beans.

Kerry Diamond: If you're a bean fanatic and you don't know about them, you should look at their website.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah, definitely. What else? There's grains, and beans, and nuts, and seeds, and a lot of different edible flowers, and just stuff I love to experiment with and use. I'm just trying to think what else though. I mean now I hardly have time to cook, so I eat a lot of toast, which is what people think is hilarious after this gluten free book. I'm really into bread right now. Upstate, there's some incredible bakeries, like bakers actually.

Kerry Diamond: I mean the baker revolution, we've talked about a lot on the radio show, but it's just incredible.

Amy Chaplin: Oh my God.

Kerry Diamond: I mean, Sarah Owens, all these different people.

Amy Chaplin: Oh my God, I love her. Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Isn't she wonderful?

Amy Chaplin: Oh, she's amazing. I mean, who knew bread could even get better? It's like it just gets better and better. So yeah.

Kerry Diamond: That is true. So are you making your own bread?

Amy Chaplin: No, I'm not. I don't have time.

Kerry Diamond: You're just eating?

Amy Chaplin: There's bread in there made with like whole grains and seeds. Like if you are gluten-free, and you want to have a really whole grain thing, like people keep saying, "I'm going to make that for my party." I'm like, "No, just have it for breakfast yourself."

Kerry Diamond: It's not a party bread?

Amy Chaplin: No, it's not like a celebratory food. But they're delicious, and yummy with like eggs and avocado, and like as a whole meal, because it's like the whole grain is crushed up in there.

Kerry Diamond: When you're doing a lot of toasts, knowing you, it's not just a piece of bread in the toaster, and you call it a day. I'm sure you're topping it with really fabulous stuff.

Amy Chaplin: Nut butters and cultured butter. I mean, I'm breastfeeding so I'm like burning calories like crazy. So I'm eating butter like it's going out of fashion, which I never ... I mean this is a dairy-free book, but I appreciate good dairy, so that it's just become like this weird obsession for me every day. And nut butter's either homemade, like I just love like summer flower and coconut mixed with almond, and different things. That time is scarce these days. So I've been ordering this one from Massa Farms. Have you heard of them in California? They make the best store-bought almond butter. He grows almonds and brown rice. It's like my dream person. The nut butter is so fresh, it's just like you made it.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, okay.

Amy Chaplin: And it's really reasonable, and it's organic and everything.

Kerry Diamond: I feel like we've got to write down all these sources, Amy. So walk us through some of the recipes in the cookbook. What's a good recipe to start with?

Amy Chaplin: Well, there's a lot of breakfast options. Someone pointed out and I was like, "Hey, that's true." I mean the Bircher chia bowls are getting a lot of attention because you mix it up and in 20 to 30 minutes it's ready, and then it lasts four or five days in your fridge, and you can flavor it all different ways.

Kerry Diamond: How do you flavor it?

Amy Chaplin: Well, in there I've got options for like cacao, and macho, and turmeric, and I know they sound like usual things, but it's kind of a bit different. You can put like, there's one with apple and raisins and orange, like a typical Bircher. And then if you top it with your flavored nut milks and a compote, it's really like takes it over the edge. If you have time or you can just add like fruit to it as well. There's like all these compotes for like there's a pear and citrus with turmeric, that's really yummy if you've got fresh turmeric.

Kerry Diamond: Walk us through what a compote is.

Amy Chaplin: Right. It's just, I mean I make it without any sweeteners. It's just a bit of orange juice I really like using, and thicken it with a bit of arrowroot, and that's it. A pinch of salt and vanilla if you want. And then I've got bases actually for a berry base, and then in summer you can put rose petals in it. So there's really simple bases and then you can just add different things. And then I've got a full fruit base of stone fruit, and apple. There's one yummy one with apple, lime and saffron. That's really delicious. But it's like so simple. It's very, very simple. But it's like just adding in different things as a blackberry, rosemary and apple, which is yummy too.

Kerry Diamond: And how long did they take?

Amy Chaplin: Very quick. I mean the apples, I guess you got to peel and core, but the cooking is fast. I mean, especially if you're using frozen berries now, and they last like up to a week.

Kerry Diamond: You mentioned saffron. I feel like I'm hearing a lot about saffron these days. Camille Besera who's on our cover, you have a copy there.

Amy Chaplin: I know. I saw her. Like someone's been growing it in milk.

Kerry Diamond: She gave us a saffron plant.

Amy Chaplin: Wow. How cool. I've never seen one.

Kerry Diamond: It's so beautiful. What are other good Amy Chaplin, intro recipes.

Amy Chaplin: Well, so we talked about soups and then there's of course porridges, then there's a lot of charts for cooking beans and grains, and roasting vegetables and steaming. These things sounds so basic, but I get a lot of questions about how to do that. And I actually love steamed vegetables. I've been talking a lot about steamed vegetables. Because people, they have a really bad reputation. But if you get a beautiful watermelon radish right now from the farmers' market and you steam it, it tastes amazing. It's really delicious. And like carrots right now, they're just so fresh and delicious. And then obviously greens and all those things that you would normally steam.

Amy Chaplin: But, steamed vegetables and a good dressing, and there's a whole big dressing chapter in there that's also, people have been loving that because they're really vibrant, and they're actually made from blending whole vegetables. So like sweet corn in summer with basil, or zucchini, or even bottled artichoke hearts blended with Meyer lemon, really delicious, or tarragon. So yeah, they're really versatile and creamy from the vegetable.

Kerry Diamond: We have to go back to the steamed vegetables, because I feel like it's just been such a roast vegetable error.

Amy Chaplin: There's a big good picture in there. Yes, I know. Right? And I love roasted vegetables, but coming home, turning on the oven, a tray doesn't go that far always too. And then if you do two trays in your oven, then it often doesn't roast great.

Kerry Diamond: What's the secret to steaming?

Amy Chaplin: It is filling the pot with enough water at the bottom. I have this thing of like going, "I'm in a hurry, so I'm just going to put a little bit, get it going." And then I'll like walk away, and it's like burning. I'm like, "Oh my God, I can't even steam vegetables." But no, I love like big chunks of squash, like kabocha squash steamed. There's a recipe in there with nori and chopped up scallions to Mari drizzled over steamed kabocha. I mean it's so easy, but it's so delicious right now. Or red curry squash. Those two are my favorites, because they're so dense and sweet.

Kerry Diamond: I love those squashes.

Amy Chaplin: And actually roasting them, they can get a bit dry.

Kerry Diamond: I always roast them and they do get really dry.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. Depending on when they're harvested-

Kerry Diamond: I'm going to steam them next time.

Amy Chaplin: But steaming is, yeah, and it's quick, and so if you cut them small, it's quicker. But it's still good the next day. I've got a leftover steamed vegetable miso soup in there, where you just like make a quick broth with ginger, and add miso, and then just dump in all your leftover steamed vegetables, and it's delicious.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my gosh. It sounds so good. I'm officially starving. I should have eaten before this interview. You started to talk about dressings, so tell us what your favorite dressings are these days.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah, there's the fennel one. Oh, I love that one actually. You do need a high powered blender for that one because the fennel is kind of porous, it's not cooked first. But they've all got lime. I really like using lime.

Kerry Diamond: So this is a fennel, cilantro and mint dressing.

Amy Chaplin: Yum. That is so yummy. Like that drizzled over steamed veggies or your grain bowl, or beans, or even there's a picture in there of a roasted sweet potato opened up with some Rancho Gordo beans, a crumble of Fetter and that dressing, and it's just so yummy.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, this one looks great. Tangy beet cashew dressing with chili, and it's bright pink.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. And so that's got a cooked beet. Everything else is raw. But so yeah, there's a base recipe and then there's variations. There's one with tahini with the beet is really yummy. Kind of like a sauce. They're not really a dressing that you toss over light leafy greens, although you could thin them out. Then there's one with the sweet corn over tomatoes.

Kerry Diamond: I'm so sad, the corn's not in season, year round.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. But this is the thing about this book. You can use it anytime of year because there's going to be beets around or there's going to be something else around, so you can wait for some or for the rest, but you can still get the whole idea of the recipe, and how to experiment yourself. And that's really what I talk about in the beginning of each chapter is how you, what you're looking for in texture, what you can add in, how to store it. There's no head notes in this book, which is like-

Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's radical.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. It was like, I just realized like to write one for every single recipe when a lot of them are variations was going to be hard. So I have like an introduction and then all these tips.

Kerry Diamond: Does everybody know what I had noticed out there in radio land, it's that paragraph or two above a recipe explaining different things, where the recipe came from, your inspiration-

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. The fun part to doing a book. I took away the fun part.

Kerry Diamond: So Amy is like, "No head notes in this one." Well, you know what, you get right into it.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. You get right into it. And it's really about making the recipes your own. That's really the key.

Kerry Diamond: I used Earl Grey tea with almond milk and rosewater. Who doesn't want that?

Amy Chaplin: That's delicious. That's great in summer.

Kerry Diamond: That's so amazing. It sounds like it would be great anytime of the year. So tell us about the process of making the book. It's so beautiful.

Amy Chaplin: Oh, thank you.

Kerry Diamond: The papers, it's this beautiful matte paper, and every picture is so gorgeous and saturated. And who's the team you worked with?

Amy Chaplin: Well, I worked with Artisan, which was fantastic. They're really amazing and just were so generous with giving me as much freedom as I wanted. I had just moved upstate and was like, I made it really complicated, but it turned out. I wanted to work with this Australian photographer Anson Smart, and he is in Americas a couple of times a year. So I sort of teamed up the shoot with him, and then I started working with Lucy Attwater who did props. Last time I did props with a friend of mine who also art directed the book. And this time I just knew with all these group shots, which was, I mean it was my idea but it was so hard because I had to make everything.

Kerry Diamond: You had to make everything. Yeah, you've got these wonderful pictures, and it's like there's a lot of food in those pictures.

Amy Chaplin: Oh my God, like those crackers took like three days. And I did everything myself. I mean I had help with ... I had like one or two people the first time, and then I had two people the second time. I mean doing different things, because you had to run out and get ingredients. You know what it's like. I mean the shoots are crazy, and then art directing as well. And then they're like, "Oh, let me take a photo of you in the kitchen." You're like, "Really? I've been out for a week making crackers, and granola." Anything that can keep, I made a head, but it was mind boggling, and I actually went into overwhelm before the first shoot. Like I seriously thought I'm going to have a breakdown because I had this half renovated kitchen that I've got to shoot in. I didn't know my way around my own pantry, and I was ordering jars-

Kerry Diamond: Were you pregnant?

Amy Chaplin: Not yet.

Kerry Diamond: Okay.

Amy Chaplin: I actually wasn't for any of the shoots, thank God.

Kerry Diamond: Thank God. I was going to say that on top of that.

Amy Chaplin: I was though. For the last street I was. We did the last one, I was. Yeah, it was only two days and it was like much easier. This was just like, when you're just trying everything.

Kerry Diamond: People don't realize, putting together a cookbook is a special thing. Only people who do cookbooks really understand or care.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah, that's right. Understand or care. That's a good one.

Kerry Diamond: Exactly. But it's wonderful that this beautiful book is out in the universe. What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Amy Chaplin: Well, I haven't talked about it much at all, but I'm actually working on a restaurant project.

Kerry Diamond: Hallelujah. I've wanted you to have ... I know it's like a curse because I had my own restaurant and I know how hard is, but I have actually wanted you to have a restaurant or a café, because you make such beautiful food.

Amy Chaplin: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I know. It's hard to say out loud because I sort of, that dread comes over you, because I know how much work it is. I mean, you know what it's like. People also don't understand that like, it's not a full time job, it's just so beyond that.

Kerry Diamond: I don't want to scare you away. It's so easy I mean to do it. No, it's harder than a cookbook, I know that much.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. I know.

Kerry Diamond: Where?

Amy Chaplin: Tribeca.

Kerry Diamond: Fun. Oh, that's great. Okay.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. So you'll stay tuned, there'll be more information about it soon.

Kerry Diamond: Well that's wonderful news.

Amy Chaplin: There's no use to talking about it yet.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. Well, we're excited. We'll all benefit greatly from that, and we will definitely be some of your best customers, no doubt. But what else are you hoping for 2020?

Amy Chaplin: To survive that.

Kerry Diamond: Mm-hmm (affirmative). To survive that, yeah.

Amy Chaplin: No, I think that's going to take over for a while because I'm so fussy, so I have to really like work out how to get back into that. I haven't worked in a restaurant for almost 10 years, so it's a whole different thing. I've been focusing on the home cook and making things easy for people, and how to eat well at home. And then when you go into a restaurant it's like a completely different outlook. So I'm excited for that though.

Kerry Diamond: That's amazing. And do you have partners?

Amy Chaplin: Yeah, my sister is one.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, how nice?

Amy Chaplin: Yeah. So she's been here for about 20 years too and she's worked at Front Of House all this time. So people have always said, "When are you going to do a restaurant project together?" I thought maybe it wouldn't happen, but we have another partner, and he kind of just brought us together and said, "We're doing this." And so I just went along with it and now it's really, it's happening.

Kerry Diamond: Congratulations. That's very, very exciting. Well, whatever we can do to help, we are 100% here to support. So we're going to do the speed round. What is your favorite kitchen utensil?

Amy Chaplin: First thing that came to mind is pressure cooker, but really my knife.

Kerry Diamond: Song that makes you smile?

Amy Chaplin: Oh, a Dionne Warwick song, Walk On By.

Kerry Diamond: Most treasured cookbook?

Amy Chaplin: Nourished by Holly Davis.

Kerry Diamond: A food that you would never eat?

Amy Chaplin: I don't like smokey. I hate smokey.

Kerry Diamond: Oldest thing in your fridge?

Amy Chaplin: It's not mine. It's my wife's. It's like bitters or something. Like I'm always trying to throw it out and she catches me. And like three kinds of bitters. Like, really? How often do you use that? Never.

Kerry Diamond: She can't have her own little section of the fridge?

Amy Chaplin: No. She takes over the fridge. We're both like obsessed with like, I've got all my misos, she's got like mayonnaise and bitters. And like we had pickles and all those onions for martinis. Like gross.

Kerry Diamond: Mayonnaise is divisive. I feel like a lot of people just do not like mayonnaise.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: I have Hellman's mayonnaise.

Amy Chaplin: I should make it. I always think I'm going to make it, because I read the ingredients I'm like-

Kerry Diamond: Oh, you've never made mayonnaise?

Amy Chaplin: Yeah, I have, but I don't make it. It's not like something I do. I'd have to look up a recipe because I wouldn't.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. A dream vacation destination?

Amy Chaplin: Lately I've sang to my sister, I just want to go to Turks & Caicos.

Kerry Diamond: Speaking of being on an island, if you had to be trapped on a desert island with any one food celebrity, who would it be and why?

Amy Chaplin: Oh, she wouldn't be trapped here, but Jeong Kwan, I mean I just love her. The monk that's highlighted in-

Kerry Diamond: On the Netflix.

Amy Chaplin: In Netflix. Oh my God, she is so inspiring to me. Like the way she cooks just completely intuitively and gardens and in this mess, and then just creates this amazing, beautiful, pure, pure food. I just love her.

Kerry Diamond: That's a fun person to be trapped with.

Amy Chaplin: Well, I don't know. You probably wouldn't do a lot of talking. I don't know. Maybe meditate and eat good food. I'm not sure, but I love her.

Kerry Diamond: And then you'd get to be on your island.

Amy Chaplin: Yeah, right. And I can go to the beach at the same time.

Kerry Diamond: Well, Amy, it was so nice to see you. I'm so happy there's all this good stuff going on in your life.

Amy Chaplin: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Wen-Jay Ying and Amy Chaplin for coming by Radio Cherry Bombe. If you are in New York City and would like to support Wen-Jay's company, visit If you're looking for a new cookbook, definitely pick up Amy's latest Whole Food Cooking Every Day at your favorite bookstore. Thank you to today's sponsor, Sugar Free 3 by Michele Promaulayko. We'd love for you to subscribe to Radio Cherry Bombe wherever you get your podcasts, and we'd love if you could rate and review the show. Let us know who you'd like to hear as a future guest. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited, engineered, and produced by Jess Zeidman. 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.

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