I'm curious about how you narrow down all of that content into something that is such high quality. Like you said, always be recording. So I'm figuring that means there's a lot of material to look at, how do you while you're there in the interview, kind of track, I'm gonna want this, and then maybe kind of make that, I don't know, part of making the editing more efficient?
That's a great question.
That is a really good question, and where I spend most of my time, making those decisions. (laughter) I think that there's a few things, like once you've been doing a couple interviews for a while, and as a producer, I have the luxury of having Cal as a partner, and I'm not doing it alone. So there's moments when I'm producing, there's just moments while he's talking and focusing on the interview, I can kind of edit in my head sometimes. Like I know we're not gonna have this whole segment that is you helping Davia put up her curtains, for example. Or something that wouldn't match ...
the show, so that's one thing. And then afterward I always have Cal write me a list that night of all the things he remembers from that day, and then we go through that list and I sort of match it with mine. Just because maybe I'll start editing it like five days later and I forget those moments. But if you do it right immediately you sort of have your wish list, and then I try with this show specifically, I'm just trying to take the best moments and see how I can incorporate them. Like, don't worry about how it's gonna flow narratively, beginning, middle, end, explanations about what's going on, I just wanna take moments that had emotional truths, or that hit me a certain way or made me like really conjure an emotion in me or Cal, and highlight those as much as we can. And then, yeah, I always say, people don't like this term, but I always say, sometimes you have to kill your puppies. It's like killing your darlings. You have to leave some things on the editing floor. And for me, I always am like, oh yeah, the internet, that's free, so I turn some of the things that don't make it into the show into sort of sonic GIFs that we put on our Instagram and our Twitter. But we do have the constraint of the recipe, and sometimes if someone's talking for 40 minutes about one thing, we're like, well that's not gonna fit while the egg is frying, so it might have to be cut down that also.
And we do have that, what I talked about before is we get back the next day, or shortly after we've gone to our guest kitchen, we get in my kitchen and work with our sound engineer and cook it straight through, and at first I thought, what are other ways we can make this happen, and maybe you have your ways, but I could imagine doing like story boarding, or having something visual, I think a lot of us work in a visual way, right, so to kind of have, here's the line, here's the beginning and the end, these are all the things, all the golden moments that you need to fit in there. I think that can be really helpful. Post-Its, or however you.
Yeah, I think one more thing too is I used to, sometimes I used to transcribe all the tape, the four hours of tape, myself, and people are always like, ooh, transcribing, but that really gives you time to really re-visit the tape and go through those moments that were super important, and I color code everything when I'm transcribing, so I literally highlight something in gold for gold, and these have to be in the next thing, and anything that's an instruction that I know we need is teal, whatever. But then I started just going into the tape, putting it in my session, just cutting those moments that I really liked, and then name of the file is the transcription, if that makes sense. So instead of labeling it like, Frances's deer, I'll say, they come in the yard at 5:00 like they're eating effing canopies, and that's the name of the file, so when I search it in Pro Tools I can just pull it up. That might be a little in the weeds, but it just got me right into the tape. Because sometimes something looks good in transcription, but then there's a mic handling noise, or someone's really off mic and I can't really use it, so you really have to prioritize sound first.
You mentioned that you are in the kitchen with these guys for four hours, how do your prepare them for a four hour interview?
That's a great question. Sometimes it's, I don't know, do you wanna answer that?
Yeah, we didn't really know at first that it would be that but it quickly became after the first one, we realized that this was great. Like for us it was a wonderful four hours, and hopefully for our guests too, because it involves a meal. So everyone likes that. Usually a bottle of wine, or two, or more.
We bring the wine, we bring the wine.
Yeah, so bring wine. We do tell them ahead of time, like this usually takes us about four hours, we promise that I'll show up with the groceries, we'll do the dishes, you don't have to do any prep work before, and you have no homework after, so it's just us showing up. And because it's audio, you don't even have to change out of your sweats or comb your hair or anything, you can look any way you want. And I think that that has worked to set people at ease, and sometimes they kick us out after awhile.
We've been kicked out, I can think of three times. Not just like, now, okay, get out, but like, okay, we're gonna wrap it up here.
Right, we can usually feel when it's like time to go. Just like you would as any house guest or party. And sometimes like, we only had two hours with Big Freedia, 'cause she is like the hardest working person in music, she's super busy, so we had to really just like get our questions in there, we didn't have that same luxury of time with her. We don't make anyone stay with us for four hours, for sure. So.
Hi. So what is that a sound engineer is doing that you couldn't do, why is that happening, and why are you not doing it, what's the difference?
I am doing it. But so, like you heard her say William in there, we brought William who's another audio engineer, and he's also a music composer and friend of mine into that first recording 'cause I just had no idea how this was gonna go and the stakes felt high because we had Frances McDormand, we didn't really get a re-do for that. So I had a second recorder. But for me it's like a little bit of a control thing. So I wasn't comfortable not holding a mic and miking everything while I was interviewing, like I really had to hear what William was hearing. So we were both recording at the same time. And I ended up just using that first person tape, because I didn't wanna go through two different recordings of the same. But--
What I mean is when you go back to your kitchen.
Oh, yeah, so why do we use? So I don't wanna downplay William's role either, he's an amazing audio engineer who's worked on whole documentary films doing the sound for it, so his Pro Tools skills are a little different from mine, a little faster.
And a good musician.
And he's an amazing musician so sometimes he composes music for our show. And so he does the final tweak, but we invite him into the kitchen because he's not a cook either, and he's also thinking sonically, like I am. So as opposed to just having anybody come in and be the cook, like he always makes sure that I'm miking every action that he does. Like he always gives me the little, I'm about to cut this onion, you better get this crunch. Like he's doing the predictive, so it's good to have another sound oriented.
He's sort of playing two roles in that part of it. He's being the proxy sort of for the, he's standing in for the guest, but cooking it straight through without all the story telling. And it kinda could be anybody, but it's a bonus that it's him because he is also like you said, paying attention to what sounds we might be missing.
And then like after going through that experience he has an understanding of sort of the arc of our show, so when he and I go down to sit and sort of do the final mix for the whole show, he has an idea of how things are supposed to flow as well, and he's not just going in blind.
But there's also another aspect of our post-production that we haven't really touched on, which is that sometimes there are instructional moments that we didn't hit. Like, we didn't say, now the onions are done and it's time to add the garlic, or something. Or wasn't clear, so, we inevitably go back, and we do this, and William has a studio at his house, and we do an intro and an outro, and then we also re-do any of the instructional things that need to be inserted, often times I'll read a list of the ingredients that we're gonna need, sometimes we get our guest to do that, but if we didn't do that, I'll do it. And then he does the mix, right? The final mix sound?
Yeah, the final mix sound, like levels and things like that, he's really good at. But that just made me think too, we have beta testers for all our recipes, so we send a draft of our episode to people who aren't necessarily really great cooks but they're enthusiastic, so that I can make sure the timing is right. And I've had people that are like, I just needed more time with those carrots, and I'm like, alright, you get one more minute, but I'm not gonna have any more time, or something like that, and it really. Or when they're able to tell me if something is unclear.
Or like, you know, we always tell people, of course it's in real time and you can cook along, but of course you can pause. But we try and design it in a way that you don't have to pause, that it makes sense to just cook it straight through. And so sometimes the beta testers help us with that.
Yeah, and they tell us like, this moment I had to turn the flame down 'cause things were burning. Or something, like things that we might not see 'cause it's so second nature for Cal.
Hi, I'm Claudia. Thank you, this is an awesome concept for a podcast. I love seeing how this could be applied to something like this, I mean I listen to podcasts when I cook, just not cooking podcasts, so. And I guess my question, it sounds like you learn a lot through each, it's so collaborative, that I'm wondering from season one to season two, are you either adopting or letting go of certain things that you had intended for season one? So is there a different focus, is there things that you've sort of learned after season one that you're now incorporating into season two?
Well, yeah. First thing I can think of is early on, in my other radio lives, I like to take myself out of the audio completely. Like I get frustrated when people insert their, like if someone's like, my shirt was blue, and then you hear the narrator say like, her shirt was blue, and it was turquoise. And I'm like, ah, just let the interview say what they wanna say, I like that style, like non-narrated storytelling. So when we first did the Frances McDormand one, you don't really hear, I just cut myself out completely, even though I was asking questions and everything. I was just taking her answers. But then we realized like, I'm also a proxy for our listeners since I don't cook, and I'm sort of like their friendly snacker friend who's trying to like get over the fear with them. And so after that first episode, I'm much more of an active character in the show.
Also, we tried to be nimble and adjust to the moment, and a couple of the ways that we've done that is kind of breaking some of our own rules. Like for example, with Big Freedia, we completely, Freedia switched the format entirely. I didn't teach her to cook, she taught me how to make booty poppin' potatoes, and how could we say no, right? I mean. (laughter) And then we also felt like, okay, we're never gonna have other professional chefs as guests. In season two we break that rule as well, because we met this fantastic guy too, David Foo, who is a wonderful cook, and he taught us how to make something and he has a great story, and so we took it there. And that one we are gonna need to be careful to edit out some of the stuff where he and I start to get all, you know, chef-y, like we're talking about, oh yeah, I worked in that restaurant.
I was just thinking like, cut cut cut cut cut. (laughter) This is not gonna be in it. So that's sort of how our season has changed a little. Yeah.
I have kind of an, uh-oh, I'm sorry. I have kind of a two parter that you I think just started to answer, but how do you choose the guests you're gonna bring on to your show? And have you ever run into something where even though you prepped them and gave them the show treatment to look over, and it just went off the rails and you are having trouble getting control back, how did you handle that?
Yeah. Picking our guests, like at first, and I think this is important when you're starting a podcast, is like, use the resources available to you. So, we got Frances McDormand because she used to eat at Chez Panisse a lot, so Cal had seen her and interacted with her before. So that was sort of amazing.
And I could tell that she was the kind of person who loved the things I love, and was very open and friendly, in fact, my first, I'll tell you this quick, my first interaction with her, we have an open kitchen at Chez Panisse, and I saw her and Joel, and I was like, I have to go say hello, I have to like muster up the courage to go and say like, I'm a big fan, and you guys are great, but I didn't. So they were leaving, and so luckily, open kitchen, she came over to us and she went like this. Pleasure, pleasure, pleasure. (laughter) And that's when I knew. That she was gonna be a fun guest for the show. I was like, mental note, bring in Fran. Have we ever had a thing go off the rails? Not really, it's gotten close. I think with Alexander it went a little bit close to--
Off the rails.
I was thinking too like that--
There was a little tension.
Back to Big Freedia, when we got to her kitchen, everything was perfectly prepped. Like we had the celery cut up, we had the carrots cut up, everything was ready, she was making us a salad, we didn't even know a salad was coming, she just was like such a great host. She wanted to make sure we were eating. She had a whole second meal that we didn't include in the episode 'cause it would've been too much for that episode, but so usually we're doing things start to finish, so we had to readjust for that a little bit in the episode because she had it all prepped and we needed to do a real time thing for our listeners.
She also left right when we got there.
Oh yeah, she forgot something at the store and just was like, you guys can just sit here.
Just go inside, and then she drove away.
She left, and we were like. (laughter) Alright. Which is super trusting, sort of just like wandering around looking at her shrine and hanging out with the dogs. We definitely go on major tangents, that's just room for the show, our Baba Drag Queen episode there's so many tangents, but that's sort of like his nature and his comedy and we wanted to embrace it. And I think when we're looking for guests, we just wanna find people who are doing sort of interesting artistic work. But who are like doing something that maybe we're not experts in, so that we have lots of genuinely curious questions for them. And again, like--
And diversity. We're seeking diversity in every kind of way.
People, yeah, who bring in different backgrounds and different, just their life is different than ours, and we have something to learn from them.
Yeah, and food media can get pretty white. So we just wanted to try to like combat that in some way and not just be like, (singing) here's three white dudes talking forever. (laughter) Like, we don't want that. I was like, get 'em out! (laughter) But anyway.
I think we need to make a GIF of that. (laughter) Well, we've come to the end of the class. Wanna have, ask one final question and that is, final words of wisdom for people who have an expertise, wanna turn that into a podcast, just kind of your final go forth.
I would just say, don't necessarily think that you have to have the perfect plan in like the one go. If you wanna start experimenting by listening to yourself talk on tape, or interviewing a friend that you have, or asking your friends what questions they have about your, even if it's like you're never gonna use it, like start playing around with a mic just to see how it feels, don't spend all your time in the computer screen, like get out in the field and use your mic and play in sound and play in the medium. Otherwise you're gonna be like stuck on your show treatment for the rest of time.
Yeah, and like Davia said, don't be afraid to get lost. And she was talking about literally getting lost on her way to the, 'cause they'd been doing radio for 30 years, and it was before GPS so you could really get lost, and she has an example of they get lost, and they ask someone for directions and that person turns out to be amazing and interesting. So I think even if you feel a little bit lost, go with being lost, and you're gonna learn something and that's gonna make your project better.
Well let's make sure everybody knows where they can follow you on social media.
Yeah, you can follow us at Cooking By Ear on Instagram, Twitter, we're on Facebook as well. And then cookingbyearpodcast.com, that's where you can get another list of recipes and ingredients, and--
And is this where I get to plug my books, too? I have two cookbooks, 12 Recipes, which is for cooks of all skill levels to get you into the kitchen, the one that I originally wrote for my sons, and then A Recipe for Cooking, that's a little more advanced, for making a dinner party. And the one that comes out in two weeks is called, Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta, and it's about cooking with lots of vegetables and grains and greens and beans, and flavoring them with a little bit of meat or fish, like the way people have eaten forever. And it's a really fun one, so I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all.