Finding Your Audience
The next step is once you're like, found you're collaboration partner and you're ready to go, you have somewhat of an idea, you know what your own expertise is somewhat, you want to find and sort of define your audience.
There's a lot of food related podcasts. There's podcasts that interview cookbook authors, that talk only about street food, that investigate food labor practices and the social impact of our agriculture. There's one called, it always seems to be at the top, Sips, Suds, and Smokes.
Sips, Suds, Smokes we're not sure what it's about but.
We have a guess.
So but we just felt like well no one was really doing a podcast that actually teaches you to cook in real time.
Right so we're asking ourselves what makes Cooking By Ear different? How instead of just adding to the noise how are we providing something to our potential audience. So that should really be your first question. Like how am I gonna differentiate my podcast from what's already out there? And th...
en the next question is why us, why you, why now?
Right so you know, why, like why me on this subject? And I feel like in some ways it was, the answer is kind of obvious. I'm a long time chef, I've taught a lot of people I've actually written cookbooks that I'm trying to get, encourage people to cook. But Kristina.
I'm more culinary curious. I'm like, I'm not a cook but I'm open. I'm open to the idea of cooking. (audience laughter) And I was, I'm also interested in the fact that you know, to me it's almost like we're making a walking tour for your kitchen, essentially. Or a walking tour for your recipe so that I really love the interactivity and I have experience with making things like that just not with a recipe.
And it's working, you're already, you're cooking.
I mixed, I made soup the other day.
She made soup.
That's a big deal.
Impress the wife. (laughing) And then you know, why now? We felt like because maybe people for some reason aren't learning to cook in some of the more traditional ways like through family members because everyone is very busy. There's an enormous availability of takeout that, there's a hundred companies who will be happy to deliver it to you at any time of the day. Even to the trunk of your car, or wherever you happen to be. And people are getting fed at work more. In certain companies there's campuses where there's people getting, so we felt like we want to get people back in the kitchen. To rebuild connections that happen in the kitchen, and because we're all living in an increasingly virtual world we think there's value of getting your hands on something real and actually being a maker. People don't so much make their shoes or their houses anymore but everyone can get in and make something to eat and it feels good.
So then we ask what's our real, like what's our real mission? And so you want to really think about like what's the thesis of your show? Or like a less academic sounding way to think of it is like what's your focus sentence? And I learned this from my first radio teacher, shoutout to Rob Rosenthal.
Yeah Rob. So the focus sentence is somebody does something because blank but blank. And ours, when we fill in the blanks it's people want to learn to cook but they, and they love food, but they're intimidated and need encouragement. So if you have access to food, you know, we really think the barrier, like our hunch is that the barrier is that you're like a little afraid. Either afraid of failure or, it's mostly like failure and intimidation.
I think also in cooking and in creating a podcast and I feel like, I think of this again and again throughout the points that we make about podcasting and cooking is that, like you, it is important to have a mission and to have it clearly set in your mind but to also remember that there's many paths to fulfill that mission. And some of them you're gonna discover along the way.
Right. So then we boiled it all down and we realized that this question that we're trying to solve with our podcast, the thing is we're trying to find people's gateway dish. What's the one meal that's gonna like give them a little boost of confidence and get them back in the kitchen again.
We want to give people a little taste of success. But if you make it and it comes out great that might encourage you to try the next thing, maybe get a little more elaborate. Or maybe you're just gonna stick with that fried egg sandwich and that's your thing. That's okay.
That's okay. And Cal's pretty liberal with like what he considers cooking. Like you're down with people making salads. You just like people--
Okay. And so the next question we asked ourselves was okay what's the right format for something like this that's never been done before? So we knew that we wanted to teach people how to cook and then there's so many ways to approach this. At first we were thinking because we had an in in the investigative journalism community, we'll have investigative journalists come on while we make souffles or whatever. But then I was like, we tried that and people are telling really intense stories about corrupt labor practices at Tesla and then it's like oh wait, pause, we need to turn the burner down a little bit. So it just felt like that wasn't the right thing for us. Then we had this other idea.
Yeah then we had when one of our early meetings I made a lunch and it was an eggplant dish. And it was delicious I have to say. (audience laughter) Everyone sort of agreed it was delicious and then afterwords Kristina told me you know, I, like I hate eggplant. It's always been a thing that I hate. I think she's not alone in that, it's popularly hated. But I really loved that. And we thought, oh, maybe this is the format for our podcast. Like make me like it. We find our guest and they have to tell us what they hate and then we're gonna cook that very thing for them. (audience laughter) But then we thought maybe that's just kind of a bummer. We didn't want to eat the thing and like what if it didn't work and they still hate okra or whatever it is?
And so we finally like landed on this like well you don't have to build all these crazy constraints like our one creative constraint is that we're following a recipe and that we want it to be in real time. And that's sort of an editing challenge enough and that we wanted to recreate sort of the magic that happens in conversation in kitchens when you're, in kitchens when you're working with different people or right before a meal. So we wanted to invite, we just wanted to have sort of the interview format tied in with a recipe.
Right because we felt like maybe just the cooking, straight cooking lesson through might get kind of dry. And we wanted to keep it juicy and engaging to us. And I think that's an important thing. Like if it's not interesting to you as the host of the podcast that will be communicated. You know, sort of like in Water for Chocolate, if you cry into the food then it's gonna make people cry. So we wanted to keep ourselves engaged and along the way we got a bunch of advice when we were first making a few of our test versions some people said like it should only be the teaching part, because that's really what's great about it. Other people said no you're getting great guests like you should focus on the guests and maybe just kind of mention the food in some way. We ignored their advice. Not entirely, we took some of the advice, so we did make the teaching part a bit robust but we also kept the interview part robust as well.
Yeah so when people, some people cook along with us like we first intended but I also have people tell me that you know they went for a run and listened to our podcast and they were inspired later to make chicken stock. Because they were so, so they get drawn in by Frances McDormand maybe like telling a great story and then later you're like oh, Cal says never buy store bought chicken stock, it's gross and viscous, just use water if you can't like make your own chicken stock.
And it's cheaper.
Also I just learned today that you have friends who say that they, they listen in the kitchen while they're cooking but they don't cook the thing that we're cooking, they cook something else. (audience laughter) Which I don't know how they can do that, but right on.
Yeah, some people.
That's their thing.
Some people just want the company in the kitchen. Because if you're making a meal alone and then sitting down to eat it alone sometimes it can be a bummer and so we're there to fill your ears with magic while you're making yourself a dish.
So that's our format. So the next thing we were looking for, like who's the obvious audience?
For me I had a, I mean Chez Panisse has a broad fan base and some notoriety. I was writing cookbooks, so that was an obvious group of people that we wanted to reach out to. And we value those people but we wanted to expand it. And so Kristina brought in other elements of our audience.
Yeah we were like, okay so we know that chef friends are gonna listen and support you and we know Chez Panisse fans are gonna listen and support but like are they really the people that we're trying to reach with this show? So like who's our goal audience? And so one of the things that are great about our guests is that they're sort of proxies for our listeners. And they usually have, you know, not a very, they're not, they haven't been cooking at a world famous restaurant for 30 years, necessarily. And one of those guests was Tommy Pico. And he is a poet out of Brooklyn. He's Kumeyaay and originally from the Viejas Reservation in Southern California and his relationship with food was very specific. So the, like the government, federal government decided to ship subsidies into reservations and really use it as a means of control, to control people. So he was used to having like packages of rice with maggots in it or like canned peaches with sugary syrup, things like that.
Or egg, what--
Powdered eggs for example.
And then Cal was like but, do you want to, like Cal was just like but--
I was like well but within that, because we'd heard these stories before of people who were living with that kind of like deprivation and limitations but there's that one thing that they used to like that they made out of like, we cooked with these, this, family of peach farmers and they talked about, or we heard about when their relatives were in the internment camps during the second world war they came up with this dish called weenie royale that was, that you can still get. That was made of like hot dogs and soy sauce and stuff. So it became like a touchstone for them. So I asked Tommy, sure you were getting all this crappy food but like was there that one thing that you really kind of liked? Like, give it to me, and we got an answer that we didn't really expect.
So they were called commodities. You know, the kids on the reservation we would call ourselves the commod squad. And we would throw the cans at each other. Like that was our enter, that was our game. That was like our entertainment. Was playing commod squad. So that was the extent of my joyful memories of the food, was using it as a weapon. (laughter)
So when we had Tommy on the show we ask our guests like what they want to cook, is it an ingredient that they want to work with, is it like a childhood dish that they want to recreate, and then Tommy's his request was what's the best meal to impress a date on the morning after. Like.
Tommy told me, you know, I'm like this queer poet in Brooklyn and I write a lot about sex and hookup culture and I hook up a lot and like sometimes someone might stay over and I want that dish to impress them and, kind of blushed a little bit myself I have to admit into my computer screen and then I typed back and said you know. Let's do this leftover spaghetti frittada because it's familiar but it's kind of exotic at the same time. It's you know, timewise you can pull it off and it has this like risky, because the way I do it you have to flip it over, there's this risky moment that's kind of sexy, and-- (audience laughter) And you know, you're gonna pull it off and when you do you're a total stud. (audience laughter)
Totally. So like naturally Cal gives the instruction, like Tommy let's crack six eggs. And then in that moment, Tommy revealed something else to us.
Alright I'm gonna admit something extremely embarrassing. I don't know how to crack an egg. Whoa look at that.
How many eggs are we cracking?
But it feels like six million. Because there's a lot of pressure on me right now. Gotta learn how to do it now so that when I actually do it for a hookup I don't look like a total idiot. Look at me cracking eggs like a fucking pro.
So alright, so after you've asked all and answered all those questions then you put all of your answers into a show treatment. And this show treatment is like it discussed all, what's your mission, who's the talent of your show, who's gonna be working on the show, what's the overall arc of your season or what's your wishlist of guests? And we used this before our show launched and people had no idea, like we had no proof sort of to give them what we were doing. We gave this to our guests to show them like what we were about. And then we also use it, it could be good for like sending out to potential sponsors or other networks that you want to collaborate with. So it's basically just an overview of your show.
It also kind of helps you know what you're trying to do. To set your own mission.