Homegrown Podcast Episode 112: Michael’s Genuine

For Homegrown podcast hosts Chris Donnelly and Carol Banker, locavore is more than a buzz word. We agree.

Based in California, they found Michael in Miami thanks to a mutual friend in Ann Arbor, Michigan, John Roos.  You know his Roos Roast coffee that we serve at the restaurant; John and Michael date back to days cooking up a snow storm at a restaurant in Vail in the ’80s.

Crisscrossing the country over three years and 113 shows on the Talk Shoe platform, Homegrown’s unique angle focuses on one interview per episode with a distinguished local leader living and working anywhere in America. This allows the hosts to both capture the spirit of slow food at a grass roots level and take an accurate reading of how the movement bubbles up to the big picture.

After a thoroughly enjoyable 40 minutes talking with Chef about everything from his James Beard Award to work in the local school system for healthier cafeterias, it was time to turn the tables and hear Homegrown’s take on locavorism in America (and American media) today.  Laced throughout, a bunch of laughs and light bulbs. Listen to Michael’s episode here and then read the hosts’ interview on The Genuine Kitchen below.

Chris and Carol. Two pencils in a podcast.

1.) What first attracted you to cover the food industry?

i read “animal vegetable miracle” by barbara kingsolver and a lightbulb just lit up. of course we should be eating this way. i need to do a show about it. i work in the television industry and it is and has always been goal to shoot homegrown as a tv show. chris and i both love food and both grew up in michigan in the 70’s when you had no choice but to eat seasonally. we both love to garden and we just felt compelled to discuss sustainability in food systems and the myriad of off shoot topics surrounding that.

2.) Why podcast as your platform? When did you get the idea to do one, and how long did it take you to get it up and running?

as i mentioned, we wanted to do it as a show, but the necessary investment and logistics of shooting all over the place (which is what interests us: the locavore movement in various geographies) overwhelmed us and we decided to do a podcast to get us started. gain a fan base, some knowledge and shape what we wanted the show to be. i decided in the fall of 2008 to do it and we pretty much immediately got it up and running. i remember saying to chris: “let’s just do this for a bit and see how it goes.” 2 plus years and 113 episodes later, we continue…..

3.) What’s your take on social media vs. traditional media?

we are hard core luddites and it is a miracle we have this figured out, let alone continue to pull it off every week as well as design and update a website and have a facebook page and twitter account….. we love social media, but know we aren’t tapping into it the way we could (and would like to) if we knew more. as i say, i work in the tv industry and am thus obviously ok with traditional media as well. i think social media offers more opportunities and right now makes sense for us. ideally we’d like to combine the two: shoot a tv show and incorporate a webcast (we like the live aspect of it) along with it.

4.) I’m a media junky. What media, food or otherwise, do you follow to stay informed?

we have several sources we get ideas from and stay tuned into the sustainable food movement, including: print: bon appetit, sunset, the ny times, the la times, and (our favorite) many of the edible publications. we love them. online: google alerts, twitter, facebook, various blogs and general googling. as well as checking out the online edible publications. also, public radio: “good food” from kcrw in santa monica ca. and “the splendid table” from minnesota public radio. we also are constantly scouring book shops for books on the topic and in addition to kingsolver, have read a great deal of michael pollan and food writers in general.

5.) Which food media “get it” and do a great job reporting on the real issues, on which do you avoid?

well we think all those publications get it. (sadly the now defunct gourmet mag as well). there is a lot of green washing going on and thus some of the papers and lots of main stream tv are guilty of that, but bon appetit and sunset have something every month. the weekly food sections in both la and ny times are increasingly discussing it and of course the edible publications are all over it. we also get “city farmer news” from a past guest, michael levinson in vancouver b.c.

6.) What makes you suited for each other as hosts?

we know each other really well. friends for 30 plus years and we come from the same place and share that sort of geographic dna.we have both lived in a variety of places, bringing our own unique perspectives to the table. we both also happen to be very passionate about food justice and food issues and yet are total goofballs and can be very silly. we have a very similar approach to homegrown which is we take it very seriously and go to great lengths to never miss a week (we have done shows from camping sites, london, sri lanka, and all over…. wherever we travel) and yet what is equally important to us is that we enjoy it and have fun. we have sort of settled into distinct roles: we both try and scour for and book guests (although chris is currently the champ of that). chris tends to write the introduction, and does a lot of the talking. carol writes the outline and runs the technical end: recording the show, updating talkshoe and the website, tweeting, facebooking (chris does that too) and tending to the live chat room during the show. chris sends out thank you’s…… but mostly i’d say why we are good together on air is this unspoken thing: it just works. and we love it. and are committed to it. plus we both love food.

7.) What do you do to keep things fresh after so many episodes?

well i’m not sure if we do, but if we do it’s the variety of guests we get. we are always learning and are genuinely enamored with the awesome hard working and passionate people we have on. we’re constantly searching different regions of the country for new stories and people and subjects.

8.) What makes for a good guest? Name your top three that have been on. Where does Michael rank? :)

good guests i think are passionate about what they do. easy going. non judgemental. patient with us. a good sense of humor. and happy to share their knowledge and passions. it is easy to be angry at agri-business, monsanto, big box stores etc. and trust me, we hate them, but we think our show is all about the positive. we like to focus on what is possible, despite all that……..
we loved michael. he was a favorite. he was chatty and fun and irreverent and his menu looks off the hook. we were pleasantly surprised at how relaxed and easy it was to talk with michael being that he’s such an accomplished chef. (it helped that right before we went on air we realized we had a lot of mutual friends from back in the day and it was a serious case of any friend of his is a friend of mine.) other favorites were: john roos of roos roast coffee; the grit girl; broc and moss from city garden farms; real time farms; outstanding in the field; eden foods…….

9.) What are we getting right in America with regards to sustainable food systems?

what we’re getting right is the street level grass roots movement where people are actually involved and not just watching it on the news or waiting for the government or big business to do it.

in pockets we are getting it. and it’s growing. one of the things we like to talk about when we get guests from different geographic areas is taking the locavore temperature of their area. what’s it like? is it changing? are people receptive and open to it? there are several areas that already have a great awareness and a great deal of support. and we are finding more all the time. mostly, big picture, we are not (yet) getting it right in america. but we love that michelle obama cares. has put a kitchen garden into the white house lawn. and that despite the green washing, there are positive changes all the time. in schools, food banks, restaurants, more farmer’s markets… just even people talking about it. more people growing their food…..

10.) Who are the thought leaders in the slow food movement that you see as pioneers and why are they effective?

well i think our capital H heroes are: joel salatin, alice waters, michael pollan. carlo petrini. tim redmond. they are all amazing and doing an amazing job at spreading the word and leading by example and have been doing so for years. well before it was en vogue. but they are well known and popular…. in addition to them, there are many heroes everywhere. pretty much every guest (maybe save one) we’ve had on are heroes…. but i guess you said thought leaders, not heroes…… maybe that’s the same thing to us….. and really many many food writers and chefs…. jamie oliver…. mfk fisher… jim harrison….

11.) What do you feel is misunderstood about the slow food movement?

that buying your food from small producers is more expensive. and maybe a misconception that locavores are elitist.

12.) What is one thing you would change about food in america today?

i think agri business must be addressed through legislation. it’s insane that small farmers are being sued by monsanto for copy right infringement and being put out of business. well, that is the big thing that needs to change. but really what needs to change is people need to really start paying attention to their food sources and making smarter and healthier choices and understanding the real costs of supporting big businesses. food and otherwise. ideally, getting back to more small family owned farms.

13.) List three people that are your dream interview “gets”.

alice waters. michael pollan. ari weinzweig of zingerman’s. (and of course, obama. barack or michelle. or both)

14.) Any new projects you currently working on?

always. we would like to find a producer to take the helm and help us transform into our original idea of a tv show. our dream is to take over carol’s rental property, put our production and editorial offices in it and in the living room and dining room host an under ground supper club with rotating guest locavore chefs. wanna help?!

thanks so much for your interest and asking us these wonderful and thoughtful questions. (it turns out, another reason chris and i are good co-hosts is we answered the questions the same, independently of one another.) if there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know. we both can’t wait to eat michael’s food, whether it be in miami or the caymans. either place is fine by us.

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