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San Diegan Poised To Be Next Food Network Star

Audio

Aired 5/5/11

Perhaps you've wondered what it would be like to travel around the world like Anthony Bourdain, eating exotic and rare foods. One San Diegan is getting a taste of that life. Troy Johnson is currently shooting a 9-part television show for the Food Network. It debuts in June but he's agreed to share some stories from the road.

Troy Johnson at a top university (it's a secret) where researchers have developed a machine that fries food with 30% less oil.
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Above: Troy Johnson at a top university (it's a secret) where researchers have developed a machine that fries food with 30% less oil.

Perhaps you've wondered what it would be like to travel around the world like Anthony Bourdain, eating exotic and rare foods. One San Diegan is getting a taste of that life. Troy Johnson is currently shooting a 9-part television show for the Food Network. It debuts in June but he's agreed to share some stories from the road.

Guest:

Troy Johnson is the senior editor of culinary, art and culture for RIVIERA Magazine. He's also hosting a new show on The Food Network, which premieres in June.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Perhaps you've wondered what it would be like to travel around the world like Anthony Bourdain eating exotic and rare foods. Well, one San Diegan is currently getting a taste of that life. Troy Johnson, a frequent guest on These Days, is currently shooting a nine part television show for the food network. It debuts in June. But he has agreed to share some stories from the road. Troy, good morning.

JOHNSON: Good morning, Maureen. How are you?

CAVANAUGH: I'm fabulous. And tell me about this show called Crave.

JOHNSON: Oh, well, I'm somewhat of a food stocker. If I was fried chicken, I think I'd slap a restraining order on me right now. It's the story of all the American foods, one of them per episode, we're gonna start with the history of food and then, like, for instance who knew that cheese was one of the ways that Romans conquered Europe? It was basically the first MRE on the battlefield. Then from there, we go into the major moments of a food's life. And what made it an icon of American cuisine, and we'll get the science behind the food, and we visited with some of the best PhDs in America, and these big brained food guys broke down the actual, like, molecular science of why we love chocolate, cheese, barbecue, everything else.

THE COURT: That sounds fascinating.

JOHNSON: It's fascinating, yeah. So it's basically the biography of a food as told through my brain.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How did you get to host this show, not that it comes as any surprise to me, but perhaps you'd like to share.

JOHNSON: I sent them a ton of cash, some of my uncorrupted stem cells and an unborn child, no, I --

CAVANAUGH: That would do it. ?

JOHNSON: That does it. No, I made a videotape with the help of stannic Joe, he's a producer in town, he's a great producer. We basically stood in front of graffiti wall and waxed about food. How I was born in a walk-in refrigerator in a three star restaurant in the south of France, and how I was breast food by Wolfgang Puck, that sort of thing. The real truth. And food network dug it. They flew me out to New York, they paired me with a great producer from New York, Joe Beschencamp, who actually worked on This American life, the TV show on show time, he won an emmy for that, and I actually refer to him as the angry Russian. But we basically just said, let's figure a way that we can incorporate the way I write about food with what food network does, and it looks like it's gonna be kind of a hybrid of the two things we do well.

CAVANAUGH: What is different about doing this program than writing about food?

JOHNSON: Well, writing about food, you have a lot more time to think about it. You know? Writing about food is a little bit like somebody kind of zinging you, and you taking two hours to come back with the best one liner. You kind of have to think on your feet with this a little bit more so much it's a little bit more challenging. I have two operative brain cell, and they squabble sometimes. But it's gone pretty well. And we have to eat a ton. We're traveling across the United States into so many different cities and just eating some of the same things over and over and over, but variations of it, like fried chicken, barbecued cheese, Hamburgers, everything else. And it's a lot of eating, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Well, you know, you are a guy working for Riviera magazine who knows a lot about food. I'm wondering what you've learned about food doing this show.

JOHNSON: I mean, I have learned innumerable things about food. Things they never even knew. To start each episode, I will read 4 or 5 books on a certain food, whether it be choose or barbecue. In terms of a barbecue, it was basically like the first social integration of races in the south. It was the only place that whites and blacks would come together in a social setting. And it was one of the first antidiscriminator lawsuits in America was filed because a black American wasn't let into a barbecue joint. And it was so important that their social structure down there. So the sort of things like burgers basically went along with the American freeway expansion. When the freeway expansion happened throughout the west, every exit was put a burger stand, and it became so closely engrained with the car culture that it basically boomed the burger world. It was -- there's ail -- so much out there, there's such a deep story.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Troy Johnson, he is a food writer here in San Diego who is hosting a new program that debuts in June on the food network. It's called Crave. Now, Troy, okay, so let's say you're doing a show.

JOHNSON: Okay.

CAVANAUGH: About cheese.

JOHNSON: Okay.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And you have to shoot multiple takes. Perhaps you make a mistake. Are you eating cheese over and over again?

JOHNSON: Over and over again. I mean, some of the best cheese in the world, which is great. Although we did try bubble gum cheese. I have to say that's one of the most disgusting things I've ever put in my mouth. I had to go to mouth rehab for that. But, it is over and over again. Somebody told me that I should actually get a spit bucket for the show. I guess it's is that somewhat of a practice because you have that eat so many cakes, you know? I feel like it'd be rude, actually having that. I can tell you after the 20th bite of even the best cheese in the world, if the producer said, yeah, man, your eyes were a little too twinkly on that take or you got it all over your face again, we're gonna have to retake, I'm starting to see the appeal of a bucket.

CAVANAUGH: That may be some secret to these food hosts that we didn't know about. They have a bucket underneath and just --

JOHNSON: Right. I can't say that they do for sure. But I definitely would see the appeal.

CAVANAUGH: Now, okay, so eating blue cheese over and over again, even great blue cheese is one thing, but Troy, you have got to -- you've been trying out a lot of chocolate for this show too. Tell us about that. That might be a bit easier.

JOHNSON: One of the best -- I've eat ebb some of the best chocolates in the world. One day we went in, and I had to eat so much chocolate, and I've been eating chocolate my entire life, and you don't think about the caffeine content of chocolate, and it's got theobromine, which is another central nervous system stimulant, and I thought oh, I could eat chocolate all day. And I ate so much chocolate and pulled it right over the line, a thing called chocolate liqueur, which is like a sludge that becomes chocolate that's really concentrated. At 1 o'clock in the morning in my hotel room, my heart is thumping so hard. I could not sleep all night. But I mean, we had some of the best chocolates. Chocolate covered Caramels with ghost Chile, which is one of the hottest Chile perps in the world sprinkled on top. A place in Seattle that we'll show on the show. It's just a once in a lifetime opportunity.

CAVANAUGH: It really does sound like it. And it sounds like you're just enjoying it very, very much.

JOHNSON: I definitely am. I definitely am.

CAVANAUGH: Now issue you've been thinking about cravings, day in and day out.

JOHNSON: Right.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there anything that you're craving right now, food wise?

JOHNSON: Salad. Flax seed. Smoothies. You know? We keep on joking on this trip because we're eating some of the best foods that everybody craves, burgers, fried chicken. Everything that'll eventually give you gout if you eat it every single day. So we keep on joking that we can't wait until we actually do the wheat grass episode.

CAVANAUGH: Well, come back home and we'll thin you out, how's that Troy?

JOHNSON: That sounds like a plan.

CAVANAUGH: I want to tell everybody that Troy Johnson hey new food network show, it's on in June, and it's called crave. Thank you Troy.

JOHNSON: Thank you so much.

CAVANAUGH: Troy Johnson is Sr. Editor for our culinary art and culture for Riviera magazine. He's also hosting that brand-new show crave on the food, if. Next, it's our weekend preview and just to get you started on your weekend, we're gonna play a little something from a band called the submarines of they're playing at the lost on Friday night. This is their song, you me and the bourgeoisie.

(Audio Recording Played).

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