This story is going to kill you

Anthony Bourdain used to all kinds of outrageous foods. It’s a good thing he talked with the local folks before picking up a fork because parts of lots of food contain cyanide. In fact, there are lots of foods that will flat out kill you.

Today we skip the exotic killer foods such as the puffer fish and focus on what is probably in your kitchen right now. This episode could mean life or death, so crank up your audio player and prepare yourself to consider an all-water diet.

Dinner and a murder

Someone has died and you notice that the person sitting next to you has a knife. Are they the murderer? What about the man in the pink suit at the next table? He looks awfully suspicious. Maybe he’ll be the one who gets his just deserts.

You’ll find out, but not until you’re a member of the clean plate club. It’s murder mystery dinner theater and sussing out clues and identifying the villain is what the fun is all about.

In this episode, you’ll meet Joe Brown, an actor and comedian who performs with a Nashville dinner theater troupe. He shares with us how guests react to a play happening all around them and how they behave when they become part of the show. It’s not pretty.

Murder Mystery Co.

Dining out of a toilet — there’s a restaurant for that

You’ve been to drive-ins with servers on roller skates, places where the staff yells at you or where you can eat for free if first you choke down a three-pound hamburger – bun and all.

But this week we have a whole list of other restaurants that are much more strange. This is your chance to learn about unusual restaurants. Grab your spoon and enjoy!

You’ll also find links to some of the restaurants at the end of the show notes.

The Modern Toilet

See what The Modern Toilet looks like

The Safe House

The Black Ant


Cabbages and Condoms

Dinner in the sky

Kristen Beringson is a Chopped superstar

Kristen’s head was never on the chopping block

“You’ve been chopped” is the equivalent of being voted off Survivor. You’re done. No chance to redeem yourself or to make that frittata a little more crisp.

In this episode, Kristen Beringson tells us about her experience on Chopped and says what you see is real. There is a deadline and they must hit it. There are no retakes … except the one that revealed a secret to Kristen. Listen in and learn about one of Chopped secrets.

Are you a super taster?

If you’re one of those people who regularly sends food back to the kitchen with instructions on how it should be prepared, you might just be a jerk or you could be a Super Taster.

Super Tasters experience food differently than most of us. Listen in to find out all about them and use the links below to tell if you might be a Super Taster.

BBC test on whether you are a Super Taster

Buy a kit to test whether you are a super taster

Smart Cookie: Soybeans – You eat more than you think

You see them everywhere, those bushy green plants in neat rows happily growing in some farmer’s field. Then comes fall when the leaves fall and the plant withers. That’s when it’s harvest time.

We’re talking soybeans. They are your tofu, they are on your newspaper and lots of other places you wouldn’t expect.

Join us for this episode and when it’s done, when it comes to soybeans, you’ll be a smart cookie!

Click bait — how fresh seafood finds its way to Nashville restaurants

You’ve ordered a wonderful tilapia for dinner. You’ve got the right wine, great company and entire evening to spend enjoying your meal.

You probably aren’t thinking about how fresh that fish is, how it got to Nashville, whether it has been frozen or if it made its way to your plate via China, even though it was caught elsewhere.

There is a lot to know about how fresh fish ends up on your plate and David Feinstone of Off The Dock Seafood tells us what happens from the time a fish makes the fatal decision to swim into a net to when it lands on your plate.

Off the Dock Seafood

How much seafood should we eat?

By far, the most popular seafood for American is shrimp. We eat four pounds of it per person per year, according to the World Atlas. Salmon and tuna are next with 2.3 pounds per person each. Coming in last among the top 10 are clams with 0.34 pounds per person per year.

When it comes to freshwater fish, there is little data available because species vary from region to region. Very little northern pike is caught in Tennessee and, if they are, it probably involves a barrel.

Whatever fish you like – or don’t like – the experts at the Harvard University School of Public Health say we need to include fish in our diet. They say: “Fish is a very important part of a healthy diet. Fish and other seafood are the major sources of healthful long-chain omega-3 fats and are also rich in other nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium, high in protein, and low in saturated fat. There is strong evidence that eating fish or taking fish oil is good for the heart and blood vessels. An analysis of 20 studies involving hundreds of thousands of participants indicates that eating approximately one to two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish a week—salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, or sardines—reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent.”

Maybe anchovies on pizza isn’t such a bad idea.

Or maybe shrimp – the USDA says we should eat 8 ounces of seafood a week.

On the FDA’s list of best fish to eat are:

Atlantic mackerel; Black sea bass; Butterfish; Catfish; Clam; Cod; Crab; Crawfish; Flounder; Haddock; Hake; Herring; Lobster, American and spiny; Mullet; Oyster; Pacific Chub; Mackerel; Perch, freshwater and ocean; Pickerel; Plaice; Pollock; Salmon; Sardine; Scallop; Shad; Shrimp; Skate; Smelt; Sole; Squid; Tilapia; Trout, freshwater; Tuna, canned light (includes skipjack); Whitefish; Whiting.

The FDA says the worst choices to make, because of high mercury levels are: King Mackerel, Marlin, Orange Roughy, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico), Tuna, bigeye.

One reason more people don’t eat fish, the health experts say, is because we don’t know how to cook it. Southern Living has what it calls a foolproof method for cooking filets.And no less of a culinary genius than Betty Crocker offers its own tips for cooking fish.

Bartenders pour shots of party tips and bad party behavior

Want to hear a story about an office party that needed two ambulances and a manager to break up a sex party? Sound great unless that party is your own and you’re the head of the company.

Laceey Mclaughlin and Amanda Graham of VIP Bartending and Events will share that story with you and give you tips about how to throw a great holiday party of your own.

Yes, it’s all fun and games until someone loses their dinner on the karaoke stage. Join us for a good time and great advice.

Our blog post: What to do if you really screw up at the office party.

VIP Bartending and Events

Niido Nashville

Make sure the punishment fits the crime

Your boss came into the bathroom just as you were hurling into the urinal.

You were a little too flirty with the cute guy who is your boss’s boss.

The make-out session you thought was in a deserted part of the hotel was caught on camera. It went viral on YouTube.

The first work day after the office holiday could be more painful than a hangover if you’ve misbehaved or just exhibited bad judgement. The degree of your transgression will determine the penalty you’ll pay. It may be snickers from other office workers, or it may mean a call into your boss’s office with the extra chair occupied by someone from HR.

It’s too late now, so let’s take a look at what experts say are some of your options.

It may be that you weren’t the only one who was out of line so, if the company grades on a curve, you may be considered a minor offender. You’ll have to suffer jokes from you co-workers, but those will pass. If you can pull it off, get the jump on everyone by owning your bad behavior and start the jokes about yourself. With luck, you’ll have taken the fun out of it once they realize they won’t get under your skin.

If your actions involved an individual, apologize. Don’t blame the alcohol, just straight out apologize. It won’t change what you did, but you will end points for copping to the crime.

If you’ve been really out of line, your first instinct might be to quit your job. Don’t. What may seem horrible to you may not be seen that way by others. Get the lay of the land and try to understand what trouble you’re in, if any. You can always resign later. Don’t make a mistake that may be far worse than whatever you did at the party.

On the other hand, it may be your employer’s idea that you should now spend more time with your family. An Australian law firm offered this observation:

“The legal problems that can emerge from alcohol-fueled work functions became particularly apparent when the Fair Work Commission found that an employee had been unfairly dismissed even though the employee’s behavior was seemingly abhorrent and inexcusable. In this case, the worker yelled profanities at his bosses at a work function, spoke to colleagues in a disrespectful and abusive manner, and also sexually harassed colleagues.

“In most circumstances, this conduct would easily amount to ‘serious and willful misconduct’ to justify the immediate (summary) termination of employment.

“Whilst the Commission found that the conduct had indeed occurred, it also found that the employee’s intoxication was a ‘mitigating factor’. The Commission concluded that “it is contradictory and self-defeating for an employer to require compliance with its usual standards of behavior at a function, but at the same time to allow the unlimited service of free alcohol at the function.”

“In other words, if the employer supplies unlimited alcohol at a function, it should not arbitrarily sack workers whose conduct is less than satisfactory after consuming large amounts of alcohol.”

The best thing you can do – other than stay home – is to not put yourself in a position to behave badly. Alcohol is often a factor, so if you can’t hold your liquor, stick with club soda. If you’re going to drink, limit yourself to half of what you’d usually have. It will be easy to over imbibe. Pace yourself and make sure you drink more water than booze – those trips to the bathroom will be worth it.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun. This is a chance to relax with co-workers and get to know them as people. What you learn may surprise you. If you really don’t like the people with whom you work, then put in the required time at the party, then go someplace else and have fun there.

And if it’s one of your co-workers that misbehaves, make sure your reaction is commensurate with the crime.

Bringing home the bacon at the World Food Championships

It’s said that bacon is the gateway drug for vegetarians. If that’s the case, then there were lots of conversions at the World Food Championships during the bacon category.

In this episode, we talk to the Fabulous Bacon Babe, a nice Jewish girl from Long Island, N.Y. We also go into the tent where competitors are cooking bacon and talk with some of the contestants.

Finally, we tell you how well Tennessee contestants did in their categories.

Check out our blog post that goes with this episode and you’ll learn what it’s like to eat championship food. I judged six contests — none of them bacon — and I’ll give you the inside dish.

The Fabulous Bacon Babe

Chef Rock

Bill-E’s Bacon

Kevin Bacon’s Six Degrees charity

World Food Championships

How good is the food at the World Food Championships

When top chefs from around the world come to cook for the title of World Food Champion and $100,000, you’d think the judges get some pretty wonderful food to eat.

Not so much.

I was a judge for six events at the championship – chef’s choice, chicken, burger, duck, chili structured and chili signature. Duck was an ancillary category open to anyone who wanted to compete, so those cooks should not be grouped with those chosen from regional contests. Those who won the regional contests were both pro and home cooks and a fair number of home cooks win the chance to compete at the WFC; last year’s winner was a home cook.

Cooks have to prepare all food on-site. That means cooks from all over the U.S. and the world have to buy local ingredients which may not match the items they used to win their regional contests. They work in unfamiliar kitchens, grouped closely under a tent and are subject to weather and humidity that doesn’t exist in the regular kitchens. For most of the contest, the weather was in the upper 70s with high humidity. Friday afternoon, winds kicked up and temps rapidly dropped into the low 50s.

Still, they got to the competition because they are the best and they should be able to produce great food.

Judges don’t taste every entry. There are five judges at a table and they typically get five entries. Each entry is judged on its own merit and is not compared with other entries. Judges give point scores on their food and those with the top 10 points move into the finals.

Most of the entries are disappointing. They are still high quality, but they don’t meet the standards of world quality food. Burgers are a great example.

At my table, some beautiful burgers were presented for judging, but the problem was that they could not be eaten. They were tall and stuffed with ingredients. They could not be picked up without falling apart. Try cutting it into a bite-sized piece and, again, it falls apart. There were great flavors on the burgers, but they could not be tasted together as a whole. They were – over-chefed.

The structured dish in chicken was chicken parmesan, a classic dish. Chefs could prepare it any way they liked, as long as it contained the ingredients that make the dish unique. One entry at our table were balls of chicken with a parmesan crust, stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sitting in a tomato sauce. It looked great.

I cut into mine and it tasted good, but when I saw other judges cut into their portions, cheese spilled out. That didn’t happen for me. I dug through the rest of the entry and finally found a small bit of cheese. Regardless of conditions, consistency is important. This should not be a challenge for chefs who made it this far in the competition.

This was my third year judging and I’ve found the same issues each year. In talking with judges both at my table and those who judged other categories, they share the same experience.

Is it worthwhile to be a judge at the WFC? Without a doubt, YES. There are dishes that can blow you away. But as you watch cooking competitions on TV and you see cooks judged harshly, those criticisms may be warranted. The same issues that exist at the World Food competition exist in television studios.

If you want to find out for yourself, you can take an EAT class sponsored by the WFC or buy a ticket to the VIP tent at the event where you won’t go away hungry.

And even if you don’t want to spend the cash to go into the tent, you get to watch the cooks in action and you’re close enough that you can chat with them as they work. Plus there is the opportunity to watch great chefs at work and I promise you’ll learn a lot.

Food photography

Who doesn’t like good food porn? And what better day is there for food porn than Thanksgiving. Well before this episode was released, food photographers were clicking away creating images that make you want to buy stuff and imagine that you can make it look as pretty as it does in the picture.

Nick Bumgardner knows all about this. He’s a Nashville area food photographer and in this episode he gives you the tricks of his trade along with tales of how he photographs burgers and beer along with some of the things used in a photo shoot you wouldn’t want to eat.

Nick Bumgardner Photography

Food Photo War — the best laugh you’ll have today

The importance of visuals

I’m a fan of the Great British Baking Show, but damn, when I watch an episode I want to go raid the nearest bakery. It’s one hour of solid food porn.

But take heart, we human beings are not the only ones subject to fall for visually tasting dishes. The Atlantic published a story in 2015 saying:

“In the mid-20th century, the Dutch biologist Nikolaas Tinbergen uncovered an odd quirk of animal behavior: Across species, the animals in his experiments seemed to prefer prettier, flashier, more attention-grabbing versions of their natural environments — ‘supernormal stimuli,’ he called them — even when those stimuli were fake. Certain types of fish, he found, would become more violent towards dummy fish whose undersides were more vibrant than the species’ usual color; mother birds would ignore their own eggs to sit on a nest of larger, more colorful imitations, or divert food from their children to feed models of chicks with brighter beaks.”

So the next time you walk past an ice cream store and just have to go in, you can blame it on nature, not nurture.

Now, before you go, you MUST watch this video — it’s the most fun you’ll have all day.

National Geographic’s tips for photographing food

99 Tips for better food pictures

Food Porn Daily

Wikipedia’s take on food photography