January's Editor's Letter

Editor's Letter
26 January 2017

Wolfgang Puck once worked for a chef in Austria who called the cops when he thought his underlings were trying to steal his recipes. Scarlett Johansson has always wanted to sell popcorn. Dean & DeLuca’s cofounder, Giorgio DeLuca, used to carry Jean-Michel Basquiat’s groceries home for him in Soho in the 1970s. I love hearing people’s secrets and secrets, from the above and from others, are what this month’s show are all about.

But in a world of WikiLeaks and social media posts by the second, I wondered if any secrets remained. When it comes to food, especially, so much gets shared. Everything, it seems. The idea of a secret recipe is an anachronistic one. Secret sauce is merely a phrase. Revealing food idiosyncrasies, personal habits that formerly might have been kept under wraps, now comes across as a badge of honor. Since my son was born last year, for example, my main source of fuel has been... string cheese. There, I said it. It’s a secret no longer.

Hearing people’s secrets, the parts of their stories they typically don’t talk about, the things they’ve repressed, buried, forgotten about until prompted, remains one of the great privileges of this job. I felt this most strongly sitting with Puck, a chef whose name appears on signage and packaging globally, whose voice and face are the vanguard of the celebrity chef movement in America. But there’s so much more to the man.

Over the course of our meeting, in the private dining room of his new Manhattan restaurant, Cut, Puck’s young son typed out his homework on a laptop. And Puck played the role of doting father while also answering my million questions, telling a host of deeply personal stories I’d never heard, shedding light on an entire world I knew little about: Austria in the 60s, Indianapolis in the 70s, California in the 80s. The satisfaction of hearing all the details felt almost childlike.

It’s not the only moving moment on this month’s show, either. One of the most important stories we’ve done to date appears on this episode, too, and it’s about James Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s slave valet, one-time chef, and a founding father of American cuisine. That’s a big deal, but most people have never heard of him. Why? Because Hemings’s legacy, and his cultural contributions, have largely become a secret lost to history.

I hope you’ll listen in to that story yourself. Let it be a secret no longer.

Howie Kahn

Photo by Michael Halsband.


Secret recipes, secret crimes, secrets of success --we have them all on this episode, revealed by guests like Scarlett Johansson and Alex Guarnaschelli, and some famous American ghosts, too.

11 January 2017
Meditations from the Morrell Salon: Dinner 2
Meditations from the Morrell Salon: Dinner 2

Personal Terroir: Martha’s Vineyard chef-farmer, Chris Fischer, brings his principles to our plates at Morrell Salon.

24 January 2017

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