Why everyone belongs in the food industry, an interview with the host of Why Food?

Is it just me or has the food industry become like the trendiest thing lately? My Facebook timeline is just a surplus of clean eating articles and food videos and documentaries. I’ve really never been a foodie, I’m much more of a drinkie, and a mass amount of information on social media has always stressed me out. Like do I really need to know how to cook an egg inside an avocado? Probably not, but alas, there is clearly no escaping all of your shared posts (I’m not gonna delete my FB, ya loons!), so I had to ask myself the age-old question: If everyone else is obsessed with the food industry, should I be too?

So I finally decided to get into this whole “food” thing you’re all so nuts about. But it being the age of fake news, I had to make sure to do my research first in order to truly discover why people love the industry so much. Which is what led me to Why Food?, a podcast about people who’ve left the comfort of their established careers behind to follow their hearts into various sectors of the food industry. It’s host and creator is Bushwick resident Patrick McAndrew.

The show is one of many recorded through Heritage Radio Network, Brooklyn’s very own media platform of food thought leaders and industry experts. They record their 30 plus shows out of a station located in the back of Roberta’s.

The show quickly became an addiction and my favorite thing to listen to while avoiding deadlines, so I decided to meet up with Paddy in his Bushwick loft to talk about his podcast, how it all came to be, and like, why food?


Garrett Smith and Julian Colcott  - they're two of the three co-owners at Cherry Point in Greenpoint (Patrick McAndrew, Why Food? Host on right)
Garrett Smith and Julian Colcott – they’re two of the three co-owners at Cherry Point in Greenpoint (Patrick McAndrew, Why Food? Host on right). Photo by Patrick McAndrew

(The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity)

What led you to creating this podcast?

I originally wanted to tell stories about artists and creators in Bushwick, like the people who you don’t really hear about, and I also always wanted to get on Heritage Radio Network, but never knew how to go about it. Then during my trip to Colombia, I got badly sunburnt.

Because you are from Ireland.

Yes, because I am from Ireland. So we took shelter under a tent on this isolated beach, and these American girls were also under the tent and I heard them chatting about what they did back in America, and one girl said, “I used to work for Heritage Radio”.

No way.

I swear it. So I popped my head around the tent and introduced myself and asked her if she could put me in touch with anyone who works there.

That’s a really crazy coincidence.

I know. So long story short, I met the executive director and told her my idea about the creators and artists in Bushwick. She liked it but couldn’t really take it because it wasn’t centered on food. She told me I should try to make it more personal to me. So I thought about how I moved to New York from Ireland to get into the world of food, even though I had no real background in it, but I still managed to get somewhere in the industry. I’ve met so many people that have a similar story, who also came from a random background and ended up in food. So I thought, ya know, we’re all so crazy about food and the industry, so why not ask people why and how they got into it?

What’s your favorite thing about hosting this podcast so far?

For me it still is and always has been about the interesting people. The hashtag we’ve tried to get going is #oneindustryfitsall because it really does. Y’know, you could be an eccentric person, a detail oriented person, a super personable person – and there is a job for you within the [food] industry that will play into your own specific talents. Like, you could work in products, you could work in the kitchen, you could create your own food channel or blog, you could be a food photographer. There are options for pretty much everyone.


Heritage Radio Network recording studio, Roberta’s. Photo by Patrick McAndrew

Yeah, I guess I’ve never thought about the food industry in that way. Like, I certainly never saw myself in it, but I guess here I am writing about it now. So how did you go about finding the people to interview?

In the first season I was just reaching out to people I found interesting and through meeting and talking to a lot of different people; it was pretty word of mouth. In the second season I had a more detailed plan. I knew I wanted to interview people who were all in different sectors of the food industry. Like, I spoke with a restaurateur, a chef, a food academic, a food/wine author, a sommelier, a farmer and a bunch of other really interesting people.

Any Brooklynites?

Yeah! I’m sure you know Ample Hills, the super popular ice cream? I talked to the co-founders Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna. They started off in Propsect Heights but have expanded all over the city. Homa Dashtaki who owns The White Moustache, which is a Red Hook based producer of both Persian and Greek style yoghurts, labneh and whey probiotic drinks. On the first season I interviewed Alie Sharper who founded Brooklyn Oenology, which was originally located in Williamsburg. All the wine wrappers on her wine bottles are made by Brooklyn artists, which is also cool.

I also talked to Casey Elsass, who co-founded the spicy honey company, Bushwick Kitchen.

I feel like I’m probably forgetting someone. But yeah, Brooklyn is full of people who’ve switched their careers to food.

Yeah, that’s very true.

And Heritage Radio is a great platform for sharing stories because they’re taking them out of the mainstream media and making them specific to the listener’s interests.

Yeah, I’ve noticed they have a diverse amount of shows. What I liked about yours best though was it made me feel better about not really having a set path in life, that people are successful even after changing their minds a bunch of times.

Yes, that’s exactly it. There are a few things that I want people to get out of the show, one of them being what you said: telling stories that make people realize you can restart and change your career at any time. Y’know, like no one’s stopping you, you’re not closed in. Going off of that, another hope for the show is that it gives people anecdotes and stories that really stick with them. I also want people to learn about how much depth there is to the food industry, especially right now. I think a lot of people think to be successful in the industry you have to be a good cook or a restaurateur and that’s not the case, there’s a lot to it.

My final question: Since your podcast is recorded live, do you have any epic horror stories?

I once recorded a guy for 45 minutes and the recorder wasn’t on.

You can listen to Why Food? On Heritage Radio Network here, subscribe on iTunes and check them out on Instagram @whyfoodpodcast

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