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The Food Chain

The Food Chain examines the business, science and cultural significance of food, and what it takes to put food on your plate.

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Jacques Pépin: My life in five dishes

Jacques Pépin is a household name across much of the US. He shot to fame starring alongside Julia Child on TV cookery shows in the 1990s, has written more than 30 books, and picked up multiple awards.He tells Graihagh Jackson about his precarious childhood dodging bombs in wartime France and the near-fatal car crash that ended his restaurant career, but set him on a path towards celebrity.Plus, the 84-year-old explains why he’s still sharing his cooking and recipes with the world through the coronavirus lockdown.Producer: Simon TulettStudio Manager: Hal HainesLet us know what you think about the show - email thefoodchain@bbc.co.uk(Picture: Jacques Pépin. Credit: Tom Hopkins/BBC)

34mins

9 Jul 2020

Rank #1

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How to date a vegan

How can you have a successful relationship with someone whose eating habits you find repulsive, infuriating, even morally abhorrent? What do you do when your wife and mother are locked in a fierce battle over what you eat, when your long term partner insists on eating sandwiches in bed, or when you’re in love with a vegan but like nothing better than a chicken teriyaki?As part of Crossing Divides, a BBC season bringing people together in a fragmented world, Emily Thomas meets three couples who are strongly divided when it comes to their food preferences, and asks them to divulge how they handle it.As economies develop and our eating habits become ever more individualised and with ever more choice, is food becoming the ultimate passion killer? And are arguments about food ever really just about food, or do they signify a deeper incompatibility?Plus, do couples that eat together stay together? And does it matter whether they are sharing the same dish? (Image: A woman and a man disagree about meat Image credit: Getty Images)

26mins

10 Oct 2019

Rank #2

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I hate Christmas pudding!

Does your stomach turn at the thought of a Christmas pudding? How about pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving? Foods like these, commonly served at annual celebrations, are deeply ingrained in our cultures, but why, and how hard is it to reject them?We meet three people who dislike dishes that traditionally appear during festive or other holidays, and ask why they continue to serve them anyway: Ed Levine, a food writer and broadcaster from the US, explains his antipathy towards pumpkin pie; chef and restaurateur Emily Roux, daughter of Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr., tells us how she dodges Christmas pudding and turkey; and Al Pitcher, a comedian from Sweden, recalls his traumatic experience tasting one of the country's most famous national dishes - sour herring. Why can it be so hard to admit our dislike of these foods, and what’s the best way to banish them from our tables without upsetting family, friends or even entire nations? Thanks to Canal Digital Sweden for the extract from Al Pitcher's surströmming video.(Picture: An unhappy young boy looking at a Christmas pudding. Credit: Getty/BBC)

26mins

19 Dec 2019

Rank #3

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The Hidden Cost of a Home-Cooked Meal

Who does the cooking in your house? In many cultures the responsibility for preparing meals at home traditionally falls to women. But as more women join the global workforce, traditional household responsibilities are changing. What impact is that having have on our internal family dynamics? As part of the BBC's 100 Women season, we hear about the social and economic costs of putting a meal on the family table, when the most expensive ingredient is time. Four women from different continents explain the challenges they face trying to balance family life, work, and food. A working mother in Mumbai tells us why she won't give up her kitchen, and a stay at home mum in New York explains why her working husband does most of the cooking. Plus, we hear that in parts of rural Kenya women who cannot cook are far from marriage material.(Picture: A woman prepares vegetables in a village in Bangladesh. Credit: Jewel Samad, Getty Images)

26mins

3 Dec 2016

Rank #4

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Going Off Cow's Milk?

Emily Thomas asks whether we’re on a slow but steady path to abandoning our pervasive, long-standing, and arguably slightly peculiar habit of drinking milk from cows. In many European countries and the US, alternative plant-based milks are growing in popularity, and cow's milk sales are declining. Is this just a blip in our millenia-old love affair with dairy, or a steady drip towards a cow's milk-free future? Three guests debate the potential effects on global poverty, the environment and our health.(Photo: Brown cow. Credit: Getty Images)

26mins

20 Sep 2018

Rank #5

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Gordon Ramsay: My life in five dishes

Chef Gordon Ramsay is world-famous but, he tells us, people no longer want to talk about his food. The celebrity has become known as much for his cookery programmes, his fiery temper and explosive outbursts, as for his culinary skills. This week, the focus is back on the food, as Gordon speaks to Emily Thomas about the five most memorable meals he has ever had and how they have shaped him as a chef - from his mother’s macaroni and cheese on a council estate in the West Midlands, to smuggled cheese soufflés at Le Gavroche. Gordon's dishes are: Mum's Mac and Cheese with smoked bacon; soufflé Suissesse at Le Gavroche; braised pigs' trotters with cabbage at Casa Del Pescatore near Verona; rum baba at Le Louis XV; and his own chickpea curry.(Photo: Gordon Ramsay. Credit: BBC/Getty Images)

26mins

18 Jan 2018

Rank #6

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In Search of Lost Foods

What happens to a food when people stop eating it? Most of the food we eat today comes from a handful of crops, but before we became a globalised society, our diet reflected a variety of plants, proteins and foods that were cultivated as local specialties. Now, as our diets become less diverse, these foods face a critical point in their existence. In this programme the BBC's Dan Saladino explores several stories of foods that are dying out and talks to the farmers and producers who are working to save them. (Photo: Mexican Blue Corn Credit: Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

26mins

12 Nov 2016

Rank #7

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How to cook for a megastar

What do the most famous names in film, sport and politics eat for dinner, and what does it say about who they really are? Three private chefs give us the ultimate insight into the lives of the rich and famous - after all, what's more exposing than what and how we choose to eat? Emily Thomas hears about the Premiership footballer who wanted to helicopter a chef to his home to make him and his girlfriend oven chips, the politician who had a romantic meal with not one, but three beautiful young women, and the Hollywood star who would only eat what she could squeeze into half of a small plastic cup.How do you even become a private chef, and how much money can you make? And what happens when the person you are cooking for is not someone you want to pander to - a politician whose policies you can’t abide, or a celebrity whose private behaviour makes you uncomfortable?Emily speaks to Charlotte Leventis, the London-based founder and executive chef of Extravaganza Food; Kwame Amfor, founder of Biishville, a Ghanaian catering company; and Kathleen Schaffer, the founder and creative director of Schaffer LA. Between them they’ve cooked for A-listers including Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Idris Elba, Eddie Murphy, David Beckham and Kate Beckinsale.(Picture: Kate Beckinsale, David Beckham and Idris Elba. Credit: Getty/BBC)

26mins

3 Oct 2019

Rank #8

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Not Just a Rich White Woman’s Problem

Emily Thomas explores a stereotype with potentially life-threatening consequences - the idea that eating disorders are a problem that only affects white women in wealthy countries. She talks to black women in South Africa, Nigeria and the US who have had eating disorders. Their experiences and their cultural backgrounds are very different, but they all say the prevailing stereotype that eating disorders are a ‘white’ problem, makes it harder for black women to speak out and get the help they need. They also challenge the notion that these illnesses are caused by the pursuit of western beauty ideals.(Picture: Young woman. Credit: Getty Images)

26mins

11 Oct 2018

Rank #9

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Should We All Be Vegans?

What would happen if we all became vegans? Veganism – cutting out animal products from your diet, and often your wardrobe – suddenly seems more mainstream than ever. It is attracting followers from Beyoncé to Al Gore, and there’s a new breed of vegan, too: vloggers espousing their veggie-heavy lifestyle to millions of online fans. Whether it is for health, environmental or ethical reasons, more and more people are embracing plant-based food. The BBC’s Mike Johnson sets out to explore what the world would look like if everyone gave up animal products tomorrow, and the economic consequences of a meat and dairy-free world. We talk to the owner of the first vegan café in Qatar, we test a meatless burger that ‘bleeds’ beetroot juice and we weigh up the human cost of an animal-free diet.(Photo: A detail of a painting by Giuseppe Acrimboldo featuring a man's head made out of vegetables. Credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

26mins

15 Oct 2016

Rank #10

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What Will You Eat if the Apocalypse Comes?

How long would your food supply last if you were unable to buy any food? Are you prepared for the worst is a hurricane hits, the floodwaters rise or the stock markets crash? Maybe your cupboards are full - but what if you had no electricity or gas to cook? Or if the water supply was turned off? And, if there was total breakdown of social order - could you defend the food you have? This week we meet the people who are stockpiling food in anticipation of anything from an earthquake to the apocalypse. They call themselves 'preppers'.Do they know something you don’t? When society is falling apart, do taste or texture matter? And when does stockpiling food become hoarding?The BBC’s Emily Thomas goes in search of some secret stockpiles to find the best post-apocalyptic food plans.With contributors: Pete Stanford, Lincoln Miles, owner, Preppers Shop, Henry Hargreaves, Photographer, Lisa Bedford, The Survival Mom, and Kate Daigle, psychologist.

27mins

3 Aug 2017

Rank #11

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Madhur Jaffrey: My Life in Five Dishes

Join us for five unforgettable dishes from one extraordinary life as the food writer and actress Madhur Jaffrey reveals some rather surprising mealtimes - from a swimming lesson with a watermelon, to a dinner disaster with jazz legend, Dizzy Gillespie.The food writer and award-winning actress has written more than 15 cookbooks, many of them bestsellers, and has been credited with changing the way people outside India think about the country’s food. She joins the BBC's Emily Thomas to talk about the meals that have shaped her remarkable career.(Photo: Madhur Jaffrey. Credit: Penguin Books)

26mins

5 Oct 2017

Rank #12

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Chinatown

Nearly every major city in the world has one- a district where Chinese immigrants have settled to live, work and eat. This week in a collaboration with BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Food Programme’, Dan Saladino takes you on a tour of Chinatowns around the world. From one of the oldest, in Manila, to one of the newest, in Johannesburg- Chinatowns create a global trail of economic and culinary influence. And the food that they serve reflects not only the tastes of home, but of the adopted countries. In this programme we ask how these urban communities reflect not only the history of Chinese immigration, but the changing role of China as a global power. Including visits to Havana, to look at the legacy of communism in a Chinatown that rarely serves Chinese food, and Shanghai, where the fortune cookie - a westernized version of Chinese cuisine is finding a new market at home. Featuring: Fuchsia DunlopJennifer 8. LeePeter KwongChan Chow WahGerry Choo-ahJames WongWith reporting from:Vivienne NunisCelia Hatton and Maria ByrneVictoria PhenethiWill GrantPhoto: Gates of Chinatown, Credit: Thinkstock

26mins

21 Nov 2015

Rank #13

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Why is wheat making people sick?

Gluten-free is booming – it’s become a multi-billion dollar industry, supermarket aisles are crammed with products, with a number of high-profile celebrities endorsing their health impacts. But this is much more than a fad diet - doctors are seeing a growing number of patients who have serious problems with this protein, most commonly found in wheat products like bread and pasta. And, an increasing number of these patients do not have coeliac disease - for a long time the adverse reaction most commonly associated with wheat. So what’s going on? Graihagh Jackson hears about an emerging condition called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, which could be affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and meets the doctors fighting over how best to treat it. She asks why this condition is spreading so fast – could it be something to do with our modern lives and diets? And are wheat and gluten entirely to blame, or could there be dangers lurking in a whole range of other foods?(Picture: A woman's hand touching wheat in a field. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)

27mins

6 Feb 2020

Rank #14

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Breast Practice

As part of the BBC's 100 Women season, The Food Chain dedicates an episode to working mothers and how they feed their babies. More women are entering the global workforce, and many of them become mothers at a crucial point in their careers. But with the availability of parental leave as variable as there are countries in the world, many women must return to work while their child is still nursing. Meanwhile, the WHO says that a woman should exclusively breastfeed her child up to six months of age. So, how do you juggle the demands of feeding a baby with a working life? We'll hear about a project in Bangladesh that helps garment factory workers continue to breastfeed their babies, and we visit Indonesia where a taxi service exists to ferry breast milk from working mothers to waiting infants at home. And from Hong Kong to Ivory Coast, Manuela Saragosa reunites our panel of BBC correspondents - who are also working mothers - to discuss the challenges of reporting on their patch and pumping milk. Image: Baby breastfeeding, Credit: ThinkstockFeaturing: Dr. Larry Grummer-Strawn, World Health OrganizationPhyllis Rippey, Professor of Sociology at the University of OttawaMicaela Collins, University of Toronto Janet Golden, Professor of History at Rutgers University, New JerseyKarishma Vaswani, BBC Asia Business CorrespondentJuliana Liu, BBC Hong Kong CorrespondentTamasin Ford, BBC Ivory Coast Correspondent

26mins

28 Nov 2015

Rank #15

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Stockpiles? What Stockpiles?

We’re on the hunt for the world’s biggest stashes of food. Can the food system handle a big shock, or is it time to stock up on your supplies? In last week’s episode we met people doing just that - stockpiling food in anticipation of anything from a major natural disaster, to the apocalypse. They had little faith that their governments would be able to keep the food supply under control in extreme circumstances. This week we set out to test their assumptions. From forgotten World War Two food sheds to Switzerland’s stockpiling sirens, which companies and governments are storing food in bulk? Where are they keeping it? Who can access it? And, if disaster strikes, will any get to you?Presenter: Emily ThomasContributors: Tony Lister, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Professor Tim Benton, University of Leeds, Tracey Allen, J.P. Morgan, Corinne Fleisher, World Food Programme.(Photo: abandoned warehouse. Credit: Getty Images)

27mins

10 Aug 2017

Rank #16

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Down with 'Foodies'?

Is being cool a sign of culinary class? In the autumn of 2015 the Cereal Killer café in East London was attacked by protestors. They viewed it as a symbol of rapid gentrification - arguing that the cafe- which serves cereal from around the world- exemplified the rising inequality in the UK's capital. It led to some basic questions about running a food business. And the tensions between what’s trendy, what’s traditional and what’s affordable when it comes to eating out. But a larger discussion, about conspicuous consumerism and the so- called ‘foodie movement’ looms. In this programme from London, Sarah Stolarz explores the intersections of city living, being upwardly mobile and the pursuit of the next best meal. We look at food trends and their irresistible appeal when it comes to social media- although it turns out, no one actually likes to be called a 'foodie'. Is access to new and varied food becoming more democratic, or are social media sites glossing over the surface of the culinary class wars? And what does that have to do with the price of pineapples? Featuring: Alan Keery: Co-Owner, Cereal Killer CaféJosėe Johnston: Author, 'Food, Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape'Polly Russell: Curator at the British Library@ClerkenwellBoyEc1David Sax: Author of 'The Tastemakers: Why we're crazy for cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue'Photo: multi-coloured macaroons, Credit: Thinkstock

26mins

12 Dec 2015

Rank #17

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Gordon Ramsay: My life in five dishes

The Food Chain listens back to My Life in Five Dishes with chef and broadcaster Gordon Ramsay, originally broadcast in January 2018. Gordon is world-famous, but as he tells Emily Thomas, people no longer want to talk about his food. The celebrity has becomes known as much for his TV programmes displaying his fiery temper and explosive outbursts, as for his culinary skills. In this interview, the focus is firmly back on the food, as Gordon describes the five most unforgettable meals he’s ever eaten, and how they have shaped him as a chef – from his mother’s macaroni and cheese on a council estate in the West Midlands, to smuggled cheese soufflés at Le Gavroche.Gordon's dishes are: Mum's Mac and Cheese with smoked bacon; soufflé Suissesse at Le Gavroche; braised pigs' trotters with cabbage at Casa Del Pescatore near Verona; rum baba at Le Louis XV; and his own chickpea curry.(Photo: Gordon Ramsay. Credit: Laura Palmer/BBC)

26mins

26 Jul 2018

Rank #18

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Taking the Buzz out of Coffee

A former-coffee lover goes on the hunt for a decent cup without the buzz, and discovers why it's so hard to get flavour without a fix. Emily Thomas delves into the complex art of caffeine extraction and discovers that taste is not the only challenge when it comes to taking the bounce out of a bean. The environmental and economic costs of decaf coffee soon add up, meaning a cup may carry a higher carbon footprint and be made with cheaper beans than the full-blooded stuff. Could a caffeine free coffee plant hold all the answers? A botanist explains why finding a suitable candidate is an unpalatable challenge.Or are we being over sensitive? A scientist explains why some of us react badly to caffeine, whereas others can fall into a slumber after two espressos.(Photo: Cup of coffee with drop suspended above it. Credit: BBC)

26mins

13 Dec 2018

Rank #19

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Aristocrats and Archaeo-Food Nerds

Have you ever felt the urge to share exactly the same culinary experience as your ancestors? Do you care what ancient Roman bread tasted like? Or what a 16th Century courtier smelt as he lifted a slice of roast beef to his mouth? Would you understand yourself, or today’s food system, better if you did?And if the closest you come to experiencing the past is watching period dramas on television, are you bothered by whether the pigeon is actually chicken - or the fish, cream cheese? How real do we want the imaginary to be?Emily Thomas asks what we can learn about the past and present from the painstaking reconstruction of old recipes. Four people who dedicate their lives to recreating historical dishes make their case: An archaeologist tirelessly trying to uncover the secrets of the bread of Pompeii in Italy; The food stylist on the film set of the globally popular period drama Downton Abbey; An historian earnestly roasting beef at a Tudor palace; and a Polish chef desperately trying to preserve traditions he fears are becoming lost.(Photo: Woman in a baroque wig, Credit: Getty Images)

26mins

18 Oct 2018

Rank #20