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The Food Chain
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The Food Chain

Author: BBC World Service

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The Food Chain examines the business, science and cultural significance of food, and what it takes to put food on your plate.
255 Episodes
Abandoned by her biological mother at six months old, a victim of sexual harassment and discrimination in the kitchen, and a recent breast cancer survivor – Dominique Crenn has faced her fair share of battles. The award-winning chef, author and campaigner – not to mention the first woman in the US to win three Michelin stars – tells Graihagh Jackson how sheer determination and a desire to make a difference have taken her to the top. She discusses the five key dishes that have shaped her life, from enjoying fresh oysters in a fish market with her father at 4am, to tomatoes – the ingredient that showed her the power of food and the importance of where it comes from. Dominique tells of her struggles in a male-dominated restaurant world, the heartache of her father’s death, and how she’s facing up to her latest challenge – Covid-19. Plus, she explains her recent decision to scrap land-based meat from all of her restaurants, and why cancer has prompted her to seek out her birth mother. Producer: Simon Tulett Studio manager: Annie Gardiner (Picture: Dominique Crenn. Credit: Jordan Wise/BBC)
It’s something many of us intuitively believe - certain foods have the power to make us feel better. But what’s the science behind this, why do we crave certain dishes, and do they provide solace for everyone? Graihagh Jackson explores what’s really happening when we turn to food for a pick-me-up: psychologist Shira Gabriel explains these foods’ links to memory and social connection; and psychiatrist Lukas Van Oudenhove reveals why so many comfort foods are high in fat or carbohydrates, and how this could be problematic in the long run. But comfort foods aren’t always comforting - we find out why an unhappy childhood can mean they provide little or no solace. And the concept is far from universal - food writer Jenny Linford says in some food cultures the idea is irrelevant. Plus, of all the millions of dishes out there, why do some rise to comfort food status? Food writer Kay Plunkett-Hogge explains why rice is the ultimate comfort food for many Thais. Producer: Simon Tulett Studio Manager: Hal Haines Let us know what you think about the show - email (Picture: A man hugging a giant ice cream. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)
When Asma Khan was born it was said her mother cried, but not tears of joy. As a second daughter born in 1960s India, Asma felt she was a disappointment, even a burden, because she could not inherit and would cost her family a fortune in dowries. But she went on to defy those low expectations and open one of London’s most sought-after restaurants. Asma tells us how she could barely boil an egg when she first got married and moved to England, about the intense loneliness she felt so far from home, and how the smell of paratha convinced her that the only way to recover was to learn how to cook. The Darjeeling Express founder describes the restaurant’s humble beginnings as a supper club in her London flat, why it has always had an all-female kitchen, and her plans to use food to empower female refugees and prostitutes. This programme was first broadcast in January 2020. Let us know what you think about the show - email (Picture: Asma Khan with a pakora and chutney. Credit: BBC)
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 Tulett Studio Manager: Hal Haines Let us know what you think about the show - email (Picture: Jacques Pépin. Credit: Tom Hopkins/BBC)
Taste and smell loss are thought to be two of the most common symptoms of coronavirus, but some of the least understood, persisting long after the virus has gone. Scientists all over the world are racing to find out why Covid-19 is attacking these senses, and what this might teach us about the virus and how to track it – we hear about the latest theories from Turkey-based research scientist Maria Veldhuizen from The Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research. Meanwhile, thousands of coronavirus survivors are struggling to adapt to a life without taste and smell, including a young doctor who tested positive for the virus more than three months ago. She tells Graihagh Jackson how she’s been desperately trying to recover her sense of smell ever since, and how it has destroyed one of her great passions – food. We hear how smell is vital to the way we perceive flavour, but that it’s also important in other ways. Dr Rachel Herz, a neuroscientist and researcher on the psychology of smell at Brown University and Boston College in the US, explains that long-term smell loss is linked to depression because of the way the sense is plugged into the part of our brain that processes emotions and memories. But there is some hope - we speak to Chrissi Kelly, from the charity Abscent, who tells us how it’s possible to train your nose to smell again. Producer: Simon Tulett Studio Manager: Hal Haines Let us know what you think about the show - email (Picture: A woman staring at an apple on a plate. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)
The fishing industry has been brought to its knees in some countries, with Covid-19 forcing fishing to stop. Graihagh Jackson asks if the global slowdown could present an opportunity for beleaguered fish stocks to flourish once more and what would it mean for the fishing industry. If you would like to get in touch please email (Picture: Fisherman holds fish on trawler. Credit: Chris Furlong/Getty Images/BBC)
Antonio Carluccio describes his most memorable dishes in his last ever interview. The cook, restaurateur and writer, known as the 'Godfather of Italian cooking', died five days after this recording was made, aged 80. He tells Emily Thomas about his passion for simple, authentic Italian cuisine, and why he only began to pursue it professionally relatively late in life. He describes his horror at Britain's version of Italian food in the 1970s, his obsession with mushrooms, and reveals how much the late opera singer Luciano Pavarotti could devour in one sitting. Plus, hear about his struggles with fame and heartache, the tensions that came with expanding his eponymous chain of restaurants and delis, and the dish he would choose as his last. This interview was first broadcast on 16 November 2017. (Picture: Antonio Carluccio. Credit: Fred Duval/FilmMagic via Getty Images/BBC)
Food businesses have been some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Worldwide lockdowns have forced thousands of restaurants, bars and cafes to close, but many entrepreneurs have managed to keep their businesses afloat, forced to innovate to survive. We revisit some past Food Chain guests to find out how they’ve been coping and ask what they’ve learned about their business, their customers, and themselves. Tamasin Ford speaks to a chocolate maker in Ghana who hasn’t sold a single bar since the country locked down in March, and a fried chicken entrepreneur in South Africa who’s turned to feeding frontline workers to keep his kitchens and staff going. But business hasn’t been all bad - we hear from a baker in Montreal, Canada, who says he’s never sold more bread and has started selling bags of flour to meet a growing demand from home bakers. Plus, a restaurant critic from Melbourne, Australia, tells us what it was like going out for a meal for the first time in more than three months. Let us know what you think about the show by emailing or using #BBCFoodChain on social media. Presenter: Tamasin Ford Producers: Simon Tulett and Siobhan O’Connell Studio manager: Hal Haines (Picture: A woman picks up food and a drink from a restaurant during lockdown. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)
Have you noticed how there have been so many acts of kindness during the pandemic, especially when it comes to food? Graihagh Jackson hears how millions were raised in a matter of days to feed healthcare workers and how people have rallied to support food banks in the past few months. But what is behind this outpouring of generosity? And crucially, can it last? This week we delve into the psychology of why so many have felt compelled to help and ask whether COVID-19 could make us more generous. If you would like to get in touch, please email (Picture: woman carries box of food from food bank, Credit: REUTERS/ Lucy Nicholson/BBC)
Scientists are still trying to uncover exactly how COVID-19 emerged, although some evidence suggests the disease may have originated in bats and infected us via another animal host. Recently, we’ve seen the emergence of many such viruses - so-called zoonotic diseases - that jump from animals to humans; including Ebola, SARS and MERS. Some scientists believe they’re becoming increasingly common and that the primary driver is likely food and farming. So how have zoonotic diseases been dealt with in the past and can we learn any valuable lessons about our food chain there? Graihagh Jackson travels to Malaysia to uncover the story of Nipah virus that first emerged in 1999, killing up to 75% of those it infected. We hear how the virus emerged, how it changed the community there forever and how it was eventually curbed. Could the story of Nipah virus hold the key to how we protect ourselves from future pandemics like COVID-19? If you would like to get in touch, please email (Picture: Forest burning in the Amazon. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)
In an illustrious career spanning three decades, there’s little that booking-writing, seed-breading, ‘philosopher chef’ Dan Barber has not put his hands to. Celebrated as the poster child of the ‘farm to fork’ movement, he tells Graihagh Jackson how a visit to a wheat farm called into question everything he thought he knew about agriculture and changed his cooking and ethos forever. Surprisingly though, Dan started life wanting to be a writer not a chef. Through five dishes, we hear how a failed stint as a baker, a baptism of fire in french kitchens and running a company from a mice-infested kitchen eventually won him over to the cause. We learn that an obsession with simplicity and flavour has taken him on a farming odyssey around the world, what coronavirus can teach us about the future of food, and how it all started with a humble dish of scrambled eggs. If you would like to get in touch please email (Picture: Chef Dan Barber. Credit: Richard Bolls/BBC)
China’s so-called ‘wet’ markets have been under intense scrutiny ever since the first coronavirus cases were linked to one in Wuhan six months ago. Now a growing number of influential figures, including leading White House adviser Dr Anthony Fauci, are calling for them to be banned. But the suggestion has been met with dismay and even anger in China - an expert on the markets tells Graihagh Jackson they are the main source of fresh food in Chinese cities and a healthier and more affordable option than many supermarkets. A market trader in Beijing tells us they play a vital cultural and community role too. But if these markets were shut down, would it prevent future outbreaks? We speak to a virus-hunter and expert in the region, who explains that it's global agriculture’s growing encroachment into wild spaces that's making us most vulnerable to emerging infectious diseases. If you would like to contact us about this or any other episode please email (Picture: A vendor sells meat at Xihua Farmer's Market in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China. Credit: Alex Plavevski/EPA/BBC)
Lockdowns around the world have seen many restaurants close overnight, but how many will be able to re-open once restrictions are lifted? And if so, what will they look like? Graihagh Jackson hears from a top New York chef and a London food writer how an existing culture of high rents, razor-thin margins and low-paid workers has plagued the industry leaving many vulnerable to permanent closure. Could this forced break be a chance to ‘reset’ for the better? A strategist explains how restaurants need to completely re-orientate their business models to weather the storm and keep their suppliers in business in the process. Plus, a veteran franchise investor explains why - contrary to many others - he is excited about the opportunity this time of huge change could bring. If you would like to get in touch please email (Picture: Man arranges single table outside his restaurant in Rome. Credit:EPA/FABIO FRUSTACI/BBC)
Coronavirus has crippled the restaurant industry, leaving thousands of chefs fighting to save their businesses, but some have been using the crisis, and their own influence, to help and inspire others. Massimo Bottura, one of the world’s most celebrated chefs, hasn’t been able to serve guests in his three-Michelin-star restaurant, Osteria Francescana, since early March. He tells Graihagh Jackson why, instead, he has been inviting the world into his home kitchen via Instagram every night during Italy’s long lockdown. Deepanker Khosla, one of Thailand’s top young chefs, refused to close his kitchen when Bangkok’s eateries were forced to shut. He’s now using it to cook thousands of meals for the migrant workers who’ve been left jobless and hungry by the pandemic. And Ana Roš, chef at one of the world’s top 50 restaurants - Hiša Franko - has been creating new products to support her local farmers and suppliers, and is trying to use the crisis to reform Slovenia’s entire food industry. If you'd like to get in touch with us please email (Picture: Massimo Bottura, Ana Roš, and Deepanker Khosla handing out food to a woman in Bangkok. Credit: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan, Pablo Cuadra, Getty Images, Deepanker Khosla, BBC)
As coronavirus continues to spread and lockdowns leave swathes of people unemployed, a new problem is emerging: hunger. It is being witnessed in communities around the world, especially where people are living hand to mouth. We travel to India and Kenya to see how the unfolding hunger crisis is being addressed. Graihagh Jackson hears from one of Nairobi's poorest neighbourhoods - Mathare - that many are not able to buy enough food and are surviving on one, innutritious meal per day. The local community has rallied to provide fresh water, food donations and cash transfers - but it is not nearly enough to address the scale of the problem. Many say they would rather go out to find work and risk getting coronavirus, than stay home and face starvation. Then to Delhi, where a last-minute lockdown in the country has left thousands of migrant workers stranded and without the means to feed themselves. We speak to a food charity on the unprecedented need for food, how you manage preparing and distributing 22,000 meals per day and what this could all mean for the future of how hunger is perceived and addressed. To get in touch with the show, please email (Picture: Man receives food donation. Credit: Getty Images/Hindustan Times/BBC)
My quarantine kitchen

My quarantine kitchen


As the spread of Covid-19 confines millions of us to our homes, we go behind closed doors to hear how people all over the world are using food and cooking to help them through the crisis. Graihagh Jackson speaks to an artist from Iran who has found inspiration in stories of shared recipes, a sense of healing in her own cooking, and hope for a more peaceful future. A young lawyer from Italy tells us that lockdown meals have helped her reconnect with her family, but that her mother’s exuberance in the kitchen has posed a problem for her waistline. And an Azerbaijani living alone in Barcelona explains why she set up virtual tapas parties to replace the physical ones she’d enjoyed with other expats before the pandemic. We also hear listeners’ quarantine cooking stories: a Sri Lankan who now lives in Australia tells us how the crisis has reminded him of growing up amid civil war and driven him to reconnect with the food and culture of his birthplace; and a newlywed from Vatican City tells us how discovering a passion for cooking has helped him express his love for his new wife, and that the kitchen has made him a better person. Let us know what you think about the show, or share your own quarantine cooking stories by emailing (Picture: A man in quarantine taking delivery of groceries. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)
This week, we pay homage to the workers making sure we stay fed in times of lockdown. As farmers around the world struggle to find enough people to plant and harvest their crops, we travel to Bavaria in Germany to hear from a school teacher-turned hop farmer about what it’s like to swap his classroom for a field. He tells Graihagh Jackson how the backbreaking work has changed his perceptions about food and farming. A Welsh Michelin-starred chef talks about his decision to move his family into his restaurant and start making thousands of free meals for hospital workers, after coronavirus forced him to shut his business. A supermarket cashier reveals the toll her job is taking and her hopes the pandemic may change perceptions about the importance of frontline food work. Plus, a trucker in the US says his work transporting goods for Walmart has never been more appreciated by the general public, as empty supermarket shelves highlight how vital his job is in keeping food flowing. If you would like to get in touch please email (Picture: Man brings meal to hospital workers. Credit: Natalia Fedosenko/Getty Images/BBC)
As coronavirus tightens its grip on the world, many of us are facing life in lockdown and are worried about food. Graihagh Jackson takes a journey along the global food supply chain - via her grandparents - to see how it is holding up so far through the crisis. We hear how supermarkets are responding to the strain of widespread stockpiling and panic buying and what implications this could have on the future of food shopping. Food giant Unilever reveals how they are weathering transport bottlenecks and are adapting production to cater to the 'post-virus' food penchants of different nations. As global lockdowns affect the flow of local and migrant labour forces we speak to one of Europe’s largest fresh food producers about how they will manage this season’s fruit and vegetable harvests; and the United Nations warns that cooperation by consumers and between countries is key, if we are to avert a global food crisis. If you would like to get in touch, please email (Picture: Woman stares at nearly empty supermarket shelves. Credit: Michel Porro/Getty Images/BBC)
How not to run a brewery

How not to run a brewery


If you are a beer lover, the idea of running your own brewery might sound like the stuff of dreams. And it might seem like the perfect time to do it - an explosion of interest has seen craft breweries pop up in huge numbers in many parts of the world. But the industry is notoriously hard to crack. Expensive equipment, the space required for brewing, a need for big marketing budgets and fierce competition from other brands are all factors. Then there’s the hugely important, but rather subjective question of whether your beer actually tastes any good. Tamasin Ford speaks to three craft beer aficionados in the UK, USA and Brazil who all tried - and failed - to turn their hobby into a viable business. They talk about their hopes, hurdles and mistakes and whether the journey has affected their love for the amber nectar. If you'd like to get in touch with us about the show please email (Picture: Jon Cockley, Sergio Fraga and Carol Waggener. Credit: Handsome Frank, Sergio Fraga, Bold Missy Brewery, BBC)
The mystery of mukbang

The mystery of mukbang


What's the fascination with watching total strangers eat plate after plate of junk food? Is it a grotesque and irresponsible spectacle, or could it be a way to tackle loneliness, and even help some deal with their own food issues? Graihagh Jackson finds out what's fuelling the internet craze 'mukbang' and asks what it says about our attitudes to food and each other. An avid mukbang watcher explains how it gives her emotional and social connections she's lacking in her offline life, and also helps her resist the urge to eat foods she shouldn't. Performer Moxie Beast describes how she amplifies the sounds of her crunching and chewing to soothe her viewers, and how she tries to stay healthy while doing it. In South Korea, where mukbang started, we hear how mukbang is helping to forge digital communities at a time when many, especially the young, are living alone. Plus, a clinical psychiatrist talks us through his latest research into the links between mukbang and eating disorders.
Comments (11)



Jun 28th

Carson Chiu

its different because farmer markets in the west don't sell live animals no wild animals are fine and all but live farm animals still carry disease

May 14th
Reply (1)

Scott McClure

Test comment

Jul 8th
Reply (1)

Carson Chiu

and from what I've heard, slaughterhouses are very much against filming their operations soooo

Jul 4th

Carson Chiu

man, this meat industry rep guy treats consumers as drooling idiots

Jul 4th
Reply (1)

Adrian Ambriz

keep it up guys. more podcast, more topics. good job.

Mar 10th

Fabio Abu-Chacra

One of the best channels of BBC

Jun 27th

Riccardo Widmer

a big fan of your channel 👌 funny and informative :)

Oct 23rd
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