By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 22, 2020 at 6:01 PM

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It's been two years since we launched the FoodCrush podcast. We've chatted with chefs and bartenders, James Beard nominees and business owners. Along the way, we've laughed. And cried. We've also learned something new from each one of our guests.

And with nearly 70 episodes under our belt, we thought it was time to reflect on some of our favorite episodes thus far.

So, a few weeks back, co-host Matt Mueller shared his top five picks (take a look; they're good). And this week, I'm attempting to do the same, although it's an admittedly impossible task.

Here are five of my (many) favorites, in no particular order.

1. The art of the sandwich: A chat with Chef Andrew Miller of Third Coast Provisions

Among the best parts of my job is listening to chefs as they "geek out" about food. It’s during those moments when you can catch the glimmers in their eyes and the passion in their souls. In the case of Chef Andrew Miller, co-owner of Merriment Social and Third Coast Provisions, one of those passions is definitely sandwiches.

If you love a truly great sandwich (or great food in general), you need to listen in on this incredible episode which breaks down the components of a sandwich, analyzes them and sheds light on the inner workings of a chef’s mind.

This episode will not only give you insights into how one very thoughtful chef thinks about sandwiches, it’s likely to change the way you view them as well.

2. Preserving history at Nite Owl Drive-in

The drive-in restaurant is a dying breed. Born in the mid-twenties following the automobile boom, the drive-up restaurants saw their heyday in the 1950s and '60s before gradually losing steam to the new-fangled drive-thru restaurants.

But they still exist. Many have modernized or adjusted their modes of operation. But the ones that remain are truly treasures. In this conversation with Chris Roepke, owner of Milwaukee’s Nite Owl Drive-in, we chat about the world of old school drive-ins, their inherent charms and the things that make them so appealing.

But we also delve into the details of one owner’s journey, his thoughts on keeping an iconic business running (and taking it into the 21st century) and the secrets behind the burgers that Milwaukeeans look forward to every single year as a sure sign of spring.

I feel like this is an episode that we’ll look back on one day and be very, very glad that we made it, because it captures so much: history, nostalgia and the love and care that it takes to keep a family business running for over 70 years.

3. The lure of ramen: A chat with Chef Gregg Des Rosier of Tochi

I’ve always believed that one of the best ways to get to know a chef is to eat his or her food. And such is certainly the case with Gregg Des Rosier, who’s dedicated the latter portion of his career to creating delicious, soul-filled ramen in an environment that encompasses his passion for punk rock culture and an approach to food that embraces non-conformity in the best possible way.

In this episode, his passion for the work is visceral. And if you open yourself up to it, you’ll find a pleasant escape in listening as he offers insights into his creative process and the things he’s learned along the way, including the lessons he gleaned from a trip to Japan. But you’ll also find escape in our conversation as we laugh, discuss our love for "garbage food" and the secret world of delicious gas station food.

A number of our episodes offer escapism in the form of food-filled conversation. And this one is among the best of them. Listening to it again also makes me look forward with a great deal of anticipation to the time when I can take the short jaunt to West Bend again to feed my ramen-loving soul at Tochi.

4. Lisa Kirkpatrick & Paul Zerkel of Goodkind: A love story told through food

I’m a sucker for a good love story. And that’s part of what makes me adore our episode with Paul Zerkel and Lisa Kirkpatrick, the husband and wife chef team behind Goodkind in Bay View whose personalities, generous spirits and love for food and food-related experiences have enabled them to create a restaurant that embodies the heart and soul of hospitality.

Take an hour and listen as we chat with them about the development of their careers – including years of work in Portland, Oregon – as well as their move back to Milwaukee during a time when the city was really coming into its own in terms of food and dining.

As we chat, you’ll be endeared by their respect for one another, their appreciation for food and food culture, and the wealth of knowledge and experience they bring to the table. You’ll also laugh with us – and fall in love with the both of them, not only as chefs, but also as human beings.

5. Caitlin Cullen of The Tandem talks fried chicken

For the past three and a half years, The Tandem has persisted. It has persisted with a model that places community at the fore, creating opportunity and empowerment for its a less-than-traditional workforce. And it persists today, in these strange COVID-19 crisis days, as a soup kitchen which not only nourishes those in need, but supports other locally owned restaurants at the same time. 

Back in 2018, when we recorded this podcast, the restaurant was just getting its footing. But it had already developed a reputation for one of its signature dishes: fried chicken. Listen in on this episode and you’ll hear the story of how The Tandem’s chicken recipes came to be, the mythology behind their names (Memphis and Georgia style) and the techniques that make them delicious.

But you’ll also glean insights into Cullen’s day to day life as head chef, bottle washer and owner of a decidedly non-traditional restaurant. You’ll hear her talk – in her unforgettably candid manner – about her learning curve in opening the restaurant, her passion for teaching and the very real nitty gritty elements of a chef’s life.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.