From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
A Conversation with Bryan Ford

A Conversation with Bryan Ford

Talking to the 'New World Sourdough' author about going from blogging to cookbook, TV, and podcast projects.

From his blog Artisan Bryan to his first book New World Sourdough to his current project on the many breads of Latin American, Bryan Ford has worked to make baking accessible and expand the narratives of sourdough.

Since he’s had such success, he has moved into not just cookbook but TV and podcast projects—so how does he keep the creativity flowing, and how is he managing his next huge book project? We discussed it all, plus pizza. Listen above, or read below.

This episode of From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy is brought to you by Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras from Workman Publishing. Tour each continent through the book’s encyclopedic entries on some of the world’s most interesting foods and places. Did you know that Zambia is home to the biggest edible mushrooms, called Termitomyces Titanicus, and that often its cap can grow to three feet wide? Learn about this and more in Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide, on sale now.

Bryan: Let's do it.

Alicia: Hi, Bryan. Thank you so much for being here.

Bryan: Yeah, yo, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. I've been following your work and it's great. And I’m honored to talk to you, yeah.

Alicia: Cool. Cool. 

I'm excited to talk to you about this book, because obv—since it came out, I've been really—Well before it even came out, I was excited about it. And then it came out, and I've still been excited about it.

So, can you tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?

Bryan: Yeah. 

I grew up in New Orleans, and I ate a lot of food. [Laughter.] I grew up in a Honduran household. My parents are from Honduras, so I definitely got the best of both worlds going to school and eating some fried chicken, some red beans and rice, some cornbread. Coming home having a baleada, you know what I’m saying? Arroz con pollo, you know what I’m saying? I was blessed with the experience of being able to eat so many delicious meals, so many classic meals. 

In my opinion, New Orleans is one of the culinary capitals in the world. I mean, New Orleans cuisine is just so distinct and different than what you find in other areas of the country. You know what I'm saying? I mean, just, people can't cook beans like they cook beans in the South. There was just so much good food there, is so much good food there, that it's even hard to list my favorite. It was great. Yeah.

Alicia: Was the fried chicken given to you in the school cafeteria?

Bryan: I mean listen, let me not go crazy. The school cafeteria chicken wasn't Michelin-star. It was school cafeteria fried chicken. 

They would serve us the classics, like Mondays, red beans and rice day, always, with smoked sausage, cornbread, you know what I'm saying? Friday is fried catfish day, always. And then in between, you get jambalaya, you get a little gumbo or—

Let's be real. It came from Sysco or Sodexo or whatever. When you're 8, 9 years old, you don't know what's between packaged beans and home-cooked. And then, you start to learn as you get older.

Alicia: No, but that's still so interesting, though, because I grew up—where I grew up on Long Island, there was no sense of local culture that you were getting in the cafeteria food. It was just disgusting. And so, that sounds very French, I guess, to me, that idea that in your school cafeteria you should still be experiencing what the cuisine of the place where you come from is. I think that's so cool. I had no idea that that happened there.

Bryan: 100%. 100%. That's how we get down.

Alicia: Well, in New World Sourdough, your book, it's clear that you grew up cooking, food was a natural part of your upbringing. You write about your mom making tortillas. But when and how did you know you wanted to turn that kind of that knowledge, that passion into a profession?

Bryan: Yeah. I mean, I'm still trying to figure that out. [Laughter.]

Obviously I started baking and cooking when I was younger but it was just kind of a hobby. And when I got to college in New Orleans, I, to pay for—to pay for college, and to pay for my books and all that kind of thing, I started working in kitchens as a line cook, prep cook, dishwasher, whatever. Server, waiter, everything.

And at that point, I realized how much I love just cooking. Food. Being around—not necessarily being around the culture of kitchens, ’cause the culture of kitchen sucks. But there's been so many unpleasant experiences just kind of in that late night cooking grind. And not necessarily anything that someone did something to me, but mostly just—it's just such a grueling existence changing the deep-frying oil or just dealing with roaches and rats and dealing with just stuff that people don't even realize is going on in kitchens, right? 

And so, then it dawned on me. I was like, ‘Well, I can kind of do this. But I don't have to be a cook. I can be a baker. I can do something that's a little bit different, because I'm still serving people.’ But as I came to that realization, because I was doing some pop-up bakery, pop-up bakes for Mardi Gras selling king cake and doing all kinds of stuff. 

But then I graduated and I became an accountant. And I started working a corporate life. And was like, ‘I'm not gonna be a cook forever. I'm gonna get a good job and a good salary and benefits and all that kind of thing.’ And all the while I continued to kind of hone the craft of baking on the side. I would get in trouble for leaving work too early just to go home and bake. 

And I realized after I became a CPA five, six years into this game. I think in the sixth year, I was a federal tax manager for an oil company or something. I don't even know what I was doing. Seriously, I was just in the cubicle, and they're talking about moving money from Luxembourg to this I was just like, ‘What is happening? Foreign tax provisions?’ 

While I was doing tax, I was like, ‘Ok, I want to do international tax, because it's—because then I get to deal with culture. Then I get to deal with other countries.’ And I got to do a Japanese tax return once. I got to do some French tax returns, or—I've even called the IRS in Canada, the Quebec division, because they speak French and I got-

So I knew I wanted to kind of be around that. I didn't want to just be around a stagnant situation, but I was applying it to the wrong craft. Yeah, the craft of accounting. [Laughter.] I decided to just peace out from that and start from scratch. And I started to pursue two of my passions. One, which is coaching soccer. I am a licensed soccer coach. And at the same time, I started selling bread. I would sell bread to the parents of the kids I coach, and I started making more sourdough and using sourdough and really kind of just got lost in that baking world. 

Just similar to what happened to a lot of people during the pandemic, that happened to me five, six years ago. Six, six, seven years ago. I just got lost baking. I mean, I had an injury on my leg, I was—tore my Achilles tendon, so I couldn't do much. I was always home. And I was baking like crazy. And then, I started baking. My mom came over one day, and I baked her some pan de coco with the sourdough. And then, I posted it to Instagram. And then I made a blog, and then that all kind of spiraled into this whole thing that I'm doing. That one loaf of pan de coco, you know what I’m saying? It's so wild to think about if I didn't do that.

Because I was stuck. I was making baguettes and croissants and all that kind of thing over and over again, posting crumb shots and looking at crumb shots. I was doing that. And then when I stopped that, I was like, ‘Oh, this is so much better.’ Yeah. 

And then it sort of just opened my eyes into what baking really is and what Latin America offers in the baking world. And I was like, ‘Yo, this is the way because people don't know about it. And I would like to share what little I know with them.’ 

Alicia: And do you think that having been an accountant, does that help you as a baker?

Bryan: I wasn't a good accountant. [Laughter.] No, I’m just playing.

Being a CPA definitely helps me as a self-employed person. I know how to do my taxes and keep all my things as organized as possible. But in terms of being a baker, I mean, I'm assuming you mean because of the math or something like that.

Alicia: Math, yeah. [Laughs.]

Bryan: When I was an accountant, I used Excel spreadsheets. And as a baker, I use Excel spreadsheets. I don't do mental math. If you asked me a mental math problem right now, I would be like, ‘Ahhhhh,’ and then go into Excel and do it. 

But, no. I mean, I can't even front. I have to be good with numbers somehow to have got to do what I’ve got to do in that career. But with so much going on, though, it's hard to think about it, I guess. 

Alicia: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right.

Being a sel- employed person in regards to taxes sucks so freaking much that that must be wildly useful. [Laughs.]

Bryan: Yeah, that extra 15%, that 15.3% that we got to pay is absolutely bonkers. But hey, it is what it is. You can deduct half of it, so-

Alicia: Exactly, yeah. [Laughs.] I do.

Bryan: And actually, this is actually a tax one-on-one conversation, you guys, whoever’s listening. Look me up. It’s unofficial. I'm an inactive CPA. Don't sue me when you do your return, come back talking about ‘I heard Bryan Ford talkin’ ‘bout, so I did it.’ Hey, guys, inactive. In the state of Louisiana, not the state of New York. Don’t come after me when you mess up your tax returns, ’cause of some—[Laughter.]

Alicia: Right. [Laughs.

I mean, you were just talking about crumb pictures in the introduction to your book. You remind people that for centuries, people were feeding themselves bread without being obsessed with the crumb shots or hydration levels. They just made bread. It was part of their life, part of—yeah, survival.

And so, I wanted to ask how you turned kind of a more innate understanding and organic approach to baking into something accessible to an audience that is so obsessed with a very specific kind of perfect, especially when it comes to bread. Especially when it comes to baking. I was talking to—Well, I talk to bakers a lot, but talking about this idea that people are afraid of baking. How do you talk to an audience about that?

Bryan: I don't blame people for being afraid of baking, because it's—you can open up the most simple yeasted bread recipe, and the total time is still gonna be like three hours. And so, they're like, ‘What? Three hours? It’s just a loaf of bread. What? I don't understand.’ And then when you get into more complex levels of fermentation and different varieties of baking, you come into two- to three-day processes. Even though the actual physical working time is only a few minutes at a time, I think that off the bat will get anybody like, ‘Three days?’

You know what I’m saying? Because if I open up a cookbook for some risotto, that's gonna be done in like an hour, you know what I'm saying? 45 minutes. I opened up a cookbook to make a grilled chicken, this—Whatever.

But I think once people kind of get past—It's like ‘Yeah, it's gonna take an overnight situation. We're gonna let our dough ferment for four hours today, and we're gonna shape it. And then tomorrow, blah blah blah.’ And then I think once they kind of realize how little work it really is and how little ingredients you need. And you need three ingredients, which you can always have stocked in your kitchen. So once people realize that, I think that part of the fear factor goes away.

And then you enter into another part of the fear factor, which is kneading dough, handling dough, sticking to my hand, I don't—sticking to the countertop. And I'm trying to shape it and it's falling apart. I'm trying to do this and it's falling apart. I’m trying to bake it and it comes out flat. Why? ’Cause your oven’s not hot enough, the cast iron wasn't hot enough. Or it’s burning? Well, ’cause you didn't turn the temperature down after you loaded it, you know what I’m saying? Why is it so sticky? Probably added all the water at once. You should add it in slower increments. When do you add the salt, at the end of the mix or before the mix? You autolyse with the leaven or not. 

Yo, the stuff gets technical because it is definitely a craft. But it's also very simple. And I think when I wrote, when I write recipes, I try to keep it as straightforward as possible. ’Cause in reality, what it is is you're going to put something in a bowl, you're gonna mix it until there's no dry flour left, and then you're gonna let it sit there. I mean, I don't see what the problem is with articulating it that way. 

Some people get deep in the—Boy, they get deep in the game. And that's fine, because at the same time for people to truly learn, for those that really want to push forward in the craft of baking, they do need—Water temperature’s important. Flour temperature’s important. pH levels can be important. Everyone's got a different strategy. And I just want to appeal to people that are sitting at home, like, ‘Yo I want to make some dope bread today, and that’s it.’ Well, you just do this and this and that, and then you should have some dope bread. You got some issues, send me an email and we'll figure it out.

Alicia: Well, how do you keep inspired to create new recipes? Where does the creativity come from? How do you regenerate your creativity?

Bryan: I don't know. No, I'm not even joking. 

Alicia: [Laughs.] No, no, I know.

Bryan: To be, just be completely real with you right now, I'm having—I'm struggling with that. All I had was a blog at a certain point, so it was kind of easy to kind of pick and choose. Also at the beginning, I'm gonna put rustic low, country low, seeded low—a baguette, whatever, a brioche, a focaccia, some pizza dough. Again, falling into that traditional path. And then have the pan de coco, I’ve got the pan cubano on the blog. I have a rustic loaf with sorghum and quinoa, Indigenous strains of Latin America. 

When it was just a blog, it was kind of easy for me to shape shift. Then the book came, the first one. So, that's 35 recipes. So I kind of in, while writing that, I mean, I couldn’t—I didn't have the bandwidth to continue to create something that's free on the blog, and also—So I was kind of saving everything for the book.

Then this book comes out, and everything's cool. And then, literary agent’s like, ‘Yo, yo, yo.’ They want the second book already. We need to do the deal for the second book. So this is like three months after my first book publishes that all these publishers do a whole bidding war, blah blah blah. And then I end up with a very amazing publishing company, and now I'm working on a second book that's 150 recipes of only Latin American baking.

And then all the while of that, I have had my Patreon going since last—for over a year now, a year and a half. So, that right there takes recipes. Then I did my TV show with Magnolia Network. That right there takes creative juice. There's 10 episodes there, and had to brainstorm like 20 concepts to pitch to them. Ten of them made it. And of course, I'm doing—Well, I can't say.

And then, I started doing the podcast stuff with David Chang and them, which is really cool. Recipe Club. And that right there takes some time even though it's finding recipes to use in Recipe Club, or making my own recipes in Recipe Club. 

And so, what happens is I—a lot of days, I spend just getting overwhelmed and not knowing exactly how to tackle everything. I've also been doing work with Saveur Magazine doing, every other month, shooting them some recipes and stuff like that. And here's the thing. Cash is king, and when people are bringing—

All the while, it’s Bon Appétit Basically, Delish, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They've all hit me up and gotten recipes, boom, boom, boom, here and there. When I sit down and I'm faced with this task, ‘Ok, there's a bunch of paperwork that's not necessarily going to my audience for free. It's going into someone else's publication.’ I'm going to do that first. 

Then obviously, getting paid to make a cookbook, that's the biggest priority. And this one's not coming out for another couple years. I might be posting about medialunas, but ain’t nobody gonna see that recipe for a while. Gone are the days of old Artisan Bryan, when Artisan Bryan was pumping out, every week was pumping out a recipe. I would post something, and the recipe would be on the blog. You would be biting on it, feeling it, and my stuff would be moving forward. 

Now it's: I post about stuff, but there's no recipe. And then I'm like, maybe people are like, ‘Yo, this dude's tripping. He’s not eating the recipes he posts here.’ 

But anyway, that's long-winded. The short answer is it's just difficult to—The standards are high. The pressure is high. The stakes are high. I mean, the book is going to represent, is going to be something very special. Whether or not it's been done before is irrelevant. I just want to make the best possible representation for Latin American baking as possible. Breads, pastries, cookies, desserts, sourdough, not sourdough, yeasted. I mean, traditional. And the research that has to go behind—honestly, when I talk about it, I get stressed out. I'm like, ‘Am I good enough to do this? Have I done enough research to do this? Do I know what I'm talking about? Will these recipes work?’ 

To find the motivation, to have the creativity, it's evolved for me. It used to be simple. Now, it's very complex. My business is growing. I have a production company now with my partner, and we do TV stuff. We're doing podcast pitches. We're doing TV pitches. So I'm managing a couple of businesses, managing personal life, managing this and that. 

Gone are the days where I just wake up with nothing really stressing me out, just go in the kitchen and be like, ‘Oh, I'm gonna make some—I'm gonna make a chocolate coconut bread today. And I'm gonna type the whole recipe up and post it for free. And it's like, ‘Ah.’ That's just the real answer. I'm not gonna make up some stuff like, ‘Oh, I go in the backyard. And it’s like three, and a recipe comes to my mind and I type it out and it's perfect.’ Nope. It does not go down like that.

Alicia: No. 

Well, are you planning to travel for the next cookbook? And to research, or?

Bryan: Yeah, obviously that's been difficult. 

I did spend a month in Oaxaca. Valuable, a very look into Mexican bakery, baking. I had some ideas of going to Peru for a while. And then, they had a variant of COVID that seemed like it was weird. And they had their political stuff happening at the same time, and had a lot of people hit me up like, ‘Yo, don't go to Peru right now.’ 

And Peru’s very rich in baking. Peru's got really, really ridiculous baking culture. ’Cause I was living in New Orleans temporarily for six months. And my partner, I, we didn't know what to do. We were like, ‘Should we just say, ‘Screw it’ and just embark on some kind of travel and just see what happens? Or should we get back to New York on a more permanent basis and just kind of, settle down to start working more?’

And I think, right now, what's more important is the research behind what's happening, my ability to just have a consistent kitchen, consistent equipment, and try my best as possible to bang out as many recipes as I can. 

And the other thing is doing—I’m starting doing pop-ups here, kind of, in the same vein of the book. And I think that's been very helpful, because now it's not just me testing a recipe and then just eating it for breakfast. It's like, ‘I'm going to serve this to people. I'm going to service people in New York City. I'm going to collaborate with people who are running bakeries and restaurants here, so I need to make sure that what I'm making is delicious and that it works and that it's great.’ And that's definitely been helping me kind of move forward creatively.

But in terms of travel at some point, I mean, maybe next year. I mean, next month I'm going to Scotland to do some, to do something pretty dope unrelated to my book. But I think hopefully by February, March, April, some windows open up to get another good chunk. 

In the past before this book, I've been to several Latin American countries and kind of—I’m drawing from memory and my senses during those particular times for now. Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Colombia, just wherever I've been. Yeah, I went to Colombia and worked with this bakery ’cause I was doing bakery consulting. So I learned a lot about their baking culture already. I’ve kind of been there and I'm going to use that to my advantage. 

But obviously the dream is to hit every single country at some point and learn everything. But I've had to accept the fact that I'm never going to know everything, and if that's my standard, I'm going to drive myself crazy. So I'm coming up with ways to mitigate that expectation and say, ‘Hey, you know what, this is gonna be a cookbook—or baking book, whatever it's called. It's just gonna be a reflection on how you are perceiving Latin American baking.’ If I think it's going to be the end all be all encyclopedia of all time, that would take 50 years and I still wouldn't get it right.

Alicia: I mean, I'm going through that too with writing a book where I'm—Well, it's my first book, so I'm very much losing the forest for the trees and convincing myself that I'll never have an—that I'll never get it right. And it's really daunting. It's really a daunting process.

Bryan: I think that's step one. Step one is realizing that it's a daunting process. Once you realize the stress of what it could be, that's the danger zone. For me, I've stopped drinking coffee. I can't even drink coffee anymore. It has to be decaf. If I drink a real cup of coffee, I'll lose my mind.

So I kind of started to reach that danger zone where I was like, ‘Oh my God, this book is gonna be—it has to be the best of all time. It has to be the best baking book. It has to accurately represent every single Latin American culture and country, duh-duh-duh-duh.’ 

And then, as I'm testing some stuff and posting to Instagram, some fun videos of people—Venezuelans, you know what I'm saying. I made some amazing golfeados. And I didn't put enough cojita down. I didn’t do duh-duh-duh-duh. I messed around and put some walnuts in it, and they didn't like that. They were like, ‘Bro, you cannot not put walnuts in them joints.’ And I'm like, ‘Alright, alright, alright.’ 

I made some pão de queijo, some Brazilian cheese bread. Man, Brazilians was all about it. But then, cats was coming in from different cities Iike, ‘Oh, in this city you make it like this’ and ‘In this city, you make it like this. We put potatoes in and we put parmesan in it, and we duh-duh-duh.’

And the same with the paozinho, which is like a little French bread. Some people call it a pan francés. Some people call it paozinho, and some people call it this. That's just one country. You got 50 cities that doing 50 different breads. That's when I was like, ‘You know what, B? I'm gonna pick one of them. I'm gonna pick one of them. And I'm gonna get it right, or two of them.’

Just like Mexico. In Oaxaca, you got 20 different types of baked goods that's different from Guadalajara, that’s different from this or from that. So I'm going to say, ‘Ok, Mexico, I'm going to pick what I know from Oaxaca, what I got what I know, from Jalisco, and pan de muerto and rosca de reyes. Get a core amount of things right and beautiful, and have the stories to back it up. ’Cause if I go chasing every single baked good in Mexico, that's 10 books.

Alicia: Yeah, yeah.

No, I mean, Puerto Rico is such a tiny archipelago, but the way people make things, the arguments will go on forever about literally everything. I mean, there's a point in trying to get things right but there's no point in trying to make everybody happy all the time, because it's just not gonna happen. 

Bryan: You're the author of the book, right? You are the author of the book. So once you realize what you want the book to be, that's gonna be the golden moment where you're like, ‘Ok, now I'm going to kick this into gear.’ 

With the first book, even though it only took me six months to write it, because it is a small publisher and they just—they were like, ‘This is the only window we got.’ And I was opening a bakery at the same time in Miami, and so there's a lot of stress. 

And yeah, at the beginning I didn't know what I was doing. I was like, ‘Am I gonna go more in New Orleans with this?’ I had some other ideas. And then I kind of was like, ‘I want to lean more into my Hispanic roots.’ Then I decided to just mash that stuff together. I was just like, ‘You know what? I'm just gonna do both. I'm just gonna put whatever I want into this book. Sometimes it’ll be some New Orleans flavor. Most of the time, it'll be Latin American.’

But of course, the publisher kind of pushed back. I still had to get pita bread, challah, focaccia. So I had to put some of those traditional European components in there. Which is fine, they're delicious. But now this go-around, I'm—I've evolved. None of that stuff. I mean, obviously, I'm going to talk about the roots of baking. There's obviously European influence in a lot of the world. But that's the extent that it will be.

Alicia: And I mean, you mentioned making a bread of sorghum and quinoa. How much are you working with alternative flours? I mean, not necessarily alternative. More ancient grains, stuff that's indigenous to the Americas? How is that? Why is that important for you?

Bryan: Look, it's a tricky question for me, because most bakeries in Latin America are just using some poor quality roller mill, probably white flour. Or just very generic forms of flour. And obviously, there's a lot of grains like amaranth and corn, quinoa, rice, sorghum, that are indigenous. In the Andes, there's a ton of grains out there, right? 

But if I make a baking book that's supposed to be accessible, then if I go crazy and just only use these indigenous grains, and this and that, and heirloom grains—I want people to bake from this book for a long time. I want regular moms and dads and families to be able to open this book up and be like, ‘Yeah, we're gonna make mallorcas today for dinner.’ They make mallorcas, and they make pan de queso. 

I'm still working on it. I don't really have an answer. ’Cause I get torn between just going full out. Bringing back the grains and da, da, da, and making it a recipe for pan de coco that’s just full of amaranth and this and that. But I'm going back and forth and what on how exactly I want to incorporate them into a recipe for themselves. 

I definitely think for the pop-ups that I'm doing here, just depending on who I'm working with, what bakery I'm working with, what flours we can access. I'm going to be using as much of that stuff as possible. I'm going to be doing a pan de coco that's baked in a banana leaf that has, that—I'm going in, but I'm not going to write a recipe that's like, ‘Alright, now go to a supermarket and get a banana leaf. In Illinois, they're going to be like, ‘Where do I get a banana leaf? I can’t make this recipe. I’m not gonna make this recipe. I can’t find a banana leaf. I'm not gonna bake this bread.’ It's hard enough for them to find real coconut. You got to find the canned stuff in the store. 

So it's a balance, and I'm just working on that.

Alicia: Right.

Well, I saw that you went on a pizza crawl in New York. Yeah, you're doing a lot of pizza stuff. What is it about pizza that you're, that's interesting. And the book has pizza recipes too. [Laughs.]

Bryan: Yeah, it does. Masa pizza or something like that.

First of all, the pizza crawl was the best. I linked up with this amazing artist, Kr3wcial in New Orleans. And we made a song and a music video. It’s called Homeslice. Make sure you send your people that way, ’cause it's so fun. This guy had a song about eating pizza. I found out about. I was like, ‘Yo, I'm a baker. Blah, blah, blah.’ Pull up on his crew, made them some woodfired pizza. They loved it. And I was like, ‘Let’s do a remix to the song. Let's make a music video.’ So my production company, Flaky Biscuit, we made the music video and it was just a blast. 

So I moved out to New York. And then Kr3w comes, he flies into New York to to release the song. And I was like, ‘Yeah, it would be fun if we just went around the city and ate pizza and just get on our Instagram and just, to kind of help promote the music.’ And so, we just had a blast doing that. 

And the answer is simple. Pizza is delicious. Pizza is amazing. It is delicious. It is a very American thing. It's just spectacular. I don't know what else to say.

Here's the thing that's funny too, because like my work is all about pushing Latin America forward and our baking and our cooking. But I love pizza. I ain't giving that one up. I'm giving up croissants, baguettes, and all that crap. Y’all can have that. Y'all can keep that. Y’all can keep all that. But I will not relinquish pizza from my arsenal. 

Here's the thing. You could pull up on anyone and make them pizza and you would become friends, change their lives. ‘Yo, I'm having, throwing a pizza party. I'm making pizza.’ Yeah, I’m there. Bet. If it’s like, ‘Hey, I’m making arroz con pollo,’ ‘Oh, I think I have something to do. I don't know if I can make it.’ ‘Hey, I'm making pizza.’ ‘Yo, I’m there, bro. I’m there.’ [Laughter.] That’s more of a joke, but it's true though. I'll never give it up, man. I just think pizza’s so fun. It's just such a great way to build community and enjoy food.

Alicia: I'm looking to get one of those ovens for our patio so that I, that we can get a little more into making pizza ‘cause the oven, it doesn't get hot enough. But no, it's funny. I eat pizza because I'm from New York, so I eat pizza in every city I go to just to see what it's like. Even if it sucks, I just—[Laughs.]

Bryan: Well, and that's the other thing, that I found that you can find good pizza pretty much anywhere Yeah, there are cities that don't have much pizza if any, but you can find—I'm very not controversial. Bagels, pizza, I get New York has a thing but dog, there is great bagels and great pizza everywhere. It's not that serious. It's a piece of bread. It’s literally a piece of bread. It's bread. Every country, every culture has bread and you can replicate that bread anywhere in some form.

And there's this thing in Guadalajara, they make birote. And some people only believe birote can be made there and if it's not made in that specific city, then it's not birote so they import it to L.A. I'm like, ‘Guys, you can definitely remake it. It is a piece of bread.’ It’s not that critical. But that’s just how I feel.

I've had pizza in so many places. Yo, I was in Italy. I was in Italy in this coastal town. They gave me a pizza with boiled eggs, french fries and mayonnaise and they said that was their town specialty. And it was delicious. But I'll tell you what. If somebody in Tennessee was making that same pizza, people would be like, ‘That’s not pizza, that's gross.’ How is that not pizza? An Italian cat made it for me. It’s definitely pizza. [Laughter.]

Alicia: Yeah, I have a friend in San Juan who’s a baker, a great baker. And he says that Santo Domingo has great pizza. So I'm desperate to go eat it. Yeah. [Laughs.] 

Well, for you—Yeah.

 Bryan: I will say—Oh no. Nevermind.

Alicia: You go, you go. No, say it. Say it.

Bryan: No, I was gonna say something that—it's not even right. Just if you're in Oaxaca, don't get pizza. That's all I’ll say.

Alicia: Ohhh. Ok. 

Well, for you, is baking a political act?

Bryan: Yeah.

I mean, everything is these days. You walk outside and look at a tree and it's a political act. Can’t escape. It's hard to escape it, especially when someone like me who relies on using social media and using a platform and all this kind of thing to reach several 100,000-whatever people. I think it goes beyond just-

That's the other thing. Just having a blog and posting recipes is fun. But what I'm doing now has kind of gone, transcended that. It's morphed into more than just those recipes. That's why it becomes more difficult. And everything's about kind of having that voice and using it for the right reasons. 

And some people use their platforms very, very rigorously to tackle every single issue that's current. Every day that there's a new issue. Some people just, they're all about it. And hey. Hat’s off, man, you know what I’m saying? If you have the energy to put yourself through that, to deal with the DMs you get, to deal with the comments you get that are going to be hateful, that are going to be mean, that are going to be nasty. Do your thing. 

I don't particularly do well with getting too crazy about how I interact on social media. I obviously have made very bold statements before. I've obviously kind of talked about certain things. I mostly try to stay in my lane. I'll repost things that I believe people should see regardless of anything. I'll repost some of my great friends who are women who have an issue with this Texas situation. I got an issue with that stuff too. You know what I'm saying? But is that my story to come out and really talk about? I don't know, but I'm gonna repost their stories because I believe what they're saying is correct. And if my followers don't like that, then well.

But I'm not going to do this every day. ‘Cause every day there's a new issue political or religious, or some new laws coming in that I don't agree with every single day. I could post that stuff, but then on top of already just trying to keep my business afloat I'm going to be dealing with people messaging me, people unfollowing me, people talking junk. And I'm like, ‘I don't need that energy specifically in my work.’ Social media is my workplace. And I'm trying my best to just keep it that way. 

But when the time comes, I—last summer, all the activism for Black lives. Of course I'm in the center of that, because every publication’s reaching out to me to get a story out of me. And so I'm like, ‘I have no choice but to talk.’

Maybe I should do better. Because I think with regards to that Texas issue, for example, I got a couple comments from friends that were like, ‘Hey, Bryan, thanks for reposting that. We need more men to speak up about this.’ And I was like, ‘Mmm, interesting.’ I didn't realize. And then it's like, ‘Well then, maybe I should be speaking out more.’ So it becomes a game to play—not a game. I didn’t mean to say a game. But it becomes a thing where it's like, ‘How do I balance being able to do this for every thing that I believe in?.’ hoping that I can kind of-

And I guess, maybe I shouldn't care about who follows me. And that’s another issue. It's like, ‘Why do I even care about the whole follower’s stuff?’ It's a lot. And I wasn't even really talking about—but your question was making social media, and-

But let me just try to quickly say yeah, obviously, baking, the economics behind it, decolonizing food systems and trying to figure out a way to use baking as a vessel to push us forward. Obviously, it's political in nature. I’m gonna try to just keep doing me, having fun with it and attacking issues as I can when I feel I'm saying something relevant or doing something correct. It’s—I don't want to just spout off stuff every day without really thinking about it. Really think about what I say and just, and then if I want to say something I'll say it. But sometimes cats just, every day like, ‘Duh-duh-duh-duh.’ I’m like, ‘Whoah-whoah-whoah-whoah.’ Overload.

Alicia: Yeah. [Laughs.] 

No, I struggle with that too. And I think people don't realize what you're in, what you could be inviting into your mind by constantly, and then you're always leaving something out, and it's safer to try and figure out what the hell is going on before—

Yeah, I try to make everything part of my work. Social media for me is not the space for a political statement necessarily. But it's hard, because some people think it is. And for some people, it is. But for me, my work is where I say what I want to say.

Bryan: 1,000% 

Alicia: Well, thank you so much for taking the time out today.

Bryan: Of course. This is great. I appreciate it. And I'll talk to you soon. Yeah.

Alicia: Yeah, yeah. Later.

Bryan: Cool. Bye.

From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
Conversations on food and culture, hosted by writer Alicia Kennedy, with guests such as Nigella Lawson, Bryant Terry, Melissa Clark, and many others. Read Alicia's newsletter on similar topics, which has over 17.5K subscribers and has been mentioned by the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Vogue, GQ, and many other publications.