IN Conversation with Suzy Chase

Photo courtesy of Suzy Chase

Five exclamation points in a row graced Suzy Chase’s email reply to a media request containing a gratuitous photo of your humble correspondent’s torty cat (hat tip to Michael Mackie for the scoop that she adores tortoiseshell felines.) Later, on a long phone chat, the exclamation points become audible, like a back beat. Exuberance may just be the special sauce Chase brings to her two wildly successful podcasts: “The Groove Radio,” thegrooveradio.com, is the longest-running soul music podcast, and “Cookery by the Book,” cookerybythebook.com, is the top cookbook podcast.

Chase, a Prairie Village native, lives with husband, Bob, and their 14-year-old son, Jeffrey Philip, in New York City’s West Village. Since Covid closed the neighborhood gym where she took rebounding classes five times a week, she’s taken to bouncing on a mini trampoline on the roof of her apartment building to keep in shape and clear her head.

Both Chase’s podcasts have their roots in Kansas City: KPRS sparked her passion for R&B, and Karen Adler of Pig Out Publications inspired a deep love of cookbooks.

Chase’s newest venture is an online course about how to create a successful podcast called “The Pod Process,” thepodprocess.com.

Many food journalists had parents that were either great cooks or terrible cooks. What was cooking like at home when you were growing up?
My mom was divorced. She was in real estate and started working in the ’70s—it was the first time she had ever worked. It was steak and potatoes basically every night.

Yum!
She was a good cook, she just didn’t have time because she was working.

You left the University of Kansas at age 19 to work at a KUDL/WHB radio station. That sounds like the beginning of an exciting life. Why did you take that leap?
I’ve always loved radio. When I was a kid and I couldn’t sleep at night, my mom would say, “Just turn on the radio.” I’d have the radio next to my pillow and try to find stations in Minneapolis, stations in Chicago—the farthest away stations I could find. I would listen to Larry King and Sally Jessy Raphael— they both had overnight shows back then. I just loved, loved radio.

My sophomore year in college I got an internship at KUDL/WHB. I really wanted to work there, and they had a job opening. So, the program director at the time had to come over to my house and ask my mom if it was OK. I remember having this very serious talk, and [my mom] said, “Sure.”

What a great mom. Your podcasts, The Groove Radio and Cookery by the Book, seems to exist in completely different orbits: overlooked R&B music and contemporary cookbooks. Is there any connective tissue between them?
Totally. In 2003 the R&B music I wanted to listen to wasn’t on the radio, so I developed Groove Radio. Then fast-forward to 2015, I was thinking about starting a new podcast and I thought, “What do I love, and what do I know?” That took me back to when I was a publicist with Karen Adler—she taught me all about cookbooks. So I think the through-line is my love of audio and my life experiences.

You recently started a new course teaching people the nuts and bolts of how to create a successful podcast. What makes a podcast compelling?
Number one, it’s the host. You have to be succinct. You have to have a good subject matter, but mainly it’s the host. If Oprah put out a podcast, you’d listen to it no matter what she was talking about because you already love her and you know her.

What makes a good guest on a podcast?
Someone who, A, is happy to be there [laughs]…

You’d think that would go without saying…
…and, B, really knows their craft. In my case, that they really know their cookbook. In a few cases, I would venture to say there have been some ghost writers involved. I love it when they have really done the work themselves, and then their answers are really good.

Suzy Chase perusing the all-time classic cookbook from the editors of Better Homes and Gardens.

Have you considered adding video in the future? A lot of podcasts are also streamed on YouTube.
The main reason people put their podcast on YouTube is strictly for search engine optimization. YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google.

I will never do video. Audio was my first love, and audio is so much more intimate.

How so?
You can listen to it when you’re walking, when you’re in your car, and it feels like you are the only one in the conversation.

How important is it for a host to have a good-sounding voice?
I think your voice has to sound authentically yours. If you think about Guy Raz or Ira Glass, they both have really weird voices, but it’s their thing. So, you get used to it, and every time you tune it in, you’re like, “Oh, that’s so-and-so.”

What have you learned from your guests on Cookery by the Book about how cooking at home is changing? What are people interested in and not interested in?
I think people are interested in making dishes that you would get at a restaurant, but not too complicated, like Cachio e Pepe (cheese and pepper pasta). That’s not that easy to make the sauce taste just right, which is why we order it at restaurants, but I think people are interested in making it at home, because we’re afraid to eat in restaurants in a pandemic.

What is your relationship now to Kansas City?
I adore Kansas City. When our son was born in 2006, we moved back to Kansas City for a time, to be closer to my mother. We lived in a loft in the River Market and fell in love with Le Fou Frog and (owners) Barbara and Mano [Rafael] and Succotash, Beth Barden’s restaurant.

Gates is my all-time favorite barbecue, Kelly’s [Westport Inn] is my favorite bar, and Westport Flea Market is my favorite place for hamburgers. I also love Harry’s Bar & Tables, City Market Coffee, Harry’s Country Club, The Peanut, Gram & Dun on the Plaza, The Granfalloon, and The Quaff.

Where do you physically keep your cookbooks in your West Village apartment?
They line the wall of my dining room.

If there was a live web cam pointed at the cookbooks, which one would we see you grabbing the most often?
Definitely any Ina Garten cookbook.

Why?
She embodies that idea of a restaurant-quality yet fairly easy-to-make and delicious recipe.

It’s mid-morning now—when and how will your dinner plan come together?
Around 2 o’clock, I’ll have to figure out what’s for dinner, because we eat at 5. I have some pasta and some spinach, so I might make some stuffed shells that my guys will like. Just simple.

Interview condensed and minimally edited for clarity.

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