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Round Table & Q & A with Robb Walsh


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#1 Richard Kilgore

Richard Kilgore
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Posted 08 February 2004 - 11:25 PM

We are pleased to have two-time James Beard Award winner Robb Walsh as our first eGullet Round Table featured guest. Our panel for this Round Table is composed of food and travel writers Russ Parsons, Ellen Shapiro and John Whiting. Richard Kilgore is moderator.

Orientation to the Round Table Discussion: I asked Russ, Ellen and John to open the Round Table discussion with some introductory comments inspired by Robb's book Are You Really Going To Eat That?. Each panelist then raised one or more issues related to food and travel writing as grist for the mill. I anticipated a lively Round Table discussion on Robb’s book, as well as on good food and the opportunities and challenges for food writers everywhere, and ended up with that and much more -- one of the most fascinating discussions on food writing and its psychological, social and cultural implications we have had on eGullet. You will find the Round Table proceedings pinned and closed here at the top of this forum, with the Q & A running below.

eGullet Member Q &A: Robb will be available for the usual eGullet member Q & A now that the Round Table is concluded. We will be taking questions starting Monday, February 9th, and Robb will respond throughout the week. The publisher, Counterpoint, is providing five copies of Are You Really Going To Eat That? for distribution to five members who participate in the Q & A. Please note that the Round Table is concluded -- pinned and closed. Nonethless, do feel free to ask new questions or to follow up on some aspect of the Round Table discussion using the Q & A actively running below the Round Table. (A moderator queue may be used, so your questions may not be posted until the moderator releases them.)

Click here to go directly to the Round Table with Q & A.

Guest and Panel Biographical Notes

Robb Walsh has been described as “the Indiana Jones of food writers” by NPR’s Lianne Hanson. His most recent book is Are You Really Going To Eat That? a far-ranging collection of his food essays -- from eating durian in Thailand, searching for the ultimate cup of coffee in Jamaica and the hottest pepper sauce in Trinidad, and doing dutiful field research on truffles in the Perigord region of France and on Bresse chickens, to southern cooking, chicken-fried steak and introducing Jeffrey Steingarten to Houston barbecue. He is currently the restaurant critic for the Houston Press.

Robb has been nominated for James Beard Awards multiple times for his magazine articles, newspaper series, restaurant reviews, and radio commentary on NPR. His book Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes & Recollections from the Pit Bosses was nominated for a 2003 James Beard Cookbook Award in the Americana category. In additon, his Houston Press feature "Barbecue in Black and White: Carving the Racism Out of Texas Barbecue Mythology" won a Katie Award, a regional journalism prize, for feature writing in major market newspapers.

For several years Robb wrote the Natural History Magazine column “A Matter of Taste”, which explored a wide range of issues in food history and science, as well as culinary anthropology. He also edited Chile Pepper Magazine and founded the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, the largest hot sauce competition in the world. In addition, Robb was food editor of the Austin Chronicle , and he has contributed to numerous other publications.

Robb’s past books include A Cowboy in the Kitchen: Recipes from Reata and Texas West of the Pecos, co-authored with Grady Spears; Nuevo Tex-Mex: Festive New Recipes from Just North of the Border, co-authored with David Garrido; and Traveling Jamaica With Knife, Fork & Spoon , co-authored with Jay McCarthy. His work also appears in Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing , as well as The Best Food Writing of 2001, 2002, and 2003. Robb's next book is The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos, due out in June 2004.

The Panel:

Russ Parsons is an award winning food columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of the book How to Read a French Fry: And Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science. He contributes frequently to the eGullet discussion forums.

Russ has been a journalist for more than 30 years, covering everything from high school football and professional rodeo to cops, courts and country music. He has been writing about food for 20 years, including more than a decade at The Times , where he has been food editor, managing editor, and deputy editor. Before coming to The Times , he was food editor at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate , food editor at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and food editor at the Albuquerque Tribune .

Russ has won almost every major American food writing award, including the Association of Food Journalists, the James Beard Foundation, the International Association of Culinary Professionals' Bert Greene and the University of Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award for consumer writing. How to Read a French Fry was a finalist for two Julia Child cookbook awards.


Ellen R. Shapiro is an intrepid travel writer based in New York City. She is eGullet Forum Host, Adventures in Eating, and her recent eight-part series on her travels in Mongolia has become an instant eGullet classic.

Ellen is the author of four books, including New York City With Kids and Shopping the North Carolina Furniture Outlets (Crown). Formerly Senior Editor of Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel magazine and "Off the Beaten Path" columnist for Conde Nast's Concierge.com , she has journeyed to the four corners of the globe in search of unusual destinations and unique travel experiences.

She has written for major national travel publications about, among other things, wineries in South Africa, New Zealand, and British Columbia; trekking in the Nepal Himalayas; Michelin three-star dining in Europe; climbing Mount Kilimanjaro; SCUBA diving all over the world; journeying overland through Africa; archaeological digs in the Mideast; Southeast Asian cuisine and culture; cooperative camping in Alaska; and solo dining and travel for women.

She is a PADI SCUBA Divemaster, nature photographer, and Sierra Club backpacking trip leader.


John Whiting is an American who has lived in London since 1966. He is currently News Editor for Fine Food Digest, the trade journal of the Guild of Fine Food Retailers (UK). In addition, his website food essays have been a favorite of food lovers and writers such as John Thorne. A long-time eGullet member, John Whiting pops up frequently in the eGullet discussion forums.

John’s working life has been equally devoted to words and to music. As a Writer, he regularly contributes articles about food, and diatribes on the state of the arts and society, to European and American publications. In 1997 he established the Diatribal Press, devoted to "entertainment for intelligent readers", and his publications include his travel/food journal, Through Darkest Gaul with Trencher and Tastevin. In addition, he was the joint recipient with Odaline de la Martinez of a Composer-Librettist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, resulting in an opera that was performed in New Orleans, London and California.

As a sound designer, John has provided sound projection for the Kronos Quartet and dozens of symphony orchestras from Los Angeles to Leningrad. He also has collaborated with many major conductors including Sir Michael Tippett, Andre Previn, and Sir Simon Rattle. In his London studios, John produced pre-recorded performance tapes for Henri Pousseur, John Cage, Nigel Osborne, Luciano Berio, James Wood and other European and American composers. In addition, John has performed, taught and lectured in Germany, France and England.


Richard Kilgore, Ph.D. is a Dallas-based psychologist and writer who consults to organizations on communication and development issues and provides psychotherapy and career development consultation to writers and other professionals. His book reviews and columns have appeared in major metropolitan newspapers and other publications. He is eGullet Forum Host, Texas.

[b]Click here to go directly to the Round Table with Q & A.