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April 4, 2019 51 mins

The American nuclear family exploded decades ago. The trend has been steadily towards more divorce and more complication — half-siblings and awkward introductions ("This is my ex-wife's husband"). There's nothing wrong with that, but it has forever changed what it means to be a family man. Interested in discussing this, Fatherly Podcast host Joshua David Stein and co-host Postell Pringle reached out to Jeff Gordinier, globe-trotting food editor of "Esquire" and author of "Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All With the Greatest Chef in the World." Gordinier is on his second go-around and generous in his willingness to discuss what it means to get a second chance in a country with no second acts.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hello, and welcome to the Fatherly Podcast. I'm your host
Joshua David Stunn, joined by my co host Postel Pringle.
Today's guest is a personal hero of mine. His name
is Jeff Gordon R. He's a writer and editor. Is
a new book out about a chef named Rena red
ZEPPI the best chef in the world. But we're not
really here to talk about his professional accomplishments, although they

are impressive. We're here to talk about the balance between
his professional life and his personal life. His professional life
has been glittering and meteoric, his personal life has been,
like for the rest of us, a mixed bag, although
he's in a great place now and um, the thing is,
even if you don't care about food, which is what
Jeff writes about mostly, I think you want to listen

because the struggles he faces about balancing professional ambition and
personal obligation our universal. I know that I struggle with
that every single day. Anyway, stay tuned, Welcome for the podcast.
I hope you are enjoying this show. Well, I want

to introduce our guest, Jeff Gordon are how do you
say it? Just think of Jeff Gordon, the race car
driver plusant ear Gordon here, Jeff Gordon here. It was
French centuries ago, but we lost that now it's moving.
If it's not French, it's New Jersey. Um. Well, Jeff

has been one of my favorite writers since I came
to the city. I think you were working Yeah, the
New York Times in their food you missed all the
years before that I was, I was a baby. I
was a little kid in the suburbs. Um, Jeff is uh.
I think one of the most talented food writers out there,

has been for a while. California native now lives New
Jersey's my dad's family, New Jersey. I'm sorry, just to
clarify there. Um, you have a new book coming out
called Hungry. Subtitle goes here Hungry, eating, road tripping and
risking it all. What's the greatest chef in the world?

Who is? Um? Oh? Renee red Zeppi of Noma. Okay,
we're gonna talk about the book. Um. But oh, you're
you're also the food and drinks editor for Esquire. Yeah
that's right. So you travel or have traveled. You're responsible
for the best restaurants in America. I travel a lot.

I travel for our best bars issue, which we're in
the midst of researching now. I travel for best new restaurants.
I travel for a column that I do in Profiles,
and then also for freelance articles for other magazines like
like you do. So I'm on the road a lot
recently not so much, but generally quite a bit. So, um,
you're not on just for me to like fanboy at

of that'll be part of it, I guess. But also,
you just had do you call it a second family?
You had your you are the father of twins. It's
just an ongoing family, ongoing family. So you had growing family,
growing family, mixed family though, I mean yeah, mixed. You
were married and you had two kids, a boy and

a girl, who are now teenagers. And recently you got
remarried and had two twins, two twins. Yeah, yeah, yeah,
LEU say two pairs of twins are just like, yeah,
twins generally by twins that it implies to, yeah, you
have a twin set. I mean, that's that's all. That's
almost uh, what's the word that I'm moving forward? Like? Redundant? Yes,

thank you? I have four children. Yeah, Margot is sixteen,
Toby is thirteen, and the twins are nearing ten months,
so as as a friend of mine from college. But
it it's sort of like I just got released from prison,
steps outside of the gates and stole a car, which
I think, and went right back. Yet you went you

went out. Yeah, you went out and got the band
back together, right back and not sleeping. Yeah, you know,
I I missed the tension, you know, the endless stress,
the endless demands I want, I want back in. Yeah. Well, congratulations,
thank you. In fact, this is I almost forgot that
I had to do this podcast because my wife, Lauren, yeah,

was on the road from Wednesday to Sunday evening, so
particularly over the weekend, it was I was the only
one in charge of all four kids, making a lot
of meals, a lot of dishes. All all four kids
live with you. Um, the older kids live with their
mom sometimes and live with me sometimes as his customary,
and their mom basically lives next door, so they just

kind of walked back and forth. And so here's my question,
are they helpful? Oh that's a that's a central question.
Thank you for that. Toby, my thirteen year old is
extremely helpful and actually one of the few signals I've
had that I may be doing okay as a father.
Is that My son Toby will text me or text Lauren,

my my wife, and say can I just come hug
the baby? He will actually do that almost on a
daily basis. He just wants to come over from next door,
spend fifteen minutes with them, eat all the cookies in
the house, eat all the ice cream in the house,
you know, maybe part of it, and then go back. Um. So, yeah,
he's extremely helpful. And when it comes to bathtime or

you know, feeding twins, it's useful just to have backup.
You just will have someone to hold one of them. Yeah,
I know it. I feel like, no, I don't have twins,
but I have I have. I have two kids. How
old are they? Six and two? So the two year
old effectively is the one who's like the head of
the household. I walked in the other day on Achilles,

my older son helping Aggie my younger son read, and
that was like the highlight of That's been the highlight
of my last yeah, two months of living. The thing
about twins is if you think you can fall back
as a guy, if you think you can sort of
wriggle out of things, fall back on gender stereotypes, forget it,

Like you can't somebody else to hold the other one,
you know, like if if Lauren is holding Jasper, I
have to hold Wesley Vice Like, so you do everything,
you know and I and I Lauren is on the
road a lot and works in the city, and I'm
often the one writing at home. So I find that
I'm doing a whole lot of tests. I mean, I'm
the guy taking the older kids the orthodonist, to basketball practice,

to a piano recital, to you know, making their dinner,
and then all the stuff with the baby's feeding in bathings.
I feel like, um, I had I had a similar
although less stellar career path than you. Like, I was
doing a lot of food writing as a restaurant critic
for a long time. I did luxury travel, so I
was constantly on the road having you know, rose pedal massages.

I did luxury travel for a long time. Um, and
something I found, you know, obviously I'm separated from my
wife and we're heading to divorce. Um that was like
pretty alienating in my family dynamic, not only the travel,
but especially when we had Achilles, when even before kids,

but especially when we had kids, where I would say, oh, yeah,
I have to go. Do I have to go on
this trip for work? Where are you going? Oh to
Marrakesh to go to these different rey odds and you know,
or why can't you help out tonight? Oh? Well, I'm
going to fill in the hotspot restaurant that I'm reviewing.
So while it was work, it was also just being

coddled and treated, you know, in the lap of luxury,
and that really drove a wedge in to my relationship.
And I wonder for you we're doing something similar, was
that the experience? How did that affect your family dynamic?
I think that's a very profound question. I mean, I've

traveled for my career for for decades now, also at
Details magazine and Entertainment Weekly before that, during the time
I was at the New York Times, and I've come
to think a realization that emerged in part through writing
this book Hungry, was that I'm an escapist, that escapism
is pretty much my belief system, and that I've used

escapism as a form of self medication for years now. Uh,
I don't really drink that much. Um, they don't do
anything else. I mean, I think just getting on the
fucking road makes me feel better and uh, and yet
not because of that alienating component you talk about, Like
then you come home and it's so jarring, like the

the stark contrast between not just the luxury of being
on the road, but the independence, you know, reading a book, um,
waking up when you want to, you know, like like
even just I was in Philadelphia for this conference that
you were at JD S and and you know, I
I stayed in the hotel one extra night, and I

did actually do a lot of writing at that point,
and I went out to a bar that I needed
to check out for Esquire, but I also just wanted
to sleep a little later and get like a ten
thirty train back to New York, you know, because at
that point, what can I do in the morning. I
can't really help. Um. I think that you come up
with all sorts of kind of answers that help you

sleep at night, help you sleep at night, and help
you wangle out of the work, really, you know. And
I think I've I'm much different father now, and I
have a much different relationship to the to the travel.
I'm also just older, I'm fifty two, and the travel
starts to wear on your body pretty hard after a while.
Um so, um, you said you're in much different father,
exceptionally different. I'm just so like, I mean this this

weekend is a good example. I Um, I've learned with
four children in the house that it is a fool's
Errand to think that you can answer emails. It's absurd
to think you're gonna get any writing done. It's ridiculous
to think you're going to finally catch up with you know,
Black Clans ban or or you know, the wife for

some film you've been wanting. I mean, he's not going
to happen. So the sheer surrender of that has liberated me.
It's freed me. I found in the weekends. I just
turned lapt off, laptop off, turn off the phone for
the most part, other than Instagram storying some of the
cute pictures of the twins, and um, I'm much more

actively present and in a way that I was not.
I I dare say, I'm sorry to say that I
was not when when Margot and Toby were younger. Um,
I mean I was present, but my mind was always
you know, it was like that that Buddhist idea of
the mind bouncing around. That's that's what I had, and
now I find that I can. The tasks are so monumental,

doing all these meals all weekend, all the cleaning, you know,
all the checking, the homework, all the diapers, all the bats.
Everything that is like I just give in, and it's
it's kind of freeing. It's kind of like, Okay, this
is what I wish I knew before. Fatherhood is better
when you just stop trying to be you know, three

other people. Yeah, I think that that's a huge that's
a huge aspect of it. When you were talking about, um,
the escapism, I think that hits home too, because I
found what was so difficult was that adjustment of being.
You know, when you're in the media, especially when you're
doing like um uh press to a press Juncket or

something like that, you're being catered to, and you know
you as a food writer, like you're catered to, you're
treated like you're super important and all this stuff. Then
you walked back into your home and you are like
the villain a little bit, like you've been gone. Do
you want to talk about how amazing your experience was
and your partners? Just like, dude, I've been up for
like I'm covered and s your turn and you're like, wait,

but I'll tell you about this, Like cocafone, it was
like no one wants to hear no one. But then
internally you have to like, um, readjust real quick from
being like people give a shit about me to like,
no one gives a shit about me. I'm here for
other people. Yeah, whatnot. I was just gonna say that. Um.
For some reason, this reminds me of a like a

television interview that I saw with Mike Tomlin, the the
coach of the of the Steelers, right and where he
it was just this nice like sort of like um
personal family piece or something like that, where he did
he they were talking to him and his wife at
separate times and uh, and he was talking about how
when he is out on the road, what just during

the football season, which is pretty much like, I mean,
that's not just the football season. It's pretty much like
you know, ten months out of the year or something
like that, and then there's two months out of the
year where he's just like at home and he you know,
but when he is there doing his thing, and you know,
for the Steelers, obviously he's the man. Everything revolves around
what he says. Right, everything everything, and um uh, you

know he's out on the road, he comes back and
even when he's at home, even when he's at home,
everything stops for what he does. So then when the
football season is finally over, everything stops. He'll come back
in and been trying to assert his sort of his
his really his his, his relevance more than anything, like
his relevance, his actual relevance in his home and not

understanding that like his wife, in his in his girls,
and his family have been operating like without him smoothly,
in fact, in selling without him all this time. Yeah, exactly, exactly,
and he has to like make that adjust power has
been us Yeah yeah, yeah. But that's the thing is
that a home is a living organism and it does

adapt whether you like it or not. I mean, I
feel like that is such an ego, a blow to
an ego, especially like NFL coach or whatever, to realize
that actually people are doing fine without you. You're not
that you are important, but you're as important as you
make yourself in the situation. You know. And I think
when I was traveling all the time, um, I also

had a really hard time coming back into the family
dynamic and wanting to be the guy my kids came
to and wanted to have like a seamless relationship with them.
But it was strained and weird because and not even
just traveling like when I was a restaurant critic, because
you hadn't done that work, because I hadn't done the work,

and I wanted all the payoff without the work. Yeah.
In fact, one reason I joined Fatherly as opposed to
doing more food stuff was because I realized I'm the
kind of guy that will take my work and turn
it into my life, like I did luxury traveling food
because there's no other way that I could afford those experiences,
and like I wanted to get paid, I needed to

get paid, and I wanted to do them. And then
the reason I did Fatherly is because I was not
a very good dad and I wanted to be a
better dad. And if that was my job, I could
you know, I could make it happen. Yeah, well, if
I may like. Um, so I travel quite a bit,
or I have traveled quite a bit, especially in the past.

I'm actually taking a step back myself. Um. And it's
a very like cognizant um cognizant effort that I'm trying
to do. But I've traveled a lot as a performer
and then also as a playwright, a playwright that's part
of a collective that writes musicals. Um and it's really funny,
like you know, I spent all these years, especially when

I was just like a poor writer and actor, trying
to get to the point where I was like where
somebody desired me to come, you know what I mean. Yeah, yeah,
if you'll pay to get me on the plane, I've
made it. Yeah, I mean, well kind of actually, I
mean that's always how it felt. So so like you know,
in that process, I think I also, um uh maybe

a little bit unlike you guys, but I also delayed
the process of having kids. So you know, I got
to the point where my lady was like, this is
gonna happen, like you know, it's gonna happen, or it's
gonna happen with you, or it's gonna happen without you,
but you have to decide that. And it often felt yeah, yeah,
I mean definitely, but I mean I had to say
at times it felt like like you know, like like

she plimb me with some with some bourbon and mount me.
You know, what I mean, like to make this thing happen,
to make this thing happen, and then I'd be on
the plane like the very next day. But I, UM,
do you feel like UM having kids has the real
talk here, has negatively affected your career? Um? You know no,

Actually at first I did. At first, I did. At first,
I felt like it was consistently um like hindering my
ability to move, you know what I mean, because because
I naturally felt guilty about about picking up and leaving,
and then there were certain responsibilities that I needed to handle,
and I think that I was actually running away from

those responsibilities. Are not doing well and certainly not tending
to my relationship with my lady. I mean, we've gotten
a lot of issues, but you know, I won't detail
all that, but like, well, I mean we I definitely
almost messed it up. I definitely almost messed it up,
and um, and it took a lot of it took
a lot of work, took therapy, you know, it took therapy.

It took um frankly a a meetings, you know, like
like it took a lot of stuff for me to
actually like check in with myself to then be able
to um to then be able to tend to our relationship,
tend to to her needs, tend to my son uns needs,
um and that was because that was before my daughter.
But essentially, like for a long time, I think I

actually would get angry sometimes about about they're expressing their
need for me to be home or just their need
from my attention, because there were a lot of things
that I could do for them when I was on
the road and that's not what they do. But they
really answer your question, Like going back now, I feel
like having having kids has done it has done remarkable

things for me because one it's like, you know, they
remember I remember some rappers saying like, once he had kids,
that gave him a reason to actually do what he does.
You know, before it was always just the thing that
he loved to do and the thing that he was
good at, and a lot of choices were made for him.
But then once he had kids, he started making the choices.

And I feel like the same way, I feel a
little bit the same way that I feel like as
a writer. I guess I feel a little bit that
I've had to hustle a lot harder because I had kids.
I wasn't that that I was like twenty nine, but
older than I mean, younger than a lot of other folks.
And I've just always had to have some sort of
job and right all the time to support them. So
it's like kept me like really active in some way.

I feel like I haven't been able to chase the
bigger projects because I'm just trying to make rent, trying
to make you know, support the family. But it's like
there's been no layoffs. You know. I'm not like a
fighter who can fight like once a year. It's like I'm,
you know, in the ring every week. One of the
things I wanted to ask you, Jeff, is, Um, you know,
obviously you're divorced and you're remarried. Um, what would you

say your biggest regret is about balancing family work or
just independent of that. I guess they would have to
do with that element of listening and being present. Um.
I don't have a lot of regrets. I mean, first marriage,

you know it ended, maybe it Um it's supposed to,
you know, I I just when went on the path
that that seemed right. If you go on that path,
you know, as you as you are, it's painful no
matter what. It's a mess, no matter what, it's gonna
destroy you. I may remember talking to Adam Sacks, fella
food writer, and he's like, divorces just every day is hell,

new kind of hell, fresh hell every day. And I
mean I was like, what, no, I got immediator. It's
all good, it comes, the hell comes, and then, um,
I kind of feel like it's like a Democratic primary
or just any primary, Like everyone's trying to be friendly
as long as they can, and you know it's going
to get vicious at a certain point, but you're just trying,

you know, because basically you're on the same side, but
you know, you try to forestall. Yeah, exactly. That's very
That's that's very true. I mean, I find with the
babies now, the thing I know is that Wesley and
Jasper will be Toby's age someday in marganization something. I
know that, like that's the difference between me and Lauren

maybe as I see the arc more and um as
a result, I know what to cherish. Not to sound
totally sappy, but I know that this moment when Wesley
and Jasper sit in their little chairs and we feed
them is is going to go away, you know, not
that long from now. They'll be completely different individuals. So
I am able to just sit there and be with

it more, and I find an extremely gratifying in a
way that I didn't before. I was constantly frantic, particularly
when Margot was a maybe. I mean, I it was
that curveball asteroid hitting the earth. What the fuck? I
can't go to a movie? Like I mean, the incredible
vanity of a guy in his mid thirties, you know,

like incredible narcissism and privilege, and just like I want
to go to the bar it just opened, It's spost
have amazing cocktails. What the hell are you talking about?
A can't go? No, that's not me, but but yeah,
like you know what I mean, like like bars and
movies and like suddenly I couldn't you know, and that

like now I haven't seen a movie at theater a
long time. I've I've just let that pod detached from
the spaceship and float away. You know, I'm fine with books.
I'm just determined that at night, after everyone's in bed,
I read books. Yeah, you know, I think you're right. Whatever.
This is the period of the podcast where we contemplate
the tender, broken hardness of the world. We're not there

yet been doing that explicit about it, you know. You
Just I feel like my biggest regret when my kids,
not to say that would have forestalled what happened in
my marriage in life. But I can see the damage
now that I inflicted. Was I was looking at the
wrong thing, like you. I was looking out the window,

seeing all the other things go by, and neglecting and
all the things that I was missing, and neglecting what
my family. I was neglecting my wife. I was not
there for my kids. And now I look back on
it and I feel like you. I feel wiser in
a lot of ways, but that doesn't undo the damage

that I've done. And I think for me, I'm um
just resting in the resting in that knowledge, trying not
to beat myself up too much, which is hard for me,
not to feel so guilty, um, but but not trying
to relieve that guilt by saying I didn't do anything wrong,
you know, because that's not the answer either. But just

aware now of how precious these things are, how precious
the time I have with my kids now is I
only see them half the time, so it's like all
that preciousness is distilled. What's it. I mean that improved
me as a father separation because suddenly you realized the
time with him is limited, and so you make the

most of it, you know. I mean. My daughter, Margot
is a singer songwriter. She recorded an album this past
summer and it's called Little Misrecorded. You can go to
band camp and listen to it. And she, um, she
and I go too shows, you know, like I was
a little punk rocker in l A when I was
a teenager, and it turns out she's cut from the

same cloth. Sorry, I'm touching the table. And so I've
We've seen bands like Swimmers, The Regrets, car Seat head Rest,
the Lemon Twigs, um any of these written you know. Yeah, Okay, no,
I can't stop you because I got I got a
sixteen year old daughter who's into the coolest music around,

like dream Wife. Have you heard a dream wife? Like
dream Wife? I saw The Clash when I was fourteen,
and seeing dream Wife when Margot was fifteen was a
similar experience for hers. Absolute transporting as all female band
from the second band that they're the second only band
that matters. Yeah, well, to her, they're the only band
that matters, and they're just you know, a lot of
the band she likes are either all female or feminist

in some way or another. And um and on fire
not getting on the radio. And I mean Sunflower Being.
We just saw Sunflower Being in in green Point. Okay, Anthony,
you know Sunflower Being is a badass band. Four years Yeah, Williams,
They're fantastic. They filled they filled Warsaw in green Point.

I mean the place was packed with kids. And um,
you know that that particular venue has a little side area.
We can get a beer in Parogue and all the
parents were over there. But I like when Margot asked me,
can we go see a band? Like she wanted to
see the band that has the song sharks smile and blanking?
But she said, can you um broccoli? No, no, no,

that's a shark smiles? Is it is a hit? I'm
I don't know why I'm blankings. But she'll say, can
you go buy tickets? I buy tickets immediately, I go
online buy them because it's it's such an awesome way
for us to bond, you know, Like this is an
interesting example that I found that. Okay, I won't so
a band that I really liked when I was in
college was called Young Marble Giants, right, and they're like
an influence on the x act superminimaliste. Yeah, it's like

early XX, just like a bassline and and a woman
singing and then like a very spare kind of um,
you know, spaghetti western guitar line, you know, very very minimalist.
One day, we're driving around and and I was playing
what I think is their best song, Brand New Life,
and uh, Margo was like, who's this? And I was like, um,

his Young Marble Giants is a band I liked in
college anyway. There then she's like enough, Like she was like,
shut up, that's enough, you know, and I wanted to
hear man's plaining from Dad on this. She starts googling it.
She says nothing else. That's the last I heard. Then
her album she puts out her album Little Misrecorded. Guess
what she covers, Brand New Life by Young Like, so

my influence is present, if not acknowledged, but present, and
like I thought, okay, that's kind of beautiful, even if
it's subconsciously a little wink at Dad, it's it's present
and it made me happy. So um, I think that
when when Margot was firstborn, I was sort of like
she's a newborn. We're gonna play daydream Nation by Sonico,

We're gonna play London Going, We're gonna play the entire
Miles Davis, you know, catalog and and and you know,
you think you can somehow Brian them and all this
culture and you know, but maybe it worked. She actually
has impartial Yeah, you know, maybe some of it's genetic.
I don't know. Toby, my my thirteen year old, is

no real interest in music. He's much more challenging in
a way because like we're going to the next game
on Sunday. I won't know that was a birthday present him.
I won't know who any of the people are. I
mean I don't I don't watch any sports. You mentioned
a football person before, and I just kind of not
is um he I mean it's hard to be or like,

I mean, yeah, exactly, dude. I did not know this. Yeah.
I bought the tickets thinking oh wow, it'sn't this need.
I got tickets to a basketball game, and he was
like the nick sucker, right now, why did you do
this like this? It's so embarrassing. I don't want to
tell my friend. I was like what I thought I
was doing? Something sports trying. I may not shoot baskets

with you because you know what a horror show that is,
but I will go to the game, you know. But
of course for me, I'm like where will we eat much?
You know, like maybe for dinner we'll go to Chinatown,
you know, because his you know, actually covering the food
beat with my two older kids has been been a blast.
You know. Did they come along a lot? You know,

so even in l A. Margot came to beavel with me,
which wound up being one of my best best you on,
did they give you insights? Good insights? Yeah. I mean
it's not like I make my decisions based on that,
but they're just it's just like if I went out
to dinner with you guys, you know. They it's it's
interesting to hear feedback from the other folks. And um,
Toby is completely obsessed with Asian food. He only wants

to eat Korean food, Chinese food, Japanese food, Filipino food
all the time. So he has actually pretty deep database
in terms of experiences, even at thirteen, and he's always comparing, well,
this isn't quite as good as wha you want, and
this isn't you know, it's interesting when I I was
just talking to you off air about I just went
to Florida with my kids, and I still write about

travel quite a bit, so I'm always like looking out
for a new take. And then we went to the
uh sh Was it an Asian? No? No, it was
a hotel in Clearwater home of Scientology. But that's not there.
It's fine, there's nothing wrong with it or whatever. But

maybe we'll judge you. We'll judge you quietly. Achilles Is
take on this hotel was it gives me the same
atmospheric feeling as a muffin you get at a museum.
And I was like, whoa, that's like veryfin you know,
like those muffins you get a museum cafes that are
in the cellophane and they're kind of good, but they're

kind of plastic. E Like, I knew exactly what he
was talking about about this hotel lobby, and I feel
like half the time you just were like the other
day we were in Philadelphia, different trips. It blew my mind.
We were in Philadelphia and we're looking at all these
monuments and he goes, um, there's a lot of like
war monuments, Civil War and you know, um for independence,

what is that called revolutionary war? And goes wow, they
seem really mad at you. They just want you to
always know about these wars, like that's a good way
of looking at history too. So yeah, having has been
for me. They're a little young. I still can't take
them anywhere. All they care about is chicken mockney from

this one place on takeout and dumplings. Maybe they'll grow. Wait,
we're going to take a commercial break also because I
have to pee. I'll be right back. Welcome back to

the Fatherly Podcast. We're here with Jeff Gordon. Ear we go, there,
we go. Um, So I wanted to cover two topics
before we wrap up. One that occurred to me earlier
when you were talking about when you're with Laura and
your wife, who this is these are her first kids. Um,
you look at certain moments in a different way because

you have the benefit of having done this before. I'm
a time traveler. But how do you balance that feeling
that what's new for her is not exactly new for you? Well,
it is new for me because these are new people,
you know. Like sometimes people will say to me, like
four kids, you're a madman and they are correct, but

I don't my Jack Nicholason laughed, came out. But they're
not four kids in the abstract, they're Margot, Toby, Wesley
and Jasper. They are these people that I know and
already that twins have drastically different personalities and outlooks on
the world and the whole thing. So Um, the experience

with them is new. The the experience with Wesley and
Jasper's new, and the fact that they're twins, that's a
new experience for me. Um, and the fact that I'm
raising them with Lauren is a new experience because we're
just very compatible in many ways, and she's a partner
in crime when it comes to escapism, right, Yeah, we're

both escapists in in in rehab in a way like
we you know, we both liked you know, if if
someone called us tonight, like I have two extra seats
at Labernad and you want to do we will find
a way to be there, Like we will have friends
come look after the kids, will find like well uber
home if necessary for an exorbitant amount of money, like
she wants to go have an adventure. And so we're

very uh, we're like kin in that way. You know,
like when when when I was that not the case before? Um,
I like it would be disrespectful to get into that,
but but I would say that, like you know, Um,
I have evolved into this person who who acknowledges his
own appetite for the escape and and so to to

have a Bonnie to my clide is is sort of
a joy. Although we spend too much. But like when
like when I had to go to nor exactly maybe
I should when I had to go to Noma, Australia
for for you know, this this book I'm working on.
At that point, knew I was probably gonna do a
book under an and I had to go to Normal Australia.

And I said, look, I mean I'm flying to Sydney.
She's like, no, I'm coming with you yet. Do I
love this? I love this one? How were you guys
together before before he started dating the summer of twenty Yeah,

we got pregnant before we're married, so you know, and
and I mean that was self evident from the from
the wedding photos. So I'm not hiding anything if you've
been on Instagram, but closely, A little bump there, very
very small, but it is present. Um, We had an
interesting wedding situation because we were both from California. We're
both California is an exile here in New York and

kind of stuck in a way as much as we
love it, you know, um escapists and rehab California. Let
me tell you, if you're an escapist, having twins is
a strange form of self sabotage. But um, we we
we decided to get married in Santa Barbara. We had
to do it fairly quickly, uh, because of these circumstances

that were afoot and so we decided we would just
get married in the courthouse, in Santa Barbara's gorgeous courthouse.
You know, I have some roots in Santa Barbara. And
there was there were mud slides. There was the fires
and and then mudslides. This would have been January twenty eight, So, um,
the what would normally be a ninety minute drive from

l A up to Santa Barbara was suddenly six hours
through the Central Valley, up the grape Vine and down.
So it was very kind of convoluted. And in fact,
Lauren's brother Danny flew in Waldo Pepper like like on
a biplane or something like because the whole one oh
one was wiped out. I know we're not talking about
parenting now, but oh yeah, exactly, and then we had

then we did the Gray Fawn. Then we went through
actually not ten, that's all. Actually, Lauren and I talked
about all the four or five. We did the four
or five. No, we don't get it like you'd be.
Actually we kind of do it. But that's but turn on,
that's a you're telling me that the book is not

just so for our listeners who aren't aware. Reneghbord Zeppi
has slash had a restaurant called Noma, which has and
is the world's best restaurant. Are you I mean to
be honest, I'm not even familiar with it actually so,
and I'd love to eat, But that makes familiar This dude,
Renee Um kind of like pioneered, Well, Jeff, you've wrote

the book about it. He pioneered new Nordic cuisine at
this restaurant called Noma, which kind of like everyone's minds.
He's a Titanic cultural figure. The thing like, I talk
to people either know all about the food scene and
Renee or people who don't at all, and the ideal
the book comes out in July, is that it will
appeal to both camps. You know that The idea is
that he's Bowie, He's Prince, he's Steve Jobs. He's like

a cultural figure of that stature, and and he kind
of is. And he also has this crazy personal charisma
where love him or hate him, it's just just like
he's a tractor being. Yeah, it's really and you sort
of join his cult. My book is sort of about
my gradually joining the Noma cult or Nom Noma circus.

So when you start, when you started the process for
the book, which were you just going to write an
article in the book? Yeah? I was writing articles about him,
and then gradually I start spending my own money Australia.
I spent my own money. I would just started going
on this trip and it's a lot of money. Let
me tell you, that's uh divorce. But but I I started. Um,
it's almost like I was never a deadhead, and only

in recent years have I even come to appreciate the
songwriting the Grateful Dead. But now I understand why people
would follow dead everywhere because every night was a different concert,
and with Noma, every single meal is completely different than
the one you had before completely different. I mean, it
blows up the whole menu and creates a new one,
so you become kind of addicted to it, like seeing
what the next prize will be. But you know, in

terms of parenting, let me just point out I think
people forget that Renee has three daughters and that what
could arguably be the most pivotal phase in his in
his professional arc, the the real peak the Debowie between
nineteen seventy two and nineteen seventy seven, or Dylan between
nineteen sixty five and night or something, was what I

cover in the book, during which time he had three
little girls. You know, I think a lot of times
we were talking about like did did having kids wreck
your career? It's very interesting to see how many figures
in the culture did their best work during those years
when when they first had little kids. And maybe it's
at a desperation. Maybe's because you're back is against the wall.
You have to make money, you have to create. You know,

I don't know, but I think it adds depth to
do your understand will Yeah, I will say that like
when I had kids, regardless of what a suboptimal partner
I was, um, it opened up a depth of feeling
that I ever knew I had, Like I never knew
I could love another creature as much as I love
my kids. And it's hard to like feel that intensely

and then not have that bleed out in other ways
in terms of like your creative output. You know, like
you feel first of all, you are literally creative, like
you have created a spawn, and that does bleed over
into other stuff. Plus you have that oh funk, I
gotta do something now mentality which really galvanizes you. I
wonder if it's the same for Renee. But I wanted

to ask you, Um, you were saying that when you
first fell under the sway of this creature, this magical Bengali. Yes, yes, wizard,
he's like a wizard. Is a wizard. Um, he should Actually,
I just do want to underline that he's like a

he is a he's a personally attractive person. Like it's
really hard not to just want to spend more time
with him. Um, But you were in flux and your
personal life. Can you talk a little bit about that? Well?
When Renee first reached out to me about meeting, this
would have been almost exactly five years ago. Now, I
had just moved out of the house, you know. So

I think I was very vulnerable and in a very
very dark place, like very full of guilt and regret.
And um, there's just a weird coincidence. Like I look,
I checked the email, like he had he had we
had met in February for coffee in the village, you know,
And I think he had reached out to me because

if I had slagged on the New Nordic movement and
something I wrote in the New York Times, I think
he sort of like maybe wanted to address that, but
then I wanted to address the idea of our going
to Mexico together. I mean I I get really down,
you know, like you wrote a piece for Medium about
I mean I really related to that, and um, I
get extremely fixated on past mistakes, and like there's in

the book I talked about this walking trance I ended
up in where I would go in these long walks,
like four hours of walking up in Westchester County where
I lived, just going on these trails so fervently that
I would know every little pile of pebbles and every
place there was a fallen log, you know, just working it,
working it, working over all my or for years, okay,

like for months and years. I don't think it helped.
I don't think it helped, and and and so the
contrast to meeting Renee ren ZEPPI was a striking one
because he is all about moving forward. He doesn't even
like to talk about the past, as you've seen when
you've encountered him. When I met him, he wanted he
was starting to talk about closing the original Noma, blowing

it up, opening a new one, going to Australia, going
to Japan, going to Mexico, doing pop up. So let's
move this person over to this department. I was like
kind of mesmerized and intoxicated by that forward moving energy
and um, you know, just his brilliance too, and his kindness.
He was very kind to me, Um and um. I
think that it it's served in some ways as a tonic,

like there was something medicinal about that, that forward propulsion.
To be in touch with that, it kind of snapped
me out of the trance. Yeah, that's an amazing I
mean I feel like you look at the you read
the book, and I wonder how many times it's this ye,
But it's kind of like a lifesaver for you, it's
a lifesaver. Then he came in and and there's all

these like different valances of achievement that for instance, renaming
Zeppe has great restaurant visionary but also someone who really
helped you out, and you know in your life another
accolade of his. Yeah, and and how and many many people.
You know. I think that his his temper, at least

in years past, is no secret. But at the same time,
you know, everywhere I've traveled around the world, I meet
um chefs whose lives have been touched by him, Like personally,
he's he's encouraged them, he's helped them, he's helped them
get jobs. He's almost like a godfather in that regard.
So UM, I think that, I mean, it's months before

the book comes out, but I think people will see
a human portrait of the guy. He's not I don't.
I tried to minimize hero worship. It's not supposed to
be just endless genuflecting at all. It's it's a it's
a portrait of of a fully human individual happens to
be rampantly creative and driven. Um and his his his,

his weird sidekick me is Sancho Panza is Nick Carraway.
Actually the Great Gatsby sort of ended up forming kind
of a model for it because I was trying to
figure out what I told you. Part of it was
like that I joined the cult during the circus, but
also I started to think about Nick Carraway and The
Great Gatsby and how transfixed he is by Gatsby. Although ultimately,

hopefully renames doesn't end up. There's no accident at the
end of Hungry No, at least not in my life,
although you know, his life was vastly disrupted by his
own creativity in a way, like creating the new Noma,
doing all the pop ups at the time when his
father was dying of cancer was a lot heavy burden

to take on emotionally. And well, I think it's interesting
that you had talked about you being an escapist. Escaping
into the future is also a a method of escape,
you know, like always moving forward is also It depends
on the motivation, but that's not always. Yeah, I'm not
saying escapism is the right route. I just know that

it has worked from I mean, meeting if you are
if if you are a die hard escapist, meeting someone
like Renee Red ZEPPI is like being an alcoholic and
meeting an extremely telepathic bartender who knows exactly what you
want to drink, and you keep saying no, no, no,
I'm I'm not drinking it. Oh you made the martini

with one, like probably probably the drink that you actually
need at that moment, exactly like Claire as you know, well,
I know you like the tuxedo number two, but what
if I were to vary it justice mission number kind

of just say um in doing a little bit of
research before our conversation everything like that, I went back
and I read a article of yours for Spin magazine
and I remember, yeah, yeah, well I I clicked on
some stuff. But the thing is, the funny thing is
I read that. I read that article like back then

it's about one hit wonder right right right exactly which
was I mean, I guess they were one hit wonders,
but they were a lot of them were like certified
um or you know, certified sort of like geniuses. You know,
people like Lauren Hill. Yeah, like I love you, well,
Elvis got he just he just puts out too many albums.

But I think it was like I love that the
Cowboy Junkies put out to Trinity Session and it's perfect.
Lauren Hill puts out The Miseducation and it's perfect. The
Laws this band from Liverpool. One album and that's a
neutral milk hotel, like one perfect album, and the rest
is essentially like even even the Strokes, like do we
really need those last two albums? But I mean at

that point, at that point, I'm assuming you meant after
is this it? After? Well? Oh no, after I was
going to say after the second one. Personally, I don't think.
I think this is it and then Room on Fire
and then after that it's like, um, yeah, it's like Oasis.
We don't really need anything after the story, certainly not
certainly stop yeah, yeah, please, there's something to be said

for stopping. Yeah, yeah, exactly. But I like watching it
slow decline, you know. I just like watching like it's
kind of come for us all. It's like kind of
like curative to see, oh you also age and die? Yeah,
but I mean I think, but I don't know. It's
just like I think even back then, it resonated with me,
and it kind of resonates with me even more now

being in a situation where I am constantly having to
like I mean we were talking before about um, you
know how having kids I think focuses your creation because
it has to. You have to become more focused on
what you're doing. And so like when you're in the
process of like then having to create. And I think
about these artists like they they had to create it

maybe for for people like Lauren Hill, like you know,
they were too focused on they were too focused on
the past after making this seminal record, and like so
it was constantly like, how do I beat this thing?
How do I beat this thing? Which is like you
not actually thinking about, not moving forward, not thinking, you know,
not having forward thinking in your mind, a pattern of

that but actually a pattern of the past. And and
how you know what I mean, which to some extent
is like you know, for all of his like in
sheer insanity, like Kanye West is still like making to me,
great music, still producing. Yeah, he's still making great music
because even though he is a certifiably insane person, he

still is a forward thinking artist, you know what I mean.
That's true. They can coexist. I mean the thing if
if I didn't have kids, like sometimes the two people
who say don't don't kids kind of hinder your career
or you know, if I if I didn't have kids,
would I be Coulson Whitehead or Michael Jabin. No, I

I've just been going on Facebook more. I'd just be lazy,
drifting around, going to another fancy lunch. I mean, I
don't think I would become like more creative. He wouldn't
fill that time with like pure quality expression of mystical
I wish only artistic output, delusional vanity would would would

make me say something like that, like the fact is
I'm I'm working harder because of the kids. Total lethargy. Otherwise,
I was interviewing Mark Vonnegut, who's Kurt vonneguts son, And like,
you know what, Mark is a pediatrician, um, and he
wrote two memoirs which are really good. Um. But he

was talking about his dad, was you know, his Kurt
Vonneguet fucking hustled all the time because he had kids
to raise and like he could not just faff about.
He made board games. He did have one amazing day
at Sports Illustrated where he was trying to get a
full time job and he finally landed a full time
job as a writer there and they staff writer and

they asked him to write a story about a race
horse who had jumped over the paddock and escaped, and
he sat at his typewriter all day and finally the
only thing he could think to write was the horse
jumped over the fucking fence and then he walked out.
And he never worked America, So there's a limit to it.
But yeah, necessity, they say. Necessity is the mother of

invention and also a hard work ethic. And it makes
sense that Kurt Vonnegut is one of those writers who
was always, you know, ranting against semi colon's and colin's
and m dashes and think all those things. I love,
I love punctuation like that, but like you think, he
was probably just so desperate to make money that with
the kids and everything, he just like put a period there.

And you know, it makes me think of like, uh,
it makes me think of pretty much every independent film director,
Like you know, they always they make these incredible like
seminal movies, independent movies because based on the constraints, based
on all the like all the boundaries that they have

to make something, and then they hit it big to
get a big budget in the next movie of shit.
You so often yeah, well, I think put a period
in there and move on is a good way to
end this podcast. Jeff, thank you so much for joining you.
Thanks guys, thanks for having This episode was produced by

me and Anthony Roman, recorded by Jesse Schultz, Executive produced
by Andrew Berman. If you like the podcast, rate it
to review it. If you don't like it, don't rate it.
Don't review it. To stay with your miserable self and
talk to you next week.

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