How to go from Culinary Olympian to podcast host

by Jocelyn Tolbert

ACF Chef, award-winning author, speaker, producer and Culinary Olympic Gold Medalist Chef Charles Carroll is currently the Executive Chef of River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas. But, since last September, for a few hours a week, he’s been the voice of a growing portfolio of podcasts: “The Recipe Podcast: Celebrity Secrets to a Successful Life,” “The Recipe Unplugged” and, soon, “The Gourmet Club Live.” We talked with Chef Carroll about how all this got started and where he sees it going next.

How did you get started doing a podcast?
It’s kind of a funny story. My third book was released last October. … I partnered with John David Mann, and part of the promotion for the book was for the two of us to do 50-60 podcast interviews. It’s a very busy schedule, [and every one was] a 30-minute to one-hour interview. Typically they ask you to call in on your computer, and the first one we did didn’t sound very good. I bought a microphone. Then I got a filter for it and I started making sure the sound was good, fooling with the settings. The next thing you know I wanted to get a better headset. That’s when I realized, “This is pretty cool. I’d like to do this and have my own guests.” And within two months, I had a small makeshift studio in my house.

We did that for eight or nine months. We had a blast. It was me and my assistant in the makeshift studio. Then we tried to do a better show, and I remembered that one of my sous chefs used to be in radio, so we got him involved. Fast forward to today where, in early July or end of June, I moved the studio out of my house and built a new studio in my lawyer friend’s office building down the road. We sound-proofed it and we have a small green room.

You’ve been doing them on-location, too, right? One of your most recent shows was recorded at ACF National Convention and Show in New Orleans.

We took the podcast to Malaysia to the Worldchefs Congress and did 12 shows there with all the celebrity chefs, and that just spun us into a whole new dynamic. I did that with a mobile recorder, which was pretty good.

And you’d never done anything like this before?
I didn’t even know what a podcast was 10 months ago. Then I started doing research. Now there are six different podcasts that I listen to. I haven’t listened to the radio in almost a year.

What podcasts do you listen to?
The Joe Rogan Experience is one of the ones I’ve kinda modeled my show after. … And there’s another one called Reinvention Radio. There’s another comedy show I like that completely takes you to another area, but I won’t name that one because it’s kinda rough.

The beauty behind all this is that it’s in everybody’s pocket. You go to the gym, you go to the grocery store, to the car, whatever you’re doing.

So on all these shows, you don’t just talk to chefs, right?
We’ve done it with movie stars like Luis Guzman, comedians, actors from “The Walking Dead.” We’ve had celebrity chefs — Dean Fearing, Robert Del Grande, Norman Van Aken, Graham Elliot. Any celebrity of any walk of life, that will go on “The Recipe.”

Then we have the “unplugged” version — that’s just [me and the podcast staff] around the table. That’s current events or anything crazy. It’s a little grittier. And then the third show we’re developing is called “The Gourmet Club Live.” That show is meant to always be a guest in-studio. It’s meant to be hospitality-driven.

[“Gourmet Club Live” and “Unplugged”] will be live-streaming soon.

What’s your goal with these shows?
It doesn’t pay the bills. It’s more of a hobby. It’s been a bit of an expensive hobby but now it’s paying for itself. I’m proud to say I own every HDMI cord that’s in there. Now that we’re live-streaming, I have full intention that this time next year, our audience will be doubled, tripled, and sponsorship becomes more expensive so [the five other people I have working on the show] can get some benefits.

What’s coming down the pipeline?
We’re just getting the live streaming set up, but we’ve had Def Leppard on the podcast in the past and they’re coming to Houston in September. I’ve been talking to Phil Collen, he’ll be on “Celebrity Secrets.” I look forward to the “Gourmet” show being really exciting, now that people can see what we look like and we’re going to start giving away prizes and gifts.

You’ve interviewed so many chefs and celebrities now. What’s been your favorite bit of advice or story that you’ve heard?
There’s been so many really awesome interviews. Lou Holtz, the coach from Notre Dame. Brian Dwyer, the gentleman that cheated death — very inspirational answers. That was back when we were still trying to get the sound figured out. It’s been a lot of fun listening to them all, especially the celebrities.

One of the most profound things that has stuck with me is just to be okay with the journey. And I think that rings true with a lot of our celebrities because everybody has challenges, even the most wealthy people in the world. And everything that’s going on with mental health — even people who seem like they had everything they needed, maybe they didn’t. Just be okay with it, let it bump you into the direction you’re going in.

Anything else you want to say?
Put me in your pocket. Download the show. I’d recommend you listen to the newest ones and then go backwards.