When the French chef Jean-Robert de Cavel died in December, hundreds of chefs wore their white coats to his memorial service in downtown Cincinnati. It was a testament to how many people Jean-Robert had inspired in the thirty years he lived in the city. So how did this fancy French chef end up in Cincinnati — and why did he stay? We hear about Jean-Robert’s unlikely love affair with his adopted city, and we talk with food writer Keith Pandolfi about how the chef’s legacy has inspired Cincy’s food scene to reclaim its local pride. Then Dan and Keith come up with a new Super Bowl food craze just for Cincinnati.
Get the goetta muffuletta at The Governor Modern Diner in Cincinnati on February 10 and 11!
The Sporkful production team includes Dan Pashman, Emma Morgenstern, Andres O'Hara, Tracey Samuelson, and Jared O'Connell. The first half of this episode originally aired on November 5, 2018, and was produced by Dan Pashman, Anne Saini, and Aviva DeKornfeld, with editing by Gianna Palmer and mixing by Dan Dzula.
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- "Saturn Returns" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "Small Talk" by Hayley Briasco
- "Sweet Summer Love" by Stephen Sullivan
- "Rogue Apples" by Karla Dietmeyer and Olivia Diercks
- "Dreamin' Long" by Erick Anderson
- "My Little Friend" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "Happy Jackson" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
Photo courtesy of Keith Pandolfi/Cincinnati Enquirer.
Keith Pandolfi: You can see right now all these chefs are appeared dressed in white, all gathering together. A lot of them were torn up or torn apart during covid, lost track of each other, maybe moved away, and now they're all back here celebrating this great chef.
Dan Pashman: In December, the Cincinnati chef Jean-Robert de Cavel died at age 61, after a battle with cancer. His family held a memorial service at a Catholic basilica in downtown Cincinnati. Close to 1,300 people turned out. The family asked the mourners to wear blue, or if they were a chef, to wear their white chef’s coats. There was a lot of white. Keith Pandolfi was there. He’s a food and dining writer of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Keith Pandolfi: It was such a show of love and affection for this chef that came to this city so many years ago and changed the entire culinary landscape.
Dan Pashman: Keith grew up in Cincinnati, and loves it deeply. Over the last 40 years, he’s seen the city have its share of struggles. He saw a lot of people leave. And for him, Jean-Robert meant a lot, because even in the city’s toughest times, Jean-Robert was the chef who stayed.
Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, it’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters. I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people. I had never heard of Jean-Robert de Cavel when I visited Cincinnati five years ago. Before that trip, I asked listeners for recommendations where to eat. I did, of course, try the city’s famous chili, served over spaghetti and topped with shredded cheddar cheese. But I also heard from many of you that Cincinnati has a history as a hub of fine French dining. Maybe it's because I know very little about fine French dining, but that was a surprise to me.
Dan Pashman: The biggest name in that scene was Jean-Robert. So when I went to Cincy, I talked with him, to hear the story of how a classically trained French chef ended up there. In the first half of the show I’m going to replay that conversation. In the second half, we’ll hear about the big changes in the Cincinnati food scene since then, and what it tells us about the city as a whole, and Jean-Robert’s legacy.
Dan Pashman: So let’s get into the story of Jean-Robert and Cincinnati, in the form of a love story between chef and city.
Dan Pashman: Jean-Robert was not the first French chef Cincinnati would fall for. In fact, Cincinnati kinda always had a thing for French chefs. Way before Jean-Robert arrived, there were three very fancy French restaurants in Cincinnati: The Maisonette, The Gourmet Room, and Pigall’s.
Keith Pandolfi: By the 1960s, late 1960s, early 1970s, there were — those restaurants, all were five star restaurants, according to the Mobil Travel Guide. That was one more than what New York had at the time. And Chicago, I think, at that point, had none. L.A. had none, Cincinnati had three. They are as high end as they come when it comes to French cuisine.
Dan Pashman: This is Keith Pandolfi, the food writer you heard at the start of the show. Keith grew up in Cincinnati in the '70s and '80s. He says the city turned him into a food snob. Even though …
Keith Pandolfi: I'd never went to The Maisonette in my lifetime. You know, my father went a couple of times, and I remember it was a big deal and he'd got out his best suit. But you have so many companies headquartered in Cincinnati, you have Procter & Gamble, you have Kroger, Macy's is now there. So there was a lot of money, but it was also these restaurants were places that if you're trying to recruit somebody from, say, New York or L.A., and you were working at Procter & Gamble tying to recruit someone, you would take them to The Maisonette and wow them and give them a big night out.
Dan Pashman: That period peaked in the '50s and '60s. In the '70s, the U.S. economy started to tank and those big companies tightened their belts. The days of lavish client dinners at The Maisonette were over. Those three fancy restaurants struggled, and Cincinnati’s downtown began to change. A lot of more affluent residents moved out.
Keith Pandolfi: Companies like Procter & Gamble, Kroger, they never left downtown, they stayed downtown. But it was just one of those things where people moved out to the suburbs and they just didn't feel like paying for parking anymore [LAUGHS] going downtown.
Dan Pashman: It was part of the downturn, also attributable to white flight?
Keith Pandolfi: Yep.
Dan Pashman: This trend continued through the ‘80s. The big three French restaurants survived, but their glory days were behind them. Kinda like the whole city. Cincinnati was down on its luck.
Dan Pashman: Meanwhile, halfway across the country, in New York City, a young French chef named Jean-Robert de Cavel was a rising star. He’d trained under the top French chefs there, went out on his own, gotten great reviews. But there were so many fancy chefs in New York, the competition was fierce, and when the recession of the early '90s hit, restaurants struggled. Soon, Jean-Robert found himself looking for work, down on his luck.
Dan Pashman: Then, he got a call. It was Cincinnati. Well, sort of. It was The Maisonette, one of those fancy French places in Cincy. They were looking for a new chef. Jean-Robert had heard of the restaurant. But as he told me, he didn’t know anything about the city.
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): And we were looking at this desk on this filofax, you know, like where Cincinnati was when it was ...
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): You literally opened a book to look at a map.
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL):Yeah.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): You didn't know ...
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): And we're looking at this. You know, looking where Cincinnati is.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): Right. [LAUGHS]
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): We know it’s near Cleveland. We know it was near Chicago. Was somewhere there, you know? So anyway, I came and applied for the job. Not really know what I will do with it if I got the job. And of course, you know, a few days later, they called me back and they offered me the job. So ...
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): And what were the factors you were considering in making that decision?
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): Oh, I didn't really — I didn't — I could not really give them an answer. I remember going to Central Park with a friend of mine and take a long walk and be like, "Okay, what do I do?". And at the time I'm like, okay, you know, I don't have any — I don't have a job. And so I decide to — you know, I say, okay, I take the job.
Dan Pashman: Jean-Robert swiped right. He and his girlfriend moved to Cincinnati. And right away, one thing about the city surprised him. It reminded him of Lille, the city in northern France where he grew up.
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): I mean, I guess Lille is very actually very similar to any city of the Midwest. You know, it's like industrial. You know, a lot of factories, a lot of large corporation. You know, it's not really a tourist attraction. If you're looking for the typical vacation, you know, ski or doing any type of a beach sport, you don't go to north of France, you don't go to Lille.
Dan Pashman: Jean-Robert says he figured he’d stay in Cincinnati for two or three years, then move back to New York or Europe, to the next opportunity. Here again is food writer Keith Pandolfi.
Keith Pandolfi: What ended up happening with him as he fell in love with the city. He was welcomed with open arms and he stayed at The Maisonette for the next until — not until it closed, which was 2005, but til a couple of years before that he was there and he maintained that five-star rating the whole time.
Dan Pashman: Jean-Robert says he realized that in Cincinnati, he was a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Newspapers were writing about him, he was becoming a local celebrity. He decided to use his new-found fame to do something he’d always dreamed of — opening his own restaurant.
Dan Pashman: But Cincinnati was going through another rough patch. The downtown was still neglected, and tensions were high after a series of incidents of police brutality. In April 2001, a cop shot and killed an unarmed Black man during a misdemeanor arrest. Riots erupted, the worst riots in America since L.A. in ’92.
Dan Pashman: Then came 9/11, and a downturn in the economy across the country. Around this time, tragedy also struck Jean-Robert and his wife. Their first daughter died of SIDS when she was 3-months-old. It seemed both the chef and the city were at rock bottom.
Dan Pashman: Across Cincinnati, there was a massive outpouring of support for Jean-Robert and his wife. When his new restaurant opened, he stood in the kitchen and sobbed. He cooked that night with one of his baby’s socks in his pocket. Jean-Robert needed Cincinnati and the city needed him.
Keith Pandolfi: Corporate leadership of Cincinnati starts realizing that no young people want to move there anymore because people want to live — they want a healthy urban core. They want to live in the city. And what ended up happening is that Procter & Gamble, Kroger, Macy's, they all got kind of tired of waiting on the city to do something with that area.
Dan Pashman: So the big companies funded a nonprofit to fix up Cincinnati’s downtown. A lot of their work focused on a neighborhood called Over-The-Rhine — as in Rhine river, in Germany. It was an old German area of the city. The plan was simple — buy up buildings, restore them, and offer them up to restaurateurs like Jean-Robert. Turn Over-The-Rhine into a dining mecca.
Keith Pandolfi: And over the course of about ten years, all of a sudden, Over-The-Rhine just took off. There are all these people. The chefs are coming from Chicago, coming from New York, because they saw an opportunity to open up a restaurant that was affordable. And it just changed the whole dining scene.
Dan Pashman: And we should say it. I mean, the revitalization of Over-The-Rhine has come at some cost.
Keith Pandolfi: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: I mean, it's not that there was nobody living there. It's just that the people who were living there didn't have a lot of money.
Keith Pandolfi: Yes. Over-the-Rhine was never abandoned. There were always thousands of people who are living in Over-the-Rhine. It went from a German neighborhood to an Appalachian neighborhood to a mostly African-American neighborhood. So when we say that people abandoned downtown, white people abandoned downtown. There was a huge Black community in Cincinnati that was unfortunately very neglected for many, many years. So it's bittersweet for me to see Over-The-Rhine taking off now the way that it is, knowing that this was a vibrant, happening neighborhood for decades and decades. We just basically gentrified the crap out of it. And I don't know where the people who lived in Over-The-Rhine are now, to tell you the truth.
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): We opened the first restaurant, Over-The-Rhine and that was in 2004. And if I see the way it was and the way it is today, it's no comparison. I mean, no comparison.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): And everything I've read about the transformation of the downtown and the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood, I mean, supports what you're saying, that it really has been extraordinary. The population of downtown Cincinnati has doubled and a lot of new buildings being built, new restaurants. Obviously, that's good for you. Not only, I mean, you've been a part of that, but it's good for you as more people with money move into the area, more people can go out to good restaurants. But I'm curious, you know, Over-The-Rhine neighborhood was an overwhelmingly Black neighborhood, much less so now. A lot of people have been displaced in order to make the transformation possible. How do you feel about that?
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): That's — you know, I'm not a politician, so ... [LAUGHS]
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): Right.
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): I have to go. And it is. I mean, it is. I mean, you know, I think the city tried very hard to make sure, you know, to integrate all of the — you know, from people who've been living there for a while to try to have that collaboration with everybody.
Dan Pashman: However you look at these developments, it’s clear that by the late 2000s, Cincinnati’s downtown and Over-The-Rhine had changed a lot. Jean-Robert and his business partners owned six restaurants in the area. The chef and the city were flying high, doing the chef and a city equivalent of skipping through a meadow holding hands.
Dan Pashman: But soon, they would both be tested once again. Jean-Robert had a falling out with his business partners. It was a bitter and public split, that left him without any restaurants. He was as unemployed as he’d been the day he looked up Cincinnati on a map.
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): And that's where the big time do I stay or do I don't stay. And …
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): Now's the time to leave.
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): Now is the time to leave. Yeah.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): You don't have any restaurants at that time.
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): No restaurant. And …
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): But again, you decided to stay?
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): I think I decided to stay and I go back to the same thing because of the support that I receive from the community, you know? It was definitely a voice telling me like, you know, Jean-Robert, we appreciate you here. You've been dedicated to this city. You cannot just move on. And of course, some time fly. I mean, time goes by quickly. And actually, maybe year after year, I became the biggest ambassador because I realized that town is actually an amazing town to live.
Keith Pandolfi: Growing up in Cincinnati, you're always afraid of what's going to leave, who's going to leave, what businesses are going to leave, what sports teams are going to leave. You're always afraid. You're hanging on for dear life. I think there was a fear that he was going to leave because it gave us legitimacy. We needed him and thankfully, thank God, he stayed. You know, he's been through very good times and bad with that city, and they've really treated him like a member of the family.
Dan Pashman: Jean-Robert began rebuilding his restaurant empire. By 2018 when I visited, he had six restaurants around the city, everything from the super high end Restaurant L, to a stand at the Bengals football stadium. He and Cincinnati had tied the knot. They’d be together forever. But, as with any long term relationship, there are certain things about the other person that you never really understand.
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): You know, I mean, of course, Cincinnati is well known for this chili, but, you know, it's not something — I've even been here for 25 years and nothing against anyone who loves to eat them, I'm not some — I don't crave for that yet.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): [LAUGHING]
CLIP (JEAN-ROBERT E CAVEL): I don't. [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: That was my conversation with Jean-Robert from 2018. Not long after, he was diagnosed with cancer. Then the pandemic happened, which accelerated a trend — fine dining was on the way out. A lot of restaurants closed, and Jean-Robert’s were no exception. By the time he died, he was down to two places. But when Keith and I spoke recently, he told me none of those things could stop Jean-Robert.
Keith Pandolfi: I think for Jean-Robert, his philosophy was we’re all dying. We just don’t know when we’re going to die, but we’re all dying. So we all thought maybe he’d retire. He’d had quite the career, we figured it was time for him to step back and relax. But he did just the opposite, he doubled down, he went back to one of his restaurants and cooked there every single night, literally till the night he died. There were days, some days were much worse than others. And when he wasn’t feeling well, people would say, "Jean-Robert, go home, go home and relax." And he would just be like, "What am I going to do? Go home and watch TV? What kind of life is that?". But he just didn’t want to go home. He never wanted to just sit and relax. He was just so happy in the kitchen.
Dan Pashman: Today you can see Jean-Robert’s legacy all over Cincinnati’s restaurant scene, including at many places that have nothing to do with fine French cuisine. After the break we’ll hear how that happened. Plus we’re inspired to honor him by inventing a new Cincinnati food craze. Stick around.
+++ BREAK +++
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. Last week’s episode was a little different. My pal Jacob Goldstein, host of the podcast What’s Your Problem?, he came over to my kitchen and we cooked through the past, present, and future of meat alternatives. First there was the Gardenburger, now there’s Impossible and Beyond Meat. And in the future, not too distant future in fact, you may see lab-grown meat in your supermarket. I talked to one of the scientists who’s working on lab-grown chicken, which at some point in the process is a “slurry.” Jacob and I have some thoughts about that marketing …
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): So, not that they asked, but my tip to them would be stop using the word "slurry" to describe any part of your process.
CLIP (JACOB GOLDSTEIN): We don't want a slurry. We don't want bioreactor. Like, basically, don't let a scientist talk to you. Just show me the chicken.
CLIP (Dan PASHMAN): [LAUGHING] Yeah. Like I don't want to eat meat that at any point was a slurry.
CLIP (JACOB GOLDSTEIN): No.
Dan Pashman: How close is the future of lab grown meat? Find out. That episode’s up now. Get it wherever you got this one.
Dan Pashman: Okay, back to Jean-Robert and Cincinnati. Food writer Keith Pandolfi didn’t live in the city when I spoke with him originally — like many others, he had left, in search of bigger and better opportunities. But three years ago, he moved back. As a food writer at the Cincinnati Enquirer, he knew Jean-Robert. He'd see him from time to time at his restaurants and he knew Jean-Robert was sick. Keith was on a trip to Florida when he heard that Jean-Robert died.
Keith Pandolfi: When I was driving back to Cincinnati, as I was approaching the city, I just couldn’t help think that it wasn’t the same city anymore. It felt very empty without him.
Dan Pashman: A few weeks later, the family held the memorial service — the one where all the chefs dressed in white.
CLIP (KEITH PANDOLFI): We've got every chef from any restaurant I've ever covered, it seems right now. Most of them worked at some point for Jean-Robert at The Maisonette or at Pigalls or Jean-Robert’s Table. We're seeing, the most talented chefs the city has to offer, right here.
Dan Pashman: After the service, Keith spoke with some of the mourners. One of them was a bartender named Jen Watts.
CLIP (JEN WATTS): I worked for John Robert at Jean Ro Bistro, starting in 2005. And I was very, very intimidated. I didn't know anything about fine dining or fine wine. I didn't take French. I told him I didn't know how to pronounce anything and I was nervous. I asked him some key words, how to say them correctly, and he said, “Girl, sneer, when you say it, and you'll sound more French.” [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: The famous chef Daniel Boulud flew in from New York to celebrate Jean-Robert. They knew each other from their days together in New York, two French chefs trying to make a name for themselves in America. Outside the church, Daniel remembered visiting Jean-Robert in Cincinnati.
CLIP (DANIEL BELUD): They even gave me those coney dog. Coney dog? What do you call it?
CLIP (KEITH PANDOLFI): The Coney Dog.
CLIP (DANIEL BELUD): Yeah. The coney dogs. Yeah. That was very Jean-Robert like, you know? [LAUGHS]
CLIP (KEITH PANDOLFI): What did you think?
CLIP (DANIEL BELUD): I know for the American, they like to give them foie gras and all that, but for the French, he liked to give them the American stuff. [LAUGHS] It was funny. Yeah, with that cheese on top? Oh, that was very good actually. What he left behind, it's incredible. Cincinnati loved him, and I think he loved Cincinnati back so much.
Dan Pashman: It seems that Jean-Robert’s legacy actually has very little to do with the food he cooked. Instead, it’s in his relationship with the city, and all those chefs who showed up at his memorial.
Keith Pandolfi: You can’t go into any kitchen in this city and not find someone who worked for him at some point. They’re not cooking the same foods that he cooked but, one chef told me, Jose Salazar, who's a pretty well known chef here in town, he told me that, if chefs in Cincinnati say the word "Chef" — like, "Chef told me this" or “Chef told me that”, they all knew exactly who you were talking about. It was always Jean-Robert. He was Chef to everyone. He just was the common thread whether a chef owned a Vietnamese restaurant or a French restaurant or a Chinese restaurant that they all had worked for him at some point in their career, and he had taught them so many lessons about not just cooking but respect and compassion and how to love what you're doing.
Dan Pashman: Jose Salazar compared Jean-Robert to a tree. All the chefs he trained and mentored are the branches that spread out across the city, opening their own places. Today, these restaurants have led to a new era in Cincinnati food.
Keith Pandolfi: Cincinnati pre-pandemic had everything that other cities had. We had a gourmet hot dog shop, a hot chicken place, a million gourmet burger places. But none of them were really uniquely Cincinnati. I feel like now we’re embracing who we are a little bit more than we did before. There’s a little more pride in what we’re doing now. I think Cincinnati went more along the way of Pittsburgh and St. Louis, even Nashville. Cities like that, that were just like, you know what, we’re as good as everyone else, we have something special here that nobody else has.
Dan Pashman: One example: Cincinnati historically had a big community of German immigrants and their descendants. Keith told me about a German bakery in Northern Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati and it’s not just German, it’s Swabian, which is a specific region of Germany. I mean, this area is going deep on German food. Meanwhile, other classic Cincinnati foods are also seeing a revival.
Keith Pandolfi: People are finally starting to do cool things with goetta.
Dan Pashman: Goetta is kinda like scrapple in Philly. It’s a mixture of oats and ground meat, formed into a loaf, then sliced and fried. At the end it looks like a sausage patty.
Keith Pandolfi: So you’re seeing that appear on a lot more restaurant menus. We have a new ramen joint that opened up where they do a chili ramen, Cincinnati-style chili ramen. And if you want a gateway to Cincinnati chili, where all those flavors are just concentrated into one really beautiful dish, you can get it at this place called Mochiko. Even the places that are trying to do something really different are embracing who we are, whether it’s chili or the goetta or anything like that.
Dan Pashman: Now this ramen, Cincinnati chili mashup, sounds exciting. And also, amusing. Because — so when I was in Cincinnati, we did a whole story at Camp Washington chili, one of the sort of more neighborhood longstanding chili parlors.
Keith Pandolfi: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: And I stayed in touch with Maria there. And when cascatelli — when my pasta shape came out, I sent her some and was like, hey Maria, I’m telling you this — like, Cincinnati chili? This would be great with Cincinnati chili because all the ground meat would go into those ruffles. It’s gonna be so good. So she tried it out, I think maybe they served it for one day.
Keith Pandolfi: I was there!
Dan Pashman: Oh, right! You were there! So what did you think, first of all? What did you think of it?
Keith Pandolfi: Oh my god, it was amazing.
Dan Pashman: I mean, be honest. You can tell me. You can be honest with me.
Keith Pandolfi: No, I felt I'm being totally honest here. It was absolutely amazing. And I actually have been buying it at the local grocery store here to make with my own homemade chili. I think it works perfectly.
Dan Pashman: When I followed up with Maria, she said, "You know, your pasta’s great but I just don’t think Cincinnatians, like …
Keith Pandolfi: [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: They like their chili the way they like their chili.
Keith Pandolfi: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: It’s traditionally served on spaghetti and that’s how they want it. And I was like okay. You know, I respect that. That’s their tradition. But now you’re telling me that it sounds like maybe there are new ideas coming into Cincinnati chili.
Keith Pandolfi: Yeah I don’t think you’re going to find new ideas at a parlor like Camp Washington.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Right. Right.
Keith Pandolfi: Because I don’t know if you remember when Skyline Chili changed their oyster crackers? I mean, they almost burned the city down over that one.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Keith Pandolfi: But if you want to start floating that idea to some of the newer restaurants, I bet they would — they’d be game.
Dan Pashman: It’s interesting that you that Cincinnati is becoming more Cincinnati. It may be that in fact one of Jean-Robert’s lasting legacies is just local pride.
Keith Pandolfi: Hm.
Dan Pashman: Instilling a real sense of local pride in the city that maybe it was struggling to find when he first arrived.
Keith Pandolfi: Yeah, he chose us. He chose to do his thing here. Jean-Robert kind of taught chefs that had come here from cities like New York or Los Angeles that it's a really good city to take a chance on. It’s cool if you just want to hang out here. It's cool if you love it here. He loved it. So yeah, I think he did instill that kind of — a pride that we never had before. I haven’t thought about that but he’s just a huge reason for that.
Keith Pandolfi: That’s why we have a good food scene here because people aren’t ashamed to live here. You know? [LAUGHS] Cincinnati is one of these cities, that like, you know, you grew up here and then you’re like, I’m getting out of this damn town as soon as I can. And then like me, I went away for 20 years and I came back. And I think part of the reason I came back was I thought well Jean-Robert is there, so how bad could it be? He loves it. But I think he did make this whole city — he reminded us of the things we should be proud of.
Dan Pashman: Before we wrap up — just stay with me here, I want to add one more thing, okay? In the spirit of Cincinnati pride and bringing new ideas in the food scene, in the last couple years I’ve really enjoyed watching the city's football team, the Bengals. Now, I’m a New York Giants fan, but these Bengals? They're are a lot of fun to watch. They made it all the way to the Super Bowl last year but lost. This year they fell just a few heartbreaking plays short of making it back to the big game. Now, if I was bummed, I can only imagine how folks in the city are feeling. So with this newfound local pride and the growth of the food scene, I have an idea I want to pitch Keith.
Dan Pashman: I think we need a Cincinnati Bengals Super Bowl party food craze. All right?
Keith Pandolfi: Oof.
Dan Pashman: So let’s think outside the box. So look, we’ve got the old standbys. There's Cincinnati chili. There's goetta, which is the mystery meat, sausage patty kind of situation. But then you’ve got these new influences and you got these new chefs coming in. And then I like the idea of nodding to Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, the stars of the Bengals who both went to LSU. So you got like this Louisiana cajun situation going.
Keith Pandolfi: Mm-hmm.
Dan Pashman: What about a goetta muffuletta?
Keith Pandolfi: Oh. Oh! [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: Huh?
Keith Pandolfi: Oh my god.
Dan Pashman: Huh??
Keith Pandolfi: I’m not just trying to suck up to the host here but that’s brilliant.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Keith Pandolfi: How has no one thought of that?
Dan Pashman: And like six feet long with a long bread for the game.
Keith Pandolfi: You think the olive spread would work well on that? I'm trying to think how it would fit.
Dan Pashman: I bet they could do a housemade goetta that would fit the flavor profile of a muffuletta …
Keith Pandolfi: I love that.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING]
Keith Pandolfi: I really do. I might just make that this weekend.
Dan Pashman: Do it! Do it!
Keith Pandolfi: Genius. I’m not kidding. Yeah. And I think that goetta’s kinda like the … It doesn't get the attention it deserves. Everybody’s always debating the chili, but goetta …
Dan Pashman: In the same way that scrapple in Philly doesn’t get the attention that cheesesteaks get.
Keith Pandolfi: I love it. And we’re due for a new sandwich here.
Dan Pashman: That’s Keith Pandolfi, he’s a food and dining writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer. And I have some exciting news! Keith reached out to Paul and Neil Barraco, the brothers who own The Governor modern diner in Cincinnati, and they are going to make the goetta muffuletta for Super Bowl weekend! It’ll only be available Friday and Saturday, February 10th and 11th. Now, as you may know, a muffuletta is a classic New Orleans sandwich. It's usually made on nice Italian bread with sliced cold cuts and an olive salad. The Governor’s version will be a German take, using housemade goetta, Lebanon bologna, and pickle loaf to play off the typical olive salad. And it's gonna have a vegetable giardiniera, crystal hot sauce mayo — I'm not even sure what that is — but, I mean, shredded lettuce, sharp provolone, served on freshly baked bread ... I'm like half wat to Cincinnati right now. Guys, just save me one. Okay? Next time, I'm in the city, I need one of these things. You can get it this weekend, again, at The Governor this Friday and Saturday only.
Dan Pashman: One more note, we’ll link to Jean-Robert de Cavel’s obituary in our show notes. And if you’re in Cincinnati, you can still eat at Jean-Robert’s restaurants, Le Bar a Boeuf and French Crust.
Dan Pashman: Next week, for Valentine’s Day, I’m talking with actor Alan Alda and his wife Arlene, about their meet-cute more than 60 years ago, which involved eating a cake off the floor. That’s next week. While you’re waiting for that one, check out our episode on meat alternatives cohosted with Jacob Goldstein.