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Programs about food and cooking have been on the air since radio’s earliest days. But The Food Show With Tom Fitzmorris is an anomaly, occupying more hours of prime airtime every week than any other show about taste in the history of the medium. It’s the longest-running talk show of any kind in New Orleans. Twenty-five years, three hours every weekday, same station, same host, same food-and-drink-only concept.
The main ingredient in the Food Show’s recipe is, of course, the New Orleans food culture. While I think a show like ours would be successful in any city with a decent inventory of interesting restaurants, there is truly no place with the cooking and eating passions of New Orleans. It has the dining scene of a much bigger city, and a heritage of good taste that unites everybody who lives here.
The program focused almost entirely on dining out in its first years. Listeners called either to report on a meals they enjoyed or disliked in restaurants, or to ask about untried places and better sources of favorite dishes. Over the years, the program’s cooking aspect has slowly but steadily increased. Eating and cooking each take up about the same amount of time now.
A new part of the program is the weekly Round Table Show. On Tuesdays, we fill our studio with chefs, wine guys, restaurateurs, cookbook authors and others, for two free-wheeling hours during which we feel no necessity to stick too closely to the subject.
Other features come and go. The Mystery Restaurant Contest gives us a way to give away the freebies that restaurants sometimes give us (but I never use myself). An oddly popular gambit was our Ciao Number game. We gave each caller a number. If they heard their number selected, they’d win a prize. The Ciao Numbers died over twenty years ago when the computer tracking them crashed. Yet callers still remember and announce their Ciao Numbers proudly, if inexplicably.
The most successful annex to the radio show is our Eat Club dinner series. Since 1994, I’ve hosted about forty dinners a year in a variety of restaurants as wide as the restaurant scene itself. They’re attended by around fifty diners every week, who sit at big tables and meet new friends, try new dishes, and taste new wines. The restaurant assembles a special menu for us, and it’s a grand evening. But not always, we honestly admit. It all comes out on the radio in the days following an Eat Club event.
Exciting recent developments in the Food Show include two new ways for people to listen. You can listen to the show live by way of our audio stream, either on your computer or by way of a smartphone app called “TuneIn Pro.” Podcasts of the entire show can be downloaded and listened to at your convenience.
All that has brought a new dimension to the program. Every day, we get two or three calls from somewhere far away from New Orleans–including places on the other side of the Earth.
My favorite listener comment is, “I’d listen to you even more than I do, but you make me ravenously hungry!”
That’s the whole idea. I hope you’ll listen and call in.