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Hitting The Airwaves With John, Max and Jillian: KNPR's State of Nevada Features Food Bloggers

Two Wednesdays ago I received a phone call from none other than John Curtas asking if I’d like to come in to the KNPR studios the next day to have a chat with Max Jacobson, the Frugal Foodie’s Jillian Plaster and himself for KNPR’s State of Nevada.  I was told the segment was going to be about Food Blogging and to bring my brain and cap and that was about it.  Needless to say, from that very moment, I started shitting a very steady production of bricks.

KNPR Studio Lobby

KNPR Studio Lobby

I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  The gold standard these days is that “legit” food writers vehemently despise food bloggers.  Food bloggers are typically younger, less “experienced”, less traveled, and yet somehow are still managing to swallow up mammoth chunks of market share.  Thus, old media loses advertising dollars, thus old media writers find the gigs farther and fewer in between.  I’ll go more in depth about this in an upcoming post.

With a sudden rash of old media pieces thrashing food blogging, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve met John on a couple of brief occasions before, but I don’t really know much about the guy outside of his writing.  He’s a lawyer, so my natural instinct is to keep my hand on my wallet when I’m around him, but he has shown nothing but support and encouragement towards me, which I am greatly appreciative of.  I also didn’t know the venerable Max Jacobson at all outside his writing, so I didn’t know if this was going to be a genuine conversation about food blogging, or if Jillian and I were about to be marched into an oven.  Either way, I was very grateful to accept the opportunity.

I got to the KNPR studios about a half hour early.  I sat in the lobby thinking about all of the possible traps coming up;

“Guy Savoy is pronounced Gee Sav-wah. Hard G.”

“Brunoise means a small dice.”

“Sage, Julian Serrano, Sirio Ristorante, American Fish, Jean-Georges Steakhouse are at Aria”

“A garde-manger does salads and cold items.”

“White truffle season begins in October.”

But as my mind continued to race, going over every bit of food knowledge my brain has captured over the last 30 years, panic started to take over and my brain turned to instant oatmeal.

“How the hell do you pronounce izakaya?”

“Shit…..the chef de cuisine at Twist…Pascal…Pascal….damn…what’s his name?!?”

“Fuck!  What animal does pork come from?!?!?!?”

My panic-induced intestinal churning passed down through generations of Dobranskis started to kick it into high gear as Max Jacobson walked through the front doors and then identifying that the lovely young lady seated across from me the whole time was Jillian Plaster, my fellow victim interviewee.  A few minutes after introductions, John Curtas came in and the four of us sat in the lobby as we waited for the studio, where we were going to record the bloodbath interview, to clear out.  John mentioned a few of the questions he was going to ask, one being the only softball I was expecting, the obligatory “How did you get your start.” In my mind, I was expecting the “How did you get your start” question, and then immediately go into a blind taste testing of Bourdeaux where we had to identify vintage and vineyard.  This is how my twisted paranoid brain works.

“Look at these stupid hacks!  They can’t even tell an ’82 from an ’86!  Assholes, the lot of them, these food bloggers!” was the scenario being played over and over again in my head.

Pope Curtas the ELV Manning the Controls

Pope Curtas the ELV Manning the Controls

We got into the studio and after a quick overview on how all the gear worked, we dove into the interview.  Right away I could tell that Jillian had her shit together.  She speaks very well and has a solid knowledge of her craft.  She went to culinary school for a bit, but then left and now has an organic dog food company of her own.  She approaches all of her dining experiences from a chef’s point of view which is certainly a good one to have.

After Jillian eloquently responded to the “How did you get your start” question, the ball was then in my court, to which I completely fell down a flight of stairs.  At this point, my brain was softer than a gay man’s dick at a Victoria’s Secret fashion show.  All I was thinking about at this point was concentrating on not saying “fuck” “cock” or “shit.”  A stream of incomprehensible jibberish streamed from my mouth, peppered with more “umms” and “uhhs” than you can shake a stick at.  Thankfully, the fine editors working the booth at KNPR somehow made me sound like less of a scatterbrained idiot in the final product which just aired yesterday.

The editing was yet another point I was paranoid about.  It’s so easy for the man-who-pushes-the-buttons to make anyone sound like a mindless idiot.  However, especially for the first question which was my worst, the editing greatly helped me.  And the questions that both John and Max asked turned out to not be as underhanded as my paranoid brain dreamed, and in fact, quite the opposite.  There are a few parts that wound up on the editing room floor that I wish made it on the air, but I strongly feel that it was just a matter of time constraints and nothing sinister.

The Sage Max Jacobson with the Frugal Foodie herself, Jillian Plaster

The Sage Max Jacobson with the Frugal Foodie herself, Jillian Plaster

One was a question asked by Max about how our limited experiences in life affect our writing, and if we are less qualified to talk about something since we aren’t familiar with it.  I think it was Ethiopian food was used as an example.  My take is that a good writer will be able to draw from familiar experiences to illustrate the unfamiliar experiences, hopefully making the unfamiliar much more understandable to the readers. I may have never walked the streets of Farar, but I can tell you if the wot tastes like shit or not.

Another discussion was about taking photographs in restaurants, to which I am adamantly against flash photography in a restaurant.  There’s a reason why the pictures on Tasting Las Vegas are so shitty, and it’s because I don’t want to use a flash.  I likened a camera flash in a restaurant to the asshole that walks by with a cigar that smells like dried dog shit set on fire and the newborn baby that won’t shut up where you don’t know if you want to stab the baby or the parents.

After the taping, John invited us to stay for a telephone interview he and Max did with Esquire’s John Mariani.  In the final product, Mariani’s interview happens before ours, but that’s not the way it happened in real life.  To the people who have commented how neither Jillian nor myself had an opportunity to defend ourselves from Mariani’s ill-feelings toward food blogging, there was nothing yet to respond to.  Once that was completed, John took us all out for a beer where we got to hear some great stories from the worldly Max Jacobson and hear about the early days of Vegas food writing from our gracious host, John Curtas.

It turns out after all, I had nothing to worry about and I was my own worst enemy during the interview.  Both John and Max obviously know their shit and have a lifetime of experiences that we are all lucky to have them share with us through their articles, blogs of their own (John is at and Max is at, and their always entertaining radio show on KNPR.  It was an honor and a privilege to be included in one of their discussions.  Many thanks to John, Max and the fine folks at KNPR for giving this hack food blogger a little bit of their air space.  Also, make sure you check out Jillian’s blog at As I said before, she really knows her shit, is well-spoken and is a valuable addition to Las Vegas’ restaurant writing scene.

In case you missed the interview or would like to hear it again, here’s the audio from KNPR’s website.  Our segment is on directly after the John Mariani interview.

Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

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4 comments to Hitting The Airwaves With John, Max and Jillian: KNPR’s State of Nevada Features Food Bloggers

  • I’ll try to listen today. And I don’t understand why you’d be so nervous. Hell, compared to your postings here I feel like a f*cking idiot! Good job, Mr. Mike D, and keep up the great work here. :-)

  • Thanks so much! It was tough because I was going into uncharted waters and didn’t know what to expect. Thanks again for the kind words, much appreciated!

  • i think the max and john show should bring you two on regularly to spice things up. i wish they wouldn’t have edited out some of that stuff … seems like max’s contributions got cut. also interesting for mariani to dispel the myth that he hates vegas.

  • Thanks Brock. I don’t know how much my style fits with the general NPR crowd, but I’d love to find out. If I was able to just relax, let loose and let the guy with the censor button earn his paycheck I’d have a fun time. It was stressful trying to clean myself up the whole time.

    As far as Max’s questions go, he really only asked the one with the Ethiopian food example if memory serves. Sad it got axed. Maybe one of these days they’ll release the Director’s Cut.

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