Set Meals, the food podcast produced by Stakhanov, takes an irreverent look at food culture through the eyes of two young creatives who don’t claim to be experts in food – but are experts at loving it.
To celebrate the release of the show’s third season, we sat down with hosts Samuel Ashton and Taylor Fawcett to discuss honing in on the moments that surround mealtimes, their plans for this season and whether you can get a good pie and mash in Soho.
So what have you guys been up to since the end of the last season?
TF: Honestly, I’ve just been working and keeping my head down. I’ve been away from the studio and in agency land in town for most of the Set Meals hiatus, so mainly just going to work, then either to Pret or Chipotle and back to work. I perfected my green goddess sandwich actually. Also quite a lot of pints. It turns out Sam and I are the exact point where the universe equilibrium balances so when he’s on a health kick I hit the pints.
SA: Taylor speaks the truth. I spent 2 of the 6-week hiatus in New York where, contrary to popular belief, I ate some of the best f****ing vegan food I’ve ever laid my lips on. Who knew quinoa and beans could taste so good. And chicken wings, chicken wings were also good – equilibriums and all. Eating aside, we’ve been going back and forth trying to work out how we can progress the show, which usually descends into nonsense.
What one bit of US cuisine/food culture would you bring back to the UK?
TF: I haven’t been to the US for a few years…
SA: Cool culture, bro.
TF: … but my real takeaway from when I was in Florida 5 or 6 years ago was the way they just keep you topped up with filter coffee in a diner without a word. Part of me thinks I’d rather drink 4 cups of terrible coffee with breakfast than one organic lukewarm flat white that I finish before they’ve even put my food order through the till.
SA: It is undeniable that Americans are all or nothing. Go hard or go home. The confidence in concepts in New York blew me away. The UK and Europe, to be honest, are miles behind in terms of well-executed thorough concepts. Dishoom is one of the best, and even then it’s on such a massive scale, with so much money behind it, it takes a bit of the shine off for me. Look at ’Superiority Burger’ a (99.9%) vegan restaurant in the East Village. So confident in its offering of vegan burgers and sides that the woman at the counter had an actual argument with a paying customer when he asked her why there weren’t fries on the menu. It’s this confidence, coupled with a really amazing product offering and ethos that blew me away… That, and the service generally is fantastic but I know everyone says that.
What can we expect from the rest of season three?
TF: We’re trying to be a bit more fluid with Season 3 – the end of last season became a little bit formulaic in the way we were structuring the episodes and less of our frantic day-to-day inane chat about whether you can find a good pie and mash in Soho (you can’t FYI). I think the goal for this season is to go back to the naive stupidity of the first couple of episodes of Season 1 when we had even less idea what we were doing. Also for me to finally try the f***ing Smoking Goat wings.
SA: Yeah more/less of a plan is the key but largely more of the same. I think we’d like to talk to more people but not in the format we explored previously. In episode one of the new season I unintentionally, but totally thankfully, befriended Alexis Guerreros, a native New Yorker and ‘Pizza Guy’ and he guided me through the city via voice note. More of this!
What’s your favourite restaurant from any episode of Set Meals thus far?
SA: I don’t know if it was because of the fact we inhaled a few pints before we ate, the fact that when we did eat we drank a bottle of red, or the fact it was the season finale, but Ciao Bella was a highlight.
TF: 100 % Ciao Bella, for the service and that it was a totally new discovery for me, despite everyone else knowing about it for years. The food is, honestly, 6 out of 10. But THAT WOULDN’T BLOODY FIT THE STRAPLINE WOULD IT. I think I’d probably say Black Axe Mangal is a close second, but I don’t really remember it.