2 minutes with Lee Tran Lam
Occupation: Freelance journalist
Was there a lightbulb moment when you just knew you wanted to pursue podcasting?
I’m a big podcast listener (I’m currently subscribed to 363 podcasts!) and back in 2012, my podcast diet basically consisted of shows built around long, wonderfully nosey interviews (like Fresh Air with Terry Gross). I decided I wanted to do one where I had in-depth chats with chefs and people from the world of food – especially after chatting to Andrew Levins, who wanted to start a podcast network at FBi, a Sydney community radio station we both volunteered at. Funnily enough, the podcast network never happened, but Levins ended up becoming a one-man podcast network himself, responsible for four shows (including The Mitchen with chef Mitch Orr) and I ended up creating The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry.
Who do you think listens to The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry podcast?
I’m surprised to discover that quite a few chefs and people in the industry seem to listen to it. When I asked Attica’s Ben Shewry if I could interview him for a podcast one day, I didn’t expect him to a) already know of the podcast and b) say sure, let’s go, how about next week?
If you weren’t doing The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry, what would you be doing? Probably catching up on lost sleep! I often upload my podcasts at 3am or 4am, because I edit them in between the freelance stories I get paid for.
Do you think everyone has a story? What makes for an interesting interviewee? Who is on your interviewing wishlist?
I think if you ask the right questions, you’ll find everyone has a story. Anyone who is open, enthusiastic and genuinely curious will be good to interview. They’re often really devoted to what they do, so they’ll have fascinating stories to share (whether it’s Analiese Gregory running a pop-up restaurant in Fez, Morocco, a car-free city where everything – from rubbish to gas bottles – had to be ferried in and out via donkey, or Lennox Hastie smuggling his dry-aged steak all the way to Italy when he visited Massimo Bottura – a cut of meat that had made the Italian chef actually cry).
What in your background has brought you to choose people in the food industry as your preferred subject?
I had already been covering food through my blog (also called The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry) and I thought there were lots of untold stories. When I started, only really big-name, blockbuster-famous chefs got covered in the media in a truly in-depth way; I liked that I could interview young chefs or people who didn’t have high profiles and share some really fascinating stories (like how a visit from the bomb squad – yes, the bomb squad – inadvertently inspired Nick Smith from Rising Sun Workshop to become a chef).
If we were to visit you in your town, what should we do? Where do we eat and drink?
There’s not enough room to cover all the worthwhile places to visit in Sydney – there’s such a great range, from places where you can have an excellent time for $20 or so (like the mee goreng toastie from Dutch Smuggler), to memorably great fine-dining establishments that might require a temporary-but-worthwhile savings dip (like Bentley, Momofuku Seiobo or Sixpenny) and everything in between (Ester, Yellow and Acme are so reliably good).
What restaurant meal will forever stay in memory and why?
The Noma pop-up in Sydney made me zoom out and see our country’s wide-ranging landscape (and its many surprising ingredients) in a completely new way.
You can follow Lee Tran on Instagram @leetranlam or add her podcast The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry to your playlist.
Interview by Amanda Kennedy. Amanda is an artist currently doing a writing degree. You can find her on Instagram @artbyamandakennedy