For more than 20 years, Lynne Rossetto Kasper has been the voice of “The Splendid Table,” the popular public radio program on all things food. Now her successor has been named: Francis Lam.
The award-winning writer and cookbook editor, who was a judge for two seasons on Bravo's “Top Chef Masters,” promised in his last New York Times Magazine column recently that a “dream project” was afoot.
“My highest calling as a writer is to talk to people,” Lam said. He said he most values being entrusted with people's stories to share, and, “I feel like this is such a direct way to that.”
Lam has been a contributor and guest host on “The Splendid Table” since 2010. His first show in his permanent role airs March 10, though he will continue to split hosting duties with Kasper through the end of the year. The program airs on more than 400 public radio stations, as well as streaming online and through podcast apps. While WFAE-FM in Charlotte dropped the show last year, citing a change in listening habits, it still airs on S.C. public radio stations, including WNCS-FM in Rock Hill from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
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Sally Swift, the program's co-creator and managing producer, said Kasper's transition away from the show has been in the works for a number of years. “She's really retiring,” Swift said. “People need to stop working. We just don't think about that.”
In a statement, Rossetto Kasper said, “The tough part of knowing you want to launch a new life is figuring out the ideal person to take over your chair. In the first five minutes of talking with Francis, I was a fan.”
Swift said the decision to bring Lam on full-time was “unanimous.”
“"We all weighed in, and we all agreed,” she said. Lam “loves to talk to people and he's quite curious,” two characteristics he shares with Kasper, Swift said.
Lam, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is well known for writing about immigrant cooking, both of his family and others. Immigrant stories are “definitely very important to me,” but the bigger message that Lam says he hopes to convey in his new job is that everyone has a unique story worth sharing, with commonalities that can help bring people together.
Swift said she expects some elements of “The Splendid Table” to stay the same, but “I would hope that there would be changes.”
Lam expects to carry on the program's time-honored mix of how to's, insight into various cultures and cuisines and an examination of what food in our society means, especially as it moves closer to the center of contemporary pop culture. He said it was hard to imagine two decades ago what an entire hour-long food program would be about, but now the topic is front and center.
“Food touches everything that we want to talk about,” he said. “Food touches every issue in our culture.”