The Zest Because it's strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.© 2022 WUSF Public Media. University of South Florida. All rights reserved.
The Zest

The Zest

From WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Because it's strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.© 2022 WUSF Public Media. University of South Florida. All rights reserved.

Most Recent Episodes

Season 9 Finale: For Chef Inder Suryawanshi, Life's a Beach

With the weather heating up and summer vacation so close we can almost taste it, let's head to the beach for a sit-down with Chef Indrajit Suryawanshi. As executive chef of JW Marriott Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa, he oversees the resort's main restaurants, Latitude 28° and The Deep End. Chef Inder, as he's known, grew up in Kundal, India. He learned to cook by watching his mom make dishes like butter chicken, eggplant curry and naan over a wood stove. The Zest team met up with Chef Inder at the resort, which overlooks Clearwater Beach. The view from the suite was downright dreamy, and the Gulf of Mexico backdrop gets even more stunning when you head up to The Deep End rooftop restaurant. You can see photos on our Facebook and Instagram accounts. In our conversation, Chef Inder explains how a sign—a literal sign!—led him to the hospitality industry and eventually to the United States. He also recalls his first time eating a cheeseburger in the U.S., and he shares what food he packs when he heads to the beach. Related episodes: The Ultimate Beach House Menu Author Kristen Hare on Things to Eat in Tampa Bay Before You Die Spirit of the Panhandle: Distillery 98 in Santa Rosa Beach Makes Oyster-Filtered Vodka

NFL Player-Turned-Entrepreneur Ian Beckles on Kava, Cutting Carbs and Cooking for Himself

In his 56 years, Ian Beckles has worn a lot of hats—and eaten a lot of good meals. In his profile on X, formerly Twitter, Ian describes himself as a "Former NFL Player & Entrepreneur Ambassador of all things Tasty in TB." And that's a pretty good way to sum it up. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer has his hand in a little bit of everything, including radio, podcasting, deejaying, magazine publishing and running his lifestyle brand, Dignitary, which he established in 2015. Ian's latest venture is Dignitary Kava House. It's an alcohol-free hangout spot in South Tampa that offers coffee, tea, CBD, kava, kratom and more. The Zest team recently visited Ian at Dignitary Kava House to learn what exactly kava is and why he's passionate about it. We also did a deep dive into how Ian's eating habits have changed over the years. Related episodes: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Chef Tracie Hartman on Feeding the Team, Pre-Game Ice Cream and Tom Brady's "Very Disciplined" Diet Chef Kenny Gilbert on Southern Food, Teaching Kids to Barbecue and Cooking for Oprah Tampa Bay Rays Dietitian Courtney Ellison on Major League Meal Planning, Tips for Staying Hydrated and the Take-Out Food that's a Home Run with the Team

NFL Player-Turned-Entrepreneur Ian Beckles on Kava, Cutting Carbs and Cooking for Himself

Olivia Giesler of The Pearl at Water Street on Hospitality, the Michelin Guide and Being a...

This is a man's world—or at least, a man's kitchen. More than three-quarters of head chefs in U.S. restaurants are men, according to the Census Bureau. But Olivia Gielser has forged her own path in the male-dominated space. Olivia is executive chef of The Pearl, part of downtown Tampa's swanky new Water Street dining district. The gastropub opened in 2023, and it's already earned a nod from Michelin's Florida Guide. The Zest team recently visited Chef Olivia at The Pearl to learn how she's forged her own leadership style in the kitchen, how her Midwestern roots fostered her love of hospitality and how we can all cook smarter at home. Related episodes: Chef BT Nguyen on How to Cook with Booze Michelle Bernstein's Jewish-Latin 'Mishmosh' of a Life For Pastry Chef Shayla "Chez Shay" Daniels, Life Is Bittersweet

Olivia Giesler of The Pearl at Water Street on Hospitality, the Michelin Guide and Being a...

Sarasota Magazine Food Writer Lauren Jackson's Job Is Harder Than You Think

Food writer sounds like a dream job. And for Lauren Jackson, in many ways it is. As Eat & Drink Editor for Sarasota Magazine, Lauren spends her days marrying her culinary background with her passion for writing. But being a food writer is about more than enjoying free dinners on the company dime. Lauren recently joined Dalia in The Zest's studio at WUSF for a conversation about what the job entails. Related episodes: Meet Food Critic Helen Freund Couples in the Kitchen: Melissa Santell & Bryce Bonsack "The Sporkful" Host Dan Pashman on Pasta, Podcasting & Imposter Syndrome For Ginain Grayes of CookPraySlay & Cook the Garden, Growing Food Is a Spiritual Experience

Sarasota Magazine Food Writer Lauren Jackson's Job Is Harder Than You Think

The Olive Grove Brings a Taste of Tuscany to Brooksville

To get a gallon of the freshest olive oil, you could grab your passport, pack a suitcase and fly more than 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from the Sunshine State to Tuscany. Or you could drive to Brooksville—as in, Brooksville, Florida. The quiet Hernando County town is prized for its bike trails and camping sites. Brooksville is also home to The Olive Grove—yes, that's the official name. It's a property owned by husband and wife Cambren and Dede Davis. The Zest's host Dalia Colón and brand manager Alexandria Ebron recently visited The Olive Grove for a tour. As you'll discover if you visit, olives are only the beginning. In addition to selling freshly pressed olive oil and other olive products, The Olive Grove is also an event space, concert venue, Airbnb and farm. If you're lucky, you just might get to name one of the resident chickens. The Davises' property is among a growing number of olive groves in the Sunshine State. To learn more about the challenges and opportunities of olive oil production in Florida, check out Dalia's article in the summer 2024 issue of Forum, the magazine of Florida Humanities. Related episodes: Conscious Cuisine: Rocky Soil Family Farm on How to Reconnect with Your Food "Now Food Doesn't Have to Travel": Hyperlocal Agriculture with lemonGRAFT Founder Zach Correa Florida Fruit & Vegetable Gardening 101

For Young Adults—Especially Those with Special Needs—Cooking Skills Bring Independence

The transition from high school to college can come with a steep learning curve. For many students, it's their first time juggling classes, laundry, roommates, a social life and all the rest without the help of Mom and Dad. The changes can be particularly challenging for young adults with special needs. So in 2020, the University of South Florida established UMatter. It's a program that gives extra support to students with intellectual disabilities, to help them succeed in college and beyond. As part of the program, UMatter students at USF St. Pete recently took a six-week cooking workshop with nutritionist, dietician and occasional Zest guest Wendy Wesley. The classes were held in the kitchen of Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg. Students learned to cook simple, weeknight recipes that they can replicate at home; then they ate what they cooked. The class also covered topics like menu planning, food safety and label reading. Dalia met up at the church with Wendy and one of her students, Taylor Moore. They discussed takeaways from the class, including recipe ideas for anyone living on their own for the first time. The UMatter program is only available for eligible students. But Wendy offers small-group cooking classes that are open to the public. For details, contact Wendy through her website. Related episodes: 14 Tips for Cooking Faster at Home Students Dish on Dorm Food, Shared Kitchens and Cooking in College Eat Better, Feel Better: Simple Swaps from Carly Paige of FitLiving Eats How to Prepare Restaurant-Quality Meals at Home: Advice from Chef Dennis Littley

For Young Adults—Especially Those with Special Needs—Cooking Skills Bring Independence

"Bread Saved My Life": Jax Bread Co. Owner Nana Bonsu-Hammond

The New Testament Book of Matthew says, "Man does not live by bread alone." But ask Nana Bonsu-Hammond, and she'll tell you that without bread, she wouldn't be the independent businesswoman she is today. Nana is the owner and executive chef of Jax Bread Co. It's a bakery and cafe on Jacksonville's Southside. Nana recently chatted with Dalia about the bread here in the United States versus overseas and why she says bread saved her life. If you'd like to learn more about starting a cottage food business, then check out our previous episode on that topic. Related episodes: Zak the Baker Keeps It Kosher For Pastry Chef Shayla "Chez Shay" Daniels, Life Is Bittersweet Natalia Lima Veganizes Recipes from The Great British Baking Show How to Start a Cottage Food Business in Florida: Lessons from the Lentil House

For Ginain Grayes of CookPraySlay & Cook the Garden, Growing Food Is a Spiritual Experience

This week, we're heading into the backyard of Ginain Grayes. The busy wife and mother shares family-friendly recipes on her website, CookPraySlay, and she hosts the podcast Cook the Garden. (Dalia was a guest on the 3/19/24 episode.) Dalia visited Ginain at her home in Riverview for a tour of her garden and a chat at the kitchen table. In this conversation, Ginain shares how her native country of Suriname influences what she cooks, she offers creative uses for food scraps, and she shares why she views gardening as a spiritual experience. Related episodes: Hacks to Help You Eat More Veggies Fruit & Vegetable Gardening 101 Conscious Cuisine: Composting 101 with Miami Compost Project

For Ginain Grayes of CookPraySlay & Cook the Garden, Growing Food Is a Spiritual Experience

Bonus Episode: Dalia's New Cookbook, "The Florida Vegetarian Cookbook" Is Out Now!

You might have heard that Dalia wrote a cookbook. It's called The Florida Vegetarian Cookbook, and it's out today. It's available through University Press of Florida, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. Dalia was recently a guest on Florida Matters, where she chatted with host Matthew Peddie about The Florida Vegetarian Cookbook and the latest season of The Zest. They also discussed advice for getting out of your weeknight dinner rut and tips for cooking with kids. We're sharing their conversation here as a bonus episode. Related episodes: Janet Keeler on How to Create Your Own Thoroughly Modern Family Cookbook Bonus Episode: The City of Tampa Needs Your Recipes for its Soulwalk Community Cookbook Chef Johnathan Rodriguez on Finding Cooking Inspiration

Bonus Episode: Dalia's New Cookbook, "The Florida Vegetarian Cookbook" Is Out Now!

"The Sporkful" Host Dan Pashman on Pasta, Podcasting & Imposter Syndrome

This week, we're chatting with foodie podcaster and author extraordinaire, Dan Pashman. Dan is the two-time James Beard and Webby Award-winning creator and host of The Sporkful, which he started way back in 2010, before many of us had even heard of a podcast. The Sporkful is still going strong, and Dan is just getting started. In 2021 Dan released cascatelli, a new pasta shape that he invented. Cascatelli went on to be named one of Time Magazine's best inventions of the year, and you can now buy it online and in stores across the country. Dan recounted his three-year journey to create cascatelli in the Sporkful series Mission: ImPASTAble, which the New York Times named one of 10 Best Podcasts of 2021. And this week, Dan adds another feather to his cap: the publication of his first cookbook. It's called Anything's Pastable: 81 Inventive Pasta Recipes For Saucy People. The launch will be accompanied by a Sporkful series about the making of the book. Dan is also heading out on a book tour, which swings through Florida on March 28. He'll be Sanctuary of the Arts in Miami, in conversation with James Beard Award winner and former Zest guest Carlos Frías. Dan chatted with Dalia from his recording studio in New York about the good, bad and ugly of writing a cookbook, his favorite outside-the-box pasta recipes and what he looks forward to eating when he visits Florida. Thanks to this week's guest host, Chandler Balkcom. Related episodes: Miami Herald's Carlos Frías on Cuban Coffee, Edible Iguanas & Winning the James Beard Award Pasta Packs Co-Founders Nic & Greg Bryon on Pandemic Dinner Parties, the Flour Your Pantry Needs and Cooking While Black How to Start a Cottage Food Business in Florida: Lessons from the Lentil House

"The Sporkful" Host Dan Pashman on Pasta, Podcasting & Imposter Syndrome