Celebrity chef Roy Choi's tips for better kimchi : Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Comedian Josh Gondelman joins Emma Choi to discuss a saucy situation, celebrity chef Roy Choi troubleshoots a recipe with Emma's Grandma, and we finally settle an age old debate: heels or rollerblades?

Celebrity chef Roy Choi's tips for better kimchi

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Coming up, the queen, celebrity chef Roy Choi and stilettos. I'm Emma Choi, and this is EVERYONE & THEIR MOM.


CHOI: Hi, everyone. Welcome to EVERYONE & THEIR MOM, a weekly show from Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! I'm Emma Choi, Wait Wait's social media person and vibe curator and host of this chaos.


CHOI: This is a show where we dig deeper into Wait Wait stories we love. It's a magical world where anything can happen, and I'm talking anything. Each week, I'll be joined by a different panelist and meet a bunch of new friends as we go. Today, my co-host is comedian and executive producer of "Desus & Mero," it's Josh Gondelman.


CHOI: Hi, Josh.

JOSH GONDELMAN: Hi, Emma. Thank you so much for having me. The vibes on this podcast, already phenomenal.

CHOI: (Laughter) You're making me blush. Endorse my skills on LinkedIn. OK, Josh, before we start, let's get a level on your mic. Did you dream last night?

GONDELMAN: No, I had - I've had more dreams this week than usual, though. My dreams are always just, like, things that could happen in real life that I wake up being like, oh, man, I'm so glad I got that laundry out of the way and don't have to do it today. And then I look at my pile of laundry, and I'm like, nah, that was just sleep Josh doing chores.


CHOI: That sounds like a dream that's my everyday life.

GONDELMAN: It's a - I have a truly pathetic imagination.

CHOI: OK, Josh, let's get into it.

GONDELMAN: Let's do it.


CHOI: So Josh, the queen of England made a big announcement. Is it that she'll be playing the next Batman? Is it that she's been faking her British accent this whole time? Is it that she doesn't actually know who Prince Charles's real father is, and she'll be inviting the three men who could be the father to Buckingham Palace to suss it out, a la the 2008 film "Mamma Mia!"? No, it's that she's making ketchup now.

GONDELMAN: Wow, that's weirder than any of the other options.

CHOI: She's actually producing two sauces. OK, she's making tomato sauce...


CHOI: ...Which is, I guess, what they call their ketchup, and something called brown sauce...


CHOI: ...Which is apparently steak sauce. But to me is what happens when I leave a Hershey bar in my hot car.


GONDELMAN: How bad is the British economy going that the queen has to, like, endorse condiments?

CHOI: (Laughter) Yeah, I mean, this sauce is made at her country house, Sandringham Estate.

GONDELMAN: I hope that it's - honestly, I hope it's the beginning of the queen of England just putting her name on whatever. Just like, she's doing a car insurance. She's got, like, a shake weight that she sells. I want the queen of England to be, like, the U.K.'s Shaq. That's what I want to see - just one of every product is - one of every kind of product.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE #1: (Singing) Ba badaba dada ba badaba daba (ph)...

CHRIS FLEMING: Welcome back to the queen's shopping network. And today, we're selling chum. For too long have shark hunters gatekept chum. Here at the queen's shopping network, we're going to make it more accessible to the everyman. For nine quid tonight, you will be able to get a bucket of chum - fresh chum sent to your flat. Of - I assume you live in a flat. Everyone in London lives in a flat, except for me. I live in a goddamn castle. So thank you for listening to the queen's shopping network. Again, that's 90 quid for just a bucket of chum.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE #2: (Singing) Fruity, fruity, fruity, fruity, fruity, fruit, fruity, fruity, fruity, fruity, fruity, fruity (ph).

CHOI: Josh, what do you think made the queen wake up one day and decide to make ketchup?

GONDELMAN: I think she was like, look, Prince Andrew has been in the news a lot, and we are not psyched about it. I got to change the narrative. We got to get some other royal news.

CHOI: Absolutely. And you know what? Maybe that's a secret dream she's harbored throughout her whole life. Like, she had to be queen, but all she wanted was to be a sauce-maker. And now she's fulfilling that dream.

GONDELMAN: (Laughter).

CHOI: I think that's beautiful. I mean, I think my grandmother should start making sauces, but she's been trying to make kimchi for, like, the past 80 years. And she's still terrible at it. So I think that, like...

GONDELMAN: (Laughter).

CHOI: ...Pivoting to sauce is, like, a harmless thing that hurts no one and benefits a small number of people who wanted to have more sauces, you know?

GONDELMAN: I think honestly, if the royal family focused more on sauce-making and general seasoning with their free time, they would be in a lot less trouble, and there would be a lot less controversy...

CHOI: Yeah.

GONDELMAN: ...Than there is now.

CHOI: (Laughter).


CHOI: You guys, before you get mad at me for making fun of my grandma's kimchi, my mom will back me up. Listen.

How long has she been trying to make the perfect kimchi?

JULIE CHOI: Oh, gosh. I think since we came to the United States, 1978.


CHOI: So what, like, 40 years?

J CHOI: I think so. And each time, I think she tries something different. And each time she has a batch ready, she's like, this is it. I finally did it. And it always, always kind of tastes like there's something missing, so yeah (laughter).

CHOI: Well, what do her friends think about the kimchi?

J CHOI: You know, it's that - they recognize it's not her strong dish. Yeah, but I mean, they eat it (laughter), but it's not her strongest.


CHOI: We wanted to call someone who could help my grandma finally make the perfect kimchi, and it just so happened to be my mom's favorite chef.


ROY CHOI: I'm Emma's mom's favorite chef, Roy Choi.

CHOI: Couldn't be more true. And you're also a lot of people's favorite chef. You have shows on Netflix and PBS, and you're one of Time's most influential people.


CHOI: Roy, I'm just going to come out and say it, OK? We called you up because my grandma has been trying - ever since she got to the states for 40 years, she's been trying and trying, trying, but she's not great at making kimchi. And we want to help her while still being gentle, OK? So first, I heard you got into the food world by, like, helping your mom make and sell her kimchi. Is that true?

R CHOI: Yeah, we would sell them like mixtapes out of the trunk.

CHOI: Oh, you were the van ajumma?

R CHOI: We were the van ajumma. I was the van ajumma.

CHOI: Oh, my God.

R CHOI: It was - it was a huge trunk, though. It was a old Thunderbird. So we would be able to fit a lot of kimchi in the back of the trunk.

CHOI: Yeah. Our kimchi lady was (speaking Korean), and she had a 2008 Honda Odyssey, and she was very aggressive.

R CHOI: You got to be because the kimchi - it's got to move. They're almost like ticking time bombs. You have to kind of unload the grenades before they blow up.

CHOI: (Laughter) So true. My grandmother loves her kimchi, and we like it kind of. Is there anything that you make that you like a lot but maybe doesn't have as good as a reception as you think it will?

R CHOI: I've developed a tactic over the years where if anyone has any criticism for me, I ask them to write it down. And they send it to me in, like, almost like a love letter in high school...

CHOI: (Laughter).

R CHOI: ...When someone passes the letter.

CHOI: Yeah.

R CHOI: Because then I can take a moment and not personalize it, and I can just read the criticism on the paper.

CHOI: We should do that for my grandma.

R CHOI: Yes.

CHOI: OK, I have my grandma's recipe for kimchi with me, and I was hoping that we could troubleshoot it together. Is that OK?

R CHOI: Absolutely. Yeah. I've had the similar experience where my loved ones were not that great at cooking, so I would love to help.

CHOI: Great, OK. She starts by salting the napa cabbage. She adds six cups of water with four tablespoons of salt. And then she lets it sit for four or five hours.


CHOI: And then she makes the sauce - sweet rice powder, which she says she prepares and cools.

R CHOI: I have no idea what that means.

CHOI: OK, maybe I mistranslated. And then she adds gochugaru. And then she adds small shrimp, saeu-jeot.

R CHOI: Mmm hmm.

CHOI: And then she adds, garlic, anchovy, lots of pa, spring onion. And then in a blender, she puts onion, apples and pear. And she doesn't have measurements for any of this. She just follows her heart with a dream in her eye. Is that a bad thing?

R CHOI: Well, it might be bad for her, obviously. For many, it's the right way to go, to follow your heart. But...

CHOI: Yeah.

R CHOI: Your grandma might be the exception.

CHOI: It's true.

R CHOI: Well, so far, the two things that stand out to me that don't seem right are the sweet rice powder. I don't know why you would need that. And then the other is anchovy. I don't know why you would need the anchovy if you already have the salted baby shrimp.

CHOI: Yeah, another thing is that she doesn't add sugar. She says she adds Sweet'N Low.

R CHOI: Oh, there - that's a problem.

CHOI: (Laughter) Why?

R CHOI: Sweet'N Low tastes like [expletive].

CHOI: (Laughter) So it seems that, you know, the salting is fine. Most of the recipe is fine. But then the Sweet'N Low is the biggest red flag. And then the anchovies, and then the sweet rice powder...

R CHOI: The sweet rice powder.


R CHOI: Yeah.

CHOI: OK, I'm going to write those down and bring them back to her in a very kind way.

R CHOI: That's the whole recipe?

CHOI: That's - yeah, and she, like, leaves that to sit for a while.

R CHOI: I feel like there's stuff missing in there.

CHOI: Well, she listens to like a lot of pansori and watches K-dramas a while, and then she talks [expletive] about my relatives while she does it. So maybe just too much bitterness in general.

R CHOI: No, these are all part of the recipe.

CHOI: (Laughter) OK. Roy, thank you so much. I'm going to tell my grandma all of this great stuff, and next time, maybe it'll be better.

R CHOI: Maybe.


CHOI: My mom and I couldn't wait to tell my grandma that we took her kimchi recipe and floated it by one of the best chefs in the world.

OK, so Umma, can you - can you tell her that he was shocked that she was using Sweet'N Low and she shouldn't do that.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Korean).


CHOI: My grandma was really surprised to hear about the Sweet'N Low. But honestly, it doesn't sound like she's changing her recipe anytime soon.

And then at the end of it, I told him all the ingredients. And he's like, something feels like it's missing. But he's like, I don't know what it is.

J CHOI: That's what I've been saying.

CHOI: I know.


CHOI: OK, Josh, back to the queen. You know, what I love about this story? It's that someone got a new hobby, right? And that's something - that's always something to celebrate. She pivoted. She's doing the damned thing.

GONDELMAN: I think that is a beautiful thing that the Queen of England is like, yeah, I'm getting into the ketchup game. I know I'm 600 years old. My taste buds have probably expired, but I'm going to start making ketchup and brown sauce, and people are going to pay just wild prices for it because the queen...

CHOI: Yeah.

GONDELMAN: ...Said it's the queen steak sauce.

CHOI: (Laughter).


CHOI: All this talk about the queen trying something new makes me wonder who else has done this.

CHRIS DONOVAN: Sometimes you have to pivot. I want to do this so bad. I'm going to find a way to do it.

CHOI: Can you introduce yourself to us?

DONOVAN: My name is Chris Donovan. I have my own shoe line. I used to be a telephone repairman most of my life. And I decided to chase a dream I've had for a long time. And I left work, went to Italy, got a masters at one of the best fashion schools and came back and started my own line.

CHOI: So you worked as a telephone repairman for 25 years.


CHOI: And then when you were 50, you started all over again and went to being a fashion designer.

DONOVAN: Exactly.

CHOI: That's amazing. Can you take us to the moment where you decided to pursue the shoe game as your career?

DONOVAN: I got obsessed with shoes back in high school. The first time I saw one of my classmates come in wearing a pair of platforms, it just was like, oh, my God, it's like a piece of sculpture. And I started drawing it, and the obsession lasted all this time. All my work orders had shoes on the back of them, and I also would bring in Vogue magazines. Nobody ever mentioned that I had Vogue magazines all over my office.

CHOI: Maybe they thought it was part of the repair process, you know?

DONOVAN: (Laughter) Probably, but I never pursued it because it just didn't seem like a real job. But then about 50, I had a scare - a cancer scare. And it was caught very early - cured. But I decided - you know what? - I'm going to do this. And my husband was 100% behind it. He said, you have to do this. You do it all the time. Go do it. I saw a class - a two-day class in New York given by a shoe designer from Italy. And at the end of the first day, he pulled me aside, and he said, you have to do this. We're going to do this.

CHOI: What?

DONOVAN: So as soon as I mentioned it to Steve, he says, yeah. He goes, we'll find a way. No matter what, we're going to do this.

CHOI: Oh, that's so great.

DONOVAN: And so I put my papers in at work, applied to Polimoda. And based on his recommendation and my sketches, they accepted me.

CHOI: That's so amazing. That's so cool. Shoes were your hobby for such a long time. How do I tell the difference between a hobby and a new career?

DONOVAN: It's a passion that you can't put down.

CHOI: Yeah.

DONOVAN: And it's something that you want to do 24 hours a day. If you find shoes on the back of your envelopes and on every piece of scrap paper in your house, you know it's a passion.

CHOI: Yeah. No, I'm just...

DONOVAN: You know what I mean?

CHOI: This is - my greatest passion is eating layer cakes from the middle out, you know, but I don't think I can make a career out of that.

DONOVAN: (Laughter) No, maybe - yeah, you're probably right.

CHOI: Yeah. You know, that's just my dream that's being crushed. It's fine.

DONOVAN: (Laughter).

CHOI: OK, Chris, you know a lot about shoes, so we want to put your knowledge to the test in a game we're calling high heels or rollerblades. So we're going to give you a situation, and you tell me if it's better to wear high heels or rollerblades - two supremely uncomfortable shoes in that situation. OK, sound good?

DONOVAN: OK. Let's try it.

CHOI: Apple orchard - heels or rollerblades?


DONOVAN: You'd look best in my heels, but I'm probably going to say you wouldn't sink as deep with rollerblades as you would heels. So I would go with rollerblades on that one.


CHOI: Utility over fashion - absolutely. OK, icy street.


CHOI: Heels or rollerblades?

DONOVAN: I'm thinking heels.


CHOI: Cool. Waiting in line for the DMV - heels or rollerblades?

DONOVAN: Oh, heels.


CHOI: Really?

DONOVAN: Yeah, you got to look good no matter where. Hey, you know, if it's a Donovan shoe, they're extremely comfortable.


DONOVAN: So - see? Yeah, see?

CHOI: OK, let's lock that one in, cool. A cobblestone street - heels or rollerblades?

DONOVAN: Heels...


DONOVAN: ...Because I've seen Italian women run across the streets in Milan like they were football players.


DONOVAN: So yeah, heels. Yeah, heels.

CHOI: OK, next one. Zeus is mad at you, the Greek god of lightning and sky, and you have to roll up a rock up a hill for the rest of time because he's going to teach you a lesson about being greedy, OK?


CHOI: If you're doing that task, you wearing heels or rollerblades?

DONOVAN: I'd have more traction in heels, and I really wouldn't care how fast I was doing it, and I'd always want to look good. Oh, yeah - heels again.


CHOI: Yeah. Who says that Sisyphus can't be a total glam queen?


CHOI: No one.

DONOVAN: Exactly.

CHOI: Yeah. Well, that's great. OK, great. Let me write all those down and keep them in my pocket just in case it ever comes up. But thank you so much, Chris. This was so fun.


DONOVAN: Thank you for having me. Thank you. It was a lot of fun.


CHOI: OK, Josh, thank you so much for this awesome conversation. A happy sauce day to you.

GONDELMAN: Yeah, and a happy sauce day to you. Thank you for having me, Emma. That was a pleasure.

CHOI: Now it's time for the best part of the podcast - the credits. This show was brought to you by Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! EVERYONE & THEIR MOM is produced by Hayley Fager, Zola Ray, Lillian King, Nancy Saechao and the head Oompa Loompa at the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. Our supervising producer is Jennifer Mills, and our Jason Bourne is Mike Danforth. Lorna White, thank you so much for helping with our sound this week. Once again, you can take my firstborn whenever you want it. Special thanks to comedian Chris Fleming for selling us chum on behalf of the queen.

FLEMING: I can barely move with all the corgis.

CHOI: You can see Chris Fleming on tour right freaking now. Look for cities and tickets at chrisflemingfleming.com. Yeah, that's flemingfleming. Thanks to Chris Donovan for telling us all about his life story and his beautiful shoe line.

DONOVAN: Open-toed, yeah - open-toe.

CHOI: You can see more of his work at chrisdonovanfootwear.com. Roy Choi, thank you for helping me and my grandma. Follow Roy on Instagram and Twitter at @ChefRoyChoi and watch "Broken Bread" Season 2 on PBS. I'm going to tell everyone you're my biological cousin.

R CHOI: Yeah, we could be related.

CHOI: Speaking of my grandma, thanks to my grandma and my mom. I love you guys. (Speaking Korean).


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: OK, (speaking Korean).


CHOI: Thanks to my co-host, spiritual brother and writer and comedian Josh Gondelman.

GONDELMAN: I kind of want to be one of those guys, when he's 60, he's just, like, in weirdly good shape.

CHOI: Read more of Josh's work in his hilarious essay collection, "Nice Try." I'm Emma Choi, and you can find me @waitwaitnpr and trying to find the half of the sumo orange I was saving for later. I can't find it. OK, I'm done. This is NPR.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: All right. Podcast is over. That's it.

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