Young and Hungry

Post Food Editor Joe Yonan on the New ‘Real Entertaining’ Column

Today marks both a death and a birth over at the Washington Post's Food section. Editor Joe Yonan has officially killed off the "Chef on Call" column in favor of a new David Hagedorn monthly feature, "Real Entertaining," all about dinner parties at home. Hagedorn is a former chef and restaurateur. Yonan was good enough to take our e-mail questions on the matter, no matter how silly.

Y&H: You decided to kill off the "Chef on Call" column. What was your reasoning?

Yonan: I want to shake things up. I think the column had run its course. David did a great job with it, and we enjoyed working with the chefs and the readers, but it was very logistically involved, and sometimes I think we got so caught up in helping address the issues of the "student" that we could perhaps lose sight of what the general readership might find most helpful. Plus, it has always been clear to me that David has just as much to teach people as most, if not all, the chefs we have worked with.

Y&H: An entertaining column sounds so 1960s Mad Men. How will you make the concept fresh and interesting month after month?

Yonan: Mad Men is the hottest show on TV right now, so I'll take this as a compliment and a vote of confidence in its interesting freshness. Seriously, have you ever been to a dinner party at David Hagedorn's house? The guy's food rocks, and the whole thing seems so effortless, even though I know—and he will tell you—that it's certainly not. Basically, people aren't eating out as much as they used to, and they're turning back toward the idea of a dinner party as a bigger component of their social life. But so many people don't have the foggiest idea how to start.

Y&H: Will the new column focus on budget dinner parties or grand blowout dinner parties that no one can afford these days?

Yonan: These days? Is there something going on with the economy? I want to make it as inaccessible to the largest possible percentage of our readership, so definitely blowout. I don't care what people can and can't afford, this is Important Food Journalism we're talking about here. OK, seriously, we'll be looking for ideas for things that don't blow people's budget, and David has lots of suggestions coming in future columns about how to use and reuse things, but we're not going to do a specific "chef-on-a-shoestring" type thing where he only has 75 cents a person, either. Bonnie Benwick writes an occasional "Chef's Challenge" piece that we'll keep up, and it follows that line a little more closely.

Y&H: Is there such a thing as a budget dinner party? Even when I try to keep costs down for a dinner party, I seem to hand Whole Foods nearly $150 every time. And that doesn't even include wine.

Yonan: Well, you know what they call Whole Foods, right?

Y&H: With each column, can you ask David Hagedorn to include five funny anecdotes that we can tell our dinner party guests? That guy has the goods on every restaurateur and chef in town, and he knows how to tell a great gossipy story.

Yonan: David, are you reading this? Consider him asked. Although now that I think about it, David's stories aren't usually the type of thing that can be printed in a "family" newspaper.

Y&H: Please tell me that David also knows the trick to keeping your kitchen clean so that you don't have to wash all those dishes at 1 a.m. while dead drunk.

Yonan: It's in there, man, it's in there. I've been practicing using his strategies, and while I haven't gotten to the point where the sink is DRY by the time the guests come over, as his is, I have gotten to the point where 30 minutes before people are set to arrive, I no longer pray, "Please have everybody be 30 minutes late."

Image by Flickr user Kevin Dooley

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