I am an ordinary person with an extraordinary curiosity. My zest for life and learning is the catalyst for my career in broadcasting and writing.
It began in 2004, when I reluctantly agreed to try out for a daily radio show on KSRO in Sonoma County. At that point I rarely spoke to a crowd larger than eight people around the dinner table. During my audition I rambled about the benefits of Best Food mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip and NASCAR. To my surprise, I was chosen among the seventy-five candidates.
For eighteen months I was live on the air Monday through Friday for two hours each morning. In that tenure I learned a lot about radio, made plenty of (often embarrassing) mistakes, and had a few triumphs, too.
One of the highlights was a sketch I wrote to reverse the World Series curse of the Boston Red Sox. I figured it was a matter of getting Babe Ruth to forgive the Sox team owner Harry Frazee for trading him to the Yankees. I created a fictional company called “HexYZ” – a hex removal service – and had my funny friend AJ play the role of Two Ton, a voodoo expert and medium. (Fun Fact: AJ, a Pixar employee, was the real-life model for Sully in Monsters, Inc, thus his character’s name.) I played the bit straight and took calls from listeners during the half hour segment; everyone seemed to be playing along. And guess what? The Boston Red Sox won their first World Series sweeping the St Louis Cardinals a week later!
In 2006, seeking a larger audience and bigger challenge, I moved to KGO in San Francisco as a regular fill-in host. While major market radio is exhilarating, I tired of talking politics all the time, and frankly, the cranky callers.
My Next Chapter
I lived in Sonoma County, a place Luther Burbank referred to as, “the chosen place on earth.” With a little research I discovered there was no food and wine lifestyle show broadcast from the wine country. I called my pal Guy Fieri. He was a frequent guest on my KSRO show when he was soliciting votes for the Next Food Network Star. Every appearance was akin to a verbal ping pong match and we vowed to work together one day. Despite having several television shows, Guy immediately said yes to my concept. We debuted The Food Guy and Marcy Show in 2007. Our playful banter was heard across the country for two years. The recession ended our weekend program, however, that led to yet another chapter: My life as an author.
This chapter begins at lunch with my pal Mollie Katzen, one of the New York Times best-selling cookbook authors. She heard a series of features I wrote for Food Guy and Marcy. They were thirty-second commercials where I would pose a question such as, “What does your dog’s toy and an artichoke have in common?” or “Why should you take a bath with your strawberries? (Answers at end of bio.) They were meant to tide the listener over through the break; I called them Snacks. Mollie suggested they should be a book. When she said that I was immediately transported to the Peanuts classroom. All I heard was “wah wah wah.”
My thought bubble read, “A book? Me?” As I regained my composure Mollie added that she would introduce me to her literary agent. Six months later I sold my book to HarperCollins. Snacks: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle was published in 2013.
The Happiest Place on Earth
In 2014 I set my sights on Disneyland. I wondered if Walt Disney had intended the food experience at Disneyland to be as immersive and entertaining as the attractions. While I was writing the proposal, I came across a July 1955 insert in an Orange County Newspaper. In it Walt declared, “Like Adventureland and Fantasyland, the new ‘Kingdom of Good Eating’ is another great attraction. Fine restaurants, unique refreshment stands, and interesting luncheon spots abound a Disneyland. Dining Disneyland-style is an unforgettable experience. The food’s as fabulous as the fun, too.” With that, I knew there was a book waiting to be written about the culinary history of Disneyland and Walt Disney.
Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food was published by Disney Editions in September 2017. Now it’s in its third printing, it was a New York Times New & Noteworthy selection in 2018.
Presently I am working on two new books. Both are set in Disneyland exclusively during Walt Disney’s era; that’s my niche as a historian. Stay tuned for the releases in 2020 and 2022.
I am a bad hungry person, don’t like the cold, plus adore my coffee and wine. My hobbies include travel, cooking, fitness, reading, consorting with racehorse persons, and adventuring. Food is fun. Disneyland really is the Happiest Place on Earth!
Answers to Snacks
When purchasing your artichokes, place it next to your ear and squeeze, if you hear a tiny squeak – like your dog’s toy – then you’re good to go. That artichoke is well hydrated and thus tasty. No squeak means no go. It’s been in the bin too long. No amount of melted butter or aioli can save it.
Strawberries fresh from the farm stand have a short shelf life. Kitchen scientist Harold McGee conducted a series of experiments to see if there was to make them last longer once they got home. He discovered that briefly immersing your strawberries in very hot tap water, for about thirty seconds (then drying on paper towels before placing in the refrigerator), extended the strawberries shelf life two to three more days. That’s because heat prevents mold just as cold does.
What you might not know about me
I went to UCLA film school and interned with the director Charles Dubin on the final season of M*A*S*H*
My great aunt is Peggy Lee. My great Uncle David Barbour was the guitar player for Benny Goodman and Peggy was the lead singer. Although she was admonished not to “fraternize with the band,” she fell in love. The feeling was mutual and they married in San Francisco in 1943. David went on to write many of her hits including Manana and It’s a Good Day. Peggy wrote the music for Lady and the Tramp, one of my favorite Walt Disney animated features. (If you’re curious the other two are Jungle Book and the one that started it all, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.)
I dabble in flight attending. Not as a hobby, for safety reasons, as I fly on corporate aviation fairly often. It’s super fun to cook at 35,000 feet. I’ve studied a bit about it at the Culinary Institute of America and delight in preparing tasty meals. It’s a bit of a challenge as we lose thirty percent of our ability to taste at altitude. As I shared in the beginning of my bio, I like learning! I’ll never stop being curious.