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The Amateur Gourmet: Good Food Is Fun (and Funny)

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h1I love food but I'm not a food snob; in fact, fighting food snobbery is my main agenda.

Adam Roberts

When opportunity knocks, Adam Roberts knows how to answer. A frustrated law student, Adam decided to reboot his life and start the The Amateur Gourmet. Soon after, he appeared on CNN with cupcakes commemorating the Janet Jackson SuperBowl XXXVIII wardrobe malfunction – and the rest is history. Well, not exactly, but he did prove he has a knack for finding the fun and funny in food. He published a cookbook in 2007 called The Amateur Gourmet: How To Shop, Chop & Table-Hop Like A Pro (Almost), and was soon tapped to be the host of the Food Network Series The FN Dish. He's interviewed everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Rachael Ray and his next book is due out later this year.

Adam lives in L.A., and we can't just pop in for dinner (although we'd like to). So we checked in with him on his favorite dishes, his favorite food writers, and what's ahead for 2012.

You've interviewed a lot of celebrity chefs – which interviews were among the most memorable and why? Well I have a whole cookbook coming out this fall where I cooked with 50 famous chefs all over the country, but I can't talk too much about that now or my publisher will get mad. Pre-cookbook, I'd say my most memorable experience was my interview with Rachael Ray. She was super over-worked that day and when she sat down for the interview, they started rolling cameras and the director said, "Don't start asking questions until I tell you to." So I introduced myself to her and she said "hi" back and then just sat there with me in stony silence for 22 seconds. It was so awkward that when the actual interview was over (a pretty generic one) I said to my director, "We should put those 22 seconds of awkwardness online." And to the Food Network's credit, they did! So I'm proud of that though it's pretty hard for me to watch now.

Give us a Twitter review of Adam Roberts for those who don't know you yet: How would you describe yourself in 140 characters or less? Enthusiastic, hard-working, rough-around-the-edges. I love food but I'm not a food snob; in fact, fighting food snobbery is my main agenda.

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What would your readers and viewers be surprised to learn about you? I may be working on a musical about gay penguins.

What are your all-time most popular posts? That's easy, my most popular post of all time -by a LOT - is "The Best Broccoli of Your Life." Every day, no exaggeration, thousands of people come to my blog by way of that post. I think it's because it really is the best broccoli many people have ever made; crispy instead of mushy. It's so popular that if you Google "broccoli recipe" it's one of the top results.

What are your personal go-to dishes – things you make for yourself or friends? Pasta is my favorite thing to make (and eat). This cavatappi with sun-dried tomatoes and cannellini beans is my boyfriend's favorite thing that I make. That and my roast chicken, usually Thomas Keller's recipe.

Food humor … it's one of your signatures. What's the trick? Being open, taking chances, over-sharing. Mostly, though, it's not taking yourself too seriously. That's why I think funny food sites (David Lebovitz comes to mind) are so appealing: the food world is full of pretentious b.s. and food humorists cut through that.

What are other independent food voices you love? Who's doing it right? I have my old standard favorites, the food bloggers that I started out with who I still read: David (as mentioned), Smitten Kitchen, Orangette, Chocolate & Zucchini, 101 Cookbooks, and The Wednesday Chef. Even before I met these people in real life (and I've become friends with all of them over the years) I felt like I knew them through their blogs and that, I think, is the key to longevity in the food blog business. Creating a voice and a reader experience that sets you apart, that lets people feel like they know you. You become people's friend even though you're really a stranger.

You've been doing this for a few years now. At what point are you no longer an Amateur? ; ) A few years? It'll be 8 years on January 14th! I'm not sure, I get asked that question a lot. I think, at this point, I'm a professional food writer (I make my money writing about food) but I'll always be an amateur cook. Unless I go to culinary school or work in a restaurant kitchen, there will always be an endless amount for me to learn. And I like it that way.

It's the start of a New Year – what food things are you looking forward to in 2012? My cookbook coming out in Fall 2012! Otherwise, I recently moved to L.A. so I'm really enjoying exploring this city. I look forward to traveling more (I'd love to go to Rome if I can save up enough money) and cooking more daring food (I may attempt an octopus sometime soon). Mostly, I look forward to continuing to grow my blog; my resolution is to create a post more popular than that broccoli one. As if that were possible.

Adam Roberts is a SAY Media partner. Follow him on Twitter @amateurgourmet

[Photo credit: Elizabeth Leitzell]

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