Its name might not really be self-explanatory, but “Racist Sandwich” serves up a perspective that you don’t hear often: that both food and the ways we consume, create, and interpret it, can be political.
From discussions about racism in food photography to interviews with chefs of color about their experiences in the restaurant world, hosts Indian American journalist Zahir Janmohamed and chef and writer Soleil Ho of Vietnamese heritage hash out a diverse range of topics with humor and utmost honesty.
Sacramento, Calif., native Janmohamed is the son of Indian immigrants from Tanzania.
Janmohamed, who is a senior news editor at Hyphen magazine, co-founded the “Racist Sandwich” podcast in May 2016, while living in Portland, Oregon. He previously served in the U.S. Congress, where he was a senior foreign policy aide to Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), and worked at Amnesty International, where he was the advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
In its first season in 2017, the podcast came up with some 40-plus episodes, taking fans into the restaurants, wineries and food carts located in Oakland, Ohio; Toronto, Canada; and Los Angeles.
Some of the guests who have been featured on the show include Indian American chef and restaurateur Preeti Mistry, poet and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and USC professor Viet Thanh Nguyen, Indian American comedian Hari Kondabolu, Armando Ibañez, an undocumented queer filmmaker; and author and Southern food scholar John T. Edge.
The episode featuring Mistry covered “culinary school, how the food industry falls short of its meritocratic ideals, the culture of abuse in restaurants, and what it means to live your politics.”
In another episode, Janmohamed interviewed Jared Goodman, founder and director of Morgan Street Theater, which organizes ice cream theater events in Portland, Oregon. Goodman talks about his Jewish identity, his anxieties about raising Jewish children in an age of President Trump, and why he loves making challah bread.
In something called “Bonus Topics,” the duo also addresses trending topics that affect the lives of many.
In one such episode, the hosts discussed the sexual harassment allegations against the famous restaurateur John Besh, as well as their own experiences encountering sexual harassment in their respective work environments. They also discussed the complicity around sexual harassment and why more is not being done to combat this problem.
In another episode that came out Sept. 10, 2017, the day after President Trump announced his plans to rescind the DACA program, Ho and Janmohamed write “the three of us — producer Juan, co-hosts Soleil and Zahir — recorded a podcast together about what we were feeling.”
Juan, they wrote, is a former DACA recipient, and “we reflected on what this means for this country’s 800,000 undocumented individuals, as well as how the food industry can protect Dreamers.”
“Racist Sandwich” also covered the white supremacist rally in 2017 in Portland. In part one, they interviewed people of color at the counter-protest, as well as a “Trump supporter and anti-fascist activists.” In part two, they covered the fundraiser and tribute for the three heroes who stood up to white supremacy.
Continuing their conversations about body image, fatness, and thin privilege in the food world, they featured author, activist, and fat discrimination expert Virgie Tovar in one episode.
They’ve covered other topics like racism in photography, the politics of the word “curry,” and food insecurity.
Season two of the podcast premiered Feb. 28 with National Book Award nominated author of the short story collection, “Her Body and Other Parties,” Carmen Maria Machado. Machado and guest interviewer Emilly Prado talked about body image, policing food, villainesses, and pickles.
“Racist Podcast” was nominated by Saveur magazine and by the International Association of Culinary Professionals as one of the best food shows of 2017.