Have you ever wondered what kind of technology goes into making our favorite foods? What about the ingredients included, or where it is shipped from? Enter Bobby Bognar, the host of the fast-paced and informative program on the History Channel called Food Tech. Airing back in 2010, the show was given a lot of air time once more a few weeks ago for a food-related week of specials on the network’s sister station H2. It was here that I first got a chance to see the show, and I must admit, I was hooked. This is a fantastic show that answers all of the questions asked above. Though it has the format of a Modern Marvels episode, it is a lot more personable because of its host, who does everything involved with the certain food’s production, from operating machinery and tasting the product in various stages of development, to detailing the complete history behind what ever food is being featured.
During the show’s run, Bobby did episodes on more than 60 different items, ranging from Italian, Chinese, and Mexican food, as well as more specifically, hamburgers, hot dogs, cheeses, and seafood, and even some condiments like ketchup, mustard, and horseradish sauce—as you can see, no stone was left unturned; if you sat down and watched them one at a time, you would find yourself addicted to the fun nature of the program. It is not often that I stumble upon a show and automatically get hooked, which was why I contacted Bobby for an interview, who also happens to be a musician, and has a band called The Piper Downs. Below is our conversation:
GC: How did you first get involved with the History Channel for Food Tech? Whose idea was it to examine the technology behind food production?
BB: The idea came from a TV production company called Actuality. They produced about 14 seasons of Modern Marvels, and noticed that their food-themed episodes were getting especially good ratings. Food Tech started out as a one-time special called Made To Eat, and quickly got promoted to a full series called Food Tech. I answered an open, online call for a host, never having auditioned for any TV show before, and somehow made it through several cuts and call-backs to become the host of Food Tech.
GC: For some episodes, you had to travel to four or five places around the country. What was it like to film with such a schedule?
BB: Not just 4 or 5. For some episodes, we visited SEVEN locations. The travel was the most difficult part of the job. The hosting and touring of farms and facilities was interesting and fun, but taking up to three weeks to shoot a single episode and being away from home for so long was very difficult sometimes. I would have done the hosting job for free, but they had to pay me for the travel!
GC: Have you ever tried a food that you that you thought was disgusting but still had to put a smile on for the camera?
BB: Nope. And thank goodness. When History first offered me the job, I only had one request: That I would never have to fake it. They gave me free rein to react to anything—good or bad—in any way that I wanted to. Sometimes it worked out well, and I got to try something delicious, but far more often I had to try something not so good, like lemon peels or soy cakes, that are part of the food process.
GC: Out of all the foods you have ever tried, what was the most interesting? What was your favorite? And why?
BB: Out of all the foods I’ve ever tried, the most interesting would probably be a spice mixture called Ras Al Hanout. It is a Moroccan spice mixture that varies from cook to cook, but can include up to 30 different spices. The most interesting one I tried had 25, and was so complex; it was hard to wrap my head around all the flavors. My favorites are less about flavors, and more about the experience of the meal; who I was with, where we were eating, what we were celebrating, etc. The best meals of my life were with my wife at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, in the street markets in Mexico, and at a little Asian restaurant in Los Angeles called Yatai. All of these places not only served me great food, but also provided a memorable occasion for the meal.
GC: What can you tell us about your band, The Piper Downs?
BB: I’ve been with the Piper Downs for 18 years now. We have put out albums, toured the US, Mexico, Europe, and Australia. The most fun I ever have is when I am onstage with the band. I love singing and playing guitar with the band, and I am really proud of my songwriting. We still play, but we don’t really tour any more, since we are now all married with kids…what was very easy to do when you were a single 25-year-old isn’t quite as easy when you’re a family man!
GC: Lastly, do you have any upcoming television projects?
BB: Shhh…it’s a secret, but yes…wish me luck…
I would like to thank Bobby for taking the time to conduct this interview, as well as wish him luck on all his future ventures, especially that last one! You can visit his official website here.