Jay Rayner's podcast offers food for thought

By Stuart McHugh
Friday, 21st January 2022, 1:05 pm
Updated Friday, 21st January 2022, 5:05 pm
Jay Rayner
Jay Rayner

Like snooker on the radio, there are some subjects for a podcast which must be problematic. Like food.

After all, eavesdropping on others enjoying a delicious meal could be, er, hard to stomach. Especially when hosted by one of the UK’s top food critics, in one of his own favourite eateries.

Fortunately, Jay Rayner’s series has plenty of other items to tease the aural palate, not least his range of special guests who join the writer and broadcaster to eat and chat. And happily for hungry listeners, the food itself plays a lesser role – “it’s a writing job, not an eating job,” Rayner agrees.

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The idea for ‘Out To Lunch’ stemmed from the team at his BBC Radio 4 Kitchen Cabinet show. “Initially I thought ‘is this really going to be interesting?’, but we trialled it with Richard E Grant and I realised it was a cracking idea.”

As in any good kitchen, prep is key – most obviously checking on dietary requirements, as for vegans comic Romesh Ranganathan and DJ Annie Mac.

The venue choice is also crucial – “They do have to be places I like and approve of, so not somewhere I’ve slagged off!”

Jay Rayner - Out to Lunch

Restaurants will surely be eager to please, with the podcast getting 100,000 downloads per week, and boasting guests like Stanley Tucci, Mel C, Kathy Burke, Nadya Hussein, and Jamie Cullum, with whom keen jazz pianist Rayner even duets during Season 3.

The fourth series was a rather different affair. Renamed and reworked, it became ‘In For Lunch’ – most of 2020’s meals were partaken over Zoom, with takeaways sent to the likes of Richard Coles and Edith Bowman, and Tim Minchin enjoying a long-distance dinner in Perth, Australia.

Now, however, the writer is finally getting to tour to promote his latest book, ‘My Last Supper’, and can also choose restaurants over living rooms once again with a plethora of new guests.

There’s also the Cheese Course – a bonus monthly subscription episode (“£1.79 – less that the price of a coffee” Rayner cheerily booms). This sees previous guests like Russell T Davies return for, well, a second helping.

But the main event is free, and the latest, sixth, season is notable for its venerable set of dining companions including playright David Hare, and first up, Miriam Margoyles. “We’ve always aimed at a diverse collection of guests, not just a bunch of white male comedians,” the host insists.

”People think of podcasting as a young medium, but there’s no reason why (older guests) should be cut out from the conversation – they have led extraordinary long lives, and have great stories to tell.”

Listen to ‘Out To Lunch’ at apple.co/3iedyHh.