A FEAST FOR THE (EARLY-RISING) EARS
Saturday at 7am is not prime radio real estate. But sometimes the coolest shows live in the early part of the day, garnering an audience that is either winding down to go to sleep or gearing up to start the day. George Ingmire’s WWOZ show “New Orleans Calling,” a rare mix of music, culture and food, is that “find”—a reason to be up and tuned in, clutching that cup of coffee.
Ingmire’s gentle, melodic voice and quiet yet powerful interviewing style has that just-right combination of satisfying smooth and soothe, with a dash of humor. Internationally syndicated and heard on more than 50 stations, “New Orleans Calling” urges listeners to rock, consider and cook.
A Virginia native, George moved to New Orleans in 1992. Here, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s (in fine arts) degrees at the University of New Orleans. His resume includes sound production, filmmaking and teaching. Mostly, George is a storyteller, anthropologist, fountain of musical knowledge, serious voodoo practitioner and a food and dining fanatic.
Additionally, George is an avid restaurant diner and adventurous home cook, currently fascinated with modern cooking methods like sous vide although he’s equally at ease using a slow-cooker or well-worn cast-iron pan. No grass growing underfoot, George has also picked up server shifts at the newly opened Bywater restaurant, N7.
For his show, George doesn’t simply spew facts, or spin records. He digs deep, pulling interesting and unique tidbits of information from his guests. Often, there is a culinary twist—he and his guest either cook together or share a meal. “I’m working on building a more cohesive radio experience with food,” he says. “It’s the anthropologist in me.”
“Everybody eats and I know it’s cliché, but in New Orleans, eating and cooking is more than a way of life. People are passionate about their food and there are stories that go along with that.” George manages to get those stories told. When he covered Mardi Gras Indian music heritage, George also had a conversation with vocalist Keng Harvey about a long-held tradition for home-cooked plate lunch businesses including Keng’s “Big Frickin’ Fish Fry.” That conversation revealed other neighborhood chefs like Francitta Clemons, Natasha Butler and Corwin Pierre.
The food-music connection is a theme that crops up organically and consistently in his interviews. George has talked (and cooked) gumbo with Dave Bartholomew; shrimp with Johnny Vidacovich; learned to add sofrito to red beans from King James & The Special Men; and there was a conversation/clothes-shopping trip with Walter “Wolfman” Washington that ended in a meal, cooked at Wolfman’s house. The food-music playlists form another listening and hunger-inducing stratum. It’s all part of the show and part of George’s mastery in taking listeners on the journey, bite by bite.
As he weaves a rich local fabric of music, food and culture, everyone has a seat at this table.
Lorin Gaudin has passion for eating, writing and reporting on all things food and drink, chasing down the who, where and delicious in the 504. Typically a fork is in her hand, when tequila isn’t.