A self-described “storyteller, cook, and author”, Jonathan Bardzik is an expert on the universal culture of food. It’s not just that Bardzik has an infinite supply of recipes under his belt, or that he can introduce even the most jaded foodie to a few new culinary tricks. The 47-year old resident of Washington, DC knows that food makes the people come together (Yeah!). Bardzik started his career in the public eye by having live cooking demonstrations in DC’s historic Eastern Market in 2011. Today, his skills can be seen on a worldwide level. On his website, www.JonathanBarzdik.com, food lovers can find recipes from everything to the perfect scrambled eggs, to Szechuan smashed cucumber salad, to mushroom spätzle, to pasta with shaved asparagus, to strawberry shortcake… everything in between. Bardzik is no stranger to being on TV (He has appeared in many news segments in the past), but audiences can now see much more of the beary cook (Never say “chef”!) in the new eight-episode series Seasons To Taste, now available on demand on the LGBTQ network Revry.
Just in time for Pride, Jonathan took the time to speak with me about all things food– and much more!
JR: Hi Jonathan! Thank you so much for speaking with me! So, to start: You call Washington, DC your home. What makes your hometown special to you… and what makes it well suited for your culinary passions?
JB: There are a few things that I love about DC. Number one: One of the things that attracted me here in the first place is that it’s a city which really started as a small town: a company town, in fact. The major industries down here are government, the military, and all the trade associations who talk with them. And so, it gave me access to an urban community as well as a community where a lot of major international decision-making happens. There’s an incredible international community here. You know, DC has been known as “Chocolate City”. So, there is there’s wonderful diversity of culture, people, and food. There’s a joke that in a lot of other cities you get asked, “How much do you make?” In DC, you get asked, “What do you DO?” There are times when that is a status question… but it also gets asked because people move here with passions and purpose. They move here with a mission! I love being in a city where politics and policy are both a passion; it’s kind of the hometown sport. So, everyone is talking about it. And in talking about it, one of the things that I’ve learned is that there are very few things in this world that are better described in a sentence than described in a paragraph. DC has really opened me up to the complexity of issues, in that there are multiple sides and there are multiple people impacted. I love that. We have seen what’s happened over the last year: people impacted by COVID, a growing awareness with Black Lives Matter, the Asian-American incident in Atlanta this past year… Coming to understand the complexities of those issues is something that we know as “bar talk” down here…
So… when it comes to food, how does that all “feed” into what I do? I find that as a storyteller, cook, and author, I spend as much time talking about food and the impact that cooking and sharing time together has in our life that I do about recipes. I looked up a USDA statistic a few years ago, and I learned that the DC area has the highest number of farm markets per capita in the United States. We’re in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which is one of the largest– if not THE largest– watershed in the United States. So, there’s great farmland. We’re right in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic: We have agriculture from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware… We have those great seafood products! So it’s a really wonderful place to be focused on local, fresh, and seasonal food– and the community that comes together around producing it.
JR: Oh, wow. I did not know that!
JB: The entire city is not the White House and The Capitol Mall! What I love about living here is that you can walk four or five blocks from any of these centers of world power and influence, and you are in an actual neighborhood… and you are standing alongside where I first started doing cooking demos! I was at the Eastern Market, which is less than a mile from the Capitol building. My audience ranged from people living on East Capitol Street, which is multi-million dollar homes; to people living right across the river in Anacostia, which probably has some of the lowest rents in the district and is traditionally Black and poor. Most people were standing shoulder to shoulder in front of my tent, eating the same food, asking the same questions, laughing at the same jokes. And it gave me a really different sense of who my audience is. When I get asked, I say that I DON’T have a demographic. My work is about joy and connection, and bringing people together around the table. Everybody eats! So, this is my content. My stories are directed at anyone who wants to be at that table.
JR: That definitely comes through in your series Seasons To Taste, from the scenes of you walking around the market all the way to when you are entertaining guests at your home!
JB: One of my favorite things about doing these interviews is getting to hear what other people think of the show. Unlike a live demo, you sort of put this out into the world and there is silence at the other end! I’m not standing in front of 30 people or 60 people and getting to hear their comments and their laughter. So it is so nice to get that feedback. Thank you!
JR: You are welcome! Now, in the first episode of Seasons to Taste, “Farm-Fresh Joy”, two of the ingredients that come into play are farm fresh market asparagus and farm fresh butter. After watching that episode, I don’t think I could ever eat asparagus from the supermarket again! (Laughs) You make it clear that some items, like asparagus or tomatoes, should preferably be fresh from the farm and preferably be in season! That said, what advice do you have for people who don’t have easy access to farmers’ markets, much less the ability to grow their own produce?
JB: I think first and foremost that everyone should feel great going to the kitchen with whatever ingredients they have access to, whatever equipment that they have, and whatever experience that they have. They should be proud of what they put on the table– and have a wonderful time doing it. So my first statement is that no one should ever feel that because they can’t get the right ingredient or because they can’t go to a farmers’ market, that they’re having a lesser experience, or that they should just not even bother cooking and just order out. Cooking and preparing food, and sharing time with people, has its own layers of joy beyond whatever ends up on the table. That said, I think that you get more flavorful, better quality food from farmers’ markets– and specifically from small, diversified, local farms. And there are some structural reasons for that. Number one: Large commercial production tends to focus on supply chain challenges. So, if you are eating a tomato tonight that came up from Florida, you have to have a tomato that is pretty durable, right? They’ve got to focus on shelf life. It can’t bruise easily. It’s probably picked from a field, then taken to a Washington distribution center, boxed up, then driven up somewhere to another warehouse, broken up, and then eventually ending up in the grocery store where you buy it. And so… the genetics of that tomato– the variety, and the amount of time that it spends between being harvested and ending up on your table– just doesn’t stand a chance of tasting as good as varieties that are bred specifically for flavor. Those varieties are much more delicate, and would never survived that kind of supply chain. None of this is to beat up on grocery stores. You’re just going to get better, more flavorful food over time at a farmers’ market.
But there’s something else. For me, it is about that joy and connection. So many of us are mobile. I know a lot of people and have a lot of friends who moved around often for careers, or for family, or for whatever reason. You can move in an apartment that looks the same whether it is in New Jersey or Nevada. You can go eat at the same chain restaurants in both of those places. And, when you go to your local grocery store, you will probably see a lot of the same ingredients on the shelf. It’s so easy to feel detached and disconnected. So, one of the things that I love about markets– and specifically about eating local, fresh, seasonal food– is that it connects us to a community. It connects us to the people who grow and produce our food, and connects us to the community of our fellow shoppers who we share a space with every weekend. Even when I look at my social media and see what other people in my community are cooking, it connects me to them. We are all talking about the same six weeks of asparagus in the spring, and we’re all about to blow up our feeds with tomato pics! We’re going to be talking about the last strawberries for the next seven days. And then, we’ll all be searching around for the first peaches of the season to show up. I will often say about this food: When you cook food from people who you know, then you’ll never eat alone– regardless of who is at your table.
JR: How true! During the pandemic, much has been made about how some people have discovered the joys of cooking, sometimes for the first time in their life. But also, there are probably just as many North Americans who have become even more reliant on takeout food. I have reasons for being against takeout food, not just because it is very opportunistic with the way the prices are inflated… but more importantly, it’s just not as nutritious. It’s usually much higher in calories, fat, and salt than if you cook it yourself. So what would you say to people who claim that they just don’t have time to go food shopping or to cook?
JB: My first answer to that is that there are so many things that we can do so quickly. An hour and a half ago, I just threw lunch together for my husband and I in under 15 minutes. It was a salad with seven different components together. I had some leftover chicken breasts from a whole chicken that I had roasted last night, and some vinaigrette. A lot of that is making sure that your fridge is stocked. I gave up takeout delivery for an entire year, and would often come home from cooking demos and live entertainment gigs at 10 or 11 at night. And since I had set this limit on myself, if I didn’t feel like cooking, I wasn’t going to eat. And I learned that you can get a lot of food together really quickly. That said, it helps to have some “go to’s”. My recommendation to people is come up with a flavor profile or a small set of ingredients and techniques that you’re super familiar with. If you can sauté a chicken thigh in your sleep, then you can turn that into a hundred different meals. One night you can slash some soy sauce on it. And the next night you’re adjusting it with a little bit of cumin and ancho chili powder. Then you change up the veggies that you serve with it. I hate cooking from recipes. It is painful. It is time consuming. I do it because it’s an amazing way to learn and get access to new information, but I’m surely not doing it on Tuesday night when I don’t feel like cooking. It’s something I set aside time for. So, find those things that you can have in your back pocket and not have to think a whole lot about, and then you can get a meal together pretty quickly.
One of the thoughts that I would share about the issue of time– and this may be going down a little bit of a rabbit hole!– but a few years ago, I was able to work with the national curriculum that tries to teach people with constrained incomes how to cook: the idea being that people with less money could make good food decisions. What I learned in the process is that the people in the room were excited to cook. They were ready to learn about all kinds of new ingredients. We had gotten into our heads that with this audience, we had to keep things simple, and that they weren’t educated, and that they were not sophisticated. None of that was true. One thing that was really brought home for me is that time is a significant issue for a lot of people. I think that when we look at some of the income inequality and other issues in this country, there are those of us who are too busy. And then there are those of us who don’t have time. And I think it’s important to draw those distinctions in our lives too, and be grateful when we are too busy and have the ability to re-prioritize our time… versus those folks who are working two or three jobs just to try to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table for their family.
JR: That’s great to hear! So, in Episode 3, “How I Stopped Hating Tomatoes”, you share how you got over your distaste of tomatoes: You didn’t like them at first, but then you really grew to like them now. Are there currently any foods or any ethnic cuisines that you are not crazy about?
JB: I don’t like strongly fishy flavors, which sometimes gives me some challenges particularly with Southeast Asian cuisines. There’s very little I won’t eat, but strong, fishy flavors are definitely more of a challenge for my palate. When I was in my teens and twenties, my family would join some good friends of ours and go to Nantucket for two weeks in the summer. I was usually in summer camp, so I rarely went on these trips. But they would catch bluefish and sashimi it right there as it came out of the ocean. And that was delicious to me, but actually bluefish and mackerel can get a little strong and a little oily. Other than that, I got really lucky. I grew up in the seventies in western Massachusetts. It was a time when most of my peers and I were right in the middle of a packaged and processed food period in our country– with sugary cereals, and Skippy peanut butter, and Kraft singles, and canned soup, and all that kind of stuff. But that was really also a starting point for the health food movement in the country. I just got lucky that my mom’s biggest aspiration in life was to be a mother and a homemaker. She really loved that, and fell in love with fresh food. So she grew a good deal of what we ate, and put away a lot of it for the winter. She baked all the bread that we ate until I was probably four or five years old. I mean, there would be some breakfast cereal around, but for the most part, it was all freshly cooked food every single meal of the day. And my dad had grown up on a subsistence farm. So, his mother was able to teach my mom a lot of canning and preserving, and then gardening. I grew up loving that food and had never had to deal with suddenly “discovering” vegetables at age twenty-five. I have a cousin who I grew up with very closely whose palate was canned corn and green beans. He is an adventurous eater today! So yeah, I’m lucky I’ve always had a really diverse and adventurous palate and that my parents always saw it as fun and exciting. I’m lucky that they passed that onto me.
JR: (Laughs) Yeah, a lot of us acquire certain tastes when we were kids based upon what our parents fed us– and they stick with us, for better or for worse! It can take a while to become more of an adventurous eater! And for some people, it never happens at all!
JB: My husband has said to me that he didn’t know that asparagus was available any other way except from a can until he was in his twenties. So he also did not like it for obvious reasons. In a can, it was just mush. Now, he’s a big fan.
JR: That’s great to hear! So, about your show… I love the many cooking tips that you give us, like when you demonstrated how to “strip” a pepper rather than just chopping it in Episode 4, “Self Care Day”… and you also teach us the right amount of water to use when cooking quinoa, which people often get wrong. You also remind us to rinse the quinoa first before cooking it.
.JB: Yeah, you rinse it to get rid of a chemical. There’s a family of chemicals called saponins, which have very bitter flavors on them. They’re meant to keep insects away. But if we don’t rinse them, they keep us away too! (Laughs) You know, the media has made so many things so accessible, and that’s wonderful. I think a lot of people never would have considered unusual ingredients or cuisines that they didn’t have a personal history with. They are suddenly accessing those things. But I think that the flip side is: The business side of the industry suggests that all of this is super simple, and you should just get it right the first time, and all you have to do is open up that boxed meal and you’re going to have Indian food or actual soul food or Ukrainian food on your plate tonight. The reality is that everything that we do in our lives can be enjoyed very simply. If you’ve never played tennis, you can get out today there and knock a ball around and have a good time. But, your tenth time out in that court, you’re gonna have a better time because you’ve built up some skill. And I think that because moms went back to work, and because we’ve had the luxury of more packaged, processed, and prepared foods, that the traditional channels of learning that knowledge have disappeared. I’m honored to be a part of sharing some of that knowledge. The more that we know, the more I find that we will get into the kitchen, and relax, and cook with ease… and the more we feel comfortable tackling it.
JR: Agreed! While we are on that subject: In another interview with you that I had read, I learned that you not a classically trained cook. You pretty much educated yourself, right?
JB: Totally self-taught! Well, I should say I am not “professionally” trained. I have learned from an incredible variety of people and books and resources and TV shows. So, I am definitely standing on the shoulders of other people. But none of that is his formal training.
JR: When you were learning how to cook, were there any particular cooks on TV who you enjoyed watching? Were there any who were a particularly great influence on you?
JB: For sure. I would mention two or three. Let me start with Two Fat Ladies. They were two women from the UK. It was a wonderful show. I don’t know that I would ever cook a single thing that they cooked…
JB: But they had so much fun doing it. And, it was really about the relationship between the two of them. When I first started talking about doing a TV show, six or seven years ago, I was talking with the producer and he said, “You know, TV is all about jeopardy. It’s all about the challenge: the difficulty that has to be overcome.” And I said, “Well, I loved the show Two Fat Ladies.” And he goes, “Great! What was the challenge?” And I said, “I don’t know. I mean, somebody needed to eat!” (Laughs) That’s why they went in the kitchen, right? I mean, it was about having fun together, preparing food. That had such an impact on me. I also loved Martha Stewart, and it’s been really fun to watch her evolution over the years. But one of the things that I’ve independently learned by watching her and reading her magazine to a different level is the idea that food gives us the ability and to elevate our lives beyond our means. You know, we may not be able to afford to go out to great restaurants. We may not be able to afford to hit Broadway once a week for a show. We may not be able to afford to travel. But with time and some pretty limited resources and some pretty humble food, we can create an experience that is elevated as any of those. And that to me was the real genius of Martha Stewart. Back in the nineties, she was getting made fun of for a lot of things which were certainly over the top. But if you put in the time, you were able to do these absolutely mind-blowing things, and to create these experiences that seem so rarefied and over the top. I love the idea that we have that power in our hands. As for the third person that I would talk about: I read an article years ago where they were asking chefs who their favorite TV personalities were, and I’m pretty sure it was Anthony Bourdain who was asked, and he gave an answer: Sandra Lee. He said it was like watching Martha Stewart on crack!
JB: That was my favorite TV show at the time. What I loved about her is that she always seemed like she was in on the game. It was silly and it was fun and it was over the top. For me, cooking is very serious. I love cooking, and I love food knowledge, and I love technique and ingredients… but at the end of the day, we’ve elevated this word “chef”. And I think we’ve elevated the word in some really important ways. You know, 20 or 25 years ago, there were not a lot of chef-driven restaurants. Today we acknowledge and value the skill and the individual perspective that chefs bring. And so very often, we’re dining out for the chef. But we also use that term at home all the time, right? You’re a “home chef”! My problem with it, and the reason why I’ve avoided using the term and call myself a “cook”, is that for me, cooking at home is different from being a chef. Being a chef is a professional job, and yes, you are cooking exceptional food, and yes, you are creating an exceptional experience– but you’re doing it in a very specific way. At home, we’re creating joy and connection. We are creating opportunities to have fun, and to celebrate the dailiness of our lives, and to say, “This Tuesday night, as we sit down to the table, is worth celebrating my life and the lives of the people that I’m sharing the table with, and the lives of the people preparing the food… All of us are worth celebrating.” And THAT’S cooking. That’s what I’ve loved about so many of these people– like Julia Child, who was just fearless. We are here to have fun. And those are the people who I think I love the most. They take the cooking seriously, they take the techniques seriously… but at the end of the day, they know that the number one thing that they are trying to make happen is joy and connection.
JR: How true! I did make one of Martha’s recipes from her book. I made the vegetable terrines. They tasted great, although I couldn’t seem to get them to look like they did in the picture! (Laughs) This was especially noticeable when I did a side by side photo of hers and mine!
JB: Well, I certainly haven’t been in the room when her books are getting put together, but I know that part of the industry is that you have professional chefs preparing these dishes, and you have “food stylists” in the room. I talked to a friend recently (Amy Riolo, who is in Episode Five of the show) who said that in one book she was involved with, they did eight photographs. Each photograph took a day of work. The author of that book did none of the cooking. She was in the room, but they brought in someone to cook. They brought in someone else to “style” it. There’s a photographer, and lights, and everything else. I have self-published all of my own books. I just kind of stumbled into it, but I now it is something I do very deliberately because I like the creative control. Because I’m self-published, I didn’t have a budget. I had a friend who was taking photographs at the time, and he was photographing the food right after I finished cooking it and right before we sat down to eat it. So, in all of my books and on my TV show, I am proud to say that this is real food. If you follow the directions, your plate can look like this! I think it was important with the show for the audience to feel like they are in the room with us. It is real food in real time. There were no swap outs. Obviously we cut out some of the boring parts, but you’re watching the process of the dish from start to finish. After the camera turned off, our producer and filming crew all sat down at the table and ate the food that we had just prepared on camera. So even the process you are seeing is the real process. It is real food with real people in real time.
JR: Yes! I remember wishing I could join all of you for dinner at the end of the episodes! Everything looked so good! (Laughs) Now, in Episode Six, “Thanksgiving: Everyone’s Welcome at My Table”, you bring up two controversial foods that really get people talking and all that. One of them is Marmite, which your friend Marianne the vegetarian used. People either love Marmite or hate it! The other one was truffle oil, and I know that truffle oil inspires a lot of controversy among chefs and restaurateurs and even foodies. What’s your take on those two controversial ingredients? Personally, I ALWAYS have a jar of Marmite or Vegemite in the pantry, and I LOVE truffle oil!
JB: I think that there are foods that certainly have strong flavors. I was telling my husband, I want you to try everything, but you’re an adult. And one of the joys of eating as an adult is that we get to eat whatever we want– with one notable exception: When we are sitting at our mother’s table, in which case we will say, “Thank you.” for whatever she puts down in front of us… and smile, and eat it.
JR: Jason didn’t know MY mother! (Laughs) She was the worst kind of bad cook: a bad cook who THOUGHT she was such a great cook! (Laughs)
JB: (Laughs) The ingredients that we talked about in that episode brought something that we have really developed an appreciation for in American cuisine, and that is umami. That’s the fifth flavor profile. It is funkiness and meatiness– and particularly when you are eating plant-based meals, when you take the animal products out, finding those flavors becomes important. That’s what we get from soy sauce and Worcester sauce. It’s why Italians use preserved anchovy filets, and that’s what Marmite and truffle oil provide. Marmite is known for sort of being spread on toast in Australia. And that may be a little aggressive. But what Marianne taught me is that it has the same intensity as a bullion cube or a jar of of bullion paste. So, used in that same way, it is recognized for its intensity and used as a flavoring ingredient. I think it has a lot of value. The real goal is that your guests don’t sit down and go, “Oh, you used the Marmite tonight for this, didn’t you?”, but rather go, “Gosh, this tastes just like the spaghetti or soup or vegetables that I’m used to eating, but with a little more complexity or a little more interesting! There’s more going on here!” And that’s what I turn to those ingredients for. When it comes to truffle oil– and there are other ingredients like oyster sauce and fish sauce that are known for this problem– the real debate is whether or not a truffle has ever been anywhere near that oil! So there are a lot of truffle FLAVORED oils. There are ways in which that flavor is captured, but there are also really great quality products where they have immersed truffles in oil and infused hem. And in those, you get great truffle flavor.
JR: Right! And that was part of the controversy. A lot of the more hoighty toighty restaurateurs, chefs, and foodies may judge people for “fooling” themselves by loading their food with artificially flavored truffle oils, which have no real truffle in them, and think they are being so “gourmet”. But why judge? It goes back to what you said before earlier: You should eat what you like! Real truffle oil is REALLY expensive. It’s out of the budget for many!
JB: This goes back to giving you the kitchen and having fun with ever whatever ingredients you can afford and have access to. Those ingredients are delicious and they’re wonderful to use. I don’t think anyone should ever back off of using an ingredient just because it seems rarefied. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone should ever feel like they can’t create great food without rarefied ingredients. If you take a decent whole chicken and rub it with some good butter, salt, and pepper, and put a couple of garlic cloves inside and roast it in the oven, you’re going to have a meal as good as anything that you can put on the table. And none of those things are rarefied or particularly expensive.
JR: Well, I’m an “availabilist”– so when I cook, I make a meal out of whatever is available! And you learn a lot that way! Now, moving on to Episode 8: “Midwinter: A Houseful of Friends”, we get a very intimate glimpse into your personal life, and your husband Jason is prominent in the whole episode. Does your husband really like to cook, or does he do it because of you? Is he like, “Oh, do I have to chop the vegetables again? What am I, your sous chef?”
JB: (Laughs) He is great in the kitchen. But if anyone asked him “Do you cook?”, he would say, “Why would I? I have Jonathan!”
JB: He bakes like nobody’s business. I mean, you need a birthday cake ready? He somehow makes it in and out of the kitchen in 30 minutes without a single dirty dish to be seen, and gets the cake made. He definitely knows his way around the kitchen. But I think one of the great things about our relationship is that we have things that we love to do together, but there are times when we both feel that it’s the other person’s space. So, we both get the chance to feel like the expert at certain times.
JR: One of the things I noticed about your show was how you really believe in what you are cooking, and that really comes across to the audience. That is so important!
JB: When I was thinking about this show, I wanted to create something that was authentic. My first week out in front of a live audience was ten years ago. All I had thought about was, “How am I going to do?” I had never done a live cooking demo before. I just thought about the logistics. I had been talking in front of the live audience for three hours. When it finished, I started thinking about all the other pieces… and one of those was how I’d refer to my husband, Jason. Again, this was 10 years ago, which at the time was kind of the height of the whole question of gay marriage in this area. And there were questions about everything– all the way from “Should it exist?” to “Can we get gay marriage without having to give away words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’?” Do you remember when that was super controversial?
JR: Oh, yes! I remember that VERY well.
JB: I was standing there realizing, “OK, I don’t know who any of these people are, or what their views are.” It’s DC, but there’s still some diversity of opinion here. I thought, “Is Jason my husband? My partner? My roommate?” This was the first time I had been so aware of being gay and of having to come out in a long time. I thought about it for three weeks. It finally hit me, being the storyteller and connecting the people in the way that I wanted to, to shut off my brain and open up my heart and mouth– and then to just let it spill. If I got up there every single time and thought, “What am I calling Jason this time?” or “Was this person in the audience when I called him something different the last time?”, then I was never going to be good at what I do. I look at so many people in entertainment, and they create these personal brands that are not who they are. I know why that happens. I’m not saying that to put anyone else down. But I wanted a brand where if somebody walked through my front door on Tuesday night at 6 o’clock or any other time for that matter, they would go, “Yup. This is exactly who they told me he was! No surprises here.” Friends and family have confirmed that over the years. But the heart of the show is: This is really the food that I cook.. People in the room have eaten these dishes before. People at the demos have seen me tell these stories and talk about these techniques. My nine guests on the show are the first nine people who I asked. I had a relationship with all of them. And, over the last two years, since we filmed, those relationships have only grown stronger.
JR: Wow. That’s great! So, lastly, I want to ask: When we were growing up in the 70’s and 80’s,when the idea of legally recognized gay marriage was so “pie in the sky” at that point, did you ever think that you would not only have your own TV show but that it would be on an all LGBTQ network, Revry?
JB: Absolutely not. I mean, through my teenage years, I didn’t even know anyone who was gay. There were no gay characters on TV. We didn’t watch a lot of TV, but there was no one that I saw. The closest thing I got to representation was the annual issue of Newsweek that showed up at the house that talked about the AIDS crisis. So, it’s amazing. I’m so honored to be on a queer network and to be collaborating with a queer business. I’m in a space that I never could have imagined would have existed, much less think that I’d have the opportunity to work with in this way. It’s one of the things that makes me so proud of the show and really humbled by the opportunity I’ve had to create it. I think my two favorite moments from that perspective are probably: Number one, the moment at the end of Episode Three when Jason walks in to dinner with my mom and dad, and my dad is setting the table and is the first person to give Jason a hug. And I just thought, “This is our life.” We’ve been welcomed into both of our families. We talk about the wedding at the end of the episode. When I finally said to my parents, “We’d like to get married at the house.”, my dad said, “Thank God, because, you know, your mom and I spent the last six months trying not to ask you about this… because we really wanted you to get married here, but we didn’t want to put any pressure on you!” We ended up expanding the invite list, and had 165 people at the wedding because my family’s invites alone were 65 and every single one of them showed up. So, I love that moment. I think that reality TV has done an amazing job, and even dramatic TV has done an amazing job, at starting to really represent diversity and at embracing representation. However, I think that the disservice that reality TV does is to give the sense that sure, you can share space with your community and share your life with somebody who’s different than you, but that it’s going to take some tears, and a confessional chair, and a few other things to get there. But the people you see in my show are the people in my life, and all anyone has to do to be welcome at the table is walk through the front door. We don’t need any discussion about who they are or what makes them different. We end up there, because it’s what I think makes this show interesting. But it’s a question of interest, never a question of “Do we fit?” or “I need to know this about you before we can sit and have a conversation.” So, I love that scene. I would be humbled to know that it had this impact. I know that for me, it would have been so important before I came out to see a scene like that on TV that just shows two people sharing a life and sharing family together. It’s why when the suggestion came to start Episode Eight the way we did: waking up together in bed. I said, “Yeah, you know what? This is my life. We sleep together. We wake up together.” I want people who need to see this to be able to see it. I think one of the other things is that, as someone who fits in the Bear community and someone who has always been bigger, the representation didn’t exist for me and made me feel so outside the gay community. And so, I also wanted to show that I wanted to show people that there was a place for all of us and that there is a beautiful life for all of us.
JR: Well, you certainly show that! And it’s great to see! So… is there anything else you’d like to tell everybody? Besides, of course, to watch the show?!
JB: Watch the show, yes! I do have a book coming out next month called Simple Summer. The show is based on my book Seasons To Taste. And you can find both of those on Amazon or my website. We are right in the middle of an eight week look at the show, but for the past year and a half now, I do weekly interviews with farmers and producers and other people connected to food in interesting ways. I also do a live cooking demo every Wednesday night. So I would love to see people over on Instagram: @jonathanbardzik.
JR: Sounds great! Thank you for speaking with me! You’ve made me feel very inspired… and hungry!
Jonathan Bardzik’s Seasons To Taste is available on demand at the LGBTQ network Revry! You can watch episodes here: https://watch.revry.tv/details/35368?playlist_id=559 Visit Jonathan’s official website at http://www.JonathanBardzik.com!