Goats or cooking? These were the two options Clark Hodges and co-host Reily Wagenhals considered while planning a new podcast. They were retiring their ‘Into The Echo’ music podcast after a couple years but wanted to continue collaborating. Conversations on goats and cooking bookended every ‘Into The Echo’ recording session. The goats lost and ‘Me Cook Pretty’ launched in March.
Each episode of ‘Me Cook Pretty’ revolves around a new cooking challenge, — a seasonal or esoteric ingredient that is hard to cook with. In the podcast, they share their successes and failures — the burnt ends — of the challenge. Clark says they’ve both made a lot of food so they’ve made more mistakes than most. Their goal isn’t to stop making mistakes, but to throw a bunch of things at the wall, from ingredients to techniques, and see what sticks without going broke.
They want to connect with people who are in the discovery phase when it comes to cooking — those who have their own kitchen for the first time, or those who might enjoy cooking but are afraid to take risks with it. The typical married couple with three kids is maybe not the right audience, because “they’re not going to buy a dragonfruit and try to figure out how to get it in their kid’s lunch.”
They’ve found more and more people, particularly in the 20-40 age range, are getting into plant-based food. Reily went vegan six months ago and Clark has found he’s cooking a lot cleaner and with more plant-based products since starting the podcast. “It’s weird," Clark said. "People don’t ask for a biscuits and gravy recipe. They ask, ‘How did you make this salad?’” Vegan is clearly a thing a lot of their listeners want.
Clark was a bit sheepish confessing he’s changed his cooking style in response to Me Cook Pretty listeners. But it reflects his desire to serve their audience. Clark grows enthusiastic when describing the food community and its openness, curiosity and willingness to collaborate. The YouTube community reflects this especially, as when favorites Alex ‘French Guy’ Cooking, Jun’s Kitchen and Brad and Claire from Bon Appetit are super excited to see each other. “Everybody is a fan of each other. It’s a really healthy, strong community of everyone really appreciating each other.” He wants to become part of the community, giving back to those who’ve helped build them up.
Clark explains how easy it is to get buried by focusing on what you don’t have, whether with a media channel or cooking or whatever. He wants to keep his head in the right space of “Hey, we’re here to serve people and love people. Stop worrying about getting more.” The CMYK gatherings reinforce that philosophy, like a weekly pep talk from his brain at its most healthy. “We’re going to work hard to create something beautiful with what we’ve been given. Hey, there’s rhubarb in my parents' back yard. Let’s figure out what we can do with it.”
If you want to ask Clark about goats, look for him at the Sunday evening gathering.