July 8, 2020

Chef James Rigato and Ann Delisi cook up new WDET broadcast and podcast series

Chef James Rigato (left) and WDET's Ann Delisi join forces for Essential Cooking, a monthly broadcast and bimonthly podcast series. They interview food industry experts, discuss history of food and more. Photo courtesy Joe Vaughn at JoeVaughn.com.

WDET-FM 101.9’s Ann Delisi, host of Essential Music, and award-winning chef James Rigato of Hazel Park’s Mabel Gray restaurant formed a friendship several years ago over their mutual love of food and music. They have since collaborated on cooking events and talked about music and food on WDET’s airwaves.

The duo’s latest joint venture — a broadcast and podcast series called Essential Cooking— is a monthly one-hour broadcast and bimonthly podcast in which they interview a wide array of food industry experts, talk about the history of food and food culture, take audience questions, and inspire people to cook. Given their mutual love of music, what to listen to while cooking and eating will certainly find its way into the conversation.

“For years, Chef James Rigato and I have talked about creating a podcast about food, those who create it and its rich history,”Delisi said. “With people forced to stay at home and cook more than ever before, we thought this would be the right time to provide a platform in which listeners can be exposed to how exciting cooking can be, give them access to some of the best chefs around and involve them in a wide array of topics focusing on food.”

The hour-long Essential Cooking broadcast launches Friday, July 10, at 1 p.m. and airs once per month on the second Friday on WDET. Guests on the inaugural show are sommelier Christopher Hunter, senior wine associate at Vino Volo in Detroit, who believes wine is art, and Pashon Murray, co-founder of Detroit Dirt, the leading model of organic waste recovery and reuse whose mission is to drive forward a low-carbon economy.

The Essential Cooking podcast will launch in late-July, with two episodes released each month. Each 20-minute podcast is themed around a particular topic relating to food, food history and people who create it. For more information on the podcasts and broadcasts check out the Essential Cooking series page on wdet.org. Listeners will be encouraged to participate by calling in and submitting questions in advance. Recipes and guest chef’s bios and links to resources referenced on the programs will also be made available.

The Essential Cooking broadcast and podcast is an extension of the popular Essential Cooking series of live events, which have been key fundraising and engagement activities for WDET since 2014.

Original music for the podcast was created by The Mallett Brothers. Essential Cooking is supported by Great Lakes Wine and Spirits.

About James Rigato and Ann Delisi:

From diner dishwasher to four-time James Beard nominee, Chef James Rigato’s path led him to graduate from the Schoolcraft College Culinary Arts program, to working at some of Metro Detroit’s finest restaurants including Morel’s, Shiraz and Bacco and then landing the executive chef position at The Root at the age of 26. Two years later, he competed in Season 12 of Top Chef, which was the catalyst for his position as owner and executive chef of the award-winning Mabel Gray Restaurant in Hazel Park. Along the way, he caught the eye of the New York Times, and Food & Wine Magazine named him The People’s Best New Chef. Although he has cooked all over the world, he has made it his mission to give back to the community in which he lives and it was during a dinner to benefit WDET that he met Ann Delisi and discovered that she loved food as much as he loved music.

Ann Delisi’s radio career started while she was studying music at Wayne State University. She was filing Classical music albums as a volunteer at WDET before she was hired to work part-time with her first air shift on Saturday mornings from 3-6 a.m. She went on to get her B.A. in music from Wayne State University and worked at WDET as music director and on-air host of a daily freeform music program until 1995, when she went to Canada to work at 93.9, The River. She expanded her broadcast experience working at a number of Detroit radio stations before returning to WDET in 2009 to host Essential Music. She has over three decades of music and broadcast experience keeping freeform radio alive, supporting the community in which she lives and, as a skilled interviewer, continuing to explore the creative spirit.

About WDET-FM 101.9:

For more than 70 years, from our Midtown Detroit location on the campus of Wayne State University, WDET-FM 101.9, Detroit’s NPR station, has delivered a unique mix of news, conversation, special programs and music programming. Our powerful 48,000-watt broadcast signal reaches a 70-mile radius across all of southeast Michigan, northwest Ohio and southwest Ontario. It expands nationally through our live stream, website, mobile app and podcasts. WDET-FM 101.9 is a community service of Wayne State University. Support for WDET comes from Wayne State, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, local foundations, and through private donors and corporate underwriting.


Toby Tabaczynski
Phone: 313-577-4255
Email: tobyt@wdet.org

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