Connecticut has so many great food-related stories to tell, whether it’s how a small restaurant owner got his start, a chef who became known across the state, even the country, or a person who started a brewery with a kernel of hope and a lot of luck. Thankfully we have some great platforms in CT to share those stories, from town papers like the Stamford Advocate, state magazines like Connecticut Magazine, food bloggers like ourselves to Ken Tuccio’s Welcome to Connecticut Podcast.
Ken started his podcast back in March of 2014, and it has been growing ever since. It’s no wonder since he’s been able to land some pretty fantastic interviews like Dennis Haskins aka Mr. Belding, Stew Leonard, Aarón Sánchez, and Jerry Springer. It was his love of beer, however, that has made magic happen. Yep, because of his love of beer, Ken has featured many brewers and brewery owners on his show which helped him land his sold-out CT Beer Summit right at Two Roads. We had a chance to turn the tables and ask him questions (he interviewed us on his podcast for New Years Day) about his love of CT food and beer, the future of his podcast, and how you can take part in the CT Beer Summit even if you can’t attend.
Check it out:
How do you go about finding the people to feature on your podcast?
I try to find people and topics that interest me; things that are unique and would make for a fun conversation. For example, one of my first episodes was with Media Wave Video in Fairfield, one of the last video rental stores in the state.
I’m a dude who grew up watching movies like Clerks, and I regularly spent my weekends renting flicks at my local Tommy K’s. I thought it would be cool to talk to Media Wave, because they’ve been in business since VHS tapes were a thing, and they’re still rocking today.
The guy who owns the place, Paul, started his business when Disney was still releasing movies in clamshell cases. He’s seen the movie business evolve from VHS tapes, to Laserdiscs, to DVDs, to Blu-Rays, to streaming. In my opinion, running that business while the industry changed so drastically, that’s an interesting thing to talk about.
Sometimes though, the guests I have on are completely self-indulgent, I make no bones about that. In some cases I have people on because I like the topics, or I like the people.
I had Merle’s Record Rack on because I’m a big vinyl collector and I love music. I’ve had a couple of my friends from the pro-wrestling community, Velvet Sky and Curt Hawkins, on the show because they’re my friends and I like pro-wrestling. I had Jerry Springer on the show because, well, why wouldn’t I want to spend a half hour hanging out with Jerry Springer?
I just try to make sure that the people and the topics are interesting and genuine, that’s it. Not a lot of science behind it.
We notice that you feature breweries often, why do they fascinate you so much?
Well, to be honest, it started off because I love beer.
I love traveling to different breweries across the country. I love going to the package store and buying something completely brand new, coming home and trying it with my wife.
There is so much creativity in the brewing community, and for the consumer that’s pretty awesome because there’s always something new to try. Even things that are technically “the same” are a little different; an IPA from Two Roads tastes completely different than an IPA from Black Hog. If you’re a beer drinker, you’re constantly trying new things. There aren’t many industries like that.
On top of that, I’m yet to meet someone in that community who’s an asshole. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some people in the craft beer-community who are dicks, but I haven’t met them yet.
Everyone who I’ve met and interacted with in that community, from the brewers to the staff in the tasting rooms, they’ve all been good people. Nice people. Even the people who refer to themselves as “beer snobs” are fun and cool to talk to.
That community has such camaraderie, it’s awesome. Everyone tries to help each other, everyone tries to share things with one another. It’s not cut-throat. Yeah, everyone is trying to run a successful business, but they understand that success for one person can turn into success for everyone.
It’s positive, why would I not want to highlight something like that?
Plus, it’s something I love talking about and people seem to enjoy listening to. It’s really a win/win situation.
We also notice that you have lots of great food people on your show like Chef Matt Storch of Match. Why do you feel like a chef’s story is an important one to share?
The restaurant business has always been fascinating to me, specifically the life of a chef. I respect what chefs do so much. The hours they keep, the challenges they face, the creativity they have. I watch cooking shows and I’m genuinely in awe at the skill they have.
I remember reading Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential, for the first time a few years back; that made working in a kitchen seem like the most romantic thing imaginable. He made it seem like it was a family, a community, but it had this edge that felt sort of counter-culture. It felt very punk rock.
I remember when I had Aarón Sánchez on the show, he described the kitchen as “a band of pirates and outlaws,” which pretty much describes why I’m fascinated by it. It’s a community I’m not a part of, but it’s always been appealing to me and I love talking about it.
You mentioned Matt from Match specifically, and he’s a prime example of the kind of story I want the show to tell. I had wanted to get Matt on the show for a while, and it took us a bit to finally get our schedules to work, but I’m glad we did.
I love hearing stories like his. Here’s this dude from Connecticut who traveled all over the country opening up restaurants, and now he’s back in his home state and he’s got Match; one of my favorite restaurants, and he’s kicking ass. I loved hearing about his thought process when he completely made that place over and about how he develops the menus and tries to get creative with certain dishes.
Those sorts of stories aren’t just interesting, they’re also inspiring. I used to sit in a cubicle and read stories like that and they would motivate me to make a change, to try to do something different with my life. I want to present as many stories like those as possible on the show, because they’re pretty freaking awesome, and they’re local.
The local thing is important. Far too often you hear those stories and they seem out of reach, but when you can hear those stories and say to yourself, “This is a dude from my hometown, or my home state,” it adds a completely different dynamic and inspires you in a totally different way.
Getting back to breweries, what do you think of the growth of the CT beer scene?
I think it’s awesome.
Go back a decade ago, to 2005. There wasn’t a Connecticut beer scene to talk about, now here we are 10 years later we’ve got over 20 breweries in Connecticut with another 5 or 6 planning to open in the next year or so.
I remember going to the package store and the “local” section used to consist of beers from New York and Massachusetts, now they’ve got shelves and shelves dedicated to stuff from Connecticut, and Connecticut supports it. Connecticut has a passionate craft beer community that will back Connecticut breweries, there’s no disputing that.
Obviously, not all these breweries are going to last forever. I hope they do, because it means more jobs for locals and more interest in Connecticut, and those things are good for everyone. Personally though, I think over the next 2-5 years you’re going to see the cream rise to the top and certain breweries in Connecticut cement themselves as mainstays, while some of the others fade away. The market will decide that, as it always does.
Right now, though, we’re surfing on a pretty fun wave.
What are you most excited about in relation to the Beer Summit?
Truthfully, I’m excited about meeting everyone who comes.
The Connecticut Beer Summit is the very first live episode of the Welcome To Connecticut Podcast. It’s the first time I get the chance to interact with people who listen to the show, and it’s also a very unique opportunity for the Connecticut beer community to get together and talk about Connecticut beer.
That’s what I want people to understand, we’re going to have a discussion, but we’re also going to open up the floor and allow everyone to ask whatever questions they want. That’s pretty cool, because not everyone gets the chance to talk to these people and ask them whatever is on their mind; now’s their chance.
It’s going to be pretty fun.
Even if people can’t attend, are there ways for them to listen or even interact?
Absolutely. We have an email address, email@example.com, where people can email in questions. We’ve been getting a ton of questions for the last few weeks, and that’s awesome. This way people who can’t attend can still possibly get their questions answered.
In terms of listening, the entire panel discussion and Q&A will be put up as an episode of the Welcome To Connecticut Podcast a few weeks after the event itself. So, if people go to iTunes or WelcomeCT.com they can listen to it when it goes up.
Do you have any other beer-related goodness on the way?
Oh, for sure. I want to talk to as many of the Connecticut breweries as I can, and I’m also toying with a few ideas related to home-brewers; that’s another really passionate side of the community that I’d love to dive into.
I think the beer community will always be intertwined with the Welcome To Connecticut Podcast.
What are your top 5 CT beers?
Wow, that’s tough.
I think it’s difficult to rank beers, because they’re all so different. It’s like asking, who’s the better musician Joey Ramone or Frank Sinatra?
There a ton of Connecticut beers that I love though.
I almost constantly have a few cans of Half Full’s Bright Ale in my fridge. To me, that’s one of the most drinkable beers in Connecticut. Over the summer I was obsessed with Two Road’s Road Jam. The Coffee Milk Stout from Black Hog is one of my favorites too, and they did a Basil Pale Ale a while back that I thought was out of this world. Obviously, if I can get my hands on NEBCO’s Fuzzy Baby Ducks, I’ll drink the hell out of it, but tracking that down is almost as difficult as trying to find JD Salinger back in the day.
There’s so much awesome stuff out there in Connecticut, though. I mean, Tony at OEC in Oxford is doing some really crazy, out of this world, tasty stuff. I was just there yesterday and took home their Tempus #3, which I think my wife and I will kill later on tonight. I had the chance to hang out at Kent Falls Brewery a week or so ago and Barry let me try a few of the things they’ve got going on. I think when they open up a lot of people are going to take notice. They’re doing some really unique, good tasting stuff there, and their business model is one of a kind for the state.
I could go on and on though, my palate is a bit diverse. The great thing about beer though is, like everything, it’s subjective. What I love, you might hate and vice-versa. At the end of the day, drink whatever you like; it’s really that simple.
Also, what can we expect from your podcast in the 2nd year?
Hopefully a ton of interesting conversations with a wide range of people. I’d also like to do a few more live shows throughout the year, because I think that’s a completely different dynamic.
I don’t know really. I’m just gonna’ take the ride and see where it goes.