Patrick Fort (Jour’14) is co-host of the Washington, D.C.-area podcast Dish City, which focuses on the connection between the district’s food and the history and culture of the people who make it. His career in audio journalism began at the CU Independent before reporting on D.C.’s dining scene. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he and Dish City changed course, offering up a third season focused on delivery. One of the episodes — “How American Chinese Food Became Delivery Food” — was recognized this year with a James Beard Media Award.
What’s your favorite part of telling a story?
In audio storytelling, I think you get a really accurate sense for who people are. You get to hear people as they think, as they react, and I love being able to capture that on “tape.”
Tell us about the creation of Dish City. Did you always know you were interested in reporting on food? Were you surprised by the connection between food and history?
Not at all! I started school thinking I’d study music, but I decided I wasn’t good enough at making music to do that. Instead, I thought I could write about music. This led to my first full-time job as an arts and culture reporter in Aspen (which included writing about food).
From the very start, Dish City was never a show about food itself. It was a show about places and people and how we experience where we live through food. In our very first episode, my co-host and I talked about Ben’s Chili Bowl, a restaurant with history dating back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s. This place is a D.C. icon in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, and here was a new, similar restaurant opening nearby. We wanted to investigate this intersection of history and race at a geographically significant place in the District.
Can you talk about putting together the James Beard Award-winning episode and how it felt to be recognized?
It was pretty surreal! This episode is a great representation of what Dish City is — not really about food, lots about history and culture. American Chinese food became synonymous with delivery in the 20th century due, in part, to inventive business owners finding ways to survive as they faced xenophobia and anti-Asian racism. We published the episode at a time in the pandemic when getting food brought to your home was a big deal, and also when there was, again, a rise in anti-Asian racism.
Is there a Boulder specialty that you miss from your time at CU?
An easy question! I think all the time about the chile verde plate from Efrain’s.
What was the best part of your CU Boulder experience?
The best part of my CU Boulder experience was my time at the CU Independent. I was given the opportunity to make podcasts for the paper, which was the jumping-off point for my entire career. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for that experience.
Photos courtesy Patrick Fort