Inside a small, makeshift studio at Notre Dame Seminary lined with egg crate foam for sound insulation and pictures of the Divine Mercy Jesus and Pope Francis for spiritual inspiration, Catholic Community Radio president David Dawson, Catholic Foodie blogger Jeff Young and Msgr. Christopher Nalty chat up the importance of family and food on “Around the Table Food Show.”
On most Wednesdays, the trio records their 45-minute show to air on Fridays at 3:10 p.m. They also have gone on location to local restaurants.
“This show is where we’re gonna get folks back around the table,” Dawson said.
“For a lot of folks, just the thought of cooking seems so complex,” Young said. “I thought we could show them it’s not.”
The lively banter between the hosts and guests can include their individual excursions or discoveries that lead to recipes and tips to encourage listeners to easily achieve dinner around the table.
Msgr. Nalty’s years of religious study in Rome enter into the conversation because he witnessed the bonding among classmates around food. In a fast-paced society, he fears families are losing that tradition. “When Jesus left us something to remember him by, it was a meal, in the sacrifice of the Eucharist,” said Msgr. Nalty, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish. “He also went to people’s houses (and dined with them).”
Guests vary weekly
Young’s experience of interviewing individuals for his blog – Catholic Foodie – made him the logical choice to procure most guests, although Msgr. Nalty’s connections with chefs also have filled a few spots. While all are not necessarily Catholic, guests have respect for what the show is – a Catholic food show.
“If a guest is comfortable to talk about faith, they do,” Young said.
Past guests have included food writer Marcelle Bienvenu; restaurateurs John Besh (Domenica, Luke, Restaurant August, La Provence, John Besh Steak, etc.) and Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery, who will be on Top Chef this season; Catholic author Robin Davis; and Msgr. Nalty’s seminarian classmate, Father Leo Patalinghug, with whom he appeared on a Bobby Flay Throwdown.
Upcoming featured guests will be Louisiana Kitchen and Culture Magazine’s Susan Ford and Emeril’s Delmonico.
Dawson, a former paralegal, launched Catholic Community Radio in Baton Rouge on WPYR 1380 AM in 2008 with friend Johnny Hebert to present a constant Catholic voice among evangelical shows.
“So many don’t understand what the Catholic faith is all about; even cradle Catholics have a lot to learn,” Dawson said. “This station and other Catholic stations are shining a new light on our Catholic faith.”
Catholic Community Radio expanded into New Orleans on 690 AM eight months ago. “Around the Table” debuted in April as its first local program.
Programming on Catholic Community Radio consists of shows from EWTN, Ave Maria Radio, Sacred Heart Radio and other Catholic stations, but 20 percent of programming in Baton Rouge is locally produced, including the broadcasts “Faith and Good Counsel”; “Kingdom Road”; and “Wake Up Louisiana” with Dawson, Hebert and Staci Gulino weekdays from 8-9 a.m.
Catholic Community Radio in New Orleans will add a second locally produced show with Father James Wehner, rector of Notre Dame Seminary.
The station will expand its reach with a new transmitter, boosting its signal from the current 2,500 to 9,100 watts.
Msgr. Nalty believes in the show’s potential to bring families together through food.
“Some (listeners) will cook a recipe, but hopefully, if they are enjoying the show and hearing our love for being around the table, they will long for this, too,” Msgr. Nalty said. “In the Year of Family and Faith in the archdiocese, this kind of show goes along with that.”
“There are tons of apologetics shows out there trying to defend the faith,” Young added. “We defend the faith, but we’re being ourselves and having fun. … Our goal at the end of the day is, wouldn’t it be nice for them to say, ‘Wow, those guys are Catholic, and they are kind of cool. It must be cool to be Catholic.’”