This month’s West Village Original is cookbook podcaster Suzy Chase, born in Illinois in 1967 and raised in Prairie Village, Kansas. Her podcast, “Cookery by the Book,” airs from her dining room table. She also recently wrapped up a six-year happy hour DJ residency at Trophy Bar in Williamsburg. A neighborhood resident for 23 years, Chase lives on West 4th Street with her husband, Bob, and son, JP. Visit her website at cookerybythebook.com.
As a girl growing up in the Midwest, Suzy Chase would lie in the dark at night, trying to tune into far-away stations on her radio. “I’ve always loved radio,” she says. “My parents, who were both born in 1929, grew up with radio so as a child when I said, ‘I can’t sleep,’ my Mom would say ‘Turn on your radio!’ If the weather was good, I could get WLA in Chicago, which was a biggie, or WCCO out of Minneapolis. Even back when I was a kid I loved Sally Jesse Raphael. Larry King was so good on the radio! Art Bell was another one I listened to. I love the intimacy of conversation over the radio and just listening to two people talking.”
After high school, Chase went on to study at the University at Kansas in Lawrence. “It’s a really good journalism school,” she says. “I studied broadcasting there. In fact, after my sophomore year I got a job offer while I was interning at a radio station in Kansas City. My Mom let me quit college and take the job.”
How did the marriage between podcasting and cooking come about? “I was doing radio in the evenings in Kansas City,” Chase says. “I wanted a daytime job as well, so I started doing publicity for a cookbook publishing company. That’s where I got the background. I’m not innately a great cook and that’s why I like a good recipe that I can follow. I love reading cookbooks and recipes and discovering the stories behind them. It’s always interesting to me why the author wrote them.”
Chase does her podcast from her dining room table via audio Skype. “Since 2015, it’s been the only podcast devoted to cookbooks,” she says. “I interview the author after I’ve cooked a recipe out of their book. I do the cooking in my tiny kitchen and then we talk about it, discussing not only ingredients and my success or failure with the recipe, but about them as well. I feel like I get a lot of information about an author when I cook one of their recipes. I think that every cookbook has a story.” According to Chase, response has been great. “I get approximately 7,000 downloads per episode and I have over 10,000 subscribers to the RSS feed. Food is so hot now. Everyone’s into food!”
What brought Chase to the West Village? “I just always had this thing about New York City,” she says. “One day in 1995 I looked up and thought if I don’t get out of Kansas City now, I never will. I always loved watching the intro to Saturday Night Live where they show images of the City. I was like, ‘Everyone’s up and doing things. And here they’re all asleep!’ On a whim, I started looking for jobs here and I found one doing publicity for a publisher. I kind of crow barred my way into it. I asked them why didn’t they start a cookbook division and they said I could do that when I got here!”
“When I arrived, my broker showed me apartments in different parts of the City,” she continues. “Then he showed me something on Perry Street. I didn’t know where I was, but it just hit me. ‘This is it! I love it!’ It just felt right. And you know what I did? I asked him if it was a safe neighborhood!” She laughs. “I just went with my gut and my gut was right on. It’s homey here. People are nice and super interesting.” Has it changed much? “Oh, my gosh, yes,” Chase responds. “Since I moved here in 1996, so many families have moved in. It used to be single haven. Even twelve years ago when I was pregnant I didn’t see many other pregnant gals here. That’s definitely changed!”
What hasn’t changed is Chase’s fondness for this part of town or her delight in being here. “Who needs to go above 14th Street? That’s what I say,” she says, laughing. “My podcast is very West Village-centric. I’m always talking about how I cook in my tiny West Village kitchen and I include numerous West Village photos on my Instagram page. It’s sort of my unique love letter to this neighborhood.”