Broadcaster Rachel Belle was doing research one day when she came across a list of requests from Texas death row inmates for their last meals. She was fascinated.
“Some people had a few things, some had 15 or 20 things,” she says. She started thinking about what would be on her last plate. “I was always making a list in my head, and I’d change it every once in a while.”
Years later, when KIRO Radio — where Belle works as a feature reporter on The Ron and Don Show — put out a call for podcasts, she knew she had a winning idea. It became “Your Last Meal,” which hit the No. 1 spot on iTunes for food podcasts and was nominated for a 2018 James Beard Award in the podcast category.
On the show, she’s interviewed everyone from locals like chef Tom Douglas and travel expert Rick Steves to musicians Kenny G and Heart’s Ann Wilson to actors Alicia Silverstone and Zach Braff on what their ideal last meal would be. She dives into the history of the chosen foods, bringing in experts to explore as much about the dish as possible. How did peanut butter and jelly sandwiches get into the lunchboxes of almost every kid in America? (Hint: It has to do with the invention of pre-sliced bread and World War II.) Did Shirley Temple the person actually like “Shirley Temple” the drink? And why did the world have thousands of Jewish delicatessens in the 1930s but only a couple hundred today? All that is answered — and more.
Belle’s focus on food wouldn’t be surprising if you’d known her as a kid growing up in the Bay Area. Her family favored PBS food shows, and her parents loved to try diverse cuisines. “I was gnawing at chicken feet at dim sum parlors from the time I was 2 or 3,” she says. “The world became obsessed with food, so it became easier to do it for work.”
Though the podcast is just two years old, Belle’s been telling stories her entire career. In her role on The Ron and Don Show, she covers human-interest stories, like a woman who gave a rose to a stranger every day for a year and a silversmith who makes mourning jewelry.
“It doesn’t have to be a big event or a crash or a thing the community is up in arms about for something to be a story,” she says. “Anything can be a story if you can make it interesting.”
While shining a light on other people’s lives, she gets to share part of hers as well. “I do get emails from people who listen who like the fact that I bring up my Judaism, because there’s not a lot of Jewish voices on the air,” Belle says. “I’m glad to be on Seattle’s Jewdar.”