Scovilles to Stories: Unconventional Methods for Authentic Conversations

by | Mar 27, 2024 | unrelated | 0 comments

Ever had a conversation so hot it left you sweating? No, I’m not talking about your last performance review (or mine). I’m talking about the kind of heat that comes from a tiny bottle that warns, “Handle with Care.”

Let me start with a little, highly-secretive confession: I love hot sauce.

Not the “just a dash on my eggs” love, but the “let’s drown those bad boys until they’re swimming” kind of love. And the hotter, the better. The kind that scorches you when eating it, but then reminds/punishes you for what you did the following day.

It’s this fiery passion that drew me to the YouTube show “Hot Ones,” where celebrities are interviewed while eating progressively spicier wings.

On the surface, this seems just like a clever hook to separate the show from similar interview formats. However, there’s an underlying brilliance to the show’s format. As the Scoville levels rise, so does the authenticity. There’s something about capsaicin that cuts through PR-trained responses, revealing the person behind the persona. It’s really, really hard to stay on script when you can barely see the table in front of you while chugging a decanter-sized portion of milk.

Take, for instance, one of my favorite episodes that features Gordon Ramsay. Yes, the king of the combative kitchen, known for his… let’s say, “colorful” feedback on shows like Hell’s Kitchen. Gordon faced off against the hot sauce lineup, and boy, did we see a different side of him. Between remedies like lime juice and donuts, we were graced with more than a few of his famous f-bombs, but we also witnessed genuine reactions and vulnerability we don’t often see when he’s behind the judge’s table. It’s a great reminder that even the toughest exteriors can melt away with a little capsaicin.

Gordan Ramsey on Hot Ones.
Pretty sure this is his face in the confession booth as well.

Captivated by this interview format, I immediately bought every hot sauce featured on the show, got to work writing every party question I could think to ask, then went through our own “Hot One’s Challenge” with my friends over a weekend. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. But we all had a blast, and I’m pretty sure I now know all the sorted details of their lives.

But hey, it’s not just hot sauce that gets people talking. Surprising inflection can happen even if you throw a simple meal into the mix. Over at Mythical Kitchen, they have a segment that’s equally revealing. Tom Hanks joined the show and was asked to share with them his hypothetical “last meal,” aka the foods they wish to eat before death. Mythical Kitchen then serves the three-course meal while exploring why each food item was chosen. When guests choose their last meal, they often select foods that are meaningful to them, which can open up discussions about their background, experiences, and values.

Tom Hanks on Mythical Kitchen's Last Meals.
When Mythical Josh learns Tom doesn’t give autographs.

Through that process, we got to see a side of Tom that’s rarely showcased in public, including his love for In-N-Out, his daily struggles with Type2 diabetes, and his preference for asking questions rather than seeking definitive answers. His shared stories and reflections provided a deeper understanding of who he is beyond his on-screen personas.

Let’s not stop in the kitchen, though. Consider Running Wild with Bear Grylls, where celebrities join the survival expert in the wild, far from the comforts of their everyday lives. It’s not just about survival skills; it’s about the raw, unscripted conversations that emerge when you’re scaling cliffs or eating questionable local delicacies. This show is a prime example of how stepping into the unknown can peel back layers, revealing the person behind the public persona in a way that’s as real as it gets.

Unfortunately, I don’t know any celebrities I can interview to try out some of these tactics. But I do have friends! I swear I do!

Two truths and a lie. The game. The myth. The legend. My friend Kristin swears by this game. She’s woven it into her professional identity like it’s a badge of honor. Honestly, it’s a smart move. It gets people talking, laughing, and occasionally revealing more than they planned. It’s a simple yet effective way to slice through the usual small talk and get a glimpse of the real person behind the business card.

So, if there’s any point to all this, here’s the takeaway: whether sweating through a wing challenge or cooking up a hypothetical last meal, it’s clear that when we ditch the script, we can find ourselves in real conversations, where being a little uncomfortable, a little off-guard, and maybe a little scared for our taste buds, ends up forming genuine connections.

Challenge yourself to mix up how you start and hold conversations, and you might end up finding out something new, like how terrible Da Bomb tastes. Just maybe keep the emergency milk on standby. And don’t touch your eyes. Or… other things….

Other stuff worth looking at….