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“How could they do this just before Thanksgiving, when we were already on hold with our holiday questions?” a customer at the Sebastopol farmers market asked as she mourned the abrupt cancellation of “The Good Food Hour” by Maverick Media, owner of KSRO AM.

Of course, listeners weren’t literally on hold when the news began to spread but such is the popularity of the long-running program that listeners were indeed planning on calling with questions for host Steve Garner and co-host John Ash, as much a holiday tradition to some as, say, sourdough stuffing and cranberry relish.

Just two weeks ago, G & G Market hosted the 25th Annual Good Food Hour Recipe Contest, which Ash and Garner launched their first year on the air. As always, there was a standing-room-only audience to watch the four eager finalists and, once prizes were awarded, taste the entries. This year’s theme was bacon and entries included persimmon-bacon strudel, Thai salad with fried eggs and bacon, Cheddar bacon grits souffle and apple bacon fritters with maple, pecan, bacon ice cream.

I was a judge, as I have been for many of the contests, and what struck me most this year was Steve Garner’s astonishing memory and equally astonishing files. When he introduced me, he pulled out an article I had written about bacon more than a decade ago from an enormous stack of clippings that he carries to every show, depending on the topic. Next to his chair were piles of manila file folders, labeled “bacon,” “sour cherries” and what have you, research archives for both “The Good Food Hour” and the two-hour “Garden Talk,” with co-host Gwen Kilchherr, that airs–or aired–prior to “The Good Food Hour.”

Both shows have been cancelled and replaced with syndicated content. In addition, every trace of the programs have been removed from the web site, leaving dozens of recipes and valuable information inaccessible to listeners. Wine guy Tom Simoneau and morning news co-anchor Curtiss Kim are also gone.

One has to wonder why? Money? Really? That’s the reason given by station representatives, who also axed the morning news anchor, Curtiss Kim.

Steve Garner is one of the all-time great radio hosts. Yes, he has a fabulous voice but it’s more than that that makes him so good. It’s his low-key graciousness, his ease on the air, his intelligence and his vast curiosity about the world. He is my radio mentor and when I launched my show “Mouthful, the Wine Country’s Most Delicious Hour”on KRCB FM 17 years ago, he was my first guest. He has returned nearly every year for an anniversary episode and this year was no exception. You can listen to that episode here. Garner puts a guest at ease like no one I’ve ever met. He makes a topic both accessible and compelling and keeps things lively, no matter the topics. He is aware of trends but is not trendy and he doesn’t mug for the microphone. His authenticity and ethusiasm are irresistible.

Steve Garner, left, and Les Blank, right, on Mouthful's first anniversary show, October 31, 1996

I met Garner shortly after the publication of my first book, A Cook’s Tour of Sonoma, in 1990. I was new, nervous and worried that I wouldn’t rise to the occasion of a radio interview but all of my fears vanished within a minute or so, as Garner’s warm and friendly expertise put me absolutely at east. Over the years, I’ve been on dozens of radio shows and have rarely encountered a host as talented and engaging as Steve.

The first few times I was on Steve’s show, his co-host, Chef John Ash, wasn’t around–he was traveling a lot at that time, teaching all over the world–and so I came to think of “The Good Food Hour” as exclusively Steve’s. But over the last number of years, John has been around more and more and I have come to appreciate and admire what a wonderful pair they make. John is a tad more low-key than Steve, a consummate educator who is knowledgeable on virtually any food topic. The two play off each other with a light-hearted ease that welcomes the listener to the table with them. It’s like you’re sitting around with your second cup of morning coffee.

I think it’s a real tragedy that these shows have been cancelled. Although both are entertaining, they provide so much more than entertainment. “The Good Food Hour” itself is an archive of history, of Sonoma County and the North Bay, of our changing appetites, of our discovery as a food mecca and so much more. “Garden Talk” dispenses some of the best advice on local gardening available anywhere.

This advice, knowledge and wisdom, given so generously for two and half decades, is invaluable to thousands of listeners. It’s what put and keeps the station on the map. I hope KSRO AM will rethink these cancellations and return two of our finest programs to the air, where they belong.

It never hurts to let a station manager know your response to changes in programming. Kent Bjugstad is both general manager and program director and you can write to him at Maverick Media, 1410 Neotomas Ave., Suite 200, Santa Rosa CA 95405 or email kentbjugstad@maverick-media.ws.

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