Lynne Rossetto Kasper is leaving the host’s chair at “The Splendid Table.”
St. Paul-based American Public Media announced Tuesday that Rossetto Kasper, the velvet-voiced anchor of the food-related public radio show since its inception 21 years ago, will retire at the end of the year.
“The truth of the matter is, people stop working,” said Sally Swift, the show’s co-creator and managing producer. “Lynne gets to have a life. I’m totally thrilled for her, and she’s super happy.”
She’s being replaced by Francis Lam, a veteran of “Top Chef Masters” and the New York Times Magazine.
The show, which is broadcast on more than 400 public radio stations nationwide to roughly 725,000 weekly listeners, is named for Rossetto Kasper’s landmark 1992 cookbook, which chronicles the cuisine of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.
Raghavan Iyer, author of “The Turmeric Trail,” “660 Curries” and four other cookbooks, has been a guest on “The Splendid Table” on nearly a dozen occasions. He said that the news is bittersweet.
“I have a hard time thinking of ‘The Splendid Table’ without Lynne’s voice,” he said. “The great thing about Lynne is that she makes you feel like you’re the most important person in the world. It’s like you’re sitting in her kitchen, talking only to her. You forget about those thousands and thousands of listeners.”
Rossetto Kasper’s voice — the equivalent of an intoxicating, rare Barolo — has long been one of the show’s draws. Will Lam’s vocal chops follow suit?
“Francis doesn’t sound like anyone else,” said Swift. “He doesn’t sound like a typical public radio person, and that was a real plus for me.”
The show’s listeners are already familiar with Lam. Over the past seven years, he’s been a regular contributor and a frequent guest host.
“The tough part of knowing you want to launch a new life is figuring out the ideal person to take over your chair,” said Rossetto Kasper in a statement. “In the first five minutes of talking with Francis, I was a fan.”
Through the end of the year, Rossetto Kasper’s role will diminish, and Lam will host two shows per month, beginning on March 10. A final show with Rossetto Kasper is in the works.
Swift said that she has been actively searching for a replacement for the past two years, and that Lam was the staff’s — and Rossetto Kasper’s — unanimous choice.
“Francis is exactly like Lynne in that he’s extremely curious, and extremely generous, and a team player, and those are qualities that we need to carry the show forward,” said Swift. “And like Lynne, he’s in tune to food beyond the recipe.”
Swift was impressed with Lam when they collaborated on a video project two summers ago.
“Do you know what he did in between takes?” she said. “He did the dishes. That was such an eye-opener for me, such a sign that he views everyone as equal.
“That’s what you need to pull off a weekly show. Lynne is the same way, and that’s why we’ve lasted as long as we have.”
Rick Nelson • 612-673-4757 @RickNelsonStrib