Seattle’s highest-profile young journalist may be Ellie Suastez. She’s eight years old and already has interviewed dozens of guests for her podcast, including Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, mayoral candidates Carrie Moon and Jenny Durkan, KUOW’s Bill Radke, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and even Santa Claus. To top it all off, “Ellie’s Podcast 11” just won Best Podcast in King 5’s Best of Western Washington.
Ellie and her father, Abe, along with a little help from Ellie’s sister, Carly, age 5, produce about one episode a month. Abe makes some suggestions, but Ellie and Carly have final say over who they interview.
The idea came from a book. Ellie says, “We got this book of daddy-daughter projects, we got a microphone, we started recording. We’ve done it for almost three years now.”
When they started, Abe was just trying to find something fun they could do together. Now it has taken on its own momentum. Both girls are active participants in building their learning curriculum. In addition to learning about the fascinating things people do with their lives, they learn about technology, social media, community engagement, and listening skills.
Abe says, “It ties a lot of things in their life together, not just school, but also being with each other. We are learning together and hanging out together.”
For their latest podcast, Ellie wanted to interview someone who tossed pizza for a living. She chose Pagliacci Pizza and interviewed Khalil Mardini, a General Manager at Pagliacci’s Madison store. One of Pagliacci’s best tossers, Khalil has also spent hours teaching young kids how to toss pizza dough at Pagliacci's kids’ toss tables.
Ellie got first got the idea while interviewing photographer Tim Durkan, chronicler of Seattle’s troubling homeless problem and the younger brother of Seattle’s new mayor. “When we interviewed him he talked a lot about Pagliacci Pizza,” Ellie says. “So did many others. They say I love Pagliacci Pizza. For a while, we wanted to interview someone who knew how to toss pizza. Our guests answered that question for us.”
It turns out Tim Durkan used to babysit the children of Pagliacci’s founder, Dorene Centioli-McTigue. He now lives across from Pagliacci’s Broadway store and frequently stops in for a slice. One of the other of Ellie’s interviewees who cited their love of Pagliacci’s pizza was Seattle’s Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole.
After learning all about making pizza, Ellie’s next planned interview is about bugs. Specifically, eating them. Abe explains, “There’s a scientist here in Seattle who now cooks with bugs. We saw him in an outing to Chinatown at a festival. Ellie said we could interview him so long as I’d eat all the bugs.”
Ellie chimes in, “Dad said I had to eat all of them. Mom said I didn’t have to eat any.”
Books feed Ellie’s curiosity, which explains why she finishes every interview with the question, What’s your favorite book? The range of answers she gets is as diverse as the range of interviewees Ellie hosts on her show.
“Each interview we do is my favorite,” Abe says. “People are willing to support us and believe in our dream. It doesn’t matter if the person is very well known or famous, or if it’s just our neighbor. They believe in something in this girl.”
“Ellie’s Podcast 11” can be found at elliespodcast11.podomatic.com