It all began with Ferran Adria in more ways than one. It was because he reached out to me in 2001, invited me to come see him (in spite of the fact that I had written unflatteringly of him in Kitchen Confidential) that my partnership with zero point zero production began. It was because he agreed to throw his life, his restaurant, his workshop and creative process open to our cameras that we began our first venture in independent television production. It was because of him–and Food Network’s lack of interest in an El Bulli show–that Chris Collins, Lydia Tenaglia and I went out on our own, reached into our pockets and funded that first bare bones trip to Spain to shoot what later became the film (and subsequent episode of No Reservations), “Decoding Ferran Adria”. It was Ferran, who, truth be told, became the impetus for our show, now in its 7th year. And it was Ferran who was responsible for my meeting Chef Jose Andres when he showed up at an early screening of the film as his US representative. I can well remember Jose standing up at the end of the film and announcing to the audience his approval. It was a very proud moment for me. In those days, when Jose’s mouth moved, it often seemed that Spain was speaking. That kind of generosity should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever known or worked with Ferran Adria or his brother, Albert. They have always shared, never clung jealously to their hard won creations. And once again, in spite of the world world banging at their door, looking to get one last meal, one last interview, one last meal at their legendary restaurant, once again, they opened their lives to me. Continue reading: A BEGINNING. AN END »
July, 2011 Archive
Growing up in New Jersey back in the bad old days of American gastronomy, “Italian” food inevitably meant the same thing, wherever you found it: deep fried, breaded and pounded veal cutlets, swimming in red sauce with a raft of gluey semi-melted cheese on top, overcooked spaghetti, usually pre-prepared in large batches, rinsed of its starches in cold water, reheated and then indifferently topped with a ladle of the same red sauce as above. Enormous, bready meatballs, fragrant with dried oregano, baked ziti the consistency of caulking compound.. Continue reading: THE RED SAUCE TRAIL »
Say what you want about Castro–(we CAN, after all, Cubans not so much)–he managed, through design or neglect, to keep Havana beautiful.
Run down, crumbling, many buildings barely habitable–even the national baseball team has to play during the day because their stadium lights are broken and the country is too poor to fix them. Where things barely work, where time is arrested, where a failed ideology wheezes along on life support long after its inventors and sponsors abandoned it–at least, at least Havana is un-****ed by time. Where Moscow and St Petersburg brim with newly uglified buildings, malls, and the old cookie cutter concrete blocks leftover from the workers’ paradise, Havana looks like a shabbier but still gorgeous version of its older self. When it all changes, as it surely shall, I hope Havana’s waterfront, the malecon, the old hotels, the facades, the Nacional, the Tropicana, the cars–they remain–at least in appearance and design–the same. I’d hate to see fast food signs, the boutique hotels, bottle service, frat bars and canary yellow Lamborginis of the douche side of Miami. When everybody’s wired and connected and chatting freely, watching 500 channels of cable and voting their minds, I hope the mojitos don’t start coming in sno-cone form, the old neighborhoods dug up for golf courses or water parks.
It’s easy, I know, to over-romanticize the unspoiled. Especially when “unspoiled” means “poor”. But look. Look.
Whatever your politics, however you feel about Cuba–look at tonight’s show and admit, at least, that Havana is beautiful. It is the most beautiful city of Latin America or the Caribbean. Look at the Cuban people and admit that they are proud and big hearted and funny and kind–and strong as hell, having put up with every variety of bullshit over the years. On these things, I hope we can agree.
You can say that we are deliberately tackling a tired and well worn format for the sheer challenge of seeing if we can make it interesting and possibly even useful. We are well aware that many of the meals and experiences on No Reservations are, frankly, impossible to duplicate. The upcoming last meal at El Bulli show being a particularly extreme example. The crew and I got drunk one night and said, “hey, let’s make Samantha Brown’s show! Only….different…and good! ” unlike No Rez, you will actually be able to do the stuff covered on the show. And unlike other shows of the genre, you might actually want to. We were very pleased with the techniques show—which was also a very classic, well travelled and restrictive format. We managed to make that fun and interesting and put our own stamp on it. So why not this? It’s faster, more democratic and more caffeinated than No Rez. But just as obnoxious.