What We Talk About, When We Talk About Food
No. It\’s not a new series.
And no. I\’m not suffering from some kind of weird, late-in-life, delusional Arsenio-esque urges . Monday night\’s AT THE TABLE thing is a one-off (or maybe a two or three-off) idea where I get to sit down, talk about a lot of pretty obscure, insider food and travel-related issues with some opinionated friends–and at the same time–eat for free at a restaurant I respect and find intensely interesting. We may repeat may do a couple more down the road–locally based and with local chefs and guests in other cities, but this does not signify some strange new direction.
It took about five hours of my time to shoot AT THE TABLE (nice!), yet the format requires (I found) a mammoth production. WD-50, the restaurant where we filmed the show, was jammed with an invading army of camera operators, sound techs, lighting guys, portable control room, bonobo-trainers, mink-wranglers, hair and make-up — and a crackhead to operate the smoke machine …. It was like a real television show — something I\’m not used to.
In the strangely bright center of an otherwise empty restaurant, me and four guests gathered round and ate and drank and discussed such burning issues as: \”What\’s the butt-ugliest behavior you\’ve ever seen in a restaurant? Or taken part in?\” And the issue on everybody\’s mind — at a moment when the economy teeters on the precipice: \”Is it ethically okay to blow $1,800 bucks on dinner?\”
Pondering these questions were four people well-suited to answer them, worldly — some might say jaded — veterans of many high end restaurant meals, people for whom the free dinner and comped bottle of vintage wine are no strangers: Nightclub owner/proprietor, Amy Sacco of New York City\’s Bungalow 8 … author of that excellent, bestselling account of working as Mario Batali\’s \”kitchen bitch,\” Heat, New Yorker editor and founder of Granta Magazine, Bill Buford … writer, TV personality, fellow judge on Top Chef, Ted Allen …. and notorious nightcrawler, former gossip columnist for Page Six and current editor at Maxim Magazine, Chris Wilson.
Am I any good at leading and moderating a televised discussion? I don\’t know. I\’ve jumped out of an airplane and eaten warthog rectum — so I figured … why not try this too? Frankly, after watching the rough cut, I think I come off like a drunk version of John McLaughlin — you know, that loud, douchebag on the McLaughlin Group?
On the bright side, I got to eat — and you get to see — a truly extraordinary and important chef at work; Wylie Dufresne. About that, I feel unreservedly good. If you haven\’t eaten at WD-50? Do so at first opportunity. It\’s truly an adventure. I hope that comes across in the show.
By the time you read this, me, Todd, Zach, Jared, Alex and contest runner-up Augusto should be halfway across the Pacific, on our way to the Philippines. I see balut in my future.