Food Network debuts ‘Raid the Fridge,’ hosted by Dan Ahdoot

November 16, 2021

Dan Ahdoot in “Raid The Fridge” (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network:

Chefs must use their instincts and test their luck in choosing mystery refrigerators based only on the photos, magnets, recipes and art on their doors in the new fast-paced competition series Raid the Fridge, hosted by food writer and restaurateur Dan Ahdoot. In each episode, four competitors can use only the ingredients from their chosen mystery fridge to create top-notch dishes. But looks can be deceiving, so there is always an element of surprise – sometimes a refrigerator that appears to belong to an avid home cook is filled with takeout, while a crayon art decorated fridge seemingly owned by a family with toddlers could contain high-end gourmet items. Over the course of three rounds, each with a new cooking challenge and a whole new batch of fridges to raid, chefs must impress judges Jordan Andino and Jamika Pessoa with dishes worthy of the grand prize: a fridge full of cash. Raid the Fridge premieres December 28, 2021 at 10pm ET/PT on Food Network.

“Our audience will have so much fun playing along with Raid the Fridge, guessing what’s in each fridge, and deciding which one they would choose makes this show an interactive experience,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network and Streaming Food Content, Discovery Inc. “They may even be inspired by the creativity of these chefs to experiment with what’s in their own refrigerator.”

Dan Ahdoot, a regular on Cobra Kai, is passionate about the culture of food. He is a restaurateur, creator, comedian and host of the popular food podcast Green Eggs and Dan and recently signed a book deal with Crown Publishing for a comedic food memoir entitled Undercooked.

Fans can check out Food Network’s social pages for a sneak-peek look inside the fridges every week, and join Dan, Jamika and Jordan on set as they reveal what’s in their refrigerators at home.

Raid the Fridge is produced by Critical Content.

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FOOD NETWORK (www.foodnetwork.com) is a unique lifestyle network, website and magazine that connects viewers to the power and joy of food. The network strives to be viewers’ best friend in food and is committed to leading by teaching, inspiring, empowering and entertaining through its talent and expertise. Food Network is distributed to nearly 100 million U.S. households and draws over 46 million unique web users monthly. Since launching in 2009, Food Network Magazine’s rate base has grown 13 times and is the No. 2 best-selling monthly magazine on the newsstand, with 13.5 million readers. Food Network is owned by Discovery, Inc., a global leader in real life entertainment serving a passionate audience of superfans around the world and spanning 220 countries and territories; the portfolio also includes direct-to-consumer streaming services such as discovery+ and Food Network Kitchen, along with premium brands Discovery Channel, HGTV, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and the multi-platform JV with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Network as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport.

Food Network Thanksgiving 2021 specials: ‘Battle for the Bird’ with Anne Burrell and Carson Kressley and ‘A White House Thanksgiving’ with Jill Biden and Trisha Yearwood

November 12, 2021

Anne Burrell and Carson Kressley in “Battle for the Bird” (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a combination of press releases from Food Network:

Food Network is ready for food’s biggest holiday of the year! Tune in to Food Network on November 14, 2021 at 10pm ET/PT for the premiere of the one-hour primetime Thanksgiving special, Battle for the Bird. Anne Burrell and Carson Kressley bring their know-how and their humor as they co-host this timely seasonal competition in which they challenge two teams to see who can pull off the most amazing Thanksgiving get together in just four hours. The special will also be available to stream same day on discovery+.

As the two competing kitchens heat up, it is ‘game on’ as one team’s family-inspired ‘Sicilian Tailgating’ party theme goes head-to-head with a full throttle ‘New Orleans Luau’ Friendsgiving extravaganza to see who can throw the best Thanksgiving party based not only on menu and taste but décor and presentation as well. Anne and Carson are looking for the best overall Thanksgiving experience and they have their work cut out for them as they challenge, mentor, and ultimately judge this pressure-filled competition to deliver the year’s biggest food holiday and determine which is the biggest, baddest Turkey Day fest to win the Battle for the Bird

Fans can join in on the conversation on social using #BattleForTheBird.

Trisha Yearwood and Jill Biden in “A White House Thanksgiving” (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

 First Lady Jill Biden and Trisha Yearwood, country superstar and host of Food Network’s Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, are kicking off the holiday season with an exclusive look at the First Family’s Thanksgiving traditions and favorite recipes in the special A White House Thanksgiving, premiering Saturday, November 20th at 12pm ET/PT on Food Network and streaming the same day on discovery+. In addition to creating a beautiful tablescape made with fresh flowers from the White House Kitchen Garden, the First Lady and the country superstar will be preparing their favorite Turkey Day dishes, including the First Lady’s  Grandmom Jacobs’ Savory Stuffing recipe and Trisha’s Thanksgiving Turkey Gravy. They are also joined by White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford to cook the White House Thyme Roasted Turkey, White House Chief Floral Designer Hedieh Ghaffarian for the floral and table décor, and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susan Morrison to make the White House Apple Crisp recipe topped with the President’s favorite ice cream flavor, chocolate chip.

“Food is love – and gathering together this year for Thanksgiving is healing for our hearts,” said First Lady Jill Biden.  “The family recipes passed down through the generations, the fun traditions that continue, and the meaningful blessings shared, all keep me filled with gratitude. It was fun opening up the White House to Food Network and learning cooking tips from Trisha and the White House chefs and florist, while sharing my own family recipes.  I hope everyone watching comes away feeling that cooking a Thanksgiving meal is something anyone can do, but if you’re still nervous about making the gravy, like I am, you’re in good company!”

“Food brings us together. I so enjoyed my time at the White House, cooking with Dr. Jill and the White House chefs, and sharing our holiday food traditions,” said Yearwood.  “I hope this special is a reminder to all of us about what we all have in common.  Love one another.”

“Joining Dr. Biden and Trisha Yearwood at the White House to celebrate their Thanksgiving traditions is an honor,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network and Streaming Food Content, Discovery Inc. “From the First Family’s holiday decor to favorite recipes, this special offers a rarely-seen glimpse at holiday entertaining at the White House.”

Starting on November 20th, fans can browse behind-the-scenes photos with the First Lady and Trisha and check out all the holiday recipes at FoodNetwork.com/WhiteHouseThanksgiving

White House Thanksgiving is produced by Big Fish Entertainment. The taping of this special was filmed following strict COVID-19 protocols aligned with CDC guidance.

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FOOD NETWORK is a unique lifestyle network, website and magazine that connects viewers to the power and joy of food. The network strives to be viewers’ best friend in food and is committed to leading by teaching, inspiring, empowering and entertaining through its talent and expertise. Food Network is distributed to nearly 100 million U.S. households and draws over 46 million unique web users monthly. Since launching in 2009, Food Network Magazine’s rate base has grown 13 times and is the No. 2 best-selling monthly magazine on the newsstand, with 13.5 million readers. Food Network is owned by Discovery, Inc., a global leader in real life entertainment serving a passionate audience of superfans around the world and spanning 220 countries and territories; the portfolio also includes direct-to-consumer streaming services such as discovery+ and Food Network Kitchen, along with premium brands Discovery Channel, HGTV, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and the multi-platform JV with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Network as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport.

DISCOVERY+ is the definitive non-fiction, real life subscription streaming service. discovery+ features a landmark partnership with Verizon that gives their customers with select plans up to 12 months of discovery+ on Verizon. discovery+ has the largest-ever content offering of any new streaming service at launch, featuring a wide range of exclusive, original series across popular, passion verticals in which Discovery brands have a strong leadership position, including lifestyle and relationships; home and food; true crime; paranormal; adventure and natural history; as well as science, tech and the environment, and a slate of high-quality documentaries. For more, visit discoveryplus.com or find it on a variety of platforms and devices, including ones from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku and Samsung.

OWN debuts ‘The Big Holiday Food Fight’ and ‘The Great Soul Food Cook-Off’

October 21, 2021

The following is a combination of press releases from OWN:

“The Big Holiday Food Fight” premieres Tuesday, November 16, 2021, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, moving to its regular 8:00 p.m. ET/PT time slot on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. It’s “knives out” (but in a good way) when “The Big Holiday Food Fight” makes its debut on OWN this November. Hosted by Kym Whitley, this exciting holiday-themed cooking competition series from SallyAnn Salsano and 495 Productions (“Peace of Mind with Taraji,” “The Real,” “Jersey Shore” “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Party Challenge”) celebrates the holidays with traditions, family recipes and a side order of fierce competition. In each episode, we crown a new King or Queen of the holiday table and put a little jingle in their pocket with enough cash to tackle some fierce Christmas shopping.

Three home cooks will bust out their most beloved holiday family recipes and ‘jingle bell rock’ the kitchen in a multi-stage cook-off that will leave only one home chef standing at the end of each episode—and the winner of a $5,000 stocking stuffed with cash.  Appetizers, side dishes and desserts take center stage each week as our cooks are challenged to whip up their best family-favorite recipes to wow our accomplished judges Gina Neely, Darnell “SuperChef” Ferguson and James Wright Chanel. At the end of each round, our panel of judges will decide who stays for the next round and who gets booted out in the cold.

Discovery+ and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network announced “The Great Soul Food Cook-Off,” a first-of-its-kind soul food cooking competition series celebrating Black chefs and the Black culinary traditions that are the cornerstone of American cuisine. The six-episode, one-hour series debuts on discovery+ on Saturday, November 20, 2021, with new episodes every Saturday through December 18, 2021.

Today, we see Black culture recognized like never before in music, film, fashion, TV, sports, and more, but that same cultural recognition remains long overdue in the kitchen. OWN has partnered with discovery+ via the original series, “The Great Soul Food Cook-Off,” in a cooking competition that finally spotlights the culinary contributions of Black chefs with challenges designed to highlight the past and present of soul food. Eight chefs will go head-to-head throughout the show in this high-stakes, spiritual, and emotional competition, but only one competitor can take home the grand prize of $50,000.

“Soul food originated in the earliest African American communities and describes a style of cuisine that represents the creativity and skill of Black cooks from many cultures within the African diaspora,” said Tina Perry, president, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. “Our audience cherishes time together as a family around the table and many have passed down favorite family recipes for generations. This series is a celebration of long-standing traditions we hope to introduce and spotlight for new and existing viewers as we shine a light on a few of today’s most talented Black chefs and culinary curators.”

“The Great Soul Food Cook-Off” is hosted by acclaimed chef and television show host Kardea Brown. Brown will be joined by some of the world’s best chefs, Eric Adjepong and Melba Wilson, as they critique the chefs’ weekly creations.

Additional judges that will join Adjepong and Wilson include:

· Tanya Holland – (Episode 1)

· Alexander Smalls – (Episode 2 & 6)

· BJ Dennis – (Episode 3)

· Tiffany Derry – (Episode 4)

· Millie Peartree – (Episode 5)

· Kwame Onwuachi – (Episode 6)

“The Great Soul Food Cook-Off” contestants are:

· Chris Scott, 53 (Chef/Owner, Butterfunk Biscuit Co. – Harlem, NY)

· Dorian Hunter, 47 (Chef/Caterer, Elevated Soul – Atlanta, GA)

· Fred Fluellen, 32 (Private Chef/Caterer, Fluniversity – Atlanta, GA)

· Jamarius Banks, 28 (Private Chef – Atlanta, GA)

· Jermaine Smith, 48 (Chef/Owner, Henry’s Soul Cafe – Washington, D.C.)

· Razia Sabour, 40 (Private Chef/Caterer, Fuller Foods – Atlanta, GA)

· Shacafrica Simmons, 47 (Private Chef/Caterer, Southern Fusion – Tallahassee, FL)

· Tirzah Love, 38 (Private Chef/Caterer – Oakland, CA)

The competition premieres with a Soul Starter Challenge paying homage to the foundational “meat and three,” a meal featuring a portion of meat and three sides that are African American community must-haves. In this first challenge, “The Great Soul Food Cook-Off” chefs form teams and are challenged to a Meat N’ Three Knockout, preparing smothered pork chops, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and a potato salad. The winning team then holds an advantage going into the main Cook-Off Challenge, where the chefs create innovative dishes with staple ingredients. So who will dig the deepest and draw inspiration from their ancestors to win, and who is going home?

“The Great Soul Food Cook-Off” is produced by Good Egg Entertainment, the company behind Food Network’s hit cooking competition series “Chopped.” Michael W. Twitty, the esteemed culinary historian, educator, and James Beard Foundation award-winning author of The Cooking Gene, will serve as culinary historian and consultant for the series. OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is overseeing production.

ABOUT KARDEA BROWN

Kardea Brown is a contemporary Southern cook born in Charleston, South Carolina. She is of Gullah/Geechee descent, a term used to describe a distinct group of African Americans living in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia who have managed to preserve much of their West African language, culture and cuisine. Her love for cooking started in her grandmother’s kitchen, learning to cook Gullah dishes that were passed down from her mother. Although she loved cooking as a hobby, Kardea did not envision herself pursuing a career within the culinary field. Instead, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and embarked on a career in Social Services. But in 2013, she switched gears and began to pursue cooking. She created The New Gullah Supper Club, traveling from state to state cooking traditional Gullah dishes with a contemporary twist. Kardea has since made dozens of guest television appearances on shows such as ABC’s The Chew and Food Network’s Farmhouse Rules, BBQ Blitz, The Kitchen, Chopped Jr., Beat Bobby Flay, and Cooks vs. Cons. Additionally, she has her own show on the Food Network, Delicious Miss Brown, which is currently in its 5th season.

ABOUT DISCOVERY+

discovery+ is the definitive non-fiction, real life subscription streaming service. discovery+ features a landmark partnership with Verizon that gives their customers with select plans up to 12 months of discovery+ on Verizon. discovery+ has the largest-ever content offering of any new streaming service at launch, featuring a wide range of exclusive, original series across popular, passion verticals in which Discovery brands have a strong leadership position, including lifestyle and relationships; home and food; true crime; paranormal; adventure and natural history; as well as science, tech and the environment, and a slate of high-quality documentaries. For more, visit discoveryplus.com or find it on a variety of platforms and devices, including ones from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku and Samsung.

ABOUT OWN: OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK

OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is the first and only network named for, and inspired by, a single iconic leader. Oprah Winfrey’s heart and creative instincts inform the brand and the magnetism of the channel. OWN is a leading destination for premium scripted and unscripted programming from today’s most innovative storytellers. OWN connects with its audience wherever they are, inspiring conversation among a global community of like-minded viewers on social media and beyond. Launched on January 1, 2011, OWN is a joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery, Inc. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform Oprah.com. Access OWN anytime on Watch OWN and discovery+ across mobile devices and connected TVs.

ABOUT GOOD EGG ENTERTAINMENT

Good Egg Entertainment is a New York-based, unscripted production company that’s committed to creating innovative, energetic and positive content for all ages. Best known as the producers of Chopped, with almost 900 episodes of the series to date, the Good Egg team has proven its capabilities in making long-lasting premium television. Focused on entertaining formats with international appeal, especially food-forward content for streaming and linear platforms, recent Good Egg productions include Money Hungry with Kal Penn for Food Network/Discovery+, Dishmantled with Tituss Burgess and Eye Candy with Josh Groban for Roku Originals, and The Great Soul Food Cook-Off for OWN/Discovery+. Individually, the leaders at Good Egg have built their careers on the development and production of seminal series that include Queer Eye, Pawn Stars, the Emmy-winning Zimmern List, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? and Legends of The Hidden Temple.

Review: ‘Meat Me Halfway,’ starring Brian Kateman, Marion Nestle, Eric Adams, Will Harris III, Anita Krajnc, Ethan Brown and David Katz

August 22, 2021

by Carla Hay

Brian Kateman eating a Carl’s Jr. Beyond Burger in “Meat Me Halfway” (Photo courtesy of 1091 Pictures)

“Meat Me Halfway”

Directed by Brian Kateman and Journey Wade-Hak

Culture Representation: Taking place in various U.S. cities, the documentary film “Meat Me Halfway” features a predominantly white group of people (with a few African Americans, Latinos and Asians) discussing the factory farming industry’s effects on the environment and individual choices on whether not to eat meat.

Culture Clash: The debate continues over choices to be a meat eater versus being a vegan/vegetarian.

Culture Audience: “Meat Me Halfway” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in getting various perspectives on how the food and drinks we consume not only affect our health but also the environment.

Brian Kateman and Eat Just vice president of product development Chris Jones in “Meat Me Halfway” (Photo courtesy of 1091 Pictures)

“Meat Me Halfway” is not a preachy documentary that pushes a one-sided animal-rights agenda. It’s a well-rounded film with diverse viewpoints and options to help people decide if they want to be meat eaters or non-meat eaters. The filmmakers are very up front with their intent to give information to meat-eating people about why and how meat eating can be gradually reduced or eliminated from someone’s diet. However, the filmmakers also realisitically know that eating meat is a human lifestyle choice that isn’t going away anytime soon.

“Meat Me Halfway” co-directors/co-writers Brian Kateman and Journey Wade-Hak make their feature-film directorial debuts with this documentary and are also two of the movie’s producers. Kateman also serves as the documentary’s narrator, interviewer and on-camera guide during his cross-country journey in the U.S., to look at various sides of the meat-eating debate. As the co-founder president of the non-profit group Reducetarian Foundation, Kateman believes in the approach that getting a lot of people to stop eating meat can be effective if people gradually reduce their meat consumption, instead of pressuring people to immediately stop eating meat.

In the beginning of the documentary, Kateman appears on camera and makes this statement: “One of the reasons why I wanted to make this documentary is I’m confused. I’m a guy who wants to end factory farming. And I start a non-profit organization to make that happen. And so many people seem seriously pissed off about it. There are so many alarms going off from scientific bodies about the problems with our food system—particularly factory farming. And yet, meat consumption continues to climb.”

Factory farming, as opposed to organic farming, puts an emphasis on mass producing animals that can be slaughtered for meat or used for dairy products. Most people have seen photos or videos of these types of farms, which keep the animals in tightly confined, often unsanitary quarters that can only be described as cruel. However, whenever big money is involved, don’t expect there to be immediate changes to the factory farm system when the system is allowed under the law.

That leads anti-factory farming activists to take the approach that the best way to make changes in the system is to reduce consumer demand for meat. That doesn’t mean that the majority of the world will become vegetarians or vegans in a short period of time. But groups such as the Reducetarian Foundation want to educate people on the individual and environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption.

It was a good creative decision to make Kateman appear on camera and share his thoughts and reactions to what he finds out during the making of this documentary. He brings an engaging, likable tone to the film that will keep viewers interested. Kateman also reveals some of his own personal stories about how pressure from peer groups and his family (he was raised as a meat eater) affected his diet and nutrition decisions over the years.

Let’s face it: A lot of pro-vegan/vegetarian documentaries use either or both of these off-putting approaches: scare tactics with a lot of gruesome slaughterhouse footage or academic/scientific lectures with a lot of dull talking heads. Thankfully, “Meat Me Halfway” takes neither approach, which makes this documentary very accessible and relatable to everyone, regardless if you eat meat or not. The movie also makes excellent use of animation to illustrate many of the facts and figures mentioned in interviews.

“Meat Me Halfway” doesn’t shame people who eat meat but gives valuable information to anyone who might want to choose to reduce or stop their meat intake. There have already been many documentaries that go into the scientific details about the direct ties to meat consumption, carbon emissions and global warming/climate change. “Meat Me Halfway” quickly reiterates these scientific findings, but climate change not the main focus of the film.

Bill McKibben, a Schumann distinguished scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College in Connecticut, comments: “A fight is on to see not if we can stop global warming—at this point, it’s too late for that—but to see if we can stop it short of the point where it takes out the kinds of civilizations we’re used ot having.”

Dr. Marion Nestle—who is a Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University—thinks it’s kind of outrageous that in this day and age, when it’s been proven that diet is directly linked to health that this outdated practice is still going on: “Doctors are not taught nutrition in medical school.” She also believes that when it comes to the U.S, food industry, any system that benefits corporations the most will be the hardest to change.

Nestle also asks this question that she thinks animal-rights and nutrition activists need to answer in order to better communicate their agendas to the general public: “Who [in the business world] would benefit if people ate more heathily?” Nestle describes herself in the documentary as a responsible meat eater and someone who is in a “privileged position” to be able to seek out and buy food that didn’t come from a farm factory. She acknowledges that not everyone has those privileges, usually for socioeconomic or location reasons.

Dr. David Katz, founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, believes that U.S. culture runs on an unholy alliance that was made between the corporate manufactured food industry and Big Pharma. After all, if people are more likely to be unhealthy from eating mass-produced food, the pharmaceutical drug companies benefit from all the prescription medication that they can sell. It’s cycle that’s extremely difficult to break when billions of dollars are at stake.

“Meat Me Halfway” also includes a brief exploration of the history of human food consumption. Experts who are interviewed say that meat eating has always been part of human history, but that today’s humans eat more meat that humans in ancient times simply because mass production of meat has made it more accessible than ever before. Experts such as journalist Maryn McKenna point out that the mass production of food on factory farms also coincided with the rise of anti-biotics use on farm animals to get the animals to become have “more meat on their bones” and less likely to get sick.

Other academics interviewed in the documentary include Dr. Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London; Dr. James McWilliams, professor of history at Texas State University; and Dr. Paul Freedman, Chester P. Tripp professor fo history at Yale University; Authors and journalists who weigh in with their thoughts include “Meathooked” author Marta Zaraska, journalist/food historian Bee Wilson and journalist Mark Bittman.

Several animal-rights activists are interviewed in “Meat Me Halfway,” such as Toronto Pig Save founder Anita Krajnc, Animal Outlook executive director Erica Meier, Beyond Carnism president Dr. Melanie Joy and Farm Sanctuary president/co-founder Gene Bauer. Among the people who advocate for animal welfare, there are those who believe that meat eating and meat sales can’t be realistically eliminated, so they instead are pushing for better treatment of animals that are raised to be sold as meat. Meanwhile, others think that meat eating is never ethical and should be stopped completely.

Meier says, “Supporting any level of slaughter is wrong.” During Kateman’s interview with Krajnc, he asks her if she thinks it’s acceptable for people to decide to gradually stop eating meat, on their own terms. She replies, “I don’t think it’s an acceptable premise to say one should eat less meat. When we go to slaughterhouses and see the animal victims, every individual matters.”

Krajnc then invites Kateman to a protest gathering that takes place at a Farmer John slaughterhouse in Los Angeles. The purpose of the gathering is to line the streets with animal rights activists, as the pigs are being transported in trucks to the slaughterhouse, and spray water into the thristy pigs’ snouts and mouths, to give the pigs some comfort before they’re killed. The activists do not do anything illegal, such as block traffic, but they sometimes carry signs to show their condemnation of slaughtering animals.

Kateman expresses trepidation at first about going to this activist gathering, because he doesn’t think he wants to experience what he knows will be disturbing sights, sounds and smells of pigs being forced to die. But he ends up going anyway, and it’s an extremely emotional experience for him. He’s moved to tears. The movie includes the sounds of pigs squealing in horror as they are driven into the slaughterhouse.

Kateman said was most painful to him was to make eye contact with a pig inside one of the trucks, and he felt the pain and fear that the pig was experiencing. He also expresses disgust at the slaughterhouse’s outside wall mural paintings , which depict pigs frolicking on a farm, as if Farmer John is a happy and peaceful place for pigs. Kateman says these murals make a hypocritical mockery of what goes on inside the slaughterhouse.

However, the documentary includes the perspectives of people who are trying to make the meat industry more humane in how it treats animals who will inevitably killed for meat. These advocates want better living conditions for animals and less painful ways for the animals to die. One of those people is Daisy Freund, ASPCA director of farm and animal welfare, who monitors farms and gives them ratings based on how well these farms treat animals.

Freund recommends to Kateman that he visit White Oak Pastures, a non-factory farm in Bluffton, Georgia, because White Oak Pastures has received among the highest ratings in the U.S. for its humane treatment of farm animals that are raised for future meat consumption. White Oaks Pastures owner Will Harris III, with his Southern drawl and wry sense of humor, is one of the more memorable personalities in this documentary.

Harris gives Kateman a tour of White Oak Pastures and allows the documentary cameras to record anything except the actual slaughter of animals. Harris explains that what sets his farm apart from most other farms is that the animals are not confined into tight spaces and are instead allowed to roam in their natural habitats. “Animals need to express instinctive behavior,” Harris says,

In addition, Harris says that White Oak Pastures has its own slaughterhouse on the property, so that the animals raised on the farm won’t be transported in a truck for long distances. The documentary has footage in the slaughterhouse of dead animals (such as cows and chickens) being skinned and gutted. Harris says that White Oak Pastures uses a heart electrode device to paralyze and kill the animals, and he claims scientists have told him the animals experience quick and painless deaths using this method.

“Meat Me Halfway” clearly endorses the idea that people should be eating more plant-based food instead of meat. It also responsibly acknowledges that the types of food that people have access to are usually determined by socioeconomic status and location. And that often means that low-income areas (especially those populated by people of color) are frequently at a disadvantage.

One of the people who talks about this problem is Eric Adams, who was president of New York City’s Brooklyn borough at the time he was interviewed, but he has since gone on to become the Democratic nominee and widely predicted winner of the 2021 New York City mayoral race. Adams comments, “I believe, depending on where you live, your zip code determines the quality of fruits and vegetables you’re going to receive. Far too many quality stores and supermarkets really don’t believe that inner city communities will like that quality of food.”

Of course, it’s a myth that lower-income people don’t want quality food. It’s just that the closest food stores to them might not have the high-quality food stores that are more in abundance in higher-income areas. Olympia Auset, founder of the mobile grocery seller Süpermarkt that services low-income neighborhoods, is one of the people interviewed in the documentary. She says she’s seen first-hand how low-income people are often deprived of getting fresh fruits and vegetables in their neighborhoods, because many of her customers tell her how far out of the way they would have to travel to get this type of produce that’s easily available in other neighborhoods.

One of the reasons why the mass-produced meat industry is such a juggernaut is because food that is mass-produced tends to be less expensive than organic food. Plant-Based Food Association founder Michele Simon comments that the three most powerful deciders in food choices are taste, price and convenience. It’s mentioned multiple times in the documentary that people are more likely to change their eating habits if it will cost them less money. The problem for a lot of people who don’t have the luxury of spending whatever they want on food, healthier food is usually more expensive than less-healthy food.

So what are meat eaters to do if they want to become a vegetarian or vegan but they don’t want to give up the taste of meat or dairy products? That’s why there’s currently a boom in companies that make and sell plant-based food that tastes like meat and dairy products. Several leaders of these companies are interviewed in the documentary, including Beyond Meat founder/CEO Ethan Brown, Miyoko’s Creamery founder/CEO Miyoko Schinner, Clara Foods founder/CEO Arturo Elizondo, New Age Meats founder/CEO Brian Spears and Finless Foods co-founder CEO Michael Selden.

“Meat Me Halfway” also takes viewers inside a few food labs where these vegan foods are crafted and perfected, like food scientists putting together the right healthy ingredients for a recipe. New Age Meats director of biological Dr. Nicholas Legendre says that these foods go through similar testing processes before being put on the market that any other meat and dairy products would have to go through to get FDA approval.

There’s a scene in the movie where Kateman visits Eat Just headquarters in San Francisco and gets to be one of the first people to taste a meatless chicken nugget that the company is testing. Kateman gives this new product his a positive response by saying it really does “taste just like chicken,” Eat Just vice president of product development Chris Jones seems very happy with Kateman’s reaction and says it’s the highest compliment to hear that this meatless “chicken” tastes like real chicken.

Not everyone is a fan of vegan “meat” products. New York University’s Nestle says that she doesn’t really trust what kind of experimental ingrdients could be in these types of products, and that she would rather eat real meat instead. The documentary also mentions that there have been some reports (unverified by any major scientific organization) that making vegan “meat” uses more environmental resources than what it takes to process real meat. These are claims that Beyond Meat’s Brown vehemently denies and says that the opposite is true, at least for his company.

One of the most personal aspects of “Meat Me Halfway” is when Kateman interviews his meat-loving parents Russell Kateman and Linda Kateman at the parents’ home on New York City’s Staten Island. Both parents are skeptical that eating less meat can help the environment. Russell says, “I think it’s a joke.” Linda adds, “We haven’t seen any proof.”

Russell also admits that he’s not very concerned about global warming. “I’m more concerned about the temperature in the house.” Russell and Linda (who are both in their 60s) also say that’ve never heard of avocado toast and they’ve never eaten avocados before in their lives. The documentary includes footage of David serving Russell and Linda some avocado dip with potato chips, and the parents have a lukewarm reaction to the taste of avocado.

About two years later, Russell has undergone a transformation that won’t be detailed in this review, but it’s shown in he documentary. Let’s put it this way: There’s a scene later in the movie of Russell and Linda at a dinner table with plates filled with avocado. That scene looks a little too staged, but the point is that Russell and Linda have become more open about eating more fruits and vegetables, compared to their first interview that was shown in the documentary.

At 80 minutes long, “Meat Me Halfway” is a well-paced and informative film that will give people of any food persuasion a lot to think about what their food choices can be. The movie’s greatest strength is how it includes an admirable variety of perspectives, so that viewers can make up their own minds on the meat-eating debate. The commentators are passionate about what they believe without being overbearing in trying to convince people to agree with them. It’s never easy to do a documentary about the intersections between food, health, environmental issues and animal rights, but “Meat Me Halfway” presents it all in a cohesive manner that can resonate with plenty of viewers of diverse backgrounds and food lifestyles.

1091 Pictures released “Meat Me Halfway” on digital and VOD on July 20, 2021.

Food Network debuts ‘Chocolate Meltdown: Hershey’s After Dark,’ hosted by Sunny Anderson

August 18, 2021

Sunny Anderson (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network:

Locking skilled pastry chefs inside the famed Hersheypark after dark and watching them compete to create the most mind-bending chocolate showpieces is all part of the competitive fun in the new primetime series “Chocolate Meltdown: Hershey’s After Dark.” The four-episode series, produced in partnership with Hershey’s, premieres Monday, September 27 at 10pm ET/PT and is hosted by Sunny Anderson, who challenges the brave and talented pastry artists to create the most mind-bending chocolate showpieces. It is part of Food Network’s biggest Halloween lineup yet — featuring over 36 hours of Halloween-themed programming.  

“Chocolate Meltdown: Hershey’s After Dark combines two of my all-time passions, going to amusement parks and creating art with food,” added Anderson. “I cannot wait to share these amazing chocolate displays with viewers, featuring some of the most talented pastry chefs on the planet.”

Created by Milton S. Hershey over 115 years ago, Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., is a 121-acre amusement park featuring three parks in one with more than 70 rides, a full water park and zoo attracting families to the one-of-a-kind destination. And this September, three pastry chefs are locked inside the amusement park after-hours without a soul in sight and in each hour-long episode, they must solve clues and brave the thrilling rides to use Hershey’s sweets for their colorful and spectacular creations before the night is over. Working at breakneck speed with the help of just an assistant within Hershey’s largest candy store, Chocolate World, the competitors race against the clock as judges Ralph Attanasia (Food Network’s Buddy vs. Duff) and Maneet Chauhan (Winner, Tournament of Champions) keep a watchful eye to determine who was the most successful at molding chocolate and spinning sugar into works of art. The winner of each episode earns a year’s supply of Hershey’s candy, a Hersheypark vacation and a cash prize.

  
“This brand-new series, the first ever to film overnight inside Hersheypark and Hershey’s Chocolate World, is a viewer’s ultimate Halloween fantasy brought to life,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network and Streaming Food Content, Discovery Inc. “Our partnership with the iconic candy brand and the show’s no-holds-barred access to rides, sweets, and everything Hershey, Pa. offers, makes Chocolate Meltdown: Hershey’s After Dark an addictive new highlight to our supersized Halloween lineup.” 

In the premiere episode, the competitors prove themselves with inspired takes on a Creepy Crawly Carnival. After running through the park on a chilly and rainy night, the pastry artists take a spin on one of the park’s most dizzying rides. Back in Chocolate World, a self-taught and gravity-defying cake artist quickly runs into problems, forcing them to adjust the design on the fly. Meanwhile, a sugar artist almost loses a battle against a 33-pound slab of dark chocolate, and a sculpting enthusiast uses enough Hershey’s candy to empty the whole store. Other episodes include the pastry chefs using Reese’s Pieces and Almond Joy candies to create a Scary Sci-Fi chocolate showpiece. And the competitors have their work cut out for them as they create Frightful Forest-themed chocolate displays incorporating Twizzlers Twists and York Peppermint Patties.

For more than a century, The Hershey Company has been a candy innovator with over 90 iconic brands around the world, including Hershey’s, Reese’s, Kit Kat®, Jolly Rancher, and more, driving billions in annual revenue while also building meaningful and inclusive connections within the community. In celebration of Chocolate Meltdown: Hershey’s After Dark, Food Network has partnered with Hershey’s to give away custom branded s’mores and cups of Hershey’s Melted Hot Chocolate, as featured on the show, to consumers at Hershey’s Chocolate World timed to the series launch, along with the winners from each episode receiving a year’s supply of Hershey’s candy and a dream vacation to Hersheypark.

Fans can check out all the incredible creations and see Sunny, Maneet and Ralph compete in their own chocolate-themed challenges at FoodNetwork.com/HersheysAfterDark. Follow along with the competition on social media using #HersheysAfterDark.

“Chocolate Meltdown: Hershey’s After Dark” is produced by Beyond Productions for Food Network.

Review: ‘Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,’ starring Anthony Bourdain

July 16, 2021

by Carla Hay

Anthony Bourdain in “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” (Photo courtesy of CNN/Focus Features)

“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain”

Directed by Morgan Neville

Culture Representation: Taking place in various places around the world, the biographical documentary “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” features a predominantly white group of people (with some Asians) discussing the life and career of celebrated food expert/TV host/writer Anthony Bourdain, an American of French-Jewish heritage who lived on America’s East Coast for his entire life.

Culture Clash: Bourdain, who committed suicide in 2018 at the age of 61, struggled with many personal demons in his life, including being a recovering alcoholic/drug addict and his battles with depression.

Culture Audience: Besides the obvious target audience of Anthony Bourdain fans, “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in stories about famous world travelers and stories about celebrities who struggle with mental health issues.

Anthony Bourdain in “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” (Photo courtesy of CNN/Focus Features)

What does it take for someone to be truly happy? The answer depends on the individual person. Not everyone can find true happiness, even when people have all the outward appearances of success. Award-winning TV host/food expert/writer Anthony Bourdain had fame, fortune, physical health and many people in his personal life who loved him. But in private, he struggled with finding long-term true happiness and inner peace within himself, according to the people who knew him best.

It’s one of the main takeaways of the riveting and emotionally poignant documentary “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” which focuses on how Bourdain dealt with becoming a celebrity in his middle age. Even with all of his achievements, admiration from fans around the world, and having a great support system of loved ones, Bourdain found that all of it wasn’t enough to make him truly happy and content. All the people interviewed for this movie are either Bourdain’s family members, close friends or work colleagues, who all call him Tony.

Directed by Oscar-winning documentarian Morgan Neville, “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” is respectful but does not sugarcoat the emotional damage left behind by Bourdain’s suicide by hanging. At the age of 61, a little more than two weeks before his 62nd birthday, Bourdain killed himself on June 8, 2018, in his hotel room in Kaysersberg-Vignoble, France. Several people in the documentary share their thoughts on what they think went wrong.

But make no mistake: “Roadrunner” is mostly a celebration of Bourdain’s life, which was unpredictable, wild and filled with extreme ups and downs. The documentary (which includes a lot previously unreleased archival footage) isn’t fully biographical, because there’s not much discussion of Bourdain’s youth. Bourdain was born in New York City, on June 25, 1956, to French American father Pierre Bourdain and Jewish mother Gladys Bourdain. Anthony and his younger brother Chris Bourdain (who’s interviewed in the documentary) went to school in New Jersey. By all accounts, they had a happy childhood and loving parents.

Chris remembers, “We didn’t do a lot of traveling when we were kids because my parents were not rich.” According to Chris, the Bourdain family visited France a few times in his and Anthony’s childhood, because their father had relatives there. It was in France that Anthony first began to appreciate the art of making cuisine. Chris also says that he and Anthony were big fans of Belgian cartoonist Hergé’s “Tin Tin” graphic novels, about a globetrotting young journalist named Tin Tin who solved mysteries.

It’s also mentioned in the documentary that Anthony had a fascination since childhood with novels and movies about adventures and risky experiences in foreign countries. Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella “Heart of Darkness” and director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War film “Apocalypse Now” were particularly impactful on Anthony. The influence of these “danger in the jungle” stories can be seen in a lot of episodes of Anthony’s TV shows.

After high school, Anthony attended Vassar College for two years before dropping out to pursue a career as a chef. He paid his dues working as a cook in Massachusetts restaurants. Known for his acerbic wit and rebellious streak, Anthony also developed an addiction to drugs (especially cocaine and heroin), which he publicly revealed years ago when his 2000 memoir “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” was published. In several interviews in his life, Anthony said that he quit hard drugs in 1988, without ever going to rehab.

The Bourdain biography in the “Roadrunner” documentary really begins in the early 2000s, when Anthony found fame in his 40s as the best-selling author of “Kitchen Confidential.” The book detailed a lot of “dirty laundry” about what goes on behind the scenes at top restaurants, as well as Anthony’s own personal misdeeds. At the time that “Kitchen Confidential” was published, Anthony was the executive chef at Brassierie Les Halles, a French eatery in New York City’s Manhattan borough. (The restaurant went out of business in 2017.)

The “Roadrunner” documentary includes an interview with former Brassierie Les Halles owner Philippe LaJaunie, who says about the “Kitchen Confidential” book: “I didn’t know it was being written. I didn’t know it was being published.” LaJaunie also comments on what Anthony was like when he was a Brassierie Les Halles employee: “He was always behind on the rent … and living paycheck to paycheck. So, when there was this opportunity [to become rich and famous], he was ready.”

Anthony eventually quit the restaurant business to become a full-time TV host/world traveler. And just like how quickly he became a book author, Anthony didn’t spend years pursuing TV fame, because other people approached him first with this opportunity, shortly after the best-selling success of “Kitchen Confidential.” It’s mentioned in the documentary that although Bourdain was a celebrity chef, he didn’t like to cook at home until he became a father and reveled in doing stereotypical “dad” things, such as cooking for backyard barbecues.

During the rise of the #MeToo movement, Anthony expressed remorse over being a part of a restaurant culture that enabled abuse. “Kitchen Confidential” was the inspiration for the short-lived 2005 “Kitchen Confidential” comedy series, which starred Bradley Cooper and was televised in the U.S. on Fox. The “Roadrunner” documentary has a very brief clip of from this failed sitcom.

According to several people interviewed in the documentary, although Anthony had a public persona of being brash and outspoken, he was actually a very shy and romantic person in private. He also never felt completely comfortable with his celebrity status, since he didn’t plan to become a world-famous writer and TV personality. In fact, getting his first book published was an opportunity that came to him very easily because his writer friend Joel Rose happened to be married to someone who worked for Bloomsbury Publishing, which ended up publishing “Kitchen Confidential.”

As Rose tells it in the documentary, the idea for Anthony to write a book came to Rose when he showed one of Anthony’s storytelling emails to his wife Karen Rinaldi. In the “Roadrunner” documentary, Rinaldi remembers her reaction to that email: “I read it, and I was like, ‘That is fucking awesome!’ I’m going to make him an offer he basically can’t fucking refuse!” And just like that, Anthony got a book deal, without ever experiencing years of rejections from book publishers, which is what most first-time book authors experience.

One of the things that’s very noticeable about the people interviewed in “Roadrunner” is that almost all of them were in Anthony’s life for decades, which is a testament to their mutual loyalty. Throughout the documentary, an interesting editing technique is used for these longtime friends and colleagues, by showing archival footage of the interviewee (going as far back as the late 1990s or 2000s) and then fading to new interview footage that the person did for the documentary.

“Kitchen Confidential” made Anthony famous, but becoming a TV host of an international food show made him a bona fide rock star of the culinary world. He hosted several TV shows in his career, beginning with “A Cook’s Tour,” which was on the Food Network from 2002 to 2003. That was followed by two series on the Travel Channel: “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” (from 2005 to 2012) and “The Layover” (from 2011 to 2013). His last TV series was CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” which was on the air from 2013 to 2018.

Zero Point Zero production company co-founders/spouses Lydia Tenaglia and Chris Collins, who were Anthony’s creative partners for his entire TV career, talk about coming up with the idea for Anthony to star in his own TV show. Anthony, Tenaglia and Collins traveled to several countries for six weeks, beginning in December 2000, to film test footage for a possible TV pilot episode. The “Roadrunner” documentary includes some that footage.

At this point in his life, Anthony was far from being a world traveler. He had only been outside the U.S. a handful of times. As Collins describes this six-week journey: “Lydia and I had just gotten married. And then we had Tony, a guy who we barely knew. It was like three idiots trying to figure each other out.”

Tenaglia says that even though Anthony had no experience hosting a TV show at the time, he was up for the challenge. Traveling to various countries over a six-week period tapped into his adventurous side. Tenaglia remembers, “I think he was excited to go on this journey to see if reality matched the imagination.”

However, things didn’t go smoothly. It might surprise some people to know that Anthony’s gift for gab didn’t come easily to him on camera during the filming of that test footage. Collins explains, “Tony was naturally a very shy human being. And to get him to make contact or interact [with strangers] wasn’t his natural state.”

The first country they went to was Japan. Tenaglia says that Japan has a formality to its culture that made it difficult for Anthony to relax when interacting with people on camera. Tenaglia and Collins remember thinking that Anthony was so quiet and reserved in the Japan footage that they began to wonder if it was a huge mistake to think he would make a great TV host.

But when they arrived in the less-formal Vietnam, Anthony began to loosen up on camera and found his groove, according to Collins and Tenaglia. Anthony’s fascination with “Apocalypse Now” certainly helped. His TV shows were not about presenting food in a slick and shiny TV studio. He liked to get down and dirty with the locals.

In terms of food TV hosts, he was groundbreaking. His mass appeal had a lot to do with the fact that he wasn’t a food snob: He was equally comfortable at small, greasy eateries as he was at the most lavish and highest-rated restaurants. He was very open about his love for cheap fast food as well as exotic and gourmet cuisine. He was endlessly curious in talking to local people about their customs and cultures. His conversations and commentaries were often more interesting than the food that was on the show.

And he was fearless in eating almost anything. One of the more notorious things that Anthony ate on camera was a cobra heart that was still beating. The documentary includes that footage, as well as some footage of Anthony and other people killing animals to eat. This is not news to anyone who’s familiar with his TV shows. However, vegans, vegetarians and other people who don’t like to see animals killed for food might want to avoid this documentary or cover their eyes during these scenes in the movie.

Celebrity chef David Chang, who was one of Anthony’s closest friends, says in the documentary that he was fascinated by Anthony’s far-reaching fame. Chang states that no matter where they went in public, there was a “non-stop barrage” of attention on Anthony, from people who treated Anthony like a star. Chang remembers asking Anthony how he handled this lack of privacy with such composure. Chang says that Anthony’s response was: “Being nice to someone and being gracious to them, if that’s my job, it certainly beats being a middling line cook at a struggling restaurant.”

This “man of the people” image didn’t necessarily make him the most easygoing and most pleasant co-worker behind the scenes. Although former co-workers praise him in the documentary for being generous, witty and loyal, they also say that he could be rude, stubborn and egotistical. There’s archival footage of Tenaglia on the six-week “test footage” trip where she privately calls Anthony a “pain in the ass” over his “lack of communication.”

He demanded excellence from himself and from people around him because he hated mediocrity. As his longtime agent Kim Witherspoon says, “I don’t think Tony was afraid of failure. And that was hardwired [in his personality].” He took risks in his career, but he was never the type of celebrity who precisely plotted to have worldwide fame. People in the documentary say that his attitude toward taking new opportunities was, “Why not? If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

In the “Roadrunner” documentary, celebrity chef/restaurateur Eric Ripert fondly remembers the first time he met Anthony, who was a great admirer of Ripert even before meeting him. Instead of it being a private meeting, Ripert says with a laugh, “He showed up with a TV crew.” Ripert says of Anthony’s on-screen persona: “The challenge was to be real and at the same time be the host of a TV show.”

Tragically, Ripert was the one who found Anthony’s dead body in the hotel room. In the documentary, Ripert says he won’t publicly talk about that day or his thoughts on the suicide. And it’s very understandable that he won’t. People have different ways of trying to heal from that kind of trauma. In the documentary, Ripert talks about the good times that he had with his longtime pal. There’s some endearing footage of them together that’s in the movie.

Other friends who are interviewed in the documentary include musician Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age fame), artist Dave Choe, musician Alison Mosshart, artist John Lurie and Big Gay Ice Cream co-founder Doug Quint. Anthony’s former TV colleagues who share their thoughts include producer Helen Cho, cinematographer Todd Liebler and directors Tom Vitale, Mo Fallon and Michael Steed. Vitale hints at all the hell-raising that went on behind the scenes when he comments, “What made it into the show was—as far as I was concerned—the least-interesting parts of the trip.”

Anyone who’s seen Anthony’s TV shows already knows that traveling to all these different countries to eat the local cuisine did not exist in a glamorous bubble for him. He was deeply affected by tragedies going on in many of these countries. When the TV crew was in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, they saw how a simple act of giving the starving locals some leftover food from the TV shoot turned into a feeding frenzy with some people pushing each other out of the way to get in line for the food. The documentary includes footage from that incident.

The documentary also includes footage from 2006 of Anthony and several of the crew members having the surreal experience of lounging out by a hotel pool in Beirut as war aircraft swarmed in the sky. Everyone was temporarily stuck in the hotel because it was too dangerous to leave at the time. In the footage, Anthony quips, “Basically, we got caught in a war.” Liebler adds, “We were spending all our time at the pool, watching helicopters come in and out. It was just a waiting game for us.”

In the documentary, Collins says that Anthony (who was an executive producer of his TV shows) was vehemently against doing an “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” episode of their experiences in Beirut, out of respect for the people whose lives were destroyed by the war violence happening while the TV crew was there. However, as Collins says, “The network felt differently,” and the episode was televised. Anthony had clout as an executive producer, but his clout on his TV show only went so far, since the TV network owned the show.

As for Anthony’s personal life, he was married twice. His marriage to first wife Nancy Putkoski (his high school sweetheart) lasted from 1985 to 2005 and ended in divorce. He was married to second wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain (a mixed-martial artist) in 2007, and they separated in 2016. Anthony and Ottavia’s daughter Ariane was born in 2007.

Putkoski is not interviewed in the documentary, but she’s briefly shown in some of the archival footage. Anthony’s brother Chris comments on why the marriage fell apart: “Nancy had no interest in fame or being tied to fame, but it was a new birth for Tony. It was like he died and was reborn.”

The documentary includes personal footage of Anthony at a strip club somewhere in Asia. The footage was filmed during his divorce from Putkoski. He looks at the camera and sarcastically quips in true Anthony Bourdain style: “Nancy, I hope your divorce lawyer is paying attention to any of this footage.”

Busia-Bourdain (an Italian native who met Anthony because she used to work for his close friend Ripert) is interviewed in the documentary. She describes their early courtship as a “friends with benefits” situation that eventually turned into love. “We were the perfect match for the occasional rendezvous. I was expecting this bad boy, a little bit arrogant. Nowhere was I expecting endearing.” After getting involved with Busa-Bourdain, Anthony became a martial arts enthusiast and went through extensive training.

Several people (including Anthony in archival footage) say that for years he did not want to have children because he didn’t think he would be a good father. But when Ariane was born, it changed him and his life for the better. Busia-Bourdain comments about Anthony becoming a father later in his life: “Any doubts I had kind of dissipated when I realized how happy and excited he was that he was going to become a father.”

There are several clips of home video footage of Anthony with Ariane over the years. (His close friend Ripert calls him a very attentive father.) There’s also a more recent clip of Ariane spending time with her mother after his death. The camera is at a certain angle so that her face is not on camera, out of respect for her privacy. Not surprisingly, Ariane is not interviewed for this documentary.

Friends of Anthony say that becoming a father gave him a sense of “normalcy” that he craved and needed to have a balance for his celebrity jetset lifestyle. Homme says that he and Anthony talked a lot of about what it was like to be fathers who had to frequently be away from home because of their work. Homme gets a little emotionally choked up when he remembers that he and Anthony made plans to take a father-daughter trip together someday when their daughters got older.

In the documentary, no one really talks about why Anthony’s second marriage failed. However, people have plenty to say about Anthony falling madly in love with Italian actress/filmmaker Asia Argento, who was his lover for the last year of his life. She and Anthony met in 2017, when he filmed an episode of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” in Rome, and they got together not long after meeting.

Argento is not interviewed in the documentary, but there’s a general sense from what people say about the relationship that it was passionate in ways that were good and bad. The highs were really high and the lows were really low. Mosshart says she knew early on in Anthony’s relationship with Argento that the relationship was “going to end very, very badly.”

Just like Anthony became obsessed with martial arts because of his second wife, he became obsessed with being an ally in the #MeToo movement because of Argento’s involvement as a #MeToo activist. Argento is one of numerous women who have publicly accused disgraced entertainment mogul (and convicted rapist) Harvey Weinstein of rape and other forms of sexual assault. She says the first time that Weinstein raped her was in 1997. There’s archival footage of her in the documentary speaking out against Weinstein, and also privately telling Anthony that she has a hard time being a happy person.

Busia-Bourdain and other people in the documentary say that Anthony getting involved in #MeToo activism was a big change for him, because he previously avoided being publicly outspoken over social justice issues. He abruptly cut off people in his life whom he thought were guilty of sexual misconduct in the past. He gave interviews and posted messages on social media to express his outrage over #MeToo injustices.

Argento had considerable influence over other aspects of his life. She began directing episodes of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” And that didn’t sit too well with several of Anthony’s longtime colleagues. Many of them stop short of saying that Argento was a destructive force in Anthony’s life, but the implication is there, judging by the way that they talk about her.

Zach Zamboni, a cinematographer for “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” from 2013 to 2017, experienced some of the fallout. Anthony reportedly fired Zamboni because Zamboni disagreed with Argento over aspects of the show. (Zamboni is not interviewed in the documentary.) Former “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” producer Cho says in the documentary that when Zamboni got fired, that’s when she knew that anyone in Anthony’s longtime loyal inner circle could be abruptly cut off in a callous way that she’d never seen before with Anthony.

Cho doesn’t even try to hide her disgust about Argento when she describes how she thinks Argento had a negative influence on the show and on Anthony’s life. Cho says that Argento’s overly stagy directing style was the polar opposite of the documentary directing style Anthony wanted for his shows. Instead of letting filmed conversations flow naturally, which was the way that it had always been done, Argento’s direction changed the show so that when people were talking to Anthony on camera, they would be told to do multiple takes of dialogue, as if they were actors following a script. The documentary includes outtake footage from the show as an example.

After Anthony got involved with Argento, many people in his inner circle became alarmed at how he drastically changed. According to his artist friend Lurie, Anthony began to become agoraphobic and more paranoid about his celebrity status. Quint offers this insight: “People think he had the greatest job in the world, but it was one there was no way to ever escape from. You couldn’t ever really go home for a day and not be Anthony Bourdain [the celebrity].”

Collins says that in the last year of Anthony’s life, Anthony wanted to do something he never had wanted to do before: quit TV entirely. Collins states that when Anthony told him he wanted to quit TV so that he could move to Italy and be with Argento, he gave his friend unwavering support to do what he needed to do to be happy. But in the end, Anthony changed his mind and didn’t go through with this idea to quit TV and move to Italy.

Shortly before he committed suicide, the celebrity gossip media published photos of Argento on an obvious romantic date with another man. Vitale said he saw firsthand how distraught Anthony was over these “affair” photos, because Anthony expressed anger that Argento couldn’t be more discreet. The documentary doesn’t mention that after Anthony died, Argento gave interviews saying that she and Anthony had mutually agreed to have an open/non-monagamous relationship. No one in the documentary blames Argento for Anthony’s death, but it’s clear that many people close to him did not think that Argento’s relationship with him was healthy.

However, several people in the documentary make it clear that Anthony had personal demons long before he met Argento. He would frequently talk in a joking manner about having thoughts of physically hurting himself and other people. (And he says that in one of the documentary’s archival clips.) And, by his own admission, he had an addictive personality that caused him to get obsessive over things that he thought would bring him some kind of happiness.

“Roadrunner” actually begins with archival footage of Anthony talking about death. It’s very much like addressing the elephant in the room right away, since most people watching this documentary already know how he died. He says in a voiceover: “It’s considered useful, enlightening and therapeutic to think about death for a few minutes a day.”

And then, he’s shown talking to longtime friend Ripert and saying, “What actually happens to my remains is of zero interest to me. I don’t want anyone seeing my body. I don’t want a [funeral] party … unless it can provide entertainment value in a perversive, subversive way. If you can throw me into a wood chipper and spray me into Harrods in the middle of rush hour, that would be epic. I wouldn’t mind being remembered in that way.”

As much as Anthony would joke about his own death, the documentary makes a point of showing that for all of the therapy or caring support from loved ones that he had, he felt that he couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to anyone about his suicidal thoughts on the day that he took his life. The documentary mentions that he was in professional therapy toward the end of his life, but he wasn’t entirely comfortable with therapy. It’s not too surprising, considering that he said he kicked his addictions to cocaine and heroin without going to rehab.

The documentary also lays bare the emotional trauma experienced by the people left behind. Several of the interviewees (including Busia-Bourdain, Chang, Choe and Witherspoon) break down and cry on camera when they talk about Anthony, All the stages of grief except denial are seen in this film.

Chang cries when he describes one of his most painful memories of being Anthony’s friend: “He said I would never be a good dad. That really hurt.” Mosshart comments on the suicide: “I don’t think he was cruel, but there’s a cruelty to that.” Others express guilt over not seeing any signs of suicidal distress or wishing they could’ve done more to help Anthony.

Some of the people say that the suicide affected them in ways that they didn’t expect. LaJaunie was one of the people who was in Vietnam during Anthony’s six-week journey in the early 2000s to test his TV hosting skills. LaJaunie was in Vietnam when he heard the news about the suicide, and he decided to permanently live in Vietnam on that day.

Homme said after the suicide, he didn’t work for two years. Choe didn’t cut his hair for two years after hearing about the suicide. Choe finally shaved off some of his hair on camera for the documentary, almost as if talking about his dear, departed friend was therapeutic and helped him feel comfortable to get his hair cut.

It’s evident that “Roadrunner” director Neville has compassion for the loved ones who were left behind. The documentary might also help people understand that suicides often have no logical explanation. There were no drugs or alcohol in Anthony’s system at the time of his death. And even though he was someone who wrote about his feelings for a living, he didn’t leave a suicide note.

Some of the people close to him say in the documentary that there were no big warning signs that he would do something as extreme as killing himself. Any plans that he might have had to commit suicide were kept well-hidden by Anthony. Toward the end of the documentary, there’s some haunting footage of Anthony filming something for “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” where he’s surrounded by people, but the sad expression on his face as he stares at the camera shows that he looks like one of the loneliest people in the world. It’s a somber reminder that people who look like they “have it all” can sometimes feel empty inside and mistakenly think that their lives aren’t worth living.

Focus Features released “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” in U.S. cinemas on July 16, 2021.

Netflix premieres ‘High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America’

May 21, 2021

“High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” Episode 1, “Our Roots” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

The following is a description from Netflix:

“High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America”

Series premiere: May 26, 2021

Black food is American food. Chef and writer Stephen Satterfield traces the delicious, moving throughlines from Africa to Texas in this docuseries.

HBO Max launches ‘Take Out,’ a culinary series hosted by Lisa Ling about Asian restaurants in the U.S.

April 22, 2021

Lisa Ling (Photo courtesy of HBO Max)

The following is a press release from HBO Max:

  • HBO Max has given a six-part series order to the Max Original, “Take Out,” a timely docuseries from Part2 Pictures that follows award-winning journalist Lisa Ling as she takes viewers behind the counter and into the lives of the people and families who run some of America’s over 45,000 Asian restaurants.
     
  • Logline: Asian restaurants representing the diverse people and cuisines of the continent are as ubiquitous as McDonald’s, and each one of them has a unique and compelling story. Lisa explores the storied and complicated journey of the Asian community, past and present, at a critical time, while zig-zagging the country celebrating the joy that the little white take-out box can bring. 
     
  • Lisa Ling quote: “It is time that we learn about a community that has been integral to America’s development but has largely been ignored by American history. My own family’s path to their American dream started in a Chinese restaurant, and I cannot wait to learn the stories of those whose journey paralleled mine throughout different parts of this country.” 
     
  • Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max quote: “With ‘Take Out,’ we will pay tribute to the hard work and countless contributions of Asian Americans whose restaurants helped shape the cultural tapestry and cuisines of America. Lisa is one of a few storytellers who could paint the trials and triumphs of a community as told through the lens of a restaurant.”
     
  • David Shadrack Smith quote: “This has been a long-standing passion project that feels as relevant as ever. It’s a chance to join Lisa on an especially personal exploration – and build on our long relationship together delving deep into the dynamics of America through the people that make it diverse and complex.”
     
  • Credits: “Take Out” is produced by Part2 Pictures with executive producers Ling and David Shadrack Smith. Part2 Pictures is currently producing the eighth season of “This Is Life With Lisa Ling.”

Review: ‘The Truffle Hunters,’ starring Aurelio Conterno, Angelo Gagliardi, Carlo Gonella, Sergio Cauda and Gianfranco Curti

March 28, 2021

by Carla Hay

Sergio Cauda and his dog Fiona (pictured at left) in “The Truffle Hunters” (Photo by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw/Sony Pictures Classics)

“The Truffle Hunters”

Directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw

Italian with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in rural Piedmont, Italy, the documentary “The Truffle Hunters” features an all-white group of people, from middle-aged to elderly, who are involved in the business of harvesting, selling and buying truffles.

Culture Clash: The truffle hunters, who are set in their traditional ways and live without modern technology, are part of a dwindling group of people whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change, pollution and construction that destroys forest trees.

Culture Audience: “The Truffle Hunters” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in a rarely seen Italian community that knows where to harvest coveted delicacies such as white Alba truffles.

Gianfranco Curti in “The Truffle Hunters” (Photo by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw/Sony Pictures Classics)

The cinéma vérité-styled documentary “The Truffle Hunters” (which was filmed during a three-year period) is the type of movie that people will either find fascinating or dull. There’s no really no in-between, because viewers’ interest in watching this movie will largely depend on how much they want to peek into the secretive world of how the rare delicacy of white Alba truffles are found in Piedmont, Italy. It’s a very niche subject that isn’t supposed to be a blockbuster movie for generic audiences.

Directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, “The Truffle Hunters” takes place primarily in rural Piedmont, Italy, where several middle-aged and elderly men are continuing their traditions of truffle hunting in the forests. It’s a very competitive and mysterious tradition, where truffle hunters do not like to share information with anyone over where they find their truffles. The only real loyalty that they have in their truffle hunting is to their beloved dogs that they rely on to sniff out the truffles.

That doesn’t mean that friendships can’t be formed among the truffle hunters. It just means that even among close friends, it would be bad for an individual’s business to reveal secret truffle locations or ways that they find these locations. When they get together to talk business, they often lie about what they found so that they can mislead their competitors.

As a result of this cutthroat mentality, the dark side of truffle hunting is mentioned several times in the documentary: The hunting dogs are often at risk of ingesting poison that competing hunters put in the woods. No one is seen in the documentary actually planting the poison. But as soon it’s mentioned that truffle hunter dogs get poisoned, you just know that it’s probably going to happen to someone’s dog in this movie.

Because of all the deceit and dog murders involved in truffle hunting, truffle hunters can be very solitary and paranoid when they do their work. When they do gather in duos or groups, it’s usually so they can try to get information that will be in their own best interests. But they can’t really completely trust each other because of all the risks of sharing valuable information with rivals, many of whom don’t hesitate to murder dogs for the sake of trying to get ahead of the competition. Muzzles are placed on the truffle hunting dogs to try to protect them from poison, but these muzzles aren’t always effective in preventing a dog from ingesting something deadly.

In some of the scenes in “The Truffle Hunters,” cameras were placed on the dogs, so that there’s literally a dog’s eye-view during the truffle hunt. As expected, these are the part of the movie where there’s a lot of shaky cam footage. It’s an eye-catching technique that gives more of an adrenaline-pumping perspective of what it’s like to be on the hunt for truffles, since the dogs often run during the hunt, while their elderly human masters do not.

As shown in the documentary, the truffle hunters who are staunchly traditionalist refuse to go “high-tech.” The truffle hunters featured in the movie live in homes without computers, Internet access, cell phones or even televisions. And it should come as no surprise that truffle hunting in this part of Italy is not a job that is very welcoming to women. You get the feeling that the men involved in truffle hunting think of it as an exclusive fraternity, and they want to keep it that way.

The documentary is often very slow-paced, but it allows the viewers to have a sense of how lifestyles in this isolated rural area are stuck almost in a time warp, and people are reluctant to change. Truffle hunting is also a job that is having difficulty attracting young people, who are inclined to want jobs that pay more money or are located in more populated areas. None of the truffle hunters featured in the documentary has anyone in younger generations of their families who are willing to continue these traditions of finding truffles.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a demand for white Alba truffles. In fact, demand has risen, as these types of truffles have become increasingly harder to find. That’s partly because of the changing landscape/terrain affected by climate change, pollution and urban development that cuts down forest trees for wood or to make way for buildings. And it’s partly because there are less truffle hunters available to find and harvest truffles.

“The Truffle Hunters” might frustrate viewers who prefer documentaries that identify people by showing their names on screen when the people are speaking or first appear on screen. There are no “talking head” interviews, so viewers will find out an individual’s name if someone else says that person’s name in the movie. The people who are featured the most in the movie are:

  • Sergio Cauda, who was 68, when this movie was filmed, is the most adventurous and social one in the group. He hunts every day with his dogs Fiona and Pepe.
  • Aurelio Conterno, who was 84 when this movie was filmed, is a never-married bachelor with no children and has no humans living with him. He treats his female dog Birba like a kid who is his best friend.
  • Gianfranco Curti is an ambitious, middle-aged truffle dealer who buys from the truffle hunters and and sells to local and international merchants and restaurants.
  • Angelo Gagliardi, who was 78 at the time this movie is filmed, is an eccentric poet/farmer who wants to get out of the truffle hunting business because he thinks it’s become too corrupt. Just like Conterno, he’s the only human in his household and treats his dog (Nina) as his most trusted companion.
  • Egidio Gagliardi, who was 83 when this movie was filmed, is Angelo’s cousin and a truffle hunter/salesman who works with scientists to find the right trees and conditions to cultivate and harvest truffles.
  • Carlo Gonella, who was 88 at the time that this movie was filmed, sneaks out at night to find truffles, much to the disapproval of his wife Maria Cicciù, who fears for his safety when he’s truffle hunting.
  • Paolo Stacchini, who was 78 at the time that this movie was filmed, is a truffle authenticator/judge whose job is to determine the quality and value of individual truffles.

A great deal of the documentary shows what happens in the transaction phase of the truffle business. Truffle dealer Curti has taken over the family business from his father, but Curti is shown to be someone who is not as well-respected by the local truffle hunters as his father was. The hunters feel that Curti’s father was more polite and more understanding in dealing with the truffle hunters.

If there’s a “villain” in the movie, it would be Curti, who tries to lowball the hunters on purchase offers. At one point in a sale negotiation, he offers €150 for 100 grams of truffles. He’s a tough negotiator who puts up a lot of resistance to buy at a suggested higher price. In another scene, he has an argument with an elderly man named Franco, who accuses Curti of coming into his territory and buying truffles from his hunters.

And it’s shown later in the movie that Curti only sees truffles as a way to make as much money as possible, not as a food delicacy that he personally enjoys. In one scene, he has dinner with his daughter (who’s about 7 or 8 years old) and smugly says that it’s ironic that he sells so many truffles because he and his family don’t even eat truffles.

Because the dogs are so important to truffle hunting, they are exalted more than a typical household pet. Cauda takes a bath with his dog Fiona in his bathtub. Conterno thinks Birba is the best truffle-hunting dog in the area, and he cooks special meals for her and has conversations with her as if she were human. Gonella gets his favorite dog Tritina blessed by a local priest during a church service.

Conterno and his dog Birba are probably the ones who are considered the most successful truffle hunters in this group. And they appear to be sought-after by people who know the reputation of this dynamic truffle-hunting duo. In one scene, an unidentified man in his 30s has a meal at restaurant with Conterno and tries to entice the truffle hunter into sharing some the tricks of his trade.

The younger man says to Conterno: “You’re 84 years old. You have no wife, no children. You’re the best truffle hunter. Can you show me your secret spots? Or can I go truffle hunting with you?’

Conterno replies, “Never! Never! We can go truffle hunting, but in your place or in a place where neither of us knows. We can go to a new place.”

“The Truffle Hunters” also shows some of the disillusionment and strained relationships that can happen with people involved in truffle hunting. According to the “Truffle Hunters” production notes, cousins Angelo Gagliardi and Egidio Gagliardi didn’t speak to each other for 10 years, even though they lived only two miles from each other. Curti’s often-abrasive manner has caused tension because he’s aggressively positioned himself as the truffle dealer who wields the most clout with these truffle hunters.

Farmer spouses Gonella and Cicciù seem to have an overall happy marriage, but nevertheless bicker about his truffle hunting. She often gets exasperated and worried when he sneaks off to truffle hunt and she can’t find him. She doesn’t think it’s safe for him to truffle hunt in his advanced age. The spouses do have some harmonious moments together, such as a scene where he helps her sort and clean tomatoes in their kitchen.

And the dog poisonings have caused a certain distrust in the truffle-hunting community, because fellow truffle hunters who can be outwardly pleasant to each other can also secretly plot to murder each other’s dogs. The situation is compounded because it’s hard to prove who’s been poisoning the dogs. Even if there were eyewitnesses, you get the feeling that the people in this community wouldn’t snitch or go to the trouble of having anyone arrested for this crime.

Angelo Gagliardi also expresses why he wants to quit truffle hunting, by saying that “there are too many greedy people. They don’t do it for fun or to play with their dogs or to spend some time in nature. They only want money … People use poisons to kill the dogs.”

The die-hard truffle hunters who want to continue truffle hunting until they’re dead or physically unable to walk in the woods are clearly doing it as a passion, first and foremost. They don’t see it as a hobby or fleeting interest but as a way of life. They’re also truffle hunting because they like the competition aspect of this type of work. Truffle hunting is embedded in their identity, and they all naturally want to be considered “the best.”

Greed and egos certainly factor into truffle hunting. However, the documentary shows that these hunters are not the ones making the most money from truffle sales. The hunters seem to be happy with making enough money to live comfortably, because they’re definitely not getting rich from truffle hunting.

A certain part of the documentary also shows the process of preparing white Alba truffles at an auction house. They’re treated almost like rare jewels, with inspectors, deluxe displays and media photographers taking pictures. During an auction shown in the documentary, one truffle sold for $110,000.

The pomp and circumstance of truffle auctions are quite the contrast from the modest and simple lives led by the truffle hunters who go in the woods to find these treasured items. And that seems to be the whole point of this documentary: The people who harvest luxurious white Alba truffles probably have fascinating stories to tell and take pride in a custom that’s so rich in tradition that you can’t put a price tag on it.

Sony Pictures Classics released “The Truffle Hunters” in select U.S. cinemas on March 5, 2021.

Food Network debuts ‘Chopped: Martha Rules,’ starring Martha Stewart, Ted Allen, Marcus Samuelsson and Marc Murphy

March 15, 2021

Marc Murphy, Martha Stewart, Marcus Samuelsson and Ted Allen of “Martha Rules” (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network:

Lifestyle expert, acclaimed cookbook author and Emmy® Award-winning television personality Martha Stewart is taking over the Chopped kitchen in the new, five-episode stunt Chopped: Martha Rules, premiering Tuesday, April 13th at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network. Set in an outdoor kitchen in Kennebunkport, Maine, Martha calls the shots and changes all the rules, any way she wants, as sixteen fearless chefs must compete and learn to pivot to stay in the running for the $50,000 grand prize. Hosted by Ted Allen, each hour-long episode features four chefs working with a mystery basket of ingredients through three rounds – appetizer, entrée, and dessert – as they are challenged to create unique and delicious meals in a limited amount of time. But Martha has big surprises in store, turning Chopped upside down with curveballs thrown at the competitors every step of the way, including Martha taking control of the clock knocking the chefs off their game and adding a surprise fifth chef to battle against the competitors that make it to the dessert round. Joining Martha at the judges table are Marc Murphy and Marcus Samuelsson, who determine the winners from the preliminary heats that will meet in the finale for a chance to take home the pay day. Which champion can keep their head in the game, no matter what obstacles Martha throws in their path, and who will be chopped?     

“Martha Stewart is the definitive authority for all things lifestyle, and there is no one better at making all the rules,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network. “Set in one of Martha’s favorite locations, beautifully rustic and scenic Kennebunkport, the challenges presented to the chefs have Martha’s signature style written all over them.”

The first group of competitors set out to make a stellar first impression, but Martha has a twist for them concerning the pantry, as the chefs will only have access to 10 essential pantry staples. Maine-inspired basket ingredients like blueberry pie and clam chowder set the scene for a sensational coastal feast. In another episode the chefs learn that Martha plans to have them switch cooking stations – and dishes – at any time. Extreme creativity and serious agility must be on display as the chefs need to stay focused and confident under the most peculiar and demanding of circumstances. And in the finale, Martha plans to pull out all the stops to make the road to $50,000 as rife with challenges as possible. In the appetizer round the chefs wonder what’s going on, when instead of a fourth ingredient, they spot some footwear in the basket. The entrée round sees the last three chefs working with a bountiful collection of New England-inspired gastronomic goodness, and an extra mandatory task in the dessert round promises to be both time-consuming and educational.

Fans can meet the chefs and learn more about Martha and her pantry essentials on FoodNetwork.com/Chopped. Follow along with the competition on social media using #Chopped.

Chopped: Martha Rules is produced by Notional Entertainment.