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.

Food Network debuts ‘Chef Boot Camp,’ starring Cliff Crooks

March 5, 2021

Cliff Crooks of “Chef Boot Camp” (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network:

Food Network’s newest series, Chef Boot Camp, takes a deep dive into one of the most critical and essential elements of restaurants everywhere – the chefs running the kitchen. The success of a restaurant starts and ends with the food they serve and trouble in the kitchen can jeopardize everything. Enter Cliff Crooks, Culinary Director of a global restaurant brand whose job entails making sure the entire enterprise runs smoothly, including hiring and firing the chefs for each kitchen. Now Cliff is taking his decades of expertise and embarking on a new mission to help struggling chefs from restaurants across the country prove that they deserve to keep running their kitchens. Nominated by their respective restaurant owners, each episode Cliff will put a trio of underperforming chefs through a grueling series of challenges to test their real-world culinary skills and fitness for the role. With their jobs on the line, these chefs will attempt to not only survive but thrive in Chef Boot Camp and prove to their owners they have the talent and passion it takes to succeed. Chef Boot Camp premieres Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 10pm ET/PT on Food Network. “Cliff Crooks knows what it takes for a restaurant to be successful and in Chef Boot Camp, he brings his tremendous experience and a commitment to excellence to struggling restaurateurs and their kitchen staffs,” said Courtney White, Food Network President.

“Cliff’s investment in these chefs is evident every step of the way as he gives everything he can to help them improve and succeed.”

 In each episode, three struggling chefs embark on a three-day boot camp with Cliff who will assess their skills in the kitchen and address their areas for improvement. After an introduction to each chef that reveals what brought them to boot camp, he gets a firsthand look and taste of one of their signature dishes to begin to understand what the issues may be. Next, the chefs must demonstrate fundamental cooking techniques of a classic dish which they must create on time and to Cliff’s satisfaction, showing their skills, knowledge, and ability in the kitchen. Then, the chefs must bring it altogether – working a fast-paced, live dinner service at one of Cliff’s restaurants, and then, finally, whipping up a creative, new dish for their restaurant owners to demonstrate their growth and progress from boot camp. Some will rise to the challenge while others will not, with the fate of their career in the hands of chef Cliff. Chef Cliff Crooks has been cooking in prominent kitchens throughout New York City for more than 20 years. Prior to joining BLT Restaurant Group in 2010 as Executive Chef of BLT Steak New York, he held positions at Salute!, Blue Water Grill and Gramercy Tavern.

Chef Cliff has appeared as a contestant on Top Chef and a judge on Hell’s Kitchen and Chopped Junior, and will also be seen on Food Network’s Tournament of Champions. After more than two years of leading the kitchen at BLT Steak New York, the hospitality group’s flagship restaurant, Crooks was named Culinary Director of BLT Restaurant Group and has since played an integral role in inspiring culinary growth among his staff while demonstrating a strong commitment to the brand’s ethos of exceeding expectations through outstanding food and hospitality. 

Fans can get to know Cliff and learn some of his best cooking tips at FoodNetwork.com/ChefBootCamp. Follow along with the competition on social media using #ChefBootCamp and tell us about your biggest cooking mistakes. Chef Boot Camp is produced by Left/Right Productions for Food Network.

·       Premiering Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 10pm– “Have a Little Faith”

Chef Cliff Crooks works with three chefs in need of professional help, starting at Tara Inn in Port Jefferson, N.Y. Head chef Andrew’s poor performance could mean the end of a local favorite restaurant since 1977. In New Haven, Conn., the chef refuses to change the menu at his best friend’s restaurant, putting his relationship and his job at risk. Finally, Chef Cliff meets Shakilah, who took over for her mom as head chef at Carolyn’s Southern Comfort Cuisine in East Meadow, N.Y., but overspicing the food and her lack of drive could mean the end of her mother’s dream.

·       Premiering Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 10pm– “Sloppy, Snarky and Silent”

Chef Cliff Crooks works with three chefs with very different issues. Aiden has been the head chef of Blue Mermaid Island Grill in Kittery, Maine, for years, but he’s timid, and the restaurant’s owner questions whether he can lead a kitchen. Pat was recently promoted to head chef of Beefeater’s Tavern in Horseheads, N.Y., but his sloppy appearance and subpar culinary skills threaten his success. Finally, Shy has spent 16 years running the kitchen at McGeary’s Pub in Albany, N.Y., but she has an attitude problem that could mean the end of her run.

·       Premiering Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10pm– “Three Dreams”

Chef Cliff Crooks connects with three chefs in need of help, starting with Carlos in New London, Conn. He came to the U.S. from Ecuador and achieved the American dream while working in kitchens, but as the head chef at Hot Rods Cafe, he must learn some tricks beyond cooking wings and burgers to help his best friend and the restaurant’s owner bring in new customers to pay for a costly renovation. In Essex Junction, Vt., cooking saved the life of former addict Cody, but he needs help getting past his self-doubt to successfully run the kitchen at El Gato Cantina. Finally, Chef Cliff meets Kelly, a self-taught chef who transformed her health-food meal prep business into Fit Foodie Express in Long Beach, N.Y. She and her husband put their savings into the business, but her lack of cooking and restaurant experience could mean the end of not only their business but also their marriage.

·       Premiering Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 10pm– “I Will Be Great… Tomorrow”

Chef Cliff Crooks draws on his expertise to help three chefs in need, beginning with Chris at The Striker in Portsmouth, N.H. Chris was hired for his creativity, but he’s lost his passion and his food is uninspired. In Albany, N.Y., Kizzy is chef and co-owner of Allie B’s Cozy Kitchen, which features her mom’s soul food recipes, but she needs to branch out to reinvigorate business. Finally, Chef Cliff meets Nicky, who has been the chef at Bella Napoli in Bloomfield, N.J., for more than 40 years — and it shows in his terrible plating and the owners’ desire for new dishes to bring in more customers.

Online, fans can get to know Cliff and learn some of his best cooking tips. Follow along with the competition on social media using #ChefBootCamp and tell us about your biggest cooking mistakes. 

Discovery+ announces cooking TV series ‘Mary McCartney Serves It Up’

January 4, 2021

Mary McCartney

The following is a press release from Discovery+

British photographer and cookbook author Mary McCartney invites audiences into her London kitchen on Thursday, February 4, 2021, on Discovery+ as she prepares delicious, accessible, and picture perfect meals with her celebrity friends on the new discovery+ series “Mary McCartney Serves It Up.” In each of the six half-hour episodes, Mary shares her sincere love of cooking and her family’s favorite recipes and the stories behind them, showcasing her accessible vegetarian food philosophy for all to enjoy. In each episode, Mary will be joined by her famous friends, at home and over video conference, to celebrate food and friendship with transatlantic cook-alongs, taste-tests, cocktail classes and fun food Q&As. From easy dinners to comforting eats, moreish modern meals, and scrumptious desserts, Mary serves up incredible eats proving every day and special occasions can be vege-licious.

“I’m honored to be launching my new show on Discovery’s amazing new streaming service. With the help of a few friends, I want to show that meat free eating can be varied, delicious and accessible to everyone,” said Mary McCartney. “The recipes are simple, easy and rewarding. I can’t wait for you to be able to join me and my super talented guests for food and fun.”

It’s good food and great company on every episode, from Maple Vodka Grilled Peaches with Kate Hudson, Meatless Marinara Sub Sandwiches with Mark Ronson, and Deluxe Hash Brown Skillet piled high with spicy beans and delicious fixings for brunch with Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie. But no brunch is complete without a cocktail, so the ladies show Mary their special take on a spritzer. Plus, Liv Tyler is Mary’s official nachos taste tester, and Dave Grohl teaches Mary the secret to his legendary lasagna, while she makes Smokey Dogs and a chef’s salad with homemade dressing to round out the meal. Mary also arranges a food delivery for a virtual party with Gayle King, who famously doesn’t cook, filled with Sticky Crispy Cauliflower Bites, Pea & Mint Dip, and Roasted Tomato & Butterbean Toasts. Together they mix up a delicious mocktail, to toast to their friendship and to sharing a delicious meal.

“Mary McCartney serves up a passion for cooking, a unique culinary perspective showcased with every mouthwatering meal, and a love for connecting with friends over good food which is at the core of every episode,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network.

Mary McCartney is a British photographer, filmmaker and cookbook author and advocate of vegetarianism as part of sustainable plant-based living. Her cookbooks include “Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking,” in which she offers easy, family-friendly meat-free dishes that will appeal to everyone, as well as “At My Table: Vegetarian Feasts for Family and Friends,” offering more than 75 recipes, with recollections of specific celebrations, gatherings, and family highlights through the years. She is also a co-founder of Meat Free Monday, a not-for-profit organization that campaigns for sustainable, meat-free living.

“Mary McCartney brings her passion for food to Discovery+ at the perfect time to offer our global audience ideas for cooking delicious meals for their families,” said Lisa Holme, Group SVP Content and Commercial Strategy Discovery+.

Follow #MaryMcCartneyServesItUp for even more of Mary’s tried-and-true recipes that are perfect for special occasions and everyday dinners alike, as well as behind-the-scenes videos of Mary and her celebrity guests. Fans can visit www.discoveryplus.com, and follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more.

Discovery+ is the definitive non-fiction, real life subscription streaming service. The new service will launch with a landmark partnership with Verizon that gives their customers with select plans 12 months of Discovery+ on Verizon. At launch in the U.S., Discovery+ will have the largest-ever content offering of any new streaming service, featuring a wide range of exclusive, original series across popular, passion verticals in which Discovery brands have a 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. Discovery+ will offer more than 55,000 episodes all in one place, with over 2,500 current and classic shows from Discovery’s iconic portfolio of networks, including HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, OWN, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. For more about Discovery+, click here.

###

About Discovery:

Discovery, Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is a global leader in real life entertainment, serving a passionate audience of superfans around the world with content that inspires, informs and entertains. Discovery delivers over 8,000 hours of original programming each year and has category leadership across deeply loved content genres around the world. Available in 220 countries and territories and nearly 50 languages, Discovery is a platform innovator, reaching viewers on all screens, including TV Everywhere products such as the GO portfolio of apps; direct-to-consumer streaming services such as discovery+, Food Network Kitchen and MotorTrend OnDemand; digital-first and social content from Group Nine Media; a landmark natural history and factual content partnership with the BBC; and a strategic alliance with PGA TOUR to create the international home of golf. Discovery’s portfolio of premium brands includes Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and the forthcoming multi-platform JV with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Network, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport, the leading provider of locally relevant, premium sports and Home of the Olympic Games across Europe. For more information, please visit corporate.discovery.com and follow @DiscoveryIncTV across social platforms.

Food Network announces ‘Buddy vs. Christmas’

October 27, 2020

Buddy Valastro in “Buddy vs Christmas” (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network:

Buddy Valastro embarks on an extraordinary new Christmas-themed competition on Food Network as he goes head-to-head with the greatest non-cake artists on Buddy vs. Christmas, premiering on Sunday, November 22 at 10pm ET/PT. It’s bakers vs. makers as their skills are tested in each of the four episodes, as Buddy and his team of bakers goes up against an award-winning scenic designer, a glassblower, an animatronics expert, and a Lego builder. With only 24 hours to capture the spirit of the holidays with their creations, the one that rises to the top with their elaborate design will be crowned winner. From life-size gingerbread houses and snow globes, to incredible toys including drivable sleigh cakes and action figures, and to Santa’s workshop complete with talking reindeer, each creation brings holiday enchantment to life!

“As the Cake Boss, Buddy has mastered the creation of gigantic, life-sized, and incredibly realistic cakes. Now, viewers will be captivated as he takes on his most difficult challenge yet by competing against master builders and expert crafters – it’s cake creations vs. real build designs on Buddy vs. Christmas,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network. “Audiences will be stunned by the remarkable Christmas designs in each episode, with all their spectacular details and special effects, making each one more impressive than the last.”

The cake designs on Buddy Vs. Christmas were some of the last cake’s Buddy constructed, as the series was filmed prior to a recent accident at his home, where his right hand was impaled, and he was rushed into emergency surgery. TLC’s two-hour special following Buddy’s road to recovery premiering on Wednesday, December 23 at 9pm ET/PT, follows the dramatic events as they transpired in real time with footage captured immediately after the incident. It’s a long, emotional journey, from Buddy’s multiple surgeries, to his family anxiously waiting at the hospital, to grueling physical therapy, and to his first days back at the job. As business deadlines loom, commitments for over-the-top cakes stack up, and the holiday season around the corner, the stakes couldn’t be higher. But above all, Buddy faces the ultimate question: Can you still be the Cake Boss if you can’t make cakes?

“Buddy is like family to all of us at TLC, so we are thrilled and relieved for him that he is on the road to recovery following his accident,” said Howard Lee, President and General Manager, TLC. “Knowing Buddy’s determination and spirit, it’s no surprise that he would give it his all in the hopes of returning back to normal. We are proud to document his journey as part of this special.”

For more on Buddy vs. Christmas fans can head to FoodNetwork.com/BuddyvsChristmas each week to watch behind-the-scenes games with Buddy and to get seasonal recipe inspiration just in time for the holidays. Plus, follow #BuddyvsChristmas for tips from Buddy on how to rescue your baking fails and learn his top tips for sweet success. And for more on the TLC special visit TLC on FacebookInstagramTwitterTikTok, and YouTube.

Both programs were produced by Cakehouse Media.

# # #

ABOUT FOOD NETWORK

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 spanning 220 countries and territories; the portfolio also includes Discovery Channel, HGTV, TLC, Investigation Discovery, and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

ABOUT TLC

Offering remarkable real-life stories without judgment, TLC shares everyday heart, humor, hope, and human connection with programming genres that include fascinating families, heartwarming transformations and life’s milestone moments. TLC is the #1 primetime ad-supported cable network across key female demos.

TLC is a global brand available in more than 84 million homes in the US and 270 million households around the world. Viewers can enjoy their favorite shows anytime, anywhere through TLC GO – the network’s TVE offering featuring live and on demand access to complete seasons. A destination online, TLC.com offers in-depth fan sites and exclusive original video content. Fans can also interact with TLC on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest. TLC is part of Discovery (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), reaching 3 billion cumulative viewers in more than 220 countries and territories to satisfy curiosity and captivate superfans with a portfolio of premium nonfiction, lifestyle, sports and kids content brands.

Hulu announces premiere of ‘Eater’s Guide to the World,’ narrated by Maya Rudolph

October 20, 2020

Hulu has released the trailer and photos from the documentary series “Eater’s Guide to the World.” All seven episodes of the first season will premiere on November 11, 2020.

Here is Hulu’s synopsis of the show:

Discover the most surprising culinary destinations in “Eater’s Guide to the World.” Join narrator Maya Rudolph on a quest to find the most unexpected places to score an epic meal, while drinking and dining with the locals along the way.

Season 1, Episode 101: “Dining Alone in the Pacific Northwest

The best part of dining solo? You can focus on what deserves your attention most — the food. Time to eat your way through the Pacific Northwest, savoring the juicy pork steak, soba noodles, and piping hot fried chicken.

Season 1, Episode 102: “Cultural Crossroads in Casablanca”

No cool friend would let you skip Casablanca while on a trip to Morocco. This can’t-miss port city boasts snails, traditional pastilla, and unreal tagine — you’ve gotta taste it all.

Season 1, Episode 103: “The Ass Crack of Dawn in New York City”

It’s last call and you’re freakin’ hungry. What the f*** do you do? Luckily, you’re in New York City, where your crew can choose from mouth-watering options like Korean BBQ, empanadas, and birria — all before the sun hits the horizon.

Season 1, Episode 104: “Jungle to Table in Costa Rica”

The Costa Rican jungle is basically nature’s candy store, and we’d like to invite you in. Bursting with delicious guanabana, cainito, cas, pejibaye, and of course cacao — known to some as the fruit of the gods! Of the GODS, y’all!

Season 1, Episode 105: “Eating on the Hood of Your Car in LA”

Buckle tf up! When you’re in LA, your car’s your sanctuary. Treat it with the respect it deserves, and dig in to life-changing hot chicken, fresh bread drops, and museum-worthy bento boxes in its presence.

Season 1, Episode 106: “Planting Roots in Tijuana Mexico”

Local, regular, newcomer — whoever you are, Tijuana has something delicious for you to eat. Grab a seat and try the craft beer, pork belly tacos, Caesar salad (trust us) and yeah, you’ll want to stay awhile.

Season 1, Episode 107: “Taking Off in America”

You eat at an airport because you have to, not because you want to. But just beyond the departure terminals you’ll find smoky BBQ, sweet n’ fluffy pancakes and a bowl of warm borbor—all worth going the extra mile.

Food Network announces details of ‘Candy Land,’ hosted by Kristin Chenoweth

October 13, 2020

Kristin Chenoweth (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network:

Food Network brings out the childhood imagination of five teams made up of professionacake and sugar artists on the new primetime competition series Candy Land, inspired by the classic Hasbro children’s game. Through six episodes, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth hosts and guides the teams through the fantastical world of Candy Land, challenging them to create heavenly confectionary showpieces, all the while being thrown curveballs every step of the way by Lord Licorice that puts the teams’ skills to the ultimate test. Premiering Sunday, November 15 at 9pm ET/PT, each episode features the teams stepping into one of the eye-popping lands come to life, including giant candy canes in the Peppermint Forest, life-size gumdrops at the Gumdrop Mountains, a real life gingerbread house at Chocolate Mountain, enormous and luscious lollipops in the Lollipop Woods, and lemons growing right off the vines in the Lemon Lime Springs. The players must forage for flavors and unique ingredients within each land to use for their sugar masterpieces before presenting to judges Nacho Aguirre and Aarti Sequeira, who determine which teams advance down the board game path based on creativity, technical execution, and how well the candies of the land were incorporated. The first team to make it to King Kandy’s Castle wins the game and earns the grand prize of $25,000. 

“For almost three-quarters of a century and with over 50 million games sold, Candy Land is one of the most beloved childhood memories for generations of families everywhere, and we are thrilled to be able to collaborate with Hasbro to bring viewers on this immersive journey with such an iconic property,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network. “And with Kristin Chenoweth’s charismatic presence, she is the perfect guide in capturing the imagination of audiences, making the world of Candy Land truly come alive.”

“Candy Land is what the world needs right now – oh, and also sugar,” said Chenoweth. 

Host Kristin Chenoweth welcomes the players to Candy Land before presenting the teams with their first challenge to create mystical and magical creatures the likes of which have never been seen before. Each team must present their work of art to judges Nacho Aguirre and Aarti Sequeira to see which team’s time in Candy Land has come to an end. Other episodes feature the teams designing inventive and edible means of transportation for the citizens of Candy Land, creating beautiful upgrades for the town squares within each land, and a final challenge with the last teams standing thinking outside the box to deliver a one-of-a-kind gift that will need to impress King Kandy.

Whether it is over a 100 pounds of chocolate used for Chocolate Mountain or 1,000 lollipops needed to create the Lollipop Woods, go behind the scenes to see how the breathtaking set of Candy Land comes to life in the special premiering Sunday, November 15 at 10:30pm ET/PT. Host David Bromstad (HGTV’s My Lottery Dream Home) treats viewers to an exclusive peek into the making of each land and the creative process of the minds that are undertaking this monumental challenge, along with learning the history of the iconic Hasbro game that continues to be a childhood favorite.

For more confectionary magic, don’t miss expert baker Dan Langan in the exclusive web series Inspired by Candy Land where Dan creates sensational sweets and cakes that draw inspiration from the classic children’s game. The companion series available on FoodNetwork.com premieres the week of November 9 with new episodes rolling out weekly.

For more information on Candy Land, viewers can go to FoodNetwork.com/CandyLand to access insider videos with Kristin and the judges, as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the set. Plus, join in on the conversation throughout the season using #CandyLand.

#  #  #

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 spanning 220 countries and territories; the portfolio also includes Discovery Channel, HGTV, TLC, Investigation Discovery, and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.