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.

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.

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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.

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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.

HBO Max announces premiere date for Selena Gomez cooking series ‘Selena + Chef’

August 5, 2020

Selena Gomez in “Selena + Chef” (Photo courtesy of HBO Max)

The following is a press release from HBO Max:

HBO Max announced today that the Selena Gomez cooking show, SELENA + CHEF will premiere on the streamer Thursday, August 13th. The series is executive produced by Gomez for July Moon Productions, along with executive producers Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, and Leah Hariton on behalf of Industrial Media’s The Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC). The unscripted 10-episode cooking series features the multi-platinum selling recording artist, actress, producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist as she navigates unfamiliar territory: making delicious meals while stuck at home in quarantine.

The world-renowned chefs featured during the season includes Angelo Sosa, Antonia Lofaso, Candice Kumai, Daniel Holzman, Jon & Vinny, Ludo Lefebvre, Nancy Silverton, Nyesha Arrington, Roy Choi, and Tonya Holland

“Having some of the best chefs open up their kitchens to me was a humbling and fun experience. I definitely discovered I have a lot more to learn. I’m also really happy that we were able to highlight and raise money for some incredible charitable organizations,” said Gomez.

“Watching Selena with these incredible chefs has been a delicious joy,” said Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max. “You don’t need to be an experienced chef yourself to enjoy the show; you learn with her and get to see all the fun that happens in the kitchen. Try not to watch it while hungry!”

Since social distancing at home, Selena has been spending more time in the kitchen than she ever imagined. But despite her many talents, it remains to be seen if cooking is one of them. In each episode of this unapologetically authentic cookalong, Selena, with the support of her Quaranteam, will be joined remotely by a different master chef. Together, they’ll tackle cuisines of every variety, share invaluable tips and tricks, and deal with everything from smoking ovens to missing ingredients. Each episode will highlight a food-related charity, and this casual, funny, and informative series will embrace both the struggle and the joy of learning to cook — while inviting audiences to follow along at home.

Selena Gomez began making the transition from young actress to adulthood with such films as Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers.” She appeared in the Academy Award nominated film “The Big Short” opposite Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling as well as “Fundamentals of Caring” alongside Paul Rudd.  Most recently, she starred in Jim Jarmusch’s film “The Dead Don’t Die” opposite Bill Murray and Adam Driver. Gomez has added executive producer to her list of credits serving as an executive producer of the hit Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why”   Most recently, she executive produced the critically acclaimed Netflix docu-series “Living Undocumented” which created much buzz and discussion regarding the polarizing issue of undocumented people living in the United States.  Selena also executive produced the upcoming feature film “The Broken Heart Gallery.”  Earlier this year, Gomez released her critically acclaimed album RARE which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 her third consecutive studio album to debut atop the chart.   The first single, “Lose You To Love Me,” gave Gomez her first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As a solo artist Gomez has accumulated over 22 billion global streams.  Next up, Selena will launch her highly anticipated Rare Beauty cosmetics line exclusively at Sephora.  The mission behind the brand it to embrace one’s own uniqueness and build a community of support around a healthy self-image.

This project marks the second collaboration between IPC’s Holzman and Saidman and Gomez following the last year’s groundbreaking, six-part docuseries Living Undocumented, which the three executive produced and Saidman also co-directed. Holzman and Saidman also lead IPC’s parent company, Industrial Media, an independent production group with ownership interest in IPC, Sharp Entertainment, 19 Entertainment, and B17 Entertainment which is currently producing Craftopia hosted by YouTube star LaurDIY for HBO Max.

Gomez is represented by WME, Lighthouse Management + Media, Ziffren Brittenham LLP.


About HBO Max 

HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer offering, which debuted May 27, 2020. With 10,000 hours of curated premium content, HBO Max offers powerhouse programming for everyone in the home, bringing together HBO, a robust slate of new original series, key third-party licensed programs and movies, and fan favorites from WarnerMedia’s rich library including motion picture and TV series from Warner Bros., highlights from New Line, and catalog titles from DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more. Website: HBOMax.com

About WarnerMedia
WarnerMedia is a leading media and entertainment company that creates and distributes premium and popular content from a diverse array of talented storytellers and journalists to global audiences through its consumer brands including: HBO, HBO Now, HBO Max, Warner Bros., TNT, TBS, truTV, CNN, DC, New Line, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and others. WarnerMedia is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T).

About The Intellectual Property Corporation
Industrial Media’s The Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC) is an Emmy-winning IP creation and production studio based in Van Nuys, California. Founded in 2016, IPC develops and produces a wide range of television, film, documentary, and interactive mobile content. The company has series in production or development with a wide range of US broadcast, cable networks, and streamers. In 2017, the company was awarded an Emmy and in 2018 a Producers Guild Award for its series Leah Remini: Scientology & the Aftermath which was nominated for another Emmy in 2019. IPC was acquired by Industrial Media in 2018.

Review: ‘Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy,’ starring Diana Kennedy

June 19, 2020

by Carla Hay

Diana Kennedy in “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” (Photo courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment)

“Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy”

Directed by Elizabeth Carroll

Culture Representation: Taking primarily place in Mexico and the United States, this documentary about celebrity chef/author Diana Kennedy (a white British woman whose specialty is Mexican cuisine) features interviews with white and Latino people representing the wealthy and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Kennedy became a leading expert in Mexican cuisine, but she’s always at some risk of being accused of cultural appropriation.

Culture Audience: “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” will appeal primarily to foodies and people who like biographies of celebrity chefs.

Diana Kennedy in “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” (Photo courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment)

“Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” is a lot like the woman who is the subject of the documentary: matter-of-fact yet self-congratulatory and entrenched in tradition rather than experimentation. Born in 1923, British native Diana Kennedy (who participated in this film) is considered a leading expert in Mexican cuisine. This documentary that tells her life story follows the expected format of new interviews mixed with archival footage. If it weren’t for Kennedy’s sassy personality, the movie (which is the feature-film debut of director Elizabeth Carroll) would actually be pretty dull.

This is one of those laudatory celebrity documentaries where talking heads do nothing but praise the star of the movie. Celebrity chefs José Andrés, Rick Bayless, Gabriela Cámara, Pati Jinich, Alice Waters and Nick Zukin all gush about Kennedy in their separate soundbites featured the film. (Andrés and Zukin are two of the documentary’s executive producers.) The only real criticism of Kennedy actually comes from Kennedy herself, who describes herself as often being cranky, impatient and stubborn.

Cámara says about Kennedy: “I think she’s a legend. Many Mexicans are against admitting that she knows more than they do about their food.” Andrés comments, “You have to be Diana, to have the character she has, to achieve what she has achieved.”

Waters says of Kennedy’s influence on teaching Mexican cuisine: “She taught us the traditional ways and was not doing her own variation.” Bayless adds, “She’s the first person in the English-speaking world who first really mined the richness of regional Mexican cooking.”

Zukin gives this over-the-top compliment about Kennedy: “She’s a high prophet for Mexican food. Diana doesn’t care if people like her. She cares if Mexican food is evangelized … She’s going to tell you the truth.”

Jinich (the host of the PBS cooking show “Pati’s Mexican Table) has this to say: “I think Mexico as a country will be eternally indebted to her efforts.” Abigail Mendoza, a chef and native of Mexico who has been a close friend of Kennedy’s since the 1980s, “Thanks to Diana, Mexican cuisine is where it is … And she’s very Mexican in her soul and heart.”

You get the idea. Fortunately, the documentary keeps these effusive soundbites to a minimum. “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” (which is named after one of her cookbooks) is at its best when it just lets the camera roll to show Kennedy living her life. As she says in the film: “I’ve had a funny life. Let’s face it.”

Although Kennedy undoubtedly has immense talent to earn all of this praise and respect, her cookbook editor Frances McCollough asks a question that this documentary attempts to answer: “How can it be that a white British woman knows more about Mexican food than anyone else?”

It’s pretty clear from watching the film that Kennedy is certainly an expert in her field, but she also had the privilege and connections to be handed a massive platform through the media and book deals. Perhaps equally talented native Mexican chefs haven’t reached the same level of success because of racial barriers in the culinary industry. Kennedy tells her version of her life story, which is edited in between scenes of her in the present day.

Born as Diana Southwood in Loughton, England, she doesn’t really talk about her childhood in the film. Instead, the documentary skips right to her tales of joining the Women’s Timber Corps during World War II. While in the Women’s Timber Corps, she learned to plant trees and developed her lifelong passion for the environment.

After World War II, she was invited to go to Jamaica. Kennedy comments on her decision to live in the Caribbean: “I was propelled by a lot of hormones.” She says that while she was in Jamaica, she was nearly kidnapped.

And then she moved on to Haiti, where she had a fateful stay at Hotel Olafsson in 1957. She checked into the hotel on the same day as a handsome stranger named Paul P. Kennedy, an older man who was a correspondent for The New York Times in Mexico. Diana moved to Mexico to be with Paul, and she says she fell in love with him just as she fell in love with Mexico. She says in the documentary that Paul will always be the love of her life.

She eventually married Paul, whom she describes as someone who was the life of the party and a person who had a warm and humorous personality that naturally drew other people to him. In her early years of living in Mexico, Diana  developed a habit that she has continued throughout her life: She would go to village marketplaces to sample the local cuisine, find out how it was made, and ask the local merchants what kinds of food that they and their families were eating.

Diana says that most chefs who study other cultures’ cuisines don’t take the time to interview local people to find out what their families are eating. She gives herself a lot of praise in the film for taking that extra step, and she says that’s probably why she has more credibility in Mexican cuisine than other chefs of Mexican cuisine who aren’t natives of Mexico.

In her early years of living in Mexico, Diana says she didn’t have a car, so she would take a “third-class bus” (the type that lets chickens and other animals on board) to make these excursions to various marketplaces. She definitely has a car now. Some of the funniest scenes in the documentary are of Diana nimbly driving her Nissan SUV and showing mild signs of road rage, as she impatiently curses other drivers underneath her breath. Diana has a real fondness for the car, which she says has taken her through every imaginable terrain and weather.

Diana and Paul had a happy life in Mexico, and she says she was lucky that he accepted her for being “crazy.” She worked at the British Council, while he continued to work for The New York Times. Diana says, “I certainly wasn’t the traditional housewife. I never wanted children.” (Paul already had two daughters from a previous marriage. Diana’s stepdaughters are not seen or mentioned in the film.)

But then, tragedy struck when Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1965. Diana and Paul moved to New York City so that he could get medical treatment. But by 1967, he was dead. The following years that Diana spent as a widow in new York City were some of the loneliest and saddest in her life, she says. Diana never remarried.

But when one door closes, another one opens. After Paul died, Craig Claiborne, who was The New York Times food editor from 1957 to 1986, set Diana on a path to become a world-renowned chef whose specialty is Mexican cuisine. Diana had always loved cooking, but she didn’t see herself as becoming a professional chef until she got the motivation and help from Claiborne.

Diana says that she once offered to get a Mexican cookbook for Claiborne, and his response was that he didn’t want a Mexican cookbook unless she wrote it herself. At the time, Diana had been giving private cooking classes in her home to privileged society women in New York. Thanks to Claiborne, The New York Times gave Diana a prominent feature article about her cooking classes. This media coverage led to other opportunities, and the rest is history.

Diana eventually moved back to Mexico, where she still teaches small, private cooking classes in her home, which is a spacious villa called Quinta Diana, in Michoacán, Mexico. The documentary includes footage of her teaching a class of a diverse group of people, ranging from experienced chefs who have multiple restaurants to a relative novice who’s only been cooking for three years.

There’s also archival footage of Diana on her TLC series “The Art of Mexican Cooking With Diana Kennedy,” which was on the air in the early 1990s. And there’s a clip of Diana as a guest on “The Martha Stewart Show,” with Diana making traditional Mexican tamales with Martha Stewart.

The documentary also shows Diana at industry events, such as when she was inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame at the 2014 James Beard Awards, or when she was a panelist at The Los Angeles Times Food Bowl in 2018. During a Food Bowl studio photo session separately and together with fellow chef Cámara, the photographer comments to Diana about how feisty Diana is. At one point during the photo session, Diana jokes, “Thank God my black panties don’t show.”

The documentary takes such a reverential approach to Diana Kennedy that it doesn’t really have her reflect on all the opportunities that came her way because of her privileged situation. Yes, she’s undoubtedly talented, and she has many fans who are native Mexican chefs. But Diana came up at a time when white people were almost exclusively given the best opportunities for chefs to reach a worldwide audience through the media and book deals.

Diana says in the documentary that perhaps her biggest influence was Mexican cookbook author Josefina Velázquez de León. However, Velázquez de León would never have been given the same glamorous opportunities for fame and fortune that were given to Diana Kennedy. A lot more people know who Diana Kennedy is rather than the Mexican chef/author who was Diana Kennedy’s biggest influence.

Nowadays, culinary audiences are more attuned to giving cultural credit where credit is due. Cultural appropriation is not as acceptable as it was before the 21st century. Although the documentary hints that some very talented native Mexican chefs might have been overshadowed by Diana Kennedy, there is no further exploration of that subject, since the filmmakers only seem concerned with portraying Diana Kennedy as the best thing that ever happened to Mexican cuisine. It’s a “fan worship” mentality that’s a little off-putting to people who expect documentaries to have a more objective approach.

One thing that the documentary captures well is Diana’s tireless work ethic, since there are many scenes in the film that make it obvious that she has no intentions of retiring. Diana says, “One is never satisfied. There is so much more I’d like to do.” She also says, “You’ve got to realize that cooking is the biggest comeuppance.”

Diana is also very outspoken about her concerns about the environment and where the world is headed. She gives this rant in the documentary: “I think it’s shocking that the more we are connected electronically, the less we are united.”

She continues: “And then, in certain parts of the world, machos come along like [Vladimir] Putin and [Donald] Trump and all the rest of it and want to change it. They don’t see the beauty of this world. We’re destroying our planet. We’re destroying our environment, and it’s such a loss for young people today.”

Diana also shares her philosophy on life. “You can’t win them all.” She adds, “How horrible it is for people to go around wanting to be loved and liked. You just go on doing what you know what you want to do. And at some point, the tide will turn and you make your mark—or you may not.”

Although Diana is extremely confident about her abilities and accomplishments, she shows some humility when she says, “I’m very honored the way so many people look at my books and appreciate what I’ve done. That’s all you can do—and cook for them.”

The cooking scenes in the documentary are fairly good, but not outstanding. What’s actually more impressive is the documentary’s cinematography of Mexico’s gorgeous landscape. Some of the aerial shots are breathtaking. (Paul Mailman and Andrei Zakow are credited as the film’s cinematographers.)

“Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” is not a bad documentary. It’s just not a very insightful or revealing film. It’s the documentary equivalent of a Wikipedia page instead of an illuminating biography.

Greenwich Entertainment released “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on May 22, 2020. The movie’s digital/VOD release date is June 19, 2020, and the DVD release date is June 23, 2020.

Food Network announces ‘All-Star Best Thing I Ever Ate’ series of specials

June 18, 2020

Bobby Flay and Sunny Anderson (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network:

Food Network’s biggest stars offer the ultimate guide for the best dishes they have ever had while also giving viewers an up close and personal look at recipes to make at home in “All-Star Best Thing I Ever Ate,” premiering Monday, July 20th at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network. Whether it is the most sensational sandwiches, best burgers, or one of a kind dishes, Food Network icons showcase the best bites they have tasted through eight one-hour special episodes, with Sunny Anderson, Valerie Bertinelli, Alton Brown, Anne Burrell, Bobby Flay and Alex Guarnaschelli also sharing some of their own personal recipes that take on each episode’s culinary theme, perfect for viewers at home.

“We are excited to bring ‘All-Star Best Thing I Ever Ate’ to the schedule, as fans get more of what they crave with firsthand recommendations for the best dishes and personal recipes from Food Network’s biggest stars,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network.

Throughout the season culinary pros give their picks for the country’s most amazing eats. Guy Fieri takes viewers on a journey to the bright lights of Las Vegas to get his favorite meaty burrito guaranteed to satisfy cravings, while Molly Yeh divulges where to find the best fried pickles in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Rachael Ray has an unbeatable breakfast sandwich in Pittsburgh. And for those who want to make the best thing they ever ate, don’t miss recipes from Food Network’s stars, including Bobby Flay’s perfect rib eye, Alton Brown showing how to make pizza on the grill, and Valerie Bertinelli’s delectable homemade churros.

Head to FoodNetwork.com/BestThingIEverAte to see where your favorite chefs like to eat and to catch up on past episodes. Follow #BestThingIEverAte on Food Network’s social channels to weigh in on your ultimate restaurants and favorite meals.

Food Network debuts ‘Tournament of Champions,’ hosted by Guy Fieri

January 23, 2020

Guy Fieri (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network:

It’s madness on Food Network this March as Guy Fieri hosts and executive produces an all new culinary competition where 16 of the nation’s most celebrated chefs face-off on “Tournament of Champions,” premiering on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at 10pm with a supersized 90-minute episode stuffed with edge-of-your-seat action. During the five-part tournament, the chefs’ skills will be pushed to the limit, as they go head-to-head in a single elimination bracket-style competition, where a randomizer machine determines the protein, produce, equipment, cooking style, and time for each of the cook-offs. The pressure is on and emotions are high throughout this unpredictable tournament, as the elite chefs enter this blind competition not knowing who their opponents will be, or what cooking challenges they will face. The intensity increases in each sudden-death each round of the tournament as the coveted spots decrease from 16 to eight in the second round, then to four, until there are only two chefs in the final round.

This past October, Guy issued a call to action on social media for fans to nominate their favorite chefs they thought deserved to earn a coveted challenger spot for an East Coast vs. West Coast tournament, and the fans responded. The final chefs representing the East Coast are: Maneet Chauhan, Rocco DiSpirito, Alex Guarnaschelli, Elizabeth Falkner, Darnell Ferguson, Amanda Freitag, Marc Murphy and Christian Petroni. The chefs showing off their chops from the West Coast are: Richard Blais, Eric Greenspan, Antonia Lofaso, Beau Macmillan, Jet Tila, Marcel Vigneron, Michael Voltaggio, and Brooke Williamson. Today, the seeds and first-round brackets of the tournament will be unveiled on Food Network’s Twitter page. Beginning on February 14th, for the first time ever, viewers will be able to build their own bracket for a chance to track their scores as the competition unfolds, unlock exclusive content, and win prizes throughout the season.

“‘Tournament of Champions’ showcases cooking as a sport with difficult sudden-death challenges and unexpected match ups as each round is determined by the course of the competition,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network. “Our cameras rolled on all the action, from the competition floor to back stage and behind the scenes, capturing the tension, deliberation, elation and frustration as bracket victors moved on while others faced elimination.”

“The NFL has the Super Bowl, MLB has the World Series, NBA has The Finals. And now Food Network has ‘Tournament of Champions’ – the ultimate culinary championship to establish once and for all, who rules America’s kitchen,” said Guy Fieri.

It’s a high stakes competition unlike any before. Simon Majumdar and Justin Warner deliver real time play-by-play as all the action unfolds in front of a live audience and continues backstage while the competitors mull over their work while listening in on the judges’ deliberation. Deciding who advances in each round is a rotating panel of expert judges including, Michelle Bernstein, Traci Des Jardin, Marcus Samuelsson, Nancy Silverton, Curtis Stone, Ming Tsai, and Jonathan Waxman. Unexpected challenges, major upsets and surprises fill this tournament, which concludes with an extended 90-minute episode on Wednesday, April 1st at 10pm. Only one chef will emerge as the champion!

Fans can head to www.FoodNetwork.com/TournamentOfChampions for videos with Guy, taste test challenges with the judges and food games with competitors, as well as exclusive Q&As. From February 14 – March 1, viewers can head to Food Network’s Twitter to complete their own bracket for the chance to win unique prizes, and use #TournamentOfChampions to track the action week-to-week.

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

Thanksgiving 2019: Food Network and Cooking Channel programs

September 30, 2019

Food Network stars Sunny Anderson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Katie Lee (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

The following is a press release from Food Network and Cooking Channel:

Food Network and Cooking Channel are preparing for food’s biggest holiday with a full slate of Thanksgiving-themed programming, including a live on-air event and first-ever, interactive Thanksgiving streaming event on the NEW Food Network Kitchen app, marking a 40% increase in Thanksgiving content compared to 2018. The November primetime lineup on Food Network includes: “Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge,” a four-episode competition hosted by Giada De Laurentiis premiering Sunday, November 3rd at 9pm ET/PT; “Worst Cooks in America: Thanksgiving Redemption” with Anne Burrell and Scott Conant on Sunday, November 10th at 10pm ET/PT; brand-new special “Thanksgiving Pie Fight” hosted by Sunny Anderson on Thursday, November 14th at 9pm ET/PT; a turkey-focused “Good Eats” one-hour special with Alton Brown on Sunday, November 17th at 8pm ET/PT and “Macy’s Thanksgiving Cake Spectacular” with Maureen McCormick on Sunday, November 17th at 10pm ET/PT.

On Friday, November 22nd at 9pm ET/6pm PT, Guy Fieri will host the first-ever, fully interactive LIVE Thanksgiving streaming event, “Guy’s Thanksgiving Hotline,” on the Food Network Kitchen app, sharing recipes, tips and guidance for the biggest holiday of the year, and giving fans the chance to have their questions answered in real-time. In daytime, Food Network goes live on air on Saturday, November 23rd at 11am ET with special two-hour interactive event “The Kitchen: Thanksgiving Live” with “The Kitchen” co-hosts Sunny Anderson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Katie Lee, Jeff Mauro and Geoffrey Zakarian, joined by Alton Brown. Immediately following “The Kitchen: Thanksgiving Live,” fans can join the hosts on the Food Network Kitchen app as they each go live sharing more great ideas on how to make this year’s Thanksgiving the best it can be. On Cooking Channel, host Carla Hall discovers outrageous Turkey Day treats in primetime special “Thanksgiving Grubdown” on Monday, November 11th at 9pm ET/6pm PT.

“Food Network and Cooking Channel have Thanksgiving covered from every angle and this year we have packed the schedule, adding dynamic live and interactive content to really give viewers the experience, access and information they crave,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network and Cooking Channel. “From expert Thanksgiving feast recipes and family entertaining tips to edge-of-your-seat holiday themed competitions, spectacles, and live stunts, our programming and platforms are the ultimate destination leading up to the big day.”

The season kicks off on Sunday, November 3rd at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network with “Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge,” where six chefs face off to create the ultimate Thanksgiving dishes. Host Giada De Laurentiis puts the creative competitors to the test, challenging them to prepare the most delicious and innovative turkeys, side dishes and desserts to ever hit a dining table. Judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Carla Hall and Christian Petroni choose the $25,000 winner in the finale on Sunday, November 24th at 9pm ET/PT. Join the conversation on social using #UltimateThanksgivingChallenge.

On Sunday, November 10th at 10pm ET/PT, four beloved former “Worst Cooks” recruits return to boot camp in Worst Cooks in America: Thanksgiving Redemption. Chefs Anne Burrell and Scott Conant teach the much-improved recruits how to make a Thanksgiving meal to impress judges Jonathan Waxman, Esther Choi and Cliff Crooks – and only the winning team wins kitchen appliances worth $10,000. Follow #WorstCooks on social media for more of the very best of the worst.

Four top pie bakers compete to create the most outrageously visual and edible pies in the brand-new special “Thanksgiving Pie Fight,” premiering Thursday, November 14th at 9pm ET/PT. Hosted by Sunny Anderson, the bakers must utilize height-defying techniques, intricate designs, dyed doughs and more to blow away judges Nacho Aguirre, Jessica Clark-Bojin and Scott Conant. With a $10,000 prize at stake, the self-taught and professional bakers will stop at nothing to make the most elaborate pies. Follow the fight on social media using #ThanksgivingPieFight.

Alton Brown talks turkey in “Good Eats: Thanksgiving Special,” a one-hour show dedicated to the bird on Sunday, November 17th at 8pm ET/PT. Turkey may be the most versatile of the “New World” critters, but for some crazy reason we only roast it for the holidays, so Alton puts an end to that with three turkey recipes that should be made year-round. Follow #GoodEatsTheReturn to get Alton’s turkey tips and more.

In “Macy’s Thanksgiving Cake Spectacular,” hosted by Maureen McCormick, four of the country’s best bakers come together to design sweet masterpieces that pay tribute to the beloved Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons and floats. Airing on Sunday, November 17th at 10pm ET/PT, only the most successful cake artist will take home the grand prize of $10,000 and have their work featured in Macy’s flagship New York City store, plus receive tickets to the parade. Judges are Buddy Valastro, Susan Tercero and last season’s winner Timbo Sullivan. Join the conversation anytime using #ThanksgivingCakeSpectacular.

On Friday, November 22nd at 9pm ET/6pm PT, Guy Fieri will host the first-ever, fully interactive live Thanksgiving streaming event, “Guy’s Thanksgiving Hotline,” on the Food Network Kitchen app, sharing recipes, tips and guidance for the biggest holiday of the year, and giving fans the chance to have their questions answered in real-time.

In daytime on Saturday, November 23rd at 11am ET, the special event “The Kitchen: Thanksgiving Live” helps viewers successfully pull off the biggest culinary holiday of the year with interactive tips and recipes from Food Network stars themselves. In the two-hour live show, The Kitchen co-hosts Sunny Anderson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Katie Lee, Jeff Mauro and Geoffrey Zakarian are joined by Alton Brown to offer their own takes on classic Thanksgiving dishes to make an amazing holiday feast. Immediately following “The Kitchen: Thanksgiving Live,” the hosts will each go live on the Food Network Kitchen app giving viewers even more Thanksgiving 911 to help make their holidays the best they can be. Follow #TheKitchen #ThanksgivingLive for all the culinary action.

Thanksgiving-themed premiere episodes of fan-favorite series, including “Barefoot Contessa: Cook Like a Pro,” “Beat Bobby Flay,” “Chopped,” “Chopped Junior,” “Girl Meets Farm,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” “Guy’s Ranch Kitchen,” “The Pioneer Woman,” “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen,” “Triple D Nation” and “Valerie’s Home Cooking,” will also air in November.

On Cooking Channel, host Carla Hall discovers outrageous Turkey Day treats in the primetime special “Thanksgiving Grubdown” on Monday, November 11th at 9pm ET/6pm PT. She gobbles ’til she wobbles on pumpkin pancakes piled high with a slice of cheesecake, reimagines Thanksgiving dinner as a giant sandwich and devours a 23-pound cake made with layers of holiday pies. Follow along on social using #ThanksgivingGrubdown.

For even more inspiration, fans will be able to use the Food Network Kitchen app to access 25 LIVE cooking classes each week, over 800 on-demand cooking classes, 3,000 instructional videos, 80,000 recipes, and more. Plus, beginning November 9th viewers can stream all-new episodes of “30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray” on Food Network Kitchen.

On digital and social, Food Network’s “Countdown to Thanksgiving” begins November 1st with brand-new content every day across platforms. Fans will get the best-of-the-best recipes and tips, expert demos, product recommendations, interactive Q&As throughout the month, plus the chance to win BIG with social giveaways. Fans will also have an exciting opportunity to have a direct line to experts in Food Network Kitchen to solve their biggest Turkey Day conundrums to make sure their feast is a success. Join the countdown on social media using #CountdowntoThanksgiving.

Visit Cooking Channel’s one-stop guide to Thanksgiving online, featuring everything needed to host the perfect holiday feast. From easy entertaining timesavers and a cornucopia of side dishes to the all-important turkey and something sweet for dessert, Cooking Channel has recipes, how-to videos and step-by-step tutorials to set users up for delicious success.
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.

COOKING CHANNEL (www.cookingchanneltv.com) is an entertainment brand dedicated to today’s passionate food lover. For food people, by food people, Cooking Channel is the answer to a growing hunger for more content devoted to food and cooking in every dimension from global cuisines to international travel, history and unconventional how-to’s. Cooking Channel 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.