This month marks the launch of a new 13-episode TV series on PBS that definitely subscribes to the “go local” theme while highlighting the skills of some noteworthy Bay Area chefs. Moveable Feast With Fine Cooking is hosted by Pete Evans, who sports a too-cute Australian accent and says things like “Bob’s your uncle” while cooking. He is a celebrity chef, author and restaurateur in his native land and adds a mellow touch and marked enthusiasm to the TV screen.
The series is a collaboration between Fine Cooking magazine and Boston’s WGBH. Each episode is set up for chefs and food experts to do something called “culinary jams” — as good a descriptor as any for this type of creative journey that gives visual insight into a region’s terroir. A San Francisco episode that ends with a spice-centric group dinner at Cookhouse premieres on Saturday, September 14 (airs on KQED 9 Sat, Sep 21 at 8:30am) and features Cortney Burns and Jeffrey Saad.
“I think all chefs and food lovers have a soft spot for San Fran. I love the diversity and the push for organic and sustainable practices. Cortney Burns and Jeffrey Saad definitely know their town, and today was all about spice. We decided on a menu that would highlight cooking’s greatest secret… the use of intoxicating ingredients that turn humble ingredients into the sublime, with little fuss. Jeffrey played with galangal and shrimp to create a dish that anyone could master to rave reviews.”
“Meanwhile, Cortney’s turning TCHO’s (a San Francisco chocolate maker) chocolate into a spice enhanced dessert with chili, ginger and other exotic/tantalizing spices from this amazing planet we share. And lastly, I thought I would take the humble roast chicken and give it a makeover with an Indonesian spice mix of turmeric, ginger, garlic, chili and kaffir lime.”
There is a slightly staged vibe to the program and one can see that the chefs were well coached to give thoughtful, detailed remarks. Each chef diligently explains cooking tips like why they want to obtain fresh spices, or how important it is to season shellfish before putting it into a hot pan. Cortney Burns verbally riffs on the use of ginger and spicy heat in her intriguing forbidden rice TCHO chocolate dessert, and it is pleasing to see a female cook with definite chops get her share of the culinary spotlight or ‘jam’ as it were. As far as TV goes, the show is a fresh take on learning about how chefs operate and think while they search for ingredients and put them to good use in the kitchen—no irritating competition, trash talk, or judges here. Just cooking and feasting with chefs and their friends.
Watch a preview of the series:
Other chefs highlighted on Moveable Feast With Fine Cooking: Jacques Pepin (a familiar TV face to us all by now), Tom Douglas and Thierry Rautureau, Anita Lo, Marcus Samuelsson, Jonathan Waxman, and Matt Lightner. The Bay Area jammers include Christopher Kostow, Leo Beckerman and Evan Bloom; Ravi Kapur (who pulls off a beach banquet for 150), father-son team Chefs Marc and Larry Forgione with Scott Samuel; and Sonoma powerhouse chefs Duskie Estes and Mark Stark.
Bay Area Bites caught up with some of the local Bay Area chefs to find out what the Moveable Feast filming process was like. Their comments have been edited for clarity and grammar.
Bay Area Bites: What was it like to work around the clock and access amazing ingredients for the TV production?
Christopher Kostow: The show was a simple representation of ingredients I work with every day in a region with incredible resources at my fingertips. This is how we cook everyday at The Restaurant, in a more elevated sense perhaps.
Evan Bloom: We had a great time visiting our good friend Taylor Boetticher over at Fatted Calf and were able to showcase our favorite charcuterie maker. Taylor makes our all-beef salami & we really enjoy working with him because he’s so invested in each product he makes and so driven to make each one the best it can be, even if it means tinkering with recipes after he has a product that most people will find to be excellent.
Jeffrey Saad:The treasure hunt for the best ingredients is the true pleasure of cooking. It is the journey that brings you to the kitchen. I was traveling with my wife in Thailand last year and was determined to find the best of every dish on the streets. I was intrigued by the art of the balance between sweet, salty, bitter and sour (plus a little heat!) that the Thai bring. Coconut milk is the new “cream” and brings a subtle richness to every dish. The fish sauce was the salt and umami, and the galangal root the aromatic bitter. Each ingredient is overwhelming on its own but together they make magic, taking your tongue on a mystery ride of pleasure.
Bay Area Bites: How is the filming similar and different than restaurant cooking?
Christopher Kostow: It was interesting, I’ve never been on a show like that before where you were demoing a dish outdoors. The stopping and starting threw me off, but we got the hang of it towards the end.
Evan Bloom: This was a new experience for us — we’d never cooked on television or in front of a crowd. You really have to think about each step and why you do it the way you do and how to make it more deliberate for the viewer. There were a couple of shots we had to do multiple times which is something we were not used to but the crew was great and the whole thing was much more organic than I expected. Of course, we were cooking for our friends which makes things a little more mellow but being able to cook shoulder to shoulder with Christopher and Pete was an amazing experience we are most humbled by.
Jeffrey Saad: Shooting the show was a blast. Pete Evans brought his down-under “no worries” joy to the group. We learned from each other while cooking away. What was different than restaurant cooking was the fact that we were cooking for a huge group of friends. It was more like a dinner party (with the usual intensity of timing that comes with that!) than a restaurant setting.
Bay Area Bites: Many times in TV cooking shows there are goofs–someone packed cilantro instead of mint, or the pizzelle is not sealed, so ice cream is melting while you eat it, and you have to keep smiling and talking. Anything like that happen?
Christopher Kostow: Honestly, I was really surprised that something like that didn’t happen! When I pulled the casserole out of the oven and flipped the pan over onto a plate, I was so sure it was going to be broken or stick to the pan. It came out perfectly, just gorgeous, and we got that on tape.
Evan Bloom: Fortunately, I was so nervous when I packed up our things that I double and triple checked everything and we were set!
Jeffrey Saad: Chaos is in our blood or we could never be in the restaurant business! We were goofs in general but as far as the food went, we were surprisingly goof-free! If I had to pick something I would say that the stove did not have the BTU’s (volume of hot gas) I needed for the wok. That is the key to great wok cooking. As a result I had to get the wok smoking hot and do multiple smaller batches to feed the group of 20.
Here are the episodes currently scheduled to air on KQED 9.
Find out airing schedule on other local PBS stations
Sat, Sep 14, 2013 — 8:30am
Seattle, WA: Chefs Tom Douglas and Thierry Rautureau
Sat, Sep 21, 2013 — 8:30am
San Francisco, CA: Chefs Jeffrey Saad and Cortney Burns
Sat, Sep 28, 2013 — 8:30am
Millstone Farm, CT: Chefs Jacques Pepin, Bill Taibe and Tim LaBant
Sat, Oct 5, 2013 — 8:30am
Culinary Institute of America, CA: Chefs Marc and Larry Forgione and Scott Samuel
Sat, Oct 12, 2013 — 8:30am
Westport, MA: Chef Chris Schlesinger and Doc Willoughby
Sat, Oct 26, 2013 — 8:30am
Secret Sea Cove, CA: Chef Ravi Kapur