gastronomy

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Latest In gastronomy

August 19, 2014

At Home with Diana Kennedy

Inside the Chili-Filled Kitchen Garden of Mexican Food's Grand Dame

“In 1976 I decided to create a centre for my learning and cooking,” says Diana Kennedy, the 91-year-old doyenne of Mexican cuisine and culture. “I bought some land and gradually built my ecological house.” Quinta Diana in Mexico’s Michoacán state has been the longtime home of the legendary food writer and culinary anthropologist—and following a private lunch and post-prandial stroll through her garden—is explored in today’s film by James Casey, founder of New York-based Swallow Magazine. Kennedy’s publishing career began in 1972 with the epicurean classic, The Cuisines of Mexico, most recently winning a James Beard Award for her 2010 journey into the heart of her adopted country’s eating, Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy. Nestled in the verdant hills above the small town of Zitácuaro, the fertile grounds of Kennedy’s home support an embarrassment of riches. Vast selections of meticulously sourced chilies are flanked by numerous edible plants, herbs and fruits, celebrating Mexico’s extreme biodiversity in miniature. “There’s a lot I want to do,” she says. “When I make this place a foundation it will keep my ideas of conservation and sustainability alive.” Plans are afoot to turn the property into the Diana Kennedy Center, a non-profit space housing Kennedy’s vast archives of literature, writing and collecting, a fitting tribute to a life’s work both edible and otherwise.

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Spotlight

Ludo Lefebvre: On Potatoes

The Tattooed Master Chef Pays Tribute to the Humble Tuber

Far beyond mashing and frying, the manifold virtues of the potato are explored by the French chef Ludo Lefebvre in this short from filmmaker David Gelb. Often thought of as the godfather of pop-up dining thanks to the success of Ludobites, the LA-based gastronome’s dining experiment that was the hottest meal ticket in town during its various iterations between 2007-2011, Lefebvre initially made a name for himself on the California culinary circuit as the executive chef at two of Los Angeles’ best-regarded establishments, L’Orangerie and Bastide. The French transplant, a recent participant of the Le Grand Fooding Crush festival, has since gained recognition as a competitor on cult cooking shows, Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef America, and his latest venture, Trois Mec, is a collaboration with fellow chefs Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, the duo spearheading the meat-heavy joint, Animal. The boys’ new hotspot has been receiving rave reviews for its “casual fine dining” hits like fried salt-and-vinegar buckwheat amuse-bouches to mustard seed-crusted chicken wings, and the restaurant’s kitchen provided the setting for Lefebvre’s potato tasting as captured here by Gelb, the man behind 2011’s unexpected documentary hit, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The food-happy director spoke to us about hunger, Instagram, and of course, potatoes.

How do you translate the experience of preparing and consuming food into film? 
David Gelb: 
I tend to work with chefs who make amazing-looking food, so that is the bulk of the work. Beyond that, I think the best way is to use the camera to try to mimic the perspective of a hungry person, and then let the audience’s imagination do the rest. We generally keep the camera just above table level, which is what it might look like if you were leaning in and examining your food as it is placed in front of you. Shallow, selective focus helps guide the eye to the most delicious looking parts, which should glow or glisten indicating fatty acids and moisture. In the end, however, it’s really a matter of intuition.

Documenting gastronomic moments has become a global social phenomenon, with images of food proliferating on the likes of Instagram and Facebook. Where do you think this need for us to memorialize and showcase our meal choices comes from? 
DG:
I think it’s a similar impulse that makes people want to shoot and post pictures and video of concerts and sporting events. There is a certain satisfaction in taking a picture of a perfect morsel and kind of bragging to the world, “I ate that.”

You must have learned a lot about potatoes during filming. Have you tried any new tricks in your own kitchen? 
DG: I want to try to make the potato pulp like Ludo does at home. However, I’m a lot better at eating food than making it.

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Spotlight

Mario's Meats

Chef Batali Gets Serious About Butchery For His Latest Venture Chi Spacca

Celebrity gourmand Mario Batali explores the sensory frontiers of the nose-to-tail cooking he popularized in the States in today’s film by Alison Chernick, shot on site at Chi Spacca (“cleaver” in Italian) in Los Angeles. The intimate meat emporium is the latest addition to an epicurean empire that includes Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse in Las Vegas. Having just opened its doors this February—helmed by the indefatigable Mozza restaurant trio made up of Nancy Silverton, Joseph Bastianich and Batali himself—Chi Spacca showcases the charcuterie talents of Head Chef and Batali disciple Chad Colby, whose philosophy concerning the preparation of meat chimes with his mentor’s own. Colby became so entranced by Italian salami culture that he developed the first authorized “dry cure” program in LA, a lengthy process involving the addition of salts and other ingredients that can take months or even years, but which results in an array of pungent meats made in house. “What isn’t captured in the video is the wild smells,” recalls Chernick of her experience filming. “I have been enlightened by the science of a good salami, and we can thank Mario for capturing Italian culture and bringing it to us on a platter.”

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