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July 26, 2014

Dining Al Fresco: Le Fooding

Chefs Ludo Lefebvre and Christina Tosi Revel in a Nostalgic Afternoon Picnic on Rockaway Beach

“In Burgundy, where I’m from, we were very close to nature; we used to eat sandwiches and salads prepared by my grandmother under the trees,” says tattooed master chef Ludo Lefebvre, joining a roster of rotating culinary wizards at Le Fooding’s annual New York bash on Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk. “And when we went hunting we had picnics in the cabin with cassoulet, pâtés and ratatouille.” A playful and sunny affair just steps away from the ocean, the three-day series saw guests dine at brightly painted communal tables to the sounds Jonah Bechtolt and Claire Evans of Yacht on the decks. While Lefebvre prepared veal breast with an airy parmesan cream, dried olives and artichokes, and bonito tuna, urging everyone to “eat with your hands,” the food-happy crowd also lined up for Andrew Field’s cornmeal crostini sopes with grilled fish, crema and guacamole, in the style of his legendary Rockaway Tacos just a few blocks away. “Whenever you’re on a beach, near the sand, it sparks up childhood memories,” says Field, a central figure in the beach’s post-Sandy reconstruction. “Rockaway also reminds me of the New York I grew up in––the community spirit, the multiculturalism.” As for Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi, she dreamt up milk-and-cereal and sour cream-grapefruit-lime popsicles, which everyone happily licked while dancing to the sounds of the New York Brass Band. The inspiration came from memories of bright summer days with her family. “I grew up in Virginia and we’d always hang out in the backyard and eat very fresh, light, effervescent dishes.”

Chef Ludo Lefebvre's Ultimate Picnic Playlist

The Clash – “The Magnificent Seven”
New Order – “Blue Monday”
Pixies – “Hey”
Stromae – “Moules Frites”
NTM – “La Fièvre”
Téléphone – “Un Autre Monde”
The Velvet Underground & Nico – “Heroin”

Check out Dining Al Fresco at Petersham Nurseries and Kurobuta.

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Mr. Chow: Preparations

A Hypnotic Short from Norbert Schoerner Celebrates the Relaunch of London's Legendary Canteen to the Stars

“Food and romance go hand in hand, or mouth in mouth,” says lauded German photographer and filmmaker Norbert Schoerner of his latest short, an avant-garde ode to the art of noodle-making at London’s famed Mr. Chow restaurant. “They both release endorphins,” notes the director. “And it’s tough to decide what’s stronger.” The work celebrates the reopening of the Chinese dining institution, on the 45th anniversary of its original launch on Valentine’s Day, 1968. Since then, the home away from home of Beijing cuisine has become a veritable phenomenon, recognized internationally for its authentic hand-pulled noodles, made nightly in front of restaurant guests by experts who have been honing their expertise for decades. Casting model Caroline Ford for scenes shot at the InterContinental London Park Lane Hotel and spliced into footage of Mr. Chow’s noodle maestros, Schoerner taps into an unspoken visual language of desire and culinary craft. According to the lensman—a veteran of the pages of Vogue and The Face who has exhibited internationally, collaborating with Comme des Garçons and Alexander McQueen—images of food “can be cold and off-putting. Or they can be sensual and delectable, enticing the audience to take a closer look and making them want to sample the goods.” Ultimately, though, the shared beauty of eating and intrigue may be in the anticipation of consumption. “Preparation and foreplay are on par,” he notes. “It's the build-up that counts.”

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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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