Daniel Klein is happy -- make that ecstatic -- as he should be given his plans for the next year and a half. He's the documentary filmmaker who has chronicled stories of sustainable and adventurous eating for the past two years through a weekly web series called the Perennial Plate, to wide acclaim.
For the first season, he and his partner Mirra Fine, who is the camera gal (as she calls herself), explored food around Minnesota, beginning with killing a turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner. For the second season they traveled around the country, telling visual tales of dining, from frogs to catfish. The two edited the videos in their ad hoc studio -- on a laptop in their car.
The third season, which begins in late October, is what has them so thrilled: They will head overseas, first to Japan and China. They've paired up with Intrepid Travel Co. in Australia, which will provide a translator/guide while they explore the world on video. They are hoping to have a little help back here in the Twin Cities as they continue the weekly schedule.
"We feel like this is a dream job. The last versions were dreams. This is over the top. Everything will be downhill from here," said Daniel.
They will travel to two countries per trip, filming for about a month before coming back to the U.S. to edit, with their series continuing to be posted on a weekly basis. After traveling in the Far East, the two will head to India and Sri Lanka in December, followed by Spain and Morocco for the next leg of the trip, with a total of six trips over the next year. "South America, Africa and more of Europe are likely. We're trying to get a smattering of countries. Obviously, we're just touching the surface of geting a taste of these countries," said Daniel.
Their connection to Intrepid began with an episode on Vietnam that reached a large audience. "It's a great partnership because they're a travel company and part of travel is getting to know local culture and local food. Our videos will focus on different aspects of sustainable food and culture and beauty that makes people want to travel," said Daniel.
"This is more of a partnership than a sponsorship because they have people on the ground, like translators. We've found it really challenging to find stories in these countries when we don't speak the same language. On a big expensive trip like this, we need to know in advance what we're doing. It's harder to wing it," said Daniel.
See a cartoon video of their plans for the third season below.
Bon voyage, Daniel and Mirra!
He’s a winner!
Kevin VanDeraa, owner of Cupcake in Minneapolis, took top honors in Sunday night’s broadcast of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Champions,” beating out three other bakers. The prize: A cool $50,000.
VanDeraa (pictured, above, in a photo by Tom Okins) said that the day-long contest, which was videotaped at Food Network HQ in New York City and edited into an hour-long episode, was a touch-and-go experience.
“I was convinced that I was going home after round one,” he said. “I thought they were going to play up all of my mistakes in the edit. They didn’t capitalize on that drama, at least as much as I was expecting.”
VanDeraa was under contractual obligation not to reveal the outcome of the pre-recorded contest — the penalty was a stiff $500,000. He kept his mouth shut, but I have to admit that I wasn't fooled by those first-round stumbles. The news had to be good because, two days before the show aired, a local publicist made the media rounds on VanDeraa's behalf. You don't spend money on P.R. when you come in second.
VanDeraa first appeared on “Cupcake Wars” last summer, when he was awarded second prize for a Bollywood-themed episode. His first win was in April, when he interpreted a "Yo Gabba Gabba!" theme into the winner’s circle. That led to an appearance on the all-stars-style “Cupcake Champions” semi-finals in May, when he sailed to victory during a “Glee”-themed challenge.
Sunday’s contest required bakers to riff on Food Network personalities, so VanDeraa conjured up a honey almond cake, filling it with pears poached in grape juice and topping it with a butterscotch-bourbon buttercream icing, an homage to “Iron Chef America” talking head Alton Brown. Another was a s’mores cupcake saluting grillmaster Bobby Flay. All the cupcakes featured on Sunday’s episode are available at the Prospect Park restaurant/cafe.
“If we can keep them in stock,” VanDeraa said with a laugh. “We’ve already run out several times today.”
Minnesota’s newly minted TV reality star and his prize-winning baked goods will also make an appearance in the rotunda at the Mall of America on Saturday, meeting-and-greeting and selling all the cupcakes featured on the championship episode. Why the megamall? VanDeraa is in talks with mall management about opening a branch of Cupcake.
As for the winnings, he has plenty of ideas.
“When you own a small business, any chunk of change gets gobbled up,” he said. “We’re expanding onto Grand Avenue, so this will be a big help with that.”
Move over Andrew Zimmern. There’s another star in the neighborhood.
It's a small world in the universe of food, and that's especially true in TV land.
Bloomberg News reports that Lorena Garcia, the Miami-based chef and restaurateur who gained a wider audience as judge in the NBC TV series "America's Next Great Restaurant," has been hired to put a little Chipotle styling into Taco Bell's food - the "think outside the bun" company. That would be the Chipotle from founder Steve Ells, also a judge for "America's Next Great Restaurant." Taco Bell has been hurt, says Bloomberg, by the popular, more sophisticated menu of Chipotle.
Lorena Garcia and Steve Ells were two of the four judges who determined that Jamawn Woods would win "America's Next Great Restaurant" (which he would lose eight weeks after opening). Lorena's signature phrase during the show was that she was looking for "passion" in restaurateurs. Steve's trademark was his demand for "healthier" foods. In one episode of "ANGR," the contestants disastrously worked the line at Chipotle, until Steve Ells showed up to correct them and take over.
At the time of the Mall of America opening of his restaurant Soul Daddy, Jamawn said of Lorena:"Lorena is like a mother [to me], Curtis [Stone] is like a brother, and Steve [Ells] is like the brains." As for Bobby Flay [the fourth judge], he said, "It was a great experience working with Bobby Flay. I look up to him. I watched him all the time on TV."
FOR COMPLETE COVERAGE of "America's Next Great Restaurant," see startribune.com/nextgreat
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