Last night saw the New York City premiere of A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt, the documentary about Corton chef Paul Liebrandt. Directed and produced by Sally Rowe, the film follows his career over eight years in New York City (see the trailer here).
Making appearances in the film: former New York Times critics Frank Bruni and William Grimes, author and TV host Michael Colameco, restaurateur Drew Nieporent, and chefs Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, and Thomas Keller. Also: Liebrandt's chihuahua Spencer. The film has been picked up by HBO and will air sometime this summer.
Here now, selected quotes from the Q&A that followed the screening:
1) On where he saw himself going next: "Back in Tribeca, there's an after party?No. Going next, we'll see. We'll see. As I said, this is going to be on HBO, and 30 million people, I think, if the count is correct, so yes, we'll see."
2) On what brought him to New York originally: " I worked for Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] for many years... I worked at Vong, in London, I was only there for two months back in 1995. Right before Marco Pierre White. I worked in many kitchens in London, and it was the very grand, Marco Pierre White-esque kind of way of working. Which is fine. And then I went to work at Vong, the idea of the food, the Thai and the French was just so inspirational to me. The flavors of Southeast Asia I'd never seen before."
"So I go to work there, and in walks Jean-Georges the first day dressed head-to-toe in Prada with his girlfriend who looked like a young Madonna. And I said, that's a chef? Really? That's a chef? This is too much for me. And so I did a bit of research, and I went to Paris, worked for Pierre Gagnaire, came back to London, and was like uh, what am I going to do now? New York. Came here for three weeks on vacation, I fell in love with the city, I moved here. Illegally. Worked my way up, got papers, got a visa, got my green card, and I never looked back. Through good and bad. But it's my home."
3) On future trends: "I'm not a trendmaker. For me, I see what's happening in Europe, what's happening here, places like Noma, young chefs, personal styles of cuisine, getting away from the traditional realm of how to do a high end restaurant, and be more creative with what's local."
4) On celebrity chefdom: "For me, personally, I have nothing against it... This day and age, you obviously have to have these other elements in your arsenal. It used to be the way that you stand in your kitchen, you cook until you die, that's it. Thank God it has changed, thank God people look at chefs as not just cooks anymore. Honestly? I'm going to be shy when it comes to that stuff. I like to be more comfortable in my kitchen, I cook, I look up to my customers. That's my TV. That's my face time."
5) And his advice for young chefs: "I would say to do this, to do it for a living, I'll be honest. It's very hard. It's a hard life. But it's a very rewarding one. You only get as much out of it as you put into it. Focus is key. Dedication is key, through good and through bad. Setting the goals. I know that sounds kind of, you know, but it is true in many ways. That would be my suggestion to anybody: be true to yourself, be focused."