Food on Film

Reviews of food TV and food oriented movies.

7 Questions with Phillip Lee of COOK The Movie

COOK the Movie

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

Chef Phillip Lee is the owner of Wolf Cuisine where he and his staff are bringing the “Chefs Tasting Menu” home with LA’s first ever high end multi-course delivery service.  The 10 course menu is priced at $200 per person which includes tax, service, and delivery.

Prior to opening Wolf Cuisine with his associate Sylvain Allard, Phillip worked at many top restaurants in LA as well as in Chicago.  He served as sous chef at both Hatfield’s Restaurant where he served under chef/owner Quinn Hatfield and with Top Chef alum Stefan Richter at LA Farm, he also spent time at both L20 and Grant Achatz’s groundbreaking eatery Alinea.  Chef Lee was also the executive sous chef at Park Grill at Millennium Park in Chicago.

So as you can see Phillip Lee is a highly successful chef by anyone’s standards.  But did you know that he is also a screenwriter and director?  It’s true and his current project,  COOK: The Movie, combines his writing skills and his years in the restaurant industry to give the first ever accurate portrayal of a chef’s life for the big screen.  Here’s the Trailer:

Lee’s film is set and a distribution deal for a wide theatrical release is secured.  To keep the suits from putting that usual Hollywood patina over his story, Lee has gone the indie route to protect his film’s integrity.  To hammer down the final funding nessecary to bring COOK to the masses he has partnered with Kickstarter to nail down the final budget.

Phillip Lee is a busy man but not too busy to answer 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

I began cooking for fun when i was 9 years old with my father in our home. When I was 19, I was playing drums for a few different touring bands and needed a part time job in between tours, so I got a job washing dishes for a local catering company.

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

About 6 months after getting a job as a dishwasher I was moved up to prep, and from prep I got a 2nd job at a local restaurant working on the line. After two years of juggling music and cooking I quit playing music and enrolled in Culinary school.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Michael Cimarusti, Grant Achatz, Quinn Hatfield

4. Do you feel that Hollywood has done a good job of accurately portraying chefs on the screen?

In short, no.  In long, I feel Hollywood has done a fantastic job of glorifying the prestige of a chef, but has yet to accurately portray the livelihood or the strength and perseverance it takes to become one.

5. What inspired you to write COOK?

Every time a new movie comes out about a “chef” or about “food” I’m always the first one to the box office, and I usually leave the theater unsatisfied or feeling cheated. So one day I thought to myself, hey, if Hollywood is not going to do it right, why not just take it upon myself?

6. How much of the script is drawn from your real life experiences?

Almost all of it.  By no means is this script autobiographical, but everything in the script has either happened to me, in front of me, to a close friend or in my imagination.

7. If people want to learn more about COOK or help you reach your funding goals where should they go?

Please visit we are proud to keep this film independent and are building a foundation by offering the general public fun incentives for their contributions.


COOK stars Adam Christy (Swing Man, Law & Order: LA), Arielle Kebbel (90120, Life Unexpected), Lindsey Mckeon (One Tree Hill, Supernatural), Brian Goodman (Rizzoli & Isles, Lost, Catch Me If You Can) and Phil Abrams (Greys Anatomy, Lost).

Review: Fat Chef

Tonight Food Network premiered it’s latest reality show and this one is actually food related.   It seems like a good concept.  People love shows about fat people.  People love shows about food.  And, sadly, people love shows with other people arguing.  So just what is Fat Chef?

Fat ChefFor overweight chefs, working in the food industry is a double-edged sword. While indulging their love of food has brought them success, money and respect, it’s also killing them. Each episode of Fat Chef features two such overweight food professionals and spends four months with them as they confront their food issues and, with the help of therapists, nutritionists and trainers defeat their abusive relationships with food and become healthy.

So did Fat Chef deliver?  Well, if you’re a fan of Biggest Loser or any of its other doppelgangers then yeah, it did a fine job.  But though it did revolve around food it really wasn’t a show about food.  Still, it was an interesting study in the stressful job of a real working chef.

My fellow chef friends tell me that the biggest problem they are having with the new generation of culinary school grads is that they all think upon graduation they should run their own kitchen, have a cookbook deal and a TV show.  This show gives them a glimpse of what being a chef is really like – 100 plus hour work weeks, only having time for one meal a day and very little time spent with family and loved ones.

Fat Chef isn’t really my cup of tea but it isn’t a bad show.  It’s informative and entertaining.  Again, it’s just not my cup of tea.

Review: Bama Glama

So Food Network is once again traipsing down the road of Reality TV and farther from actual Food TV.  Their new series, Bama Glama, premiered last week.  So what’s it about?  Here’s how the Network defines it:

Friday nights on Food Network are about to get a little more fabulous. From incredible food to lush floral arrangements, Alabama event designer Scot Wedgeworth creates one-of-a-kind events in Bama Glama, a six-episode original series premiering Friday, December 16 at 8p.m. Eastern/7p.m. Central. With his signature edgy flair, unfiltered sense of humor and volatile team, Scot makes every wedding, birthday party and reception an over-the-top affair.

Bama GlamaBama Glama is remarkable in that it manages to offend me on every possible level.  First and foremost this is not a show about food.  Period.  In an episode they might spend four or five minutes discussing food.  I’m offended that this type of show is on a network that is supposed to be about food.

The acting and writing are wretched.  Perhaps “acting” isn’t the right word.  The “reading” is wretched.  Many scenes of this “reality” program feature people clearly reading (poorly) from cue cards or fighting to remember their lines.  Now I’m not saying the entire show is fake but it’s apparent that certain scenes didn’t go according to plan so they had to fabricate what they had hoped would occur naturally.  I’m offended that they think I’m so stupid I wouldn’t notice that.

Another highly offensive gimmick for the show is the inclusion of a weekly Bridezilla or Mother-of-the-Bridezilla.  You know the types, they feel that a wedding is the bride’s chance to be a princess for a day; in other words raging egomaniacs.  These women never marry for love they marry so they have can be the center of attention for a day.  Well, three days – one for each of their inevitable marriages.

A tangential word of advice to my fellow men.  If at any time during your engagement your fiance says, “Our wedding day is the most important day of our lives” your marriage is doomed.  How can it be the most important day of your lives when it is the least important day of your marriage?  The most important day of your marriage is every day after the wedding.  Now back to business.

Then there is event designer Scot Wedgeworth.  Clearly he is a very creative person.  But, Scot, whenever you have one of your extravagant ideas it doesn’t matter how many times you say “that’s how we do it in the South” it won’t make it true.  They are your very original ideas, take ownership.  But trust me, the average Alabama wedding does not include ballerinas.  I mean 75% of the state’s inhabitants are Southern Baptist, they don’t believe in dancing for any reason.

Many of the things Scot says are typically Southern, aren’t.  I know this because I’ve lived in the South my entire life – seven years in Tennessee, three in Mississippi, a few months in Florida and over three decades in Alabama.  Nothing about this show is an accurate portrayal of life in the modern South.  That blatant and deliberate misrepresentation of an entire culture offends the hell out of me.

Mystery Diners is a great show and so far it’s gotten one episode and now everyone at T Group Productions has to play the waiting game to see if the Network will pick it up.  But this dribble gets a six episode deal?  That means for the next month there is no point in watching Food Network on Fridays because they will be forcing this VH1 reject down our throats.  Now if you’ll excuse me I feel like I need to take a shower or six.

Review: Mystery Diners

Maeve's ResidualsThis week Food Network debuted a new pilot called Mystery Diners.  A pub owner in Los Angeles suspects that one of her bartenders might be over-pouring for customers, giving away too many free drinks and over-tipping himself. To find out, she calls in the Mystery Diners, who outfit the bar with hidden cameras and go in undercover to see what is really happening when the boss is away.

The show is in the same vein as Restaurant: Impossible and the new hit Chef Hunter in that a restaurant has a problem so Food Network swoops in to lend a hand.  Rather than being a makeover or intense job interview type show, Mystery Diners helps restauranteurs who fear they are being ripped off by their staff.  Using the latest in technology they show several instances where hidden cameras capture employees, providing poor customer service, theft and inappropriate behavior while on-duty.

The stings are conducted by the staff at BES (Business Evaluation Services) who are headquartered in Arroyo Grande, CA.  BES provides full-service secret shopper evaluation designed for businesses by a network of professionals. They evaluate a variety of customer experiences generating vital information necessary to quickly and effectively spot areas of superior performance and areas in need of special consideration.

Mystery Diners combines key elements of feel-good shows like Restaurant: Impossible with gotcha shows like To Catch a Predator.  It also helps demonstrate why 50% of new restaurants fail within two years.  Pure, unbridled thievery.

I love this concept.  I genuinely hope Food Network picks it up.  The restaurant industry needs this show to be a hit.  Just knowing that you might be exposed as a thief on national television would surely put a dent in the rampant pilferage of today’s restaurant employees and their “Occupy Wall Street” sense of entitlement.

UPDATE: Mystery Diners has been picked up by Food Network.  The first season premieres May 25th with a sneak peek on May 20th.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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