7 Questions

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 www.cookthemovie.com 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).

Quick Hitter: Heat Seekers Returns!

I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed season one of Heat Seekers with Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking.  I am a fan of both chefs individually and together they are a hoot and a half.  Roger was kind enough to lend himself to a session of 7 Questions a few months ago so be sure to check that out HERE.  I have been anxiously awaiting news on a second season and today I got it from Chef Aarón via Twitter.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/Chef_Aaron/status/123098240378867712″]

7 Questions with Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen

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

Hannah Hart of My Drunk KitchenHave you ever gotten so drunk that you did something extremely ridiculous?  Of course you have.  Imagine if someone had gotten that crazy stunt on video.  Now imagine if it then went viral on the YouTube.  Well, that’s what happened to Hannah Hart and the worst part is she’s the one who video taped it and she even uploaded it to the world’s most popular video site, too.

The video in question was meant as a joke.  A way of sharing a laugh with an old friend clear on the other side of the country.  That was four months and 630,000 downloads ago.  Today it is known throughout the Interwebs as Ep. 1: Butter Yo Shit.

So successful was that one drunken evening butchering a grilled cheese sandwich that eight more followed to create a web series called My Drunk Kitchen.  The series as a whole has amassed a staggering 4.6 million downloads, again in just four months.  There’s just something intoxicating about Hannah’s signature, “Hello!”

So what’s her secret?  It’s no secret really, she’s damned funny.  She also sports a nerdy sexuality that surely has fan boys throughout the country Hannah Hart My Drunk Kitchenlove-stricken.  Well cool your jets, boys, Hannah supports the penis embargo.  Or as she puts it “she’s a big ol’ homo.”  It hasn’t stopped her from receiving nearly a thousand marriage proposals, and not just from undersexed geeks and Glee fans either but also from normal people.

When she’s not charming the masses in her quirky cooking (for lack of a better word) show or it’s companion series Advice from the Hart, Hannah is a proofreader specializing in Japanese/English texts for an international translation firm.  According to her web site her free time is spent, “listening to music and doing Sudoku in cafes. She calls this writing.  She enjoys long meandering walks, impromptu dance parties, and artisanal cheeses.”

Sure having a cooking show where the chef gets a little tipsy isn’t new (see Julia Child, Justin Wilson) but one where the host gets three sheets to the wind and the food is iffy?  Yeah, that’s new.  Hannah Hart is the coolest, hippest thing on “the online” right now and that’s why she’s appearing at VidCon 2011 this week in LA.  But she’s neither too cool nor too busy to answer 7 Questions:

1. Have you ever cooked anything on your show that turned out surprisingly well?

Yes! The “America Day Pie Cakes” that I made for the 4th of July episode were edible! Not only that, they were actually tasty. I was shocked.

Hannah Hart My Drunk Kitchen2. What would you say is the sexiest cheese?

Definitely Swiss. Such a tease.

3. The phrase “overnight sensation” is usually a misnomer but not in your case.  How crazy have the past few months been?

The past four months since the first episode launched have been a bit crazy! I was just goofing off and sent my friend a “parody of a YouTube cooking show” and now…this! I’ve been really surprised and really flattered by the positive response.

4. What creates the best cooking drunk – wine, beer or hard liquor?

Champagne! Easily. The most giddy episodes are the ones where I’m bubblin’ on bubbly.

5. Any plans for a spin-off like My Stoned Auto Shop or My Tweeked Chiropractic Clinic?

Ha! All those and more are brilliant ideas. I definitely want to expand the kitchen concept into more comedy. But hopefully people will accept me as just “a girl who likes to make you laugh” instead of “the sloshed chick with the internet thing.” We shall see. Here’s hoping!

6. What can you tell me about My Drunk Iron Kitchen Chef?

It’s going to be FUNDERFUL. If you can get to SF in August, you should. Dates and info to come! The best way to find out about appearances/events is to sign up for the mailing list on the website. I promise no spam! Only monthly e-mails with info.

7. Do you think My Drunk Kitchen could translate well to the big screen a la Julie & Julia?

The real question is: Is America ready to handle such TRUTH? I’d like to think so.


[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

If you haven’t witnessed Hannah’s magic yet enjoy this playlist of her work:

7 Questions with Leah Stewart

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

Last month I was invited to a taping of a series called “Aha Moments” by Mutual of Omaha.  That’s right the Wild Kingdom people.  As those of you who have seen my segment know it went well and I was able to share my story of being a Wannabe TV Chef with the country.  After the clip was posted to “the youtube” I watched a few of the other interviewees.

Leah Stewart owner of the Olive BranchI was struck by one in particular, a restauranteur from Waco, Texas named Leah Stewart.  Stewart (no relation) is the owner of The Olive Branch Bakery & Cafe.  The Olive Branch is a comfortable place for fellowship: a meal with friends or co-workers, a power breakfast meeting, or a dessert-and-coffee date right in downtown Waco.  It has been one of the “it” places in the city since it opened in 2003.

One of the things that struck me about Stewart was her devotion to her family.  Her mother, especially, is very active in her business.  That’s a side of America that we’ve lost over the decades and it is always nice to see someone who bridges the hominess of yesteryear with the modern lifestyle of the 21st Century.

Leah also dabbles in food blogging on her site To Taste which incidentally is also the name of her cookbook.  In a moment you’ll get a chance to view Leah’s Aha Moment but first she answers 7 Questions:

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

Oh, that’s a good question.  I’d say I was in high school.

2. What is it about the hospitality industry that inspires you?

I love working with people and I love getting to be apart of big events in their lives.  I think that that’s really fun.  I really enjoy being “that place” people want to come for birthdays.  Or being the one that you get your kid’s birthday cake from every year and people bring in pictures of their kids as they grow.  It’s exciting to be apart of the community that way.

3. How did you decide on the name The Olive Branch for your cafe?

I get the name The Olive Branch directly out of the story of Noah.  I’ve always loved that story; it’s probably my favorite Bible story.  The dove returning with the olive branch was the first sign that he wasn’t crazy and they were actually going to get off the boat.

4. How would you describe the cuisine on the menu at The Olive Branch?

We’re an American bakery/cafe.  We bake all of our own breads, all of our own pastas, our pasta sauces.  We make all of our own desserts.  We make our own dressings.  We do soups, salads, quiches.  We’re open breakfast and lunch.  We do as much from scratch as we can.

5. It appears that you take coffee very seriously, why such attention to detail?

I actually got into the food industry as a assistant manager at a coffee house here in Waco.  I was a manager there for six years and all we did was coffee so I had a lot of training as a barista, a lot of interaction with coffee companies.  I’ve been to coffee plantations so I’ve seen to process from start to finish and I find that process fascinating.  I want it to be an experience and I want to enjoy it.  I don’t want to drink a product just to be drinking it I want it to be good.

We’ve got our own espresso bar.  We have four different kinds of drip coffee that we do.  We created our own coffee blend.

6. What part does your family play in the day-to-day operations of the cafe?

My parents and sister are investors and they certainly are always willing to help.  My mother and I always laugh because for the past eight years Mother’s Day has always been her at the restaurant washing dishes with me.  They’re always willing to come up and help on a busy weekend.  Or if I get to take some time off my mom usually comes up and takes my place here at the restaurant.

7. What’s next for Leah Stewart?

That’s a really big question there.  Honestly I think growing this business and doing the best I can with the business I have here. We’re in our third location, we’ve been open for eight years, this location we have  has so many more possibilities than I’ve had before.  I’m really enjoying the possibilities of what I can do here and how far I can go with the Olive Branch just where it is.  I really love writing recipes.  I’ve got a cookbook, too.  I’m trying to stay open and see what the next avenue is.

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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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