There are two types of people in this world – those who can control themselves around food and those who cannot. I happen to be one of the joyful gluttons who cannot. In an ideal world, my voracious eating habits would be seen as gourmand or sensualist. In reality, if there is one last morsel of bread left in the basket I will make it my steadfast mission to toast it, dip in chocolate sauce, melt 12 year-old cheddar into its spongy core, or encapsulate it in sweet strawberry jam. It will be eaten, and it can get ugly, but I’m prepared to defend my passions. After all, if nothing else, food is emotional.
No one may understand this more than Chef Paul Liebrandt, who is the focus of Sally Rowe’s HBO documentary A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt. A personal friend to the world-class chef, Rowe captured the movement of Liebrandt’s career over ten years; from rise to fall, culminating in the eventual coronation and exalting of Liebrandt’s avant-guard cuisine.
When we first meet Liebrandt, he is a determined and outrageously driven chef in his early twenties who already accepts nothing less than perfection in his kitchen. The youngest chef to ever receive 3 stars from the venerable New York Times at age 24, Liebrandt initially presents himself as an artist ahead of his time. Delving pensively into his career, A Matter of Taste invites you inside New York City’s haute cuisine dynasty, to expose the co-dependant relationship between the Chef, the restaurateur, and the food critic, and to experience the hard work and long hours essential to the ultimate dedication to food.
Hopping from kitchen to kitchen in search of his dream it is Liebrandt’s fierce ambition and integrity that become addictive. He cooks with military precision and he plates like artist Joan Miro. Using color against texture, and sophistication to form traditional eats, he is driven to sway all expectation of how we perceive traditional cuisine turning it into a head-to-toe sensorial experience.
Die-hard foodies and gourmand groupies take note, Liebrandt, will melt your heart into thick semi-sweet chocolate swoon, and you might not easily be able to forget his charming soft way. Soon Williamsburg foodies will be able to enjoy their very own Liebrandt venture. News of his new restaurant The Elm which will be housed inside King & Grove Hotel was released this week.
Ah, if we were all so lucky.
A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt is available on Netflix, HBO and iTunes.