Today, the first installment of the new web series Foodies premieres. The pilot opens with a man sitting in his car, inhaling fast food like a dirty secret before arriving to a dinner club where the guests are eager to whip out their phones and snap pictures of a Wonder Bread consommé. We feel for him. The series is about a group of L.A. gourmands who come together to show off their culinary chops with absurd flare, each perhaps jockeying for place at the head of the table. They explore the pretensions of food culture, as with lead Danny Domenica’s (as played by Daniel Franzese of Mean Girls) pompous attempt to make the mundane into the molecular with his deconstructed peanut butter and jelly. One recipe by Tom (Jefferey Self) ventures into the repulsive with a durian fruit tart, which if you know anything from watching Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, it’s one of the few flavors the daring glutton cannot stomach. Tom’s ambition, it would seem, is to make a statement about the extreme dichotomy between that which is repugnant and that which is whimsical, or some uppity shit like that. As Iliza (Anne Lane) remarks that Tom is a genius because she’s never had anything so “delightfully revolting,” we think at least he knows his customer.
Admitting to actually owning a foam canister and affirming that food is the only art that employs all the senses, Grant can also grind down on some McNuggets – a self-referential projection, we wonder, onto one of his characters,But these characters, though absurd and somewhat out to lunch are not meant to be viewed with derision. “I love food,” says writer and director Japhy Grant. “It’s really rich territory and I hope when people see the show, they’ll realize that we’re not railing against food culture. We love playing with our food.” But are the recipes published on the site meant to be followed? “If someone makes a durian fruit tart, we’ll absolutely post it to the site.”
The site, Freefoodies.com, makes use of multimedia and interactive features that help give shape to Grant’s characters. By including Danny’s blog, which we hope will parallel some of the 5-7 minute episodes, as well as the recipes section that will fit into the storylines, and a chat feature, each element of the site reveals a bit more about who these characters are while providing a home base for Foodies fans.
“We’re really interested in creating a whole world around these characters and building a community,” says Grant, whose inspiration for mocking the foodie culture actually comes from his own love of the game. Admitting to actually owning a foam canister and affirming that food is the only art that employs all the senses, Grant can also grind down on some McNuggets – a self-referential projection, we wonder, onto one of his characters, Porter (Sean Hankinson), the love interest and everyman who pleads: “I’m not like you. I like McNuggets!”
Spanning the spectrum of food lovers, each character may represent a bit of Grant’s ownself as well as our own hungry selves. There’s Iliza, an aspiring chef, and Moose, the ex lover of Danny, with her coarsely salted comfort cheese puffs, and Danny the blogger, who, “Well, Danny,” says Grant, “is a bit of a blowhard and he probably really looks up to bad boys like Tony Bourdain. Though I think Bourdain would probably smack Danny upside the head if they ever met.”
Though his own diet bars him from lactose, Grant still breaks lactose edge with cheese. Can’t blame him. His palate though seems just as extensive as those of the characters he writes as he’ll try a shot at healthy eating from time to time, “But then when something with pork shows up on a menu, it’s all over.” Oh, so it goes.
As for being a food elitist versus a populist, there are restaurants Grant just won’t go to in L.A. but he still adores the food scene there. “One of the reasons the show is set in L.A. is that I think it’s one of the most exciting places [to eat]. We’ve got Jonathan Gold, Jose Andres. We also have this really incredible native cuisine scene – Korean, Thai, Mexican,” genres the show will be exploring as it moves forward.
So, a self-proclaimed foodie, Grant aims not to ridicule the foodie culture but to perhaps laugh at himself and have us laugh at ourselves and the whole food loving culture with a slight cringe here, and a nudge there, all with tongue-in-cheek ease. And a note on the term foodie: it’s kind of an F-word here at Poor Taste, so when we ask Grant if the word makes him recoil as well, he fesses up: “Well, to me, it’s the same thing that happens with Star Trek fans. In that world, calling someone a ‘trekkie’ is considered by some to be offensive. I guess the preferred term is ‘trekker’. Then again, some people proudly call themselves ‘trekkies’. My sense is that the people who get the most upset about being called ‘foodies’ probably are the ones most likely to be true ‘foodies.’”
(Continue to Poor Taste)