Lyndsey Beaulieu was born and raised in New Orleans but moved away to attend the University of Virginia. After college she lived in Los Angeles where she became part of the HBO family as an assistant at the HBO offices, then as a Writers' Assistant on ‘Big Love.’ She has been with ‘Treme’ since the pilot and currently works as the Writers' Office Coordinator.

 

Monday
May302011

Anthony Bourdain on the Real Le Bernardin

By Anthony Bourdain

The scenes in the kitchen of Le Bernardin were filmed in that kitchen, with its actual menu, and to a great extent, the actual kitchen staff.  That's as authentic as it gets.

I'd like to point out that the brilliant, brilliant Soa Davies, of Le Bernardin (the iron fist inside Eric Ripert's velvet glove) stepped in to make the plates at Brulard's look appropriately 2006 New York — and appropriately awesome. Notice the basting of the salmon in the pan. God is in the details. A lot of other really tremendous culinary talents were either on site or actually in the scene as actors and extras. Made all the difference.

As far as "is it necessary" to run a kitchen through intimidation and even abuse, Le Bernardin demonstrates that the answer is clearly "no." In the old days, many — if not most — great chefs came out of an even worse culture of abuse than Brulard's. It was an old and largely European system where that kind of autocratic and even physically violent ethic prevailed.  A few chefs, like abused children, eventually continued that tradition  that cycle of abuse when they came to command  their own kitchens. Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin has talked a lot about how he behaved in that manner when he first became an executive chef but that he quickly came to feel that it was unnecessary and even destructive. Le Bernardin today is a particularly civilized environment where treating people at every level with politeness and respect is stressed.  Everyone addresses everyone else as "chef" even waiters, I believe. 

One is tempted to think that this clean, civil, silent environment is due, perhaps, to Eric's Buddhist beliefs. But one sees this kind of thing more and more at the top level where new generations of chefs have rejected the Old School system of rum, buggery and the lash.

More and more chefs have moved away from the Billy Martin school of management towards the Joe Torre style. Thomas Keller, I'm guessing, is more of the latter. He doesn't HAVE to yell at you. He doesn't HAVE to curse.

But if you've disappointed him and he doesn't look up and say "Goodnight, chef," I imagine that would be devastating. Enough respect from cooks and you don't need intimidation. Young cooks who’ve struggled their whole career to get to the point where they find themselves in the kitchen of a great chef, who know that they have beat out hundreds if not thousands of other applicants for the same position, want that chef's approval. They crave it. A raised eyebrow, a single stern rebuke, a sigh  these alone can be far more devastating to a highly motivated stagiere than any hurled plate or screamed abuse.

Friday
May272011

Talking ‘Treme’ in Los Angeles

By Lolis Eric Elie

On ‘Treme’ we try to illustrate the role that culture played in bringing New Orleans back to life after Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures. It’s no accident that the first episode of Season 1 opens with a second line parade, albeit a somewhat anemic one. Eric Overmyer, one of the show’s executive producers, has observed this interplay between culture and recovery both as a writer on the show and a part-time resident of the city. He’ll be talking about this subject next month in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California. 

 

Art, Music and Survival: New Orleans Post-Katrina, An Evening with Eric Overmyer, will feature Eric in conversation with Josh Kun, Associate Professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. In addition to Eric, there will be other guests from the ‘Treme’ family to be named later. The event will take place Monday, June 6, at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.aloudla.org.

Wednesday
May252011

Steaming Tensions Come to Boil on Treme Set

By Lolis Eric Elie

Our show is the product of a mixed marriage.

Baltimoreans of ‘The Wire’ and ‘The Corner’ fame have joined New Orleanians to produce ‘Treme.’ (We have a few Angelenos thrown in for good measure, but isn’t there already enough about those people on other television blogs?) It had been our fondest hope that our relative mettles would be tested on the gridiron in a Ravens-Saints Super Bowl contest. However, owing to a pair of heartbreaking playoff losses, that competition was not to be. So we resolved to settle our differences at table in a boiled-versus-steamed battle of the crabs.

Unit production manager Joe Incaprera, a Baltimore native, manned the steamer while locations scout Charlie Brown, a transplanted Pennsylvanian, and his friend Jason Watson, did the boiling. The Baltimore method of crab preparation consists of steaming the crabs over water and vinegar and dousing them with a generous measure of Old Bay Seasoning and salt. The New Orleans method consists of boiling the crabs in water seasoned with Zatarain’s Crab Boil, celery, lemons, onions, garlic, bay leaves and other seasonings of the chef’s choice. (Far be it from me, dear reader, to seek to influence your opinion, but certainly a point or two must be given to the New Orleanians for the sheer number of ingredients and the resulting complexity of flavor.) Potatoes, corn and sausage are usually boiled at the same time as the crabs. Charlie added Jerusalem artichokes to the pot, an innovation that we would be wise to make standard.

Virginia McCollam, our locations manager, hosted the event and grilled corn so sweet that it was scarcely to be believed.

“The key to steaming blue crabs and what makes them so good is that the crabs never touch the water. They sit on a raised rack in the covered pot with each layer of crabs covered in Old Bay,” Joe said.

“The meat comes out hot and sweet but not mushy or soggy,” he said. “Steaming doesn’t affect the genuine taste of the crab. Boiling reduces the potency of the flavor. As you open and pick the steamed crabs your fingers become covered in the Old Bay seasoning which adds to the flavor of each lump of meat. You can also lightly dip the meat in some drawn butter for a nice finishing touch.”

“We like boiling because it's different every time you do it,” Charlie said.  “There's a sense of authorship to every boil, because so much goes into the pot, and the recipe is determined by whatever ingredients are on hand. When boiling multiple batches, one after another, flavors can be built up and altered from batch to batch, so no two batches are ever the same. In addition to what you've already listed we also threw in pineapple, mushrooms, corn, lemons, limes, a six pack of Abita beer, shrimp, and edamame.”

According to the Baltimoreans, the steamed crabs were judged the favorites because there were fewer of them left once the shells had settled.

Not all present concurred. “The only reason that boiled crabs were left over was because of all of the other yummy consumables--our boil is a full meal!” Virginia said.

Whenever the comity of our blended family is threatened, it falls to the executive producer to restore us to an era of good feelings. So a few days after the boil, executive producer Nina Noble took the leftover crabs and made a pot of Maryland Crab Soup, a tomato-based crab and vegetable soup, which she served on set Wednesday.

“The soup was made with both steamed and boiled crabs,” Nina said. “The idea was to create a communion between our two cultures, just as we do on the show. While Maryland crab soup is always delicious, it was surely made better with the addition of the New Orleans boiled crabs. I saw it as more of a truce.”

“I have to say the steamed crab was delicious, as was Nina's soup!” Virginia said.

In the unlikely event that the Saints and Ravens don’t meet in the 2012 Super Bowl, we have agreed to a rematch next year. Keep your crab mallets poised.