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.

 

Entries in anthony bourdain (3)

Tuesday
Jun142011

Anthony Bourdain on Dave Chang’s Lessons for Desautel

By Anthony Bourdain

I thought of Dave Chang as the last chef in Desautel's New York journey because he's the logical extension of a trip that started with Brulard's old school, European fine dining/autocratic crazy-ass style, continued to the next generation of fine dining — where things were more civilized (and more functional) — to Chang's  more anarchic, hyper-creative, collaborative environment.  Dave is a graduate of Daniel Boulud's restaurants so he knows and respects that world and that style, but he's carved out his own very personal style in conjunction with others. He's a magnet for a lot of other very brilliant people — and exactly that sort of chef — and has created exactly the sort of environment, where Desautel could be expected to find her own groove. Chang really pioneered the kind of fine-food-in-a-casual-environment thing in New York City — along with a fearless mash-up of low-end comfort with high-end techniques and ingredients and influences from all over.  If the mission was to get Desautel to New York for a season, only for her to return to New Orleans at the end, we wanted to both "rough her up" a little bit and watch her learn important things. We wanted her to pick up something valuable from each chef and each kitchen she worked in in New York and synthesize her experiences into some kind of a breakthrough — a way to her own personal style — which she would, of course, then take back to New Orleans.

I'd like to mention, by the way, that Desautel's "breakthrough" dishes: the amazing fried chicken and, what will undoubtedly become her signature,  "shrimp and grits" are in fact creations of Chang. Chang, too, is from the South, and he and Desautel seemed a good mix.

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
May062011

Anthony Bourdain On His All-Star Chef Line-up

David Simon called his friend Anthony Bourdain in as a consultant last season. He helped us shape some of the kitchen episodes at Desautel's. But even then, it was clear that Simon envisioned Janette spending at least a season in New York, where she would endure some of the tortures Anthony describes so well in his books. Ultimately, it was decided that Anthony would write all of Desautel's scenes in New York and we'd insert them into the scripts by other writers.

Chef friends of mine appreciated last season's kitchen scenes for their authenticity. (They had to appreciate them. All of my contributions to those scenes were based on conversations with these same friends!) If you liked Desautel's restaurant in Season 1, buckle your seat belts because Brulard's is only the beginning of Janette’s excellent adventure in the kitchens of New York. Anthony has shared his inspirations for his scenes here, and in future guest posts.

In Season 1, I reached out to Eric Ripert, Tom Colicchio, David Chang and Wylie Dufresne because we were looking for a specifically lethal combination of heavyweight New York chefs to walk into Janette Desautel's dining room without prior warning.  Sort of a worst-case scenario mix of chefs designed to strike terror into any kitchen, a group that no chef would want to disappoint. The requirement was for a "Holy F**K! What do we DO? What do we cook for this table?!" moment -- and those guys filled that bill.  They all have huge reputations in the industry and beyond, are wildly divergent in styles and  also know each other and could realistically be believed to be in town at the same time -- and to drop by Janette's restaurant if a local crony suggested it.

Desautel, if you remember, very wisely "lowballs" them, deciding to feed them humble, home style, cook-friendly dishes -- rather than try to blow them away with expensive ingredients or techniques. Knowing these guys as I do, this would be a wise strategy. This scene was also where I did my first writing of any kind for the show. A few sentences -- but ones I'm inordinately proud of.  Tom, Eric, Wylie and Dave, by the way, along with just about every other chef I've spoken to, were already HUGE fans of the show and were delighted to come on board.  Chefs tend to like good music and ‘Treme’ bursts with it.

On the Inspiration for Brulard

The whole "listen to your fish" incident in Brulard's kitchen is lifted and adapted from a well known anecdote told by Blue Hill chef Dan Barber.  He has described a moment, early in his career working for the brilliant David Bouley, where he was instructed to "talk to your fish."  The Brulard character, by the way, is NOT otherwise a portrait or a riff on any one chef. He is a composite of characters and stories, many of them legendary by now among cooks and chefs.

Are there chefs who would, like Brulard, sweep an entire table full of plates and dinners onto the floor? Yes. I have seen it. Many times, and with different chefs.  I know Ripert has seen similar behavior when he came up — as have many others.

WHO would work for such a person? The answer is young, ambitious, impressionable cooks and stagieres who are convinced that they are fortunate   — lucky as hell, actually — to be working for a chef who they consider to be a genius. They are well aware that in a similar situation in Europe, working for an as-talented chef, they would likely be working for free — or even paying for the privilege. Treatment abroad might be even worse. They believe, absolutely, in the greatness and unique vision and importance of their chef and — though fully aware of his eccentricities and cruelties — are more than willing to endure them for what they have every reason to believe will be a life-changing and even career-making experience.  Young cooks KNOW when they work for a David Bouley, a Joel Robuchon, an Albert Roux (or a Marco Pierre White back in the day), that if they survive the experience and impress their chef, that they will hardly need a résumé ever again. The simple fact that they made it through, that they worked for a year for The Great Chef, will speak volumes to the chefs of any other great kitchens they may choose to apply.

It should be pointed out that Brulard's is NOT a normal kitchen. One would expect to see such things only at a very high level — only occasionally these days — and one would be much more likely to encounter them in New York or Europe than in NOLA. Those chefs and cooks who are surprised by the cleanliness and regimentation of some of the kitchens in this season of ‘Treme’ — and bemused, for instance, by the white cloche caps on the cooks — have clearly never worked in a three-star kitchen. They should hardly feel bad about that, as neither have I.

-- Anthony Bourdain