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Food in Film: Chatting With the Creators of New Movie Based on the Culinary Creations of Chef Jordan Kahn

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Photo courtesy of Chayka Sophia
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Remember when the talented animators over at Chayka Sofia screened that gorgeous stop-motion food focused film AFI last year? Or their stunning deconstruction of Jordan Kahn's croissant in "Assiette?" Well, they're back, once again collaborating with Kahn of Red Medicine in a film entitled "REVERIE," which just debuted at the Star Chef Conference at the Park Avenue Armory Center in New York, and will be making the rounds on the circuits though next year. We took a moment to talk with the film's L.A.-based co-creators Natasha Subramaniam and Alisa Lapidus about their inspiration, why they love working with food in film, and who hope to work with next in our city.

How did you first connect with Jordan?
We met Jordan over two years ago, when we first approached him to collaborate on a short, stop motion film titled Assiete. The collaboration was so inspiring and meaningful for all of us, that we have gone on to produce other projects together including multimedia surround installations and longer form films.

What do you find so unique about his cooking? What makes it adaptable to film?

Jordan draws so much of his inspiration from wild and native California ingredients, nature and seasonality, as well as art, surrealism, color, form, sound, and his own inner world. His dishes are like landscapes and stories in themselves, carrying a lot of beauty, whimsy, depth, and heart. He respects his ingredients, their histories, and the ecology of Californiaʼs terrain, and with all of this, emerges with a cuisine that is truly visionary, proposing new flavors and eating experiences.

His approach to cooking mirrors in a very intrinsic, intuitive way, so much of our own process making films -- how we organically shoot and capture food/ingredients through a camera with a formal precision but also curiosity, and more importantly, the kinds of stories and images we pursue that are less about people and more about realms of botanic forms and wild life. Delving into his dishes is to also explore nature, our surroundings, and the richness & mysteries of land and sea. We inspire one another—our images give Jordan ideas for new culinary techniques and dishes and his food has opened up new cinematic possibilities for us.

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What were some of the challenges to working on the film? Is it stop motion like your other pieces?

The weather was a challenge at times, because we shot most of the film just as Los Angeles was at the peak of its heat wave. A lot of the wild ingredients we wanted to feature dried out or simply werenʼt around. Finding and filming them took a lot of ingenuity and resourcefulness. We had to really search far and wide to capture them in their natural habitats.

Also, constructing an atmospheric yet precise musical score to marry with the images posed its complications, but we ended up working with a very talented composer in New York who was able to work with me to breathe new dimensions to each scene with classical string and wind instruments.

This film in particular doesnʼt include stop motion animation, though we had
actually tried to interweave some, but left it out in the end. Our next project does though -- and with citrus fruits!

Do you think that we'll be seeing more hybrids of food and film in the future? What makes food such a fascinating subject, in your opinion?

Yes ... I think food fascinates people because itʼs truly a to window to other realities—social, political, cultural, scientific, internal... itʼs at the core of living. Also, it can be so enjoyable, beautiful, and exciting.

Who are some of the LA chefs that you hope to work with that you haven't collaborated with yet?

While we havenʼt tried either of their cuisines yet -- we are interested in both what chef Paul Shoemaker of the former restaurant Savory in Point Dume and Chef Nikki at N/Naka in West Los Angeles are doing. Both chefs seem to be growing their own produce and interpreting it in dynamic ways. We were sad to learn that Shoemakerʼs restaurant had closed, but are excited to see what else he has planned.

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I also really admire what Chef Tim is doing at Papilles in Hollywood— gastrofrench with a local California twist—he directly buys from and has relationships with purveyors at the farmers market and his dishes are always so, so delicious.
We would love to actually collaborate at some point with a farmer to create a film that delves into heirloom varieties or extinct cultivars.

You can preview the trailer below.

REVERIE Official Trailer from CHAYKA SOFIA on Vimeo.