'Ugly Delicious' In The Time Of Covid
The from the MON BROADCAST CENTER AT KPCC. This is the frame. I'm John Horn. Today's show California has ordered that all public events with two hundred fifty people are more be cancelled or postponed. What's next for producers of live theater and David Chang the chef from the series ugly delicious challenges your perceptions of food and a lot more. Everybody wants to eat something delicious. No one wants to eat bad foods but the meaning behind it and the value behind it and the culture of truce behind it tend not always be correct and it's the old saying of beauties beholder. It's the same with food that's today the frame. We'll be right back. The Corona virus effect has spread into every part of our culture in New York. All shows on Broadway have been canceled into April and concert. Giants live nation and AG has suspended all tours here in California. In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus state officials today called for the cancellation or postponement of public gatherings with more than two hundred and fifty people through at least the end of March. The touring production of Hamilton at the pantages. On hold and the Music Center in downtown. La has shut down as have most venues throughout the region. Danny Feldman is the producing artistic director of one of those theaters. The Pasadena playhouse Danny. Welcome back to the show. Thank you John. Thanks for having me so. The state has called for gatherings of more than two hundred and fifty people to be canceled or postponed for venues that have current shows up or might have shows coming up. What are the factors that might weigh in on the decision? The theaters here in Los Angeles particularly the theaters and performing art centers. We've actually been in contact for several weeks now. more contact than I think we've ever had or I've ever had with our colleagues Discussing that exact question. What what are the criteria for US making change? We don't WanNa make which is which is cancelling performances on our stages. And we've really all I've been guided together by looking to the government looking to the county officials Barbara Ferrara the health department to give us guidance on when public gathering we'll be limited. The playhouse happens to be dark until late. May when you have the perspective of not having to make an immediate decision and talk to your theater colleagues about what they're facing. What kind of perspective does that give you in terms of how you go about making this decision? Yeah while while we don't have a main stage production we actually have about fifteen different events Between now and then May when our next season show comes in so we were looking at it as well of all those individual events as well as community events but It's not just about ticket sales on that side of it and serving our communities but we have a lot of people are artists or crew. Just the theater community who make a living when we have shows and who don't make living when we don't have shows So these are very challenging complex decisions and we really were relying on the government issuing a recommendation. So I think you'll see a lot of motion now that that has happened. So what you're touching on is a particular problem because if you're not getting the income from ticket sales you don't have the money to pay staff and actors and yet those actors and staff don't have income so what happens are people just left in the lurch. How can any arts organization go about pain? People who are suddenly unemployed. That's that's the question. Particularly nonprofit organizations right Typically nonprofits do not have reserves like many businesses to weather a storm of a very significant loss of income At this point. The governor's recommendation is through the end of March. We don't have guidance beyond that we are planning for beyond that personally. I've been through some thing not to the scale. But in New York I was running an off Broadway theatre at the time of the hurricane that struck New York and we were down for quite some time. and lessons learned from that about circling our wagons reaching out to our communities and to our supporters and asking them to step up and away and I see just sort of looking around the corner of what's to come. I think that will be one hundred percent necessary in this case for our Los Angeles cultural institutions. So there is the moral thing about what you can and cannot do. Then there's the legal question of what you can and are maybe obligated to do. Have you looked at all about whether or not you're contractually obligated to pay artists for shows that might be coming up or might be cancelled. Yeah I mean every. I won't speak on on other theaters but most of the professional theaters. You know have as little as two weeks notice of of saying. We're canceling the show if you think about a a producer putting up a closing notice because the show's not selling tickets the businesses designed to be flexible in that way With crew calls and all of that so there a couple of weeks that that are provided for flexibility. But nothing longer than that we're talking with Danny Feldman the producing artistic director of the Pasadena playhouse. Your next show on your main stage is a one woman show about Ann Richards and it's scheduled to open in late. May Governor Gavin. Newsom said this morning that the closure recommendations will likely extend beyond the end of this month. So how long can you wait before you make a decision on the fate of that show? You know. We're assessing that right? Now we're assessing we. We've slowed down our set build and those kind of activities for that specific show. We have a bit of time and we want to just see how long this will go. We did anticipate this order. Coming in some form And we internally we all looked at this as something that could be here for one two three months or so but as you know. This is a fast moving situation. Twenty four hours ago. I felt differently about things than I do now and I think it's speeding up and we're really starting to understand what the impact is going to have In the art scene and in the community and particularly to to the theater makers are the performing artists here in the community. That make their living. This way we're very concerned. Hypothetically if a theatre had say a thousand seat venue does it. Make any sense to only sell two hundred seats to that show and get everybody spaced out or does not even really pass the logical smell test. You Know I. I don't know if that's the experience of patrons watt particularly in this moment or to be in the theater. There's some other theaters talking about recording performances and transmitting it via the Internet for ticket buyers. And we're certainly looking at all of those different options of that. This is an extended period. How are performing arts community can still engage with our constituents in this in this temporary way But I you know. We haven't gotten there yet in terms of conversations with unions and all of that right now we're just really focused on the immediate and and and how we're getting through this period and the next couple of weeks. Dennis Feldman is the producing artistic director of the passing playhouse. Danny thanks for coming on the show. Thank you John. Coming up on the frame the series ugly delicious. Follow Chef David Chang and like a lot of people who run restaurants. These are scary times for him. If you're a Foodie and you're looking for something a little different than your average culinary competition on TV. The netflix documentary series. Ugly Delicious. Might be perfect for you hosted by award winning Chef David Chang. Ugly delicious uses foods to open up a conversation and the end result breaks down cultural barriers as it shines a light on the human experiences that unite us. All I spoke with David. Chang and his Collaborator Academy Award. Winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville about making the second season of ugly delicious but before we talked about the series we started with the Presi News of the day. How the corona virus is impacting. The Food Service Industry Chang himself owns more than a dozen restaurants around the world. Man I wish I could give you a better answer than I'm still trying to figure it all out myself. It's something that we have been preparing for for quite some time. Because I'm paranoid person in general but I think this is obviously going to change the landscape of not just restaurants but retail and small business in general. So I'm just trying to figure out you know what happens if and when this all ends. That's that's that's very hard to picture and I don't really have an answer and then trying to make sure that everyone washes their hands. And if you're sick stay home for not feeling well stay home and figuring out what we can do but I think operating a restaurant right now is probably secondary to the safety and health of every one of our employees and guests. Have you noticed a downturn in the number of people who have been dining restaurants? I think across the board. If you talked to anyone I would say the answer is yes and particularly my friends that operate restaurants in Italy China and Japan and Hong Kong and I- beginning a lot of potential data patterns as to what might happen here. It's not that will look is not looking great right now and Morgan. What about you because so much of your work is out on the field meeting people interviewing people being in crowds? How is it changing your production schedule your outlook on the kinds of stories that you can and are able to tell we've already had to cancel a couple of shoot trips? We had a shoot trip to South Korea this week. Actually that we canceled about a month ago and I think all international travels off for the time being but even domestic travel a lot of it is a little sketchy at the moment. So that part of it I think is difficult. I think the post production part which for what I do and nonfiction big big piece is I think we're going to be okay doing that. So basically if we can kind of hunker and edit and kind of wait until some subsides than than I think it may be won't be too bad of a a disruption but but that's kind of a best case scenario and have you guys even had early conversations about another season of ugly delicious because obviously you're out about when you're making that series. We've been talking about it. Since the last dave shooting of last season I think we all love making the show. It's just finding the right the right time in place and and and the opportunity. I want to ask you about the first time you met and the first conversations about doing the show. We met strangely enough on working on another series. That never happened with sort of a pilot and it was with coach k. From Duke and I spend a day with coach k. I think it was like what was it two days or one day one day and obviously a big fan of Morgan's work and that's how we met and whatever happened that day in terms of shooting. I think Morgan felt Maybe it was a good idea to see if there's something else to do down the road. Yeah I came from that day feeling like Oh my God this guy needs a TV show. Like Dave was so not just articulate and smart but vulnerable in a way that I really appreciated talking about his own kind of neurosis and things that I thought was really just an open book which is kind of a great a great thing for a subject but then when I got to hang out with him and some of his Food writer friends and chef friends and hear them talk and realize that what they do is argue about food and argue about everything how it relates to food and I felt like Oh these are the conversations I've never heard you know. These are the conversations we don't get in most food programs which which tend to kind of tell you the best place or the proper way or the whatever and I thought it was really interesting to have arguments about culture through food and really in my mind. That's kind of what ugly delicious is a cultural debate show masquerading as a Fujita. But those debates and arguments aren't necessarily mean spirited. It seems like so much of what we see on television as it relates to chefs are mean. It's Hell's kitchen kitchen. Nightmares worst cooks in America. Or It's maybe too fussy like chefs table. Where you have to do things that no regular chef can do well. I think if I behaved in a manner of Hell's kitchen or those dramatically bad real TV series or even chess table which is again as you say like very glossy. I don't know Morgan would work with me about telling our version of of a story. That's honest as possible. Yeah I mean it was something about the messy. -Ness of what Dave was doing there is. There is kind of an aesthetic to these debates that was just messy. It wasn't trying to make everything tidy both in terms of food and in terms of argument that it was it was saying. It's okay to ask questions. It's okay to disagree. We're all trying to figure it out and I thought that was really interesting. Approach both in terms of the filmmaking and in terms of the story well it strikes me that the show becomes through that less a show about being in the kitchen and more show about being in the world. That food is the backdrop. But it doesn't feel as to the story that it's really about people happen to do this. And that's what they share in common. Do you think that's a little bit of how this season has evolved? And I think absolutely I think Dave Haggar Adorn the award-winning food critic food writer and the stakes episode. Basically said it and it's a sort of a state of mind that. I didn't quite grasp until doing this sort of episode. And you know if you just go out to a restaurant to eat. That's just that has no meaning the whole idea of eating to me which was a central. I think pattern theme running through all four episodes was community. A lot of this show is about. You're kind of experiencing new ways to cook new approaches to food. Do you think of yourself as kind of the ambassador for the audience. Not only in new ways of seeing food but also in new ways of seeing other cultures Bashar audience. I try to go in just as me but I think where there might be connection to the audience and why sometimes the audience may be like allergic to me is because and just like going on going into situations like a dummy trying to have an open mind and have my opinions be proven wrong so I'm just always open to changing things. It's the whole idea. What strongly held beliefs loosely held or something like that. But I don't know Morgan. Morgan can say a little bit more about that. Like he loves putting me in situations where. I don't know anything I love to see. Dave get schooled you know. It's it's great because they both have strong opinions. But he's really willing to have those challenged and I think as often as we can put him in situations where that happens the better. I mean the the episode on Indian food was a perfect example because Dave basically said this is really important and I know nothing so it was a great kind of adventure to send him on Because he he learned everything. His ignorance in that way was an was an asset. I WANNA ask you Dave about this idea of ugly delicious. It describes a way of cooking. That may not be pretty but it tastes good. I would say it's kind of really well made comfort food home cooking and there seems to be such a kind of split right now in high end. Dining over the weekend I was up in Berkeley. I had dinner at Chez Panisse were. The menu is not cheap. But it's really simple beautiful ingredients prepared perfectly and yet at the other we. Have you know people who are cooking? You know Kofi of Unicorn with an amuse Bouche of dragon tears. How would you place your food between those two extremes because it seems to occupy a very special place for you? I mean the reality is I love. Both sides of that equation and and this is just one giant spectrum with with a very complex tasting menus and things that can be as pure as what Alice makes it Chez Panisse and I think to me the weird balances you tried to embrace both simultaneously and you know the whole idea of ugly delicious was food. Everybody wants to eat something delicious. No one wants to eat bad food but the meaning behind it and the value behind it and the culture truce behind it tend to not always be correct and it's the old what the beauty of the beholder. It's it's the same with food. And what is it? Kimchi is a perfect example. Like I grew up. Eating G in Bramley made fun of growing up for eating him now. Everybody wants so. It's funny how that all works so it's really just trying to tell stories that we all WanNa tasty things. We are actually all sort of eat. The same thing The only thing that sort of gets in our way or cultural ignorance coming up on the frame more of my conversation with the creators of ugly delicious David Chang and Morgan Neville. We continue now with my conversation with David. Chang and Morgan naval there the creators of a Netflix documentary series ugly delicious for this culinary show. Food is just a springboard for a deeper discussion about race class gender and more so I asked novel how ugly delicious connect something as simple as a plate of food to meaningful debate. We talk about the conversations. I you know what are the things we want to explore? And then what's food? That takes us there and I think underneath. Every episode is an idea that we don't necessarily ever articulate that we want to investigate it could be immigration or authenticity or tradition. But it's then through the food that we kind of tell that story we can Trojan Horse in and I love that. I think that's what's so great about food is that it's it's something we all have a relationship to we all eat. We all identify to some extent by what we eat and how we eat and how other people eat so I feel like it's the most common part of culture so what better way to tell stories to help understand people and understand ourselves through food so I think it's been amazing to work on the show because yes it's about food but it's about whatever we want to talk about too. It's impossible to watch your series and not think of Anthony Bourdain and his passing in fact. There's a moment where you talk about where you were David. On the day he died. I'd like to ask the chef. Morgan is a filmmaker about the influence at Anthony. Bourdain had on you as storytellers. Though first time I ever did. Real any television was because they anthony and In many ways been older brother mentor to me and really taught me a lot and I think it was. Just be yourself and be a good person. I mean he had to know. Ask Rule so you know I just. I just never thought I'd have those opportunities with Tony and I think that's what really taught me is just be a good person. Tried to be honest and and and promote the stories that aren't being told and actually I think Morgan because Morgan's working on on the Board Bane. He might have a different side altogether. It's interesting because I am working on a feature doc right now about about Anthony Bourdain which is interesting because I was always a fan of his in the way a lot of people. Were you know when I caught him on TV? I enjoyed it. And I'd read kitchen confidential but it wasn't until after doing ugly delicious that I really started working on this film and doing a deep dive into everything he wrote and every show he did and really getting to the very bottom of it and realizing how much of this ground he ceded for us to be able to do what we do. You know in really. He began this type of program and did it in such an incredible way and I think the thing echoing what Dave was talking about the thing that he had the works so well as an incredibly authentic ability to be himself on camera and when I would talk to people who knew him. Everybody say the Tony. You saw on camera was him and I think a lot of that's true dave to the Dave is the guy on TV. And I think that's something you and Tony. Sheridan maybe recognising eachother. Which is you? Were authentically yourselves and didn't really care about what other people thought Dave. Well before there was a pandemic people were worried about other cultures and about what it meant to be an immigrant and whether or not it was a good idea to build walls and so much of the show and I think so much of your cooking is about how food can cross borders. And I'm wondering. What kind of role do you see cooking and sharing tables and communal dining in that broader conversation about how much we share as opposed to how different we are. Well everything you just mentioned. I think we're just at the very beginning stages of it I mean talk about the pandemic you have congressional leaders still calling it the Wuhan virus or the Chinese virus so there. There's a stigma attached to many cultures. Not that that are immigrant or foreign to America and I think that you see that best still in food and how other cultures food or perceived or or or or how open people are to it. So we're really just scratching the surface of this and maybe it doesn't ever get that acceptance but I think for the first time in a long time there's a platform to have these conversations whether it's talking about the fact that Indian food isn't just curry and that's a misnomer or you know the idea that vertical spit cooking and the food from the Middle East which is still. I don't even know what that actually call it. Because it's just not the right phrase and I'm still working on that like there's stories that haven't been told that are now being told and listen. I'm a Korean American and I never saw this as a kid growing up. I saw Martin. Yan on PBS. And now maybe you know the the the generation of younger kids watching this show. They're going to be the ones that can actually push this forward in was that we can't and Morgan when you're editing these episodes how hard is it not to have stacks and stacks of food in front of you or do you have a no food in the editing. Bay Rule. So you don't have to worry about it. The problem is when I'm watching at. It's maybe at night. I get really hungry so we try and work on it just before lunch for dinner but but don't watch episodes late at night. David Chang and Morgan Neville are the creators of ugly delicious. The second season of the series is on Netflix. Now and that'll do it for today but just a note before we go. This is an important time for all of us to be well informed. Kpcc AN NPR are committed to bring you reliable information about the corona virus and breaking news. And that's why we have paused our membership drive but we can't exactly paws are vital need for funding and support from people like you our listeners. So while we aren't interrupting programming with our pledge drive today we still need your support so today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar. Thanks to a generous gift from Gordon and Donna Crawford. Thanks for listening and supporting. I'm John Horn. We're back here tomorrow at the Broadcast Center.