Must-See TV

A bootstrap series from a Brooklyn filmmaker investigates what it means to eat sustainably around the country.

tv

Daniel Klein had a killer culinary career. He’d cooked at Bouchon Bakery, Craft and Applewood but moved back to his native Minnesota with plans to open a locavore restaurant. He soon reconsidered.

“The whole idea of being in front of a stove for the next 10 years, stressed out and in debt, became less and less appealing,” he says.

Klein, 27, had studied film at NYU and traveled from Cairo to Capetown to produce a documentary about American aid. In Minnesota he got inspired to create a series “about eating sustainably in places that are not California.” He considered it as a television pilot but the immediacy of the web appealed to him. He raised $10,000 on Kickstarter.com, mostly from family and friends, and the Perennial Plate was born.

In a world of me-too foodie travelogues, the series takes a wonderfully fresh approach. The weekly episodes follow Klein, unpretentious and soft-spoken, on 52 edible experiences, from slaughtering a turkey to hunting squirrel, cooking road kill, making ice cream in the snow, even spear fishing on a frozen lake. (“It was so cold the camera would stop functioning.”)

After a year immortalizing the Gopher State, Klein and girlfriend Mirra Fine, a graphic designer, are going national with season two: a “real food road trip” across the country. To fund the project, they returned to Kickstarter, this time raising more than $20,000 from 452 people—“many of whom I have never met,” says Klein—in just two weeks.

No swank silver-screen production, Klein and Fine do all the Perennial Plate filming, editing and graphics themselves, using two digital cameras and a MacBook Pro. Klein edits footage as Fine drives.

Two weeks into their trip, they had posted films of visit to an Iowa dairy (followed by wildflower milkshakes made in the car) and a nocturnal frog-hunting trip in the backwoods of Arkansas.

“The characters we meet are all very different from us, and we’re all able to bond over food. That’s just as important as the sustainable part,” says Klein when we reach him in New Orleans, where he and Fine are about to go shrimping.

“We’ll see if we’re still enjoying it in five months,” says Klein. “I think we will be!” calls out Fine from the driver’s seat.

Photo credit:  Perennial Plate.

 

Newsletter

Categories

Tags

AMY CORTESE is an award-winning journalist who writes about topics spanning business, finance, food, wine and travel. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, Business Week, the New York Times, the Daily News, Portfolio, Mother Jones, Afar, The American, the Daily Beast, Talk, Business 2.0, and Wired, among other publications. Her recently published book, Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From it (John Wiley & Sons, 2011), draws upon her experience covering these diverse realms to explore how a small shift in investment away from multinationals towards locally-owned enterprises can reap enormous economic and social benefits for individuals, their communities and the country.