Brooklyn-based filmmaker George Motz got his first real taste of the States while creating his 2005 documentary Hamburger America. He’s since downed countless calories crisscrossing the country, not just for food-focused shorts but also as the host of the Travel Channel series Made in America. This fall, he’ll also host the fourth annual NYC Food Film Fest, where filmgoers eat what’s also on screen—it kicks off October 18.
EB: What’s the most outlandish trip you’ve made in pursuit of food?
GM: When I was trying to finish the burger book, there was one place in Pittsburgh that I had to get to, Tessaro’s. Usually when I go burger hunting I’ll hit a few per city, but Tessaro’s is out there on its own. That meant a round-trip flight for lunch. Fortunately, it was a stellar burger.
Q: Ever run into anybody you knew eating someplace really nuts?
I once randomly crossed paths with [cookoff impresario] Matt Timms on the San Fran airport tram—I was shooting at Ghirardelli for Made in America and Matt had a Takedown going on. One of the weirdest, though, was on my honeymoon. We’d just spent three weeks in Italy and were at our last meal, on Capri. From across the restaurant someone yells ‘Motz!’ It was my sound guy from New York and it was the first day of his honeymoon.
Q: What’s the best thing you’ve tasted on the road?
I’m a pretty basic guy, and the simpler foods make me very happy. For example, I discovered Merkt’s cheese spread a few weeks ago in Chicago. I also found the best pimento cheese anywhere from Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. But the latest thing I ate that really knocked my pants off was Portland chef Gabriel Rucker’s foie gras profiterole. He makes foie gras ice cream that was ridiculous. I was talking to him after an event, and he surprised me by handing over a pint of said ice cream. Needless to say, I was the hit of the next few dinner parties.
Q: What is the worst thing you’ve tasted in recent travels?
Easily the grossest thing I’ve eaten started at a burger joint in North Carolina called What-A-Burger. They have this awesome drink called the Witch Doctor: a housemade concoction of fountain sodas on ice with a few pickle slices thrown in. I made the colossal mistake of reaching for the drink after it had been sitting in my rental car’s dashboard cup holder for a few hours. Warm pickle water does not refresh. I almost booted on the windshield.
Q: What’s recently inspired a food film?
I’ve been going to Lowcountry oyster roasts for as long as I can remember (my mom grew up in South Carolina). They are a total blast, and an evening opening steam-roasted oysters usually involves copious amounts of beer and whiskey, and then the guitars come out. But it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized that I should film one. Duh!
Photo credit: George Motz (1); Rebecca McAlpin (2,3,4)