Monday, October 31, 2011
Massimo Capra's New Series Gourmet Escapes
I first started noticing Toronto chef Massimo Capra on City Line where his hearty personality was attracting a wide audience of devoted foodies.
And when he moved over to the Food Network's Restaurant Makeover I started wondering when he'd get his own show.
Well, it's here and exclusive to the revamped Travel +_ Escape network now owned by GlassBOX Television.
Any program with Capra finds the expansive cook front and center but this time he must yield some space every weeks to a guest chef.
I watched the first episode in the new 13-week series and was impressed. Set in Ireland it shows the wide variety of fare available to the connoiseur of local fare.
"Everywhere there's green in many shades,"Capra tells me. "It was a wonderful experience. We shot enough for several more programs, it was hard to stop."
The theme is local cooking so Capra partners with local cooks who show him the insides and outsides of their craft. "I cook beside them, do what they want me to do. But most importantly I ask questions."
"The Irish episode really works. I sample Irish honey, it's so amazingly pure. And when we go for rhubard the stalks are the size of a tree trunk yet when cooked simply sweet and delicious.
"My job is to get these artists to be comfortable on camera. You know my old friend actor Jonathan welsh told me to simply ignore the camera and be myself. That's what I tell all my guests. Oh, sure, I'll play up a little to get them loose but they have a lot of expertise to show us."
Each episode starts with an appeal to the local Tourism board to find the right chefs and the right locales.
"In Italy I won't be doing the obvious places --like Rome. I want to go to Sicily, to Cremona. In Switzerland we are doing two shows. The one in Amsterdam highlights Dutch cooking which few of us know much about. I Wales I've found a food school worth shouting about."
But doesn't all this traveling interfere with his Toronto restaurant Mistura?
"Not really, when I'm here I'm really here and I'm rarely away for more than 10 days. My patrons expect me here and I can't be away more, you see.
"This series is taking a long time but it's the beginning, we want to get everything right.
"I hope the Irish show interests everyone. We go to an island where the only inhabitants are pigs. And our chef poaches a huge pike and I provide assistance with the other courses. We serve it to a large, invited crowd and they were knocked out. It's all in the service of better cooking."
GOURMET ESCAPES PREMIERES ON TRAVEL + ESCAPE ON WED. NOV. 2 AT 8 P.M.
MY RATING: ***.