HBO's latest focal point steps into the kitchen with A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt. The film follows the cutting-edge chef over the course of nine and a half years, tracking a culinary artist as he strives to find his place in New York’s ruthless world of haute cuisine. The presentation marks the second documentary film in the HBO Summer Documentary series.
The film centers on what begins as an early-twenties Mr. Liebrandt, who quits his job at a downmarket restaurant because he is “tired of flipping burgers” and struggles for years to find a place of his own in New York’s high-end dining mecca. It tracks Paul as he works his magic bringing local kitchens up to two-star shape, then bristles when they stifle his creativity. His "Wonka-esque" creations, full of color and vibrance and ingenuity, draw mixed reactions from the culinary supercritics who scoff at the ambitious innovation of the man's creations but can't help but ladle praise on such exquisite taste.
Sally Rowe’s documentary showcases not only Mr. Liebrandt’s story, but the man's remarkable inventiveness in the field of molecular-gastronomical creation – an art familiar mostly only to the foodie elite. It's a learning experience as well as a tale of growth and ambition. A storytelling philosopher as much as a chef, Paul strives to tell stories with food, “stimulating emotions of wonderment and discovery.”
Among the friends, colleagues and prominent chefs, restaurateurs and food critics interviewed for the film are Grant Achatz, chef-owner of Chicago’s Alinea; Heston Blumenthal, chef-owner of The Fat Duck in Bray, England; chef-restaurateur Daniel Boulud; Frank Bruni, New York Times food critic (2004-2009) and many more.
The film does a masterful job of capturing Liebrandt's struggles and successes over the course of a decade, and you can catch it on HBO on June 13, starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT.