Paul Liebrandt: the British chef who conquered New York

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paul_liebrandt.jpgIt's taken me a couple of days but I've finally caught up with Monday night's Storyville 'The Chef Who Conquered New York: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt'. If you haven't seen it and you've a healthy interest in all things cheffy and gastronomic, there's still time as it will be available on iPlayer for another four weeks. 

The BBC Four series of international documentaries this week focused on the floppy haired British chef of the title, who I'm ashamed to say I hadn't heard of before, perhaps because so much of his career has been spent away from Blighty. 

The film follows the chef around for the best part of a decade as he sets about impressing customers and critics alike with his trailblazing, ultra-modern and divisive cuisine. Back in the early noughties, at the age of 25, he became the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star review from the New York Times. But what followed was a tumultuous period of frustration for Liebrandt. 
The Chef Who Conquered New York, by director Sally Rowe, was originally entitled A Matter of Taste, referencing the love-hate relationship Liebrandt's food has with the critics.

Oddly though I viewed it without thinking about the BBC Four version of the title, perhaps because I was cramming in snippets each time I hopped on a train, and I had an ever increasing sense of foreboding as I watched.

Maybe the reason I hadn't heard of Liebrandt was because he'd crashed and burned spectacularly after the stratospheric start of his New York career? Or, and I confess this thought genuinely crossed my mind, perhaps something terrible had happened... Had chef died?! 

Of course he hadn't. That would have been a rather random and macabre conclusion that could only have been explained if the likes of Tarantino took over from Rowe for the last ten minutes of the film. No spoilers here though - despite the title - give it a good watch. 

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 I wonder if you, like me, will go from thinking it's all a bit Spinal Tap at the start - it opens with Liebrandt on a photo shoot complete with severed pig's head, bloody chef whites and a kitchen cleaver, raising concerns that the resulting pictures might mean he isn't taken seriously by potential investors - to being pretty darn impressed by his commitment to his art.

While Liebrandt was prepared to do the necessary to ensure he could pay the bills, he always had one eye on the prize. That sort of determination combined with oodles of talent can go a very long way.

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