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While many would assume that being a food critic simply means eating something and writing about whether you liked it or not—and don’t get me wrong, most of it is—there’s still a secondary education about food, both socially and politically, that goes on behind the scenes that must be sought after, and, for the most part, it’s a continual learning process that you will more than likely find yourself always looking in at from the back of the restaurant, usually seated near the restrooms. At least it is if you’re me. So here’s a few recent documentaries that have done a great job of helping me further myself culinary-wise when life won’t allow it.

According to the film Just Eat It (Bullfrog Films), not only is 40% of the world’s food supply wasted annually, but in our own homes, one-fourth of all edible food is simply discarded. It’s on this premise that filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin decide to not only explore the world of wasted food, but decide to pull a total Supersize Me and eat nothing but discarded food for six months.

Now this would be a wholly interesting social experiment if this couple weren’t such a pair of whiny, affluent past-their-prime hipsters who’ve obviously never gone hungry a day in their lives; almost immediately they’re complaining about the sacrifices they’re making and within the first week or so want to give up because they’re out of “sweeteners”. Ugh. While there is plenty of informative info about what a wasteful society we are, it’s underminded for the most part by these two chowderheads.

From the low-class dumpsters of the America to high-class dining you and I will never sit down at the table of, Copenhagen’s Noma, under the stirring hand of chef Rene Redzepi, has been named the “World’s Best Restaurant” numerous times over the past decade. Not one to rest on his laurels, Redzepi decides to open a companion in Tokyo with the documentary Ants on a Shrimp (Sundance Slects) following the creation of fourteen original dishes in time for the grand opening.

Like many genius chefs, Redzepi walks the thin line between brilliant and pretentious, scouring everywhere from the fish markets of Okinawa to the forests of Nagano for native ingredients that have never been utilized in the way that he’s hoping they do in his head. From the highs of a dish that works to the frustrating lows of the ones that don’t, Ants on a Shrimp is an endlessly entertaining look at how not only a menu comes together, but also how it doesn’t.

Not as successful, ironically enough, is the well-made but mainly grating The Missing Ingredient: What is the Recipe for Success? (Virgil Films). Seemingly two different films, the first one focuses on the New York City institution Gino’s, a beloved Italian eatery that is as known for its zebra-infused wallpaper as it is for its red sauced dishes. The other half is about a failing nearby hipster eatery, Pescatore, and how they believe the answer to their own woes is to copy the wallpaper form Gino’s.

It’s frustratingly absurd everytime Pescatore owner Charles Devigne is on-screen, so brazenly sure that people will come to the restaurant if they just had that wallpaper, even as every single talking head around him, whilst pontificating on what exactly makes an “institution,” maddeningly disagree. Still, Ingredient is beautifully watchable just to the end just to see if he was right or not. You’ll get no spoilers from me.

Finally, let’s wash these all down with a mysterious cup of the elusive Japanese fermented rice wine in Kampai! For the Love of Sake (Sundance Selects). Delving deep into the art of this ancient staple of culture and cuisine in Japan, this doc takes viewers on a globetrotting tour of not only spreading the word about the famed alcoholic beverage, but also tearing down the cultural curtain in front of it in an attempt to win as many converts as possible. And with this gem, I gladfully add “Sake it to me, baby!”

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About the Author

Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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