Thursday, August 1, 2019

On The Cutting Room Floor

Almost five years ago I was interviewed for three segments of six part TV series called ‘The Way of the Wok,” focusing on Chinese food, and specifically focusing on the five major cuisines of China, and how they have manifested in Canada in the United States.  Canadian celebrity chef Christine Cushing interviewed me on a variety of topics, though the interview really wasn’t a perfect fit because they were looking for a Chinese food expert, which I am not.  Anyway I hadn’t heard a peep from them after the interview, and my presumption was that they ran out of money before being able to package the series, or couldn’t find anybody to buy it.  A couple of years later, I was cleaning my desk and I found the card of the show’s producer,  Theresa Kowall Shipp.  Curious about what might have happened to the show, I did a Google search to find that the show had just made its TV debut in Hong Kong a little over a week previously under the moniker “Confucius Was A Foodie.”  I also found detailed information about the six episodes, and it didn’t look like any of my interviews made the final cut.  

Then, early this year the show finally showed up on PBS, expanded to eight episodes, certainly a long time from production time to showing up on US television.  In watching the first couple of shows it was clear that my scenes were definitely not included because the focus of the show had shifted from Chinese food in North America to Chinese food in general, with the majority of the scenes being shot in Asia and other foreign locales, with scenes shot in Canada, San Francisco and Los Angeles being really incidental.

For the most part I didn't watch the episodes, but I did fast forward through to parts that were clearly shot in North America to see if there were interesting tidbits about the Chinese food here.  In the episode on Sichuan cuisine, I noticed that they took a bit of artistic license by including some scenes of Los Angeles Chinatown in the show, despite the fact that there is no Sichuan food in Los Angeles Chinatown.  I presume they did this because while they were talking about Sichuan food in the San Gabriel Valley in that segment, the SGV doesn't have the stylized Chinese architecture that you find in Los Angeles Chinatown, and they wanted that visual Chinese atmosphere in the show.

The other interesting visual find in watching the Sichuan episode was that there were very brief (one to two seconds) shots of the interior and the exterior of the restaurant, Chua Ren Bai Wei in Temple City, where I shot my scenes.  I was very happy to see those snippets, because it shows that they didn't destroy the tape they took that day.  And in just now checking the Confucius Was A Foodie website again, they now refer to the shows as the first season, so maybe there will be a second season and maybe they'll use some more old tape!

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  4. Hi David, from what I know, Confucius was a Foodie was re-released and completed redone from scratch for PBS. Before that, there was already the original release with 3 seasons which was shown on National Geographic People. I saw your interview on their season 1 episode and I thought it was REALLY good! I was on season 3 (for the five Chinese tastes) on the original release and I'm pretty sure in the PBS remix there will be more scenes from the original release showing up if/when the next season is purchased.

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