Best Food-related TV Show Ever: After Hours With Daniel
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I recently (finally) got TiVo, and I can finally record shows and watch them later. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having a full queue when you get home after a long day- a queue filled with shows I actually want to watch, that is. Having the ability to record various programs automatically has also given me a chance to watch a bunch of shows I didn’t even really know existed. You can set the recorder based on show topics or titles, so it’s really opened up a new world or TV for me. And that’s saying a lot since a big part of my job is to watch a lot of TV!
Ok, enough about my love for TiVo but it just introduced me to my new favorite show ever- After Hours with Daniel on MOJO. I’d never even heard of the network before, but of course I had heard of the world famous chef, Daniel Boulud. Owner and chef of multiple restaurants (most famously the Michelin two-star Daniel) and culinary icon, Daniel Boulud apparently has had a tradition of having late night suppers with other chefs and luminaries. MOJO has turned these dinners into a series- each episode is a different dinner at a different restaurant with varying guests- and the show is such a fun, intimate, honest and completely entertaining look at how chefs (and their well paleted friends) eat and socialize.
Take, for example, a recent dinner at Maremma, an Italian restaurant run by Owner/Chef Cesare Casella- a Tuscan native with the most charming, what-on-earth-is-he-saying accent I’ve ever heard. Thanks to subtitles, you can hear all of the amusingly competetive banter between he and Daniel as they do the prep for tonight’s meal. At one point Daniel shows Casella a cake that he made for dessert- a huge round of brioche stuffed with cream- and says to the Italian chef “You see- the French inspired the Italians to make cannoli with this cake,” to which Casella replies “Oh yes, the Italians took the French idea and made it more refined,” while Daniel jabs back with “No, the Italians simplified it.” They laugh, drink a glass of wine, marvel at some gorgeous California artichokes that Daniel will also be serving at dinner and do the hug/kiss thing, then depart for the afternoon.
Tonight’s guests include Craft Owner/Chef and Top Chef Head Judge Tom Colicchio, actor/comedian Mario Cantone, actress/wine buff Lorraine Bracco and a couple of other NY area chefs and writers. They all sit at a private dining table with Daniel and Casella- and the food parade begins. Although each dinner for each episode is at a different restaurant, Daniel almost always contributes a dish or two- and tonight he starts with the artichokes and then some sea scallops with garlic butter (when you see the amount of butter Daniel dollops onto each scallop, it’s almost frightening!). There’s a lot of “ooooohs” and “aaaaahs” from the table, a decent amount of wine poured, then the real fun begins. One of the guests tells a great story of how he accidentally fell into the catering business after bragging to a friend at an event that the food was crap and that he “could do better food with one hand tied behind my back.” Two weeks later he gets a call to cater an event- an after party for an up-and-coming comedian named Steve Martin, who, incidentally, is a vegetarian. Mario Cantone does his dead-on Julia Child impression- and everyone is laughing so hard that they can hardly keep the food in their mouths. After the impression is over, they all stand up and toast to Julia. Daniel continues the “French are better than Italians” jokes to which Casella tells a hilarious story about how the French would not have underwear if it wasn’t for the Italians- and his crazy accent and animated manner of speaking makes it come out like “Da Frinch, dey didn’t hove no UNDERWEEEEEEER! NO UNDERWEEEEEER!” and Colicchio just looks like he is gonna absolutely die of laughter. The main course that Casella made- a roasted baby goat- arrives to much applause and everyone digs in, relishing every bite. The stories and jokes continue until everyone seems so full that they just can’t eat anymore. Cantone jokes that he can feel the brioche on his ass.
I’ve seen several episodes, and all of them have the same, wonderful elements that make the show so utterly interesting, entertaining and heartwarming all at once. Daniel’s bravado (well-earned, of course!) and unexpected humor, the restaurant chef’s insights, the two chefs working together, the personalities of each different guest, the food itself and the stories that pop up during these meals make such a perfect combination into one perfect show. The restaurants and chefs showcased are amazing- Wylie Dufresne and his wd-50, Shea Gallante and his CRU….obviously Daniel is such a legend in the culinary world that all of these young chefs look up to him and are honored to have him host these dinners in their restaurants.
Few shows (if any, quite frankly) give you such access and paint such an intimate portrait of real chefs doing their thing, but After Hours With Daniel really hits the mark. I get so excited when my TiVo has a new episode on it- and every single one I’ve seen so far has been so completely satisfying. I urge you to check it out!
Maybe one day, Daniel will invite a food blogger to one of these dinners…….*sigh.* I’m sure I’d keel over from intimidation after the first introduction, but one can dream, no?
After Hours With Daniel
Airs Wednesdays, 10 PM EDT on MOJO