A Matter Of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt

A Matter Of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt


Reviewed by: James Benefield

Art as food (or food as art?) is what Englishman in New York Paul Liebrandt does for a living. Or tries to do for a living – for no matter how many restaurants he works in, and however many critical plaudits he receives whilw doing it, he finds it hard to hold down a job.

This documentary, which originally premièred on HBO in the States, shows a man who considers himself an artist and, who, like any great artist, is waiting for the world to catch up with him before he can make it big. We follow him over 10 years, from his early days wowing unsuspecting locals in an otherwise unprepossessing Manhattan neighbourhood spot, through his first restaurant, to becoming (almost) part of the establishment where he is today.

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It's a coming of age tale more than anything. Liebrandt starts as a wide-eyed rebel outsider but throug the 10 years we follow him, he gets a girlfriend, a nice apartment and a truly fulfilling career. Director Sally Rowe does a great job with this human side, making a relatively inaccessible subject emotionally engaging and throroughly entertaining.

Indeed, Rowe focuses on these broader, dare I say it, more palatable, elements of the story. We never really get to know where Liebrandt's obsession with food comes from (although it's clear it neither comes from his family nor his boarding school days), we never fully experience the desert of his mid twenties where he's out of the kitchen and scraping by on teaching and 'consulting' work. We do see that his passion and attention to detail makes him somewhat difficult – but what successful craftsman doesn't face this problem? It doesn't tell us much about him as a person. There's also very little context to the New York dining scene, apart from a few talking heads.

But it's a 67-minute documentary and what it does, it does really well.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2012
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A Matter Of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt packshot
Documentary tracing a decade in the career of the British chef.
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Director: Sally Rowe

Starring: Paul Liebrandt

Year: 2010

Runtime: 68 minutes

Country: US


Tribeca 2011

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