A small film crew is gathered on a recent Friday around the back of a truck outside of the former Levee St. restaurant in Hoquiam. Chef Andrew Bickar is talking chanterelles with master mushroom forager Doug Carnell of Chehalis.
The assistant cameraman Patrick Kollman puts his fingers to his lips to encourage silence. Though it is a sunny day, the production crew is using a screen to bounce light onto the discussion to capture it for the high definition camera.
Time for local food and local talent to shine. Welcome to the “set” of the coming season of PBS’s “Food Forward,” a national television show about the movement to produce local food. Some of the show’s content will be about wild and foraged food in our area.
Early the morning before, the crew is about to film foraging near Humptulips in the rain with Seattle cookbook author, Langdon Cook, who releases his book “The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America,” this week.
The crew shelters at the Grays Harbor Farmers Market, where they can interview Cook out of the rain.
Enter Barbara Bennett Parsons, manager of the market, who asks producer Greg Roden “what he most wishes for … and how I could help.” Roden replies he’d like to connect with a fine local chef who could transform wild food they were gathering into a gourmet meal, Parsons recalls in an email.
“I can make that happen,” she replies, and leads him to the “best home kitchen I know of in Grays Harbor. It sits on pilings over the (Hoquiam River) with boats moored” below. The building, now a private residence, looks over the river and two bridges. The executive producer, Tom Gorman, green lights the shoot over the phone and tell Parsons he has never had a segment come together this easily.
When she asked Chef Bickar to cook fresh Harbor fare, she got a “resounding ‘yes’,” she said. Owner RoyAnn Taylor gave permission for the crew to shoot on the property.
Bickar, about to open Rediviva, his new restaurant on East Wishkah in Aberdeen, has about 24 hours to prepare. He starts dehydrating chanterelles so he can powder it for a dish he will make from fresh local ingredients, live before the camera.
Cut To: INTERIOR KITCHEN
Early Afternoon: A lot of film making is hurry up and wait, but documentary film crews, almost always on a tight budget and time schedule, are efficient at schlepping, setting up, improvising and shooting.
Kollman lays out the dolly tracks for the camera in front of the cooking island where Bickar, known as “Andy” behind the scenes, “because that’s how everybody knows me around here,” paces and preps.
Cooking is all about ingredients, preparation and, often, quick execution.
With the help of mushroom-pheasant stock he made the night before, Bickar keeps the sauce for the dish liquid during the shoot.
Production Assistant Armeen Monahan arranges the screen outside on the walkway to bounce the sinking western light into the kitchen.
Sound mixer Marshall B. Potter (“like the wizard”) arranges a boom above the galley kitchen and a lavalier mic inside Bickar’s chef shirt. Director of Photography David Linstrom slides the HD camera apparatus on the dolly tracks, focusing on possible closeups and medium shots.
Parsons and her crew of volunteers, who include a port commissioner Jack Thompson and his wife Trisha, and real estate agent Debbie Gorman, put last minute touches to the set decoration of vases and colorful plates that look hand painted. The chef provides a bowl of sage and herbs from his garden plus pots, pans, key spices and oils for the dish. He even moves a vase at the request of Linstrom, now positioned with eye firmly in the camera.
Roden frequently stands over the director of photography’s shoulder and suggests questions and trains of thought to Bickar, who is on his first shoot. The crew, the local volunteers and a kibitzer, will agree he is a natural in front of the lens.
Quiet on the set, Rolling, Speed, Cooking
Roden banishes the volunteers to the living room, and allows a Daily World reporter to stand or sit in the far corner of the kitchen during the shoot.
Photos during filming are banned by Linstrom, since the light flash will alter the look. Commands on the set rarely involve the word “action.”
The terms rolling and speed refer to pre-digital days when film and tape ruled. Potter slates and the shoot begins. Bickar has chosen a dish he calls “Chanterelle Encrusted Albacore Tuna Loin, with Chanterelle-Infused Orzo and Brown Butter Chanterelles in Sage Marscapone.”
It is a dish with “flavor profiles” like the “tuna noodle casserole your mother never made.” He sautes Walla Walla onions, adds unfiltered apple cider vinegar, tomato paste and Habanero peppers “for a kick.” He also fortifies the stock with Zinfandel from Hard Row to Hoe, of Lake Chelan.
Asked to experiment, he confesses he has never made orzo before. He infuses the dough with chanterelle powder he dehydrated the night before. When cutting the orzo into tiny rice-sized pieces takes up too much time on camera, his volunteers roll and cut the orzo between takes.
Roden dabs shine killer on Bickar’s face. Bickar, rarely at a loss for words on camera, keeps up a fluid discourse about fresh, foraged and found food on the Harbor
The producers say this will likely air next spring, but can’t be more specific.
During taping, Bickar acts as if his restaurant, Rediviva (Reh-dih-vee-vah),” Latin for renewal” is already open. He weaves in the story of the first U.S. ship to circumnavigate the globe, the Columbia Rediviva, piloted by Capt. Robert Gray.
A colorful improviser, Bickar discusses fresh seafood available here and describes his most popular dish, as executive chef at Ocean Crest, Dungeness Cappelletti, as “ravioli as if it hugged itself.” He even says the flavor of the mushrooms can add notes of apricot and “dirt” can sometimes “smell like feet.”
He is so funny that the audience has to stifle laughter more than once. As the shoot stops and starts, mainly due to light adjustments and loud mechanical sounds outdoors, Bickar talks about the wonder of fresh albacore tuna, which many never get to try out of a can. The fish was caught about 40 miles off the coast and purchased by the crew that Friday morning.
Wielding his sharp knife, Bickar gently slices triangular loins from the back of the tuna. He dredges the tuna in chanterelle powder, salt, pepper and “togarashi spice (or shichimi—a seven flavor spice from Japan)” he confirms in an email later.
He sears the tuna in an extra light olive oil. And sautes the chanterelles in brown butter, adding the sage mascarpone. As Roden and Linstrom capture final closeups of the cooking, the smells of food infuse the air.
And Cut, It’s a Wrap
Mid-afternoon: The final “and cut” is spoken and Potter records 30 seconds of room tone to mix into the sound already recorded to make it sound more natural.
Roden asks that the film crew eat before volunteers since they are ravenous and are about to hit the road again. Murmurs of “wow,” “delicious,” “amazing,” now fill the air as well. They hang back to leave food for volunteers and observers to enjoy a nosh.
Take two, and many of the same accolades are uttered by the hometown crowd, which is counting the days until Bickar opens his first restaurant as as an owner as well as executive chef. The crew returns to scarf the food that remains. Soon Bickar will add a PBS “Food Forward” credit to his name with a little help from his supporters on the Harbor.
Producer: Greg Roden
Cast: Chef Andrew Bickar, of the soon to open Rediviva on 118 E. Wishkah; Doug Carnell and Jeff master mushroom foragers, Author Langdon Cook, author of “The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America” and an article on their mushroom hunting. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/langdon-cook/mushroom-hunting_b_3873873.html
Director of Photography: David Linstrom San Luis Obsipo
Assistant Camera: Patrick Kollman
Sound: Marshall Potter (like the wizard) is sound guy
Production Assistant: Armeen Monahan
Location, Casting and Set Decoration: Barbara Bennett Parsons
Set Designer : RoyAnn Taylor
Additional production help: Jack and Trish Thompson, Debbie Gorman
Wild, foraged chanterelles from East Humptulips
Wild albacore tuna, caught off the coast of Westport