Food Writer's Diary

A Matter of Taste

Liebrandt at work

Oh shoot! The people at HBO were nice enough to send me a copy of A Matter of Taste, a documentary on chef Paul Liebrandt that I wanted to watch, and I’m late.

The film airs on HBO tonight (9 p.m. EST), and I'm on the road, visiting family in Denver, while the DVD is sitting on my desk in New York.

So, what can I say? Paul Liebrandt’s a hell of an interesting chef. I’ve always found his food simultaneously weird, delicious and incredibly well-balanced. Most striking: Each component of each dish seems to express itself with intriguing clarity and precision.

The Bouley alumnus had a brief and critically tumultuous tenure some years ago, back in 2000, at Atlas, where then-Times critic William Grimes gave him a glowing three-star review, placing him squarely on the map as one of New York’s most avant-garde chefs. Then a review in Gourmet skewered him, uncharacteristic behavior for that magazine.

At the time, some people wondered if the review had anything to do with the fact that Gourmet’s editor-in-chief, Ruth Reichl, was Grimes’s predecessor.

Liebrandt, who was something like 24 years old, left the restaurant shortly thereafter.

But that’s ancient history.

A still from the film.

Liebrandt went on to run the kitchens at a genuine variety of New York City restaurants — Papillon, One Little West 12th (I kid you not), and Gilt — before finding a home partnering with Drew Nieporent at Corton, where he has once again received adulation from critics and customers.

And also a documentary on HBO, airing tonight.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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