In the span of 16 years, chef Curtis Stone has followed quite the culinary journey, from young Aussie upstart Surfing the Menu (and Pacific) with one of his toque blokes, to near-miss Celebrity Apprentice, to Michelin-laureled, Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning tasting-menu savant behind Maude, in Beverly Hills, Calif. In 2018, Stone recalibrated the 24-seat restaurant to showcase the cuisine, ingredients and, of course, quaffs of a different famed wine region every three months. For inspiration, he hit the road to wine countries far and wide, the consummate entertainer filming as he went. The result is Field Trip with Curtis Stone, debuting on public TV stations around the country Oct. 5.
“The show grew out of what we were already doing with our research and development trips for our regional menus at Maude," Stone told Unfiltered via email. "My team and I planned a trip to Rioja as we were preparing to debut the new menu format last year, and my good friend Dave Gorn asked to join along to capture footage." Stone decided to keep rolling as he visited farms, ranches, vineyards and cellars and met with the likes of truffle hunters, pigeon butchers, sea urchin divers and biodynamic winemakers around Australia, California, Italy and Spain. "Each episode really showcases the soul of these destinations and the producers, artisans, farmers and chefs who are inspiring our menus at Maude."
Stone told Unfiltered some of his favorite wine memories appear in the first and last episodes. In the first, he walks the vines and talks biodynamics with Vanya Cullen in Australia's Margaret River. And in Rioja, "we visit the Marqués de Riscal winery in this stunning space designed by Frank Gehry. We opened a 60-year-old bottle with the winemaker using an atypical method that utilizes the contrast of temperatures to remove the top of the bottle without requiring us to remove the cork."
Stone, who also owns Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant in Hollywood, Calif., breaks down in each episode how his discoveries in each locale make their way back to his tables in L.A., and that includes wine; he also stops by Santa Cruz icon Ridge and Franciacorta's leading Ca' del Bosco.—B.O.
If you dream about becoming the world’s top chef, two restaurateurs of terror are sharpening their knives to turn that into a nightmare. Mélanie Lemieux sampled escape rooms all over the world and decided to open New York’s first restaurant-themed one in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City based on her experiences in the service industry, with her partner in crime (and dining), Kyle Radzyminski; the pair also own non-haunted spots the Baroness and the Huntress. “It’s a hard one,” Lemieux warned Unfiltered of the newly opened Esscape Room. “We don’t want people to get out, and we want to drive them crazy.”
Under the strict supervision of a "deranged" chef, participants play sous chefs who find themselves pawns in said chef’s twisted fantasy of, well, opening a restaurant. Over an hour, players must try to survive “The Real Kitchen Nightmare,” which has six rooms and a few actors, including Lemieux, who try to thwart the hapless chefs in discovering clues and solving puzzles. Lemieux wanted players to feel the heat, subjecting them to sounds, smells and even temperature changes (yes, some rooms are hotter than others), plus clues that incorporate cooking know-how, chef-speak and kitchen terms; having a team member with service experience will give you an edge.
Lemieux filled the rooms with old equipment from actual restaurants, and Radzyminski’s sets are designed to make the culinary purgatory as realistic as possible—but Lemieux promises it’s all safe. “It looks like a real kitchen, but nothing is hooked up,” she said. “We’re not trying to murder anyone.” As a sommelier, Lemieux recommends a cool-down with a glass of wine: At the Baroness, you can take out any lingering frustration on a bottle of Champagne, with a saber—after all, so far, only one group has successfully escaped. Just be careful not to get trapped in the wine cellar.—S.Z.
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