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Synopsis

At age 24, Atlas chef Paul Liebrandt received three stars from the New York Times for unforgettable and hypermodern dishes such as espuma of calf brains and foie gras and beer and truffle soup. He soon became a chef critics loved  or loved to hate.

During his tenure at the modest bistro Papillon, New York Times food critic William Grimes gave Liebrandt two stars, because there was some inspired cooking going on, but added that he needs a bigger show. As the restaurant business weakened post-9/11, the owners changed the menu to cut costs. Forced to serve burgers and fries, Liebrandt soon left Papillon.

A few years later, Liebrandt became the executive chef at Gilt, where he could make food that told a story. Thomas Keller, chef-owner of Per Se, says Liebrandt was making cuisine that expressed his personality, noting that the food was more based in traditional technique and traditional flavors, but still with wonderful surprises and new flavor compositions, and the execution became even better. But six weeks after the restaurants opening, New York Times food critic Frank Bruni awarded Gilt a disappointing two stars. Liebrandt and Gilt soon parted ways.

A Matter of Taste Serving Up Paul Liebrandt

In March 2007, Liebrandt was approached by restaurateur Drew Nieporent to be the chef and part-owner of Corton, a high-end Tribeca venue. A MATTER OF TASTE follows the two, along with restaurant director Arleene Oconitrillo (who is also Liebrandts girlfriend), as they work feverishly to get Corton ready for opening, testing recipes and perfecting the décor. Amidst anticipation of a New York Times review, Corton has a successful opening. Notes Nieporent, Ive never, ever, ever had a restaurant  except maybe, maybe Nobu  that has uniformly gotten this much critical acclaim all at once. But whats missing? The New York Times. The paper of record.

Among the friends, colleagues and prominent chefs, restaurateurs and food critics interviewed for A MATTER OF TASTE: SERVING UP PAUL LIEBRANDT are: Grant Achatz, chef-owner of Chicagos Alinea; Heston Blumenthal, chef-owner of The Fat Duck in Bray, England; chef-restaurateur Daniel Boulud; Frank Bruni, New York Times food critic (2004-2009); Mike Colameco, PBS culinary host; William Grimes, New York Times Food Critic (1998-2003); Thomas Keller, chef-owner of Per Se; restaurateur Drew Nieporent; and Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin and host of PBSs Avec Eric.

New Zealand-born filmmaker Sally Rowe started in film in 1992 as an apprentice editor, assistant and editor. In 2001, she began working as a script supervisor on numerous independent features and commercials, as well as the entire run of the Emmy®-nominated comedy series Chappelles Show. A MATTER OF TASTE is her directorial debut.

A MATTER OF TASTE: SERVING UP PAUL LIEBRANDT is directed by Sally Rowe; executive producer, Benjamin Breen; producers, Sally Rowe, Alan Oxman and Rachel Mills; editor and co-producer, Amy Foote; music by John M. Davis.

A Matter of Taste Serving Up Paul Liebrandt

A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt

HBO Documentary Films Summer Series