In the new PBS series “Field Trip with Curtis Stone,” the chef takes viewers on a journey across continents as he sources ingredients for his Beverly Hills restaurant Maude.
From the Netflix hit “Salt Fat Acid Heat” to the still-relevant (and beloved) “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” there is no lack of food and travel shows available to the culinarily curious. And in Los Angeles, there’s certainly no shortage of world-class dining. The new TV series “Field Trip with Curtis Stone” combines both.
The show, which has been airing on PBS, brings us up close to the stories and people behind the tasting menus at the highly acclaimed Maude, Stone’s first solo restaurant in Beverly Hills. And it masterfully conveys how a particular part of the world might come to be represented on their menu.
For the uninitiated, Maude is a tasting menu-only restaurant, and each dining experience is inspired by one particular wine region at a time. From cuvée to cuisine, the 10-course menu, which rotates quarterly, is the result of thorough research and thousands of miles of travel by the Maude team, including trips to Spain’s wine region, the Italian alps and rural Western Australia. Cinematographer Dave Gorn — a friend of Stone’s — comes along to capture their escapades as they dive for pearls, chase after canines and herd cattle, among other hijinks.
We chatted with chef Stone to get a better sense of how each episode of the show brings the world to Los Angeles on a plate.
How did you come up with the wine regions you wanted to explore for the show and feature on your menu at Maude?
We’re really looking for regions that tell a story through both their wine and cuisine, where there is a strong sense of place that you can taste in the wine and local ingredients. La Rioja was the first region we featured when we debuted our new quarterly regional tasting menus at Maude in early 2018. It’s Spain’s Tuscany — so rich with history, culture and tradition and that spills over into the incredible food and wine being produced there. When we were planning our trip to La Rioja, my buddy Dave Gorn, a professional cinematographer, asked to tag along to capture footage. The idea for “Field Trip” organically evolved from there.
What are some of the ingredients from these regions that we can expect on the menu, and which did you decide to source locally? Did you develop any relationships with farmers and purveyors to get these ingredients?
We’ve cultivated so many special relationships with the farmers, purveyors, producers, artisans and chefs in each of the regions we’ve visited for our menu research and development.
For example, we showcased indigenous ingredients such as quandong and Kakadu plum on our Western Australia menu, and, locally, we love working with Stephanie Mutz who is California’s only female uni diver. We featured her uni on our Central Coast menu last summer. But each menu is really a blend of ingredients sourced or derived from the region we are featuring and ingredients from our backyard. The region is always the inspiration, but we put our own spin on classic dishes utilizing the bounty of hyper-seasonal produce we have available in Southern California.
Can you describe some of the featured wine regions and what you wanted to achieve when conveying them on the plate for Maude guests to experience?
After we get back from a trip, the first question we ask ourselves is: How we can translate our experiences into a menu that really captures the story of that place? The goal is for our guests to feel transported through the dishes and wine we serve, so we view the progression of courses and pairings as an opportunity to bring them on the journey with us. For example, on our Rioja menu, we had a dish called “Foraging with Francis Paniega” which included wild mushrooms, juniper and pine, and was really an ode to the time we spent with the Michelin-starred chef during our trip.
Our Central Coast menu was a reflection of our time along the coast, so each dish and pairing conveyed that in some capacity — from the seaweed in the butter served with oyster bread to the abalone from Monterey to the gorgeous wine from Ridge Vineyards. With our current Tuscany menu, we wanted to reinterpret classic dishes from the region, such as ravioli mugellani (potato ravioli) and pici through a Maude lens while still maintaining the soul and sense of tradition that they possess.
How did you plan for a day of travel in each of your excursions? Was there a tour guide? Were there any accidental findings and adventures?
The research starts long before we arrive at the destination. We may have a good sense of the vineyards and farms we want to visit, but so much of what we do is driven by discovery. We really lean on the local experts in each region to guide us — whether it’s a chef or a wine producer or artisan. In the Kimberley River episode of “Field Trip,” we spent a good deal of time with an Aboriginal elder who taught us this incredible ancient fishing method where you essentially put the fish to sleep and pick them up out of the water. It was mind-boggling.
What inspiration does your other L.A. restaurant, Gwen, receive on these trips? Has anything inspired you to change up the menu there, specifically the meats?
We absolutely find inspiration for the wine and charcuterie programs, as well as the meat we are sourcing for Gwen. For example, we had a chorizo tutorial in Rioja and met two cattle ranchers in west Australia. Annabelle Coppin is a fifth-generation rancher in Broome, where the arid and dusty land lends to lean cows. The animals work incredibly hard under such conditions and their meat is ideal for a tartare. More recently, we traveled to Victoria where we met father and son team, David and Ben Blackmore. My brother Luke and I import their wagyu beef to Gwen. It’s this incredibly rich and marbled wagyu raised outside of Japan and we’re exclusive importers to the U.S.
Maude is now entering its fifth year in a restaurant landscape that’s all about what’s new. How do you keep things fresh at Maude? What are your regulars like? What do they look forward to?
Our regulars have really embraced the regional menu format and are excited to come back each quarter to take the next culinary journey with us. It’s cool to see how they’ve leaned into it and that inspires us to continue pushing it further. We’re constantly thinking about where we want to take them next, and how we can dig even deeper into that region during the three months when we are bringing it to life for them at Maude. Our regulars are curious, adventurous and crave the stories we are telling through a glass of wine or plate of food, so we let that guide us in our role as gastronomical anthropologists.
To try Maude’s transcendent and ever-changing tasting menu, book a reservation online. Tip: If you partake, you’ll also want to get the wine pairing by Maude sommelier Andrey Tolmachyov to get the full experience.