While TV shows have highlighted the restaurants of large cities like New York and Chicago, few programs have thought to do the same for smaller and lesser-known places. Enter: Scott Browning, a USC film school grad whose first job after graduation was working for longtime Hollywood producer Dino De Laurentiis, a gig that lasted 10 years. (He actually appeared briefly in the 2000 submarine film U-571 as a naval officer sitting at Bill Paxton’s table.) He has been cooking up an idea for a number of years. “I want to explore unique food and art scenes,” he said in a phone call from Los Angeles last week.
So Browning is bringing his idea to Fort Worth, whose arts and food scenes he knows about through his sisters who live in the area. This week, he is set to film a documentary-style pilot for a TV show that he hopes whets the appetite of distributors. “We feel there are a lot of distribution channels,” Browning said, naming the Food Network, Netflix, and Amazon as targets. If the pilot gets picked up, Browning will then take the show to other cities around the country.
The taping of A Night of Artists and Chefs runs nightly at 7 p.m. at Magdalena’s Kitchen through Sunday, April 29, and seeks to capitalize on what happens when artsy meets foodie. At the Northside eatery now, cameras will be trained on diners as they sip cava cocktails, view the art of three early-career female artists, and taste food from two of the city’s youngest talents.
Chef Juan Rodriguez, formerly of Reata and currently helming the wildly popular Magdalena’s Supper Club, is teaming up with former Max’s Wine Dive Chef Jenna Kinard for these dinners with three levels of ticket packages: Art and Food Lovers ($95), Premium Nights ($135), and Collectors and Gourmets ($175).
Wondering what $175 per person gets you? Among other things, a seat for opening or closing night (or a Friday or Saturday), a cocktail of cava and hibiscus syrup, a DVD of the pilot, and a seat at the premiere of the episode on Tuesday, May 15, at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. With tickets topping out near $200, the event might strike you as a potentially bloated proposition. Earlier this year, however, Chef Tim Love charged $105 per person for his five-course French pop-up meal, Le Bureau.
The menu for A Night of Artists and Chefs shows that diners can expect small plates of three different appetizers, entrees, and desserts, with the recipes subtly tweaked each day to accommodate diner feedback. At Friday’s dinner, Browning explained that the deconstructed peach cobbler had been served on too hard a vanilla biscuit the night before, so it was now being served to us on a softer, cookie-like bed. Four Spanish wines were paired with the nine dishes, with an albariño serving as a particularly notable accompaniment to a citrus-and-thyme Alaskan halibut. The dining experience is quite like that of a pop-up restaurant, only with a camera crew stopping by your table at every course to ask your opinion.
Rodriguez, who told me the food is similar to some of the dishes he serves at his cult-favorite supper club, is keen on emphasizing a wealth of goods from local vendors, he said, sourcing the pork for his carnitas from McCleery Farms in Weatherford and the microgreens and herbs from Tex Select in Aledo.
The credentials are certainly impressive. Aimee Cardoso, whose still-life work features lifelike depictions of fabrics, is also the executive director of the hybrid gallery Art Tooth and director of communications for the online magazine Art This Week. Erika Duque, who received her bachelor’s at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently pursuing her MFA at TCU, has shown her work at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and was recently nominated by Dallas’s Ro2 Gallery for the 2017 Rising Star Fundraiser. Her contribution to the project will pay homage to “the beautiful landscapes and mesmerizing sunsets that we enjoy this time of year,” said Meredith Warnock, the event’s interior designer. Alexa Alarcon, who earned her BFA from UTA, is an art restorer at the Dow Art Galleries. Her work will round out the aesthetic with colorful sculptures, Warnock said. Like a good documentarian, Browning did his homework, working with the arts center to shine a light on these talents.