Local Park City, Utah blog, Indie Ogden Utah, went behind the scenes at Sundance Film Festival to see things from Cheven's & the My World On A Plate team's perspective.
Read their story below!
Yesterday I sprinted up the hill on Main Street to rendezvous with Chef Keven Lee at Sundance. What I thought would be a quick interview outside the venue turned into zig-zagging through a crowd of hungry foodies watching Chef Aaron Sanchez whip up arroz con pollo and then diving through the kitchen doors. Once I passed through into the kitchen, the energy was palpable. It wasn’t like the energy on the other side, the chaos of Sundance, people talking, phones buzzing. There was a calm to this kitchen that I have not experienced before. Usually, and anyone who has worked in a kitchen can attest to this, a kitchen is like a hive. Buzzing bees all with purpose working together, organized chaos but chaos none the less. This kitchen was different; this was unity and calm all at once. As I sat down and observed it came to me all at once, this team was not a hive of worker bees, this team was a family.
Chef Keven brought me over a barstool and sat me down before introducing me to Chef Manny Morales, not his sous chef he says “This man is my best friend.” I dive right in asking the question I love to hear the answer to the most, what is the one food that, as soon as it touched your tongue, before that even, as soon as you smell it, floods you with memories of every moment you consumed it. Chef Manny smiles as he instantly recalls that pivotal moment. “I am from El Salvador, and my grandmother worked at the market, and she would get up real early in the morning and be there at 5 am and I remember I would always ask her to bring me food, and she’d bring me this dish it was basically, you know, pig intestines and everything fried. .. you dice it up with tomatoes and peppers and serve it over rice with homemade tortillas. The nice thick ones, not like the ones Americans are used to. That waS that moment where I was like…I love food… you can go back in time, and many great chefs can try and recreate it, but it will never be the same as when she makes it. My mother, she cooked a lot, and I didn’t know it at the time, but she was the first real chef I met. .. I never appreciated that and now that I cook, and I see her and what she can accomplish I am like, wow I had this great chef in front of me all of these years… And now when I cook with them it’s like a mixture of what she does has and what I have, and it’s like a fusion.”
Chef Keven Lee pops in every few minutes to answer a question in between arranging dishes and checking on guests. We chat about his passion for the presentation of food. Lee explains, “When I first moved to New York, that first Autumn, I collected all the leaves from nearby trees in all different colors and I sent my mother a massive box full of leaves. And she took those leaves and pressed them into books and used them for the presentation of her Thanksgiving dinner…and I think that is when I appreciated what she did, her attention to detail and I got on her level and understood the value of the presentation of food. And, of course, my father as well, he is a talented and world renowned sculptor and artist. That helped as well; his amazing artwork and talent helped me appreciate the free flow of food and presentation.”
At one time Chef Keven took the farm to table to a new level by raising his own meat and taking part in every step of the process, from feeding the animals to cooking and back to the land through compost. Lee says, “It changed the whole kitchen energy. It was no longer waste; there was a purpose for every piece that came into the kitchen…Whether is was food for our guests or food to the feed the animals or food for compost for fertilizer, it was a ritual. There’s respect.”
The event picks up speed and staff rush in and out of the kitchen. Chef Manny delicately places pine and flowers on a plate of food for me to eat, a beautiful display of fresh comfort food. What Chef Keven has created is more than just beautiful food, it’s a story, a ritual and with each bite, you are transported and damn it a delicious trip.