In Family Ingredients, director
Ty Sanga unites Town Restaurant owner Ed Kenney and James Beard Award-winner
Alan Wong to discuss the roles that culture, home, and family play in the philosophy and execution of cooking. With a nod to the ethnic diversity that has created the unique cuisine of Hawai'i, the host, Chef Ed Kenney, engages the audience in a genealogical and
multicultural exploration that feels a bit like a cross between
Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat and
every Anthony Bourdain show that's ever graced the small screen.
exploring Chef Wong’s nostalgia for two dishes from his childhood, the pair
deconstruct the essential and most basic components of tamago
kake gohan (raw egg over rice) and miso soup. This leads to dialogue amongst
farmers, Michelin-starred chefs, and store owners. On screen, the journey from
Hawai'i to Japan begins rather uncertainly -- with an exchange between two chefs
that have yet to discover their purpose within a multitude of narratives, a conversation that teeters between genuineness and caution.
While Chef Kenney’s narration is slightly
reminiscent of David Chang’s steady but sporadically excitable tone on Mind of a Chef, Chef Wong appears to
play the role of the disengaged sage. The dialogue and story Kenney presents intermittently moves between scripted monologues and loose conversation.
their travels press on, director Sanga slowly brings into focus the true nature of both chefs and gains the trust of the audience. With Alan Wong’s
disarming smile and Ed Kenney’s contagious laughter, the cuisine and cultures are illuminated with humility, intimacy, and quirkiness. This reveals itself in one memorable scene in which Alan Wong cups the fumes of trailer exhaust to catch a whiff of the biofuel made from upcycled tempura oil.
Though at times the
dialogue can drift into a rather forced infomercial-style promotion of organic, farm-to-table cuisine, the focus is
consistently drawn to learning about and interacting with
those so passionately committed to traditional, sustainable, natural approaches
to food. The film manages to offer a broad and entertaining -- if occasionally clichéd -- look into the
depths and origins of Hawai'ian fare, America’s original fusion cuisine.
When Jeeae Chang started listing her job title as "copywriter" at the foot of her emails, her boss told her to change it to "badass." After receiving her degree in English and Poetry from UC Irvine, all she has to show for it is a blog.