'Food Party': IFC serves up heaping helpings of bizarro cooking show
On Tuesday, April 27, Independent Film Channel (IFC) launches a second season of its surreal cooking/puppet show "Food Party," featuring host Thu Tran, an artist who studied glass-blowing at the Cleveland Institute of Art before moving to New York to pursue her vision.
That dream has now led her to a Brooklyn warehouse overstuffed with colorful puppets and handmade props, where she and several of her fellow Cleveland art students create her strange and colorful show, set in a hand-crafted, brightly hued cardboard kitchen.
"Oh, yeah," she tells Zap2it, "I always knew I'd have a TV show, and I knew that path [of studying glassblowing in Cleveland] was the path I needed to take to go about it. I love TV. I didn't know what I was doing in school. I just knew that I liked to make art. Glassblowing, at the time, was a really fun thing to do, just because it was a very immediate thing.
"It's a very performative art, because you're physically moving your body the whole time."
"Food Party" began as public-access-TV-inspired videos originally screened at art galleries. After posting two episodes online, Tran moved to New York, where her work started to get attention from such outlets as New York Magazine and the Gothamist blog.
Before long, IFC came calling, and the result was six short episodes aired in the summer of 2009. This year, the roster has expanded to 20 15-minute episodes, which air two at a time in a half-hour block on Tuesdays at 10 pm. ET/PT.
"Basically it feels like we're shooting a huge feature now," Tran says, "because it's like 200 minutes."
Along with cooking shows and soap operas, Tran lists the Canadian-produced children's sketch-comedy show "You Can't Do That on Television," which used to air on Nickelodeon, as a main influence for "Food Party."
"It had the look of a children's show," she says, "but it also had a lot of adult humor in it. The aesthetic was very rough and dirty. It was very cheap-looking, very low-budget looking. I loved the attitude of it, and the kids being very bratty. It was very immediate."
Included in this season is a road trip to a Las Vegas casino with a drive-through buffet, as evidenced by the large cardboard RV that takes up a chunk of the warehouse's main room. Other new episodes feature Tran meeting a rich playboy who crashes into her kitchen, opening a high-end restaurant, learning a secret about her family, becoming a vampire and getting caught in a terrible storm.
And yes, Tran does actually cook in real life and has a special fondness for meat, whether roasted or barbecued. But she also digs the veggies.
"I love eating corn," she says. "I like frozen corn kernels. Sometimes I snack on that cold, but I used to really like to microwave it with three pats of butter and then add cayenne pepper and garlic powder and sugar, and eat that. It's really good."
And luckily, no puppets or props are required to make it, so fans can easily whip up a batch at home.
Take a look at a Zap2it exclusive clip from the new season ...