Food issues come to the fore in Tastemade’s ‘Broken Bread’

‘Broken Bread’ – And how to fix it

Chef Roy Choi

Countless TV shows and documentaries demonstrate how food can bring people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints together for a shared culinary experience. A new series that begins streaming this week on Tastemade TV shows how it can also transform communities.

In “Broken Bread,” premiering Wednesday, May 15, chef, restaurateur and social activist Roy Choi introduces viewers to individuals and organizations that strive to make a difference in their communities through food. In each half-hour episode, Choi goes on a journey of discovery around his native Los Angeles that challenges the status quo and his own assumptions as he explores the problems facing our food system and industry, including food deserts, food waste, immigration and sustainability.

Wednesday’s opener, “Transformation,” finds Choi in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, where he visits with Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy and Homegirl Industries, which helps prepare former gang members for careers in the food services industry. As one cook flips sandwiches on a griddle, she tells of how the program has helped her find her calling in life.

“We never wanted the show to be this kind of like God-like figure, top-down approach,” Choi explains. “So it was really important to hear it from the voices, from the inside out because that’s where I come from, too. So the whole show weaves in and out from the leaders who started the program to the people in the program to everything.

“And then we move from that to talking with the mayor (of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti), because if we are going to create a world of kinship and love, we can’t ostracize people, we can’t ostracize government and we can’t ostracize activists. So it was really talking to the mayor and trying to get a point of view of, if government is the enemy or if systems and organizations are the enemy, then how can we figure out what to do together?”

Ensuing episodes address issues such as food access and waste and report on food programs in Watts and the emergence of a new culinary landscape in the wake of marijuana’s legalization in California.

There is also an episode about the future of food, which the show argues must see us consuming less beef, pork and poultry and more of things like insects, worms and jellyfish.

For that, Choi admits, an attitude adjustment is obviously in order.

“If somehow we can take away that psychological triggering,” he says, “and we can design a food program that revolves around sustainability and so you’re eating more crickets and worms … than you are pigs and chickens and cows, then obviously that’s going to help the balance of the ecosystem. And the same thing with the ocean. If you’re eating more jellyfish versus eating more tuna, it’s going to help the balance of the marine ecosystem.

“But then right now the problem is you can’t tell people to eat jellyfish and crickets because, like I said on the show, people are just going to go ‘Ew!’ ”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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