Well done short tickles the palette of famous chefs

Chef Rick Bayless and “whisperer” John Hartman

Food luminaries from around the world flocked to Chicago to applaud winners of the “Oscars of the Food World” – the 25th annual James Beard Foundation Awards gala — May 4 at the Lyric Opera, the first time the awards were held outside of New York in its history. 

As part of the presentation, a city collaboration cooked up a satire well done to everyone’s taste, a crowd-pleasing l’amuse-bouce, “The Chef Whisperer.”

The five-minute short, staring The Second City’s John Hartman as “chef whisperer” “Carl Stankowski,” was Directed by Rocco Cataldo, produced by Mary Kay Cook and shot by DP Mike Kwielford of Potenza Productions.

Carl claims that his “advice” to such award-winning chefs as Grant Achatz (Alinea), Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill), Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia), Stephanie Izzard (Girl and the Goat) and several others, inspired them to change culinary direction to become the international successes they are today.

“I work silently behind the scenes,” Carl says, sipping on red wine. “I’m like a toupee; I’m best known when you don’t notice me.”

Carlos Gaytan (Mexique) confides: “I’d still be in Mexico if it weren’t for Carl.”  Carl: “I told him if he cooked Mexican food the same way in America, he’d be a success.”  Gaytan: “Hey, you said I’d get a green card.”  Carl: Ha-ha, you know, we all say things.”

Rich Melman (Lettuce Entertain You) on a golf course reveals: “I was happy with one restaurant. It was Carl who said, ‘Richie, its people’s appetites that have to be entertained, so let’s entertain them.’ So now I have 1,486 restaurants …(looking at his beeping cell phone) make that 1,487. Who knew?”

Special guest Gov. Bruce Rauner, in shirtsleeves, claims: “Carl helped me when I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do.  Actually I was a cook for a while, but I got tired of getting my hands dirty so I went into politics.”

“The Chef Whisperer” was a collaboration of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Choose Chicago and Kevin Boehm from the Boka Restaurant Group, The Second City and Potenza Productions.

The short was shot in Chicago for four days on locations Alinea, The Art Institute of Chicago, Frontera Grill test kitchen, Little Goat test kitchen, Seven Lions, Table Fifty-Two and Resolution Digital Studios.

The crew shot Rich Melman for one day on a Scottsdale golf course.

Script written by The Second City’s John Hartman and Kate James; titles by Grip Design agencyoriginal score by Josephine Lee and Dave Hiltebrand, post-production by Evanston-based Coat of Arms

Other participating restaurateurs: Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia); Alpana Singh (The Boarding House); Mindy Segal (Mindy’s Hot Chocolate); Art Smith (Table Fifty Two); Doug Sohn (Hot Doug’s); Takashi Yagihashi (Slurping Turtle) and a special cameo by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.