Most of the time food and stories come together in the form of table fellowship: sit-down meals featuring long conversations and lots of love. Liza de Guia and her documentaries at food. curated. take the storytelling one step back—to the imagining, developing, and producing of food before it even reaches the kitchens. Once a week on her website, Liza films, produces, edits, and releases a video about a food-passionate project. With multiple awards and nominations coming in, it’s clear de Guia’s work is catching people’s eyes and taste buds.
I don’t want to fall into any chicken-based food clichés, but what came first: the love for food or storytelling?
I guess the love for food came first because I came from a food-loving family. It was such a part of me before I realized I had a passion for storytelling—I was shoving food in my face way before I was picking up cameras and going to farmlands and hanging out in kitchens with chefs and artisans.
If people feel awkward in front of a camera or uncomfortable sharing their somewhat unusual passion for, say, condiments, how do you get them out of their shells?
Well, I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I’m probably the most disarming person there is. [laughs] I don’t know you, I think you’d have to hang out with me to see, but I’m very harmless. It’s just me, the person, and the camera, and they think we’re all just hanging out together. I think once they realize that there are no formalities everyone relaxes right away. People ask why I don’t have a crew or lights or anything, but when I’m the only person there is an intimacy—just me and them, that’s it.
When I think of where my food comes from, I think of dirt, but obviously that’s not the full story. What moments from your videos have been unexpectedly adrenaline-pumping?
Whenever I film with animals, really. Like in my SlantShack Jerky video, I flew into Vermont to this highland cattle farm. When we got there I needed to get good shots of cattle, but the only way to do this was to go into the pens with them. They’re huge, and you’re walking in, stepping around their dung, getting egged closer and closer by the farmer and then suddenly you realize that you’re right next to this highland cow with these huge horns that can impale you at any time. But you’re getting stuff on film that no one gets to see that close. Like, half the time I come home smelling weird, I have poop on my shoes or kitchen oil on my clothes… it’s just a sweaty mess.
Warning: Video contains graphic images.
This video is the first one I ever did without music. I love music, and I usually let it push my editing, but I didn’t want to dictate how people felt when they came to that video. I just wanted to show that not all slaughter house people are bad, and some people love it and treat it honorably. And this guy is amazing–he’ll blow you away.
Why did you choose video documentaries as your form rather than a different medium?
Well, I’ve done different types of videos, and I love hearing the voice of a person telling their own story. You have so much more of a connection as a viewer to the person than if I decided to be the host in it with them. The person can talk a little more than usual and you can string all their words into more of a story; that’s storytelling. It’s the intimacy, it just feels more real. I like feeling like you’ve snuck into a secret conversation and you’re just listening. That connection, it’s on a whole other level.
Is there anything you don’t eat, or that totally grosses you out to see in the making?
I eat everything, or I try to eat everything, because I try to be a good sport. I don’t like it all, but I eat whatever the chef puts in front of me. But: I do hate liver with every part of my being. The Gastronauts—this adventure eating club in New York—last week had me eating beaver tail they had sourced from a hunter in Canada. They had braised it and served it with muskrat. That’s—that’s a wild rodent. If I can eat that, I can at least try anything.
So I was going to ask you what I should make for dinner tonight, but I feel like you’re just going to suggest beaver tail.
[laughs] Well, do you have a gun and know how to hunt? How would you even catch a beaver? I’d love to come and film that. I don’t know, I never know. I’m always capricious because I’m always getting out there and trying out new things. I’m rarely using the same restaurant twice and my palette is so excitable; I like sharing what I eat and getting people hungry but I never tell people what to eat! Although beaver tail was way better than you think it would be.
How can Daily BRINK readers contribute to your success?
Daily BRINK is for people looking to be inspired. I’m not as interested in the success of food. curated. as I am in the people I feature. I just love that people are so willing to throw their hearts and souls into their food they make whether it’s a mini cupcake or a piece of steak. I’ve seen the direct influence of my work change their business, so I feel a huge responsibility to make the stories as good as possible. For the first time I feel like I’m giving back to people. The best thing, then, would be to play the videos. I want people to see stories that are real—I’m not making this shit up! And hopefully they’ll fall in love with what I fell in love with and buy the hot honey or the ginger ale, because that’s going to allow them to have a good life and build a career they love.