Now Playing: Tenacious Eats, Cinema Treats
by Christopher Reilly
If you’re looking for a unique fine-dining experience, they don’t come much more original than Chef Liz Schuster’s Tenacious Eats, a new interactive dinner-and-a-movie experience that serves up a feature film along with elegantly prepared dishes relating to what’s happening on-screen. The slogan loudly declares, “Brought to you in High Definition Taste-O-Vision!” And it is a sort of Taste-O-Vision—and Smell-O-Vision too, with cooking aromas filling the room as the dish fills the screen. But really, it’s the occasional casual skits performed by Schuster and partner Jake Alcorn that qualify the evening as food- and film-inspired performance art.
Read the original story, “Eat Outside the Box,” in the December issue of ALIVE.
Schuster, who most recently served as Executive Chef at Scottish Arms, didn’t start out wanting to be a chef. As a student at Columbia College in Chicago, she majored in film and music performance (she plays the trombone), so she’s a bit of a film critic at heart—and she shares her criticisms with playful, funny verbal jabs throughout the film.
The choice of dishes isn’t necessarily obvious. “It’s not always a literal association,” Schuster says. “Sometimes we’re inspired by a character.” During a showing of “Julie and Julia”—about one woman cooking her way through Julia Child’s famous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”—Schuster’s dishes are as literal as you can get: The recipes come straight from the book, including
Champignons Saute a la Creme (Local Ozark mushrooms sautéed and served in grilled mushroom vol-au-vents) and Child’s classic dish, Boeuf Bourguinon. The film is paused frequently during important cooking moments or to serve the dishes, and sometimes just to make a joke. In “Julie and Julia,” when a character says, “I have to murder and dismember a crustacean,” the film pauses and Schuster proceeds to gleefully do just that. The delicious result of the violence is Homard A L’Amercaine (Lobster tail, flamed with cognac and served with risotto). Each screening includes five courses paired with five cocktails or glasses of wine.
There’s a bit of ham in Schuster, if not on the menu, and she admits she loves the immediate gratification from the audience in response to her antics, adding, “It’s so funny and playful with us, and we get great feedback.” Don’t be fooled though, the food Schuster serves is serious business, and since she now works for herself, she makes things just how she wants them—with as many products as possible from local artisans, farmers, orchards and growers.
The sensory and saucy nature of the evening has led to some surprising reactions. “I’ve seen people lick their plates,” Schuster says. “Not just because the food was good, but because of the effect of the whole experience. It can be…sexual.”
Tenacious Eats currently plays at Meyer’s Grove on Tuesdays, but you can expect it to move into its own space soon and hold movie screenings twice a week. Schuster isn’t free to give specifics just yet, since the space—located in the Grove—is currently occupied. To purchase tickets for future screenings (if you hurry, you might catch Johnny Depp’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), check out the Tenacious Eats website.