You may not have heard of Daniel Klein. Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, and the new batch of Cooking Channel stars like Luke Nguyen and Ching-He Huang, are better known for trekking across our TV screens and documenting their food odysseys in far-flung countries. But Klein, a chef, writer, and filmmaker behind the highly inventive and absorbing web-based food and travel series, The Perennial Plate, is a new star to watch.
With his partner Mirra Fine, Klein created The Perennial Plate as an edgy, off-kilter alternative to the more conventional food and travel shows on TV and the Internet. Part documentary, part music video, part sociological food narrative, Klein and Fine's travelogues to Japan, China, and Latin America are at once sweeping and intimate: each one a dynamic, in-depth look into a particular culture and the food that holds that culture and its people together.
Their recent episode "A Day in India" takes three weeks of footage from filming all over India (from Mumbai, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi and Dehradhun to Kerala) with a hand-held digital camera and condenses it into a four-minute short spanning the wonders and diversity of the whole country within a single day.
"It's hard to put your camera down in India," Klein confessed on Perennial Plate's website. "With so much beauty and filth, food and poverty, happiness and stress, India is an overwhelming and wonderful place to film." For her part, Fine talked about India's vibrant street food culture, and how ironically, the most seemingly risky places along the bazaars and sidewalks are usually the safest places to eat. "When we ate at a well-established, fancy tourist restaurant in Udaipur I got to experience the other part of India I had heard so much about. So what is the lesson I learned there? Eat where the locals eat."
Responding to fan comments online, Klein recently announced that he and Fine plan on expanding into video recipes of Asian food, as well as making a new documentary on Sri Lanka. Judging from the resounding success of their India video, which generated over a thousand hits on Facebook and was singled out by Vimeo and The Huffington Post, Klein and Fine's food adventures are going to be a mainstay among food lovers and aficionados all over the Internet.
Watch: "A Day in India" from The Perennial Plate (3 min., 42 sec.)