The Hippy Gormet
"We call it TV the way it’s supposed to be," says James Ehrlich, executive producer and director of "The Hippy Gourmet," a weekly cooking show created in San Francisco using Apple technology. "Our focus is peace, love and recipes that bring people together."
This is not your typical celebrity-kitchen show. In fact, it’s not typical TV at all. "The Hippy Gourmet" eschews the frantic pace of most TV programs and doesn’t measure its success by ratings alone. "We don’t do three-second edits like MTV," Ehrlich says. "The Hippy Gourmet" creates a new tone for TV, one that’s about relaxing and seeing what good can be done in the world." Beside preparing meals, the show promotes such causes as sustainable agriculture, social welfare and environmental activism.
It’s a philosophy that has earned "The Hippy Gourmet" millions of fans on the West Coast. Now in its third season, the 30-minute show broadcasts via 24 public access cable stations from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe. And, through talks underway with PBS and The Food Network, Ehrlich expects to soon boost his audience nationwide. He credits the show’s high visibility to the production standards enabled by his Apple tools. "We could not have created this show without the Mac and Final Cut Pro," states Ehrlich.
"The Hippy Gourmet’ creates a new tone for TV, one that’s about relaxing and seeing what good can be done in the world."
Cooking with Apples
Each week, Ehrlich films chef and host Bruce Brennan preparing dishes like vegan Thai curry and shrimp ravioli in the kitchen of the Victorian house he shares with his sister, show co-producer and editor Pam Brennan. Located at hippy ground zero the very intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets the house is jammed with 1960s memorabilia including unpublished photos of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. The Brennans’ pad sprawls into a large organic garden; together with the tie-dyed neighborhood just beyond, they serve as the show’s fittingly funky backdrop.
There, in a tiny third floor studio, Ehrlich edits the entire show on Apple hardware and software. It’s a technology platform he says is ideally suited for high-quality, low-cost TV production and one that jelled just as Ehrlich was cooking up early pilots for The Hippy Gourmet.
When the Power Mac G4 came out, he says, then digital videocams from Sony, and the whole concept of Firewire, well, it was a no-brainer. All of a sudden you had lossless translation from the three-chip videocams directly into the Mac, and back out to the camera. All the compression happened in the camera, so there was no loss of picture quality.
Then with Final Cut Pro, it was like the invention of the printing press. It was very liberating. Suddenly we could picture getting ‘The Hippy Gourmet’ on the air. The Mac, Final Cut Pro and community access TV that’s the all-powerful combination for us.
Old Friends, like Bookends
The director and chef are old friends, their skills paired as neatly as bookends. Bruce is an original flower child of the hippy era, relates Ehrlich. After visiting the Haight during the Summer of Love, Brennan worked in New York restaurants and corporate dining rooms, eventually returning to California to cater to movie and music stars from Francis Ford Coppola to Fleetwood Mac. When Pam found the Haight Ashbury property, Bruce wasted no time joining her to help create their own little piece of hippy history. The flower child chef had found his niche.
Ehrlich runs the cameras, lights and Final Cut Pro consoles, contributing media and technology savvy earned during his 15-year career in TV, film and music production: He published his first magazine as a college student (a solo enterprise, circulation 70,000, created entirely on a Mac), worked as a lighting designer and tour manager for acts including Tina Turner, David Crosby and Aretha Franklin, and went on to found successful software and multimedia companies.
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