Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine do not curse on-air. They don't film extended reels of themselves, eating late-night street food across Japan. While shooting in India, they don't murmur hyperbolic "mmm's" between bites of panipuri. And they definitely don't ramble about the nuanced flavors in a well-executed bhel puri.
In 2010, the duo founded The Perennial Plate, a weekly online video series dedicated to social responsibility, sustainability, and adventurous eating. Unlike other food and travel shows, The Perennial Plate is not about exoticism or condensing chef interviews into newsworthy soundbites. This is a series about people, their stories, and their food.
"The purpose of the series was really to get people thinking about their food more and to start a dialogue," says Klein. "It's about developing an emotional connection to those who grow food. We are advocating for a better food system in the world in a format that's entertaining and positive."
Klein, a chef with prior experience in kitchens such as Bouchon, The Fat Duck, and Craft, moved to Minneapolis in 2009 with the hope of opening a restaurant. "But then I decided I didn't want to be stressed out, standing over the stove," he says.
He began making charcuterie and selling it to local shops. Fine, a graphic designer with experience in marketing, worked at a cheese shop which sold Klein's cured meats. They met and, shortly thereafter, began collaborating on the video series about sustainable eating in Minnesota. The twosome launched a Kickstarter campaign -- first for $10,000 and then for $20,000 -- and embarked on a road trip across the United States, filming episodes about urban farms in Louisville, Kentucky and illegal backyard chickens in Tennessee.
In 2012, Klein and Fine, who run the project full-time, partnered with sponsors Intrepid Travel. For the last year, the pair has traveled to Japan, China, Sri Lanka, and India, gathering hours of content for their web series.
The episodes reveal intimate tales about food and eating. According to Fine, people feel comfortable speaking to them because they run a small-scale production.
"The cool thing about the show is that usually you have a huge documentary crew filming these videos," says Fine. "But we are just two people with a camera, maybe a tripod, and some headphones. We are very noninvasive and not intimidating."
But a five-minute video requires months of research, filming, translating, and editing. Klein and Fine usually spend two days with subjects -- recording anywhere from three to twelve hours of footage. Then videos must be translated, which takes a few weeks. Editing takes another week and finding music, says Klein, "takes a million hours."
The outcome is a short video, featuring either an interview or rich montage. What follows are two recent episodes: A Day in India (a stunning montage) and an awe-inspiring account about a restauranteur in Kunming, a city in the Yunnan Province of China, who graduated university, and then skipped out on a corporate life, opting to fight for organic and healthy food instead.
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