PBS film crew focuses on local food

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Director of photography James Conant scopes out a shot for the next scene while standing next to sound man Teall Harkey.

Throughout this week - culminating in a feast of local foods prepared by local chefs - the Public Broadcasting System television show "The Endless Feast" has been filming in Whitefish to bring awareness of eating locally.

"The show is based on a feast that is the tail end of the show," producer Sean Boyriven said. "It's about food first, travel second. Our focus is dishes made with local, sustainable and organic ingredients."

The show's stated purpose is to travel the continent, bringing together local farmers and chefs to explore the connection between the earth and the food we eat, one feast at a time.

Each episode introduces a different region. The show has filmed episodes throughout the Untied States and Canada, including Oregon, New York, Arizona, New Hampshire and British Columbia.

When the show's producers contacted Montana, the Flathead region was selected, and from there restaurants known for using local produce: Cafe Kandahar and chef Andy Blanton, as well as chef Tim Good of the Cuisine Machine, chef David Lewis of Pescado Blanco and chef Sally Truscheit of Rising Sun Bistro.

Blanton selected the local producers, which include Purple Frog Gardens, Terrapin Farm, Spring Brook Ranch, Blacktail Mountain Ranch, Finn Biscuit Bakery and Beeline Nutty Honey Butter.

Wednesday afternoon, the show's crew filmed at Terrapin Farm, owned by Judy Owsowitz. Blanton, Owsowitz and episode host Ebeth Johnson strolled through rows of crops and into hoop houses, sampling chartreuse fava beans and scarlet tomatoes while discussing growing seasons and proper soil management.

Blanton said he hopes the show will give the area and the Whitefish community exposure, showcase the passions of local growers and restaurateurs, and highlight area-specific foods such as cherries, huckleberries, Whitefish caviar and buffalo.

"One thing we're trying to feature is that we're progressive," Blanton said. "We want to put the message out there that it's not just podunk Montana - there's artists and producers - so people realize that not only is it a beautiful place to visit, it's also a progressive community."

Lisa Jones, representing the Whitefish Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said that the show combines Montana's No. 1 and No. 2 industries, agriculture and tourism, and promotes geotourism.

"The Montana office of tourism pays [The Endless Feast] to come here and broadcast the show on PBS," Jones said. "It's the niche audience we want to come to Montana: educated, environmentally aware, who appreciate a sense of place."

Producer Boyriven said the area has such an abundance of growers that it was difficult to narrow down the choices. He also said the breathtaking scenery and local fruits have brought much to the show.

"I call Flathead cherries Montana crack rock because I can't stop eating them and I am willing to give up a family member for them," Boyriven joked about his favorite local food. "The show is an effort to connect people to [local] food. The closest food is the best means for a healthy life."

Boyriven did not specify when the episode will air.

At the Friday white-tablecloth feast at Whitefish City Beach, producers and invited guests will eat a meal prepared by the chefs.

Blanton said that beyond food, the local farms are a vital part of the Flathead Valley.

"I think [the show] will encourage more local restaurants and local people to get involved and use ingredients that benefit the entire community," he said. "It keeps people healthy and it keeps the local economy healthy."

Reporter K.J. Hascall may be reached at 758-4439 or by e-mail at kjhascall@dailyinterlake.com

Terrapin Farm owner Judy Owsowitz talks with Cafe Kandahar Executive Chef Andy Blanton and television host Ebeth Johnson while filming for the PBS show "Endless Feast" on Wednesday afternoon. Nate Chute photos/Daily Inter Lake

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