Chefs mix cultural traditions into a new batch of Create TV digital shorts

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Courtesy of Dennis Perez

Dennis Perez, a YouTuber, created three short videos for Create TV.

One of the first dishes Adam Lambay remembers enjoying as a child is Moka with Pupper, an Indian twist on scrambled eggs prepared with a fried flatbread.

Lambay, a St. Louis native, credits his dad, who’s from Mumbai, with creating the recipe. Thinking about the dish transports Lambay to memories of waking up to the smell of curry, toasted cumin and caramelized onions. In his video submission to this year’s Create Cooking Challenge, Lambay called Moka with Pupper a “delicious mess” that “smells outrageous.” The recipe is topped off with healthy portions of tomatoes, tomato sauce, red pepper, green onion and cilantro.

Lambay stars in a new 10-part digital series from Create TV.

“Growing up, me, my brother and my sister would ask for it pretty routinely from Dad,” Lambay said. “It really was the first thing that I can vividly remember making with my dad … right next to a stove on a chair stirring the eggs.”

Lambay’s video won first-place in the public TV cook-off, a talent contest for home cooks — and, in Lambay’s case, professional chefs — who want a shot at producing their own digital video series for Create TV. The DIY and lifestyle multicast channel offers prize money to support production of original web series by top-ranked contest winners. It also partners with the chefs’ local stations, awarding $3,500 to each to promote the winning chefs and their shows.

As the grand-prize winners, Lambay and his producing partner Robin Orvis received $4,000 to create Adam Lambay’s Indian Inspired, a 10-episode series of two-minute cooking shorts. Episodes began debuting on Create’s website Oct. 17. Two new videos premiere each week through Nov. 17. After that, Dennis Perez, a software engineer and YouTuber from Tampa, Fla., unveils three video shorts he produced for Create with $1,000 in prize money. Perez, who placed second in this year’s contest, prepares Cuban-inspired food for his series.

Nine PBS in St. Louis promoted Lambay’s series on TikTok, and hosted a food and wine event featuring Lambay, a former executive chef for Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, according to Aja Williams, VP and CCO. The station also helped him book an appearance on the local Fox affiliate.

“Food is very big in the St. Louis community and is a big part of Nine PBS,” Williams said. The station has partnered on cooking shows such as tasteMAKERS, an APT-distributed series on culinary arts in America, and Food Is Love, an exploration of St. Louis restaurants. “Now we have another opportunity to showcase a different side of the St. Louis culinary scene with Adam, despite it being a Create TV series.”

WEDU in Tampa, Fla., plans to launch a social media campaign for Perez’s shorts and will promote it with on-air spots, according to spokesperson Marti Galloway. WEDU is also looking for ways to feature him at an event.

‘He needs his own show!’

Orvis met Lambay five years ago when she attended a cooking class he was teaching for diabetics at the Kitchen Conservatory in St. Louis.

Adam Lambay and Robin Orvis pose during filming of “Adam Lambay’s Indian Inspired.”

“I came home from the first class and said, ‘This guy’s amazing! He needs his own show!” Orvis said. At the time, she had been diagnosed as a diabetic. Lambay, who is executive chef for the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, also has the disease.

Orvis, who had lived in Los Angeles and worked on sitcoms two decades ago, pitched Lambay on creating a public-TV cooking series for diabetics. The pair eventually developed A Life Well Eaten and had conversations with Nine PBS CEO Amy Shaw about the program. But the duo struggled to raise funding for it during the coronavirus pandemic.

It was Orvis who encouraged Lambay to enter his scrambled eggs dish in the Create Cooking Challenge. “I’ve seen Adam make this several times, and every time he talks about it there’s this sentiment that is attached to it … respect for his dad, respect for his heritage,” she said. “It’s a favorite of the kids, the spouses, the grandkids, the littlest of the little and the oldest of the old. I knew that heart would come through in the video.”

Lambay’s chicken curry with Southern India–style basmati rice.

Adam Lambay’s Indian Inspired includes such episodes as “Seekh Kebabs with Indian Summer Salad and Kebab Sauce,” “Bengali Fish Curry with Southern India-Style Basmati Rice” and “Veggie Pizza with Tomato-Chutney Pizza Sauce.” All of the videos were recorded at Orvis’ home with help from Orvis’ husband, Leland, who has a background in theatrical set design.

Now that Indian Inspired has launched, Lambay and Orvis hope to revive production of A Life Well Eaten. “It’s on the back burner, on a flicker of flame just stewing,” Lambay said.

‘Cuban Kitchen with Dennis Perez’

Perez’s winning dish for the Create Cooking Challenge is Cuban Picadillo.

He grew up cooking Cuban food and describes how the recipe was handed down from his grandmother to his mother and finally to him. Perez packs in explanations of Spanish and French terms like “sofrito” and “mirepoix” while explaining the recipe, which combines lean ground beef, olives, raisins and more. He also slips in a random cameo with one of his stuffed animals.

Perez shot and edited the video himself. Judges for the cooking challenge, including chefs who star in their own Create TV shows, praised his production technique as creative and attention-grabbing.

“I don’t know where the style comes from,” Perez said of his production technique. “I think it’s just more about what keeps my attention span and keeps it entertaining for me.” Since he started his YouTube channel Black Tie Kitchen in 2018, his videos have garnered more than 6 million views and 85,000 subscribers.

A serving of Perez’s flan.

His three-part series for Create TV, Cuban Kitchen with Dennis Perez, premieres on Create’s website Nov. 21. It features his recipes for pasteles de guayaba y queso, a breakfast pastry; pollo a la plancha, a chicken dinner; and flan, a dessert. The videos showcase more of Perez’s snappy production style, mixing his goofy asides with detailed explanations of each dish and its cultural resonance.

Perez hopes that his Create TV series makes tasty Cuban food accessible to everyone.

“Food is a universal connector,” Perez said. “There’s so much out there, and I don’t think anybody should be dogmatic about what they eat. [People] should be open-minded to trying different things from different people.”

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