written and iphone photography by Ilene Ross
The average New Yorker is not easily taken aback. They’re constantly bombarded with stimuli, and it usually requires something quite out of the ordinary for them to glance up from their smart phones. But recently, the sight and sound of Ian Kapitan, Executive Chef of the Long Island City eatery Alobar whizzing up the Mid-town streets astride his throaty Harley Davidson, balancing a stunning D’Artagnan pig on his shoulders, complete with a chase car and scooter en masse caused them to not only look, but positively gawk. Mouths dropped open, and although they weren’t quite certain exactly why it was they were witnessing what it was they were witnessing, those smart phone cameras began snapping away furiously.
Far from being simply an attention getting stunt-although the viewership was most certainly appreciated-this ride was a dual purpose endeavor. Following chef and carcass was, in the chase car, film-makers Dennis Rainaldi, Rob Cole, and on the scooter, Brian Rainaldi, of Listen Films. The goals of the team were to make a bad-ass food porn video highlighting Alobar and its pork-centric menu, as well as Chef Kapitan’s commitment to humanely raised, locally sourced meat. When the video is finished, it will encompass the entire voyage of the pig from ‘purveyor to plate’, so to speak, complete with butchery, in high speed, and set to music. The idea for the, “Hog on Hog” type approach seemed like a natural fit for both the film team and Chef Kapitan. “Alobar has a very ‘Rock & Roll’ mystique about it, and they’re getting a lot of great press in that light. We wanted to do something with Ian on his bike; we all ride, and we loved the idea of coming up with this modern, whimsical advertisement for Alobar,” said Brian Rainaldi. The team worked in conjunction with Jeff Blath, Alobar’s owner on the concept.
For Chef Kapitan there is that deeper message to convey as well. “I really want to feature where the pig comes from, my bringing it to the restaurant, breaking it down, preparing the dish, showing the finished dish; all done with respect to the total animal. This isn’t some commodity animal that we just pulled off a ranch somewhere. D’Artagnan is all about raising animals humanely, respecting and paying farmers fairly, and sourcing products regionally and sustainably.” And yes, he’s prepared for the shock value he knows the video might cause. After all, although the sight of a dead pig being hauled around on a motorcycle might be the norm in many third world nations, it DID draw a couple of not-so-friendly stares on the Manhattan streets. Chef Kapitan sees it this way; “Look, for me, I mean, obviously, I’ve got the tattoos, and I’ve been a bad-ass all my whole life. I don’t mind drawing a little attention and maybe taking a little heat, because ultimately, and I don’t want to offend anybody, but the bottom line is this, we have a f*cked up food system in this country but we don’t talk about that, and if this helps, so be it. This isn’t to offend vegetarians or anyone.”
Jeff Blath agrees with the two-fold message he hopes the video will convey. He’s glad for the recent press the restaurant has received in regards to their pork dishes and whole hog butchery. “We quietly decided that whenever possible we would get whole hogs in and butcher them in house and that nothing would go to waste; we use every bit of the animal. There are a lot of chefs that wouldn’t know how to do that, and that’s why Ian is such an asset.” The provenance of the meat is as important to Alobar’s owner as it is to its Executive Chef. “We source from a few places like D’Artagnan and Fossil Farms. We trust them because they have high standards. They know which farms the meat came from, what they feed, and that they don’t use growth hormones,” says Blath. As for his feelings on the video’s potential shock value, Blath is quick to again point out the Alobar model of snout-to-tail consumption of the pigs the restaurant purchases. “We are doing this with a conscience. We’re trying to emphasize being a meat eater with a conscience. If you’re going to eat meat, embrace it and don’t let any of it go to waste.”