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Staying In

Plots thicken along with sauces

October 09, 2003|Susan Carpenter | Times Staff Writer

As Claud Mann sees it, what you eat depends on what movie you're watching. At least that's how he sees it in his role as chef on "Dinner & a Movie," the long-running TBS Superstation show that pairs popular films with cooking instructions for recipes based on their titles and plot points.

To most people, "Dumb and Dumber" is a dunderheaded comedy. But for Mann, it means soup on a stick. "Dracula" may be a bloodsucking thriller, but it's also the inspiration for his Nosferatuna melts.

"The whole idea is that cooking really should be silly and fun, and nobody should be stressed out about it," said Mann, who has been cooking for the show since its debut in 1995.

Now, the 46-year-old chef has compiled his favorite recipes for appetizers, pastas, meats, sweets and side dishes into his third "Dinner & a Movie Cookbook," a collection of 100 recipes that have been featured on the program.

"Initially, we were just doing the recipes for on air," said Kimberlee Carlson, the show's executive producer. "They weren't necessarily crafted to be written, and then he started having so much fun with it that they became really interesting to read. That's when we came up with the cookbook."

As much a humor title as a cooking manual, the book takes the concept of the show and builds on it, further marrying the worlds of cooking and cinema. Each recipe is accompanied by an "inside scoop" on the making of the movie that inspired it and "food for thought" cooking trivia.

The recipe for the 1975 film "Jaws," for example, is Man Eating Shark ... and Loving It! The inside scoop: Director Steven Spielberg, who was just 26 when he made the movie, nicknamed the shark "Bruce" after his lawyer. The food for thought: Fresh fish should not smell fishy.

A glossary in the back of the book also builds on the theme, with terms that apply to the film and culinary worlds. The definition of "flake," for example, is "to break apart into small pieces" in the kitchen, whereas in the movies it means "to forget to show up for rehearsal."

While Mann's emphasis appears to be humor, he's serious about his cooking. A chef for 21 years, he got his start as a student at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco before moving into various head chef positions, including a stint at Nicola in Los Angeles.

He moved from the restaurant kitchen to the TV kitchen in 1994, when he was called by longtime friend Carlson, who was going to be producing a new show that would complement the Turner movie library with food.

The inspiration was "Car Talk," the syndicated radio fix-it program starring Click and Clack -- two regular-guy mechanics who help listeners with their car problems without being preachy or dull.

"I didn't want the show to be something where we were teaching recipes," said Mann, who gives step-by-step cooking instructions while co-hosts Paul Gilmartin and Lisa Kushell dish up gossip, commentary and trivia on various films.

"If somebody could watch the show and come away with new techniques, if they would watch enough shows, they might end up accumulating enough techniques to have more fun in the kitchen," Mann said.

Mann, who said he has always enjoyed word games, comes up with his recipes by writing down euphemisms for the movies' titles and plot points and working from there. Most of the ideas come naturally, he said, like "What's Under the Skirt Steak" for "Tootsie" and "Two Hot Peppers on a Lamb" for "Thelma & Louise."

"Then there are some that I will for days and days be walking around in circles, and people think I'm nuts because I'm talking to myself," he said.

"Now I'm starting to just think of titles. Today I was thinking of "Nobody Knows the Truffles I've Seen," in case there's any movie where somebody's in terrible trouble."*

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Spicy fare

Chef Claud Mann's pet peeve: "When I cook at other people's homes and pull out their herbs and spices, they have no color."

His advice: "Discard bottled herbs and spices if purchased during a previous presidential administration. Smell them -- they should have a discernible aroma."

Getting into the spice game:

In November, Mann will launch Temple Spice Co. (www.templespice.com). It will feature organic standard herbs and spices as well as exotics from around the world, e.g., lemon myrtle, wattle seed and a variety of chile powders. They will be packaged in refillable tins (because ultraviolet light destroys flavor) and marked with expiration dates.

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'Dinner & a Movie'

The book: Claud Mann's "Dinner & a Movie Cookbook"

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Price: $21.95

Signing: Oct. 29, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Borders Books & Music, 9301 Tampa Ave., Northridge.

The show: "Dinner & a Movie"

When: Mondays, TBS, first movie of the night begins at 8 p.m.

Info: tbssuperstation.com/hostedmovies dinnerandamovie/0,,,00.html

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