Flat-Out Food returns for a second season

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That’s pretty for a dead thing. Michelle Berg

Adrian Halter talks collaboration with author Jenn Sharp, restaurant recommendations, and more

Adrian Halter, a University of Regina grad with a BFA in Film and Video Production, met Jenn Sharp in 2018 while they were both working at Agribition. After they started collaborating on another project, they got to talk about the idea for Flat-Out Food. “I had already kind of had this idea for a food documentary that followed just one ingredient from how it’s grown, to how it’s used, to like, chefs using it,” Halter says. The idea was to “focus on the ingredient and not on the people behind it.”

“[Jenn] started telling me about her book and all the stories,” Halter continues, “and I was like, you know, I have this idea about a documentary that focuses on one ingredient, and you have all these people that you have interviewed for your book, and all these amazing stories…I realized what my idea was missing was the people behind these ingredients.”

Halter knew he liked the documentary format from his time at the university, making his first short film post-grad in 2016. He says his passion has “grown and grown” since then. Flat-Out Food combines one of Halter’s other passions: food. “I’ve always been a huge fan of cooking shows and food documentaries of all sorts,” he says. “The climate and the appetite (no pun intended) has grown so much in the last five-six years…now you find documentary everywhere, on all the streaming platforms.”

Watch out for the mealworms, guys.
photo by Michelle Berg

His company, Halter Media, has three full-time employees, while the show has a production crew of seven. He and Sharp co-write and co-produce the episodes. Halter directs all the episodes alongside the director of photography, Adam Burwell. The team features three other University graduates: Preston Kanak, a camera operator, Joel Tabak, a camera assistant on the show, and Kaitlyn Schropp, a field producer. The editor of the show is also a U of R grad.

When asked what surprised him most about filming the second season of Flat-Out Food, Halter says it really still comes down to the ingredients. “These ingredients are in your grandma’s garden or your garden,” he says, “things you don’t think about. Maybe you go to the farmer’s market and they’re there, but these people and these chefs are taking these ingredients, they’re changing them and elevating them into something you would never, never imagine. And I think that’s pretty wild.”

The show has also given Halter experiences he could never have expected. “When we filmed in 2020,” he says, “I had never had a chanterelle mushroom. Never seen one, never touched one, never ate one…the best ones in the world come from Saskatchewan, and that’s pretty cool…they smell like an apricot, and if you eat them raw they taste kind of peppery, but if you cook them that spiciness goes away again. It’s the most amazing mushroom that I’ve ever had.”

What Halter wishes people to know about the Saskatchewan food scene is that “(t)here’s so much variety and so much creativity…a lot of really talented people in our province and (the show) showcases that to promote Saskatchewan and the food artisans.” When asked about what he’d say to folks who are hesitant about exploring, Halter says “it’s not just the restaurant scene” that people should reconsider exploring, “it’s the province as a whole.”

“People are really quick to want to go travel somewhere else because they’re like ‘oh, it’s more exotic, or there’s better restaurants, and there’s more to see.’ Our province…being so big, you know, you go from the boreal forest to the grasslands to the lakes to Cypress Hills – this place that shouldn’t exist with jack pines that grow in the middle of the prairie…you go to the northeastern part of the province where the roads are built through rock cliffs and there’s so many amazing things to see, and you know, that also goes for the restaurants. There’s so many amazing restaurants where people should go, experiment, and try something that maybe they haven’t tried before. And I think the thing that’s so special about those restaurants is they’re also, like just by the nature of the way they do the work, they’re using ingredients that are close to home. It’s like a really true taste of Saskatchewan.”

Halter thinks all the restaurants in Flat-Out Food are worth a try, but he also suggests The Sky Café and Luna Kitchen and Bar here in Regina. “The best breweries in Saskatchewan are in Regina,” in his opinion, “but there’s lots across the province.” In Saskatoon, he recommends Hearth, Primal, and Odla. If you’re interested in getting out of the city and going a bit rural, he suggests Solo Italia in Ogema, The Grotto in Vibank, or Harvest Eatery in Shaunavon. Mable Hill in Nipawin was featured in the premiere episode of season two, which he also recommends for after a day at Tobin Lake.

One thing I found fascinating and beautiful about Flat-Out Food was that the crew really seemed to consider the implications of a docu-series following ingredients grown on Saskatchewan land. The third episode of the first season, “ohtâpamihowin,” discusses the issue of Indigenous food sovereignty. Halter does say, however, that it wasn’t their intention to highlight that issue. The documentary “really becomes the story of the people.”

“In [that episode] we didn’t have a goal” Halter says. “Diana Bird happens to be an Indigenous food sovereigntist, and that’s the story that she wanted to tell…It’s really more about opening it up to the people that are participating.” It’s certainly an issue the producers wanted to be conscious of. “Being a White male in Saskatchewan of settler ancestry, it’s not my place to tell these stories,” but he adds, “I do have this vehicle to give other people to tell their own stories.”

The season premiere features some Métis people from Île-à-la-Crosse, one of whom, Jordan Burnoff, is “an incredible advocate for not only her community, for Métis people, but for Indigenous sovereignty when it comes to energy,” Halter says. “We do know that we need to try to represent allthe people in our province with this show, and we try our best to reach urban and rural centres but also Northern communities as well.”

The first episode of the new season of Flat-Out Food premiered on February 23, but you can watch season one on the CityTV website and catch new episodes on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. CST.

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