HBO’s Treme-Inspired Cookbook Takes New York: The Best Quotes from David Simon, Lolis Elie, and Nina Noble

The creative minds behind HBO’s Treme took the stage at New York’s 92Y to talk about New Orleans, baguettes, and their new Treme cookbook.

  • Photo: Joyce Culver for 92Y
  • Photo: Joyce Culver for 92Y
  • Photo: Joyce Culver for 92Y

Last Friday night, the creative minds behind HBO’s Treme took the stage at New York’s 92Y to talk about New Orleans, baguettes, and their new Treme cookbook. David Simon (the show’s producer, and the genius behind The Wire), Lois Elie (writer and story editor), and Nina Noble (director) tackled various aspects of the show, including its focus on the foodways of the Crescent City. Anthony Bourdain has helped to write episodes in the past, and chefs like David Chang, Eric Ripert, and Tom Colicchio have all made cameos.

Treme, set in post-Katrina New Orleans, focuses on the culture and development of the creative minds within the city. The cookbook hopes to mimic the spirit of the show, with each recipe has been written in the style of one of Treme’s characters. Guests at the 92Y talk were invited to taste some of the book’s best recipes and drinks—including French 75’s and chocolate-walnut pound cake—while Matt Zoller Seitz, author of The Wes Anderson Collection, mediated the conversation.

Below, we’ve shared some of the best quotes from the panel.

On gumbo

Lois Elie: Every boy in New Orleans is honor-bound to say that his mother makes the best gumbo . . . You know, there’s the orthodox school of gumbo and the reform school of gumbo. My mother’s orthodox. Those other people? They’re reform.

On eating food on a TV set

David Simon: We do tell the extras, when we’re establishing that master shot on the first day, don’t be putting more than a bite into your mouth. By about take eight or nine, you’re going to be sick. Some people get locked into the competitive act of eating, and that can be disastrous.
Nina Noble: The food is real. We don’t really know how to do things with fake food.

On why filming food is challenging

Nina Noble: One of the challenges was the choreography in the kitchen, which was an astounding feat. We had a handful of actors in every scene. The rest were real people that work in kitchens that came in on their day off.
David Simon: We had a very talented chef from New Orleans [Alon Shaya of Domenica] who had to play somebody’s victim.

On the way food brings New Orleans together

Lois Elie: You may have noticed that the show is not especially religious. But there’s a moment in the food scenes where folks will say, “Damn! Red beans and rice. It ain’t even Monday.” In most shows you don’t even know what they’re eating because it doesn’t matter. But here there’s a sense that this is part and parcel of what New Orleans is about…part of what we’re trying to show and celebrate in the context of the show as well.

On the differences between New Orleans and New York

David Simon: New York is a city of immigrants. Not every debate is staked on who’s grandmother lived on what block and what she put in her gumbo. New Orleans was a city where, before Katrina, 71 percent of the people who lived there were native.

On the judgement of those who left New Orleans after Katrina

Lois Elie: There’s that implication like, “I stayed. I don’t know what the hell you did, but I stayed.” There’s a kind of sense, among those who were there…of something very special.

On writing Treme

Lois Elie: Long before I’d ever heard of David Simon and Eric Overmyer, they come up with this idea for the characters. The archetypes are what makes New Orleans unique. If you’re trying to tell the story of a city, these are the eyes through which you need to see it.
David Simon: If culture’s going to be the framework of the show, then you need culture-bearers.

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