It is not surprising that Hugh Jackman and Jean-Georges Vongerichten make a fascinating pair on Iconcoclasts, the documentary series on the Sundance Channel, which starts its fifth season on October 2, 2010.
Think back to Wolfgang Puck in Hollywood or Mary Sue Millken and Susan Feniger in their tiny first restaurant City Cafe, or even Michael’s in Santa Monica. Restaurants are theater, and the chef is the main star.
Jean-Georges and Hugh share in a love of the performance, night after night, on different stages — or in different restaurants — performing different parts or styles. These two have both embraced New York City and have careers that are much bigger then their work in New York.
Besides, it’s fun to watch one-time waiter Hugh try to help chef Jean-Georges in his new restaurant, ABC Kitchen.
Both ham for the camera — this isn’t truly a day-in-the-life, since it’s clear that the agenda has been created for the show. There are the morning shots in their apartments (one floor apart). There is a visit to the Greenmarket (where fans mob Hugh). Jean-Georges inspects and cooks at a few of his 32 restaurants including Jean-Georges, Mark and Perry Street where his son, Cedric is working. Hugh takes the camera to the Broadway, where he performed in The Boy from Oz, and admits how much more important theater is to him than film — and to the Harlem Village Academies where he has helped raise over one million dollars.
Both men discuss how they came to their careers after starting out studying other things. But Hugh talks more frankly about how difficult it was to manage his fame, while Jean-Georges never admits that 32 restaurants are a lot to juggle.
It is left to Hughes, obviously the more verbally gifted in English, to spell out what a documentary about them is meant to convey:
I definitely see similarities in our worlds, particularly the theater world. It’s about passion, showing up each and every time, about doing it fresh with care, with love, and just giving fully of yourself…. He’s got the intensity and the brilliance of a lot of chefs, but he also makes it fun.
Jean-Georges receives the last toast from Hugh at the finalle dinner for City Harvest. It is all about pleasing the audience.