Thu Tran is the creator and host of IFC’s Food Party". It’s hard to know what to say about the show other than it’s the most fun you’ll have watching ten minutes of TV. In a behind the scenes clip a crew member sums it up this way, “Food Party is like if you got hit on the back of the head with a sock full of truffles and you woke up and somebody spits glitter all over you”. Sounds great, right? The sets are made from cardboard and are built entirely by hand. It takes creativity to a new level. Aside from a cooking show, Tran has a B.F.A. in glass from the Cleveland Institute of Art.
Chris Bowman: I love this show! But tell me, how does a B.F.A. in glass lead to cooking with Perv Corn, Monsieur Baguette and the devil etc.?
Thu Tran: (Laughs) It’s very interesting how that came about. I went to school for glass partially because the glass major at the school I went to had the least amount of requirements. I was really only required to take two glass blowing classes per week. With the other three days I took lots of video classes, sculpture classes, drawing classes and all that stuff. I liked glass because it was pretty much like cooking. The deal breaker for me was one day I saw a boy cooking a pizza in one of the glory holes. He was heating it up, and I thought, “Oh, I’m going to study this! This will be cool!”
CB: I’ve read that you are known for your eclectic taste in food. I’m assuming the buffalo wing wedding cake falls into that category. What recipes have you been working on lately?
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TT: Lately I’ve been trying to master the real basic Vietnamese soups. I just figured out how to make Bun Rieu soup two days ago. That’s a tomato tamarind based soup with pork, crab, and shrimp meatballs. And traditionally what else goes in it is fried tofu puffs and pork cubes.
CB: Recently I tried a chocolate/bacon cupcake. Have you had one of those?
TT: I haven’t had a chocolate bacon cupcake before but I have had bacon with chocolate before and it’s a really wonderful combination of flavors.
CB: It was made with rendered pig fat. It started out delicious but then it sat in my stomach like a brick.
TT: You’ll get that with pork fat. It hardens really well.
CB: The green screen cookie recipe calls for 8 seconds of sugar and a secret ingredient known as “fantasy potion”. Now I’m no baker, but 8 seconds of sugar sounds potent enough to kill.
TT: I guess I should have also specified that a stream of sugar is about ¾ of an inch. I think that would more accurately specify the measurement more accurately.
CB: And what is a reasonable substitute for fantasy potion if our local grocer is out of stock?
TT: Uh, I don’t know, like, marijuana I guess?
CB: How has the show changed since you first started it at home/online to now that it’s on IFC?
TT: It evolved on it’s own anyway, but being on IFC we obviously shoot with a higher production value. We shoot in HD, which I was a little worried about at first, but then it was cool. We’re able to do a lot of stuff we weren’t able to do before, which is cool. We actually had time to do it all at once, as opposed to over a couple of months. We were also experimenting with story lines. It was exciting to be-well we always try to be balls out-, but to be like, “Oh let’s do a horror one!” and, “Let’s do one where I have a café!, let’s do one where we’re in a cave!” You know? We were able to build a lot more sets. So it was cool. We’re also making it shorter which is interesting too. Normally we try to make it around half an hour. We’re still trying to cram the same amount of stuff we’d normally do in half an hour in to ten minutes.
CB: Speaking of sets, how long does it take to build one?
TT: We have a bigger crew and a scheduled amount of time to do it. So it takes about a week to build sets for one episode.
CB: Some of the sets you won’t ever use again, do you just throw them away when you’re done?
TT: Yeah, we cut it up, bag it up, and then we recycle it.
CB: Now that you are a big-shot TV host what do you plan to do with your millions?
TT: With my millions I have bought a solid gold private jet, I’ve also bought some jet-skis, and some water skis. I plan to spend a lot of time in the Hamptons swimming in a private swimming pool with a private butler, and I’m eating mainly caviar and lobster every day.
CB: So there’s a lot of private stuff going on with skis and water.
TT: Lots of privacy, yeah.
CB: The final episode of Food Party airs July 14th. What are the plans for the future of the show?
TT: We’re just playing it by ear. We’re all just doing our on thing just now, which is cool. Hopefully we’ll be allowed to regroup at some point, but I don’t know. Who knows? Whatever!
CB: Has anyone ever told you that you are the most adorable TV host of all-time?
TT: Oh people tell me that all the time! I think it’s absolutely wonderful that they tell me such nice things about me!
CB: Well, it’s true.
TT: Thank you!
CB: How far back does the obsession with food go?
TT: I remember my very first vivid food memory. I was maybe two years old or something like that. My mom cut open an avocado and filled the center part where the seed is, that little bowl, she filled it with plain white sugar and she spoon fed that to me. It was the wonderful, rich food I had ever eaten. I think it all started there.
CB: It seems that Food Party would make a good stage show experience. Have you ever preformed the show in front of a live audience?
TT: I’ve never preformed Food Party in front of an audience. I think I’m still pretty shy to do things on stage in front of a lot of people. We’ve talked about it a couple of times. I have done performance pieces before, although, It didn’t require me to talk. When I was younger I was in a Vietnamese dance troupe and a group of girls would do dances. I also did this art school double-dutch team. We did, arty double-dutch. I worked for a friend who does this character Bad Brilliance and I played his mini-version, like, the midget version. But I’ve never done Food Party on stage before. I think that would be scary. We go through a lot of takes to get the take we actually use. So I’d have to tighten up my game quite a bit. But I’m open to it, maybe in the future.
CB: Describe what a dinner party at you house might be like.
TT: It’s very loose and casual. Normally I would just put out a text that day. I’d tell them “Come over around 10pm, I’m cooking food” or whatever. Then people would start rolling in around 11pm or so. I’d probably start cooking around 9pm. I would make a ton of food and some people would bring food too. People would bring beer and then we’d sit around and eat and it would be cool. My apartment is really small so everyone would be sitting on the couch, or on the floor, or in the kitchen, or in the bathroom. They’d be all over the place. Everyone would just hang out and have fun. We’d eat weird food and I’d serve people at random. It would be really loose and fun. That would be a typical dinner party.
A more involved dinner party would entail something pretty similar, except maybe I’d invite people maybe a week in advance. A lot of times there will ll be a theme. Once I threw a black light party. We did quite a bit of research in the apartment before hand where we had a black light next to our dinner table so we could test out what foods are black light reactive. We had a little list that said yes or no. We compiled a pretty comprehensive list after that. Then we emailed the results of our research to most of our friends. Then everyone brought food that they thought would be black light reactive. I made a black light chandelier with my roommate. A lot of people brought snack cakes. They were covered in frosting or marshmallows or sprinkles. It was all laid out on the table. Maybe two hours later everyone would just dig in. It would be just like a Lost Boys feast. You know from that movie Hook, with Rufio? Yeah, because I wouldn’t have enough utensils so everyone would be digging in with their hands.
CB: OK, ultimate dinner party. Who would be your ideal guests?
TT: (Laughs) Um, my ideal guests would be Mariah Carey, Lebron James, Snoop Dogg and uh, um, uh, um…Beyonce! They would all come over and just hang out, and I would just feed them pizza. That would be cool.
Be sure to watch the final episode of Food Party on IFC, Tuesday July 14th at 11:15pm. Seriously, you will love this show.