At Los Angeles fine-dining restaurant Maude, owner-chef Curtis Stone serves transformative iterations of one ingredient or theme. “When I opened Maude in 2014, the idea was to capture a moment in time with monthly tasting menu experiences that were inspired by a single hyper-seasonal ingredient,” Stone recalls embarking each month on a new conquest—from pistachio, to tomato, to passion fruit.
Constantly evolving and never repeating an ingredient (aside from truffles typically presented during winter), Stone sought to define Maude’s next course. “It became very clear to me that this same process could be applied to wine regions, allowing us the ability to dig deep into a specific locale to showcase the dishes, products, and wine that inform a place’s culinary heritage,” the Australian native explains.
After five years, Stone and members of his staff started a new expedition, trekking to the producers and vintners who are the heartbeat of Maude’s spirit and its now regionally inspired menus. Before the gastronomic quest began, Stone’s friend and cinematographer Dave Gorn suggested the chef film each step. That became Field Trip With Curtis Stone, a six-part series unearthing Stone’s process and that of his purveyors.
“We realized that we could catalog all these journeys in a really meaningful way to tell a story about the regions we’re showcasing at Maude,” Stone says.
Stone is big on sourcing. Each layer of a dish is meticulously considered. With a lauded wine program in place, he began there: scouring the map for wine regions that would push the creative limits of the restaurant. Stone says he asked himself, “How do we want to translate that into an awesome experience for our guests? It’s really special to be able to bring the flavors and heart of a region to our tiny restaurant in Los Angeles.”
Stone joined canine companions to hunt truffles in Umbria, Italy; learned ancient, noninvasive fishing methods from an aboriginal elder in Australia’s Outback; slurped sea urchin with California’s only female uni diver; and discovered new techniques and foods that rendered him a student of his craft.
“I was schooled in pigeon butchery by chef Patrizia Moretti at L’Alchimista in Montefalco. She prepares the best pigeon I’ve ever tasted, utilizing all parts of the bird,” Stone explains. “During our time in Margaret River in Australia, I went foraging along the coast with local chef Paul “Yoda” Iskov and discovered some indigenous ingredients such as quandong (a native peach) and Kakadu plum that we showcased on our Western Australia menu.”
Today, Maude’s menu changes quarterly and reflects deep reverence for the farmers, winemakers, and producers he met along the way. Through documenting this part of Maude’s process Stone hopes to tell the story of those people and the culinary roots that inspire every plate. “It always begins with the sourcing, and it’s humbling to spend time with these local experts who bring these items to life,” Stone says. “They are preserving the legacy of a place and its culinary traditions, and our job at Maude is to honor the integrity of their craft.”
Field Trip With Curtis Stone debuted on public television stations in the United States last week, showcasing the riches of Margaret River and the Kimberly in Australia, Lombardy and Umbria in Italy, California’s Central Coast, and Rioja in Spain. Stone says he hopes to soon travel to Chile, Argentina, and the Rhone for future menus—although the flavors of the world (and Maude) have no bounds.
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