big fan of Tom + Chee since they opened as a lunch booth on Fountain Square last summer, then expanded to their first brick-and-mortar on Court Street. So is Adam Richman, who was at Tom + Chee's third location, at Newport on the Levee, where I got to watch this afternoon's filming. Richman has been in town this week shooting a Cincinnati episode of his Travel Channel show Man vs. Food Nation at Findlay Market, Pho Lang Thang, Senate, and Izzy's, and I couldn't be happier for the Tom + Chee gang to get his attention too!
The film crew was already there when I arrived about 12:30, setting up equipment and doing some preliminary filming.
The owners and staff waited with anticipation for Adam Richman himself to arrive.
When word came that Adam was at the Levee, they had to lock the doors of Tom + Chee. Those of us already there could stay, but no one else could come in, and the restaurant could not cook or serve, except for the show.
Adam arrived about 1:45, with security (and his make-up person). That's him in the brown jacket (he also wore a T-shirt that said "Bacon - The Other Chocolate").
They shot several takes of Adam outside speaking to camera, then entering the restaurant.
Here is Adam talking with one of the Jennies - Mrs. Tom rather than Mrs. Chee :)
Once Adam was ready for inside filming, no more photos were permitted, but it was fascinating to observe the shoot. Several people were asked to do "sit-downs" with him. After signing releases, they would sample one of Tom + Chee's sandwiches, then Adam would slide into the booth or chair next to them and talk with them on camera.
I was lucky enough to be sitting adjacent to the tables where four of the five of those "sit-downs" were filmed this afternoon. Two were with members of the extended T+C family and two were with a couple who is bicycling from Boston to Portland, just happened onto Tom + Chee, and were tasting their food for the first time. There is a lot of waiting around during filming while lights are repositioned, next steps planned, etc. Adam was warm and friendly chatting with his "sit-down" partners off-camera, and seemed especially fascinated by the bicycling fellow.
It was also clear Adam Richman is fascinated by goetta and interested in spotlighting this regional specialty on his Cincinnati show. Two of the "sit-downs" I saw had the eaters tasting Tom + Chee's "Armagoetta" grilled cheese special (Goetta+Hot Peppers+Fried Onions+Sweet Hot Mustard+Pepper-Jack+Rye+Sourdough), and when time came to film Adam in the kitchen with co-owner Trew Quackenbush this afternoon, that was one of the two sandwiches Adam focused on. The other was the "Blueberry Bleu," one of T+C's signature grilled cheese donuts, featuring house-made blueberry reduction, a bit of mozzarella, and bleu cheese on an inside-out glazed donut. Adam loved it, and talked at length on camera about the reasons why.
They also spotlighted the vegan soy oil (rather than butter) T+C uses for all their grilled cheese sandwiches and talked a bit about T+C's three standard tomato soup options at Newport on the Levee. The “Classic” and “Chunky Tomato Basil” are vegan. The “Creamy” is not :) I've been missing T+C's fourth tomato-y option, a cold gazpacho, at Fountain Square this summer. Just sayin'.
Tom + Chee's soups however, go well beyond tomato (the "tom" part of Tom + Chee). I was happy to enjoy this bowl of their famous beer cheese soup with my Italian grilled cheese today: Pepperoni+Ham+Mozzarella on sourdough, with Grippo's chips (another of T+C's signature ingredients), in this case, salt+vinegar chips.
After going outside to reshoot that "entry" scene several more times, Adam left for what was thought to be a break about 5:00 p.m. The restaurant was permitted to reopen and serve customers as onlookers gathered, but expected to have to close again once he returned. Latest word is he didn't.
I will be interested to see how much of what I saw filmed today actually makes it into this Man vs. Food Nation episode that Cincinnati Enquirer columnist John Kieswetter reports will air Wednesday, October 12, especially given all the other great Cincy spots where the show has been filming. But I'm confident it will show our city's food in a positive light, and delighted to see it seek out small, new restaurants like Tom+Chee, Pho Lang Thang, and Senate and go beyond the triumvirate of Cincinnati-style chili, Montgomery Inn ribs, and Graeter's ice cream we're traditionally known for.
Hats off to Tom+Chee on this great day. And I hope you do a viewing party October 12!
Edited to add: One of my favorite local bloggers, photographer extraordinaire Thadd Fiala, was at the Izzy's shoot! Check out his post here.