The Portuguese descendent ‘chef’ Maria Lawton created the first North American television series dedicated to the Portuguese cuisine and totally spoken in English, “Maria’s Portuguese Table”, with première scheduled for January 4, 2019, on the PBS channel.
The eight 30-minute episodes were filmed between the island of São Miguel in the Azores, parts of California and Rhode Island, told the creator of the series. They will be broadcasted initially on PBS Rhode Island and will then be available to other affiliates of the public television network.
“We are making history on television,” said Maria Lawton, pointing to the fact that there has never been a program on Portuguese cuisine in the United States, as opposed to “all that is nationality” and immigrant communities.
The series was produced in partnership with Cineasta Digital, producer of Northern California founded by Luso-American Dean Chamber. Maria Lawton wanted all the people working on the program to be Portuguese or Portuguese, “because they had to be proud of who they are and who understood the reasons“.
The Luso-American born in São Miguel created a format that mixes recipes, trips and conversations about Portuguese culture and its diaspora. “I decided that if I was going to do this, it was not to stand behind a counter to cook,” the chef explained. “We have so much more to show.”
Among the scenarios are the traditional Espirito Santo Festivities in California, the Napa and Sonoma vineyards, and the Portuguese Wine Cellar restaurants in San José and Uma Casa in San Francisco. “The whole shooting experience was incredible,” said Maria Lawton, referring to having felt that “it was very organic.”
Without PBS funding and unable to receive money from outside the United States due to the rules of the public television network, the Portuguese descendent received “hundreds of denials” in the pre-production period. “Maria’s Portuguese Table” was funded with cash and various sponsorships, including BayCoast Bank in Massachusetts, Azores Airlines (SATA) and the hotel chain Bensaude Hotels.
Something Productions, from the Portuguese comedy group The Portuguese Kids, also collaborated on the production of the series, which Maria says is “just the beginning.”
The ‘chef’ is now in talks with Amazon about the possibility of putting the series on its streaming platform Prime and does not rule out the idea of finding a distribution agreement for the issue in Portugal.
In 2014, Maria Lawton published the cookbook “Azorean Cooking: From My Table to Yours“, “a bestseller that opened doors to meet fantastic people” and which preceded the development of the television series.
“I am very proud of the people we are,” said the chef, born Maria Medeiros Cabral da Ponte, who emigrated with her family to Massachusetts when she was six. “Our culture is so rich. It’s almost a well-kept secret.”
If the plan for 2019 runs within the expected, the ‘chef’ intends to start production of a second season, which will go to other places where there are Portuguese communities and dishes.