There’s a wealth of food TV throughout California’s long culinary history. In the 1960s California’s Julia Child took to the screen with The French Chef. Then there was Great Chefs in the 1980s and ’90s, a defining platform for legends including Martin Yan and Masataka Kobayashi. Netflix took the reins in a big way with 2015’s Chef’s Table, highlighting San Francisco’s Dominique Crenn, and David Chang’s The Next Thing You Eat spotlighted the Bay Area when it debuted in 2021 on Hulu. Now, in 2023, there’s a new player looking to join those hallowed halls.
Breaking Bread is a three-part docuseries from Sacramento-based production company Moonracer Films, airing on Thursday, September 7 on KCRA, following the NFL kick-off game at about 9 p.m. The show features Sacramento cooks, chefs, farmers, and food workers throughout three 30-minute episodes. Ryan Royster, Last Supper Society co-founder and former Moonracer staff, says it was just a matter of time until a culinary region like Sacramento got Netflix-level storytelling. “It’s one of the most important food-producing regions of our country,” Royster says. “It’s the bread basket of California.”
An episode will bounce from a featured breakaway background story, perhaps Last Supper Society’s chef Byron Hughes working to center Black and brown folks in food, to a roundtable conversation with other Sacramento colleagues. Billy Ngo of top sushi restaurant Kru is featured, as is Ginger Elizabeth Hahn of Ginger Elizabeth Chocolate, and even Alice Waters of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse pops in to give praise to the Sacramento food scene. The featured talent discusses their working relationships, their sourcing techniques, the state of mental health in the restaurant industry, and the challenges they’ve faced during their careers.
The show’s beginnings trail back to 2018. That’s when Moonracer launched, and within short order, the team decided they wanted to take on a passion project beyond the commercials that paid the bills. Breaking Bread director and Moonracer head of production Cameron Tyler says he wasn’t even halfway through pitching the show to possible collaborators when Mike Testa, CEO of Visit Sacramento, gave a whole-hearted thumbs up. The three-person company, including director of photography Victor Mihalchuk and cinematographer Greg Gearhart, began filming in summer 2020 with the help of a few hired guns. Visit Sacramento, the city’s tourism marking organization, serves as co-producer, and after airing on KCRA the show will be available to stream on Hearst Media’s Very Local.
The team wanted the show’s energy to play off of the familiar relationships, like Hughes having worked for Brad Cecchi of Canon until the latter fired him — a story explored in the episode, though, spoiler alert, the two are friends now. The show’s director hopes Breaking Bread shines when the subjects of the show display how well-connected they are in Sacramento, rare for a city of its size in his opinion. Plus, there is a true abundance of food producers to highlight in Sacramento. “It’s a special city with special chefs and farmers,” Tyler says. “They’re all competing with each other, but they’re all pushing Sacramento forward.”
Royster says all of the chefs featured are at minimum colleagues and often close friends, thanks to the tight-knit nature of the Sacramento food world. Yes, the Michelin Guide and James Beard Foundation have paid their visits to the capital, the latter nominating Craig Takehara of Binchoyaki for best chef in 2023. But he feels that this show allows for a far deeper look at the lives of Californians who often don’t get their shine. “Sacramento has been the little brother of San Francisco,” Royster says. “Now it’s not trying to be the next San Francisco, or Portland. Now it’s: This is what we’re doing, and we have the best ingredients in the world.”