Shalom Life | August 29, 2014

Nobu Adilman Puts the 'Jew in Jewpanese'

The "Food Jammers" host has exciting upcoming projects including a documentary about the Reitman family and a series about being Jewish and Japanese.

By: Ilan Mester

Published: May 13th, 2010 in Culture » TV » Interviews

Nobu Adilman Puts the 'Jew in Jewpanese'

There’s a reason why Toronto-born Nobu Adilman was voted one of Heeb Magazine’s Top 100 people. He’s an accomplished actor, musician, TV host and producer whose credits include hosting gigs on Food Jammers, Invention Nation and CBC’s Smart Ask!

Adilman’s upcoming projects include a documentary about Leslie and Clara Reitman (parents of renowned Canadian filmmaker and producer Ivan Reitman). He’s also pitching a variety of TV shows, including a series called Getting to Nobu: Putting the Jew in Jewpanese, where Adilman explores his Jewish roots.

You’re an actor, musician, TV host and producer. What drew you to the arts?

From a very early age my brother and I were fully saturated with the arts world and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. My mother played the traditional Japanese instrument shamisen, encouraged us to play music and is incredibly creative in everything she does. My father, Sid Adilman, had a daily column - Eye on Entertainment - for around thirty years in The Toronto Star. He was also the Canadian Bureau Chief for Variety magazine - the headquarters was our basement. He took us to everything and I loved the excitement around performance. He and a friend saw the Spielberg film E.T. in Cannes before everyone else, so on opening day in Toronto, my friend and I got notes for us to get out of school so we could be among the first people to see the film. We were in grade three!

Food Jammers is such a unique show. How did you come up with the concept?

Micah [Donovan] and Chris [Martin] were doing Food Jammers experiments years before the opportunity to make a show came along. It started with their desire to roast their own coffee which resulted in our first episode. The idea goes hand-in-hand with the social network we have. Most of our friends are committed to the idea of community, play, food and creative partying. It was so second nature to us that we came up with a whole season's worth of shows over one night of burgers and beer.

Through Invention Nation, you went on a road trip across the United States in search of eco-inventions. What was the most interesting invention you found?

Off the top of my head, Steve Heckeroth's electric tractor - imagine silent farm fields. Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre's mushroom insulation, that is cultivated from spores, has a higher RF value than the standard and isn't flammable. Will Allen's urban farming/vermiculture revolution happening in downtown Milwaukee. Larry Winarski Sr.'s rocket stove that he created with the Aprovecho Research Centre in Oregon that uses recycled material to create a clean combustion cooker - especially useful in the Third World where 5 million people per year are negatively affected as a result of cooking over open fires. Jennifer Broutin and Carmen Trudell's Revolution Door that generates power from NYC's revolving doors. Charles Greenwood's utopian HumanCar takes NASCAR technology and applies it to green transportation. Straw clay homes. Bamboo bicycles.... We were on the road for four months so I could go on for a very long time.

Are you working on new seasons for either of these TV shows?

Both shows have not been renewed. Food Jammers has just added the US market with the first season premiering on Cooking Channel on May 31, 2010 - it'll be fed into 55 million homes. It also shows all across Asia, Brazil, Italy, Israel, and Australia. Invention Nation was being played again on Planet Green in the US, and has been broadcast in Hong Kong and Japan. It has never aired in Canada.

I read in HEEB that you’re pitching a new series titled Getting to Nobu: Putting the Jew in Jewpanese. Is that true?

As a freelancer I have a bag of shows that I cart around. GTN:PTJIJ is one of them. I grew up a strange mix that was hilariously dubbed by a friend as 'Jewpanese.' There has always been a novelty around my background but since my father didn't teach us much about our Jewish heritage, I've always felt, to a degree, disconnected from it. This show would allow me to explore my roots but also find out the diversity within Judaism. The show has me traveling the world to learn from young and old what it means to be Jewish today. The season finale, I have a bar mitzvah... finally!

Tell me a little bit about the Taxi Gourmet project.

Last year I went down to Buenos Aires to make an interactive documentary for the NFB, with a Toronto company called The Secret Location, to get tips on how to survive a recession (titled Crash Course - it'll be online in June 2010). In my research I found Layne Mosler and her blog www.taxigourmet.com. Every week Layne randomly flags a cab and asks the cabbie to take her to his/her favourite restaurant. She gets the cabbie's story then eats at the restaurant, ordering what the cabbie would normally eat. She then posts blog entries about the whole adventure. The site spoke directly to me. On top of his daily columns, my father used to write a weekly restaurant review. His rules were that it had to be cheap and high quality so we spent a lot of Sundays driving all over the outskirts of Toronto unearthing rare culinary gems - and the restaurants most often were hole-in-the-walls run by new immigrants. It taught me that food is travel so when I travel I explore food. When Layne moved up to New York last year, we talked about bringing her blog to TV. We're now shopping it around to networks.

What about music. Have you thought about releasing a new album or going on tour?

The last release I had was ten years ago. I promised myself it wouldn't be another ten years before a new one but here I am in the tenth year. When I finally get a new group of songs together, I plan to stage a world tour on one day - enlisting musicians from countries around the world to be me. Mister Nobu will be a franchise. The musicians pretending to be me will have to abide by a set of rules but there will be places for them to add their own flourishes. I'll get everyone to videotape their performances, then create a website to present the Mister Nobu World Tour In A Day. Now I just have to write some songs. I'm also playing in a cover band called The Soundtastics. We have two upcoming shows: June 5, and July 9 at the Tranzac Club in Toronto. We play hits.

What else are you working on?

Besides tons of TV pitches, I am producing and directing a short documentary film that pays tribute to Leslie and Clara Reitman, Eastern European immigrants who lost everything many times over then escaped to Canada where they found stability, happiness, and success. They were the parents to Canadian Hollywood legend Ivan Reitman. The family recently donated, in their names, a large plot of land at the corner of King and John St. (formerly operated as a car wash) on which the TIFF Bell Lightbox will showcase year-round programming as well as its huge international film festival. I also produce and host a story podcast www.captaineyeliner.com - I'm about to release the fourth episode. Micah (from Food Jammers) and I will be speaking at the Subtle Technology conference in June.

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