“This means that instead of being a regional chain, it will become a national chain and go to all PBS stations in the United States,” Portuguese-American chef Maria Lawton, the program’s creator, told Lusa.
As the first North American TV series dedicated to Portuguese cuisine and spoken entirely in English, “Maria’s Portuguese Table” first appeared on PBS Rhode Island two years ago, and has since been in constant rotation on the channel.
“I gave them a year of rights and they asked for an extension because they kept receiving requests,” said Maria Lawton, referring to the show’s good performance in the past year.
“Everyone was home and I got messages from people saying they felt they went to the Azores,” said the Portuguese-American chef, who filmed the part of the series on the island of Sao Miguel, where he was born. And they felt that they were traveling despite their imprisonment. ”
The program also aired on other destinations, such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Buffalo and Toronto, but it was of regional interest. “The other PBS stations took the series here and there, just there was no local distributor,” Maria Lawton explained.
This is what will change after the first failed attempt. The distributor has selected the series for the national platform, as it will be available from June.
“The Portuguese are now sitting at the same table as all the other nationalities who have been able to showcase their cuisine, heritage and culture on PBS,” said Maria Lawton.
He asked, “There is an enormous chain of Italian, Asian and other cuisines, but there was no Portuguese cuisine. How was that possible?”
The Portuguese-American hopes that selecting “Maria’s Portuguese Table” for the national TV list will boost production for the second season, which should have been suspended in 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic.
“It will help the second season because there will be more eyes in the series,” he said.
Before the pandemic, the chef’s plan was to shoot ten episodes on a budget of $ 600,000 (500,000 euros), dividing the work between the Azores (Terceira, Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge and Graciosa) and the United States (Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York).
Maria Luton is now waiting for the situation to evolve to return to work in Season 2, which will again co-produce Cineasta Digital, the Portuguese producer, Dean Camara.
“If things improve quickly, we can start in the fall,” said the chef. “Safety is the number one priority. If it’s not safe yet, we’ll go ahead next year.”
Luso-American already has an outline of, even, the destinations for the following seasons, where it wants to pass through Santa Maria, Flores, and Corfu and also a terrace or Montes, where its ancestors belong.
“The series could have several seasons, as long as it has support,” he said.
Selecting “Maria’s Portuguese Table” for national broadcasting in the United States is an important step in this project, which took several years and Maria Lawton heard hundreds of rejections.
“Instead of listening to those who said no, I remembered very much my grandmother’s words: Always please,” he recalls.
“My chain is my first,” Maria Lawton said, but “The Chef” doesn’t want it to be the only one. “I opened this door and I hope more people will come after me.”
Maria Lawton, born in São Miguel, immigrated with her family to the United States when she was six years old. In 2014, he published the cookbook “Azorean Cooking: From My Table to Yours”, the “bestseller” that opened its doors and preceded the development of the TV series.