Southern power siblings and cookbook authors Matt and Ted Lee made their TV debut this past weekend with their new show, Southern Uncovered, an Anthony Bourdain-esque Southern travel series that shows the brothers exploring the food and culture scenes of cities like Atlanta, Asheville and Louisville. Their first episode on arts network Ovation was fittingly devoted to their hometown of Charleston. We recently caught up with the duo to ask them why they took to the small screen, what cities they’re hitting next, and which shows they’re binge-watching when they’re not filming their own.
Southern Living: Why did y’all make the leap from writing to television?
Matt Lee: It looked like a whole lot of fun.
Ted Lee: Early on in our writing careers we did a few TV spots where we did not have any fun and it was the worst sort of canned experience you could imagine. Then, we had a couple of opportunities with Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods where we did have fun, and we saw people who were excited to have us be ourselves, and so that was when we started thinking this could be fun.
ML: Especially, in the right hands. The key ingredient for us was finding a production company that’s based in the South, which is Trailblazer in Raleigh, North Carolina. They understood us and the nuances of how you can be Southern in so many different ways.
SL: What is the goal of your show and what do you want viewers to see about the South?
ML: To reveal a depth to the South that probably isn’t portrayed typically on television. We want to uncover parts of the South that make it a great travel destination. We’ve been able to really show how the world of food intersects with the world of design and all these other extra-curricular, food-related activities. It very much tracks with the way we travel in our real lives — elbows deep in everything and really open to serendipity and fun digressions.
SL: Do each of you have a memorable moment from filming?
TL: I would say the story about this designer [Lamon Luther] who makes tables that go into the Krog Street Market in Atlanta and all these hot new restaurants in Atlanta. His story allowed us to tell the story of how the business came about, which was to employ men who are transitioning from homelessness to a more stable place. When you really get out and you’re interacting with Southerners, you get to tell these inspiring stories and that’s the moment where it becomes more than just the world of food.
ML: Another thing that we did was go to the Vietnamese Farmers Market in New Orleans East. There’s a whole community of Vietnamese who have been really having an impact on how people eat, not only on the outskirts of New Orleans but inside the center of the city.
For a lot of people who’ve never traveled in the South, they don’t think of it as a diverse place. We’re trying to convey that the reality is a little more complex, and, in fact, you might find some of the most diverse American cities in the South.
SL: So you’ve gone to cities like Charleston, Atlanta, Asheville, and Louisville. What cities are on your list next for the show?
ML: Houston, Tulsa, the Greenville-Spartanburg area, Key West and maybe a whole episode devoted to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Ted, did I miss any?
TL: I’m totally grooving on doing Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill as three different cities. So we would do one episode on Raleigh, one episode on Durham, one episode on Chapel Hill and get to the heart of what makes each one different from the next.
ML: I’m excited for Richmond because that city is about to have a moment if it hasn’t already happened.
SL: Besides your show, what else are you digging in TV land? Is there something inspirational you watch or do you have any guilty pleasures?
ML: The well-made travel shows are catnip for us. I’m thinking of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on CNN, which is fantastic.
TL: I get inspired most by him and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods. The research and the writing are just so on point. I could just binge watch all that stuff. I also love Orange is the New Black and The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt.
ML: My wife and I are still catching up on Girls.
TL: Oh the other show is Broad City. Oh my god that show is so hilarious. It makes you so really appreciate that you are not younger than you are.