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Cantu the TV star: Future Food premieres tonight on Planet Green

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"Future Food," starring moto's Homaro Cantu and Ben Roche, debuts at 9 tonight on Planet Green, and damned if it doesn't feel like one big inside joke.

That's how I walked away feeling, anyway, after attending a last week's private screening of the much-anticipated series, which has been billed as "Mythbusters meets Willy Wonka."

In the premiere episode, we are introduced to the major (mostly bandanna-wearing) characters in the moto crew, including chefs Chris Jones and Darell Nemeth, and to the lab-like basement kitchen at 945 W. Fulton.

Cantu, in Wonka-like fashion, can't stop grinning as he and his crew figure out how to make tofu, chicken and other non-seafood foods taste like... seafood. The camera work is fast and furious and set to appropriately skittish music. The F-bombs come much later in the episode than I had expected, and, as also expected, are uttered all in good fun.

What gets lost a bit in the goofiness is the fact that save for the eight days the restaurant was closed so that the space could be physically transformed ("I lost half my hair during that period," Cantu told me), it was business as usual at moto during filming - meaning the kitchen crew took on whatever work was required for each episode's challenge in addition to serving 90 covers a night.

What also gets lost is Cantu's ambitious end goal in all this -- that if we are able to rethink the way we eat, we can resolve issues such as overfishing, fossil fuel depletion and world hunger. That's no punchline, and if you can look past the chef's parting words in the premiere episode ("Let's get s---faced!"), that's the underlying message of "Future Food." Or so I've been told.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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