Did Steven Knight say what inspired him to write a film set in the industry? How did the process start?
I don’t know, and you know I have absolutely no idea how Steven Knight got put in front of me seven years ago – I’ve got no fucking clue! I can’t remember how I ended up meeting him, why I met him, why I actually sat down and talked to a stranger about my life and work . . . I think it was his professional approach and the fact he wanted to write something about this industry.
When you read the script for the first time did much of it resonate with you?
There’s a hell of a lot of familiarity in the movie for me personally, but there is also a storyline that fits with it. [Steven had] asked me about stories within the industry, about chefs around the world; I’ve been in the industry for thirty years, I’ve worked with some amazing chefs, and I can talk forever about this industry and why we do the things we do. It’s not about what I think of the industry, it’s based around a character that Steven has created – but in that, it’s definitely a character that I’m familiar with. I don’t want to put myself in the picture and say it’s me, or a Gordon or a Marco, or an Anthony Bourdain . . . there were lots of discussions and lots of stories. There are lots of people involved with this.
What exactly was your role?
My job was to create a kitchen atmosphere, so I had to do what I thought was best to get them to look and act like chefs. That was difficult in some ways, but also easy at the same time.
In what way?
Every day I had to set the scene, whether it’s a lunch service, a Wednesday night or a Friday night service. You had to create the look and feel, and make sure that everybody looks like and was acting like they were cooking and doing the right thing at the right time for that particular scene. So, at 8 o’clock on a Wednesday morning everyone would be in doing a scene that’s supposed to be a busy Saturday night and Bradley Cooper is in the shit up to his eyeballs. Everyone has literally just got out of bed, got out the shower and they’re full of coffee – I’ve got to then make that kitchen, that scene set and the actors looking like they’ve just done a fourteen hour shift! Every day was incredibly long to get the right feel. You’d come in you’d get the stoves on and you’d get people cooking – you’d literally get the whole cast cooking!
They really cooked?
Yeah! It’s not just acting, it’s getting the scene to look real. To get the stove dirty, to get pans boiling away and make the pots look like they’ve had food in them for a while. Make sure that everyone’s got their aprons in the right position, that they look a bit dirty, they look a bit hot, a bit gaunt, a bit pissed off like they’ve been working all day. And that was one scene out of hundreds of different ones in different locations. The majority of the cooking was done on location at Ealing Studios – we shot for three weeks there in a studio set designed like a real kitchen. In fact, it was a real kitchen, you could’ve picked it up and put it anywhere and it would’ve been fully functioning! It was amazing, stunning, I would’ve liked to have had it.