If you were to make a feature film about...

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Hello everyone. What a wonderful discovery this website has been for me! I want to thank each and everyone of you who contributes to this forum. :)

I have kind of an unusual question which I am hoping some of you may be willing to respond to -- but first a little background is in order:

Through a bizarre series of very fortunate (and extremely unlikely) circumstances, I have been approached to write a screenplay for a feature film about "the life" by a very well-known film director/actor team. (I know this sounds strange and dubious --believe me, no one is more surprised than myself!:D I hesitate to be more specific in a such a public forum about the who/what/when/where/why of it for fear of jinxing myself. Suffice it say, most of you would recognize these guys' names.)

I've recently seen Bob Giraldi's "Dinner Rush" and I've also read Jesse Wigutow's script "Seared" (a supposed adaptation of Bourdain's Kitchen Confidental which is essentially nothing more than a poor retelling of Warren Beatty's "Shampoo" set in a kitchen). Neither of these pieces, in my opinion, came anywhere close to capturing what it means to be a "lifer" in this business. I found them both to be artificial and forced... even fraudulent and, at times, flat-out dishonest.

My question is this: what episodes -- or events in your daily grind -- do you feel ABSOLUTELY MUST be in a "kitchen" movie in order for it to "feel" authentic?

(Purveyors who constantly cheat you? Posting bail for an errant line cook at 3 A.M. on a Tuesday? Six hours of prep while still hungover from the night before? Owners who haven't got the first clue? I want to hear it all...)

Writing this script is going to require an enormous amount of time and effort on my part. There is no huge Hollywood advance on the table here -- this is simply an opportunity for me to try something new and exciting. I'm going to give it my best shot.

Having worked for years as a line cook (originally I was a dishwasher, then a line cook, then a... waiter:eek: -- I was "demoted" because I developed a horrible allergy to shellfish four years ago... blahblahblah) I want to unleash something that is an antidote to all of the glamour and "BAM!" that currently colors the public's view of what we actually do. I firmly believe that the only way it will work is if the details are accurate.

My experience in this business has been production, production, production, go out, get drunk, pass out, do it all again. Day in, day out. It's been the best of times, it's been the worst of times. The script outline already reflects this world-view. Without becoming too specific, I will say simply this: it is a very dark look at a subculture few wish to acknowledge.

The producer and I have had several meetings. Each of our conversations invariably comes down to him asking me, "But what is the story here? What does the chef WANT?" (He's semi-obsessed with linearity and three-act structures -- which, I admit, have their place... but in someone else's story!;) )

Having said all of that, I would love to hear each of your responses to those same elusive questions: what does the chef want?, what is the story? What absolutely MUST be in there for it to ring true?

I sincerely appreciate any and all responses. I apologize for the length of this posting -- ****, maybe I should just go back to cooking for a living and forget about these delusions of grandeur! :D In all seriousness, I thank each and every one of you for giving me your time and attention.

With any luck at all, we may just end up finally getting a decent "kitchen" movie out of this!:chef: Now that would be cool!
 
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* The shot of the star waxing nostalgic about how she/he came to cooking. In American Cuisine, Jason Lee tells of how his dad held him over the stove while cooking - where he got his first inspiration to cook. It can be a narrative with film of a situation resembling the one described in the narrative; or, more difficult, simply shooting the scene with the star rambling on about it, with only the use of his/her own acting ability to relate the sentiments.

* The relationship of food to life for the star. How she/he finds that cuisine works its way into nearly every facet of the main character's life.

* The paradox of spending so much time in the kitchen for (seemingly to the outsider) little reward.

* The relationship between food and sex (and, believe me, it's there). When my husband came to visit me the first time (we met online), he reached for a peach from a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. He held it out to offer me a bite. I grabbed a chair and placed it in front of him, gently pushed the peach toward him for him to take another bite. I then licked the juice off his mouth. And that was only an unadorned peach - I won't go into the prepared dishes.

* Including dishes from possibly an ethnic childhood which evolve into successful restaurant fare. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you cassoulet which started out as a French housewife's use of leftovers.

* Shots of food, food, food, food, hands with knives, pots and pans, food and food. Preferably this should surround an event of great pressure - either planned or where the star "saves the day" by being in the right kitchen at the right time.


Personally, I would not make the star a smoker because smoking impedes the ability to taste. Let's promote good food with health - have the star be somewhat fit and work out. Please don't make the star an obese/man. We have to get away from the stereotypical image of a fat, omnipotent man as chef. We don't look that way anymore.
 
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With all due respect to the many fine chefs here and in "real life," I would make the hero a sous or chef de cuisine, NOT the exec chef. These are the folks who keep the kitchen going, make sure the chef's "vision" is realized consistently, deal with the bizarre range of daily problems, etc. etc. They are the understudies waiting for their big break, plugging away and paying dues in the meantime. They are where the conflict, and the hope, lie. "The Chef" as star perpetuates the glam image that just ain't true for most of the business.

And, of course, you've got to show the realities of gender in the kitchen! Boy, there's a heap of conflict! ;) If you need help with that, any number of us here would be MORE THAN HAPPY to give you the woman's view!! Break a leg!
 

pete

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I think you have a gist of the dark side of the industry. It's the side that most of us know about, that many of us don't want to talk about, and that many non-professionals can't or won't believe. Tony's book is a good example of these stories. Come up with the wildest stories you can think of and it has probably happened in a kitchen.

There are many other conflicts that many chef's go through, though many of these are internal, and I am not sure how they would play out on the big screen. The first one being the conflict between work life and family life. How one comes to terms with two areas of your life that vie for taking up the majority of your time (the restaurant world that wants you working 60-90 hours per week vs. the family that wants you around, at least for important events). It truly takes a strong partner to marry a chef, and an understanding family.

The second conflict is between making money and "doing it for the food". Yes, some chefs get lucky and get paid big bucks to do exactly the food they want to do. But the reality, for most of us, is that you either make great money (aka corporate jobs) and give up lots of creativity, or you can work in a smaller, independent restaurant doing exactly the food you want to do, but never making really good money. For most of us, we have to come up with some type of compromise that we can live with.
 
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Wow... Maybe look into what chefs tend to have in their fridges at home. I knew this one guy, really good chef, nice opreration, etc. Me and some of my friends stayed at his house one night. He had the weirdest refrigerator contents I have ever seen. "Gourmet" magazine or "Fine Cooking" or one of those types used to run an article every month featuring chefs and what they had in their home fridges. It was always something cool and gourmet, as if these guys actually had enough time to have that kind of stuff laying around at home- as if cooking and "good eats" was what they were primarily concerned with on days off!! Not so, in my experience. This guy, he was magic at work. But the home fridge? More like a scientific experiment gone awry.

And I would also be sure to define what you mean by "kitchen", and terms like "chef" and stuff. If you want to write about stars, or people who want to be stars or hope to be stars, write about "chefs". If you want to write about what most people relate to, most of those in the business and probably elsewhere too, write about what most people really understand about food - the everyday stuff- this guy I knew who was a pure technician- worked for a chain- was proud of his trade (and kept a much tidier fridge at home than the "chef " I mentioned earlier). These are people who are cooks for a living. They do the majority of the cooking. Many of them are proud of what they do and of their abilities. They also tend to get lost in the snobbery. But they can relate to books like "Kitchen Confidential" as well as the next guy.

Make a movie about the regular folk. The regular folk in food. More people will relate to that kind of movie than some snob-appeal thing. Just my opinion...
RF
 
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Point of a good story is - does the hero overcome his /her obstacles and succeed in the end? Conflict baby, that's what it's all about. And there's plenty enough in a kitchen situation, but what then becomes the focus of the struggle? Struggle against the Philistines who don't understand the food? Struggle against the boss who dosen't get the vision.? Personal life vs. the compulsive need to do this?There are many ways to approach your story, and once characters are fleshed out, incorporate as many lurid details as you want about life in the kitchen- make it as real as you can! But what does the viewer take away? Just trying to prove that kitchen work is really hard and most chefs are incorrigible wretches hardly seems worth the price of admission.But painting a picture of the regular line shmoe whose saving grace is his art/cooking humanizes him. and creates audience identification.

You may balk at your producer's request for linear structure and straight narrative, but unfortunately the nature of American cinema (outside of a few independents) demands a 3 act story line...it's what sells and can be easily synopsized for the finance men who are only looking out for their buck (much like FOH guys)... don't mean to sound jaded, I have a lot of friends who are writers in the biz (bigger cynics than any chef I know)...Just stick to your guns and tell the story YOU want to tell!
Good luck!!!:)
 
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You guys are great! I want to thank each of you for taking the time to share your ideas. In reviewing all of your comments, I am beginning to feel reassured that I am traveling down the correct path with this story.

RitaFajita (great name!), I agree with you -- this "celebrity chef" culture that we live in is something that needs to be skewered and ridiculed. The very nature of "celebrity" as a concept is dark, twisted, and spiritually unhealthy. (If anyone is interested in reading a great dissection of celebrity as a cultural phenomenon, I recommend reading Cintra Wilson's "A Massive Swelling" or Bret Eason Ellis' "Glamorama".) A true celebrity in the culinary arts is, I think, someone who shows up (on time) every day, does their job well, and takes some personal satisfaction from an honest day's work. A person like that is a star in any kitchen. For God's sake -- it's a job! ;) (And a noble one at that!)

The producer's initial approach to doing a "kitchen movie" has been to have the "chef character" experience a meteoric rise to instant celebrity chefdom. I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH THIS APPROACH. This would be totally wrong for a variety of reasons: first of all, I think it's boring. How many more "I'm-suddenly-a-celebrity-and-my-life-has-changed-but-I-wish-I-could-go-back-to-being-a-regular-guy" movies do we need? They all suck -- and that story arc has nothing at all to do with the culinary arts whatsoever. Sure, media and celebrity are a part of our culture -- but to center the narrative around this just because of Emeril's success with the Food Network seems infantile. Celebrity will obviously be in the background of this story -- as it is in all of our lives -- but at no time should it be the focus. The chef in this story will not be doing television interviews and hanging out at the Chateau Marmont with Sting.:D He'll be working way too hard for that...

(Although I would never rule out a hallucinatory Iron Chef parody scene with his Sous Chef... that could be very funny!)

Ah yes, the refrigerators of many working chefs are indeed biohazards. Absolutely. That's a great detail. Thank you for reminding me. Important little details like this -- which are so glaringly obvious -- are what I am most afraid of overlooking! (8 bottles of beer and some potato salad? Chinese carry-out boxes from last year? It ain't gonna be pretty!:eek: More suggestions are welcome!)

I think what people responded to in "Kitchen Confidential" was Tony's "voice" -- the honestly, the humor, the sheer velocity of his language. This would certainly account for the book's popularity outside of our industry. For a movie set in this world to succeed, it's going to have to replicate that -- more than anything else.

When I am asked, "What does the chef want?" my gut-reaction is simply this: to survive. Period. To get through the evening and sit down with a nice, stiff cocktail. "We did 225, only one steak came back, not bad. Who's buyin'?" That's what I've seen, heard, and lived.

If the chef doesn't want to be a celebrity, the producer wants him to try to open his own restaurant. This pont of view I can at least understand: many chefs do open their own places -- obviously. But imposing entrepreneurship (God, I hope I spelled that right!) on this character would simply take the story too far away from the line and into the offices of bankers, of real estate brokers, etc. etc.. While I think a potentially intersting story could be assembled from these pieces, I don't really see the point. Everyone knows that it is difficult to open their own business. I'm not sure that I have anything intersting to add to that. To me, it's kind of like: "duh!" Chiffonade -- you had said, "food, food, food, hands with knives, pots and pans, food, food, food". I think you're absolutely right... that's mainly what people want to see.

(Anyone remember when they made soap in "Fight Club"? Well... there's going to be a scene -- fairly early on, like in the first 15 minutes -- during which they start up a few stock pots. It will be vulgar and disgusting to most, beautiful and sublime to those "in the know". ) :cool:

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing "American Cuisine" -- I think Jason Lee is totally cool, completely underrated as an actor. I was disappointed to find out that this film has not yet been released on VHS or DVD in the U.S. -- however, according to my cable guide, it will be on in the first week of April. I'm totally psyched.

As far as the "smoking" issue goes -- I think that may be a losing battle. I can say almost certainly that he will be a smoker... however he will be perpetually trying to quit! (The audience needs to see a bad habit/human side of this character which will allow them to relate to him and "root" for him during the course of the story. I know that sounds lame -- but that's how these things work. To someone in Montana who has never picked up a sautee pan, this character may not seem like someone they can identify with. But wait -- he smokes! And he's trying to quit! He's just like me! :rolleyes:

(I can say with total certainty that the chef will NOT be fat. Not even a little bit. Don't worry at all, ladies. Of course, taped to the wall in his office will be the obligatory, "Never trust a skinny chef" sign.)

Suzanne -- I'd love to hear more about your perspective as a woman in the kitchen. There is definitely going to be one really amazing lady in this kitchen, loosely based on my personal knowledge of a young woman affectionately known as "The Souffle Bi--ch". She rocks -- as do virtually all female cooks I have ever worked with. (An intersting aside: gender also seems to play a similar role in film crews -- the women totally rule! In fact, there are numerous similarities between film crews and kitchens... the hours, the hard work, the dedication to craft above all else... the suspicion of all actors/actresses... I could go on!:bounce: ) So, by all means, tell me more!

Pete -- you offer a great perspective on the profession. I think the art/commerce dilemma is definitely something this character has to grapple with. (The parallels in the film world are also very strong in this area as well.) With respect to family and the long hours away -- this is huge, absolutely defining. One of my friends -- an incredibly talented chef -- gave it all up, went back to school and became an accountant. He now works 9-5 and gets to see his wife and kids everyday, like clockwork. We get together every so often, have a few beers, and end up talking about "the good old days". Although he claims to be perfectly happy as an accountant, something tells me he'd rather be back behind the line. Whenever I see him I always feel like a character in a heist movie, always trying to lure him back for one last "big score". Another one bites the dust. Oh well.

One more thing this story aims to accomplish: it intends to absolutely destroy self-centered, self-important diners who insist on modifying every dish on the menu with their own peculiar additions/subtractions. You want to order the fish with the sauce on the side? Fine. But I think it's high time that members of the average movie-going public (which are the same people who dine in our restaurants) find out what we really think of them. "Can I order the rigatoni but without the eggplant? Oh, and I don't like mushrooms, so could I maybe get that with chicken instead? And tell him not to use any butter, I can't have butter!" One of the things that attracts me to this project so much is that I'll have an opportunity to show the dining public what a SEE SERVER ticket is -- and why those can be a bad idea on a busy Saturday night. :mad:

Thanks again for your personal observations and insights. You guys are great!:)

If anyone else would like to join this discussion, the question I most need help with is: what does the chef want?
 
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What about a story line like a chef who DOES rise with meteoric speed to fame and fortune - 1st act; finds out he hates it, some major crisis happens - 2nd act; returns home to his humble kitchen and finds he's a 'star' in his own neighborhood - 3rd act. Fade to black. Would solve your producers' wanting 3 acts, glitz and glamour and stardom, and still give you a chance to show off what 'it's really like in a kitch'.

LOL, CG - I was known as the 'Pantry B$*%h in one of my jobs!
 

pete

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For us it was always Pantry 'ho. Didn't matter on the gender of the person working pantry, it was always Pantry 'Ho...and Fish B***h. It just has a nice ring to it. LOL!!
 
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I know a few chefs who come pretty close to the profile that Marmalady laid out. There are lots of great "has-beens" still in the business, all over. So what? I'll bet they are NOT satisfied with being has-beens, however much they are loved in their own small circle.

CalamariGuy: Unfortunately, your idea of

has been done, perfectly, in "Get Shorty." Okay, so that was a self-centered, self-important movie star, but still...
 
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How about making the chef a guy who, for whatever reason, has lost his sense of smell (Kind of like the guy in Eat, Drink, Man, Woman) and wants to get it back? Meanwhile, he's attained celebrity and can't let on to anyone that he has a severe culinary handicap. There's lots of room for comic relief as well as tragic and gross-out stuff too.
 
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I was thinking about this post today when I was at work as my gloved hands were scooping out piles of raw chicken from a 40 pound case (which I do many days at least once). I thought, "You know, most people outside the field would think this a very strange site to see - they think the family pack at the grocery store is a lot of chicken!" Then I was reminded of some other situations I have been in that would surely seem awesome (or gruesome) to someone not accustomed to such volume.

I don't know anything about film, but I think it would be interesting to deal with the scale and repetition of what we do - perhaps visually more than verbally, and perhaps in a humorous sort of way. I can picture a chef having a perfectly mundane conversation while continuously scooping raw chicken from case upon case (perhaps the prep cook didn't show up. Perhaps... she couldn't AFFORD TO PAY ONE TO COME IN EVERYDAY. Oops, sorry, I digress).

I had a pretty entertaining experience with bread pudding once. I worked for a caterer, and one day she brought in this recipe for bread pudding. "Serves four" it said. I can't remember how many people the event was for (or why we were making bread pudding for it!!)-300 to 500. But we got out the calculator, multiplied that recipe, and I proceeded to make, well, a lot more bread pudding than a body should ever have to see in one place at one time. Maybe it was that I was new in the business, or maybe it was the seventeen hour shift I worked that day, but there was something so odd, so funny, in seeing all that bread pudding come out of the oven at once.

I think it would be entertaining to have that sort of thing play in. We get so used to dealing with these huge quantities of food, we just think it is normal and mundane. But its really quite funny if you aren't used to it (or if you are sleep deprived).

What do chefs want? On a basic level, I guess they want the same things as "regular" people do -maybe not. But many of them are "regular" people. What do I get out of it (although I don't consider myself to be a chef- I just cook for a living every single day of my life)? I belong here. This is what I do. I find I have an ability to relate to people in this business that I never got in university classes or in the few jobs I held (briefly) that didn't relate to food. There is an ease of expression among peers that I never found anywhere else. When you are working your a** off for god knows how many hours a day and everybody is stressed out and sometimes mean- but then all of a sudden something really mundane but loud happens in an uncharacteristic moment of lull (picture HUGE pile of dishes, inappropriately stacked at the dish station, finally crashing to the floor, food splashing all over the waitress who hadn't been scraping them well enough all night anyway - you're sure they could hear it in the dining room), and you look at the guy next to you and both of you start cracking up in that kind of intense laughter you worry might remain uncontrollable for the rest of the night (no, you haven't been smoking anything), THAT'S when you know you are where you belong. I guess being able to have a laugh like that every one or two years would be enough to keep me going in this business indefinitely.

I'm not sure stuff like that could be conveyed in a movie, but if it could, it would be a movie I would like. Maybe it has been done already. I don't know, I don't get out much these days.


;)

RF
 
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What I find funny about my own experience? It's that ticket machine. It's integrated itself into my life. Diddiiittt diit dddit dddiittt dit. You all know what I'm talking about. I hear it at work. I hear it in my dream. I even hear it when I am the diner on my day off. I was enjoying a nice lunch at Oliveto, my body jerked and my head turned when I heard the ticket machine go off. Of course, my lunch buddy was completely oblivious to it.

Lol about the home refrigerator. Don't forget a shot of what is now a blue cheese even though it started off as a mozzarella (I don't know how that always happens in my fridge). It would be funny to see it changing to show the passage of time. And tha argument over freezer space with living comapnion. He wants room for his frozen dinners. I want room for saving my stock bones and then my stock. But we're too poor (**** that cook's salary) to buy a second freezer.

I agree about making the secondary chef the hero/ine. How about the assistant pastry chef? And yes, please stay away from that false image of fat chef. Except for one, all the folks I've worked with in the kitchen are slim because we work non-stop with little or no time to eat. In fact, I think that's the greatest irony. It's not fair that we make beautiful food in a kitchen all day for other people but are hungry ourselves. It's a cruel fact of life that that full tumbler of warm water just visible out of the corner of your eye started off the shift as a full tumbler of ice cubes.

Oh, and please refer to the Kitchen Oughies and Boo boos thread. No kitchen picture is complete without an entry form this thread.
 
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Oh, yes, the repetitive and/or droning noises - like ticket machines or other sounds that go on all the time while you are at work! Sometimes, when I am off work and sleeping late, if someone outside is mowing or drilling and then they stop suddenly, I start to dream that something has gone wrong with the equipment at the restaurant and then I wake up.
RF
 
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RitaFajita -- bread pudding is my absolute favorite dessert in the world! Did you serve it warm with... oh, I don't know -- a Jack Daniel's creme anglaise?:lips:

This thread is so great... I'm really appreciative of everyone's contributions. One interesting (and totally unanticipated) benefit of this discussion is that I'm now thinking of just printing out everything on this thread and mailing it to the producer: my steadfast position has always been that this should be a story about "normal" non-celebrity chefs. It should be a celebration of the sub-culture. Like they say, "Fly your freak flag high!"

Your comments about whirring machines and nightmares rule!

My jaw nearly hit the floor as I read your most recent posts... because that's exactly how the movie opens: a typical chef's nightmare... the printer just keeps spitting 'em out, dishes coming back for more heat, tickets coming in for an item that was 86'd two hours ago, you know -- we've all been there. And then -- of course -- the chef wakes up, it's 5:30 A.M., still dark outside, he's hungover, there are empty bottles near a matress on the floor of his cramped apartment, etc. etc.. Then his day begins: arrive at work, a triple espresso, check in the orders, consult the reservation book, finalize the prep list, deal with people calling in sick, starting up a stock (which of course I know would be done the night before -- but for the sake of film narrative I want to show audiences all of this ugliness as soon as possible)... prep, prep, prep -- and then the lunch rush hung over. :( (I am way too addicted to these smiley icons. I apologize -- but this is a really cool messaging system!) This would carry us through the first 15 or so minutes of the film... certainly this would be enough to draw audience members in and convince them to take a ride with me into the great unknown. (At least, I hope so. :cool: )

I'm also thinking about the "war" between the independents and the major chains. Who can compete with Olive Garden's advertising budget? Sad, but true. To my way of thinking, the domination of restaurants like Olive Garden, Chili's, and T.G.I.Friday's is representative of something much larger: cultural homogenization. People don't go to those places because they like them -- they just don't know any better. (At least, that's what I hope...) Obviously I'm not going to have the chef "take on the chains" himself -- that would be something better left to Michael Moore -- but I do think that this "David vs. Golaith battle" has its place in the story somewhere, even if it's only through expository dialogue (perhaps while unpacking 600lbs. of chicken!)

A funny thing I distinctly remember about my time working as a line cook -- we never ate at work. It wasn't until I moved to the front of the house that I started to get some serious love-handles! ;) Strange dichotomy, no?

monpetitchioux -- thanks for pointing me towards those other threads. I have actually been printing out and reading virtually everything on this site for the last two months. Especially useful (and laugh-out-loud hilarious) have been the threads about kitchen language. God, that brought back some killer memories!

(Can you believe that the dialogue in script based on "Kitchen Confidential" contains virtually no instances of even the most basic kitchen lingo? No "86", no "fire", no "on the fly"... just the chef calling out "ordering". Isn't that sad?)

So... tell me about your nightmares. What went wrong? What equipment broke? And... another question: how do all of you, as professional cooks/chefs, feel when a celebrity dines in your restaurant? Does the vibe change a little bit? Do people start acting goofy? Or is that just something that occurs only in the front?

monkeymay -- great advice, thank you! I see that you're based in Los Angeles -- I can only imagine some of the things you have seen! :bounce: (The first script I ever wrote was optioned by Oliver Stone, attached to Tom Cruise, and then almost immediately thrown into what is affectionately known as "development ****", i.e.: ain't gettin' made in this lifetime! Talk about becoming cynical! Good Lord, man.) I certainly don't mean to bash the traditional three-act structure -- that is, after all, the bread and butter of American cinema (as you correctly point out.) I guess what I am trying to communicate is that the "tone" of this story is perhaps just a bit more... loose. I'm thinking of something like "Fight Club" meets "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"... two movies that divided audiences, two movies that no producer ever wants to hear pitched in the same sentence! :D

Has anyone ever read Albert Camus' essat about "The Myth of Sisyphus"? It's a very interesting story about a man who is condemned to push a huge rock uphill for all of eternity...
 

pete

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One question I have for you CalamariGuy; over how much time is this film going to take place. One thing that I think would be interesting is following the chef through his entire career; from hungary intern to wisened old man. This way you can show lots of aspects of the cooking life. It starts with the young cook who lives the philosophy of "work hard-play hard". The type of guy, who after an intense night on the line heads out to party until 6-7 in the morning. Next to him as a newly married man, who just can't quite keep up with that kind of lifestyle (a revelation to many of us ex-linedogs) but still attempts to even though it pisses the wife off and takes its toll on his body. At this point he has really hit is stride as a chef, but still young enough to handle the pressures of stardom. Finally as the older chef, wiser, more laid back. Has found that stardom is only a fleeting, materialistic goal that ultimately takes you away from the food. He decides to give it all up to open his little restaurant where he can do exactly the food he wishes to do, and becomes mentor to hoards of young cooks, that are just like him at that age, young, hungary and living life on the edge.
 
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CG I would like to see the reality that is never shown. Stories of hungover chefs chain smoking is all well and good. But why not show some other aspects of what has been mentioned. Show what a busy line REALLY looks like at 8:00 on a saturday night. Show the hands making the plates. show the piano with 20 saute pans in a space for 14. Show the grill persone sticking their hands in open flames to test a piece of meat, move it etc. Show the expiditer with a wheel of dupes trying to make sense of the cacauphony coming from behind the line. Like was mentioned show what happens when a diner tries to put their own spin on a dish, just like they saw Emeril do right smack in the middle of service. Just show what it's really like.
Later show a Monday night at the same time with 3 people in the dining room. Show the cooks sitting on the line flipping knives at each other, sheer boredom catching a buzz in the freezer etc.

I've worked and owned catering companies. I've made 10,000 key lime pies on a conveyor belt in a shift. I've broken down 60 cases of carrots, cooked 150lbs of orzo in a giant brazier at once (those buggers sure do swell up!!!)
I've come out of the walk in freezer after loading bags of ice for 90 minutes, after a 20 hour day and an 18 the day before and stepped straight into a heart attack. I've seen Gerard the old french guy with knuckles permantly formed into a knife grip who is the saltiest, most crotchety guy on earth and who can pump out more high quality food in a shift (parties of 2000, 25, 370, 90 etc. all at once) then anyone else I've ever met.
You've been there. Don't sugarcoat it, don't hollywood it. Remember long before they became celebrities, Emeril, Morimoto, Franey, Pepin etc all went through the same thing at some point!
Make it real baby!
 
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Joined Mar 2, 2002
CalamariGuy,
Sadly, I have forgotten all else about the bread pudding incident. I don't remember how it was served. I hope it was good, there was certainly enough of it.

I am really enjoying this board - so many articulate posts! They are a pleasure to read.

"The 'war' between the independents and the chains" is something of great interest to me, particularly as I have to deal with it every day. I have a take-out/delivery place, and people are always asking me, "Why don't you run TV ads during this-or-that sporting event like Papa J's does? You could get so much more business, blah, blah, blah." My bank teller never asks such questions. She knows how much money I have.

Its definately hard being the little guy, but I think its important not to oversimplify why. The relationship between big business and its customers is one something I've thought about a good deal, particularly after reading "Kitchen Confidential". While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it left me with a mild sense of guilt. I had this feeling that I had somehow "sold out" because I opened a midscale take-out joint (that looks like a chain even though it isn't - gotta build that consumer confidence!) instead of going upscale. Maybe I did sell out, but there were certainly some compelling reasons why. Experience working in catering and restaurants, research into what was currently successful in the market, and seeing upscale take-out after upscale take-out come and go in my town convinced me that what the midscale and fast food chains were doing was what customers wanted.

When I first started in this business,I had the same opinion of things that CalamariGuy stated. I was convinced that the people in my town didn't really have bad taste, they were just uneducated. I thought all they needed was a culinary savior, who would, of course, be me. How arrogant that seems to me now.

I had the good fortune of knowing the top administative assistant at our local art museum, and she booked me to cater their Board of Directors meeting once a month. The people who sat on the board were pretty much the city's cream of the crop - the snoody types you would expect would have the most sophisticated palettes. I was pretty excited about "getting gourmet" with these people. What did they end up wanting, given the choice, every single time, though? Something, anything, with boneless, skinless chicken breast in it. I catered for them until I ran out of things to do with boneless, skinless chicken breast. And in all those months I didn't manage to "save" a single palette.

I learned an important lesson in that experience that I believe saved me a lot of money and heartache in the future. Most people have fairly mundane taste in food, and most people are not the least bit bothered by that fact. They don't want to change, see no need to change. I think big chains like Olive Garden know this. That is one reason why they are so successful. They go with what the market is, instead of trying to mold it into what they think it should be. Personally, I prefer the type of food I used to be able to get at that fancy take-out joint up the street that went out of business last month. But who did I choose to imitate when I wrote my business plan? The guys who are showing growth and success.

So, rather than seeing it as a situation where these big chains somehow control the hearts, minds, and palettes of their customers, I see it more as a marriage between these huge organizations who have advertising bugets and name recognition and a huge customer base with mediocre palettes that are attracted to the kind of food the huge organizations provide. Its not just one side making Goliath. Big Business and customers share equal responsibility in that.

When you look at it like that, then you began to see what a true b**** it is trying to compete when you are the little guy and you are trying to sell quality.

One more thing I wanted to point out. I think Bourdain left out an important point in his book. When I was an art student, I had a smart instuctor who basically told me, "If you want to be an artist, you are going to have to relocate. Move to New York, or forget about it." Lucklily for people in the food industry, there are more cities to choose from. In all his advise to chefs in "KC", though, Bourdain should have included "Go where the food is. Its not going to come to you." I chose to stay in my small town, thinking I'd just re-educate my customers. Instead, they re-educated me. Don't underestimate their power!

RF
 
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Joined May 26, 2001
Hey, CG, if this movie ever gets made, your producer had better send a chunk of change to Nicko as a thank you (whether you use any of the material here or not). Just the callous money-grubbing non-chef in me to think of that!:D
 
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