|Food stylist Susan Spungen|
- Central Rome is a difficult place in which to make a food movie. When Spungen was working on the food scenes for Eat Pray Love, the city of Rome limited the number of trucks the production was able to park on the narrow, stone-paved streets. Which meant Spungen was making and plating the food for the shots in a kitchen several blocks away, and production assistants were literally running through the streets with dishes held over their heads.
- When you're cooking on location, be nice to the local chefs. Spungen had to make pizza for one scene, but the only equipment she was assigned was a portable oven. She knew she wouldn't get the blistered crust of a true Italian pizza, "and besides," she said, "we were in a city full of good pizza places. Why should I come to Rome from the U.S. and make the pizza?" She got a local restaurant to deliver the goods on short notice, and everyone was happy.
- If the food scenes are being shot outside, pray for cool weather. The mercury hit 100 degrees in Rome when they shot the outside cafe scene in Eat Pray Love. It was supposed to be fall, so the cast had to wear sweaters and eat pasta in every take. Keeping plates looking fresh in the heat of a summer day is tough. "We just kept switching them out," said Spungen.
- Don't worry about poisoning the cast. It was hot during the shoot for the Eat Pray Love food scenes, but none of the plates stayed out long. As soon as the take was over, one plate went away and another appeared in its place. Besides, actors only eat as much as they have to - a bite or two, if that. (Julia Roberts "did what she had to do," Spungen said, but her implication was clear: Movie stars don't eat a lot of pasta voluntarily.)
- Play with your pasta. When plating the spaghetti for Eat Pray Love, Spungen used her hands to twist it into a rope, which she coiled around the plate in a spiral. I forgot to ask her whether she had to find a dozen sprigs of basil that looked exactly the same for the sake of continuity. That sounds challenging.
- Sadly, most food used in movie shoots goes to waste. Remember the huge piles of chopped onions in Julie & Julia, another film on which Spungen worked? Every time I watch that scene I dream about onion soup. In reality, those onions went into the trash, as does most other food used on film sets and in magazine photo shoots. The crew does get some, but by the time the filming and photography is done, the food is mostly too far gone to eat.
- Shop 'til you drop. Buy a lot of everything. If you're setting up a close shot of the perfect BLT, for example, you need the perfect tomato, the perfect lettuce, the perfect bread, the perfectly cooked piece of bacon. To find the prince, one must look through and cook and slice a lot of frogs. And, if you're creating the perfect BLT for a magazine shoot (Spungen styles food for still photos, too), you're often doing it completely out of season, making procurement that much more difficult. Spungen says she buys everything she can get her hands on, then sorts through the stacks to find the best specimens.
So nice to see many of my Los Angeles food blogging buddies at this lunch: Daydreamer Desserts, La Fuji Mama, Family Fresh Cooking, Yvonne in LA, Sippity Sup, The Enchanted Cook, Teenie Cakes....
|Daydreamer Desserts, La Fuji Mama, Susan Spungen|
|Dede Gardner and Susan Spungen|
|Cookies at Vincenti|
|Family Fresh Cooking and La Fuji Mama in an intense conversation|
|Amuse bouche: roasted tomato with burrata|
|Butter lettuce salad with polenta croutons|
|Winter decorations at Vincenti|