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Some like it hot, as caterers know
Monday, March 03, 2014

Robert Lamkin

Caterer for movies, TV, commercials and music videos and the occasional private party

Company: Chef Robert Catering

Credits: "The Transformers," "Because I Said So," "The Prestige," "Rent," "Daddy Day Care"

Job description: "Generally speaking, it is our task to feed anyone who is working in direct relation to the set. That would include the talent, the producers and the crew, all the way down to the security guards. On 'Transformers,' they needed the shop owners to stay open downtown on the weekend when they would normally be closed. So they compensated them to keep their shops open and then invited them and their families to have lunch. In that circumstance, without restrictions put on that invitation, you can have 10 or 12 family members show up, and if you times that by 15 shops, you have added 100 people easily."

Feed and caring: "Our typical obligation would be breakfast followed six hours later by lunch. Let's take an average movie of 125 people. It would have four or five caterers -- a chef and four assistants. If crew call was 8 a.m., you could have an earlier hair and makeup call at 6 a.m., so you would start at 3 in the morning to get ready to drive to location to start to prepare breakfast for a 6 a.m. ready, and then most of the crew would get their meal toward 8 a.m. and then six hours later would be lunch."

Scheduling: "It's our task to keep things as fresh as possible until everyone has eaten. They will break certain departments sporadically. In fact, in situations where light is an issue because of the time of year [as on a recent shoot] ... the crew never broke for lunch, so we provided lunch service at the mobile truck for the people who could get to the truck, and then every two hours we took up a different station right up on set."

Menu planning: "There are a few of us caterers at the upper echelon because we have demonstrated over the years that we can anticipate the different variables when it comes to diet. For instance, Hugh Jackman came up to one of my chefs on a pilot we [recently] started and said he would be on a special diet. This is out in the middle of nowhere, but we already had everything allowing for [that]. .... You actually go in anticipating everything, which is why you get requested on the bigger projects."

Requests: "I have actually been on location in another state and an actor's assistant comes up and says, 'I need a specialty organic juice from the Napa Valley.' Then you get on the phone and make arrangements to have that shipped in immediately."

Daily specials: "A caterer is a nomad of sorts who is asked to, on a moment's notice, drive across country and start planning in his mind's eye what the palate might be in that part of the country. If you are going to the South, California cuisine might not work, but by the same token you will have some California crew members there, so you are already formulating how best to address that.

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"No man in the world has more courage than the man who can stop after eating one chips."
-Channing Pollock

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