Nice work if you can get it: Movie set Caterer

Brekke and Geoffrey Rush became great friends

(This is part of our Nice work if you can get it interview series, in which I interview friends of mine who have intriguing, envy-inducing jobs. I’ve known Brekke since we were tiny blonde girls running through the linoleum halls of the Aitkin United Methodist Church. We even lived together for a summer, during which I coveted her wardrobe and repeatedly tried to clean her room for her. Now she travels the world, cooking for movie stars and breaking hearts. Seems like a pretty nice gig, eh?)

 

So what’s the deal? What do you do?
I am a caterer for movie crews. Everyone on the movie crew, actors and all, get two meals a day. At least two, depending on the number of hours they put into a day. There are union laws dictating time between meals.Tell us about an average day in movie catering.
We usually show up anywhere between 2 and 3 hours before the first meal (breakfast) which is more than likely served around 6 am. We take the trucks on set and start to serve. Usually just one person cooks the breakfast, to order, as the crew shows up for work..(This service can go on for up to 3 hours) In the meantime, The rest of us prep for the second meal (served about 6 hours after breakfast starts) This involves setting up tables and chairs, setting up a buffet line, and preparing the food. The type of food we serve is fairly high end for this fast-paced, on-the-move, mass-quantity type of cooking. It’s non-stop work.The amount of people we serve can range from 50 (commercials) which takes 2 people to do, to 1000 (Pirates of the Caribbean) which employed about 14.
I’ve worked on Pirates of Caribbean 2 and 3, Into the Wild, The Dark Night, Die Hard (Live free or Die Hard) and The Longshots.

Did you go to school for this? Or get any special training?
I didn’t have any schooling for this, (it’s not really necessary). I did, however, have quite a few years of restaurant work behind me.

How did you get into this line of work?
I got the job from my brother who called me up one day with the news that someone had quit on the catering crew for Pirates. So, I was offered an opportunity to go to the Bahamas for 7 months and work. I instantly quit my Assistant GM position at the restaurant I was at, and showed up for work on the island 6 days later.

Are there any drawbacks to working in the movie industry?
We work an average of 16 hours a day – 14 hours is a short day! I have worked a 38 hour day before. This is all with sitting down a total of maybe an hour for break. Three hours of sleep becomes natural, if you want to get anything else done in your day. On Pirates we were working 120 hours a week. So.. the quality of life, or the life -at all- is not there.

What are the highlights?
The income! At the end of the week, when that paycheck comes, you sort of forget how hard you worked and how tired you are. Also… the day off is sort of a celebration every week. Through out the week there is always talk of which bar everyone will go to, then Friday night hits and it’s a party! Beyond the hours and the parties, a definite highlight is seeing the movie. Its great to see the places you’ve been and the people you know on the big screen.

Are there any misconceptions about working in craft services?
Actors, they are not picky with food, or stuck up any more than anyone else is. Its strange how differently I think of actors now, and how star struck I used to be. They really are just my co-workers. Although, don’t get me wrong.. I still, 3 movies later, lose all ability to speak when Johnny Depp walks by!

What suggestions would you give to people interested in getting into this?
Make yourself known.. Go where the filming is – Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York – find a catering company, and apply. Most companies don’t require schooling, and as long as you prove your determination and work hard, a food service background may not even be needed. This is a great job for meeting people and networking, getting into a different field of the movie business is a huge possibility as long as you get to know people. Catering is a good place to start.

6 Comments

pinkapplecore

Your job sounds very exhausting. I enjoy cooking but I usually only spend up to an hour cooking at a time..I think I would get tired of cooking if i had to do it for as long as you do. But I could imagine with the paycheck it being very rewarding! 🙂

Reply
ambika

Ah, I can’t imagine. A good friend runs projectors at an arty theater in l.a. so often gets to man premieres. He now distinguishes between famous people he sees at work and those he sees on the streets. I can’t imagine!

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