CREW PROFILE: Caroline Baum talks to the Chef

"My husband is getting fatter and fatter."

Cookie stirring up a feast in the kitchen.

Each day when he comes home at the end of the shoot I ask: ‘So what was for lunch/dinner?’

The reply goes something like this:
‘Well, there was a choice between grass fed fillet of beef or New Zealand flounder with a ginger sauce’

‘And what did you choose?’ I say, trying to sound casually disinterested instead of downright jealous .
‘Um well I had both actually... protein, you know.…
‘And was there a dessert?”
‘Oh yes, there was bread and butter pudding with roasted pears’ (for which you can substitute Pavlova, macadamia nut pie and other wicked temptations served up with vanilla bean custard and ice cream on any given day).

At breakfast there are pancakes with maple syrup and porridge with cinnamon and raisins
as well as the standard egg and fry up dishes.

His lovely wife, Louise, in charge of the Buffet.

According to Napoleon, an army marches on its stomach. (He was so concerned about the dietary welfare of his troops on long overseas campaigns that he instigated a national competition to invent the most travel friendly food - the inventor of tinned sardines was the winner.)

Nowhere are Napoleon’s words truer than on the set of Beneath Hill 60, where the prospect of a meal prepared by Eric, known as Cookie, keeps the morale of all troops, whether cast or crew, high. Born in Cherbourg, in north west France, he works out of Brisbane, where he also runs a wholesale meat business called Green and Gold. After time spent in the Caribbean working with Club Med resorts, he traveled to Mexico and Haiti, developing a repertoire of dishes from the world’s exotic cuisines and then set up two restaurants of his own in Brisbane- Cafe Galichet and Fleury’s - before going into the film catering business. He has provided on location catering for productions including Pacific, the Spielberg /Tom Hanks mini series on which cast the cast and crew of one thousand consumed up to 1.3 tonnes of meat a week, The Great Race, House of Wax and Anaconda.

Eric prepares all the food for Hill 60 himself, preferring to work alone in his mobile kitchen with his wife Louise in charge of the buffet. He writes up a menu for each day, which always includes a couple of salads and a vegetarian op
tion which was particularly appreciated by vegan cast member Bella Heathcote. He’s used to special dietary requests.
‘On The Great Race we had thirty eight different diets to accommodate. Stars all have their own preferences. In the case of Benjamin Bratt, it was egg whites for breakfast and only fish or chicken for lunch.’

Budget is not what determines cast and crew satisfaction, according to Eric. ‘It’s like making a garden - you don’t need very expensive ingredients to make it beautiful,’ he says, adding that ‘what film people like best is a mixture of healthy food and comfort food. They want variety, freshness and balance, but they don’t want rich fancy restaurant food.’

The act of eating together at the start of the shoot is like a kind of unofficial communion, bringing everyone together to share sustenance before the arduous work begins. Each and every member of the production has probably given thanks at least once for not being on the dreadful rations that barely sustained the men at Ypres. But when you see the conditions they are working under, slogging it out in the middle of a chilly night wading through mud, they certainly look like they deserve that second helping of pud.



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