My first barbecue was So I Married An Axe Murderer. I was hired to be the personal chef for the movie’s star, Mike Myers. (Rob Fried and/or Cary Woods: Guys, if you are considering a remake of Rudy, I am still game to travel with you. I’ve got this great idea for a trailer setup and can even prepare Keto! Just saying.) Back to it. Not being a fanatic of pop culture, the first thing that came to mind was Michael Myers the goalie mask wearing slasher from the John Carpenter film: Halloween. My first day on set a crew member looked at me and said, “Not Michael Myers, Mike Myers from Wayne’s World”
“OH.” I said, still not convinced.
That was my first barbecue. In the movie industry we use the term barbecue instead of rodeo. Like you might say, “This is not my first rodeo,” except we say barbecue because . . . I really do not know why. We just do. I would run around set, when not cooking for Mike, wearing my chef’s coat saying this is my first barbecue. I got laughs. I made their clever, my clever and topped it with a toque.
Running around the movie set was extremely interesting for this first timer. From the outside it appears as organized chaos. From the inside I can assure you that, it is organized chaos. Most movie crews have over one hundred crew members that staff the various departments like, Lighting, Grip, Hair and Make-Up, Props, Set Deco, etc. My favorite department, and in fact I believe this to be the entire crew’s favorite department is Craft Services. I will back up by saying that there are two different types of caterers on a film set. One that provide breakfast and lunch, or two meals a day if you will. The type depending on the shooting schedule being night or day. The other being Craft Services. Now Craft Services offered all types of food, drinks and snacks all day long. Whenever the crew had a second they would pop over, grab a cup of coffee and a sandwich and run back to work. I would wander over, nonchalantly of course, and help myself to the ever amply filled bowl of mini Reese’s peanut butter cups. They were so small, what harm could one or two of those little gems do to a boy’s figure. Hmm.
Filming ended after what seemed like a few short weeks and I am pleased to say that I am still in touch with the movie’s Production Manager. She and I share a large love of food and somehow seem to find time to visit each other over a meal now and then. Thinking that Axe Murderer was a one-off for me I went back to managing in corporate restaurants. Not a good move for me since my brush with stardom. You see, my chef’s coat felt more natural to wear than a sport coat. After a few grim weeks of managing< I contacted the caterer from Axe Murderer and within a week I was on a plane to South America to work on a film called Rapa Nui. My time was well spent with this company as I travelled about the greater Southwest, in the US after my return from Easter Island, working out of a mobile kitchen preparing meals for up to 500 people at a time. We were definitely a version of Anthony Bourdain’s pirate crew, living out of hotel rooms and preparing food from Moab, to the Rockies, to LA and back again.
After a year or two on the road, I moved back home to live with my father after my mother passed away. I was glad I did as it was great for our relationship. But this move meant that I could not travel like I used to do. Lucky for me, my dear foodie friend from Axe Murderer put in a good word for me with the local film union, IATSE and I started the next week working as Craft Services on the move A Walk In The Clouds alongside my tiny little nemesis Mr. Reeses. I worked hard and earned myself a small local reputation for preparing amazing soups and sandwiches on set. You see filming a movie at night in San Francisco can be awfully cold with the fog and all, and the long hours can make for too much time between meals. So my goal was to make tasty, hearty food that kept the crew warm and happy. If it were not for the 14 hour days I might still be doing it.
The topics of food trucks popped in my mind this week, as I reminisced about my film career, and with it a particular scene from the movie Chef, with John Favreau. John is a popular chef who loses it over the stress in his kitchen. His marriage already on the rocks he travels a cross country to Florida to spend time with his son. There his ex-wife’s boyfriend gives him a beaten down taco truck as inspiration to reinvent himself. It is a great journey of tragedy, redemption, love and the Cubano sandwich. The scene is where John’s character, the chef, is reworking the Cubano sandwich. In an attempt to make it the most authentic one he can, he finds a group of Cuban workers and makes them variation after variation until he gets it just right. If you have not seen it, Tommy Judt gives it two thumbs up.
This week I found a particularly lovely Cubano sandwich at a place in town you may not have heard of yet: Provisions. They are located at 300 Virginia St in the same building where Alex’s Catering used to be. The Cubano, I am sure, went through the same decisive process in the Provisions’ kitchen. You also may not have known that Provisions is owned by the catering company League of Chefs. An interesting name, to-be-sure, but apt in its description of the company. They are an association of well trained and experienced foodies who love to make and serve really good food. The Cubano sandwich is one such item. The one that I enjoyed was prepared by Chef Mark Harrison. The pork was juicy and cooked to a T on a crispy bun with dill pickles and gooey cheese. Man, it is one of the richest and best sandwiches I have had in a long time. FYI, Mark is also responsible for delivering the V-Town famous Fried Chicken Sandwich, which can be found daily at Provisions.
Whatever side of the fence you are on about the direction of growth in Vallejo, you really must not miss the chance to stop in for a bite at Provisions. The Cubano can only be found there until Saturday so I suggest stopping in soon, so as not to miss this delicious pork filled treat.
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often