When a waiting-for-work actress (played by Alia Shawkat) takes an avant-garde role in contributing a special ingredient to a recipe made by Parisian chef Pierre Jancou, the entirety of France’s gourmet kitchen is on display. From bakeries to roasted lamb to Burgundian wine, these characters enjoy good times in pursuit of great art.
How did this story and film come together?
Danielle: After working with Anthony Bourdain and other international chefs on shoots in France, we wanted to create our own project. We wanted to tell a fictional story set in the food world of Paris, a scene that has become very familiar to us after living there for six years. We met our Director of Photography, Ethan Mills, on a shoot with Bourdain there. When he said he’d like to work with us, we really started to develop this project. We liked his DP work on “The Mind of Chef” too and knew he’d be the right fit for our vision. It was shot much like the food documentary pieces we’ve worked on, in real kitchens and restaurants.
Adrian: The initial inspiration for the story came from the way chefs seek out very specific products for their creations. Whether it’s seasonal garlic flowers, or lamb raised on a specific diet, this is a huge focus of modern chefs, especially in France. In “Prestige Ingredients”, a chef goes so far as to hire an actress to perform, in a way, for the sole purpose of preparing a meal.
The chef is really a chef in real life. Did he have any acting experience? How did you decide to use him? Was it an advantage or disadvantage that he was an amateur?
Danielle: We first worked with Pierre Jancou when we brought him in as a guest on Anthony Bourdain’s “The Layover.” We became friends with him and found out that he had studied acting as a teenager at the Lee Strasberg Institute. When “Prestige Ingredients” started to take shape, he was an obvious choice for us. He was thoroughly professional on set, and very natural.
How did you get Alia Shawkat interested in the project? It suits her immensely.
Adrian: Alia was introduced to us by our friend Michael Cera several years ago. She became a good friend of ours and Danielle has curated art shows in Paris featuring Alia’s artwork. The idea for the story was very simple at first. Once we talked to Alia, and knew she was interested in “Prestige Ingredients,” we developed the story and script specifically with her in mind.
This is much like a food tour of Paris. Was that the intent?
Danielle: Absolutely. We wanted to show the new restaurant scene in Paris, and showcase some of our friends’ work. All of the chefs and culinary workers in the film are real-life figures in the Paris food scene. You could go to Paris and eat food at all of these places.
What do you hope happens with this film, and what is your next project?
Adrian: We would love to produce more fictional pieces, ideally in the form of a feature film or series for premium TV or internet. We love the idea of fictional stories that have food or cooking at the center of the plot.