Feeding the 5000 (or a few hundred) on location with caterers Chorley Bunce
Márk Bunce, of Chorley Bunce film location catering, which has worked on such productions as The Limehouse Golem, Robin Hood and Darkest Hour, talks to us about jet skis, almost falling in the Thames, and the tireless work his company offers in support of film & TV projects.
Hello Márk, thanks for taking the time to speak to us about Chorley Bunce and the work you do. It’s said, ‘an army marches on it’s stomach’, and feeding the small army that is a film crew is something you know an awful lot about.
How did the company start and what drew you to film location catering?
I worked firstly at Harvey Nichols restaurant, then later at Jacob Street Studios near London Bridge, where I first became aware of location catering. I was given the opportunity to work on the location kitchen and I loved it. From that day it's all I have done. I moved on from there to working for an American location caterer in London, where I worked on some big films like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I didn’t know Dave Chorley at that time but he also was working for the same company although our paths never crossed.
It wasn’t until we both worked for a company called Silent Movies, who were based at Pinewood Studios, that we actually worked together. We knew we made a good team and over the next couple of years hatched a plan to start our own business.
How is catering for a film/TV production different to other types of catering? And how far does your work take you?
It's different because we could serve breakfast at one location, then pack up and move somewhere else to serve lunch. We also have to make sure the kitchen truck is parked on a level surface and that we have sufficient power for the lights and ovens, and that we have enough gas for the stoves. The logistics of getting the food delivered to locations is also hard because of the very fluid nature of TV and film production, which can change daily.
Most of our work is in the UK, from London to Scotland, but we also get to go to Europe. Last year we sent a couple of chefs to Austria to work on The Jump for Channel 4, where they looked after 10 celebs in a private chateaux. We also spent some time in France on Merlin for the BBC and I'm currently quoting for a job in the Caribbean for later in the year.
Do you have speciality dishes that are firm favourites with your clients?
We do a very nice lamb shank in red wine and port on mash potatoes in the depths of winter, and something like pan fried sea bass with wasabi crust served on udon noodles for a light summer lunch.
What’s one of the most challenging productions that you’ve experienced, and why was it so?
I think Ridley Scott's Robin Hood was our most challenging job. The basic crew size was around 400, the stunt team was over 100 and the horse people had over 80 people a day on some days. Then for a few weeks we had over 1200 people a day to feed on a beach in Wales. We had to use jet skis to deliver some lunches to boat crews that could not come to shore! It took all our kit and more to do that.
What’s some of the more interesting ‘war stories’ you have from productions you’ve worked on?
We have been in many scrapes over the years, as you can imagine. When we first started we used trailer kitchens, as they're cheaper to build, and while driving through London moving locations the tow hitch snapped and the kitchen came off the back. It hit a wall along the embankment and it was touch and go if it was going to fall the 30 feet into the Thames!
On another occasion, we drove to a location in rural France where the location manager was waiting for us. Whilst driving through the village we took out a lot of low hanging telephone cables with the extractors on the kitchen roof. When we arrived at the location, a football pitch, just before the entrance was an overhead electric cable, which we also took out and it fell to the ground sparking. The by-now grumpy French location manager asked us to turn around. When we started to turn the kitchen around it just sank in the muddy playing field and they had to get a tractor to pull us out! It wasn’t the best start to a shoot.
Is the company often approached by short film productions, or are their budgets usually too tight?
We are often approached but its not viable for us due to the budget, although if we are not working we sometimes do them to help out.
Has the film catering industry changed over the years since you first started, and if so, how?
It's changed a lot since we started. It's got a lot more healthy and nutrition-based. More and more productions are adopting the American style of continuous days where they don’t break for an hour lunch, they allow you to come and get food during a natural break in the working day, allowing the filming day to be 10 hours not 12 - but that actually extends our day.
For anyone looking to get into film catering, or even to anyone who might wish to join Chorley Bunce one day, what advice would you give?
It can be very hard and long hours and can often be a thankless job, but you can have a lot of adventures and most of the time you get the weekends off which for a chef is great. You can also produce some high standard food in very difficult circumstances which can be very addictive.
For more information about Chorley Bunce visit their (very cool) website.