Dick­ens cook­ing up a storm

An­other rea­son to tune into is the food, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY -

THE mu­sic and the finely honed scripts are more than enough rea­son to re­turn to Treme for a third sea­son, screening in Aus­tralia on the show­case chan­nel.

But there’s an­other rea­son to tune in to this HBO se­ries, based in post-Ka­t­rina New Orleans, and that’s the food – which is mostly the prov­ince of Kim Dick­ens in the role of chef Janette De­sautel.

Alabama-born Dick­ens stud­ied at New York’s Lee Stras­berg The­atre & Film In­sti­tute and went on to indie and then main­stream suc­cess in movies like Palookav­ille, Mer­cury Risin­gand Thank You for Smok­ing, as well as TV roles in Dead­wood, Fri­day Night Lights and Lost. She tells HBO in Lon­don her char­ac­ter starts sea­son three in New York, hav­ing given up on life in New Orleans. What are you do­ing in the Big Ap­ple?

I have found a place with David Chang’s res­tau­rant, and I’m thriv­ing there. I’m get­ting to do my own night and get­ting a lot of at­ten­tion and hav­ing a lot more cre­ative ful­fil­ment for my­self. So then a guy comes to the res­tau­rant and tries to re­cruit you to come down to New Orleans?

Sure enough – here comes a backer. As much as my heart yearns for New Orleans, I do not want to go back; I am not ready to go back to it all. Then, in the third episode, a dif­fer­ent backer comes around and I de­cide to take a look. And there’s ro­mance – well, sex?

With my sous-chef, yes, it kind of started per­co­lat­ing in the end of sea­son two. It has a steamy el­e­ment. The whole thing be­comes part of what goes on in three. That’s why she’s such a fun char­ac­ter to play. She’s hard-work­ing, re­silient, tough cookie and at the same time she’s out there drink­ing and danc­ing and, you know, hav­ing ro­mance and singing with the best of them. Is the city OK with the show so far?

At first, the peo­ple let us know they weren’t too ex­cited about us be­ing here, be­cause they don’t re­ally like how their city’s been rep­re­sented. How­ever, our in­ten­tion was al­ways to rep­re­sent them as hon­estly as we could – to rep­re­sent their story with in­tegrity. Once it fi­nally hit the air, they gave us ap­proval. They loved it, for the most part. It’s con­tro­ver­sial in that it’s an un­flinch­ing look at dark and light el­e­ments to the city and to Amer­ica. But peo­ple re­spond to that. New Orleans is a rum­bus­tious town – is it easy to film there?

Some­times it’s a chal­lenge. You work all day and you’ve got to get home and go to bed be­cause you got to work the next day then sud­denly there’s a parade. It’s New Orleans, at the drop of a hat there’s a parade. But it’s fan­tas­tic. Have peo­ple re­sponded to the food el­e­ment of the show?

I re­mem­ber when we shot the pi­lot . . . I knew the mu­sic was go­ing to be awe­some and sexy and fun, but I thought the food might fall flat. I was very ex­cited to play the char­ac­ter and to be a chef – I just didn’t know if the sto­ry­line would mea­sure up to all the ex­cit­ing mu­sic. But the food gets an emo­tional re­sponse from the au­di­ence – the pre­par­ing of it, the kitchen scenes, all the chore­og­ra­phy that goes in there and the en­ergy. It ends up be­ing like an ac­tion se­quence. You seem to have al­most ev­ery sin­gle fa­mous chef in Amer­ica mak­ing a cameo.

It’s been fun for me to have them all there, and my friends are all en­vi­ous of me. We have a scene in episode one with al­most ev­ery fa­mous New York chef – it’s kind of a mob meet­ing, this un­der­cover night where all these chefs eat ex­otic food. Is the cook­ing yours?

No, we have a chef stylist who pre­pares all the food. But I learn how to pre­pare and plate all the foods. Were you good at cook­ing be­fore you started on the show?

I’m a bet­ter cook now. I’m a south­ern girl – I’m from Alabama – so I know south­ern food. My mother’s from Mo­bile, also on the Gulf, so I did spend a lit­tle time in New Orleans and I know that style of cui­sine as well as Cre­ole so I was fa­mil­iar with it and I’m a lot more now.

I’m a bet­ter ac­tor than I am a chef. Is your char­ac­ter based on any­one?

She’s loosely based on Su­san Spicer, the owner and chef at Bay­ona but only as a model, as a pro­to­type. I wouldn’t say any of her real char­ac­ter traits were Su­san. Did you have to dore­search and hang-out in her kitchen?

Yeah, I did a lot of that. I hung out and spent a lot of time with her. I worked in Craft Kitchen in LA, which is Tom Colic­chio and Craft Kitchen in At­lanta, also Tom Colic­chio. I did a day or so at Prov­i­dence in LA; ev­ery­body help­ing me out, teach­ing me things, show­ing me the ropes. Me get­ting in their way, ba­si­cally. Do you know what she thinks of the way that you’re play­ing her?

I think she thinks I did a good job. I’ve seen her say, ‘‘Oh Kim was a lit­tle shy in the kitchen at first, and then got go­ing.’’ I was never shy in the kitchen; I was just try­ing to stay out of the way. I waited tables when I was a strug­gling ac­tor, so I know about the en­ergy of kitchens. You say about the chore­og­ra­phy, do you mean the scenes have to be chore­ographed? Or it’s like a dance then when you’re work­ing in the kitchen?

Well it is like a dance. Peo­ple have to be re­ally in tune with each other. So the mu­sic and the food are un­can­nily sim­i­lar?

Ex­actly. There’s mu­sic in my cook­ing.

Mon­days, 7.30pm, Show­case.

Kim Dick­ens in the role of chef Janette De­sautel.

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