Whites: The Food
Oliver Lansley, co-creator of Whites, writes...
The food and the kitchen side of Whites was always incredibly important to Matt and I. Matt used to work in a kitchen himself so he'd seen how it works first hand and we'd both seen enough shows set in a kitchen to know that we wanted to do something a little different. The kitchen, for starters, we needed to look and feel like a working kitchen. It's clean, but it's not new. Every pot, pan and utensil has been used and washed a thousand times. It's grubby and familiar, broken and worn. It's practical, not presentational. The kitchen in effect an extra character in the show and we felt that if we could get this right and make this real, then it would give us much more freedom to focus on our characters and their stories. I think that's something that follows through with situation comedy as a whole, the more authentic and clear the situation the more you can forget about it and focus on the comedy.
The other thing that absolutely had to be right was the food. We were incredibly lucky to have Matt's old Sous Chef, Andrew Turner, who is now head chef at Wilton's, one of the top restaurants in London. Andrew has been around almost since the beginning of the project as a consultant on both the ten minute taster, and the full pilot we produced (he even acted as a chef in the background of them!). He also read all our scripts, correcting all our references and flagging up any mistakes and giving the cast advice of what to say and how to look the part. Andrew was instrumental in getting the look and the design of the dishes just right. Everything from Roland's old dishes to bib's crazy Shay Marshall inspired menu.
Also during the shoot we had Gary Crossan, our on-set chef who day in, day out cooked all the food that features in the show, making it look perfect every time when we would ask for take after take after take. He also made everyone feel very hungry when they walked through the back stage area with the smell of all this amazing food he was always cooking which we weren't allowed to eat.
The show really wouldn't be the same without them, after all, what is a chef without the food he cooks?
And finally onto the chefs. It was essential everyone in the kitchen looked like they knew what we were doing. All the actors who played the background chefs were require to have kitchen experience and Alan, Stephen and Darren all spent an afternoon at the training academy at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant, where they learnt all the basics, such as knife skills and a few other tricks. There were also a few trips to Andrew's restaurant, where we were allowed into the kitchens to watch the chefs during a service, see how they worked together and who did what as well as getting to taste some of Andrew's amazing food. (I have to say we probably enjoyed this bit a little more than Darren and Alan, as they are both ironically, vegetarians, so didn't get to try everything , which was by the way delicious!). Being in a real working kitchen which is cooking food to this standard is a fascinating experience. There really is no margin for error and you can see the strain heaped upon these chefs. It literally is a pressure cooker. We've always likened the kitchen to being on the deck of a submarine, underground, sweating, working, trapped with the rest of your brigade, never seeing the light of day. It's relentless, but it's also exciting, sexy and inherently dramatic - this is why for us it was such a perfect place to create our show.
Whites continues on Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC Two.
- Read on to see the recipe for Bacon and Eggs - the Shay way (as featured in Episode Two)
- Then go behind the scenes with a beatboxing Isy Suttie!