‘Feed The Beast’: Meet The Guy Who Makes The Fake Cooking Look Real

Ali Paige Goldstein/AMC
Jim Sturgess as Dion Patras - Feed The Beast _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Ali Paige Goldstein/AMC

Celebrity chef Harold Dieterle is super comfortable in front of the camera—something you may recall from the first season of Top Chef in 2006, which the Culinary Institute of America graduate won. Now, Dieterle is working behind the camera on AMC’s Feed the Beast, a drama about two friends (Jim Sturgess and David Schwimmer) who open a Bronx restaurant. His job as the show’s cooking consultant: Make sure the cooking scenes look real. Dieterle dishes about cooking on screen and the culinary skill no actor can master in front of the camera.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Harold Dieterle from Kin Shop presents his tacos at CASAMIGOS Tequila presents Tacos & Tequila: A Late Night Fiesta hosted by Bobby Flay during the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented By FOOD & WINE at Esurance Rooftop Pier 92 on October 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

Harold Dieterle

What’s your main job on set?
Getting the actors up to speed with what they are going to be doing that day from a culinary perspective. I went with them as an assistant instructor when they attended culinary school. I also choreograph the cooking scenes and work with the writers to make sure their lingo is correct.

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What goes into choreographing a cooking scene?
The director tells me the point of view from which he wants to shoot something and where he’s putting the cameras, and then I plug the actors in place. I also have to make sure there’s background movement that makes it look like a real, busy kitchen.

What meals have you guys made on set?
From start to finish? Not much. We’ll do a bit of everything—sautéing vegetables, braising kale, cooking meat or fish—but the scenes are so quick that there are not a lot of them where one person will cook a dish in its entirety. I did show Jim how to flambé with cognac. That was a lot of fun. He almost burnt his face off, but it looked cool. And once I had him make croissant French toast. I was quite impressed with what he was able to accomplish.

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What aspect of cooking on screen is hardest to teach?
Definitely patience. Everybody wants to do everything with the burners super, super high—like 90-miles-an-hour food porn and everything fast, fast, fast. I’m in some scenes as a background actor cooking because they wanted fish filleted. It’s just not feasible to teach an actor to fillet a whole fish. It’s a little more of a refined art.

Feed The Beast, Tuesdays, 10/9c, AMC.