What does being a chef consultant for a TV programme or film involve?
I’m the person that makes sure the depiction of the kitchen environment is as realistic as possible. I came up with the menu and dishes, read the scripts to ensure the lingo was right and taught the actors how to behave like chefs. I also helped design the kitchen and got the actors work experience in a few places. I sent Vinette Robinson (who plays the show’s protagonist Carly) to Pip Lacey's Hicce restaurant. During the shoot itself, I worked with Philip Barantini (Boiling Point’s creator and co-director and co-writer on its BBC One spin-off series) to instruct the actors on what kitchen tasks they were doing during the scenes. It was like choreographing a little dance.
Did you teach the cast any actual culinary skills?
There wasn't enough time for that. Besides, there wouldn’t have been much point showing them how to make a hollandaise. We taught them the basics of health and safety including how to hold knives, but that was about it. If we wanted to show a culinary process that required skill – for example chopping an onion – we would use a hand double. I was a hand double for Shaun Fagan (who plays Bolton) but we mainly used agency chefs. We called ourselves stunt doubles because it sounds cooler. It was mostly basic-but-important stuff like how chefs use tweezers, hold a spoon or carry their tea towels.
What is the Boiling Point TV show about?
It's set six months after the feature film and follows the journey of Carly (the sous chef in the Boiling Point film) who has recently opened a restaurant of her own. The show explores the consequences of that decision. Her team and financial backer are supportive, but everything ends up being down to her. This aspect of the show will resonate with a lot of chefs that have gone it alone. We also explore the backstories of some of the other characters and the idea of restaurants being a safe space where your colleagues are like family.
That sounds a bit more wholesome and positive than the Boiling Point film…
Yeah, I guess. Carly is trying to create a more progressive and less hierarchical kitchen environment. But things aren’t straightforward in her life outside work and her backer is of little help. She has a lot on her shoulders. The Boiling Point film was based on Philip's experience working as a chef in Liverpool. It was very authentic in depicting the adrenaline rush of service. The show has some dramatic moments, but the pace isn’t as fast.
Where was the Boiling Point TV series shot?
We initially looked at existing restaurants, but we ended up shooting in a studio in Manchester because the production team wanted a more controllable environment. I helped design the kitchen from blueprint stage, bringing in a lot of my contacts from the industry including kitchen fitters and equipment suppliers. None of the equipment was hooked up though, it was all pretend.
How long have you been involved in the wider Boiling Point project?
I was chef consultant for the short that preceded the feature film. They wanted me to be involved with the film (which premiered in 2022) but I was trying to open Lerpwl in Liverpool at the time, so I had to pull out last minute. I put them in touch with Tom Brown who is a mate from Great British Menu (Boiling Point was filmed around the corner from the chef’s Cornerstone restaurant in Hackney Wick). It was gutting not to be involved, especially as the opening of Lerpwl ended up being heavily delayed by the pandemic. Philip is a good friend of mine and I know Stephen Graham (the star of the Boiling Point feature film) quite well. It was Stephen that bounced me into it. He rang me up in August last year to ask for a table for his mum and dad, and at the end he said, 'and by the way we're doing a Boiling Point TV series, and you're going to be the chef consultant'.
The film and the show explore the darker aspects of the industry, including alcoholism, depression, and a macho kitchen culture. Are things getting better?
A lot of very visible people in the industry are now trying to change things for the better. That wasn’t the case a decade ago. We’re on the other side of the slope now but there is of course still a way to go. We've lost so many people to Brexit and the pandemic. We have got to make restaurants attractive places to work. If people are willing to come and graft for you it’s not right to make them do so in a state of anxiety or panic. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
There's been some great restaurant-related TV drama recently. What’s your view on The Bear?
I liked The Bear. The problem is, once you have done this job you start to notice things. It must be a bit like doctors watching Casualty. They’re probably constantly screaming ‘that’s not how you do it’ at the TV. I now find myself looking at what their chef consultants have done. The Bear is really entertaining; I would say it's more comedic than Boiling Point, which is a little more serious. There are some funny moments, though, that I think will appeal to people from the hospitality world because they are usually centred on UK kitchen banter.
Your Liverpool restaurant Lerpwl closed earlier this year. What's next for you?
My brother Liam and I have taken a battering these past few years with Covid and the closure. It’s been a real kick in the nuts. Boiling Point wrapped in April, and I’ve done a few more TV bits since then. I’m enjoying it and there’s a fair bit of that sort of work out there. My brother and I are also doing some restaurant consultancy. We will open another restaurant at some point, but I don’t want to rush into anything. We need a solid plan. I miss the buzz of service, but restaurants are relentless even when they are going well.
The first episode of Boiling Point will air on BBC One on 1 October at 9pm. All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from 1 October.