What Do the Hawai‘i Five-0 Stars and Other Film Crews Eat on Set?
Three local food businesses dish out the inside scoop on feeding hungry cast and crew members shooting in Hawai‘i. Learn some do’s and don’ts of film food etiquette.
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Chef Miguel Neza from Limelight Catering prepares lunch for the cast and crew of Hawai‘i Five-O. He’s been cooking for them since the show’s second season.
Photos: Aaron Yoshino
It’s my first day as Extra #56, call time 5:30 a.m. I’m raring to go, albeit in dire need of caffeine. In my bag is a humble granola bar, since breakfast wasn’t mentioned on the call sheet. But lo and behold, as soon as we check in, we are told by harried production assistants to “go to catering.”
Turns out “catering” is a huge white tent with long tables, chairs and a divine smell of made-to-order omelets. “What kind cheese? You want spinach? Portuguese sausage?” Next to the chef, a table is piled high with fresh mangoes, pineapples, cantaloupe and apples. An assortment of cereal—Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks—and their carbolicious friends: hot, sweet pastries, sliced bread and bagels. Granola and oatmeal are available for the health conscious. There is also POG juice, milk and, thank heavens, hot coffee.
Around 2 p.m., lunch is served: cacciatore chicken thighs, gently braised with rich red wine sauce; prime rib, freshly carved to order; a salad bar of tossed greens, pasta salad and couscous salad; homemade red velvet cake, topped with cream cheese, freshly baked cookies and brownies. Mind = blown. Where does all this food come from? And who makes it?
The Main Cast
Feeding a film’s cast and crew is a niche only for the most experienced and tenacious caterers. Miguel Neza, executive chef at Limelight Catering, has been in Hawai‘i for the past four years, cooking for Hawai‘i Five-0. His star-studded L.A. résumé includes swapping jokes in Spanish with Zach Braff on Scrubs, helping Anthony Hopkins sneak bacon from his pantry on Hitchcock and chumming it up with Sean Penn’s personal chef on Gangster Squad.
CHEF MIGUEL NEZA AND HIS STAFF ARE REQUIRED BY CONTRACT TO HAVE MEAT, FISH AND VEGETARIAN DISHES EVERY DAY, WITH A FULL SALAD BAR AND FRESHLY MADE DESSERTS.
Every day, Neza and his team—two sous chefs and two assistant chefs—arrive on set in their mobile kitchens, aka trucks, by 3 a.m. or earlier. “I have to be on set at least four hours before crew call time,” says Neza. He preps for both breakfast and lunch—or, at least, preps as much as he can, for a day could always potentially go off its rocker. An actor might have food poisoning and never show up, cutting the shooting day short. The crew might break for lunch two hours ahead of schedule, or maybe there’s a second location to drive to after breakfast. “Traveling means I have to make sure there is minimum cooking and baking involved, so I might do a barbecue, something we can do on the spot,” says Neza. “And, of course, I have to consider traffic.” Don’t we all?
Cooking for the same crew means Neza has to switch up the menu daily. Mondays, the Five-0 folks get Mexican. Think tamales, enchiladas and quesadillas. Tuesdays, they eat Italian—lasagna, spaghetti and Neza’s go-to dish, osso buco. Wednesdays are Chinese days, and so on. “The Five-0 crew’s favorites are usually local foods, like rice, pork, shoyu chicken. We get them good-quality laulau and poi as much as we can,” says Neza.
The first thing to disappear from the Five-0 buffet is Limelight’s salad of the day. (Good to know, I think, for the next time I’m on set.) “They go really fast,” says Neza. “We made Chinese chicken salad today and, last week, a berry salad. The crew’s been wanting something light and refreshing because it’s been so hot.”