FLORENCE — The movie stars likely won’t be the biggest draw for Vanessa Gerig and Eero Wilson when “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” comes to the big screen next fall.
It is quite possible Gerig and Wilson will be more focused on spotting cakes, suckling pigs and smoked meats they helped prepare for the movie.
Gerig and Wilson, both senior culinary arts majors at the University of North Alabama, assisted UNA alum and food stylist Jack White with food production for the film, the second in Suzanne Collins best-selling trilogy.
The pair spent one week in Atlanta preparing scrumptious dishes to cover a 100-foot banquet table.
Gerig, from Towanda, Ill., said White allowed her freedom to work.
“He is just phenomenal,” Gerig said of her experience working with White. “He makes things fun. He simply showed me a direction to go in and what he wanted and he left me to do my thing.”
It was the type of experience neither of the students dreamt they’d have when they chose to study culinary arts. Both Gerig and Wilson, from Longview, Texas, said they had the chance to work with foods and techniques they likely wouldn’t have encountered during their studies.
For Wilson, that meant the chance to work with industrial smokers and different types of meats.
“We did a lot smoked meats,” he said. “That was fun to learn how to use the smoker and make the different meats look a particular way.
“It is an expensive process that I might not have otherwise been able to learn.”
Wilson said they even got to work with whole pigs.
White was the food stylist on the first “Hunger Games” film, and during production of that movie, UNA student James Perini assisted White with food production.
“When (White) got the contract for the second film, he called us because there was more work than they could handle,” Wilson said. “I was pretty excited about it.”
Wilson, who has worked at Ricatoni’s since moving to Florence to attend school, said the rush during film production is nothing like that at a restaurant. He said working with White was hectic, but organized.
“I definitely had to hustle a few times to make sure everything was done,” he said. “Most of our worry was making sure everyone above us was happy with what we were doing.”
That was especially important considering the large role food plays in the young adult trilogy.
“I realized going into this our job was very important and very crucial to the film,” Gerig said. “There are certain foods and styles to represent whatever district we were preparing food for.”
Gerig has been to Pulaski, Tenn., once to work with White there since coming back to UNA from the “Hunger Games” project.
She said these opportunities have opened her eyes to a new realm of culinary careers.
“I would love to break in to this industry somehow,” Gerig said. “Jack showed me a week’s worth of things I’ll always remember and take with me for the rest of my life.”
“Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is set to be released Nov. 22, 2013.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@Times Daily.com.
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