AMC is venturing into the world of restaurant drama with its latest series, Feed the Beast, starring David Schwimmer and Jim Sturgess. Schwimmer plays Tommy Moran, an alcoholic sommelier who recently lost his wife in a tragic accident, while his best friend Dion Patras, played by Sturgess, is a troubled chef who owes money to the Polish mafia. Together, the duo puts all their hopes into opening a Greek restaurant in the Bronx, their last shot at success. NYC toque Harold Dieterle (former chef-owner of the now-closed eateries Kin Shop and Perilla) consulted on the show, making sure that the restaurant scenes were realistic. In addition to Dieterle's insights, both Schwimmer and Sturgess trained one-on-one with experts including sommelier Josh Nadel and chef Justin Smillie of NYC's Upland restaurant. Below, we talk to both stars about how they got ready for these roles; plus we dish on some of their favorite restaurants, food dislikes and more.
Check out new episodes of Feed the Beast on Tuesdays at 10/9c only on AMC.
Zagat: How did you prepare for your roles?
David Schwimmer: My good friend Josh Nadel of NYC's NoHo Hospitality Group (The Dutch, Locanda Verde) helped me prepare for the role. He recommended the wines for our engagement party and our wedding, and is really knowledgeable. There’s so much to know, and it’s incredibly humbling to talk to an advanced sommelier like Josh. I was inspired by and based my backstory on Josh’s own story because he’s self-taught and he’s one of the top sommeliers in the city.
Jim Sturgess: I went to the Brooklyn Kitchen; they basically adopted me. I went in every day for two weeks, they taught me knife skills, and things like how to look really in control when you’re chopping an onion, how to hold things, etc. Basically, chef choreography. I also staged at Upland. I got to do a service and spend time in the restaurant, which was awesome.
Zagat: Do you have any real-world restaurant experience?
David Schwimmer: Are you kidding? I waited tables for seven years before Friends. In Chicago, I worked as a roller skating waiter at Ed Debevic's. We jumped over people for tips, we did stunts and that’s how we made all our money.
I also worked at The Daily Grill in Brentwood and just about every other location. And no, I never waited on OJ (although he lived around the corner). I took pride in being a waiter. I thought, "I really want to be an actor, but if I’m going to be a waiter, I’m going to be the best waiter on the floor." For no other reason, for my parents — I was going to be the best waiter there was.
Jim Sturgess: I worked in kitchens for years. I was a human dishwasher, which is one of the hardest jobs. You’re the first to arrive and the last to leave. I remember I got promoted to salad boy and then I was like “I need to rethink my life.”
Zagat: Is working in a restaurant an important life experience?
David Schwimmer: Everyone should work in a service industry of some kind because it forever changed for me how I interact with anyone concerning food. I have such a respect and appreciation. When we leave the studio at night, there is a whole crew that cleans up after us. Just as simple a thing as making eye contact with someone. Waiting tables is so important. Also, on the subject of tipping, there has to be something seriously wrong for someone not to leave 20% — like inexcusably wrong.
Zagat: Are you a regular anywhere?
David Schwimmer: I live in the East Village of NYC and am a regular at Supper, this great little Italian place. I love the lemon pasta and the meatballs. Also at the Mexican spot, Rosie’s, on 2nd and 2nd. It's a great space. It’s the first Mexican restaurant here that reminds me of California. I also love Babu Ji, and I just went to Pasquale Jones which was excellent.
Zagat: Are there any foods you dislike or won't eat?
David Schwimmer: My dad still orders tongue occasionally at a deli. And I'm always like, Dad, we’re not in the shtetl! I’m really not that into oysters. I like fried or baked oysters, not raw ones.
Jim Sturgess: Capers and anchovies. Also, this is going to sound bad for someone playing a Greek chef, but I used to really hate olives. I just started liking them more.
Feed the Beast premieres this Sunday, June 5, at 10/9c only on AMC.