Aug 12, 2014

    When making an omelette is a reel art


    "I AM going to give you a preface," Manish Dayal said. "I'm not a chef. I just play one in a movie."

    The actor, 31, who stars with Helen Mirren in The Hundred-Foot Journey, had just rolled up to Junoon, an Indian restaurant.

    In the film, Mirren's character, who runs a Michelin-starred restaurant in the south of France, takes Dayal's character under her wing after tasting his glorious Indian-spiced omelette. On Tuesday, the night after the film had its premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater, he made his way to this Michelin-starred restaurant to test his skills.

    The largely unknown Dayal, in his first big-screen role, comes off less like a high-strung sous-chef than a chill frat boy. He still cannot seem to believe he is fortunate enough to have a chauffeured car provided to him by a movie studio.

    "It's so strange," he said.

    When Dayal arrived, a manager took him to the main kitchen downstairs and handed him a chef's shirt.

    "Now that's what I'm talking about," Dayal said, popping open a plastic container filled with cilantro.

    Like a pro, he broke the eggs into a large metal bowl and sprinkled in the cilantro, along with a helping of masala, a spice mixture, that reminded him of his parents, who are from Gujarat, India.

    "They put Indian spices in everything you can imagine," said Dayal, who grew up in South Carolina. "Omelettes, burgers, even spaghetti."

    With the egg mixture ready to go, the chef handed the young actor a frying pan, which he set over a hot stove, dousing it with oil and throwing in a smattering of chopped garlic and onions. When Dayal tried to fold the omelette, it broke apart, cracking down the middle.

    And this was just the beginning. It was too thick. And there was the question of taste - or lack thereof.

    "I did forget to put salt in it," he said.

    Dayal said that he had a hand double during some of the elaborate cooking scenes.

    "This is Manish making you an omelette, not Hassan," he said.