Chef Thomas Woods was the executive chef at the now-shuttered French Quarter Italian spot Maximo's Italian Grill. Now a catering chef for The Lakehouse restaurant in Mandeville, Woods cooks on film and commercial sets across the state. Gambit spoke with Woods while he was catering on the set of Billionaire Boys Club, filming in New Orleans City Park.
: What's it like cooking on the go?
Woods: It's like a pirate ship. Every day it's a different restaurant. You create menus; you pick a country and you pick a cuisine, and every day you change it up. Every day is an adventure. It's nice you get some downtime, and you get holidays off, which is new. But it's long hours and hard work — churning and burning. We pull anywhere from 13 to 18 hours a day. It all depends on the movie or how much travel we have to do. It's a lot of flying by the seat of your pants. We've got a couple of different chefs; it's really a whole team effort.
I love it; I like being on the road. I like traveling around and seeing new people. I like creating new menus, too. When you're at a [restaurant] you're kind of stuck doing whatever cuisine you're doing, which for me was Italian for a long time and then Asian. This way, I'm doing Asian on Monday, Italian on Tuesday and maybe Spanish the next day.
: Any weird food requests from celebrities?
W: Yeah, lots of them. Depending on what side of the country they're from, you've got to adapt. Every day someone wants something new or special. That way you learn either another technique or another style. People are always on weird diets. A lot of people jump on the bandwagon, for instance, if you've one of the actresses juicing and that trickles down, and the next thing you know you might be making juice for the whole movie (crew).
: Has business declined since the state put a cap on film tax credits?
W: It slowed down for a little while and we got scared and a lot of companies moved out of town to Atlanta. But it seems to be going on the upswing again; slowly but surely, it's trickling back in. I think there was a big scare for a while and people jumped. But it's New Orleans — it brings in a lot of tourists, and people are always going to want to see it on the movies. This month I've done four movies already.