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Production Design and Props
"As food is the metaphor for love in this story, food preparation is the context in which these characters live, behave and interact,” says Hicks. With this in mind, he and production designer Barbara Ling provided the cast a nearly fully functional kitchen set, which becomes the backdrop for some of the most significant moments that pass between Kate and Nick.

Hicks and Ling researched approximately 60 area restaurants for their range of design options and mood, noting differences between work spaces created by chefs versus those created by restaurant owners. After briefly considering adapting an existing industrial facility but finding those spaces too sterile and large, they opted to build their kitchen from scratch on a soundstage at Silvercup East Studios in Queens.

Says Ling, "The one advantage was that we didn't adhere to codes, or it would have been ridiculously expensive. Instead, I was able to design a kitchen to look completely functional but that doesn't have to last very long. All the stainless steel is real, as well as the tile, the copper piping and the tanks for the cappuccino machines, the appliances, sinks, stoves, stainless tables, even the thermometers set into the walls. The only exceptions are two walk-in refrigerators. We built those units and then pumped in cold air.”

The walk-ins serve a dual purpose: to chill food, and to provide chefs with a place to cool down, literally, or to have a private conversation—a habit all the culinary and restaurant consultants on-set confirmed as authentically depicted in the movie, right down to the part where the rest of the kitchen staff sneaks glances through the tiny window to see what's going on.

Says Eckhart, "They recreated everything to the nth degree. The detail is amazing. You can really lose yourself in a scene and completely forget you're on a soundstage.”

Ling strove to depict the normal flow of a working environment from the camera's point of view without removing walls. "I wanted to show what people don't often see: how chefs maneuver in a kitchen, crisscrossing each other, one holding a plate while another one garnishes it and hands it off to someone else. It's beautiful, almost like dance choreography. There is constant traffic—people coming in and out, deliveries arriving, waiters coming through the door—and the head chef supervises all of this from a central position like an orchestra leader in the pit.” The flow generated in the kitchen then extends unbroken through the door to the restaurant dining room, and from there to the windows and out into the New York City street.

For a scene that takes Kate shopping for fresh seafood, Ling recreated the historic Fulton Fish Market at its former lower Manhattan location near the Brooklyn Bridge. The nearly 200-year-old seafood distribution center was moved to the Bronx in 2005, a site that Ling raided for original signage, furniture and lots of fresh fish. "We even hired guys who used to work at the old place as extras. It was a fun set and nostalgic for the locals for whom the fish market had always been part of the landscape.”

"No Reservations” also served up real food daily for the cameras, courtesy of property master Diana Burton ("The Sopranos”) and a full cooking staff that started work generally two hours prior to production every morning from a bustling kitchen just steps away from the action, because, as Heysen attests, "No one is fooled by plastic props anymore. It was important for us to have food on screen that looked exquisite and fresh because it's a reflection on our characters, who are supposed to be among the best chefs in New York.”

Except in certain instances when a meal was designed specifically for someone to eat on camera, Burton's focus was more on presentation than taste. She experimented with cornstarch and colors, finding ways "to recreate the butter-based French cuisine to maintain its integ


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