Culinary students work on set of ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

Culinary students Vanessa Gerig and Eero Wilson will be assisting on the set of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

Eero Wilson, a senior in the culinary arts program within the Human Environmental Sciences Department, proved that connections can benefit a student in the long run.

“I became involved through my friend and fellow classmate, James Perini,” Wilson said.

Perini worked for Jack White, a food stylist for 61 movies including “Anchorman” and “Inception” and 12 TV shows such as “Mad Men” and “Two and a Half Men.”

Perini contacted the director of the culinary arts program, Chef Johnson Ogun. Ogun told the class about White’s interest in acquiring some students to help him on set.

Perini began working for White and they both did food styling for the first “Hunger Games” movie and were hired again for the second. They needed some extra help for one scene in the second film, so Perini contacted Wilson to see if he could break away from school and work to go to Atlanta to help them out.

“I didn’t know about this opportunity until a week before I left,” Wilson said. “It just so happened that I was able to both be pardoned from class and request an entire week off from work.”

Wilson’s experience has proven to him the vitality the culinary arts has on seemingly unrelated industries, such as that of film, and has expanded his critical thinking skills as well as firsthand application with social behavior.

“My experience on set was important to me because it allowed me to understand the film industry from a perspective I have only heard and read about,” Wilson said. “There is a lot to learn on set, and my little job is just one piece of a massive puzzle that is always getting bigger.  

“I did use the skills and tools I acquired to analyze and assess a lot of the things going on around. I spent a good bit of time thinking of ways to maximize efficiency and ways to reduce cost, but it’s hard to implement many of these things when the industry relies on ‘what if’ situations. People change their minds all of the time, and when it involved food on film, it was our job to make it happen. We had to be prepared for anything they threw at us, and that involves a little bit of waste, no matter what you learned in class.”

While Wilson’s experience became exhausting with his 13-hour work days, he gained a newfound respect for others in the industry who he observed working frequent 20-hour work days.

“The people who do that day-in, day-out are amazing at what they do — they do it just to be sure their job is done the right way,” Wilson said. “I gained a lot of respect for the people behind the scenes in the film industry through my experience.”

Wilson’s involvement with the upcoming film taught him numerous skills and values as well as the gain of hands-on experience with a professional food stylist. His appreciation and understanding of his aspirations has led him to find one cliché absolute.

“My advice to the general community about aspirations would be that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” he said. “Life’s given me some pretty juicy lemons.”