The film pig perhaps it is about Nicolas Cage’s search for his missing truffle pig, but it was Cage’s dovecote technique that occupied Gabriel Rucker the most. Rucker, one of Portland’s most famous chefs, was a consultant for the film, which is set in both the Oregon wilderness and in Portland’s high-end restaurants, and most of it was shot on location. Rucker recognized his own work on the groundbreaking Le Pigeon in the script: Cage, now a truffle collector, used to be a French chef whose work was considered avant-garde, out of the box and outside the box.

The dish that Rucker created and taught Cage to cook features pigeon breast, wild chanterelles, and blueberries. The film doesn’t come out until July 16, but the trailer shows this dish – the watering, the thyme sprigs, the final coating. Rucker taught Cage the dish and techniques in the Le Pigeon kitchen before filming the scene on set. „He wasn’t too cool for school,” says Rucker of his student. “It’s nice to meet someone who’s famous and who’s not an asshole.” Read on to find out more about Rucker’s experience working on the most important film of the summer.

Eater: How did you end up being an advisory cook on this film and what does an advisory cook do?

Gabriel Rucker: I’ve never done anything like it. But it was just an opportunity to do something cool. I grew up watching National treasure and Raising Arizona and Con Air and The stone and Nicolas Cage films. I got an email from the director and when that hit my desk I thought, „Yes, of course I want to help.” I would be stunned if this film was made and I didn’t get that call. Nic Cage is such a cultural icon.

I designed dishes for the film and we had the opportunity to [Cage] come through the kitchen. He came in at 7 a.m. and looked like shit. I didn’t know he was supposed to look like this for the role. I was like Oh man, he wasn’t taking care of himself.

He just jumped right in and was super respectful. He was himself: his voice and mannerisms, I mean. He plays, but that’s how he was. He’s just Nicolas damn Cage.

What were your tasks for the film?

So they told me the premise of the film, gave me the script, and I spoke to the director [Michael Sarnoski] a couple of times over dishes [for the film]. We chose pigeons with chanterelles and blueberries. It’s a dish with a very Oregon feel.

[Cage’s character is] this avant-garde French chef is supposed to be, just like Le Pigeon actually is. I was thinking of a dish that would use some fun techniques on the camera. So fry the pigeon breast in a cast iron pan and drizzle with garlic and thyme and pour bubbly butter over it, this is a very French technique – it can be filmed in a romantic and stylized way. He made very romanticized cooking moves so I thought that would be good for that.

Also cleaning and handling of wild mushrooms. He’s a collector in this movie, and I had great chanterelles with me that he could tear up and smell. He really romanticized the moves so I just helped her get more realistic. I slaughtered the pigeons. He’s really bloody in the scene I helped with and then he breaks down and cuts out the spine and pulls out the hearts and livers so it worked out fine there.


Nicolas Cage and Alex Wolff cook pigeons in this clip from ‘Pig’ courtesy of Neon

Talk to me about your time on set.

So he came here, I walked him through the cooking moves, we talked, and he spent some time with me in the kitchen. And when the time came, it was like her last big day of shooting. On the set, I helped set up the kitchen and helped him remember the movements. I was also given advice on the movements in front of the camera, how Do this, turn the pan in that direction and do it that way. I felt like I was very involved in that final shoot where he was cooking the food. It was great fun to be able to do something like this out of my element.

Did you get a feel for what kind of food was going on on set? Did you eat the pigeon you cooked?

No, because everything in Hollywood and in film is so united. They have food catering companies that come to feed everyone and there are mandatory breaks. There was taco salad that everyone ate.

So nobody tried the pigeon?

I think they ate it on the actual shoot.

You talked a little about the romanticized movement you were looking for and also the idea of ​​creating a very Oregon dish. Were there any other ways to tailor the food to the themes of the film?

In all honesty, I was just thinking of the type of food I cooked at Le Pigeon in 2006 and 2007 when we were just starting out. When I looked at what they were looking for – mushrooms, a great sauce – it seemed like it. It seems like Portland was what these people were hunting for in the late 90s, early 2000s. And so I just thought about what I would cook in 2006 or 2007.

A photo of Gabriel Rucker and Nicolas Cage standing next to each other in a restaurant kitchen

Gabriel Rucker, left, and Nicolas Cage

David Reiber

You mentioned using chanterelles, did you also work with truffles on set?

You know it’s funny because I asked them if they want me to make truffles in the bowl and they said, „Oh, that would be too cliché.”

So it’s clear that he’s not really cooking with truffles. Interesting.

I don’t know, but I just asked if they wanted me to use truffles and the director said he felt that was a little too appropriate. For me personally it makes sense because this guy has dedicated his whole life to truffle hunting and he loves his truffle pig so much. But I’m not the director. And I said, well, how about I use another forest mushroom and he said, „That sounds great.”

I guess it makes sense … if he’s making his money on it, maybe it is some kind of „Don’t you get high on your own stash”?

Exactly. Could be.

Is there a lot of truffle hunting in the Pacific Northwest? Have you ever worked with a truffle pig?

Well, they no longer use pigs to collect truffles, they use dogs. But I didn’t bother to explain that to the director because the film is called pig. So I think that would be too big of a description. And there’s probably already a movie called dog. At least I know it All dogs go to heaven.

There are tons of foraging in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon truffles are very popular. I don’t use them in the restaurant as often as I used to, mainly because I can afford to use the Périgord truffle and the Australian black truffle that we get in the summer. They have a longer shelf life and a slightly stronger flavor and are a bit better than truffles for my taste.

There’s a huge scene in the Pacific Northwest and there are people who make a living hunting for Oregon truffles, among other things. It is very real. Even the way Nicolas Cage looked, he is very collectible.

I’m curious: Was the pig real and did you get to know the pig?

Didn’t hit the pig, no, but it looks real in the trailer.

After the trailer, the movie seems genuinely interested in good food, but I’ve always found Portland to be a bit reluctant. Do you feel the themes of the film are true to Portland?

You know I haven’t seen the movie. With Hollywood, whenever you ever make a movie about the city you live in, something you are familiar with, you never say, „That’s just the way it is,” because that’s not a movie’s job. So I hope they do a good job with Portland as a backdrop, but time will tell.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

De Dana

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