Ahead of the launch of the follow-up television series to the 2021 film Boiling Point, The Caterer heard how the cast and writers plan to use the four episodes to explore wider social issues around the hospitality industry.
"We've had a load of walk-ins and we're screwed." So begins the first episode of Boiling Point, the four-part television series that acts as a sequel to the 2021 film of the same name. Picking up six months on from the dramatic ending, it finds head chef Carly (Vinette Robinson) now in charge of her own London restaurant, Point North, with much of the same team.
During the opening few minutes, it's clear the pressure is on. Potential investors are in, one of the waiters is horribly hungover, and there's a new chef who has to Google how to make a hollandaise sauce. As the camera swings around the kitchen in a single, 11-minute opening take, the tension is already beginning to bubble – it's only a matter of time until it boils over.
When Boiling Point was released in 2021, the low-budget British film won critical acclaim for its portrayal of a fast-paced and unpredictable restaurant service, ratcheting up the tension as head chef Andy (Stephen Graham) felt his professional and personal world begin to spin out of control. Written by Philip Barantini, a former head chef, and James Cummings, who has worked front of house, it shone a light on issues such as addiction and mental health in the hospitality industry.
The film received a mixed reception from chefs. While some praised its realism, others felt it portrayed negative and outdated stereotypes and acted as a poor advert for kitchen life. Criticisms aside, Boiling Point went on to receive four BAFTA nominations, including Best Actor in a Leading Role for Graham (who ultimately lost to Will Smith for King Richard).
Barantini believes the film's success was due to its themes resonating both within and outside the restaurant industry. "It's about people and it's relatable," he explains. "Even if you haven't worked in the industry, you've eaten in a restaurant so can see it from both sides. The goal was always to make a slice of life."
While the movie was filmed in early 2020 on location in Jones & Sons restaurant in London's Dalston, a standalone kitchen was built in a studio for the follow-up series.
None of the appliances really worked, and, when Liverpudlian chef Ellis Barrie arrived in his role as a consultant on the series, he was greeted by the smell of mackerel that had been left over the weekend in a prop fridge.
While the sets may have been fake, the chance to expand the story over four hour-long episodes meant the team could take an in-depth look at wider social issues. Cummings was keen to spotlight front of house and draw on his own experience of working with a hidden disability. "I [have] rheumatoid arthritis which I've had since I was six, and that affected me when I worked in hospitality," he says. "So I wanted to do an episode in that vein that felt very personal. We used a different disability to [mine], but, for me, that was a really important part of the show."
The series initially focuses on Carly and her struggle to build a successful restaurant while stepping out of the shadow of her mentor, Andy, who suffered an uncertain fate in the film. To prepare for the role, Robinson shadowed several chefs and spoke to others about the pressures of running a kitchen.
"It's a very lonely position to be in, I think. People's livelihoods are on the line," she says. "Having the knowledge that if you're notsuccessful in what you do then those people suffer…I think that's an immense pressure and responsibility."
A major theme of the series is the idea that people put on a front at work while struggling behind closed doors at home, something Robinson was keen to explore in Carly. "The window into her home life hopefully shows why she throws herself so forcefully into kitchen life," she says. "One of the themes of the show is addiction and Carly's addiction is work. She's trying to model herself in opposition to Andy, her mentor. She doesn't want to be that angry, kind of volatile chef, but is she any different really? It just comes out in a different way."
Although Boiling Point touches on some darker sides of the hospitality industry, Cummings was keen not to dwell on the negativity and instead use the characters to show the potential for "a bit of a better world". The team are hopeful the BBC will commission a second series and allow them to explore the idea further.
"With Carly it was important that we see someone who's more compassionate, who…isn't going to put up with that kind of male aggression you see in the restaurant," Cummings adds.
"If we were to do more [episodes] there's a larger systemic thing [in the hospitality industry] that would be great to address and imagine ways to make it better."
Boiling Point airs on BBC One at 9pm on 1 October and will be available on BBC iPlayer
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