Industry Spotlight: What is Craft Service?

Industry Spotlight: What is Craft Service?

Sep 16, 2011

Ever watched a movie’s closing credits and found yourself asking what the hell a gaffer or best boy is? Hundreds of people collaborate to make a film, and you’re not alone if you’ve been wondering what some of them do. Our Industry Spotlight feature aims to shed some light on the lesser-known professionals working behind the scenes.

It takes a long time to make a movie. With days regularly approaching sixteen hours, crew members get tired and—more importantly—hungry. While most sets have a catered breakfast at the beginning of the day and a catered lunch six hours later, that isn’t always enough to keep people satisfied.

The craft service department (or “crafty” for short) is separate from catering and serves everything from snacks to hot meals throughout the rest of the shoot day. While that may not sound like much, providing fuel to overworked and under-rested crew members is a huge part of helping people survive filmmaking’s grueling schedule.

Peter Marshark is the owner of J&P Craft, and has been working in craft service since 2001. Since forming J&P Craft in 2006 with his partner Jason, he’s worked on some of the most high-profile films and television shows in NYC. Here’s what he told us about the job. What’s your cooking background, and how did that lead to craft service?

PM: My background in cooking began in 1986 when I attended culinary school. Most of my training came from the kitchens of French Bistros in NYC, and in the early '90s I opened a small gourmet shop called Bread and Butters in Hoboken, New Jersey. In 2001, I was offered to work as a chef for the craft service company on the set of Law and Order. I had no idea what craft service was, but it seemed different and since I was tired of restaurant work, I gave it a try.

In 2006, I was offered help by the producers of a film I was on to start my own company. Bringing in a friend and co-worker as a partner, we started J&P Craft. Our first job was I Am Legend, and since then we’ve grown to four trucks and take great pride in not doing too many jobs at once. What’s your approach to craft service?

PM: Our philosophy has been simple from the beginning. I wanted to take as much as possible of Bread and Butters, my shop/cafe, to the film sets. There was no reason that crafty should just be about candy and donuts all day. We have tried to continue to evolve our food and style to please everyone on set.

We also stick to the belief that too many jobs at once will stretch us too thin and the quality would suffer. That both Jason and I feel strongly about. How many people are on your crew, and what do they do?

PM: Our core crew consists of three. One to manage the set-up, one to prepare fresh foods for the table, and one to help with both. Just like any restaurant, there’s a front-of-house guy and a chef in the kitchen. What does an average work day consist of and what do you serve?

PM: Our day starts with setting up our tables. Breakfast table first with options from granola to nuts, espresso and coffee machines, and fresh juice machines. The first job is to make sure coolers are on set and available to all. While this is being done, our chefs are preparing baskets of fresh pastries, fruit salads, crudité platters and fresh bagels. We offer hot and cold entrees with vegetarian options and special sandwiches and salads to give the crew the option of resting during lunch instead of going to catering.

After the crew comes back from lunch, our table is turned over to more sweets and snacks. Homemade cookies and fruit platters are made and passed around on set, as are homemade hors d'oeuvres and cheese platters. Since the crew is busy working on set, they don’t always have the flexibility to come to the table, so we bring it to them.

Food keeps coming until we wrap. All jobs are different, but our chefs are always ready to prepare special requests for the main talent, producers, or any crew member who might not have gotten a chance to go to lunch. What are some of the highest-profile projects you’ve worked on?

PM: We’ve fed the sets of Salt, The Brave One, Sherlock Holmes, Wall Street 2, The Adjustment Bureau, Arthur, Eat Prey Love, Glee, Gossip Girl, Fringe, Duplicity…too many more to mention. Coolest experience at work?

PM: Duplicity took me with the crew to the Bahamas and set me up with a two-bedroom villa with a kitchen. Awesome! What’s a worst-case scenario on set?

PM: Anything from working in a storm to truck problems. It must be remembered that we cook on our kitchen trucks, and we have to drive and maintain our vehicles. When a truck breaks down and can’t make it to set, the stress level goes way up. Most horror stories are always about the trucks. I can cook anything dead or alive, but I’m not a mechanic. How can aspiring chefs get into this line of work?

PM: It’s not nearly as easy as you might think. You must have a love for it. It’s not a career for making a quick buck. You must forge relationships with UPMs (Unit Production Managers) and crews. I think part of J&P’s success is our good standing with those who hire us. It’s definitely a who-you-know business. Any closing thoughts?

PM: I love cooking. I love to see the people I feed. I love putting some dish out there and saying “Hey, you’ve gotta try this. You’re gonna love it.” I have the respect and love of many, and for that I am grateful. And I give back in the way of food. Food always makes everyone happy.


Peter owns J&P Craft along with his partner Jason. They provided craft service to the upcoming films Tower Heist, The Sitter and Premium Rush, and are currently working on the set of Gods Behaving Badly.

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