You may know Manish Dayal from Tv shows like the new 90210 or Switched at Birth. I feel like his role as Hassan in 100 foot Journey is his breakout role. You fall in love with him as a character and I think the whole room fell in love with him during the interview. He’s down to Earth, super cute, and has a passion about this film. Here’s a bit from our interview:
Q: Do you cook in real life?
Manish: So I’ve been getting that question a lot lately. What I would say is no. [LAUGHTER] But, I’ve definitely learned a lot about cooking. In the movie it wasn’t so much about learning how to cook but more just how to like understand kitchen culture. We had to understand how to chop and where to stand and how to move and how to make sure that all of the dishes were effectively made. I think like that was sort of the challenge in terms of learning kitchen etiquette and stuff like that for the film.
Q: How did you get attached to the project?
Manish: It was a really, really funny story actually. I mean I don’t know how much time we have to tell you the whole story.So I went in for a voiceover audition for an animated feature that DreamWorks is doing. Then that day I went in one of the people that sort of first sort of spotted me was Leslie Feldman. She’s the casting executive over at DreamWorks. We ended up having this great conversation the whole time we were in this audition, not auditioning just talking.
Then that night I get a phone call sort of, uh, asking if I’d come back in and read for a different project. They wouldn’t tell me the name or anything about it. I did, of course. I found Steven Spielberg was involved.So I was like holy shit. [LAUGHTER] He’s like a childhood hero of mine, which I’ll talk to you about later. Anyway, so I go into this this room and I ended up reading a scene I think 38 times. I must’ve read it trying it every different way you can imagine.
Then those tapes went to Steven, and Oprah. I found out that they were very excited. I went in for more meetings and sort of an interview and then more meetings and more meetings over the course of four and a half months. Then I met Lasse Hallström in New York who ultimately I think signed off. I got a phone call the next day saying that Steven wants to hire you. And that’s how it happened. It was a long, long crazy amazing entertaining experience.
Q: It’s such a passionate film. Did Chef Floyd do the actual cooking on set?
Manish : Oh, there were so many chefs on set. I mean there were Indian chefs. There were French chefs, all over the place. Floyd came in towards the end of the process. Ultimately it was a combination of many different chefs, many different cooks in the kitchen if you will. Especially because we as you saw, we traveled through about four kitchens in the movie. We begin in India. And then we go to a classic French kitchen in the south of France and then we move to a molecular kitchen in Paris. So it definitely travels
Q: What’s it like working with Helen Mirren?
Manish: First I should tell you that she’s hilarious, and she has a very, very, crass sense of humor. I think that’s something we had a lot in common. So we ended up just laughing all the time. She was telling me stories about, you know, her life and how she got started in this business. So it was good to sort of learn from her. Also when we were working I could see like how she prepares, what her process was like.
It was an amazing experience. She also told me something that I won’t forget, which was when you pick movies to do you should just pick them based on how much fun you’re gonna have. So I thought that was really good advice. So, yeah.
Q: What was most surprising about food culture? What do you hope audiences will take from this?
Manish: Ok, that’s a good question.I went into it thinking that the French culture and the Indian culture are completely different. There’s nothing about these two cultures that are similar, until I started working on the movie and really sort of, you know, living with these people who were making the movie. I realized they’re actually distinctly similar unlike any other culture in the world because of their appreciation for food. They both have this sort of like razor sharp appreciation for it that I don’t think any other culture has that I’ve been a part of.
The interesting part about that is that a French kitchen is really structured. It’s very formulaic. There’s a formula for everything. There’s a way to do everything and there’s a way to stand. Everyone has a skill in the kitchen and you know your skill by not going beyond your skill. So there’s a hierarchy there that’s really respected. It’s really quite amazing to watch how everyone follows the rules. It’s like sort of perfect. The level of respect you have chef, it’s really insane.
Then in an Indian kitchen, it’s not like that at all. It’s about who’s ever, however you’re gonna get this thing cooked, and how are we gonna make it happen? Both, you know, yield great tasting food, but the cultures in these kitchens is so different. That’s one of the most interesting things I learned. They still have the same sort of razor sharp appreciation for cooking and food. It’s just done in a very different way, yeah.
Q: What foods evoked memories of home?
Manish: Well, two things… Of my mom, grilled cheese sandwiches. Nobody can make a grilled cheese sandwich like my mother. It’s this one thing. She didn’t do it often growing up. But I remember when she did it it was always late at night for me and my siblings. If we were hungry she would make grilled cheese sandwiches. She makes them perfectly. It is something that she does that I really sort of love. Then also, Indian-wise, she makes rice and daal, which is a very simple thing, but everybody makes it differently. That thing about daal is that it is, depending on where you’re from in India where your family originates, daal is a uniform dish. But everybody cooks it differently. Like where I’m from, where we’re raised, which is also where the Hagi’s are also– originate in the movie, they put sugar in it. So to me daal should be sweet. But to a north Indian it shouldn’t be, you know? And for us it’s also runnier. And in the north it’s thicker. It just depends. You know, everyone makes it differently.
But that’s something that my mom makes. I’m actually going home tonight. I haven’t been home in a while. So hopefully she’ll have it.
Q: What was your favorite dish on set?
Manish: The beef bourguignon. That was good. I killed it. [LAUGHTER] I ate so much of it that day. And I remember it was a scene that I was shooting before lunch broke. Afterwards, I couldn’t even eat lunch I ate so much of it. It was really good.
Make sure you check out my 100 Foot Journey of my own at the Le Cordon Blue School and the yummy Parisian Mumbai Salad inspired by the movie.
***Disclosure: I attended the #100FootJourneyEvent My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney All opinions are 100% mine. ***