Actress Lesley Nicol was in Chicago for a few days minus the white apron and cap she wears in the kitchen of
The U.S. premiere of the theatrical production “Admission: One Shilling” with pianist Inna Faliks is being held in the hall where the free lunchtime Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts are presented by Chicago’s International Music Foundation. Written by Hess’ great-nephew and composer Nigel Hess, “Admission” celebrates Myra’s determination to lift the spirits of Londoners during
When “Admission” premiered in England,
The Chicago rehearsals and performance are a break from a 3-month stint living on the West Coast with her husband and two dogs (a Tibetan terrier and rescue miniature poodle) where the “Downton Abbey” actress was surprised at the number of people who recognized her (even at Costco). While there, the actress added her voice to those of
And while Nicol doesn’t consider herself a cook, she does appreciate the Downton pros around her who keep the whisk and kettle action true. How else would the culinary disaster of a broken hollandaise be saved by a yolk in Season 3?
She’ll be heading back to her West London home soon for the February filming of Season 4 of “Downton Abbey.” But we caught up with Nicol for a chat on goings-on in the kitchens of Downton Abbey. The following is an edited transcript.
Q: So Alastair Bruce, the historical adviser to the show, does he find stuff wrong in the kitchen? (See Bruce tour the kitchen on YouTube)
A: He’s very strict. It’s as simple as this: In (this) season, we’ve got more people in the kitchen because there are more kids around now that the war’s over. And there was a thing where the director said, “So, I think Mrs. Patmore comes in with Daisy, and she’s got a tray...” and Alastair goes, “No!” And we go, “No? No tray?” And he says no, because now we have plenty of staff back, and Mrs. Patmore does not carry the tray. She doesn’t need to carry the tray because there are plenty of people to do that. And you won’t find her doing the menial tasks in the kitchen because she doesn’t have to. Her job is Gordon Ramsay. She’s seasoning, she’s checking, she’s making sure everything is up to speed like a proper chef. ... It’s not carrying a tray. It’s the servant’s role. He’s always looking for detail like that.
Q: Alastair covers people’s behavior, who does what, that sort of thing. What about the food?
A: We also have some very good props guys who are the ones who prepare the dishes, give you the equipment if you’re whisking something or whatever. Luckily one of the prop guys is a chef. So he’s fabulous. But he is a proper chef so fortunately. And I try to avoid doing anything technical so nobody will be able to say well that doesn’t look right. But we were doing something with a sauce, and I just said to him: “What stage are we? What have we done? And where are we at, and what do we have to achieve?” and he would just be able to tell you that.
We also have a home economist who creates those big dishes when there’s a dinner party and amazing elaborate dishes. She brings those in. So if we need to, we can ask her technical questions.
What’s also helpful, they have a couple of working rings on the stove. So that if things are being cooked you will see steam always. ... And if a cup of tea is poured, it will be coming out boiling because they do care about that detail.
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve had in that kitchen?
A: Usually there’s a scene going on that is not about the cooking. Cooking is happening on the side of it. Every time we’re in the kitchen, in order to get the right activity happening and the energy level and the speed of it, we always say, “What part of the day are we in? Have we made lunch? Is this lunch? Where are we?” That dictates who’s doing what and at what speed. As far as the speed goes, Alastair said at the very beginning, which has been really helpful for us, “This is a really, really busy part of the house.