The DaVinci Code Movie
Place de la Concorde metro station in Paris

For those of you who have spent the past three years living with an indigenous tribe in sub-Saharan Africa, you might not have heard of The DaVinci Code. For the other four billion plus of us, we have been inundated with Code media the likes of which have no doubt already seared their iconic status in future business school marketing classes.

The DaVinci Code Movie
Place de la Concorde metro station, before

The French who loathe anything splashy or frivolous (or garrulously American) actually redesigned the Concorde metro station a la DaVinci Code going so far as to repaint, yes repaint!, the station red! Considering they wouldn’t so much as clean the metro stations when the Olympic bid committee came to town, this is quite a statement. So what does the DaVinci Code have to do with cooking, you ask? More than you might think, at least for this little cook.

The DaVinci Code Movie
Looking out to the gates from the chateau entrance

You might remember me mentioning now and again a certain swanky chateau that I cooked at last summer? Well it was none other than the chateau featured in The DaVinci Code! Located about an hour northwest of Paris, the chateau is rented out to families for vacation, to ad agencies for photo shoots and commercials and yes, to movie studios for movies.

The DaVinci Code Movie
Movie production trailers lined one side of the property

As it turns out, Dan Brown’s wife stumbled upon the chateau and decided to use it in their unassuming little murder mystery… Who knew…?! The main character in the novel, Sophie Neveu played by Audrey Tautou, was named after a woman that lived in the chateau in the late 1700s, Sophie de Grouchy, who married the Marquis de Condorcet in the chateau’s chapel. The best man at their wedding was none other than General Lafayette! Once again, who knew…?!

The DaVinci Code Movie
Plaque in the chateau chapel

At the chateau, I cooked for families that rented it for vacation and to call my schedule greuling would be an understatement, making cooking school seem like a walk in the proverbial park. I was up and in town by 7am getting fresh croissants and bread piping hot out of the oven from the local boulanger, then back to set the tables, prepare the fruit, and get the coffee going. Once breakfast was over, I started preparing lunch. After lunch wrapped up around 2 or 3pm, I’d head backing to town to purchase food for dinner.

The DaVinci Code Movie
The chateau lit up and ready to go for the night filming

Once I returned to the chateau, I was frantically chopping, searing, roasting, boiling and more often than not burning until dinner. By the time dinner was prepared, served and cleaned up it was 10 or 11pm and then it was upstairs to plan the next days’ meals and food shopping list. On a good day, I’d collapse in bed around 1am and do it all over again 6 hours later.

The DaVinci Code Movie
The helicopter about to take aerial shots of the chateau

I was also there during the filming of the DaVinci Code movie and it was nothing short of breathtaking to see a blockbuster production kick into action. 300 people, 30-plus trailers, 1 helicopter and a week of filming all for just a few minutes of actual movie footage. How they created the lighting, the misty night air, the duplicate set of gates, the fog was stunning.

The DaVinci Code Movie
Fake gates built over the real ones! They look identical down to the peeling paint.

The scene where Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) drove up to Teabing’s chateau and spoke into the intercom garnered about 20 seconds of airtime but took no less than three hours to film as they had to film it at five different camera angles and each camera required up to five takes. The cool part of seeing the movie was having sat right behind the director while it was being filmed.

The DaVinci Code Movie
Sitting behind the director just before they yell out “Roulant!” (Rolling!)

There were three armoured cars, two Silas the Monk stunt doubles (a rather eerie site), and gallons upon gallons of coffee so everyone could stay awake. Since the action at the chateau took place at night they naturally had to film at night so set up began around 7pm and filming start at 11pm and ran til sun up. I’m not sure exactly what time everyone cleared out as I was usually asleep by 3am. There is just so many times you can watch someone repeat the same five lines into a fake intercom, even if it is the charming, gracious and very funny Tom Hanks….

Tom Hanks on The DaVinci Code movie set around 2am
Tom Hanks on the set of The DaVinci Code

Chateau Cooking, DaVinci Style 20 May,2006Cucina Testa Rossa

  • Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

    What a fabulous, if totally exhausting, experience! So, what sorts of things did Tom Hanks like to eat from your kitchen?

    Hee: Sophie de Grouchy? Is she by any chance related to Oscar?

  • Dianka

    This is absolutely fascinating! I am so jealous! I’m so happy for you and your experiences, how unforgettable. Great pictures.

  • Anonymous

    Quelle Chance ! J’adore cette histoire ainsi que les photos.

  • cucina testa rossa

    thanks steph! sophie isn’t but a few other people at the chateau could easily be! sadly tom didn’t eat his meals from my kitchen as he didn’t arrive until late in the evening. for the crew, there was an enormous tent and 3 catering trailers and the amount of food they cranked out of those tiny spaces was astonishing and delicious. I was in the kitchen testing recipes that week so they would all pop in and taste test but my uber-tart lemon curd seemed to be the favorite. I’ll post the recipe and more food pics from the chateau this week in part 2.

    dianka ~ thank you, it was amazing to be there!

    anon ~ merci beaucoup! c’etait vraiment formidable!


Cucina Testa Rossa

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques Pépin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world’s most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse).

After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques Pépin’s PBS cooking show, “Fast Food, My Way”, Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre Hermé Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie.

In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. “More Fast Food, My Way” should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. Convivialité is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall.

Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!

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