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Location caterers are cleaning up these days, thanks to increased film and television production in and around Los Angeles. San Fernando Valley caterers who specialize in studio and location shooting say their revenues have soared in the past two years. They are adding staff and trucks. Some are even turning business away. “Business has been booming for the last three years,” said David Sanfield, owner of North Hollywood-based Deluxe Catering, whose culinary credits include “Titanic” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” “More films means more opportunity for business. It’s automatic.” Sanfield said he has seen his business grow from an estimated $1.5 million in revenues in 1994 to $3 million in 1997. Sanfield has even had to rent extra catering trucks to meet the increasing demand. Steve Michaelson, owner of Sun Valley-based Michelson’s Food Service, said he sends out all 18 of his trucks on a daily basis and is forced to turn business away. “Last year was the best year we ever had,” said Barbara Peltola, owner of Chatsworth-based Gourmet Chabar Inc. Peltola, who said she also has had to turn business away, reports that her sales increased by 25 percent in less than 12 months. She hired a new chef to beef up recipes and added another catering truck. In 1993, feature filmmakers clocked 6,965 production days in Los Angeles. By 1997 the number of shoot days jumped to 13,284, according to the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. Television production days jumped to 11,713 in 1997 from 6,275 in 1993. “There has been a pretty significant growth over the years,” said Cody Cluff, president of the EIDC. “Every entertainment related business has gone from being very slow to extremely busy.” “(Business) has really picked up,” added Michael Stravino, owner of North Hollywood-based Michael’s Epicurean Inc. “There are better deals being cut to keep people shooting in Los Angeles. It has been great.” Based on union rules, cast and crew must be fed every six hours. That means about 100 hungry mouths for a typical television production like the CBS drama “Michael Hayes” or up to 1,000 for the movie “Titanic.” Chefs in charge of the trucks begin preparations two hours before a shoot begins. Sometimes they rise at 4:30 a.m. to get started. Cooks have to be prepared for sudden changes in the shooting schedule food has to be ready at a moment’s notice. Companies have to stock an array of items to appease finicky taste buds. That ranges from low-cal sushi and steamed vegetables for the stars to barbecued beef and pasta for the crew. “You are trying to please as many people as possible and at the same time accommodate their changing needs,” said Michelson. Special requests are part of the routine. Kelsey Grammer loves pasta but is allergic to wheat, so Michelson, who feeds NBC’s “Frasier” show, makes special noodles out of garbanzo beans or beets. Jean-Claude Van Damme is sometimes under doctor’s orders to eat small amounts of protein throughout the day. Companies are paid a premium to cater to these tastes. The going rate can range anywhere from $15 a person for productions with smaller food budgets to $30 a person for big productions. That means a small commercial shoot might generate $21,000, but a full-scale feature production can bring in more than $200,000. “The film industry allows you to make a lot of money,” said Michelson. But with more than 40 location caterers in the Valley alone, competition is fierce. Like elsewhere in the entertainment industry, it’s all about who you know and how well you did on your last performance. And some caterers say the hardest part of their job is making the right connections to assure they’ll be hired onto the next job. “You are only as good as your last meal,” said Charlie Goldstein, executive vice president of production at Los Angeles-based Twentieth Century Fox. “Most of the time we make the decision on relationships we have had in the past with people. Other times actors or producers have certain caterers like to use exclusively. It’s nepotism.” “It can be never ending,” said Michelson. “But it’s worth it.”

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