Popular primetime TV series “Hannibal” returned to NBC this week, and so did Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s cannibalism. But not all that glitters is gold and not all that glistens is human flesh – at least on the show! The show’s food stylist, Janice Poon, gives an insight on how it’s decided what food will double for specific body parts in Hannibal’s unconventional, exotic cuisine.
Who Is Hannibal?
Dr. Hannibal Lecter – portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen – is the main character in a TV series on NBS, based on a series of popular suspense novels by Thomas Harris.
One of the most interesting aspects of NBC’s “Hannibal” is the incredible amount of attention paid to the meals prepared by the show’s ostensible character. We all know Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a cannibal, but the series presents his obsession in a new light by focusing on the fact that the man is a master of the culinary arts as opposed to a human-eating savage. Oh well, he is a doctor after all!
While the show gets gory, the scenes showcasing food are so well shot and mouthwatering that they resemble culinary masterpieces prepared on some of the best food channels.
How? How Does She… How?!
“I can either rely on my feeble understanding of anatomy or I can ask ‘Dr. Google’ what the dimensions are, what the skeletal structure is, just the general appearance and then I think, okay, what in the grocery store looks like what I’m looking for,” Poon says, explaining her choice of meats and portions. “It doesn’t always have to be meat, sometimes an eggplant will look like what you’re looking for, like a wrist or something. Then you have to know the bone structure. It’s got a tibia, but I need a fibula, or maybe it’s the other way around.” Whoa! As if the ‘food stylist’ title didn’t already smother us!
Poon says preparing for an episode usually involves getting a simple rundown from series show runner Bryan Fuller and receiving input from celebrity chef Jose Andres. “A lot of times, I’ll get a late night email from Bryan saying ‘we need a recipe for a leg, what can we do with this leg?'” She adds that it’s not always easy to convince the show runners that her ideas will work. She once had to send a photo to show runner Bryan Fuller to get the go ahead. “I remember there was some doubt as to whether this shank that I was preparing would actually look like a cow’s leg, so I put a sock on it and a shoe, put it up against my leg and took a picture and emailed Bryan, and they bought it,” Poon said.
Betting On The Butcher
According to Janice, having an extremely cooperative butcher or a guy at the slaughterhouse is key, too. She prefers shopping at ethnic markets, where she gets different cuts that you wouldn’t get at your local grocer.
Poon likes to aim for a balance between appetizing and nauseating when creating dishes. “I want to maintain that underlying threat, I think that’s the key goal, to make it right on that knife edge of really appetizing and really scary. It’s like that excitement of ‘I’d love to eat it, but will it kill me?’ While shooting my favorite thing to hear from the crew is ‘Oh, that looks disgusting, can I try it?’ That’s the reaction I’m going for – something that is so alluring, just like Hannibal himself. We know he’s a monster, we know that he’s just the worst imaginable person, but we love him and it’s inexplicable, so that’s what I’m going for, too.”
Cannibalism sure raises every hair on our flesh but Janice Poon beautifully strikes a balance between gore and appeal. The food stylist no doubt plays an equally vital role as Dr. Lecter in the show and for that we are in complete awe of her!