For Fine Dining Fanatic Paul Feig, Downton Abbey is Like Porn

By Christine Quinlan Posted June 15, 2016

An interview with the writer and director of Ghostbusters.

The writer and director behind some of our favorite comedies, including Bridesmaids and The Heat, is bringing Ghostbusters back to the big screen in July. We talked to the restaurant junkie about the TV shows, bars and restaurants where he gets his fix.

Top Food Town

Boston is my new favorite food city. I did The Heat and Ghostbusters there, so I really got to know all the restaurants. There’s an amazing restaurant called Mare that just moved on to Hanover Street in the North End. It’s Frank DiPasquale’s place and it’s all seafood and oysters. We ate there all the time. There’s also a place, a little more homemade, up on the second floor called Aria. I can’t remember the owner’s name but he’s the nicest guy and it’s all his mother’s recipes.

Chef Crush

I eat out every night, that’s my thing, and I think Barbara Lynch is the best restaurateur in the US. When we were doing The Heat, every time I would go somewhere that someone recommended I would say "wow, this place is so good" and they’d say "oh, it’s a Barbara Lynch restaurant." It just kept happening over and over again, like 6 restaurants and you’re just like "who’s Barbara Lynch?" So I started looking her up and learning her story.

We finally met and just hit it off like a house on fire. We had so much fun drinking and eating. We’ve become pals so this time being back in Boston was just going to all of her places just over and over again, getting to hang with her. She made us dinner one night at her place.

Fine Dining Fanatic

I really love fancy restaurants. A restaurant can never be too fancy for my taste. A 4-hour meal with people constantly changing out my silverware is my idea of absolute heaven. When you’re sitting at La Grenouille in New York and you look around, it’s like a  cross between a Kubrick film and a New Yorker cartoon. The lighting and the flowers and the décor, it’s just beautiful. I’m always trying to figure out how to get that stuff in the movies. Anytime there’s people wearing tuxedos and there’s beautiful food and big hair, that’s when I’m my happiest.

To me the scariest thing would be if we lost fine dining, lost those experiences that are for special events or a romantic evening. I love casual places too, but I don’t want that every night. I want to have an event, to keep the etiquette and manners and protocol alive. I watch Downton Abbey and that’s like porn for me. They look so nice. I don’t always want to look like the guy who owns the restaurant or someone’s lawyer when I’m out to eat, because I’m always in a suit and tie. If the great causal move happening means that we have to lose those other places then I find that to be really sad. It’s not a money thing, I’m not saying people should be eating there every night. You used to save up for a big meal once a year.

Loosening Up in the Kitchen

I liked making really complicated dishes at home. Then I found a few Italian cookbooks that I love. The guy who taught Jamie Oliver to cook, Gennaro Contaldo, wrote a book, Il Passione, that opened everything up for me. It showed the simplicity of ingredients and how to simplify recipes to highlight the food and not the work that went into the making of it. That was a game changer for me. And also Nigel Slater’s Appetite. Because that was all about not getting caught up with exact measurements. I’m such a finicky, anal guy that I would go to the letter of everything in a recipe and wouldn’t deviate, so these books taught me to go a little by instinct and get the basics down.

An A-Ha Food Moment

I grew up with a mom who wasn’t a great cook. She was Canadian and cooked these British dishes that were really bland. My grandmother, who was always presented to me as being the best chef in the world, would make the most flavorless food. I grew up thinking I didn’t like food because if her food is the best, I don’t like it. It wasn’t until my mom took me to a Mexican restaurant by the mall called Chi Chis that I suddenly tasted flavors. It just blew my mind. I never quite recovered from that.  The chimichanga was the first thing I ever had and I was like "what is this? It tastes so good." And salsa! To this day I’m obsessed with chips and salsa.

Not So Tasty Hand Towel

We were in London and went to an amazing Indian restaurant called Benares. I kept seeing servers bring this white thing over to other tables and pour something on it. It would start to raise up, but then I wouldn’t be able to see the rest so I kept thinking it was some type of palate cleanser, like some weird marshmallow. They brought it over to our table and I put it in my mouth and bit down. All this hot chemical tasting water shoots down the back of my throat. The craziest thing is that the guy who poured it is just standing there staring at me. He didn’t intervene. He was just staring with kind of a perplexed look on his face. Eventually you’re like "I can’t chew this, this is not food. It’s a towel!" Immediately I was like, I have to put that in a movie because that is just the dumbest thing ever. 

Big Screen Gross Outs

When we were working on the Bridesmaids script we had a scene where they go dress shopping. Some mishaps happened but they weren’t what we considered to be big enough. So Judd Apatow and I asked each other "what would be terrible if it happened to you? Food poisoning!" So it was less about oh my God, they’re gonna vomit all over the place and more about what can happen in a really lovely setting that everyone is going to try to pretend isn’t happening. We said we’ll shoot it as gross as we can and we may not use any of it but we’ll have it. With 9 test screenings over a number of months we pushed it really far and then pulled it back. It took a while to settle on the exact math of don’t-show-too-much-but-don’t-show-too-little. There was much grosser stuff that we cut out.

TV Food Hero

I’m friends with television producer Phil Rosenthal and I think his show I’ll Have What Phil’s Having is the greatest tribute to great food and a pure love of great food. I’ve known Phil for a while and he’s obsessed with food.  The joy he gets from the smallest thing that he eats that’s good is so pure and so genuine that you can’t not share in that and not want to go immediately to anywhere he’s been. I love that.

Suggestible Viewing

I love watching a lot of Hong Kong kung fu movies, which always make me hungry for Chinese food because there is always some scene in some restaurant with the chopsticks and they’re always picking up these amazing looking dumplings. I’m a very impressionable viewer. The minute someone pours a Scotch on television I immediately have to go and pour a whiskey for myself. I’m not strong.

Pasta for Breakfast

After I wrapped Ghostbusters, my wife and I went to Positano and fell in love with Villa Treville, a small hotel in Franco Zeffirelli’s old mansion. The chefs there will cook you anything, anytime. So I order extra-spicy pasta arrabiata with chicken for breakfast. Because I can!

Favorite Restaurant

Possibly my favorite restaurant in the world is in Capri, called Le Grottelle. There’s only one route there. It’s very steep uphill and then a very sharp downhill. It’s right next to the Arco Naturale. It’s been up there forever and it’s built way up into the top of this cliff and there’s this cave when you go up the stairs and that’s where they have their pizza ovens and where they make the bread. It’s been run by the same family forever. They make the best limoncello in the world. They usually give me a bottle to take with me. They pour it into an old water bottle and I smuggle it home.

Gin Obsessive

I love booze. I’m a big spirits guy. I love gin and I love martinis. A martini is gin—don’t ask gin or vodka. Call it a vodka martini otherwise. I love Hendricks, which is a nice gateway gin. There’s a great one called Sipsmith, which is kind of a step up with more herbals. Oxley is amazing for heavy, flavorful gins and I love Berry Brothers No 3 from London. We’ve just discovered through Phil Rosenthal this gin that comes out of Spain called Mare. The herbals in it are fennel and oregano. It’s so good. Even my wife, who always hated gin, has made it her absolute favorite drink of choice.

Will Travel for Whisky

I’m also very into single malt whisky. I love the Islays, the peatier the better. Laphroaig 15 is my favorite. If anyone wants to buy me a gift, get me a bottle of Laphroaig 15. I also love Lagavulin, Ardbeg and highland style like Highland Park and Glenmorangie. On our honeymoon, my wife and I drove all across the upper highlands of Scotland and went to Isle of Skye to tour a distillery.  

Proper Cocktails

My favorite bar in the world is Dukes in London, the bar at Dukes Hotel. It’s where Ian Flemming discovered the martini and started writing about it in James Bond books. They’ve been making tableside martinis for 100 years. An old cart is rolled over and all the alcohol is right out of the freezer, even the glasses have been frozen, so there is no ice or shaker involved. It knocks you on your ass because it’s not watered down at all. They limit you to 2.

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