Q&A With ‘STAGE: The Culinary Internship’ Director Abby Ainsworth

Have you ever dreamed of going behind the scenes of one of the world’s most renowned restaurants? Stage: The Culinary Internship, a new documentary premiering today, lets you do just that. The film follows the journey of several stagiaires in the prestigious apprenticeship program at Mugaritz, a two-Michelin-star restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain. It’s a competitive, challenging internship in the eatery founded by Chef Andoni Luis Aduri (who you’ve seen on Netflix’s Final Table) — but will all the stagiaires make it to the end? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

You can check out Stage: The Culinary Internship through lots of virtual screenings, enjoy a great movie, and know that the proceeds are going to help the restaurant industry during these uncertain times. All restaurant workers will receive 25% off for select nationwide screenings. 70% of the special restaurant screenings will go to those employees.

If you’re feeling like dinner and a movie, they’ve got you covered. Stage has partnered with SingleThread Farms for a specially curated menu. It sounds like the perfect Friday night!

Want to know more about Stage? The film’s director Abby Ainsworth was nice enough to take some time out to answer questions via email. Read one to find about more about the documentary!

How did you become interested in following the apprentice program at Mugaritz?

Before landing on Mugaritz we had spent a lot of time doing research on Michelin star restaurants that took in stagiaires. We found that a stage can typically last anywhere from three weeks to three months with about one to five stagiaires working at a time. When we found out Mugaritz houses thirty stagiaires for the nine-month season, it seemed so different from any other restaurant. We also saw that the stagiaires at Mugaritz were given a lot more responsibility such as being in charge of stations, butchering meat, and cooking for guests. While at other restaurants most of the stagiaires were doing menial work, picking herbs or peeling carrots. The stage program at Mugaritz is transformative to a young chef’s career and we wanted to capture that on camera. 

How did you pick which stagiaires that you followed?

We had about eight to start and when we came back for our second production trip a couple had already left. It also came down to who was willing to open up to us and talk openly about their job while they’re working. We thought our four characters all had different backgrounds and ambitions and this mix would show a diverse group of cooks that go through the program. 

What was one of your favorite moments that didn’t make it into the final cut?

The emotional part about editing is that not everything makes the cut. I think we had about 150 hours worth of footage for a 78 minute film. There were some lovely moments between Sara and her friend Ines that didn’t make it in. Also, a character named Oscar who was really driven at the beginning ended up being one of the staigiares who left after the first month. We ultimately didn’t have enough footage of him to make a story line for his character but he would have been a great addition. 

Courtesy Butternut Productions.

Did you get to try any of the dishes at Mugaritz or have dinner there while filming? If so, what was it like?

The producer Lindsay Kutner and I went for lunch the year before we filmed and the Research and Development Chef, Jade, sat with us for most of our meal. It was a little intimidating because some of the dishes really tested our taste buds. I think the best thing we ate was a mochi bite with caviar. The whole meal was an incredible life changing experience. 

A lot of people are cooking during the quarantine/lockdown period. Are you as well and, if so, what is your favorite dish that you’ve made?

I can’t stop cooking and baking. I wake up and before I sit down for work I have to bake a banana bread or Valencia orange cake or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Food = comfort right?! I recently made buffalo cauliflower tacos and gnocchi, which were both a big hit.

Essential Links

Buy Tickets: http://www.stagethedocumentary.com/

Twitter: @StageTheFilm@CargoFilmDocs

Instagram: @stagethedocumentary@cargofilmdocs

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