The Truth Behinds Red’s Kitchen in Orange is the New Black

Piper's not the only one that thinks prison food is awful.

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Photo: bloximages

In a recent LA Weekly interview, Orange is the New Black’s Kate Mulgrew, better known as the fiery, commanding prison chef Red, talks prison kitchen prep, her character’s love of food, and her personal passion as a cook.

Anybody who has watched the first couple episodes of Netflix’s OITNB knows that soon after Piper finds herself at the federal prison in Litchfield, she insults Red’s cooking, effectively digging her own prison food grave and ensuring that she’s fed kitchen scraps from there on out. While Mulgrew has never gone to prison, she filmed at Riker’s Island in the ’80s and understands that “prison food is appalling.”

“If there’s any nourishment in it, it’s hidden. There’s certainly no flavor. There’s no flavor because it’s … PRISON. You’re being punished. You’re not going to be given good food. On no level are you to be gratified.”

What many viewers probably don’t realize is that the cast is filming in an actual prison, so the food that they eat while on set most likely is, or at least resembles, prison food. Mulgrew goes on to explain, “If there’s any nourishment in it, it’s hidden. There’s certainly no flavor. There’s no flavor because it’s … PRISON. You’re being punished. You’re not going to be given good food. On no level are you to be gratified.” Regardless, her character remains passionate about her kitchen, and takes pride in supplying her fellow inmates with the best meals possible.

Mulgrew also admits to having a personal passion for cooking outside of the show. She divulges her staple dinner party dishes: “If I want a comfortable and happy meal, I’ll cook Italian. If I want an impressive meal, I’ll do French because it can be hard and it’s sauce-based, and that can be quite tricky. For the Italian palate, I can make any kind of pasta, I can do anything with veal, anything with chicken. I make brilliant stews. I make an osso buco to die for.”

It’s interesting to see how such a strong character, who’s always impassioned and defensive in her onscreen kitchen, views cooking in her own life. It also makes us realize that food can always bring people together, no matter if it’s served in a penitentiary or at home.

If there’s anything that Mulgrew has in common with Red —other than her now vibrant red hair—it’s a love and understanding of the culinary arts. When asked if her personal cooking enhances her role as Red, she says, “There’s a pride to cooking, a generosity, and a gratification to it. You’re proud of what you’re producing, you’re generous because you want to feed the people you love…It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s maternal, it’s sensual. Food is life.” Well said, Red.

Check out Orange Is The New Black’s first season on Netflix and head over to LA Weekly for the full interview.

[via LA Weekly]

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