The Scavenger Life

When one hasn’t been paid by one’s job in 7+ weeks, the Scavenger Life develops. My food bill for the month is something like $50-75, depending on how much I eat outside. Which is very rare, this maybe happens once a week. If that. Lucky for me, this workplace that doesn’t pay me DOES pay for most of my daily caloric intake!

Much of my survival is thanks to CLIENT FOOD, the tastiest and most valued of foods. In a studio, the client is KING. He or she is royalty, and deserves the absolute best – usually there are even workers whose sole duty is to wait on the Clients every whim, 24 hours a day. That’s right, even when they’re not physically in the studio! I happened to work at a world famous food director’s studio, so when they cook breakfast, it’s the most amazing breakfast food I’ve ever tasted. Crispy, flat strips of bacon. Both lean and fatty versions. Chicken sausages, crispy hash browns, biscuits that are crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It’s magical. Besides that, there’s always fresh fruit – bananas, large slices of cantaloupe, honey dew, grapefruit, strawberries flown in from Mexico….the works. Peaches, however, are of the yellow and canned variety. I stay away from that. There’s eggs made to order, but that’s most certainly a Client-exclusive thing. Not open to scavenging.

Scavenger Breakfast A: Luxury Set

For breakfast, I’ll time my day to arrive at 10:00AM sharp; that is when breakfast’s last call is put in. By 10AM, the Clients have already eaten their fill, and I’m free to dive in, grabbing all the leftover bacon (and I mean all of it, not a lot but ALL OF IT), two chicken sausages, biscuits, hash browns, and wedges of cantaloupe. Clients don’t seem to be very fond of bacon, hash browns, or non-citrus fruits. I find this strange, but don’t argue with it because I LOVE bacon, hash browns, and non-citrus fruits. Strangely enough, my coworkers only select a bagel and wad of cream cheese/jam to eat for breakfast. Come on, people, don’t you know saturated fat is good for you? Whatever happened to the hearty American Traditional Diet?

Client breakfast is my favorite kind of breakfast. It’s the most filling and really helps me power through the day.

But usually, I have…

Scavenger Breakfast B: The Usual

Clients only come in maybe 2 weeks out of a month, and even then it’s not a full week each time. So my usual breakfast consists of…..Coffee. Free coffee from the coffee machines. It’s usually pretty decent stuff that the workers put on there, but the worst time to get coffee is if they’re shooting Dunkin’ Donuts. Sorry, chain restaurant of my childhood afternoon snacks….I just really don’t like your coffee. It’s way too bitter, and coffee shouldn’t be that bitter. Not the good stuff, at least. I’m turning in to a bit of an elitist with coffee now, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. GOOD coffee is not bitter, has anti-oxidants, and since it tastes great…I don’t ever feel the need to add in sugar!!!!! I still put in milk, because I like the way it looks. Just 1/8 of the cup, whole milk, enough to make it more pale.
As simple and perhaps even as possibly unhealthy as it sounds, this is my main breakfast. Coffee and a hint of whole milk. The fats in the milk help keep me full, I like to think, and coffee is a known hunger suppressant. This usually keeps me going for another 1.5 to 2 hours without food. 37 calories total, if I finish my cup. Usually I don’t, so it’s more like 19 calories.
On some days, there’s fruit downstairs! Yay!!! That’s when I grab a banana to eat. Despite my slight allergy (I get itchy lips from eating them), they’re delicious and keep me going an additional half hour of the day. There was one rare day that we had tons of mini guavas…my stomach was so happy….it’s great being able to just eat EVERYTHING. Skin, seeds, meat, all of the fruit. It’s a very refreshing and crisp taste.


I’m lucky enough to work in a place that pays for my lunch order! The downside is this means we are always ordering restaurant food to eat, which is unhealthy in and of itself. Less walking, more butter tucked in to everything. But the food in the area tastes pretty good; my one downpoint is there is a huge lack of good Asian food. There is one “okay” Thai place that everyone seems to love…and their soup is good….but I hate how sweet tasting their peanut stuff is. Like….pad thai should not be that sweet….it’s gross. But everyone else loves it. I may just have a very low tolerance for sugary stuff. This usually works to my dietary/health/weight advantage…I guess…

Recent Lunch Scavenging: This past Friday, we were out at another company’s studio to drop off some footage. It was an ad agency near Union Square, this HUGE office with cubicles and everything. I navigated my way to the kitchen, and found a big brown paper bag just torn open and overflowing with carb goodness. Bagels, toast, whole grain breads, rye, any kind of bread you can think of flowed out. I stood next to the table and ate all the slices of French Toast. Then I went over and tried to rip a banana out of the banana bunch. Except doing so just ripped the tops off all of the bananas. Then the banana I was holding snapped in half under the weight of the tops of the bananas it was still stuck to. Completely embarrassed that I just broke everyone’s bananas to pieces, I quickly ran off with just one of the broken bananas, back to my desk.

Never to return.

There wasn’t any more French Toast anyway. Also, it was a banana of weak stock – the flavor was incredibly mild and it barely made me itchy. No wonder they broke so easily!


Again, this is where Client Food becomes my savior. Although there are usually drawers full of snacks at work, downstairs in the kitchen area, I don’t eat from them very much. Most of it is cookies, biscuits, chocolate, candies, things like that which aren’t very good for you. I went through a brief stint of eating all the Fig Newtons, which they never re-stocked. Then I finished the Oreos over a course of several months. There are dark chocolate covered acai berries that taste pretty good, but they all amount to nothing when compared to CLIENT CHEESE.

My favorite snack is when Clients are around, so they bring out the CLIENT CHEESE. This happens in the evening, around 5pm or so. Workers slice up some cheese wheels of different varieties…but almost always they will have some hard, pungent, delicious (raw milk??) cheddar. I love cheddar. Not the supermarket stuff, but the aged white ones that make your breath smell like a swamp pit. They usually slice up some salami with it too, which also tastes amazing. So whenever there is Client Cheese, like last Thursday, I’ll sneak around to the kitchen. Then I stand around with an empty mug in my hand, and wait. I wait for the clients to turn their full attention to the filmmaking magic…when the house lights dim, the spotlights burst open, and the director yells “ACTION”. That’s when I swoop in, grabbing chunks of cheese blocks by the handful, tossing them in to my mug. I then scamper away towards the back, to go around in the maintenance passage where no one will see me and my precious.

But I am not a selfish scavenger. When I make my way back upstairs to our lofted prison workplace of perpetual fried food smells, I share the Client Cheese with everyone.

Client Cheese is too good to keep to yourself. You NEED to have someone else experience its glory with you.


As for dinners….I just eat what we have at home, usually. If I go out, this is where I actually spend money. And if I were single, you can bet I’d be going on dates for free dinners :( Not that it would be the only reason to date, but it would definitely be an added bonus. I’m just glad I live near Chinatown – fresh produce for cheap, and whole ducks for $11.

Getting Caught

This has only happened to me once or twice in the past, during Client Breakfast. I did not yet realize that I should be waiting for the 10AM mark, and had tried to take some of the bacon before all of the Clients had already eaten. And I got a real talking to…the chef scolded me for my scavenging ways. It’s very embarrassing, so one must be very careful not to get caught. One must be on top of the schedule. One must always wedge oneself between Last Call and the moment they toss all that good food in to the trash. Such a waste, right? So I might as well eat everything I can before that happens. Right?


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