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Chef Scruggs on The Occidental's Movie Moment

[Photos: Courtesy of The Occidental]

Lots of excitement over at The Occidental yesterday. The classic D.C. restaurant's patio, along with those of J&G Steakhouse and Cafe du Parc, were the setting for a scene from the upcoming Captain America sequel, currently being filmed in D.C. Eater caught up with chef Rodney Scruggs to find out how the filmmakers chose the restaurant and what kind of an adventure they had yesterday. In the process, Scruggs also revealed his own secret identity.

So how did this all come about?
This has been an ongoing thing for the last three months, dealing with the Hollywood production companies and the chain of command. We had to get the ownership involved, which is Carr Hospitality. I think probably our patio, along with the other patios on Pennsylvania, are probably the best patios in D.C. I think they wanted an outdoor shoot that kind of personified the Washington area so they approached us. Then we went next door and talked to those folks and negotiations began. We kind of gave them a rough estimate of how much we make each day on the patio at a certain time, and came up with a great number that we both could live with. So it was straight profit for us.

How long were they there?
They started the night before, setting up vans and security. D.C. gets involved in these big projects so they were out there as well, with the bomb-sniffing dogs, and police looking around. They got out there about 5:30 a.m. [Wednesday[ and started setting up all the cameras. The extras had to be there around 7 o'clock and we had to have our patio fully set for service around 8. So a bunch of our guys came in around 7 to set up the patio.

What was the scene like?
It was kind of cool, the mix of extras. Some were in business suits, and other people — I thought this was a nice touch — were wearing Nationals gear. We were trying to do some star searching. I heard Scarlett Johansson was here, whether or not that's true is another story. They asked if we would be ok if they had The Occidental [sign] filmed in, when they came up the stairs whether you could see it, and we said "absolutely." Most people in D.C., you know, don't know that I'm actually the real Captain America. That's off the record of course.

Ha! So are you a fan of the movies or comics or anything?
I'm not sure I'd say I'm a fan, but I like Iron Man, and I like getting out to the movies. The past few weeks have been pretty busy, but now I guess Captain America will be on the top of my list of ones to see. But the whole thing was pretty cool. We had a couple of slight interruptions during the day. We were completely booked upstairs, and they had to stop them for a few minutes for some filming. But in D.C. that becomes part of doing business with so many famous people here, staying in the hotels next door.

So the patio was closed but the restaurant was open?
Yes, we had a lot of private events yesterday. The third floor was totally booked. We ended up doing about 110 covers downstairs in the main dining room. The patio was closed for lunch and dinner. They wrapped up around 6:30.

Could you get a sense of what was going on during the scene they were filming?
There were a bunch of guys in front of the water fountain. My guess was that they were dressed as Secret Service folks, with one individual in the middle. All the extras were just walking, standing around. It was kind of hard to say. We're hoping maybe they messed up so they have to come back.

Has The Occidental ever been in a movie before?
There was one movie recently where they showed the front door of The Occidental. I know we've been mentioned before in the show Boardwalk Empire. Someone asks, "Where's the best burger in town?" and someone says us. We're in a new Geiko commercial. A lot of the times we'll do stuff like this and we don't try to bring a lot of attention to it. But with my being Captain America and all, this was a big deal for us (laughs).

Did you have a chance to be an extra or were you too busy in the kitchen?Yeah, we were pretty busy. The extras actually looked like pretty serious professionals. We were on the top floor and could look down at what was going on and we were like "Boy, the extras actually look like they were doing something." One woman was on her cell phone, then stretching her legs, that kind of thing.

Do you think the shoot might mean a boost in business?
The spot is so beautiful during the season. Weather-wise we couldn't have had a better day for it. So I think word will get out and people will see that; I think it will jog a lot of people's minds that this is such a beautiful place.
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Occidental Grill and Seafood

1475 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004 202 783 1475 Visit Website

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