The New York Diet

Eamonn Walker of Cadillac Records Saves His Appetite for Steak au Poivre and Passatelli

“I love to go to …La Vineria and the chef, Max Bartoli … can make your taste buds rise in sort of a joyous way. Photo: Melissa Hom

London-born actor Eamonn Walker was drawn to his career by watching Sydney Poitier’s performance in In the Heat of the Night. Known best for his role of Kareem Said on the HBO prison drama Oz, the actor recalled when Poitier “slapped this white plantation owner … and the look in the man’s eye — what makes you think you have the right to do that to me only because of the color of my skin — I understood it at 9.” Walker plays blues singer Howlin’ Wolf in Cadillac Records (out today), but he’s here in New York shooting the new NBC series Kings, a David-and-Goliath riff set to premiere in March. Walker shared his New York–and–movie–premiere diet with us this week.

Saturday, November 29
[For] breakfast I had poached eggs and salmon on crumpets in my local cafeteria in Bed-Stuy. Because I’ve been on this campaign trail for the movie since Saturday, I’ve been eating very little. And then I saved up for dinner.

I have two favorite restaurants. The Italian one I love to go to is La Vineria. I’ve been following [chef Max Bartoli] from place to place because he can make your taste buds rise in sort of a joyous way. He does this wonderful antipasto with prosciutto and cherry tomatoes and olive oil, and then he’s got this branzino he’s cooked within this salt bread cast and sort of steam-baked in the oven, so when he cuts it open, you’ve got this very delicate, flaky flesh that melts on your tongue. I drink whiskey mainly, but they always start me out with Prosecco, then I moved on to Glenfiddich 12. Then the main course I had was a passatelli alla crema di zucca e Pecorino, this kind of pasta that is soft and crunchy at the same time. It sits in a bed of butternut-squash purée with Pecorino grated on top — kind of simple and kind of exquisite. He put out a dessert for me because he’s good with chocolate. I’m like, “Dude, you know I can’t do the chocolate soufflé thing, I’m on TV.” Fluffy, and kind of light, but lashings and lashings of chocolate so literally I have a spoonful and then my friends who I’m with will normally finish it.

Sunday, November 30
Sunday morning it was hoops, honey-nut hoops with whole milk, and I drink cappuccinos. The Cheerios will get me through most of the day because we’re running around doing publicity most of the time.

For dinner we went to the restaurant in the Gramercy Park Hotel, Wakiya. I had the dim sum pork soup dumplings. And when you bite into it, the soup drips into your mouth — I love that feeling. I have a penchant for steak and peppercorn sauce, and they had that on the menu but an Asian version of it. It’s thinly sliced, very delicate meat and the peppercorn sauce. It was good. And white rice. I liked [the restaurant] fine. The very first time I went in there when they first opened, I think I had that image in my head. This meal on Sunday was good but could’ve been better. I think the love and the artistry of the cooking was missing. I cook sometimes at home, and I know it’s the love you put in; it’s in your hand. I had my normal whiskey, single malt, Lagavulin with two cubes of ice and I sip that throughout the evening.

Monday, December 1
Monday morning was the premiere of Cadillac Records and started bright and early with interviews with about 40 to 50 journalists. I turned up at the hotel and they sat me in front of my makeup person and it was like, off we go, and “Do you want breakfast?” and I went “Uh, yes.” Somebody went and got me some scrambled eggs and sausages from the hotel. I didn’t finish it; barely had time. I think I got two mouthfuls in.

And then I was there all day. I was there at 8:30 and left at 6:05. The premiere started at 7. There was a point when lunch turned up and there was Cobb salad, but I actually just needed to close my eyes and take a minute to myself. I didn’t eat lunch that day.

And in the evening, I didn’t eat. I was too nervous. Afterward a friend took me out, I was sort of in a daze, I don’t know where it was, and they were sitting and eating and I had a couple of handfuls of fried calamari. Literally, we had come out of the Loews, went to the after-party, and it was close to that. So no real food Monday. It happens when I’m on the run; food gets missed. There’s a certain amount of nerves. You put all that work in, and now it’s going to be judged; you want people to like it. It was such an honor to work with a cast of that caliber, so I want everybody to like the whole thing and this is the first time you’re letting the audience see the choices you’ve made. And that’s brutally honest, look at that.

Tuesday, December 2
The morning after the premiere, I lay in my bed rewinding the night before. Got up to do some work in the afternoon. Picked on some hummus and pita bread.

In the evening I went to Un Deux Trois, which I discovered a few years ago when I did Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington and the restaurant welcomed the cast in and they fed and watered us. Every day I went there. And I made a friend; the maître d’ is José Lozada. My favorite dish there is what I went for — because I was hungry by now — and I wasn’t after anything delicate or subtle. I wanted some good ol’ steak. They cook the perfect steak in peppercorn sauce. It comes with fries. This peppercorn sauce, I have tried it all over the world looking for this experience. And that night I had a single malt, Talisker, with two cubes.

Wednesday, December 3
Breakfast on Wednesday, I had my Cheerios with milk. When I’m training, I have a banana. But these last four or five days I haven’t been to the gym, so not much fruit has gone in.

I didn’t eat till evening. I was working on the script of Kings at home.

For dinner, I went back to La Vinera and I asked for exactly the same thing. And this time no dessert. And the Glenfiddich. So, a creature of habit I guess.

Eamonn Walker of Cadillac Records Saves His Appetite for Steak au Poivre