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William Dean confections get another closeup in 'Hunger Games' series

Jack White was inconsolable. The film-set food stylist's painstakingly sumptuous food scenes in Catching Fire, the second movie in the Hunger Games series, were almost all cut.

Just one blip remained: In the capital, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) prepare for the to-the-death games ahead and one of Katniss' compatriots says forcefully, "Try one of these. They're divine."

She eye-rolls with pleasure and holds aloft an orange disk: a perfect pumpkin macaron from William Dean Chocolates in Belleair Bluffs. Owner Bill Brown made five trips to the greater Atlanta area while the movie was being filmed last year, bearing an estimated $3,000 worth of chocolate truffles, nougat, pâtes de fruits and the delicate French sandwich cookies that have certainly been one of the red-hottest trends of 2013. The macarons stayed in the picture.

Brown's confections also had their moment in the limelight in the first Hunger Games film. Seated in a cinema in Largo in March 2012, Brown looked up to see his distinctly formed and decorated port with fig truffle, lemongrass and coconut chocolates. It turns out stylist White, who has worked on more than 85 Hollywood films, had happened upon William Dean Chocolates at the Dean & DeLuca in Charlotte, N.C. (the movie was filmed in Hildebran, N.C., about an hour outside of Charlotte). A friendship was born between White and Brown (not a bad chocolate company name, really).

"I was in France when he emailed me that they were getting ready to do the new film," Brown says. "He asked if I was interested. So I brought up everything we have. Jack told me the director saw the stuff we brought and changed the scene — he wanted to have people carrying things around on silver trays. He must have liked the look of the macarons."

White and his assistants make much of the films' food themselves. For Catching Fire, which pulled in $161.1 million on its opening weekend (the best November movie debut of all time), his team roasted a half dozen whole pigs and Brown says there were at least five 20-foot tables laden with an extravagant feast. In his visits to the cavernous Georgia World Congress Center where Catching Fire was filmed, Brown saw sets for the control room, the victor villages, the train and President Snow's mansion. Alas, much of the food in the 2½ hour movie ended up on the cutting-room floor.

So why did the macarons make the cut?

"A few years ago they said macarons would be the next cupcake," said Brown. "I'm not going to say it's the year of the macaron, but it does seem to be really big now." Indeed there are many cookbooks with full instructions, and famed Parisian macaron maker Laudurée opened an outpost in New York this year.

Brown says he noticed a huge stack of macarons in photos from the Hollywood premiere of the film (not his). But Brown, who opened a second shop at International Plaza this month, reminds customers that this "elitist cookie" isn't the same thing as a coconut-based macaroon. Sweet, meringue-based sandwich cookies are usually filled with ganache or buttercream and flavored with nuts, fruit or other extracts and offered in an Easter egg basket of pastel colors.

The product, the labor, the gas entailed in all those trips to Atlanta — Brown offered William Dean Chocolates to the film free of charge. What's in it for him?

"It was a risk, a roll of the dice. There's only one company in the whole United States to have its chocolates and macarons in both movies. Sometimes you have to put yourself out there. In the scheme of things it's about relationships and connections. We'll forever be tied to the film."

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow her on Twitter @lreiley.

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William Dean Chocolates is at 2790 W Bay Drive, Belleair Bluffs; (727) 593-0656 and williamdeanchocolates.com. A second store is on the lower level of International Plaza near Neiman Marcus.

William Dean confections get another closeup in 'Hunger Games' series 11/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 11:04pm]
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