‘Blue Bloods’: How the Menu at Family Dinners Reflects the Reagan’s Heritage

by John Jamison

If you’ve spent any amount of time watching “Blue Bloods,” you’re likely familiar with the iconic family dinner scene. The show takes its time each episode with the Reagan family for their weekly Sunday night meal. It gives the audience a chance to see everyone together. And more importantly, it provides a way for the characters to learn what the others have been doing.

From the time “Blue Bloods” was first created, the dinner scenes have been central to the show. But their popularity has meant that over time, they have taken on a life of their own. And it’s safe to say that the show has given thought to every little detail. That means the menu doesn’t just feature a random meal. It’s been given a ton of thought beforehand.

The man behind the madness? “Blue Bloods” prop master Jim Lillis. In a 2015 interview with The Virginian-Pilot, Lillis talked about all of the logistics that go into a successful dinner scene. One of the most important aspects is the fare itself. It has to reflect the Reagan family’s Irish roots.

“It’s usually a pot roast, maybe meatloaf, roast chicken with some version of potatoes. Green vegetables. Always dinner rolls. That basically is my mother’s menu, the one I grew up with because I’m also Irish-Catholic,” Lillis said.

Of course, like any American family, the Reagan’s don’t only ever eat meat and potatoes. They have been known to branch out into the exotic world of Italian food on occasion. Examples include spaghetti and lasagna.

But beyond the culturally accurate menu is the effort it takes to make enough food for nine actors who could all end up needing multiple takes.

The ‘Blue Bloods’ Caterer Remembers Making 480 Meatballs for an Episode

“Blue Bloods” shoots on location in New York City. That has been a major selling point for the relative accuracy of the show and has given the show a strong reputation within the actual NYPD.

In holding with that authentic feeling, “Blue Bloods” uses a Brooklyn restaurant as its food source. The BeeHive Oven makes the food in big batches before bringing it to the set. And John Chadwell, the man who runs the catering business, talked about the relationship.

“It’s a really unique challenge. It’s also fun to do,” he said.

But what exactly does the challenge consist of? Well, Chadwell has to provide enough food for up to nine actors that they can use across a handful of different takes. And it’s not like these scenes are filmed quickly. The “Blue Bloods” cast has to eat (or pretend to eat) as if they were having dinner in every take. Sometimes, that means a whole lot of meatballs.

“We made enough meatballs for the nine actors to each do 20 takes,” Chadwell said. Apparently, that meant a staggering 480 of them.