This is what cooking really looks like on TV

The film crew are filming the episode of "Diners, drive-in and dives"

Photo: Gordon Chibroski / Portland Press Herald (Getty Images)

Before doing Takeaway meals at home, I spent a lot of time preparing it for television. My bright, shiny face has appeared regularly in Food Network’s big universe (including one hellish experiment on Chopped). I filmed cooking segments that were shown around the world. When Nick Lachey hosted a morning show on VH1, I used to show up every few weeks to make his sweetest dreams come true. (He told me I was his favorite guest, and why would Nick Lachey lie?)

Like everything on TV, cooking in front of a camera is not the same as cooking in real life. You are not preparing food; you do entertainment. Here are some of the behind-the-scenes secrets I learned along the way.

Cooking on TV can be boring

My husband and I owned a semi-famous bakery that never appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but he appeared on a few other shows that followed the exact same format. Our segments lasted approximately 3 to 4 minutes and each took between 8 and 12 hours to film. How is it possible? I barely remember it, because I was so bored that my brain didn’t bother to record backstage footage to come back to it later.

My husband, on the other hand, has a photographic memory for the smallest details and remembers everything. He regaled me with a compelling story about our appearance on the Cooking Channel Unique meals, and how it took us 15 minutes to film a three-second snippet of honey bourbon caramel slowly dripping from a spoon. We filmed about 25 more of those “cash shots”, as the director called them, featuring things like a drizzle of ganache and heavy cream pouring into a bowl. Great slowly. Yes, it was tedious, but I have to admit the final cut was incredibly erotic.

The “reality” is not that real

I’m sure you already know (at least I hope you know), but if you didn’t know that reality TV isn’t true to reality, well, I’m sorry to report the bad news. These shows are unscripted, which means that instead of a script, the (mostly unpaid) talents have their producer-driven dialogue. Before shooting unscripted shows, a participant like me has to fill out pages of questionnaires so that the producers get to know me without ever meeting me in person; once on set, you and the producer (s) quickly become friends. They’re always offscreen, asking questions about your life story, guiding your narrative where they want it to be, and on occasion, feeding you straight lines.

But sometimes the “reality” is very real

On television, everything is tightly controlled by a bunch of costumes that are beholden to the advertisers, so if something very hilarious happens in real life, it probably won’t be part of the “reality” programming. Online, however, is a different story for independents and networks; because the demographics are younger and more hip, and cool kids are all about lulz, networks can let more stuff go.

If you are good friends with your costars you can do some serious TV magic, as you are not under strict orders not to mess around, and no matter what, no network can quench the heat of real chemistry in the world. food. Meanwhile, if you’re on a set full of strangers, being warm, generous, and friendly with each person on both sides of the camera can make things ‘click’, which turns an in-between kitchen segment into the kind of. something you ‘d be proud to show your kids.

People love to see you fail

I love doing live TV, precisely why most people hate it: it can easily go off the rails, and once it does, you have no choice but to do with. I actually pray that something will end up going wrong on the air, because it’s entertainment, baby. Who wants to watch someone cheerfully prepare a salad? Anybody. Who wants to see a salad explode in flames on live television? Everybody. As long as you keep your cool and play the cards that are dealt to you, the audience will eat them. And if they find your failures funny enough, you might very well be asked to humiliate yourself on TV again.

It’s not always glamorous

We shot a spot at the bakery on a 100 degree day in mid July, and we weren’t allowed to turn on the air conditioner because it was too loud and the hair and makeup situation became a lost cause . In the finished segment, we both looked like we were stepping out of the rain, my naturally wavy hair having grown six sizes and my husband’s hair stuck to his scalp in sweat. My lipstick has melted, my eye makeup has dissolved. When the segment aired, we noticed white spots on Matt’s tall red beard and realized that they were actually tufts of white lint from the towels they used to wipe his face between takes. . Hollywood, you have our number.

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Karl M. Bailey

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