Five behind-the-scenes secrets of cooking shows
Enjoy watching cooking shows? Whether it’s the standard ones where a host makes a dish, or a competition show, there’s a career in there for you. If you love food and love sharing it with people through television, print, or other media, Centennial College can turn those interests into a career with our Food Media post-graduate program. Even if you’re not the host, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes of the cooking shows you love to watch in both the food and media sense, since they need to run a smooth, well-paced show that’s both entertaining and educational. Cheat Sheet, How Stuff Works and Mashed all spill some of these behind-the-scenes secrets. Let’s pull back the curtain a bit.
There’s a lot that changes in editing
In a competition-themed show, like Chopped, it may look like the judges don’t spend an equal amount of time with each competitor. Really, they spend way more time than it looks, it’s just that all the footage gets cut for timing. According to Cheat Sheet, it can take 14 hours to film a single episode of the TV show Chopped. Similarly, when it comes to contestants, editors and producers want things that’ll play better on TV, and prefer entrants with stories. Anything they can come up with will be the focus of the episode. Finally, some of the Chopped judges have actually complained that the editing makes them seem meaner than they ever meant to be.
Surprise competitions aren’t as surprising as it seems.
There’s another aspect to cooking competitions that’s staged: Nobody’s really going in unprepared. Contestants have hours to get situated in the kitchen to figure out what they’re doing, and what ingredients they have on hand (and many of these pantries are very well stocked). Similarly, “secret ingredient” programs (like Iron Chef) will often tell the contestants what they’ll be long before the ingredient is “unveiled” on the show, so they aren’t totally taken by surprise. Not days in advance, though, just long enough for them to make some basic plans before they start cooking.
All of the prep work is done before the cameras roll
Aside from editing, another method TV chefs use to prepare their dishes in a short amount of time is to do as much as possible before filming begins. Chopping, marinating, whisking, seasoning and anything else time-consuming and not interesting to watch is all done by the show’s team. Cheat Sheet notes that as many as 20 people work on preparing a dish for a cooking show.
An army of stylists will make the dish look perfect
This is why it’s okay when the version you make at home doesn’t look the same. This team includes art directors, food stylists, and assistants that make each plate look flawless. We’ve talked about some of the tricks used by food stylists before (and that’s one possible career you can get out of the Food Media program), most of which make the food look great but be less than edible. This is also why…
The food you see on TV isn’t getting eaten
The chef probably won’t eat the food you see, and neither will the judges, both for their health and because, as mentioned above, it’s probably not edible. Specifically, the food that gets cooked and plated eventually gets tossed. Instead, a new version of the same dish is actually cooked for judges to taste. These are called “swap outs” and can include versions of the dish in different stages of completion.
By Anthony Geremia