Like pretty much everything on TV, things aren't always as they appear, and that is definitely the case when it comes to cooking show and food commercials. Those who work behind-the-scenes to provide the feast for the eyes reveal what really goes down when the camera's aren't rolling.
We All Scream For….Lard And Mashed Potatoes??
“My office has food photographers going at all times. Most of the fresh foods (meats especially) aren’t actually cooked, they’re spot-cooked and dressed up with oils and paints to look prettier, then they sit under the studio lights for hours being photographed. As much as I love meat, even I won’t eat that s–t. Plus, the ice cream photographs are really just carefully colored mashed potato mixed with lard.”
I LOVE THIS SPAGHETTI CARBONARA.
“I worked for a caterer in Chicago that would be asked to prepare guest star’s favorite recipes to be served en-masse on the Oprah show. I made pancakes for Harry Connick Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Miso Crusted-Cod and most famously Tom Cruise’s grandmother’s Spaghetti Carbonara. [The latter] sticks in my memories because the call came in when a bunch of staff was on vacation, so It was just me on the job. They requested enough for 360 guests, plus the Mise en Place for Tom to demo it. When I read the recipe I went into apoplexy as his recipe was flawed. He had stated that the beaten eggs be poured into the sautéed olive oil/bacon/anchovies then stirred into the pasta (which would result in scrambled eggs). Normally the eggs are mixed in after the pasta is added. So I am faced with a dilemma. Do I make the recipe his way so that the audience gets the same messed up preparation or do I make it the right way and show up the BIGGEST star ever on a major client’s very popular show? The Populist in me won. Screw Tom Cruise. [I made it the right way], packed everything up and sent it off to the show. And sure enough, he starts sautéing the olive oil, garlic, anchovies and bacon til everything melts down then he adds the eggs and scrambled eggs! He’s like ‘Uh OH!, That’s not right?!?’ and Oprah pulls out a bowl of MY SPAGHETTI CARBONARA and he says ‘Oh yeah, THAT’s what it is supposed to look like!’ And I’m jumping up and down and screaming and yelling, fist pumping.”
That’s The Way To Do It.
“All the food that isn’t used from Master Chef Australia gets donated.”
Whatever It Takes For That Money Shot.
“My parents own a film company where they shoot food for commercials for A list brands. I’ve seen bread dipped in wax so it doesn’t deflate while on set, tomato slices filled with gelatin so the middle parts with the seeds don’t leak liquid, and people sorting through thousands of flakes of cereal to find the perfect ones to fill a bowl with. My bro also worked on a show where contestants had to make wacky food dishes and he was the one that wound up having to make them look pretty for camera, which meant rearranging the food on the plates, spritzes of oil to make elements glisten and a whole lot of other stuff that basically would make it inedible irl.”
Even The Best Chefs Need Some Help Behind-The-Scenes Help.
“My brother was a sous chef for his boss on a popular food competition show. He said the secret ingredient was revealed a few hours prior to filming and the chefs sat down with their sous chefs and made plans ahead. My brother also said he spent a lot of time prior to filming doing prep work, like breaking down meats or chopping vegetables, boring things the camera won’t want to focus on to save time.”
You Got To Be Clucking Kidding Me.
“I work in commercial production, which means a lot of commercials for restaurants and what not. We were doing a Wendy’s commercial where they were throwing away the sandwiches every few takes and replacing with new ones. That’s when someone on set told me it was nothing compared to a chicken placed commercial he had worked on. The shot involved a whole bunch of chicken on a large grill. And they would film the grill when they turned the flames up to 11. Looks cool, but it is an excellent way to burn the shit out of the chicken while leaving it raw on the inside. And you can only do that shot a few times before the chicken is too blackened. He said that there were bags and bags of this chicken thrown out by the time they were done.”
Ain’t Nobody Got Time For Dat.
“Worked as a production intern with a network involved with food and as you can probably imagine there is a s–t-ton of waste involved. What people probably don’t realize is that these amazing chefs make mistakes just like normal people. They burn s–t, they undercook s–t, they drop entire trays of food on the ground. Whenever a f–k up occurs, they have to cook the food all over again. When they want to stage shots of just the food on its own ‘the hero shot’ they have an intern make a duplicate of the meal which just has to look good on the surface. They then spray it with an aerosol can of some ungodly preservative to make it ‘stay.’ You could come back a year later and it would still be camera ready. Any and all food made on these shows ends up in a big ass trash can while everyone on set has to bring their own lunches. In a perfect world we would’ve driven the leftovers to a homeless shelter or something but this is TV baby, ain’t nobody got time for dat.”
You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too.
“I worked on a cake decorating show for a season and every day we had to throw out the 3 50lb cakes that the contestants had just spent the last 8 hours decorating. Because they were sitting under the studio lights for so long they were no longer safe to eat so we couldn’t give them away. It was painful to see all that waste but it was also a lot of fun to tear apart giant wedding cakes at the end of the day.”
She Really Is A Sweet As She Seems On TV.
“My mother in law works for Ina Garten and the Barefoot Contessa. She often brings home food and other employees do as well. Last week I had brisket, so look for a brisket episode in the future.”
Some People Do Dumpster Dive For Their Meals…
“I direct a lifestyle show and we have chefs on every day. About 90% of the time whatever they cook for the segment doesn’t get finished in the time they have allotted, so it ends up in the trash after we cut. The rest of the time our host usually takes a bite on tape, then the crew will share whatever is left over, which usually means one dish being split up by a dozen or so people. One time we had a local bbq joint on the show. They brought a bunch of amazing brisket, sausage, rib meat and pulled pork and after they put everything together for the segment there was still a ton of stuff left over. The entire crew was whispering over headsets about how surely they were going to leave everything for us and how amazing it all looked. Then, suddenly, the chef slid all of that delicious meat into a wash basin and dumped it all in the trash. I won’t lie, the thought of digging it out of the garbage crossed my mind.”
No Need For A Doggy Bag.
“Worked on a pretty popular cooking show here in Quebec, the food is eaten by all the staff members, most of the time. Weirdest thing, or at least anecdote: The whole show was filmed inside the beautiful house of the owner, who also happened to have 2 dogs. Those two were usually kept in the basement, but one day, somehow everyone forgot to put them downstairs. So here we are, in the middle of the shoot and the dogs come running. The host played it super well though and just pretended it was part of the show. He said ‘we have two special guests today, who are here to taste the food for us!’ He gave them some and they kept asking for more, so he claimed, ‘based on the tasters reaction, it might be the best dish I have ever cooked.'”
They Call It Eating With Your Eyes For A Reason.
“My BIL works for a major cooking channel. All of the food is thrown away and each dish is made several times. So there is a lot of waste. If it’s a contest style show the judges don’t eat the version that you see cooked and plated. That version is thrown away and a new version is cooked specifically for them to eat. Then they take 2-3 bites from a plate and throw the rest away. Many of the final versions are inedible because they have been painted or sprayed with chemicals to make them pretty.”
This Is The Show To Work On.
“Ok best part about working on set of a food competition show: taking home fresh ingredients. One night I took home a pound of cherry stone clams, half a pound of red royal shrimp and a pound of head on jumbo prawns. Next night I took home 2 pounds of mussels and a live lobster. Also, lots of cooking equipment after we wrap. It’s awesome.”