Over the month of July we (the crew at Clerisy Entertainment and myself) filmed a 6 episode cooking show pilot. During the development stages, Dale Stevens, the producer and director, emphasized the show would be ‘host driven’; how I cook, tell stories, look and feel in the kitchen would drive the theme and tone of the show. Well. As host, that meant I had to figure out, or awaken, ‘how I cook, tell stories, look and feel in the kitchen’. It’s a funny thing to brand yourself. We go about our lives, living. Rarely do we stop and ask, who am I, and how do I want to be perceived? It’s an important question in the world of performance television. If you get it wrong, the whole thing looks contrived. Fake. Dishonest.
There are many styles of cooking. Precise. Focused. Anal. Carefree. Practical. Functional. Wild. Robotic. I applaud it all. Just get into the kitchen. But what brought me in there? I went to cooking school. I’ve written cookbooks. I’ve styled food for photography. I teach students how to cook. But how do I bundle all that up into a clean, smart package, where the authentic “WHY” shines through?
After 300 takes, a F-BOMB on camera and a minor meltdown, I figured it out, or maybe just remembered. I’m a storyteller. My food is a patchwork quilt of life, and each dish tells a story. Nothing is new; we take what is handed along and make it our own. The recipe itself is like a train clicking along, but the ingredients, the plates, the bowls, the fabrics, the colours, the aromas, they add the drama. My job was to narrate that train journey. Bring it to life by telling the story.
Take the day we shot burgers with rhubarb relish and chimichurri for example. The rhubarb was tossed over the fence from my Chinese neighbour. He hates rhubarb. My mother-in-law Rose provided the silver chafing dish. That’s my aunt Sandra’s silver spoon, and aunt Susan’s flowers. On the other side of my house is neighbour and friend Carrie. She grew the pea shoots. Fred, while cutting my hair, reminded me how delicious chimichurri is on a burger. The ‘table’ is an old door my neighbour across the street was throwing out. The meat comes from my local butcher Getaway Farm. They’re the best.
All of this in one little burger: a recipe, a neighbourhood, a family, a story.