Everyone wants to be on TV don’t they? I can answer that question honestly and say that I don’t. Really. [wife edits: I have a fear of public speaking]. But when a lifelong friend asked me to piggyback on his cooking short spot TV gig I accepted without reservations. At first.
I grew up living next door to Stev George. Both our families were adventurous about food, both cooking and eating. Our collective exposure marked us as food explorers and epicures, but neither of us ever suspected how deeply. When each of us set off to university, he to McGill and a degree with a concentration in linguistics, me to Queen’s and a science degree, neither of us expected that our love of good food would steer us so powerfully back to the kitchen, albeit in different ways. In Stev’s case, post degree, he trained as a chef at one of Canada’s most prestigious schools, Stratford Chefs School. He has worked more than twenty years in professional kitchens, including Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island and Chez Piggy restaurant in Kingston. He and his wife, Deanna Harrington, own and run their restaurant, Olivea, an Italian eatery overlooking Kingston’s market square. Stev is quite involved in the local food scene. As part of that, he has a weekly 3-4 minute spot on the local TV station, cooking simple recipes. My slow-growing notoriety writing this blog must have given him pause [wife edits: very slow], and he asked if I would be a guest on his TV show. I was flattered of course.
Shortly after announcing my impending TV appearance, I received a few pieces of advice. A friend of mine who had just finished a short contract photographing a TV production in Montreal strongly suggested I pay attention to small details that get exaggerated on the screen; things like fingernails that need cleaning or sides of dishes that need wiping. The gearhead urged me to seriously consider my wardrobe [wife edits: arched eyebrow and wry silent question mark]. A nervous tingling began in the tips of my toes.
I arrived, as instructed, at Stev’s place, an hour or so early to be able to help prep. Not having discussed many details in advance, I asked him, with a forced casualness, whether my role was to lean against the counter in the background and provide witty banter while quaffing a glass of wine as he did the cooking. He wheeled around from his prep and rush to de-clutter, his movement communicating that we were on a tighter schedule than I had thought, and answered with firm authority, “No, you’re the guest, you do the cooking and the talking. I’ll be in the background and I’ll introduce you. You take over from there.”
The nervous tingling in my toes was now a thunderous thump in my heart. I raced to get my prep done with the full realization that success would depend on my mise en place. We were set to record 5 recipes. The taping is done once a month so as to air episodes once a week and allow for editing time in between. The camera man arrived while I was searching for a food processor to grate the beets for beet latkes, featured in an earlier blog post. We managed to find parts of 2-3 food processors that didn’t match when Stev handed me a box grater, “here, just use this.” A few minutes later he turned to me and asked if I would like to go first with my recipe? I squeaked out a definitive “No.” He said, “Okay, I’ll do the first one and you can watch to get the hang of it. You’ll do the next two.”
Stev moved in front of the camera, the lights came on and, “we’re rolling”, and he started in. I stood, mesmerized. Stev was enthusiastic, speaking to the camera with ease, moving through his recipe with confidence. I watched and thought, [wife edits: f@#!] I can’t do that!
Too quickly he wrapped it up with a flourishing “Delicious!” and the camera shut off and moved to my side of the kitchen. I said to Stev, apprehensively, “you’re so animated in front of the camera!” He replied, “Well, you have to be; otherwise it’s boring. You’re up.”
When the camera turned on I can honestly tell you the butterflies went away and I spoke with ease and a command of the task that I didn’t know I had. Sometimes, when you’re forced to do something you can really surprise yourself. The first spot was a little rough, but by the second I was actually having quite a lot of fun with it. It aired a few weeks later and the kids caught it before the news one day when I was still at work. When I got home that evening the gearhead seemed proud but then he asked “What’s with your fingernails! They’re filthy!” That’s what you get grating beets by hand. Sigh. So the links are permanently up on youtube and I think they have had one view per [wife edits: that would be my own visit]. Fame is ethereal, but it’s also relative. I feel pretty good about them. I might even do more…