The neat thing about doing a TV series in your house is that instead of going to work, your work comes to you.
That's pretty cool. Of course, when the work involves hosting a food and cooking show, what has to come into your house can be quite a lot. First there are people: producers, cast members, camerapeople, production assistants, dishwashers and guests, any of whom may be required to be a dog wrangler as well. (I'll explain later.)
Then there's the equipment - cameras, tripods, lights, monitors, control boards, pots, pans, dishes, groceries and what seems like miles of cable, under foot and over head.
When the idea for the hit Rogers TV series "One Chef One Critic" was proposed to chef Steve Watson and I, nobody was sure where we'd actually film the show's cooking and wine segments.
As our initial filming date loomed we still hadn't found a location. Then it occurred to me that my house might be an option - it has a big kitchen and a basement wine cellar. The producers agreed that with a few cosmetic touch-ups for television, the kitchen and wine cellar would work. So, it was that my house became the main venue for the series.
For the past month we've been filming the key parts of 24 episodes of "One Chef One Critic" at my house. That includes the cooking segment with Watson, a guest (or guests) and yours truly, as well as the wine information segments that I do with our wine experts: Jeremy Bonia, Andrea Maunder and Andrew Facey. Each morning the trucks, vans and cars start rolling in at around 8:30 a.m.
Watson arrives first with coolers and crates containing the ingredients for the dishes we'll be preparing that day. We film the major parts of two episodes each day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Much of the equipment remains in place for two or three weeks while we're filming the bulk of the series. Hence, my den is now a television control room with audio and video consoles, video recorders and monitors - all connected to wiring and cables that lead to the kitchen and wine cellar. The cables are connected to cameras and microphones. We also have two overhead cameras in use this year for a bird's eye view of the kitchen work counter and cook top. Television lights are in position with appropriate filters.
The food this year looks amazingly good to the naked eye, but it will look equally fabulous on television. Wait till you see our salmon stuffed with a rainbow of peppers or the brie in phyllo over fresh greens.
While the crew is setting up each morning, Watson, "One Chef One Critic" senior producer Krissy Holmes and I go over our production notes for the episode we'll be filming. Watson must partially prepare the featured dish on site as well.
Often we need one completed ahead of time because a meal that bakes for 20 minutes in the oven cannot be prepared in real time in an eight-minute cooking segment.
Frequently this year you'll see us open the oven to find something already cooked and waiting to make its television debut.
"One Chef One Critic" guests arrive at the house at a prescribed time. They are greeted at the door by a guest relations person, as well as by our unofficial greeter, my 75-pound standard poodle, Caesar.
Guests are ushered into the "green room" which is actually my living room. (It's not green by the way.) I usually have a chat with them about possible interview questions and I describe how the show is blocked out. From there they move to the dining room, which during the filming has become a make up room.
When the cameras are ready to roll my dog Caesar, who has been barred from the kitchen, is lead to the den where he watches proceedings along with the control room crew and any visitors who may be with us that day. Holmes, directors Perry Cooper and Mike Fisher and an audio technician make up the control room crew.
The rest of "One Chef One Critic's" happy band is in the kitchen with Chef Steve Watson, guest and yours truly. It can get quite hot in the kitchen with the oven, cook top and lights blazing so we have a special portable air conditioning unit operating right up to the point where Krissy calls "action!" (All ambient noise must be reduced and phones switched off.)
We have a wonderful lineup of guests appearing on the upcoming season of "One Chef One Critic." Some of the episodes we've filmed feature the talented magician Mark Webber who did some astounding food magic. We were also thrilled to host the extraordinary Mary Walsh, Mark Critch and his brother Mike Campbell, Mary Pratt, Jean Claude Roy, Ronalda Hutton-MacDonald, the zany comedy duo of Donny Goobie (a.k.a. Donny Love) and Kent Brown, as well as many, many more fascinating guests.
All of the recipes this year are easy to prepare and delicious, like the baked Canadian brie with berries we prepared for Mary Walsh. Mary enjoyed it so much, she asked for the recipe so she could make it again that evening for her family. Then there were the very French chicken breasts stuffed with mushroom duxelle prepared for artist Jean Claude Roy and a not-to-be-forgotten baked cod au gratin with lots of tasty codfish and cheddar cheese. You'll also see us prepare a Thai dish called pad see ew and a whole salmon stuffed with sweet peppers and red onion.
Seeing all of this beautiful food being prepared in my house is definitely a perk, especially when we all get to taste it. Another is being able to entertain some truly fine people that you'll get to know a little better over the next several months. Having my house temporarily wired for pictures and sound is a little Big Brotherish but on balance the excitement and energy it brings to the old place is worth it. Caesar likes it too - at least his tail wags a lot. "One Chef One Critic" debuts for its second season only on Rogers TV, Cable 9, on Sunday Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.
As prepared on "One Chef One Critic"
2 baby Brie
8 sheets of phyllo pastry
Clarified butter for brushing
1 cup partridgeberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup bakeapples
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
Baby greens for salad
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut baby Brie in half.
Lay out two buttered sheets of phyllo (one atop the other).
Place half of a Brie in the middle of the pastry and top with one quarter of the partridgeberries. Bring in each of the corners and twist to form a purse. Repeat the process until all of the Brie is used. Place purses on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful not to burn the pastry.
Toss seasonal greens in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste. When purses are ready place on top of individual salad servings and drizzle with maple syrup.
Garnish with blueberries and bakeapples. Bon appetit!