Beach Blanket Bingo

Beach Blanket Bingo

Executive Producer Shauna Minoprio reveals the insider scoop.

By Shauna Minoprio

So how do you put together a shoot on a Malibu beach with chefs cooking breakfast over firepits for a bunch of surfers?

1. Find the beach We need one that allows naked flames, film crews, cars being driven on the actual beach, has fairly reliable surf and a regular crew of local surfers ... and of course looks beautiful. Turns out that there is only one that meets all these criteria -- the lovely Leo Carillo beach in Northern Malibu. It is gorgeous but rather far away and, more worryingly, a little bit on the narrow side.

2. Check the tide-tables We find out that, on the day we want to shoot, high tide is at 10:00 am. This means at 10:00 am our chef and firepits would be underwater. Fantastic. This means we'll have to complete shooting by 10:00 in the morning. We start working out our schedule for the day. We need to get the the entire crew there at 5.30am while it is still dark, to start setting up. That's always good for morale.

3. Firepits We have to build our own. Luckily Ray in the Art Department is a cross between Picasso and Grizzly Adams. He designs the firepits and calls in a gas line specialist to ensure that they all burn evenly at the same temperature. Ray starts digging in the dark at 5:00 am while I'm offering support from the comfort of my car. OK, actually I was sleeping in my car.

4. Surfers Not necessarily known for their reliability. Scott our Supervising Producer has assigned a crack team to hunt them down if they don't turn up. We all worry what will happen if the weather is bad or the surf isn't up. Will the chefs just be cooking for the crew?! The crew wouldn't mind. Luckily the surf is up and the surfers are lovely and starving.

5. Cars You may have noticed that Top Chef has a gleaming fleet of Toyota Rav 4s at our disposal. After some negotiation we got permission from the relevant authorities to have our chefs drive them right onto the far end of the beach and all the way along the beach up to where the firepits are. So far, so good. Unfortunately getting the chefs into the right position to do so, meant driving them right past where production was setting up the fire-pits -- thus blowing our cunning surprise. What do to? We settled for stopping them just before they got to the point where they could see us and taping newspaper over the windows before driving them past us. Fine, they would only be in the car with the paper on the windows for about 5-10 minutes, problem sorted, no? No. I get a call on the walkie informing me that one of the chefs was refusing to get back in the van and accusing us of treating them worse than cattle....

6. Chefs I think the chefs see me in many different ways throughout the production: Benign dictator, tyrant, school principal, mother-figure, kidnapper, torturer. So today is a "torturer" day. I try and turn it into "mother-figure" day with sympathy and hugs for the mutinous chef. This is a little awkward as we shouldn't really touch the chefs -- the idea being that someone seeing me hug one of the chefs might draw the conclusion that that chef is my favourite and therefore has some advantage in the competition....

All of us on production observe something called "the line," which means that we do not make friends with the contestants. We do not tell them about our personal lives, we don't hug them, we don't hang out with them, we don't eat their food or drink their drinks, we don't socialise with them and we treat each and every one of them with the same professionalism and courtesy. This also protects the production and crew people from inavertently giving away something about a forthcoming challenge, etc. -- because let me tell you, some of these chefs can be pretty wily. For the most part this works well, but it is difficult when a chef is upset or emotional at which point it feels completely cold and monstrous not to give them a hug. So there, I did it. I will now most likely be sued by somebody somewhere for the crime of this hug. Anyhoo, the drama subsides .. and before we know it all the chefs are in their Rav 4s speeding down the wide-enough strip of beach towards the nicely blazing firepits, while a gang of hungry surfers ride the waves and the cameras are rolling....

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