Chef's Exec Producer Spills

Chef's Exec Producer Spills

Top Chef's Executive Producer Shauna Minoprio gives you the insider scoop.

By Shauna Minoprio

Let's get some stuff out of the way ....

No, I am not a good cook. I'm a pretty good eater though.

No, I don't eat the food the chefs make -- by the time we break from shooting a challenge, it's either been eaten by the guests/judges or it's gone cold and nasty. On set I survive on a steady diet of fun-size Snickers, Cheetos and stale bagels.

Yes, from time to time I do get free meals in really nice restaurants. It's bloody brilliant.

Yes, I am from England.

Yes, everything you see on the show really happens.

So now you know. I am not much of a writer, and this is my first ever blog (unless you count the diary I kept between the ages of 13-15 which mostly consisted of hormonal ramblings about boys I had met once for 30 seconds). I am big on lists, though, so I'm going to stick to what I know...

So, for your reading pleasure, here is a list of the some of the things that kept me awake at night in the run-up to Season 2...

1. New shooting location This season, we decided to shoot in Los Angeles, enormous, diverse and food-friendly. It's a complete coincidence that it also happens to be where I live. We built the Kenmore Kitchen in downtown LA, which is arty and cool and full of groovy loft conversions. It feels right for our chefs to be at the cutting edge of modern Los Angeles. Also, if I have to watch another reality show set in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills with a hot tub, I'll kill myself.

2. Hot new season A couple of days before our shoot starts, LA experiences the mother of all heat waves. This is not good news, as professional kitchens are already hot enough -- and that's before you add in thousands of kilowatts of bright hot TV lights. We bring in a monster machine that looks it's trying to eat the entire building with long tubular white tentacles. It sucks up so much power that it might as well be fuelled by a team of PAs shoveling $100-dollar bills into an incinerator. The temperature in the kitchen plummets from a sweltering 115 degrees to a sweltering 110 degrees. Oh boy.

3. New host Actually, I wasn't worried about this in the slightest. Having met Padma and had many long chats with her on the phone in the run-up to the shoot, wasn't in the slightest bit worried. I knew she'd be fantastic.

4. New crew Our main production team and crew consists of the following: 1 show runner (me) 1 director of photography 1 co-coordinating producer 1 supervising producer 2 production managers 5 field producers 2 segment producers 3 production co coordinators 2 assistant directors 2 cast chaperones 1 talent co coordinator 1 Art director 2 art department 2 wardrobe 2 makeup 6 camera operators 6 sound mixers 6 camera assistants 1 tech supervisor 1 tech assistant 1 audio supervisor 1 lighting designer 1 gaffer 1 electrician 3 culinary producers 8 production assistants The team is half old hands from season 1 and half fresh blood. Together we're a lean, mean, show-producing machine. Or we will be once we can remember each others' names. With 15 chefs arriving at five-minute intervals, the first day of shooting is somewhere between the first day at school and the charge of the light brigade. You just have to just keep moving, act like you're in control and hope that you're not among the casualties.

5. New challenges I'm worried about 15 chefs flambeeing at once -- I'm sure someone's going to get singed, probably one of the camera operators who spend a lot of time backing into hot pans and sharp knives. I'm also a little worried that the judges might throw up after eating 15 portions of snails and frogs legs (I know I would).

6. New chefs Our recipe this season includes: 2 executive chefs 4 fine-dining sous chefs/line cooks 1 diabetic 1 ex-bulimic 1 molecular gastronomist 1 cowboy caterer 1 ex-actress/waitress 1 pastry chef 1 recent catering school grad 1 self-taught restaurateur 1 culinary instructor They've watched Season 1, filled out applications, interviews, further interviews, made home submission tapes, had background checks, medical checks, done further interviews, and even psych tests. They are so ready. And they have no idea what they're in for. It turns out we have no idea what we're in for either. As the shoot goes on it will become more and more apparent that, despite having passed their psych tests with flying colors, this season's cast is the craziest bunch of people I have ever worked with in the 15 years I've been making reality shows. We're in for a bumpy ride.

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