The Countdown

The Countdown

Executive Producer Shauna Minoprio gives you the insider scoop.

By Shauna Minoprio


t's always very stressful once the chefs have started their cooking -- just as much as they run around and panic as the time ticks down, so do we. If there's one cardinal rule about producing a show like this, it is that we must be ready when the food is. Therefore if the rules give the chefs one hour until they send out their first course we have one hour until we must be ready to shoot that. We must have shot Tom doing his round in the kitchen, his report afterwards, shot the guests arriving, got them seated, made sure everyone's make up is done, they all been to the bathroom, their mics are fixed and checked, the cameras are all in position with fresh tapes and batteries, and other stuff besides. We have a producer in the kitchen with the chefs giving the rest of the crew and production team a running countdown over our walkies -- it's like the launch of Apollo only with a more casual dress code.

The worst thing that could happen would be if the chefs were ready to serve their food and production held them up for any reason and thereby caused the food to spoil/go cold/congeal etc. God forbid anyone screw this up -- I'm a pretty easy going team leader but this is one thing that I am absolutely obsessed with. Ironically, the main reason this is so important is not so much that the judges can't judge the food as easily if it has sat for a few minutes -- they're all pros and can easily factor this into their thinking. No, the problem is the chefs and their perception -- if there is any possibility that they may feel that we are in any way responsible for them not doing well, regardless of whether that is in fact the case (it never has been), then we are all in a world of pain. In any case the well-oiled show machine operated at NASA level and the day went off without a hitch.

In actual fact, probably the most challenging thing that happened to me while producing this episode was getting stuck in the elevator with six other people at super-trendy Social restaurant a week before the shoot. We were only taking the elevator from the second floor to the first when it jammed after moving approximately two inches down, but the doors wouldn't budge. I was with TC Supervising Producer Scott, Senior Producer Margit, Director of Photography Craig, Gaffer Adam, Exec Chef Joseph and Jeffrey Chodorow's right-hand man Terry Z. LA was having an intense heatwave at the time and the elevator was small and not terribly well air-conditioned (it's an historic old building) -- so we took it in turns rotating around the space to get a different angle on the air supply and each other. Terry was very sanguine about the whole thing and continued to go through our the details for the shoot -- what a pro.

TC Producer Margit started giggling like a maniac after about half and hour and started trying to climb out of the hatch at the top (locked, thank god). Chef Joseph was on his phone with the restaurant staff pleading with them not to call the fire-brigade because they would break the mechanism and then his kitchen staff would have to carry their supplies down the stairs until it was mended again.

They agreed to see if they could fix it themselves.... Bad idea. If you are ever stuck in an elevator for more than five minutes, just call 911 straight away. After nearly two hours, in order to take our minds of our sweaty desperation and get something constructive out of the situation, I suggested we each name one person we want to kill and make a secret pact to help each other out. At that point Chef Joseph sighed, took out his phone and dialled 911. We were out in five minutes. When we climbed out with the help of a nice young firefighter, we were greeted with glasses of champagne. We toasted our bonding adventure and promised to meet each year in the elevator to mark our anniversary. Or not.

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