We're inviting our Cook's Country family and friends to take a look behind the scenes of our production for season 13. Our Editorial team asked a few key members of our TV team to talk us through one of their days at work, so we could all learn about the ins and outs of their role during filming.
Meet Cecelia Jenkins. On an average day, she's a Senior Editor who spends most of her time in the test kitchen vigorously developing new recipes or at her desk writing the food stories you oftentimes find in our magazine. During filming week though, she's our "Art Director." Since she's so familiar with most of the recipes for Cook's Country and is a perfectionist—in the most humbling of ways—her expertise is used to ensure that all of the recipes look correct on TV and that our cast members are calling out the correct ingredients. See how she navigates filming TV amid daily magazine deadlines.
7:00 AM — "Wake up, Cecelia!"
I'm up and getting ready for work; in the background, my coffee is brewing. (I need at least three cups of joe a day to function.) I'm distracted and moving slowly this morning. I've been having anxiety dreams that I've messed something up or forgot to do something at work for the past few nights. We're filming season 13 of Cook's Country and if you know anything about me, you know that I want things to be just right. I spend too much time scrunching my hair only to end up having to speedwalk to the T (what we call the train in Boston).
8:00 AM — "The Breakfast of Champions"
I'm attempting to put my mascara on on the bus. Not the best idea but I was pressed for time and commuting in Boston normally means that you're stuck in traffic anyway. With all of the stop and go, my makeup is looking a little wonky today. I duck into the downstairs bathroom at work to fix it and hope that I don't bump into anyone I know before walking into the office. I don't! I drop my backpack off at my desk and grab my TV binder with the scripts and beauty shots that I need to match the food to. (One of my main responsibilities in this "Art Director" role is to make sure that the food visually matches what we show on our site and in the magazine.) Before I head to the Control Room to set up my spot in front of a monitor to watch today's segments, I swing by the craft services area. Today, they have Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I am currently just as excited to discover this as my 13-year-old self would have been. I pour myself a big bowl, get more coffee, and settle in.
9:00 AM — "It's Showtime . . ."
We are rolling on our recipe for Amish Cinnamon Bread. It's going really smoothly. We've already shot the beauties so it's a less hectic segment to start the day with. I'm listening to the talent (aka cast members) with my script out in front of me. Another part of my job is following the talent's script to make sure that they're echoing the correct amounts of ingredients, and hitting their talking points about why each particular step works. I usually read the recipes and highlight the important stuff the day before but I didn't get to some of them yesterday, so I look them over between cuts.
10:00 AM — "I Can Do It All"
I’m worried we won’t get a dramatic cheese pull for the Adjaruli Khachapuri. We filmed it yesterday but the food didn’t look right. I have a theory that it was because we bought bulk feta (since we needed so much of it for all of the TV twins). Maybe it behaves differently than the regular retail-size containers? I talk with the test cooks, we don't know how it will pan out today, but we make the call to reshoot the recipe with the stuff we tested it with originally and hope that it works. (I mean it has to or the recipe isn't actually foolproof after all? I ignore that thought for now.) We also decide that the best course of action is for us to prepare more dough in case it goes wrong again and we need to troubleshoot. I change gears and run to the kitchen to throw three more doughs together quickly before the Shrimp Mozambique segment starts.
11:00 AM — "Trust Your Gut?"
I'm back in the control room, monitoring scripts and making sure food looks accurate according to the recipes and beauty shots. During scenes, I have to shout out if talent says something incorrectly but there are usually about six or seven people talking over each other. Right now, the director, sound guy, and two script monitors are speaking loudly—at the same time—so I'm nervous that if I talk, I'll just be adding to the noise. I try to take a breath before I say anything and figure out if 1. It's something they can fix in post-production or 2. Redo at the end of the scene as a voice-over. But I'm more worried my hesitation will mean they'll have to redo scenes and people will get angry. I speak up but it's overall kind of uncomfortable.
12:00 PM — "Burrr, It's Cold in Here"
Well, now I'm feeling stupid because I shouted out something wrong during a lot of control room chaos. Are you cold? I'm cold. It’s freezing in this room. I thought it was to keep all of the machines from overheating but the sound guy, Keith, just told me it’s because the building can’t seem to get control of the AC in here. Ironic. This is the out-of-control room. It’s literally 50 degrees.
1:00 PM — "Did Someone Mention Food?"
We wrap up for lunch, thankfully! People were starting to get a little impatient and antsy after being around all of the delicious recipes we filmed today. Our office workspace is pretty big and I've just realized that I walked over to the wrong lunchroom, on the opposite side of the building; I run over in the right direction and ignore the stares along the way. Lunch today is Indian—not my favorite—but luckily the PAs have also put out leftover Pork Carnitas from the previous segment. I have two of those and a seltzer.
2:00 PM — "Toot, Toot!"
We are filming my recipe for Cheesy Stuffed Shells. Yay! I snag some when the segment is over. I love when you haven’t eaten something in a while and it’s still good when you have it again. Go me.
3:00 PM — "Nap-Time, Anyone?"
My eyelids feel heavy and I’m fading so I sugar up. I fill my snack cup with Starburst from craft services and get another coffee.
4:00 PM — "So Close but so Far"
We have two segments left to film. Bah. The end is so close but so far away. I still have to look at my pages for the Feb/March 2020 issue of Cook's Country Magazine. Our executive managing editor, Todd Meier, passes out copies to each team member for us to comment on photos, layout, articles, recipes, etc. My feedback is due by the end of the day. I try to read through my pages in between segments but they contain a huge project I've been working on—the Cuban Sandwich—and it needs my direct attention. I do a quick pass but promise myself I'll look at it more in-depth later.
5:00 PM — "Do We Have a Second Stomach for Burgers?"
Now we are shooting beauty shots for Sliders. I decide to jump in to help our Deputy Food Editor, Steph Pixley, cook them so we have a full batch of 12 ready to shoot at once, not staggered. I need to make sure the cheese looks melty, the sauce looks saucy, and the burgers overall are hot and juicy amongst their pillowy buns. They're coming out so well; I can't wait to eat one.
6:00 PM — "It's a Wrap!"
It's the final scene of the day, of season 13, and the talent is on the "eating" scene of another one of my recipes, Crushed Red Potatoes, and then we're done! Woohoo! I’m relieved we captured the “crushed” look on the potatoes. They’re easy to "over-crush" and when you do, you just have smashed or mashed potatoes. The degree to which you crush is a gray area but you can tell the difference when you do this recipe justice. I think I'm most looking forward to taking off my headset (this earpiece hurts!), the wrap party we'll have soon, and of course, getting a good night's rest.