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 Alli Berkey. On an average day, she's an Associate 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 one of our "runners". Her responsibilities consist of putting food into the correct dishware, organizing ingredients and equipment for each scene, and communicating with our back kitchen. Keep reading to see how she navigates through the day without tripping.
7:00 AM — "Time Is Money (And We Don't Have Any to Waste)"
It takes me an hour to drive to Drydock and despite Boston traffic, I've arrived in a "timely manner". I like to head in early during filming so that once the cameras are rolling I can focus more on the actual "running" part of my job, rather than the organizing portion. In the first hour of the day, I get ready for the first three recipes that we will be filming this morning. I pull out the "On Set" tray of ingredients that our back kitchen prepared in advance. This tray has every ingredient, already measured, for each recipe.
I notice that the tray has twice as much as we need which is ideal: it keeps us ready for the possibility of having to reshoot a scene. I take each ingredient and place it in a clean, chip-free appropriate sized bowl so that the viewer can understand "how much" of that ingredient is actually being used, and then I divide those ingredients out by scene. It's a little like "coursing out" a dinner.
8:00 AM — "Gotta Look Beautiful, You Know?"
I have the set ready to go with all of the right ingredients and equipment for scene one. Most of the people on camera typically have quite a bit of makeup on. Gotta look beautiful, ya know? To keep the cast members looking fresh and to maintain their cool under the hot camera lights I head to the kitchen to make a batch of Iced Lemon water. I grab a few mason jars to cut down on the recycling, and a handful of straws for those wearing lipstick. I label each jar so that no one gets confused and tuck them underneath the counter for an in-between scene sip.
8:30 AM — "Keep It Moving"
Everyone on set—including our kitchen leader, Director, and Executive Producer—gather around the counter to listen to the cast members talk through the first scene. Going over this out loud is helpful; makes it stick to memory. Just before the cameras roll, I turn on my walkie and plugin. The walkie allows me to keep constant contact with the producers in our control room and back kitchen. Ultimately, this type of communication helps cut downtime and makes it easy for us to organize scene transitions so that everything goes as smooth as possible.
9:00 AM — "Anyone Have a Spare Kitchen Towel?"
Cameras are rolling. I usually realize right about now how hot it is in the back kitchen with all of the bodies and camera lights lingering around. I hold my script in my hand, a kitchen towel or two in a back pocket, and my walkie in the other as I follow along. (In about an hour, I will have two towels on my shoulder, one in my back pocket, another stuffed in my chef's coat, and somehow still be looking for a towel to bring in the next "food twins" of cookie dough that have already been chilled for 20 minutes.) At least it's coffee time soon.
10:00 AM — "A Little Onset Magic"
Thin and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies debut time. We work through this recipe scene by scene. It's much slower than you'd imagine—it takes about 15 to 25 minutes for each scene depending on how much the recipe entails. For perspective, this recipe is about TK scenes. With that said, I'm about 4,000 steps in. (It's one of the few weeks of the year that I can actually focus on the comfort level of my shoes in the kitchen.)
I hear on my walkie that we're about 2 minutes away from our finished cookies being ready to pull out of the hot oven in the back kitchen. I try to hurry along and grab them so that we can get the timing right. I snag two towels and literally run to the back kitchen to grab the nearly ready batch of cookies. Our Culinary Producer, Morgan Bolling, runs behind me and quickly grabs the raw cookies that the cast member has just placed in the oven so that I can replace it with the finished set. A quick switch "off-camera" and the cookies are done. Roll, camera!
11:00 AM — "We're Almost There . . ."
The last scene always includes eating. The other runner and I set the counter with a couple of matching plates and utensils for the cast to taste their lovely creations. They talk about how good it is while the rest of us watch and drool. I'm currently hoping that they'll hurry up and finish so that I can grab some leftovers.
11:30 AM — "Time To Dig In!"
Now, it's time for “beauty shots.” A food show isn’t a good food show unless the viewers are able to see the finished product looking its best. I quickly wash the dishes and reset the “eating equipment” for a final plate to be filmed. The cast members place a cookie or two on their plate while the cameras slowly zoom across, then they break it in two to show its crispiness. Visual storytelling at its finest right here. I hang around close by to rewash or replenish anything that is needed during the next 15 minutes or so. Sometimes our lasagna doesn’t look hot enough anymore, or our cheese needs to have a bit more of a pull. These are all the things that I try to help mend.
12:00 PM — "You Can Never Have Too Many (Fill in the Blank)"
We break for lunch. The second shift runners have arrived for the day and we talk about a few things that may have changed that need to be updated. There's a food prop that arrived earlier from production for a hot sauce scene and I let them know where to find it. I restock and refill the "runners station" with anything that seems to be low on equipment. You can never have too many small glass bowls and rubber spatulas.
1:00 PM — "Big Strides Now"
After giving the next runners an update I grab myself a snack. The rush for me is over at this point but there are still a few things left for me to do. The next hour or so is full of more organizing. I read through the recipes for tomorrow's shoot and fill carts with the equipment I'll need then. I head to the back kitchen, chat with Morgan about any concerns or questions she has for the next day and then I settle back at my desk.
2:00 PM — "It's a Wrap!"
And now, back to my Cook's Country work!