What it’s like to cook for a TV audience

I blew into the KCTS channel 9 studios propelled by gusts of wind strong enough to close off one of Seattle’s two floating bridges. Leaves swirled around the studio parking lot like Biggest Loser finale confetti. I hopped out of the car eager to navigate my cargo through the gale into the warmth of the building. Thanks to the assistance of a KCTS employee and a wheeled cart everything was moved before I could lift off like Mary Poppins to ride the wind around the Space Needle. (see a windy video on Instagram)

When it comes to making people feel special, the KCTS Cooks producers and their crew score high marks. Each cook was thanked with a generous gift bag and treated to professional make-up and a hair touch up before going in front of the camera. The weekday lunch room was transformed into a bustling green room for the soon-to-be-TV-star home cooks and their entourages. A colorful continental breakfast was laid with a variety of hot and cold beverages, trays of muffins, fruit, cheese, and bagels with several schmear options. Later, a fresh spread of lunch items replaced the breakfast.

Once everyone was assembled the show’s producer, Nicole Metcalf, led us on a quick tour pointing out the prep kitchen and the studio’s collection of cookware and dishes. She took us onto the set where we would each be preparing our desserts live for untold numbers of home viewers. The studio lights were calibrated to give the kitchen a cozy glow. It was a nice work space and the appliances are fully functioning. If they added plumbing the set kitchen would be nicer than what I have at home!

Nicole made a point to caution us that the time in front of the camera would feel very fast. With the show being live, it would be important for all the presenters to fit their demo into their predetermined time allotment. When I learned I was third in the line-up I thought, oh good, I should have plenty of time, the show won’t have had a chance to get off schedule after only two people.

Little did I know, the woman ahead of me was about to single-handedly pull off the cheesecake Olympics. She came prepared to show about a half dozen stages of the assembly process and share her wealth of baking tips — all in one breath. She was only about 3/4 of the way through when the producer in charge of keeping things on track started waving her wrap-it-up cards at the hosts. Cue cards be damned she was in the zone and was not going to stop until she stuck the landing. The crew watched in awe while the clock ticked, the producer waved, the hosts attempted to move things along, and the lady barreled right on through. (watch the segment)

Finally the finished cheesecake was tasted and the plea to buy the cookbook was made. (Later I was able to taste the completed Mocha Almond Cheesecake. It was dense, silky, packed with chocolate flavor, and worth all the steps involved to produce it.) As soon as the cameras rolled over to the “pledge break” side of the room, a swarm of crew members swooped in to clear, clean, and reset the kitchen for my Cardamom Whiskey Pear Crisp. Nicole confirmed what I already knew, the 11 minute slot for the pear crisp had been cut into and I would need to tighten up my presentation.

I was eager to tell the viewing audience how the pear crisp contained less calories than a traditional holiday dessert and delivered a wallop of festive flavor. I also intended to convey that the dessert was one among many that I share here on this blog. I made myself a mental note to communicate these intentions to the hosts. Unfortunately, with the cheesecake time overage and flurry of activity during the set change the moment never came. Next thing I knew the cameras were back on and we were live.

The good news about the pear crisp is it inherent simplicity. The reason I like it is the same reason I enjoy making any kind of crisp/crumble dessert; I can go from whim to baking in just a few minutes even without the lights, camera, action element. Once the cue to begin was made I had already picked up my demo pear and begun removing its peel. Knowing my time was shortened, I just put my head down and got to the work of demonstrating the recipe.

Each presenter was asked to provide a little bio to facilitate light banter during the segments. In addition to highlighting weight loss, healthy cooking and recipe writing I included a few details related to public television and my family’s local ties. From the bio the host picked out the later topics to chit-chat about but skipped over the ones I was eager to touch on.

When I finally lifted my head and smiled at the camera I was happy to have had another opportunity to give back to my local PBS station. Ultimately I did a fine job of demonstrating the steps involved in making Cardamom and Whiskey Pear Crisp. I also succeeded in getting the show back on track, time wise, thus I made the producers very happy.

It was an honor to share an Our Lady of Second Helpings dessert with all the viewers (at least those who still had power). I was disappointed that I missed out on the opportunity to promote myself and my writing. On a personal level, I had a fantastically relaxing morning doing something completely out of the ordinary. I was greeted like an old friend by the handful of people I met on my previous visit to KCTS Cooks and warmly embraced by those I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time.

Preparing for and appearing on KCTS Cooks Just Desserts got me all geared up for the holiday cooking season. I am looking forward to any bits of time I might have to be creative in the kitchen. If you are creative in the kitchen keep an eye out for KCTS’s next call for recipes (it will be in the spring). They usually have a loose theme and the on-air presenters are chosen from the recipe submissions. The staff are a joy to work with and best of all – there is no prior television experience required!

Watch! Click here to watch the segment

Cook! Click here to see the recipe

Get the Book! Click here to donate to the station and get the book and/or DVD and eCookbook

KCTS Cooks logo &images from kcts.org. Images of the set were taken by a KCTS intern with my camera and used with my thanks.

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