I am seated behind the scenes of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals, near the director who has a television monitor and headset to keep track of the show as it unfolds. I immediately notice that the set looks much smaller than on TV. I ask questions and find out that this is a temporary set since other Food Network programs are filmed here such as Iron Chef and Emeril’s shows. Apparently Rachael does her run of shows over a two week period and then another program shoots.
The production assistant lets Rachael know that I am here and she in turn introduces me to the crew. “Everybody this is Paul from The Career Cookbook.” I say, “Hello, everybody.” Rachael is busy going over how she will prepare the meal, the steps and ingredients, with the director and the crew. This way they can decide how things will be filmed. I notice one family member of the crew’s visiting otherwise it is a closed set. A cold air conditioned set, but a happy crew nonetheless.
The meal that Rachael prepares is one that her husband came up with. It is a citrus fish which includes grapefruit, savoy cabbage, couscous, and peas. Filming begins around 11:15 AM. Rachael is off and running and you can tell that she has this process down-pat. It’s incredible to see how quickly she works getting things moving without stopping until where the first commercial break would go. She calls this a “fake-out” meal, one that looks fancy but is simple to make. She is conversational and natural on stage. It feels like cooking with a close friend. She also mentions that if you, “Start with quick cooking ingredients, you become a quicker cook.”
In between commercials Rachael continues to go over the ingredients and prepares the crew and herself for what will come next. Someone reapplies makeup because it’s hot behind the stove and with all those bright lights shining down. They also remove lint from her outfit. Looking around the set I see that there are five cameras with three over the shoulder ones, a crane above, and a dolly. In speaking to a cameraman I learn that they use the dolly, a camera on wheels, for the opening and close of the show. He also informed me that they used to shoot the whole program with this camera.
Filming of this episode ends around 12:22 with all the stops and starts. That said it takes about an hour to shoot a thirty minute meal when you factor in all the commercials and production. Rachael only has one second take throughout the whole program, a line jumble. I was amazed by how professional and quick she is. At the end of the show she re-reads some lines to annunciate them better, making them as clear as possible. She films about four of these shows a day. With filming concluded the crew can eat the prepared meal if they like.
Rachael lets me take photos of her on the set as a visual to accompany her interview. She asks if I need anything else and I say no. She says I can stick around as long as I want as she goes off to change for the next show. She is very hospitable and it was her idea for me to come visit her show. At the end of the day I was able to see some TV magic and am glad I can share it with you all as well.