From The Chef's Kitchen To Your Kitchen
UC Review • Wed, Feb 01, 2012
By Maria Valetta
Food & Wine Connoisseur
Want to impress you friends and family tonight with a professional chef quality dinner? Then let the show, The Chef’s Kitchen, be your “how-to” guide. Haven’t heard of it? Well you probably have flipped past it with the TV remote and didn’t even know it. But if you like to cook, and enjoy trying new recipes without the nonsense of reality chef drama, then you might want to replace your weekly Food Network fix with The Chef’s Kitchen.
An independently sponsored show, it’s a guide to learning tips and techniques of the trade from the region’s best chefs. Chefs don’t often get the respect and attention they deserve when they are behind the scenes in the restaurant. They create flavorful dishes that are sent out and devoured in 20 minutes or less. This half hour show gives them the spotlight without having to compete against another chef. It is completely about them, their recipes and their craft.
Missed something the chef threw into the pan? Don’t worry, all of the recipes are posted online making it easy to print and proceed to the kitchen. So where can you find this fabulous food show? Everywhere it seems: traditional broadcast, cable, satellite television, on internet sites such as, Blip.TV, You Tube, Hulu.com and if you have an iPhone or iPod you can even download podcasts of the show directly to your digital device. In fact, The Chefs Kitchen was one of the first shows to sign on with Hulu and are now 11 years running. And it is syndicated on some of the networks you probably watch: NBC 10, Xfinity, The Comcast Network, NECN Comcast, WPXT – TV (12) CW, the Ohio News Network (okay so you probably don’t watch this one) and The Unwired Network.
So how come you never heard of it? Well, The Chef’s Kitchen was previously known as ‘The Fretz Kitchen’–ring a bell? I remember this show and if you watch the “new version” you will see the similarities. Once the show got syndicated, Executive Producer Steven Horn decided to rename the show so that it would resonate.
Nationally calling it The Chef’s Kitchen.em In my interview with Steven, he said “nobody new what the heck Fretz kitchen meant, people kept thinking it was the French kitchen, or asked who/what is Fritz?” Honestly, The Chef’s Kitchen couldn’t be more fitting a name for what the show entails: various chefs creating one recipe from scratch, start to finish, using ingredients that are accessible and equipment that is attainable.
This is a show for people who cook. If you don’t cook, it’s not going to be much interest to you. Steven says, “Most of my viewers already know what a mirepoix is and they are looking to bring their cooking to the next level”. Although his beautiful hosts could certainly be reason enough to tune in. Steven selects female models to host the segments, and they are as attractive and as appealing to the eye as the food sizzling in the pan. Their newest host, Nicole, resonates really well on camera because she has a culinary background and owns her own small scale catering company. She knows about food and looks good talking about it. Steven knows the old advertising expression that is still relevant today––Sex Sells! So you can bet that when you tune in, Nicole or one of the other female talents will be wearing a hot little low-cut number while moving around the kitchen.
Steven is a food fan himself, and this show was his idea entirely. Yet his background is in advertising, lighting, and fashion, as well as producing. He was the advertising guy who’s company, Gerald Stevens, Inc., which he started in 1968, put the fashions of stores such as Plage Tahiti, and The Knit Wit on the hot bodies of Philly’s fundraising circle.
Steven’s latest endeavor, the Emmy-nominated Hype413, Inc., a full-service design and multimedia production company founded by his wife Nicole Woodruff, is responsible for bringing viewers The Chef’s Kitchen. The very talented Steven Horn and his dynamic wife, Nicole (the company’s President and CEO), actually reside in Maine most of the time, but when they are here, their apartment is the set of The Chef’s Kitchen. Really, that fancily equipped kitchen you see on the show is actually in their home. Pretty cool.
I asked Steven, “why the switch from art and fashion advertising to food? How did you get into it?” He said he got into food from his mother, “she was a decent cook-–well actually she was more of a baker”. He also had the responsibility of cooking while in the army because he said it was the easy thing to do. Being well recognized when dining in restaurants from his marketing and advertising work, he often got special treatment and special dishes delivered to him by the chefs themselves. He would ask them how they made the dish being served. His curiosity led him to thinking “why not create a show so viewers can see what the chefs are doing back there?” He loves the way the show shows off the cooking secrets that chefs use on a daily basis.
Steven has a new show he is working on called The Best Of The Best. The new show will feature the best recipes of the show’s favorite chefs and will include other “best of” businesses in other categories as well. Last week, I had a chance to sit-in on a full day of filming, and this is one busy kitchen! Chefs in and out, make-up and hair stylist for the talent, 3 camera men, sound, lighting, prep kitchen crew, featured sponsors, possible future sponsors, the art director, an editor, and of course Steven and Nicole at the helm of it all.
Three cameras are used for the show to get different angles and shots of how the chef prepares his dish. One shoots a full view: kitchen, full chef profile, and the stove. Camera two focuses on up-close shots of what’s being seared/sautéed in the pan or sliced on the cutting board, and the last camera focuses on mid shots which show what the chef’s hands are doing, a closer shot of all the hands-on action.
“This is the only reality cooking show on television,” Steven stated. “No takes, no script, home economist nor stylist. Each chef gets 25 minutes—that’s it.” Actually, each chef gets just 15 minutes, start to finish, to cook and plate their recipe while talking through the recipe with the host. They need time to be able to feature sponsors. Chefs bring all their own ingredients except for the item being featured by the sponsor that day (sometimes it’s Hatfield Meats, or Rastelli Seafood, or one of the many other food purveyors out there). They prep in the back prep room, behind the kitchen, but when it’s their turn, it’s Showtime! The clock is ticking and the film is rolling. There are no start overs.
Steven watches every step of the filming on four 8x10 video screens and directs accordingly. He can control everything, and he has his art director on set to oversee that everything flows. But if he can’t see the fish in the pan clear enough on one of his screens, he asks for the camera to pan in by using his walky-talky. If he wants to know at what temperature the oven is preheated, and the chef forgot to mention it, he prompts his host (she wears a small ear microphone to hear him) to ask Chef the question. As one chef is filming, the next guest chef is back in the prep kitchen getting ready for his turn at the stove.
And what happens to all the food? Well it gets eaten of course. Small plates are dished out and passed around to everyone in the room: the filming crew, guests on set (invite-only), sponsors, potential sponsors. When I was there, the crew filmed 7 episodes with 5 different chefs: Patrick Feury of Nectar, Tony Clark of Old Grange in Cape May, Daryl Harmon chef at Water Works Restaurant and Lounge, Chris Scarduzio of Table 31 in Philly, and Mia from Scarduzio’s Restaurant in Atlantic City, and Walter Staib of The City Tavern who mustered up the energy to shoot 3 episodes, back to back! Now that’s a top chef line-up.
What did I learn?
When searing a filet of fish skin side down you can place another pan on top of it to flatten it out and keep it from curling as it cooks.
Risotto can be made without using cheese, making it more seafood friendly, and when plating risotto it is best to scoop it out of the pot with a spoon, rather than pouring it out of the pot.
Tofu tastes good breaded and fried.
Dorot, the food sponsor that day, makes convenient individually cubed herbs that come in frozen trays making it easy to add the flavor of garlic, ginger, basil, or the herb of your choice in your recipe. Just pop the herb ice cube in the pan in, and watch it melt as it adds flavor to your dish. They sell them at Wholefoods…who knew?
Finally, and most surprisingly, Steven doesn’t eat meat; he hasn’t eaten meat since 1977. “I’m mainly a vegetarian”, he told me.
So I had to ask him, “do you miss it...eating meat??” He replied, “You know, the only thing I miss are hotdogs and bacon!”