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13+ Things a TV Chef Won’t Tell You

Go behind the scenes and discover the dirty kitchen secrets your favourite TV chefs are hiding.

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1. We Don’t Always Develop Our Own Recipes

Not all of us have the time. Some of us are more focused on being on TV than on cooking, so we prefer to pay someone else. And a few of us just don’t know how to come up with them.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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2. Don’t Fill Your Plate

If you want the food you make to look as pretty as mine, that’s the trick. Putting something small on a bigger plate always looks better, especially if you stack the foods or lay them against each other.

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3. We Forget Important Instructions While Filming

So we have to do what’s called a voice-over. That’s when you’re watching and all of a sudden, you don’t see the chef’s face. Instead, you see a close-up of the bowl or their hands and you hear them saying, “Now add a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon.” With the best talent, you’ll almost never hear a voice-over.

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4. How Do We Prepare Food So Quickly?

Obviously, we’re not all going to sit around twiddling our thumbs waiting for a roast or a lasagna to cook. So there are people in a second kitchen behind the scenes cooking a bunch of versions of the same recipe so it will be ready to go at different stages. That’s called a swap-out.

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5. We’re Not Always Smiling on the Inside

Sometimes, the dishes we taste on are stone cold because of a swap-out. So we may be saying, “Mmm,” but really it tastes awful. We just smile and stomach it.

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6. Sure, We Burn Things

When that happens, we just make sure to pick it up with the charred side away from the camera, and we never flip it over.

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7. It’s Dessert. That’s All You Need to Know

Sorry, but we are not going to let you know how bad a recipe is for you. While more chefs are acknowledging that we have a responsibility to people’s health, you’re never going to see calorie counts when we’re making chocolate cake.

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8. Add Some Acidity

It can enhance just about any dish. Whether from fresh citrus juice or vinegar, acidity wakes up the palate and makes food jump and pop.

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9. Why Does It Look Nicer on TV?

Before I host a cooking segment, I go through every step of the recipe with the art director, prop stylist, and food stylist.

They ensure I have every tool I need, they mise en place-or prepare and measure out-every ingredient, and they make the finished dish look gorgeous. So keep in mind that it will take you a lot longer to follow this recipe at home-and it probably won’t look quite as perfect.

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10. Please Don’t Follow my Recipes to the Letter

A recipe should be a loose map to guide you, but since no two ingredients are exactly the same, you should be constantly tasting the dish and adapting as you go along.

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11. Brown Means Brown-Not Tan

Whether searing a piece of fish or baking bread, home cooks generally underbake food. Really yummy, magical things happen when food turns brown.

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12. A Garnish Can Make Anything Look Better

Go ahead and throw some chopped fresh greens or herbs on top. They smell nice, create a beautiful contrast in colour, and give the whole plate a little zing.

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13. We Make Mistakes, Lots of Them

Towels catch on fire. Food gets dropped on the floor. We get cut and burned. One chef actually had the words “All Clad” branded onto her wrist for weeks after touching a pan that was coming out of the oven. But unless you’re watching a reality competition, you won’t see any of that on the air.

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14. The Truth Is…

I have no clue what brand of ketchup or baking powder I’m using. That’s because we have a graphic artist whose whole job is to “Greek” brand name products by creating fake names and new labels. It’s to avoid giving companies free exposure.”

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15. This Job is Harder Than it Looks

Besides just cooking, you have to describe your method step-by-step, talk about different ingredients, and make eye contact with the camera. And then there may be someone in your ear telling you need to get to the next step or to move the pepper mill because it’s blocking the shot.

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16. No, That’s Not my Real House or Kitchen

In most cases, I’m cooking on a set that gets packed up when we’re done filming the season.

If you stare at the cars in the background long enough, you’ll realize it’s just a video loop.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock )