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The Stuff About Making a Cooking Show That Nobody Tells You

Melissa's picture

So, you have a video camera. You can use Windows Media Maker. You can cook. And you’re ready to seek your fame and fortune on the fertile landscape of the World Wide Web. Ready to start filming? Not so fast!

It is true that websites like YouTube and Daily Motion allow the artist in you to indulge himself or herself into their artistic pursuirts. But now, you have a wider choice. You can blend in with the “Rank and File” film hobbyists, or you can get serious. Making an episodic cooking show’s an awful lot of fun, but hard work as well. You have to keep in mind that filming yourself cooking a recipe and putting it up on the web is NOT a bad thing! In fact, it’s a lot of fun. But there’s a big difference between a cooking DEMO and a cooking SHOW.

In this blog, we shall focus on my personal experience to put together a cooking show, with the help of my fiance. It all began in July of ’06, when my fiancé and I decided to produce a cooking tutorial to put on the web. We thought we were already ahead of the game because Mike is a high school video teacher. We had access to all sorts of nice equipment, so we figured that we were ready to go!

Wrong! We filmed out first disastrous 8-minute “episode” in the span of 3+ hours, and spent another 6-8 hours in front of the computer editing. When we were done, we had a really crappy video. We promptly pressed the “Delete” key on the file, and came up with a new plan. Here’re some of the things we discovered, which could help you as well to create a cooking show of your own.


It’s not enough to say, “I want to make a show”. What kind of show is it? To whom will it appeal? Are you painting yourself into a corner with even your title? Say your nickname is “Peanut”, so you think it would be clever to create a show called, “Peanut Cooks Peanuts”. That’s all well and good, but have you done your homework? How many “GOOD” peanut recipes are you going to be able to come up with? And really, how many people are going to tune in every week to learn new peanut recipes? 


That first episode was a disaster because we assumed it would be a lot like our nightly meal-time. At the end of it, we realised that if nightly meal-time were 3 hours long, and filled with re-takes, bickering, and burned ingredients, we’d be eating out a lot more.

We PLANNED for me to just cook normally, except talking to a camera to explain the steps. Then we’d edit out the cooking “lulls”, and voila! A hit show would be born! Here’s the fundamental problem with that – TV and “Real Life” are mutually exclusive! TV has nothing to do with “reality”, much to the chagrin of those of you watching Survivor and thinking it’s ridiculous that the show employs “writers”. Filming a person cooking a meal is about as interesting as watching C-Span when they’re airing a Congressional hearing. I mean, think about Emeril. Even Emeril-The-Great puts his food in the oven and then magically pulls a completely cooked meal out 10 seconds later! Count on your show needing to be shot in a “segment” format: Intro, Prep, Stove-Top, Season, Add extra Ingredients, Plate, etc. That way there’s a clear line of communication between the videographer and the on-air talent as to when something “important” is going to happen and needs to be filmed.


And even Emiril focuses on ENTERTAINING his audience first, and showing them how to cook SECOND. That’s why we remember his “Bam!” long before we recall specific meals we watched him cook.


1 – Buy a Tripod – They only cost a few dollars and are the best buy. You might not think you need one, but you will need one.

2 – Use a Script, But Don’t Read From It – Even the BEST public speaker will use a lot of “ums” and “ahs” if they don’t have a plan in place before they open their mouth. Also, without a script, you’ll invariably catch yourself saying “Damn! I forgot to say…” immediately after your videographer says “cut”.


Pre-planning the format of the show should allow you to figure out the specific times you will need to be filmed. Why not pre-plan what you’re going to say during those times? But try your best to memorize the script before you shoot. Even if you can figure out a way to look at the words without your eyes darting all over the screen, there are VERY few people that can read aloud and sound like they’re not reading. At the very least, it will sound forced and tired.


So you think that because you’re filming a 10-minute webisode, you’ll be done filming in less than a half-hour? Think again. Our average is about an hour-and-a-half to two-hours, and that's after 10 weeks of experience. This amount of time includes multiple-retakes, pausing for a breather in-between contiguous segments, and so-on.


Last, but not the least, people aren’t going to sit in front of their monitors and watch you for 30 minutes. So if your idea is “meals you can cook in 2 hours”, understand up front that you’re going to be editing out 90% of what you film. Group important things like essential instructions and cool tricks together, and film them during the same segment.

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khau.khan's picture
Wow! This is so useful. hope to include all this in my videos
shakti's picture
Loved it again and again...
admin's picture
thanks for the tips. From your COOKING SHOW it looks like you do know how to make cools videos. I love your style. keep it up
butterbites's picture
keep up the good work :)
The.Tortilla.Guy's picture
You are so right !!! there does have to be thought behind what you do or want to do. I mean to put a baby break dancing on a food spot is another example. Or even to blog about politics at least talk about the sandwich when you do !! Your stuff is great !!! "The Tortilla Guy"
admin's picture
Thanks for writting this helpful blog. We have added it to the Help Group. With Regards, Admin
joanne.cain's picture
Very nice blog. It was informative as it was helpful as it was entertaining to read. :) ---------------- *JOJO .::.Live. Life. Love.::.
shantihhh's picture
Great to know-thanks!
LizzieMarieCuisine's picture
Hi Melissa, Great info, thanks for sharing. We can totally relate to the *edit* section of your blog. We do Lizzie Marie's shoots on Saturdays. Today, Sunday, Lizzie Marie was walking through the room where I was previewing the latest video when she blurted out, "Mom! It says presened... it's wrong... Dad needs to fix it!" I had been staring at the video for so long, I didn't see that at the very end, in the closing credit, the word PRESENTED was missing the "T". I'm glad Lizze Marie has eagle eyes! Warmly, Lizzie Marie Cuisine feeding body & soul
StuartRebDonald's picture
Great job, Melissa. That is why you are one of the best.
coolness's picture
THANKS!!! awesome write up!!
Dr. Manwine's picture
That was very helpful. AND your description was perfect for the beginner. I am going to look up your show to see how things are turning out and spread the word. Great Job!
Reactoss's picture
Thanks for this, I googled for tips for starting a cooking show and came across your blog. My friend and I are planning on making one soon and you gave me a few tips I hadn't thought about. Thank you!
Benita Wheeler's picture
great advice for us aspring cooks out there trying to work it out.
Anonymous's picture
great advice! Definitely needs some planning in advance. What sort of lighting did you use for your cooking show this is our first cooking show and budget is real tight.
Tamtha's picture
Thank you for your 'sage' advice. I too searched goggle for "how to write a cooking show", yours was the 3rd on the list and the best advice yet! Look for "Ms. Tam's Place" coming to a freetv site near you! Thanks again & keep the great advice coming.
The Stuff About Making A Cooking Show That Nobody Tells You