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Friday, September 23, 2011

"Easy Chinese: San Francisco" Behind the Scenes

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Page 2 of 2

Swarms of people surrounded what appeared to be a new San Francisco lobster street food venture. We were working about 15 feet away from the crew and had to cross over a bike path to bring the food to the set. Every biker, jogger and roller blader stopped to watch and several asked if we had lobster for sale. It was a difficult day. Despite many obstacles, the crew managed to finish the episode before the sun went down.

Chairman Bao truck - J. NEWTON
  • J. Newton
  • Chairman Bao truck

For every episode I was responsible for preparing the recipes several times in different stages, in case the culinary producer requested a swap-out for the set. In the episode where Ching made pork bao buns on the Chairman Bao truck, I had to purchase and prepare 12 pounds of pork belly to show the various stages of the recipe (simmered, fried and braised).

We always had to have extra food in case multiple takes were necessary or in the event that something went wrong, but didn't end up needing all the pork belly on that day.

In one situation, making a large amount of a recipe in advance backfired.

For episode 13, Ching cooked for an engagement party at Wente Vineyards in Livermore. In addition to having backup food for the segment, we actually needed to feed a group of real guests. One of the items being served was red bean and banana sesame balls. I had tested the recipe weeks in advance with no problems. I made two trays of sesame balls the day before and stored them in the fridge.

When we went to cook them the next day, they weren't frying correctly. I had taken them out of the fridge in advance, but they were still slightly cold. They weren't puffing up as I remembered and the middle was not cooking all the way through. In order to get them to cook thoroughly, they were black on the outside which obviously wasn't acceptable on camera.

We had extra rice flour and I was able make another batch in time for the party. To make matters worse, no one understood how important it was that we save these new sesame balls. It appeared that we had more than we needed, but most of the ones we had were unusable. I hid the treats, but people (mainly my assistant) kept eating them.

In the end, we had just enough for the segment and for each of the guests -- with not one extra to spare. It was a close call.

Every day on the show was a new crazy adventure. I was pushed and challenged on every level, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. The best part of the job was the amazing crew of people I got to work with, people that I plan to stay in touch with and hope to work with again.

Marla Simon is a San Francisco-based chef, food stylist, and food writer.

Follow her on twitter at @Marla_Simon

Follow us at: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Marla Simon

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