Cooking on TV

Cooking on TV, me? I never thought, no, dreamt, that I will actually cook on TV. Let alone on British television!

We received an email from Raise the Roof Productions following a recommendation from our supper club asking if would we like to take part in a cooking competition for Kirstie Allsopp’s ‘Best Christmas Dish’. I filled in and sent the application form in which I proposed to prepare a classic Filipino meal during Christmas – Rellenong Manok, which is stuffed chicken (check the recipe here).

Although we were invited, it was not a guarantee that we will be accepted. During the waiting period, I started to receive several emails from the production company asking about the dish that I will be cooking, what accompaniments will I do and the recipe for all the dishes. I thought it was getting very detailed, so I wondered if I was in.

I finally got the confirmation that I will be cooking a week before the shoot. The following days leading up to the filming were a frenzy of emails asking for the ingredients list, equipment, travel, the lot! The great reveal, however, is that we actually have to prepare, cook and plate in 2.5 hours. This sent me to a state of panic! Not enough time to slice, chop, mix, stuff and cook to perfection!

I practised at home and timed myself to see if I can actually do it. During my practise run, the thought of not embarrassing myself on national TV kept on coming to mind.

 Checking the oven

Checking the oven

Filming day

Competition day finally came and I arrived at 8:30 AM for a call time of 10 AM. Arriving an hour and a half ahead of time is me being stressed! There was no one at the venue, which did not help calm my nerves. I went to the nearest café to wait and after an hour later, made my way back to the venue to find people (finally!).

Sileas, one of the producers greeted me and showed me to the kitchen before escorting me to a café for more coffee. Eventually, three other ladies joined me and they were the other participants in the competition. We started chatting and discovered that we all run supper clubs. You cannot get more diverse than our group for a Christmas food competition. We represented three continents and four countries – Philippines, Armenia, Nigeria, Cameroon-French.

 Roni with the other contestants

Roni with the other contestants

The producers were very strict with the timings so after we have all selected our equipment and utensils, the countdown began. The kitchen burst into a frenzy! You can hear the chopping, mixing and clanging of pots and pans from all four competitors.

We bumped into each other, running from the working table to the sink or utensil racks, whispering to each other that 2.5 hours was not enough time! Each of us had assigned ovens and halfway through, my nerves started kicking in again as my oven wasn’t hot enough.

With only half an hour to go, the others were already plating but I was still hovering over the oven checking the temperature of my chicken. I kept thinking to myself that it’s still not done. I still needed time to rest the bird!. Soldiering on, I started clearing my space and laying out the plates, ready to plate my dish. Ten minutes before the end, I took the chicken out of the oven, rested it for five minutes then started to plate up. I did it! Winning the competition was purely icing on the cake!

 Post contest with Kirstie Allsopp and chef judge, Jimmy Lee

Post contest with Kirstie Allsopp and chef judge, Jimmy Lee

Cooking on television – the aftermath

Cooking on television was an experience I will never forget. There were so many things to be mindful of – thinking on your feet, watching the timings of each element of the dish. Then you have the cameras all around you taking segments of each stir, mixing and pan frying. On top of that, there were the questions while cooking. There was a lot going on aside from the cooking!

Despite the nerves, I admit that I’m glad to have taken part in this competition. The experience was fantastic and I met three lovely ladies, Natalie, Dare and Carine. We are now planning our joint supper club in 2017.

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