Video in the Kitchen

TV cooking shows

Sometimes at a party or a dinner at someone’s home, your taste buds will love a certain appetizer, main dish or dessert. Now, you’ve just got to have the recipe. The host or hostess usually grabs any sheet of paper and jots it down quickly for you. But when you later try the recipe yourself, it usually doesn’t taste the same.


What happened? For one thing, meals often taste better simply because someone else makes them. More importantly, however, it often happens that critical parts of recipes are forgotten by the recipe writer. Sometimes the cook puts in a dash of this and a dab of that without thinking, because he or she had made that recipe so often. More often than not, you don’t get the dashes and dabs in the scribbled notes.

The Recipe Video

Today, we can easily videotape another person making a favorite recipe. Likewise, we can also do a self-video of our own cooking. Either way, a permanent record is made to help others when they try to re-create your mouth-watering dishes.

If you want some guidelines for making an Epicurean video project, I present here a list of important steps.

Setting Up To Videotape

Check your camcorder to make sure you have fresh tape and that the battery is fully charged.

Also check the lighting and take test video to see if it’s adequate. If your kitchen is not well-lit, you’ll need auxiliary lighting.

If you have a remote, put your camcorder on a tripod with the monitor screen swiveled toward you. Using the remote, you’ll be able to zoom in on various steps of the recipe as it unfolds. If you don’t have a remote and must have a steady frame for your entire video, set up your “master shot” that all the action will be visible. Then shoot sample footage to see if this steady frame works well.

Make sure your microphone is not too far from the main scene. Otherwise, your voice will not be clear enough for your audience. If you can, wear a wireless mike close to your mouth, because this will give superior results. Again, take test footage to ensure that your voice is heard well!

There is no substitute for being well-prepared when shooting any videotape. The extra time you take will pay off in the final product. Do not rush this process.

Setting up The Area

Before you begin, set out all your tools, measuring devices and ingredients. Don’t forget things like wooden spoon and whisks. Also, don’t bother with getting brand-new tools because you think they’ll look better to the camcorder.

If your recipe calls for a cup of flour, have that filled cup right there and ready to be put in the bowl. Don’t waste time measuring the ingredients during the videotaping. Take a piece of paper and type or print every ingredient of your recipe. Videotape this list at the beginning of your production and refer to it as you create your dish.

TV cooking shows

For example, if you specify one cup of flour, go to the recipe page and show it as you proceed. Of course, at the end of the tape, you should again show the whole recipe. Watch a cooking show on television and see how it’s done!

Helpful Hints

Try to always face the camcorder, even when putting things in the oven or on the stove. This may not be possible to do because of the layout of your kitchen. But do try, because nobody likes to see the backs of people obscuring their view. (Also, not many people look great from the rear!)

Try not to be too artificial when presenting your recipe. Let your personality shine through. Don’t use bad language or any offensive gestures. Speak to your audience as you cook.

If you can, tilt the bowls toward the camcorder so that people can see inside them. Make sure–whether you’re making a self-video or taping someone else–that you remember to include cooking pointers. For example, show all steps in juicing a lemon: First, roll it with your palms; and then poke a small hole in the top; and then just squeeze the juice right in the bowl or pan.

Use items that connote freshness, such as a pepper mill rather than ground pepper from a can or bottle.

Finally, show off the finished product at the end of your video recipe. Make it look good by garnishing the plate with colorful vegetables or fruits, and present it on good dinnerware. To suggest a wonderful dining experience, you might show it on a table with candles.

Real People, Real Recipes

Chef Bonne, who makes her own cooking videos, advises care when it comes to clothing. She says, for example, that bright colors with busy prints will distract the viewer. Proper grooming is also important. No one wants to see a video with the chef wearing a dirty shirt. Wearing an apron is optional, but a good idea, if only to keep spills offs your clothes. Plus, aprons make you look professional.

Bonne stresses that the cooking area must be clean and uncluttered. She also suggests talking a little about good health practices at the start of any cooking video. This, of course, is up to you, but is worth thinking about, for sure! And make sure that your utensils, pots and pans are clean, too.

Chef Jane, who once owned a restaurant, likes to make entire meals on her barbecue. When I visited to get her on video, she was preparing to make a steak dinner. As I set up my equipment, I saw that there was little clutter.

Jane then took me down to her garden area to gather fresh vegetables. I felt like I was Martha Stewart in action. I watched as she put the steaks on the grill, along with her biscuits. These biscuits are mouth-watering delights, and she shared her recipe with viewers. She had all the ingredients ready, and she whipped up the biscuits quickly and easily. I asked Jane if she had a hint for making recipe videos. She replied, “Just make sure you follow the recipe exactly, so that the viewer doesn’t get mixed up. Also, make sure that a printed copy of the recipe is available to go along with the video.”

Good chefs are sometimes reluctant to share their special recipes. But often they can be coaxed, if they’re given a good reason. One such reason is that they are giving a gift to future generations.

Other Thoughts about Videotaped Recipes

Your videotaped recipe can be part of your legacy. I suggest that you endure the time-consuming rehearsals and extra efforts, so that your tape will be cherished for many years.

Videotaped Recipes

Something else to consider: Convince your aged relatives to let you videotape them making their favorite recipes. How about that great stuffing you ate at your mother’s house? Get her to make it on tape, because I’m sure there will be at least one step that wouldn’t show up in a handwritten recipe. It might just be the “tiny” thing that makes the stuffing taste just like you remember.

My friend Edna tells of her mother working in the kitchen. Edna would see her mother use unmeasured handfuls of flour and other ingredients, even though her mother owned many measuring tools. Edna would ask if she could officially measure the ingredients, but her mother would always reply, “Maybe next time.” Unorthodox cooking methods like this are much better revealed on videotape than in handwritten form.

Consider this: Make a live family cookbook. Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to make their favorite recipes on videotape. Then make a long anthology video of everybody’s individual tapes.

When doing a family cookbook, have the presenter give you his or her name on the tape, a short history of the recipe, and when it was used the most. If the recipe requires special utensils or tools, point them out.

To repeat an earlier suggestion, make sure the family videos always include the finished product: Show it emerging from oven or refrigerator, in all its glory! The camcorder can’t smell or taste, so make sure the chef takes a piece and tries it. Make sure the chef exclaims about the excellent smell and taste.

Recipes on videotape make wonderful gifts, and they’re entertaining, too! Don’t put off making your own tapes. Start gathering your recipes today and get cooking!

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