When the telephone rings at four in the morning, most people worry about distant relatives. Not me. When my bedside phone splinters the darkness, I think of camera batteries. Did I put them on the charger? Will I have enough power to fuel my fancycam through whatever misadventure I’m about to be sent on? Okay, so mostly I just stumble around my bedroom and curse, but deep down inside I’m reviewing logistics. That way I’ll be ready when I’m dispatched to the edge of a violent storm, a heated police stand-off or the kitchen of a fancy restaurant. That’s right: I got ripped out of bed to shoot a cooking segment. Seems a co-worker’s kid had a medical emergency and since I was foolish enough to pick up the phone, I got to play galloping gourmet. At least that’s my version of how I came to hover over a sizzling curry chicken dish before the sun ever rose this morning. Beats the shoulder of an interstate, I guess.
Lucky 32 was dark when I banged on the side door. Soon enough though, Chef Jay Pierce appeared through the glass and let me in. Time didn’t allow for niceties. Instead, I brushed past the dude in the checkered pants, pulling my heavy cable into the very heart of his upscale kitchen. After a half dozen trips back and forth, I had his grill bathed in agreeable light, my camera perched precisely over the prep area and a twisting umbilical cord of video and audio snaking out of the kitchen, through the bar, down the steps and into the back of the rolling billboard I’d brought along just for fun. All the while, Chef Jay dropped enough comebacks and zingers to choke a road comic. On four hours of sleep, I wasn’t the best audience. See, ever since the rise of the Food Network, the majority of high-dollar chefs have developed stand-up routines to flesh out their act. I’m all for levity, but not when I got two dozen gizmos to plug together. Besides, I got my share of apron humor back in August - when I crashed the rather skeevy line of cooks auditioning for Season Whatever of Hell’s Kitchen.
Not to lump Chef jay in with those derelicts. No, our host was nothing less than gracious as Shannon Smith and I invaded his domain, crowding his oven area and sticking lenses inches away from his favorite soufflé. In the course of conversation, Chef Jay and I bonded over the distilled wit of Anthony Bourdain. Jay scored extra points for having actually read Kitchen Confidential and I perhaps elevated his opinion of early morning photogs by at least knowing what a sous-chef does. But we didn’t have all morning to chit-chat; there was cooking to get to! Not just any dishes either, but the favorite recipes of area dee-JAYS. You got it: I lost precious sleep so some wacky Morning Drive guy could pimp his roomies bean-dip. Knowing my place on the food-chain, I slogged my way through five live shots - cutesy intro’s, feigned excitement and simmering close-ups blurring into one long overly-spicy remote.
Here‘s the kicker. An hour after our live shot, I turned on the radio and heard Two Guys Named Chris (the official wacky morning zoo of Viewfinder BLUES) discussing the very segment I’d just finished shooting. Inspired by the synergy, I called into the show, got on-air and floated a few one-liners of my own. Can’t get that laying in bed.