Monday, August 6, 2012

I Saw How The Curiosity Got The Chef Magic Happens

Nearly two weeks ago Chef Sharwin Tee and the Curiosity Got the Chef team were in my neck of the woods mountains to shoot two episodes for the show's second season, which started airing on Lifestyle Network last month.

Based on what Sharwin told me, I would've appeared on camera had I showed up for the taping of the first episode, a camping-themed ep. Too bad I didn't have the time. I made sure to watch their second shoot the following day, though. Below is a retro-diary of what I witnessed.

(Note: This was written from memory so the times are all estimates. I didn't plan on blogging about the shoot at the time; I went there just to watch the magic happen, as it were. And I did. But enough about me.)
8:45 a.m. – I arrive at Le Monet Hotel and head for the garden out back where the shoot was supposed to take place. I chance upon the crew bringing out equipment and setting up the cooking and prep areas.

8:50 a.m. – I am told Sharwin is in makeup. I decide that that I didn't have to see, ha ha.

8:55 a.m. – I head to the hotel café overlooking the set and meet Sharwin. He is apparently through with makeup and is doing a final review of the script. One member of the production team is decorating one of those artful chalkboards that are a CGTC staple.

9:10 a.m. – Sharwin goes down to the set and helps prepare the things he will use on camera. We talk while he’s doing this, and those who hear me call him “ST” do a double-take. I could almost picture them go, What did he just call our star?

9:40 a.m. – Sharwin takes his place at his (for lack of a better term) MacGyvered outdoors kitchen. The team is in high spirits after the interesting night some of them apparently had. They start shooting B-rolls.

9:45 a.m. – The fog rolls in, and fast. You know the type—the kind that in movies precedes the appearance of the baddie who then goes on a massive hacking and stabbing spree. The fog is gone less than an hour later but I still think, Uh-oh, it’s going to rain soon.

9:50 a.m. – It rained the previous day, so the ground starts to get muddy from all the foot traffic. The production assistant scavenges for used cartons and wooden boards for the team to stand or walk on.

10 a.m. – The camera finally rolls with Sharwin cooking Carrot Flan with Ginger Chicken. You read that right: carrot flan. Think leche flan, but with carrots.

10:40 a.m. – The shoot stops whenever the mics pick up the noise from the vehicle traffic on Camp John Hay’s main road. Nevertheless, the team finds humor in the interruptions.

11:20 a.m. – Minutes after the segment is completed, rain falls. It grows stronger so the set is evacuated. A break is called.

11:50 a.m. – The rain weakens to a light drizzle, so they attempt to tidy up and prepare the set for the next segment. But the rain falls again.

12 p.m. – The team breaks for lunch. Sharwin manages to find a clip of the Rowan Atkinson cameo in the Olympics opening ceremony. We laugh at Mr. Bean.

1 p.m. – It’s still drizzling but the director decides it’s manageable and they could continue shooting.

1:15 p.m. – A Korean dude who was eating at the café wanders over to see what the hubbub was about. When he starts going around taking pictures the team exchanges raised eyebrows.

1:20 p.m. – The Korean dude goes in for a close-up while the cameras are rolling. Cuuutt!

1:30 p.m. – There’s a pause in the shooting as the rain is starting to fall again. The Korean dude gets a picture with Sharwin then leaves.

1:40 p.m. – The rain grows stronger, and everyone evacuates the set again.

2:00 p.m. – The team decides to commandeer the café and shoot the whole episode there. They move their equipment, prep the new kitchen, and set up the lights, mics, and cameras.

2:50 p.m. – I lose count of the number of times people approach Sharwin and ask for photos with him. But each time I see that happen, I smile. Sure, I'm biased, but all that celebrity couldn't have happened to a nicer or a more well-deserving guy.

3 p.m. – The cameras finally roll again. Sharwin starts cooking "Faux Gras" with Sautéed Vegetables. The "faux gras" is tokw—er, tofu. The "faux gras" is tofu.

3:05 p.m. – After hearing Sharwin's opening spiel, I realize the team might have been fortunate the inclement weather forced them to shoot the cooking segments at the cafe. I tell him this hours later.

3:10 p.m. – The mics keep picking up the hum of the café's large cheese chiller. The management lets the team unplug it, but only for short stretches. The team plugs it back in whenever there's a lull in the shooting. They are also forced to work fast, in order for the cheeses not to get spoiled (and for them not be hit with a huge bill).

3:55 p.m. – After a short search for a television to tune in to Studio 23, I find one at the hotel bar. One of the CGTC producers and I take turns checking whether the Ateneo-La Salle basketball game has started.

4:15 p.m. – Two customers, a foreign man and his Filipina companion, enter the bar. Our hopes of watching the game live are dashed when the man asks a waiter to change the channel to the Olympics.

4:20 p.m. – Sharwin moves on to making Grilled Sumac-scented Salmon with Quinoa Salad. From this dish I learn about three new things: sumac (a spice), quinoa (an edible seed), and nasturtium (an edible blossom).

5 p.m. – Snacks are served. Everyone eats except for Sharwin, the camera men, and the sound men who all continue shooting.

5:10 p.m. – The café's other customers are cooperating with the shoot by conversing practically in whispers. Too funny. Meanwhile, a bride and groom arrives and holds their own photoshoot at the hotel lobby and at another side of the cafe. The team keeps an eye on them, but continues taping.

5:30 p.m. – A member of the team arrives from an errand with lights borrowed from somewhere (I think it was from the local ABS-CBN crew?). Those would prove especially useful later on, when at dusk they lose the natural light and are forced to simulate daylight.

5:40 p.m. – They re-shoot the entire carrot flan segment. I start to nod off because I already saw it that morning.

7 p.m. – After approximately four hours of shooting Sharwin finishes his on-camera work. He sits down and finally gets a chance to eat his merienda. Later, he hobnobs with some other visitors to the set.

7:01 p.m. – The chiller is plugged back in for good. The cheeses look none the worse for wear.

7:20 p.m. - The team sets up an area off to the side, and they start to shoot all the ingredients and finished dishes from that episode.

7:40 p.m. – The director challenges Sharwin to whip up something out of the left-over ingredients, and he agrees. I move in for a closer look.

8 p.m. – Sharwin tells me that it's the first time he's doing this. Because it's an out-of-town shoot, they have nowhere to keep the leftover ingredients.

8:05 p.m. – Sharwin cooks what's left of the mushrooms for the "faux gras" dish, then the remaining salmon. (He also puts a serious dent in their butter supply.) I get to taste everything, including the dishes the team have finished shooting.

To be honest, that after-shoot mini-cookfest was the highlight of the day for me. It was a treat to watch up close a professional, and a friend at that, in action doing what he does best, even if what he made was relatively simple fare.

8:50 p.m. – Some people wander over to see what’s going on. One or two get photos with the celebrity chef.

9:30 p.m. – Dinner is served after the team finishes with the product shots. I get to taste something new: a steamed head of garlic that gives you a sweet paste to spread like butter on steak.

10:15 p.m. – I go up with Sharwin to their room for a bit, hoping to catch the replay of the Ateneo-La Salle game. No such luck, but we chance upon a replay of the Olympics opening ceremony. Danny Boyle sure went to town!

10:30 p.m. – There's a brownout (which turns out to be city-wide)! But that doesn’t stop most of the team from heading out for a last night on the town. I take my leave soon after that.
All in all, a fun experience. I wouldn't mind doing it again—this time for Season 3. (Fingers crossed, ha ha!)

Curiosity Got the Chef airs on Lifestyle Network at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, with replays on Saturdays at 6 p.m., Sundays at 10 a.m., and Tuesdays at 5 p.m.

The Baguio episodes will most likely air at the end of the month.


  1. it's wednesday nite and i just watched Chef Sharwin make the carrot flan! looks convincingly masarap ! how can i get a hold of the recipe? please ...... thank u sooooo much !


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