“Class, what did we make today?”
“Lasagne verdi alla bolognese e tagliatelle,” we all replied in unison.
That response was much more difficult to pronounce than it looks, but that’s probably because we all had to smile our brightest and look into the camera while saying it. That’s right. Once again, Johnson & Wales provided me with an incredible opportunity and a big “first” for me. Along with nine other Johnson & Wales Culinary Arts Students, I was filmed for an episode of Mary Ann Esposito’s PBS show “Ciao Italia”. It is currently the longest-running food TV show and is currently in its 20th season! She has long been a supporter of Johnson & Wales so it was natural for her to come to shoot an episode in our newly completed Center for Culinary Excellence.
We arrived promptly at 1:00 pm (after most of us had been in lab since 7 am) in our best-pressed chef whites. After meeting Mary Ann and her crew, we patiently waited for them to get acquainted with the classroom in which we would be filming as well as set up all of their lighting equipment. The producer came outside to brief of us on the order of filming, and we were quickly given our assignments by the Director of Culinary Events here at school.
To ensure that each of us had a chance to be on camera, we were each assigned a partner or small team with whom we would work to prepare one element of our lasagne. I was assigned the fresh spinach lasagne noodles, while another group was assigned bechamel, another tagliatelle, and the last the bolognese.
We began with a quick group shot in which we all crowded around Mary Ann and watched as she made the spinach pasta dough. Because she was supposed to be teaching us how to make pasta (as if none of us had ever made it before), we were instructed to nod along and look very interested in what she was doing. (Nodding and smiling was a recurring theme for the day. After all, it is her show and we didn’t have microphones.)
After a few initial group shots, we were sent to our “stations” as she says on film but they really weren’t stations at all. The table at which our group shot was filmed became my group’s spinach pasta station as well as the tagliatelle group’s station. My group was the first to be filmed (though I don’t know if it will be first on the air). We began making the spinach lasagne noodles while Mary Ann watched, saying things like “Now this isn’t difficult is it?” And we, looking surprised that it was in fact easy, reply back with, “No, it’s actually not.” It was all a little fake but hopefully we were good actors and actresses.
The rest of the afternoon was a waiting game for me. I watched as the other groups prepared their elements of the lasagne and occasionally tried to walk through the background of the shot in a lame attempt to be on TV more.
In between shots and the occasional lipstick reapplication, Mary Ann visited with us, asking us what we planned to do after graduation, how we like things at Johnson & Wales, where we were from, etc. She was very friendly which we of course appreciated.
Once all of the elements were complete, we regrouped to assemble the lasagne and put it in the oven. The last shot was filmed about 2 to 3 hours after our start time and consisted of Mary Ann’s signature finish line as well as a re-cap of what we had made.
The episode should be on the air within the year and will remain on the air for 3 years! The start of stardom? Probably not, but it was a wonderful experience.