Baltimore’s own hometown boy, cookbook author, TV personality, Steven Raichlen premieres his lastest TV series, Primal Grill this Saturday on MPT at 1:00 p.m. and I helped. Yup, Dining Dish was called in at the last minute when Raichlen’s assistant had health issue that kept her from working. The conversations started on Friday and Sunday afternoon I got the go a head to fly out the next day to Tubac, Arizona. I’ve worked with Steven in my past life at a local spice company as well as food styled for him when he did live performances at MPT.
I’ve not worked as a personal assistant before but advised Steven I would do my best. Everything was new; a new location, new production company, chefs who have never styled for TV and a willing, yet inexperienced personal assistant. Challenging to say the least I got through it without being fired and I’m living to write about it.
Please note the series was filmed outdoors, in a field with very live and vocal cows, mucho flies and other oh mys (javalinas and cow gifts). I was on set before dawn and left after sunset, I never saw my back patio of my room in the daylight until the last day of shooting when we wrapped early. By the time we got to day 10, I finally got the gig down. The staff and Steven were great and understanding. Steven was a gentleman even when others might have lost their cool, I so respect this man for all that he has accomplished. He’s written 25 cookbooks and is finishing his first novel and is traveling the world for background on his next cookbook.
I’ll stop my kvetching and tell you some behind the scenes stories. I mentioned the flies, they were horrendous. Camera’s rolling and there are flies all over the food so we would spray everything with bug spray…keep that in mind when Steven bites into the food at the end of the shot. Oh, the beauty shots, the finished products for that final shot. I would hear “Dara, there’s not enough salsa in the bowl we need more!!!!”….what. no more salsa—I would dump the salsa, roll up a paper towel and top it with the salsa…the bowl was full, beauty shot complete.
We were 20 miles north of the Mexican US border and at night I heard the helicopters search for the illegal immigrants sneaking across the border. Taking the airport limo back to Tucson we were stopped by border police checking out the van. When I was asked if I was an American citizen I was so tempted to say “si” but good sense took over my need to be funny.
What does a personal assistant do you ask? We needed extra long cinnamon sticks and we were no where near anywhere to find them. I reached out to an acquaintance in Tucson who owns Flavorbank Spices who had 18 inch cinnamon sticks. I coerced a waitress from the resort to drive 80 miles round trip to go pick them up for that day's shoot (only to have that recipe's filming postponed for the next 7 days).
I polished plates and bowls. Followed the recipes, caught errors, and noted changes. I would make sure everything for the recipes were on set as well as equipment and made sure it got cleared quickly after the filming. Worked on the beauty shots set up ( I had a lot of help from the one of the producers). Iron shirts when the PA’s PA disappeared (that is another story unto itself).
The set was not without its injuries. Injuries…ah burns, bloodied toe, smashed hand, head injury due to the boom being blown over in the wind and a sprained knee. Then there was the evening of the escaped cows that got out on the golf course and were corralled by chefs on golf carts.
If you love to grill this is the show to watch – please tune in on Saturday, May 17th at 1 p.m. –Maryland Public Broadcasting Channel 22 and 67 and if you look very closely at the credits and read really fast my name should be up there.