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December 3rd, 2003 KELLY CLARKE | z-Bite Club
 

Station Break

     
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KATHERINE ALFORD & JILL NOVATT
Turn off that television set. The Food Network is going live. Producers from the chow-vision channel will be in Portland on Monday to promote Food Network Kitchens Cookbook, a glossy, breakfast-to-dessert reader created by the network's test and production kitchens.

When Bite Club heard that two of the network's behind-the-scenes pros, Katherine Alford and Jill Novatt, would be in town for network demos, we called them up to dish about life beyond the TV tray.

Alford is the director of the test kitchens, and Novatt is a culinary producer who works on shows such as Wolfgang Puck, Boy Meets Grill and Emeril Live.

Bite Club: OK, when Barefoot Contessa puts a cake in the oven and it comes out perfectly baked 30 seconds later, is that the work of the production kitchen?

Jill Novatt: The chefs obviously don't have the time to cook everything by themselves--except for Rachael Ray [who hosts 30-Minute Meals]--so the production team decides what the chef will create on-air and what they'll swap out for a finished product.

The production team cooks during the show?

Katherine Alford: One production team will be preparing the same stew at three different stages for one show while another prepares a dish for another show. We cook more than 10 different cuisines in a week.

What if something goes wrong?

JN: We just have to keep going. One time Emeril was doing fried ice cream. We didn't anticipate the heat of the TV lights--the ice cream melted too fast, and when he put it in the fryer it completely disappeared. But Emeril just made up a quick sundae sauce on the spot--in front of a 200-member audience. And it tasted delicious.

We see these chefs' recipes on TV. Why read the book?

KA: Good food doesn't necessarily make for good TV. Slow processes like baking aren't often showcased. The cookbook gives the test kitchen an opportunity to share recipes that we might not be able to do on air.

After stepping into the limelight with this book, does either of you have on-air aspirations?

KA: No way. Anyone who has ever been on camera and had to cook and talk at the same time quickly realizes just how hard it is. I have major respect for chefs who can handle it.

'Fess up--who's your secret crush?

KA: All the chefs are pretty adorable, but I have a crush on Emeril. I love to watch the way children respond to him--he's their culinary hero.

JN: Jamie Oliver's pretty hot. But I'll always have a soft spot for Emeril.

Any tips for home cooks?

KA: Don't be afraid to get dirty or to make mistakes. In the test kitchen, we tried out every book recipe at least three times. We learn from our mistakes.

Who eats the leftovers?

KA: There's nothing left. We eat it all.


On Monday, Dec. 1, Food Network pros Katherine Alford and Jill Novatt will hold a free cooking demonstration at Kitchen Kaboodle (8788 SW Hall Blvd., 643-5491. Noon-2 pm) and a cooking class at In Good Taste (231 NW 11th Ave., 248-2015. 6:30 pm, $80).
 
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