A combination of teacher, actor and cook, a television chef must have adequate cooking skills, an aptitude for instructing others and an excellent stage presence. The demand for television chefs has risen in tandem with the popularity of cooking shows, creating a need for marketable personalities to effectively instruct and entertain. After a waiting period, casting departments for cooking shows typically make call backs to the best candidates and invite them to meet with the show’s producers. During this filmed meeting, the producers determine how the applicant’s personality will translate onto television and then decide if an applicant will fit into the show’s dynamics.
Acquire culinary training, either in a formal setting or a professional kitchen. The public demand for cooking programs and television chefs has prompted many culinary schools to offer media training, with an emphasis on television, as part of the standard curriculum. Cooking seen on most food programs deviates from classical cooking techniques, but a strong culinary background adds credibility and builds trust with the cooking show audience.
Participate in a commercial acting class. Cooking shows are similar to television commercials in that they both have a relatively short amount of time to engage an audience, build trust and persuade people to purchase a product or service. Cooking shows essentially sell, or encourage the viewer to prescribe to, a cooking idea, recipe or technique.
Although primarily a cook, a television chef must portray and instruct her audience in a manner that exhibits confidence. A commercial acting class helps develop those skills by introducing the workings of a film set, providing instruction in audition techniques and teaching students to convey concepts in a confident manner while being filmed.
Audition for cooking shows. Numerous opportunities now exist for aspiring television chefs in the form of reality shows centered around cooking and contest-type programs in which the winner secures a contract to host a cooking show. Involvement in programming of this type provides valuable media exposure and can lead to other, more lucrative opportunities later. Several contestants who did not win on Bravo’s “Top Chef” or The Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star” have continued on to host their own food-related television shows.
Although many factors other than cooking skills determine a cooking show applicant’s acceptance, the application process for these shows begins with the submission of a brief video with narrative of the applicant cooking.
A detailed application requesting background information, professional cooking history and any film or television experience is also required. Applications typically also inquire of any present or past relationships the applicant might have with any television chefs, if they have ever met or worked for any judges of the cooking show and why they feel they belong on the show.
Entertainment industry trade publications such as “Backstage West” routinely advertise casting calls and auditions for food-related programming.