So after dragging all the ingredients in my luggage down to Munich the night before, the next morning a van is waiting at the hotel entrance to pick me up for the shoot. An hour or so on the Autobahn later, we arrive at Bonny’s Diner, an American-themed restaurant where we’ll film how to make the pizza.
On the way there, I learn who I’m up against that evening.
“The Italian runs his own pizza restaurant here in town,” the producer says, “and though he’s been here for ages, doesn’t speak a word of German.”
“And the German?”
“He’s a professional chef, goes all over the country catering to private and corporate functions, giving cooking classes, the works. He must have been on TV a half-dozen times already.”
And here’s me – duff blogger, regretfully opportunistic forum reader and hobby pizza baker, about to get royally humiliated. First before a live, studio audience, and again a couple of weeks later in front of millions of television viewers.
Fighting off visions of taste-testers slowly crumpling in knee-wilting groans of eye-rolling ecstasy as they take the first bite of the competition – after spitting mine out in disgust – we get to work.
After about three hours of walking in and out of the restaurant several times carrying at first a shopping bag and then a pizza, walking into the kitchen, taking the ingredients out over and over, several takes and re-takes of mixing the dough, throwing the sauce together, cutting up the toppings, grating the cheese, and saying and demonstrating how it is built and shoving it into the oven a few times, the crew is RAVING about the two I bake them.
“Man, I don’t know what the kids are going to say,” the sound girl says, “but that pizza is outstanding.”
They’re all nodding in agreement and I ask them, “can we just do that last bit one more time with the camera rolling?”
The cooking school
We pack up and head downtown to the cooking school where as we walk in, another shoot is in progress. It’s the German, and he’s making a pizza. A square pizza. Two huge, square pizzas, with really fancy dough, and he’s got a pile of ingredients on hand, one of which resembles salami.
It’s also like a church in there, because they’re filming and he’s explaining to the camera how he’s making them. But because we’re kind of pressed for time, I have still have to gather all the kitchen equipment together in absolute silence and start making three more pizzas, which are going to be whisked away on a delivery guy’s moped to the gang of waiting teenagers.
At one point I get really into the mixing and cutting and forget myself, start humming a song and banging pots around, and a camera assistant comes over and touches my arm.
Things start to get a little hectic in the final few hours. We pack up all the pizzas in containers – not those floppy cardboard boxes, but real pre-heated metal containers – stick them into cars and on the back of a moped for an agonisingly slow crawl through Munich afternoon rush-hour traffic to a school way on the outskirts of town, where 30 hungry teenagers are waiting patiently for us to arrive to do the taste test.
The Italian, as it turns out, has also been kicking around there for about two hours, and it takes another hour or so before the lights and cameras are set up and the kids told how everything is going to proceed. They get shoved from one side of the room to the other because this angle didn’t look right, that shot needed to be done over and the other thrown away, but we finally get down to the taste test just in time for me to realise my pizza has hardened, gone semi-cold and shrunk down to half its height.
They select a half-dozen or so from the audience, sit them down in the front row and blind-fold them. Each one, in turn, comes up and takes a bite of pizza, then is led away for a quick reaction Q&A before another camera.
I really hope they keep this one shot: One of the girls is about 17, pretty but in a Goth – lite kind of way, with cleavage down to a point that almost makes you want to ask, “Honey, does your Mum know you’re hanging out like that in weather like this?”
She stands up and is led toward my table and I pick up a plate with what I think is the best piece of the bunch. She picks it up and brings it to her lips, then opens her mouth wider, shoves it in, and…. bursts out in a fit of giggles, uncontrollably so, her laughter spilling out into the audience, and for a second or two there’s this awkward moment where I wonder if she’s going to lose it, if pieces of topping are about to tumble from the sides of her mouth, when suddenly the fit is over and she’s led away.
Before we know it, it’s seven-thirty in the evening and I have less than two hours before my flight leaves back to Hamburg.
This is where it starts to get surreal. In a mad rush, the three of us troop out of the little theatre and into a side foyer, where we quickly go through a bunch of set-up scenes, which I’m guessing are going to be used for the intro. First they ask us to run through a flag as if we were winning a race, but the camera guy says it looks like crap. So then we’re all given oversized wooden spoons and told to make like we’re gangsters, holding the spoons as if they were guns. We all look stern as we walk toward each other, meeting eyeball-to-eyeball and glaring menacingly at one another. They get close-up shots of that and then we each have to walk across the room, turn and fire the wooden spoon at the camera over a flag and walk on – James Bond 007-style.
Then we all pile back into where the kids are waiting, for a truly televisual bit of theatre. Because I have to dash off to the airport – by now there’s a taxi waiting outside – and they still have to stay at least another hour to shoot the taste test with the German – we have to fake the celebrations. Yup. I won’t tell you who won, but before I leave, the audience is told to go nuts cheering and clapping for each of us in turn, so that when the result is known, they can simply use the one that fits.
OK! The American pizza won! Yaaaaay!
OK! The German pizza won! Yaaaaay!
OK! The Italian pizza won! Yaaaaay!
And off I go to the taxi and home.
© 2008 lettershometoyou
Reminder: Only three days to go. March 13, 1910 on Pro 7.