Michael Smith brings food bloggers to P.E.I. to film lentils

Lights, camera...lentils. Chef Michael Smith plays host to five food bloggers from across Canada. They competed for the chance to cook lentils with the famous chef in his test kitchen in Fortune, P.E.I.

'We're putting the food bloggers through the wringer'

Food blogger and contest winner Lalitha Taylor on set with Chef Michael Smith in his test kitchen in Fortune P.E.I. (Facebook/Chef Michael Smith)
Chef Michael Smith is bringing home the bacon, or in this case, the lentils, in a new web series being filmed on Prince Edward Island.

The series is called "Star of the Show" and features five bloggers from across Canada who competed for a chance to cook their favourite lentil recipe alongside the Island chef.

"We brought them to Prince Edward Island to, sort of, put them in a boot camp," said Smith.

"Learn what it takes to televise food, to make food videos, to host those videos and to effectively communicate food."

Smith says he's happy that the production partner, Saskatchewan Pulses, agreed to bringing the show to Prince Edward Island rather than "defaulting to Toronto".

Chef Michael Smith says he was pleased that they were able to film the web series on P.E.I. , with this local crew, rather than "defaulting" to Toronto to shoot. (Facebook/Chef Michael Smith)

"One of the things I like best about this production is that, once again, we're able to bring the world of production to Prince Edward Island," said Smith. "That really means a lot to me."

Putting them 'through the wringer'

Each food blogger spends a day on set in the chef's test kitchen in Fortune, P.E.I. 
 
"We're putting the food bloggers through the wringer," joked director Edward Mowbray, who worked with Smith on the series "Chef at Large". 

"They're seeing how difficult it is to do what Michael makes look so seamless."

A crew member gets ready for another day of shooting "Star of the Show" in Chef Michael Smith's test kitchen in Fortune, P.E.I. (Facebook/Chef Michael Smith)

​Mowbray says there have been a few hiccups on the production side, including one contestant who left his lentils in the car and locked his keys in the car, forcing a last minute substitution of ingredients.

"Michael is very generous with his time with them and they're just sucking up all the information and education they can get from Michael," said Mowbray.

"They're surprisingly good though," Mowbray added. "We're having a pretty good time with them."

'Opportunity of a lifetime'

Lalitha Taylor, a registered dietician from Edmonton, submitted a recipe called Lentil Power Bites, which she describes as "a quick easy recipe highlighting lentils as a sweet snack". 

It was the public relations officer at the primary care network where she works that encouraged Taylor to enter the competition.

Lalitha Taylor says she was already a big fan of Chef Michael Smith so getting to cook with him was "the opportunity of a lifetime". (Facebook/Chef Michael Smith)
"I've watched Michael Smith for a long period of time and I'm a huge fan of his," admitted Taylor. 

"I'm very passionate about using plant-based proteins," added Taylor, who says she promotes lentils to her patients.

Taylor calls her time on set with Chef Michael Smith the opportunity of a lifetime.

"It has been pretty surreal, I'll be honest," said Taylor. 

"To be working along side one of the chefs that I've idolized for years, it's really amazing."

"I'm absorbing everything from him right now," she added.

Web series 'airs' in June

Smith says he has been impressed at how quickly the five contestants have caught on to presenting food on TV.
Food blogger and dietitian Lalitha Taylor opted for a sweet rather than savoury recipe in these Lentil Power Bites. (Facebook/Chef Michael Smith)

"I think the biggest single challenge hosting a food cooking show is saying something different than what you're doing with your hands," observed Smith. 

"We don't want to just say 'okay I'm putting the onions in the pot' - I can see that. Tell me why you're putting the onions in the pot."

The web series will go online in June, and Smith says he thinks the show has a future, beyond the five episodes.

"I really think we've stumbled onto something pretty interesting here," said Smith. "Our 'Star of the Show' format is ready for primetime."

"We might just blow this up for Food Network."