A is for Apple: New Ottawa TV series offers the ABCs of cooking

A is for Apple hosts as Rennee Magritte's Son of Man painting

A is for Apple: New Ottawa TV series offers the ABCs of cooking

Bananas and bacon. Kale and kumquats. Apples and anchovies: These are just some of the possible combinations for Gusto TV’s new original series A is for Apple.

The new series from the Ottawa-based digital channel will feature three young, up and coming chefs when it premieres next fall. In each show, one of the three chefs will be assigned a letter of the alphabet. He or she will then choose two unlikely ingredients that begin with that letter to create a tasty and surprising dish.

The idea behind the show is to get audiences thinking about what they might already have in their kitchens and inspire home-cooked creations. This means that there is a fine line to walk between choosing ingredients or combinations that might be a bit unusual, and choosing things that are outrageous just for the sake of it.

“Wild, over the top stuff that has nothing to do with people’s lives and is contrived or ingredients that are unknown or ridiculous … it might be funny but it doesn’t really give anybody anything,” says Mark Prasuhn, vice president and general manger of Gusto TV. “We’re saying, let’s have some fun with these ingredients, but at the end of the day they are ingredients that are not exotic for the average person and the techniques involved in combining them into great, fresh, healthy food is not over the top complicated or anything either.”

The Citizen was allowed to attend the second last day of filming for the series during which chef Leah Wildman was making a stuffing with cheddar and chestnuts and teaching audiences how to truss a chicken.

“Now the next step might look a little intimidating, but it’s not,” she said as she looked into the camera. “It’s super easy and it’s going to help keep all that stuffing inside the bird while it cooks. It’s called trussing.”

Wildman, who was a very warm presence in the studio, is from Toronto. She studied French cuisine in the south of France and just recently left a catering and meal delivery service in Toronto that is dedicated to creating meal plans for people with fitness goals, health concerns, or restrictive diets. She got the call from Gusto just as she her previous job and immediately came into Ottawa for a whirlwind round of filming.

The series will have 30 half hour episodes and was filmed over three and a half weeks with each host on camera for a week and a bit doing two episodes a day.

The episodes have four acts. Act one is on location at Farm Boy, where the chefs are assigned their letter and are then filmed shopping for their ingredients. Act two features the chef creating a dish using one of the ingredients in its own recipe, while act three features the other. Act four is the finale, combining both ingredients into one dish.

Each episode has three recipes, this means all three chefs worked their way through six recipes a day. It’s no wonder then that the fast paced shooting style was a bit mind-boggling.

“I was sitting at lunch today and they were like, ‘what’s your favourite thing that you’ve had so far?’ And I was like, ‘what … what have we made?’,” Wildman said in a whisper followed by a laugh. “I couldn’t even remember what I made this morning!”

The tight filming schedule is in large part due a lack of permanent spaces for this kind of work in the city, Prasuhn said.

“We definitely could use more permanence. And that’s something we hope to see as the industry in Ottawa grows and matures. That would be a big help.”

Wildman met her fellow hosts Robert Jewell, executive chef at Double Zero Pizza in Calgary, and Ottawa’s Lauren Gulyas, who has worked at the Wellington Gastropub and at Murray Street, at a boot camp put on by Gusto.

Kathy McIntyre, senior director of creative content at Gusto says about the boot camp. “It’s just a time where you can actually work with talent. Because they’re not actors. These are real people with real backgrounds with food and a real passion for food, but translating that to a camera is not always second nature,” she says.

Wildman has nothing but positive things to say about the learning experience she gained from attending the boot camp, and the friendships she made with her cast mates during that time. When asked if she would ever do something like this again, she said without hesitation “Oh my god, I don’t ever want to not do this anymore.”

Prasuhn and CEO of Gusto TV Chris Knight do have big goals for the show including sales to international broadcasters. For starters, A is for Apple is set to appear across Canada on Gusto TV this fall. For more gustotv.com

Original Article