Meet the ChefConnect: Seattle Speaker Who Wants to Get You on TV By Kelsey Casselbury
Some chefs choose a kitchen career because it doesn’t require standing in the spotlight. Others, though—as the saying goes—are ready for their close-up. For the latter group, ChefConnect: Seattle offers up a session from Kristen Moss, a reality TV casting director. “Utilizing Television to Advance Your Culinary Career” will be held from 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29 in Northwest Ballroom #1 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Seattle.Moss, a 10-year veteran of the reality TV casting industry, has worked on a variety of shows, including “MasterChef,” in which she cast the winner on three back-to-back seasons. “For a chef who has passion, and who looks at food in a different way, these shows can give them the ability to stand on a higher platform; to pursue a dream they have, and to get further in their career than they thought before,” Moss says.In the session, Moss will start with the basics of being cast in a reality cooking show, which includes recognizing if you have the personality for a culinary competition; knowing which show is right for you, and how to get noticed without even applying. She’ll also talk about shows that are currently casting, plus a tip or trick for getting cast based on each individual show.“With these shows, there are many, many people auditioning all the time, but it’s still not always the right person,” says Moss.
Although specifics differ from show to show, the right person for reality TV is someone who has a clear idea of what type of chef they are and their greater vision for their career. Moss says she also looks for people who are open—open to criticism; open to vulnerability, and open to giving a reaction in front of the camera.“Some people might cry, some people might laugh, some might give a snarky comment,” she says. “As long as they hear what’s being said and react. We’re not looking for a stone wall.”In addition, Moss notes that she’s often looking for diversity — in all forms. “Diversity when it comes to race, when it comes to age, and then diversity when it comes to food,” she says.The next step to find talent, she says, is to turn to social media and the Internet, and even call up local restaurants. “We have to uncover these rocks to find these gems,” she adds. That means that contestants need to have a strong online personality, even if it’s just a simple Instagram page (make sure that you have “chef” in your name!), along with beautiful photos — even if they’re taken with an iPhone — of plates.Finally, Moss will do a video interview with a potential contestant, which is submitted to the network. The questions she asks vary depending on the show, but generally, there are four main talking points:How has your life influenced your cooking? For example, if your parents are Indian, how is diversity and the blending of cultures important to you? How competitive are you? Competitions on TV shouldn’t be just about doing something for fun or because it might be a good experience What would you do with the money? Props for relating that back to a food dream like opening a restaurant or starting a food truck. Who are you doing this for? Is it because your grandmother told you not to be a chef or your mom who taught you how to cook?These are just some examples of questions that Moss might ask in the interview, but the process always begins with “where are you from and how did you grow up?” Although Moss might not include this in the final edit of the interview, she says it shapes her entire process. “Ultimately, it’s my goal to uncover who this person is,” she says.