me in the piazza

I'm a writer, publishing both as SJ Rozan and, with Carlos Dews, as Sam Cabot. (I'm Sam, he's Cabot.) Here you can find links to my almost-daily blog posts, including the Saturday haiku I've been doing for years. BUT the blog itself has moved to my website. If you go on over there you can subscribe and you'll never miss a post. (Miss a post! A scary thought!) Also, I'll be teaching a writing workshop in Italy this summer -- come join us!
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Let the battle begin!

Thursday I took the day off from the hard work of indicting people on the grand jury so I could spend the morning in the control booth at the filming of an episode of IRON CHEF AMERICA. I posted on this last year, and maybe the year before, too, because this was my third time. A cousin of mine -- I have, as does Lydia Chin, innumerable cousins, each weirder and more fascinating than the last one (except, okay, a very few who are pretty boring) -- dreamed up the show and is the producer/director.

I was accompanied on this expedition by the younger two of the Four Fabulous Nephews. The youngest is a budding chef, deeply interested in food and kitchen knives; his older brother is a theater guy who's been doing a lot of tech work lately at his college theaters. So this control booth thing was cool as cool could be. We got there at eight a.m.; the crew had been setting things up since five. ("There" is the Food Network studios at Chelsea Market, for youse New Yorkers. My cousin lives in LA, where he puts the show together. Twice a year he comes to NYC to actually tape it, morning and afternoon, twelve to fifteen hours a day for three weeks.)

We went down into Kitchen Stadium to see the chefs' stations and, for this episode, mixologists' stations, too. Cables snaking everywhere, dry ice steaming, cameras sliding along, techies in black carrying this here and that there, talking through headphones to each other and to the control booth. Then we went back upstairs and got a tour of the robocams that zoom overhead in Kitchen Stadium. We saw the very fancy electronics and the nephews were allowed to drive the cameras around during a break. Then we ensconced ourselves in the booth and watched everybody work.

They start by taping all the intros and conversations, which are brief but need to be set up and done more than once, along with the "beauty shots:" long lingering closeups of the ingredients and chef's stations. That all takes about two hours, while the control booth people drift in. By the time the real-time battle starts there are a dozen people in the booth, each with a specific job, and maybe fifty screens and computer monitors showing various cameras and angles, some more than once. Everyone's talking the whole time into his or her headset, directing cameras, filling Alton Brown and Kevin Brauch in on exactly what a strange ingredient or unusual piece of equipment is called, telling the techies to get out of the way of some shot or other. It's total chaos, but the calmest chaos I've ever seen.

It also took forever, so in order for the nephews to make their bus back to Philly we had to leave after the judging of the Iron Chef's food but before the challenger's. (It was 1:30 by then, and after the challenger's judging they had to yet clean the set, restock, and do another show.) So if I hadn't been sworn to secrecy I still couldn't tell you who won. I'll be really interested to find out, when the show airs next winter.

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