Earlier this month I taped an episode for KQED’s Check Please! Bay Area and many of you have asked about it, so I thought I’d mix up the blog a bit and write about my experience. Check Please is truly one my favorite shows on TV (and I’m not just saying that now that I’ll be on it) so it was such a kick to go through the whole process first-hand. The show has profiled restaurant spots I’m convinced I’d never had heard of otherwise. It also, for some reason, always seems to air on the weekends at 9 or 10am, just when I have one eye open and need something to transition me into the day. My episode, the first of Season 7, airs April 26th at 7:30. I think it will be a US holiday, or at least a half-day.
I’ll skip through the background information quickly: with the help of a little Liquid Courage, I applied online to be on the show sometime late last fall. I thought my application must have been lost in cyberspace until one of the Associate Producers called me back in February for an initial phone interview. The following week I met the main Producer, Tina, in person and really turned on the charm. When I closed her, Tina made no promises (“casts” are intended to be as diverse as possible and… well I picked up what she was throwin’ down) but called me back 48 hours later to let me know I made the cut! She gave me the names of the other restaurants I’d be visiting so I could get to work. Each diner also has to fill out a written review of each spot and send it in a few days before the Friday taping so she can prepare a basic script for the host.
I felt like such a little sneak when I visited the other two restaurants – little did they know what I was up to! Check Please has to gain legal clearance from each restaurant to be on the show beforehand, so they do know they’re going to be featured but they have no idea when or who will be evaluating. I can vouch for the fact that everything is completely anonymous to replicate a normal diner’s experience. My written reviews will be posted on the Check Please website so I’ll skip that part here.
Finally, the big day rolled around and I have to admit, I woke up with a few butterflies in my stomach. My boss had mandated I take the day off (“you’re going to have to get your hair did! And your makeup! I don’t want to see you!” I guess my normal work presentation doesn’t cut it, hm). So, I spent the morning doing what calms me best: a leisurely run by the Golden Gate Bridge chased by a monster bacon, egg, and cheese sando from La Boulange.
When I arrived at the studio at noon, I went to shake the Tina’s hand and she replied “No, no, no. We’re family now – we hug.” She then handed me a tall glass of wine and told me to get boozing. This moment epitomizes how I feel about the staff at KQED: warm, welcoming, and accommodating. Throughout the entire process, Tina and her team were the most professional bunch of people I’ve ever worked with. For the next hour or so in the green room, I met the other cast members, drank wine, got mic’d, became TV presentable, drank more wine, jotted down a few last minute notes, met the host Leslie, and another swig of wine because of the insurmountable peer pressure. When it was time to walk onto the set, I had a serious case of the giggles but… what butterflies??
When we got in our chairs on the set, the first thing we did – shocker – was choose if we’d be drinking white or red on air. I chose white, because, as I’m sure all my female compatriots can relate to, it would be a cold day in hell before I’d be caught with purple teeth. We then did a warm-up exercise called “The IHOP” where we ran through a segment pretending the restaurant of choice is IHop. I went first and shared that IHop should really only be reserved for special occasions, the staff is warm and welcoming, and the buttery chocolate chip pancakes are not to be missed, etc. At first the exercise seemed kind of pointless and silly to me, but in just those few minutes I felt significantly more comfortable in front of the cameras and speaking to the other diners.
After the practice round, we got going for real. I had prepped in the green room with Leslie and Tina about my key talking points but Leslie did a great job teeing up conversation points for me. You’ll have to tune in to catch all the dirty details, but I do remember the other woman trashing my restaurant’s French fries. Luckily, the other guy on the show gave my spot a glowing review so I walked away feeling cheerful.
It was a day that included my favorite activities: discussing Bay Area restaurants, day drinking, and meeting new people. If Check Please ever does a reunion episode, count me IN!