Between the Scenes: A look back at #ThirdHelping


According to fans and critics alike, A CHEF’S LIFE’s third season was a real appetite-quencher. Appearances on The Today Show and the penning of her upcoming cookbook revealed Chef Vivian as a celebrity-on-the-rise who, somehow, manages to wear many hats. In the course of her busy life, Chef Vivian made time to take us into the home kitchens of the folks who’ve influenced and inspired her—cooking “old timey squash and onions” with Mrs. Scarlett, plucking Falling Creek Produce's plumpest peaches, and adding a dollop of Durkee’s to make a special potato salad to memorialize a lost community elder. Our third season was comprised of thirteen unforgettable episodes. We’ve got ours, and we’re sure you have your favorite #ThirdHelping moments, too!

Amy Shumaker, Executive Producer of Content for South Carolina PBS Station, SCETV thinks the recipe for the show’s ascending success lies in its sincerity. “Vivian continues to be her authentic self on camera and is able to bring that out in all of her guests,” Shumaker says. “She and the crew know how to put folks at ease. They make it look so easy and natural and trust me, it's not.”

Over the past three seasons, some things have remained the same, including the moments of levity that make Chef Vivian and her plight so relatable to an audience of millions. When Chef Vivian dusted off her old-school clogging moves in the middle of New York’s meat-packing district, we all doubled-over in laughter and disbelief. Warren Brothers, the show’s resident farmer, admits, “my favorite was the rutabaga episode,” which had it’s own humorous moments when he, Lillie, and Vivian prepared rutabagas three different ways after trekking through ‘quicksand’ to dig up the resilient vegetable.

This season found us on the road more than in past seasons, which, from a scheduling standpoint, increases the workload for A CHEF’S LIFE’s small production team. Mobbing around “Durm” in search of honey-themed dishes was a sweet treat before attending Ben’s art opening that same evening. We had such a good time visiting our South Carolina neighbors for our two-part episode during the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. Chef Vivian’s itinerary was jampacked and our production team was on-hand for every single minute. A CHEF’S LIFE ‘camera dude’ Josh Woll, who also serves as Digital Imaging Technician for the show, had this to say about the grueling experience of on-location shoots, “Whenever we go out of town, we shoot 10 hour days and when we get a break, we download footage and then quickly jump back into the action. It’s a whole lot of juggling, but hey, it keeps us on our toes!”

Certainly, hours of work go into producing each 30-minute episode, however, editing all of the material is equally as daunting. During this process, the nuances that make each season unique are made visible. As editor of the series, Tom Vickers recognizes the subtle but significant tweaks director, Cynthia Hill made to push #ThirdHelping in a new direction. “Episodes were built around ongoing real story lines as opposed to being simply organized around a weekly ingredient. Juggling those story lines (including Vivian’s leap into food writing, her struggle with her status as a “celebrity chef,” and the demands of family) so that the audience was aware of them and could see these subplots developing was the challenge of this season. What that means in a practical sense, is keeping an eye out for moments that could relate to these internal conflicts - moments that could easily be skimmed over when reviewing footage. Something as simple as a facial expression of boredom or hesitation took on new significance in light of Vivian’s suddenly developing career path.”

So what’s in store for A CHEF’S LIFE fourth season? Rest assured there will be anecdotes and revival of old recipes that spark heart-warming memories. There will most certainly be new adventures as Chef Vivian puts the final touches on her inaugural cookbook and tours the country in support of it. Filming of #FourthHelping is well underway and Tom Vickers is already busy editing future footage. He’s confirmed that season four will satisfy the maturing palettes of loyal fans and whet the appetites of newcomers. Expect a season full of surprises, including unexpected ingredients and special “sparkly” guests, with the south’s most endearing tastemaker as your host.