It was a warm day in August 2013, and there I was at the Windsor 75 Diner and Restaurant in Windsor, CT filming an episode of one of my favorite shows on the Food Network, Restaurant : Impossible. While I was clearly over dressed for the work that I would be doing, it didn’t matter. As surreal as this moment was, I knew that it may never happen again. To say I was nervous was a bit of an understatement. Were the people on the show going to be nice? A bit “Hollywood”? I really had no idea what to expect other than what I had already seen on television. Apparently I got there before the Construction Manager Tom Bury and Designer Cheryl Torrenueva. The members of the production crew were incredibly nice to me while I waited to find out what I would be doing as a volunteer for this particular episode. I signed the confidentiality waiver and got my wristband, indicating that I was part of the filming and not just a random person roaming the set. It was then that I heard a really booming voice that was not Robert Irvine’s. It was the voice of Tom Bury telling someone that they needed to move their vehicle. I waited a bit, and then approached the construction tent. “Tom?” I said quietly. He responded with, “Hey! Ya made it!”. From that moment on, I knew that I was in for a really cool experience. Cheryl arrived shortly thereafter and had a brief discussion with Tom about what tasks I would be doing. It was determined that I would be working with Tom throughout the project. Tom gave me a brief introduction to the guys of Division 9 (affectionately known as D9), and away we went. I started out taping the boxes that would be used to clean out the restaurant, first taping off the store logo where they were purchased (so it’s not visible on camera), then taping them together. My next task was to stand behind Tom and hold the boards steady as he ripped them down. It was the most sawdust I’d seen since shop class in High School! I went on to do things like sanding down the same boards with a guy they call “Ninja”. And a ninja, he is. Ninja is very soft-spoken (when he says anything), and gets things done. Clearly, he was an asset to the process and friendly with many of the people there. He and I worked in sync with each other and got things done quickly.
Quick is the name of the game, along with efficiency and effectiveness. There are no second takes during filming. If you can’t handle that, then this isn’t the place for you. Everyone gets in each other’s way in a kind of organized chaos, but somehow in sync with each other. The entire process of the show (the clean out, the rebuild, and the redecoration) are all carefully planned out ahead of time. With a short bit of observation, it’s easy to notice that this process has been refined to be as seamless as possible and that there’s always a contingency ready when things don’t go as they should. Don’t come up and mention a problem, unless you have a solution to go with it. Being able to think “on the fly” is a must! Yet another way that this show is such a success. There were moments of chatting in between all the hustle and bustle, but with so much to be done, the moments were few.
Those moments were only solidified by the sense that the cast and crew of this show are not just friendly and approachable, but also that they would be doing things like this in their own lives, with or without the filming of a hugely popular television show. That’s just the type of people that they are. I know there are people out there that would love for me to say that Robert Irvine is a pompous jerk or that Cheryl was a little bit of a diva because, after all, she’s a Designer. Well, I can’t say that for the simple reason that it just isn’t true. We’ve all met public figures who have the personality of a rock and are completely void of manners. Robert Irvine is one of the most genuine and humble people I’ve ever met. And don’t let that physique fool you. That guy’s a teddy bear! Cheryl has a sweet disposition and gets her hands dirty right along with everyone else. As I watched her design process unfold, I noticed a spark of genius in her. She really knows how to “think outside the box”. I’m a wee bit biased having worked side by side with Tom, but I was pretty excited to see his thought process unfold too. There’s something to be said for a person who can tear off a piece of scrap cardboard, look out into the surroundings in a brief thought provoking moment, then sketch (to scale!) what they are about to create from nothing.
I was sad that I couldn’t see every moment of the experience because I was working on the restaurant in between working an actual job. But it was amazing and unforgettable. It was an honor and a pleasure. If I ever have the opportunity to do it again, I will stop everything just to experience the magic that is Restaurant: Impossible.
The episode that I filmed was part of Season 7 (episode #3) and aired November 8, 2013. Unfortunately most of the usual demolition and rebuild scenes were edited out (I was REALLY bummed about that!). BUT, if you look very carefully, you will see me, or I should say my big ponytail (from the rear … not the most flattering I might add), pulling out the booths with Tom. All you see is a flash of purple, so don’t blink! It’s about 20 minutes into the episode.