Food events/ Meeting celebrity chefs and hosts/ My thoughts

Mary Tang’s experience on the Pressure Cooker, W Network’s Culinary Competition show

Casting Date: July 2014
Taping Date: August 2014, 1 day
My episode air date: November 11th, 2014


Pressure Cooker

Yes, it’s been about 6 months since my episode was aired on TV  but I wanted to share my experience in case you were thinking of auditioning for a similar show.

When I think back on the best moments of 2014, this leads the pack! The experience to cook with Chef Eric Greenspan under the pressure of time and the cameras was incredible.

I’m not a stranger to competitions and love the adrenaline that it brings. The idea of being under pressure, making my stomach hurt, and going for the win while having fun doing it seems enticing. I will share my experience through a series of questions. If there is something you want to know, enter it in the comments below.

What was the premise of the show again?

The show “illustrates the real-life pressures of cooking at home when time is tight and ingredients are scarce, pitting skilled home cooks against the clock – and each other. Featuring Giles Coren as tasting expert and host Anne-Marie Withenshaw, competing home cooks race against time for a grand prize of one year’s worth of groceries” (Source: Bristow Global Media website)


There were about 9 episodes. In each one hour episode, 2 pairs of home cooks compete against each other. Home cooks chose ingredients that were presented on a conveyor belt. With access to the pantry as well, the home cooks had to make a dish in 30 minutes in the first round. The challenging part is that home cooks had no idea what was on the conveyor belt in advance and had to use everything they chose. The celebrity chefs were there to support the home cooks in the creation of the dishes.

The winners of the first round proceeded to the second round. In the second round, the concept was the same except this time the celebrity chefs could cook with the home cooks, and in 30 minutes, the pair had to make a dessert and a main dish. I was paired with Chef Eric Greenspan while my competition was paired with Chef Hughes Acheson.

Chef Eric Greenspan and I

Chef Eric Greenspan and I

How did I hear about the audition?

My culinary classmate/friend Brad sent me a link to a Craigslist ad via Twitter. The advertisement stated that open casting calls would be held at Corus Entertainment at a specific date and all interested participants should fill in an application in advance. When I saw the ad, I thought “What do I have to lose? Let’s do this!”

Many other contestants I spoke to heard about the show through farmers markets in Ontario.

What was the audition like?

I applied through e-mail a day or two before the casting call, and had to fill out a form asking for my background and culinary influences. I was given an appointment time of 11:00am on a Saturday, the day of the open casting call. I arrived early with a friend who also auditioned, and was not called in until about 4:00 pm. As this was my first audition for a show, I did not expect all the waiting.

By the end of the day, I went through 3 separate rounds. The first round was a face-to-face interview going over similar questions that I filled out online and the second round was an interview in front of a camera. Having made it to the third round, I felt confident that the casting crew liked me. The third round was a simulation of the show without cooking. The casting members flipped a board that had about 12+ ingredients including meat, legumes, stock and vegetables and asked me to pretend to make a dish out of the ingredients. On the spot, I chose about 6 ingredients, named them and explained the steps in making my dish. I had to name my dish as well.

After the audition, they gave me one day to submit a 5 minute video of me cooking at home and to explain why I should be on the show. I cook often, so submitting a video was not an issue.

After a week or so, I heard back from the Pressure Cooker team. In the e-mail, they told me I had been considered for the show and that even after the taping, there’s no guarantee the show will air. I figured that’s how TV shows work. I was ecstatic!

How many days did it take to tape my episode? 

1 full day. I had an orientation of the studio the day before my taping to get familiar with the equipment in the kitchen. On the day of my taping, I arrived to the studio at 12:00pm and left closer to 1:00am with no access to my phone.

I had tons of interviews as there was supposed to be a digital portion to the show on their website and a photo shoot. I got along really well with Scott, the first competitor I went against, so there was a lot of chatting all day. We had time to chat with all the waiting around.


Who did my make up?

I did my own make up but a make-up artist on staff did the touch ups and made my skin look flawless on-screen and amplified my lips.

For my outfit, I had to bring in several outfits for the crew to choose from with the wardrobe crew having the final say on what I wore on-screen.

How did you feel during the taping?

I was not nervous but pumped. I was determined to win!

On the Pressure Cooker

On the Pressure Cooker

How did I do? 

I won round 1 and loss round 2. I did lose to the winner of the show so that was a huge accomplishment! Congratulations to Matt Gardner!

Round 1

Round 1

Round 2

Round 2

What did I make?

In round 1, I made a pan fried trout with crispy skin and a raw zucchini salad, with an Asian flair.

Salmon dish

Salmon dish

In the second round, Chef Greenspan and I made cornish hen with a Moroccan-spice rub, with a side of root vegetable hash and kale, topped with a fried egg. For dessert, we made waffles with macadamia nut, whip cream and a basil infused jelly. I am so proud of what we made!

Cornish hen and a root vegetable hash

Cornish hen and a root vegetable hash

Waffles for dessert

Waffles for dessert

Did you really have 30 minutes to prepare the meal?

Yes, it was 30 minutes which included picking the items from the conveyor belt to plating the dish. The pressure was on!

Was it scripted?

There were questions during the interview that we had to answer but it wasn’t scripted.

Who did I invite to my viewing party?

My immediate family! My parents made a big feast before watched the episode together. They are my biggest supporters!!

Do strangers recognize me from being on the show?

No, I am not famous! Friends of my parents and sisters did get calls on the day of the taping to say “OMG, is that your sister/daughter on TV?”

Being on the show makes great conversation, so I like to mention it on my social media profiles.

What was Chef Eric Greenspan like?

He is the same in real-life as he presents himself on TV. He’s funny, friendly, talented and an amazing mentor. We talked about our young babies and even took selfies!

What did I learn from being on the show?

  • This was one day of taping and I was exhausted by the end of it. For competitors on productions like Master Chef Canada, they must be so tired from weeks/months of taping.
  • There is lots of editing involved.
  • My friends and family rock! I did not realize I had such a huge support system and fans.
  • It takes me a long time to recover from a loss!
  • The experience was absolutely amazing and I’d do it again!

What advice should I give others who are interested in auditioning for season 2 (if there is a Season 2), or a similar show?

You may be an amazing cook but you cannot be camera shy! Producers like character and confident home cooks. Be yourself!

You have one life to live, if you are thinking of trying out, just do it! Have fun with the entire experience.


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