Ok, this actually happened a couple of months ago, but since I only recently started posting on Chowhound, I figured someone here might find this interesting. Hopefully it will give those interested a glimpse inside the running of the show. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not really an Emeril fan and I've seen his show only once or twice on TV, but really, I can't pass up a chance to go inside FoodTV headquaarters. Maybe I could find an executive and implore him to stop it with the Rachael Ray onslaught.
Anyway, so I'm at work in Manhattan one fine spring day when my friend rings me up and asks if I'd like to go to an Emeril taping that afternoon - a friend of a friend can't make it so they passed 2 tix onto her. It was a slow work day and I had the opportunity to hop out so why not. We meet up a few hours before taping begins, but they already had set up the line ropes for the lines that would eventually form. We didn't even have our tickets yet, only instructions to meet a mysterious "Martha from the food network." After poking our noses around inside the place for a few minutes we were able to track down Marth and get our tickets. We're "VIPs"! Apparently the person who couldn't make it is some big shot at the NYPD - score!
Since we had some time to kill prior to entry, we had lunch at the Lobster Shack inside Chelsea Market (sub par corn chowder, but very nice sashimi). For those that don't know, FoodTV HQ is inside a large market type place in NYC, and it's where they film a lot of the grocery shopping expeditions for the chefs and you would've seen it a lot if you watched Food Network Star. Going back to the FoodTV portion of Chelsea Market, we started to notice the huge line that hard formed during our lunch and began to worry that we would have to wait in it, but fortunately we noticed a separate VIP line and was able to get in early. I always feel guilty whenever stuff like that happens to me and I see the faces of the people on the "normal" line, but damn if I'm not going to take advantage of it.
After entry we get scanned by security and escorted up a rear elevator by a food network employee. We notice that the non-VIPs are lead to an area with tvs showing old episodes of emeril live. Our waiting room also has tvs showing old emeril shows but is stocked with drinks, snacks, etc. We ask if we can wander around the halls a little and the handlers say that it's fine as long as you don't wander too much. I was able to snap a pic of the food network kitchens on my crappy phone camera http://tinyurl.com/rhxr6 . Excitement builds!
Soon, more people start filing into the room. Ultimately, I would estimate that around 25 people were in the room and we can hear the taping of another episode behind two large doors. We're alerted that they film pretty much an entire seasons worth of shows in the span of several weeks, shooting about 2-3 shows in one day back to back. We line up according to our numbers (which you're given depending on how early you arrive) and soon we're led into the studio. First thing you notice is how cold it is. I'm generally a very warm person even in places with AC, but this was refrigerator cold. We queue up in front of the "hostess" who then directs you to your table. The best seats are the tables up front and all of those taken by the VIPs. I get a seat at the frontmost table, all the way to the right. Basically right next to the band. But these aren't the BEST seats which are those directly attached to Emeril's cooking station. If you're dressed nicely or are photogenic, you'll probably be considered for one of those spots. There's no rhyme or reason to it other than that - it was like being singled out by a club bouncer. Or you can exude crazy amounts of enthusiasm and they'll place you in one of those seats as well because they'll know you'll make crazy faces and ooh ahh at everything Emeril does. We notice that the couple next to us was actually "bumped" up to a prime seat after talking with the hostess. Not sure what transpired between them, but it was probably an easy decision for the hostess as his date was tall, thin, young, pretty and quite made up.
The show is ready to begin. But not before some warmup comedy by a food network staffer to fluff us up. It was funny enough, but I'm sure she does the same routine for all the tapings. We're then instructed to act crazy and loud and "if you're think you're being too loud, don't worry, you're not. get wild!" Taping begins and the show starts out with a canned intro of Emeril at the butcher shop downstairs. He's buying meat and it's going to be a Meat Market themed episode. Once that ends, Emeril comes out and the place goes wild. People are on their feet clapping and yelling with some pumping fists in the air as well. And then the show pretty much progresses as what you would normally see on tv. Although I assure you the experience of people screaming whenever the word "garlic" is mentioned is much, much more surreal when it's actually happening all around you.
Prior to the show starting, they apologized to the audience that unfortunately that "not everyone will get food." They really should have said that "no one will get food other than the people up front." Fine by me, except that phrasing it like that to start with implies to the audience that maybe....20%-30% of the audience will get a taste of something when it's really about 2%. They also say that if you get food, please share. However they pretty much make that impossible as they don't distribute forks, knives, spoons other than to the people directly eating. I'm no germaphobe and will gladly trade bites and dishes with dining companions, but sharing the same utensils and plates as 10 other total strangers skeeved me out a bit.
He was first making a braised short rib dish. I have to admit it smelled great. During the commercial break, a swarm of people descened upon the cooking station and made the swapouts and placed new ingredients on the counter. Emeril receded to the background to talk to his producer I think. Someone came around and offered certain tables, seemingly randomly?, glasses of wine. Skipping couples who were looking at him with pleading eyes for a drink, he would tap certain people on the shoulder and ask if they wanted anything.
Throughout the course of the show, Emeril was doing all his classic Emerilisms and the audience was eating it up. I can't recall his other dishes, but I think one was a skirt steak and soon the entire place smelled great. But then the show came to an end, and the cameras turned off. Emeril stuck around to give a speech about his terrific crew and the team that puts the show together, and then soon we were ushered out. And then that was that!
So all in all, a fun experience, but not "all that." Emeril seemed personable enough and I supposed it's a testament to his on camera work that what you see is what you get. Hope you had fun reading this. Wow I wrote for much longer than I wanted to.
(Edited to fix my picture URL :-))