This summer I had the privilege of being asked to chaperone eight vulnerable adults on the documentary ‘Kitchen Impossible’ for Channel Four. I often chaperone children on various TV and film projects, but this seemed like something quite special and it harked back to my pre-pro-photography life as carer and later on manager at the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy in Surrey (now Young Epilepsy). So when I heard that production company Twofour were looking for chaperones, I jumped at the chance and expressed an interest in going for interview.
Nothing could quite prepare me for what lay ahead over four weeks in the summer though. There were three chaperones looking after 8 contributors with conditions as diverse as Autism, Tourette’s and Down’s Syndromes, ADHD and even blindness. The first two weeks we spent in a beautifully secluded house set in the Surrey countryside with the third week spent in an apartment in Hackney.
Although I can’t write too much here for reasons of confidentiality, I can say that my time on ‘Kitchen Impossible’ was one of my most beautiful and worthwhile experiences. Working so closely with the eight contributors, we quickly became very fond of them. I think it was a huge learning curve for all involved and the production team were keen to listen to us and work together for the good of the trainees.
My photographic input to ‘Kitchen Impossible’ came in episode two. During the first week, I had left my camera at home but my photographer’s eye got the better of me and I asked a producer if could bring it in to take some shots for the next episode a couple of weeks later…
Kitchen Impossible – Episode 2
Photographing episode 2 was perhaps the most tricky for me. Although I had permission to bring my camera along, I was very conscious about getting in the way of filming and also carrying out my primary duties as a chaperone. So I kept my photography more to down times in the house. We had a fantastic morning at Borough market shopping during which I could have taken some fantastic shots but I had left my camera behind. It wasn’t until a gorgeous day spent at the Taste of London Festival and encouraged by the other two chaperones that I stepped up close to the filming action and snapped some great shots.
Michel had set up a stall, with all of the contributors given different jobs – some cooking and some serving. Towards the end of the day, the food began to run out. Finally Michel announced it was all gone and pronounced the day a resounding success – the first big success of the series. I stepped in among the crowds of people and captured the moments leading up to this and the jubilation following it.
Because of the filming schedule and the way production had to interview the contributors individually after any task was completed, there was also plenty of time for the others to relax and these made for some of the most fun shots that I took throughout the program. Here’s a selection of those at Taste of London (including one of the photographer!):
Of course, during the non-filming times in the house I also took some good pictures and because a trust quickly developed between us, they were all natural and relaxed:
Finally, I wanted to share what is perhaps my favourite photo from Episode 1 and say why. Usually it’s difficult to choose a favourite from a batch of over 100, but in this case it was fairly easy. My favourite is a character study taken of Dan after the Taste of London success. Dan lost his sight only a matter of weeks before filming began. Although he found many of the Kitchen Impossible tasks extremely frustrating, he overcame anything that was set and his determination to overcome his disability was inspiring (even when he came back from the break between episodes 1 and 2 with a broken arm!) I would normally delete a photograph of someone with their eyes closed. However, I think this photograph says a lot about who Dan is and captures a mixture of quiet frustration about his blindness with a quiet calm that made him a rock for the others to talk to without fear of judgement:
Kitchen Impossible – Episode 3
Episode 3 to follow…