Photographing Kitchen Impossible for Channel 4
Kitchen Impossible: A Remarkable Project
In 2015, 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. It harked back to my pre-pro-photography life as a 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. I subsequently went for an interview.
Nothing could prepare me for what lay ahead over four weeks in the summer. Three chaperones were looking after eight contributors with disabilities. These were as diverse as Autism, Tourette’s and Down’s Syndrome, ADHD and even blindness. The first two weeks we spent in a beautifully secluded house set in the Surrey countryside. The third week we spent in an apartment in Hackney.
Although I can’t write too much here for confidentiality reasons, 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. I was always very conscious about getting in the way of filming and carrying out my primary duties as a chaperone. So I kept my photography more to downtimes 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 series’s first big success. I stepped in among the crowds of people, capturing the moments leading up to this and the jubilation after.
The filming schedule dictated that there was also plenty of time for the contributors to relax. 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 excellent pictures. Because trust quickly developed between us, they were all-natural and relaxed:
My Favourite Portrait
Finally, I wanted to share what is perhaps my favourite photo from Episode 1 and say why. Usually, it isn’t easy to choose a favourite from a batch of over 100. But in this case, it was straightforward.
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. He found many of the Kitchen Impossible tasks extremely frustrating but overcame any problems he encountered. 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 usually delete a photograph of someone with their eyes closed. However, I think this photograph says a lot about who Dan is. It captures a mixture of quiet frustration about his blindness with a peaceful calm, which made him a rock for the others to talk to without fear of judgement: