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Behind the Scenes of Our “Cooking with MSG” Videos

By August 23, 2023Featured
cooking with msg videos

The Glutamate Association recently developed five short videos that make cooking with MSG (monosodium glutamate) easy – and not in an easy-if-you-are-a-professional-chef way. I mean, easy for absolutely anyone. If you haven’t seen them, check out our YouTube channel here and then come back to this blog to get a peek at the behind-the-scenes story.

Day one before 8:00 am:
We have a day and a half to shoot five short videos – that should be enough. I obviously forgot the first rule of any “video shoot” – however much time you’ve planned, you’ll need more. The question is how much more. Spoiler alert – I’ll end up changing my return afternoon flight to an evening flight, but we’ll still finish after two full days, thanks to an excellent producer, a hardworking camera crew, and film-ready chefs (also called “the talent”). But we don’t know that yet. Now, we are optimistic and Chefs Chris Koetke and Aaron Andrews are already busy cooking the various dishes for the first day of filming.

Amazing Aromas

Whiffs of delicious, savory beans, soup and fajitas fill the room. No time to wish I could taste-test, my job is to “stage” the background with cooking utensils, a cookie jar filled with trail mix, flowers, and, of course, msg products. I bought these items yesterday, but I stopped by a local grocery store flower department at 6:00 am this morning so the flowers would be as fresh as possible. I rearrange the background ten times before both the producer and I are happy with it. All the pieces are in action and it is exciting to be a part of it! BTW is it lunch time yet? The aroma in this room is making me hungry.

msg cooking videoWe begin shooting as soon as the first few dishes in Video #1: Boosting the Savory Flavor of Foods are done. Chef Chris is up first; Chef Aaron continues to prepare dishes that Chef Chris will use later in #2 Enhancing Everyday Recipes, but he can’t do so while we’re filming. The room must be quiet. The “boom mic” capturing the chef’s voice is extremely sensitive. I don’t even turn a page in my notebook while the cameras are rolling.

The camera lights are hot. After more than three hours, “the talent” is sweating and someone “off camera” towel-dries his forehead and neck in between “takes.” The bright lights also dry out the food, so, the chefs brush a little olive oil on the dishes to prevent them from shriveling under the intense heat.

Umami Perfection

As many hours as we spent editing the scripts in advance there are onsite changes. We spend A LOT of time rehashing the Umami Taste Test in #3 Discover the Taste of Umami. We search for the balance between being easy to follow and the need for precise measurements in order to “prove” MSG can maintain flavor while reducing sodium. Solution – we list the measurements in the video and Chef Chris will explain why the amounts need to be exact. (Side note – the bloody mary recipe is one of my favorites!)

Finally! Take 11 of Discover the Taste of Umami is perfect…except that the chef’s white coat had a big wrinkle across the chest. Ugh! Why didn’t I see that earlier and stop the shoot to fix it? An assistant comes out and straightens the coat. Now the apron neck strap won’t lay flat. We pull it to the back and keep it in place with a hidden safety pin – it looks great on screen, so we go with it. Chef Chris just stands patiently while several people spend what seems like 15 minutes adjusting his coat and apron. Unfortunately, this will not be the last time we will pause to make wardrobe adjustments for both Chef Chris and Chef Aaron.

We end the day having filmed just two and a half of the five videos. We are coming to the realization that we may not finish by noon tomorrow (I make a note to change my flight when I get back to the hotel).

Day 2, early morning: At some point during the “video shoot,” everyone gets a little rummy. The producer, the camera crew, the talent, and the assistants have had too much caffeine and not enough fresh air. The non-stop focus on EVERY SINGLE detail takes its toll. In show business, this is most likely when those funny “bloopers” happen. For us, this happened on Day 2. Our chefs are used to being filmed, so I don’t have many bloopers to share, but I can say that after you’ve said “glutamate” dozens of times, it becomes a tongue twister. At one point the entire room erupts in laughter.

msg cooking video

Glutamate to the Rescue!

We finish shooting the last half of the Discover the Taste of Umami video, and Chef Aaron is now in front of the camera to shoot #4 The Secret to Delicious Vegetable Dishes. The morning goes smoothly, but there are still the expected multiple takes and last-minute script changes. At lunch time we all decide to extend the shoot rather than scrap the fifth video – #5 Great Taste with Less Salt. This is a dedicated team with a passion for food, and no one wants to axe the sodium-reduction video, especially given The Food and Drug Administration’s and the World Health Organization’s recent health warnings associated with consuming too much dietary sodium. (Glad I already changed my flight.)

Chef Aaron is in his element as he runs through how to boost the flavor and reduce the sodium of plant-based dishes. WOW! This is fun!

A Highly Successful Shoot!

At 4:30 pm the producer yells, “It’s a wrap” and we all shout a happy but tired “Yay.” I brought a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but everyone is tired, the equipment must be packed, the dishes need washing and I have a plane to catch. No matter – we are all happy with the result and it has been an incredibly satisfying experience to work with this talented group of professionals.

Now, two-days of raw footage will go to the editor. Each of the five videos goes through several revisions before being finalized.

And voila! Just like that the Cooking with MSG series is made. LOL. I hope you have as much fun watching these videos (and cooking with MSG) as we had making them.

Amy Philpott is executive director of The Glutamate Association (TGA), a non-profit trade association. In the more than 10 years before joining the TGA team she managed marketing and communications for the United Fresh Produce Association, US Apple Export Council, US Dry Bean Council, and California Table Grape Commission. Previous responsibilities included international marketing, education and membership marketing, reputation management, and crisis communications. She has also served on the Agriculture Department’s Trade Advisory Committee. Amy holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University, Fresno, and a Master of Arts in public communication from American University. She is fully accredited in public relations. Read more about her background on the About page.

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