By now, the struggles of the food and beverage (F&B) industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been well documented, but there hasn’t been much talk about the small “subgroup,” food TV. Since the late 1990s, food TV has been a growth industry, as hundreds of food and food-related travel shows have been produced, broadcasted on television, cable, streaming services and online platforms.
I’m actually on my 10th year on television this year, but the pandemic has put the food-TV industry on uncertain terms. I recently had conversations with some of my friends, fellow TV chefs and hosts Sandy Daza, Rosebud Benitez and Sarah Huang Benjamin. I was glad for the chance to catch up and share some of our thoughts.
The happiest bit of information I got was updates on their personal lives. I’m glad that they have been healthy and safe, doing well in quarantine.
For Asian Food Network host Sarah, quarantine in Singapore was tough, but not insurmountable with the right hobbies. “I got into baking sourdough bread, which has been really therapeutic. I can’t overstate the importance of finding a hobby that feeds your soul!”
Meanwhile, here in Manila, Rosebud and Sandy have taken advantage of the lockdown to spend some quality family time. “I’ve spent every moment with my kids and everyone’s safe and healthy,” Sandy shares.
Rosebud adds, “Thankfully, my family and I have been safe. We have been very good in complying with the rules of the quarantine because we really want to do our part in saving lives by staying home.”
Timing and adjusting
Personally, I was fortunate to have shot and edited all episodes for the upcoming season of Let’s Do Lunch, so the lockdown didn’t affect my team and I so much, but I was curious if it was the same for the others.
For Rosebud, it was a matter of adjusting. “Prior to the outbreak, I had plans of doing a road trip in search for good food around Metro Manila and some nearby provinces for my YouTube channel, but all plans had to be put on hold because of the situation. I was able to shoot my YouTube videos, all in the comfort of my home, with just my iPad and camera phone, and my assistant acting as my videographer.”
Meanwhile, Sandy’s got some content ready, too. While his travel show Foodprints can only air episodes discussing past travels, his cooking show Casa Daza will be rolling out episodes soon. “Since we do that in a studio, we’ve already done a few shows and plan to do more in the coming months,” he says.
For hosts who’ve spent years on television, it felt like part of our duties to create content online, giving recipe ideas to the people stuck at home.
It’s pretty much the same situation for Sarah back home. “Luckily for me, a lot of my shows are filmed in my home kitchen studio, so I have been able to shoot quite a number of episodes even during lockdown. However, some other episodes have had to be put on hold, especially those that involve going out to eat.”
Location, location, location
It’s a given that doing travel food shows will be put on hold for all four of us until travel becomes safer and restrictions go away. This means that the only traveling to be done is transporting our content to online platforms, which have become key information-distribution tools since the quarantines started.
It’s interesting to see we all have our personal preferences on where to produce content. I’ve been doing cooking videos on my Instagram stories and YouTube channel, Sarah has found Instagram TV to her liking, Sandy has uploaded videos to Facebook and Instagram, while Rosebud adapted early, building up her YouTube channel audience even prior to the lockdowns.
For hosts who’ve spent years on television like us, it felt like part of our duties to create content online almost as a service, giving recipe ideas to the people stuck at home.
“It was great for me, because I’m usually a perfectionist and coming from a TV background, I always want my videos to look ‘professionally made,’ but this period has taught me that people also respond well to videos that I’ve just shot and edited on my phone,” Sarah reveals. It was a good reminder that at the heart of what I do is good content and engaging viewers, not how good the video looks!”
Kings (and queens) of wishful thinking
As active and positive as we all are, though, we each have our own wish lists we should have fulfilled had the pandemic not started. I was planning a trip to Vancouver, Prince Edward Island and Montreal to do popups and possibly shoot some episodes of Season 3 of my show there. I found out the others all have unfulfilled plans themselves.
For Sandy? “The coastal towns of the US, plus Samar, Quezon and Batanes. Anywhere I go is fun because of the people I work with.”
It’s Japan for Rosebud. “I would like to do a vlog about Japan, one of my favorite places to visit, culturally and food-wise. Maybe I can still do that when this is all over, when we can all safely travel again.”
Sarah’s reply had me all excited. “Actually, I was planning to do a lot more in the Philippines this year! I had planned to maybe shoot some videos traveling in the Philippines, and maybe even shoot some videos in my former yaya’s hometown in Iloilo.”
The shows must go on
It’s pretty obvious that 2020 has been the curveball that has thrown many aspects of life for a loop, including the food-TV industry. My friends and I are not done, though. We’re adjusting, preparing, shooting and creating, making sure we continue to make people drool while watching their screens again.
(You can catch Sharwin’s videos on his YouTube channel chefsharwintee. Follow Sharwin’s food adventures on Instagram @chefsharwin and for questions, reactions, recipe and column suggestions, you can contact him at www.sharwintee.com.)