Cooking Show On A Boat – Part One

By the Non-cook (sommelier, boat driver, engineer and
chief bottle-washer, aka ‘The Skipper’)

“So let me get this straight,” I said, reaching for the cognac. “You want to take Poseidon to all the beautiful anchorages and harbors in Southern California…”

“We could go to Mexico, too,” said the show’s star cook who also happens to be the love of my life and is certainly ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed.’

Our very resourceful camera guys

“And the Mediterranean!” added the producer/director. Easy for him to say. He’d just lost his mast and sold his boat to an unsuspecting German (if there is such a thing). I think he was eyeing Poseidon’s Guest Suite.

“So… we can shoot the pilot at Smugglers,” Linda said. “It’s like our backyard.”

“A lot of planning… ” I mused, not meaning to say it out loud.

“Don’t forget your wine pairings.” A low blow. She knows that second only to her, wine is my passion so if I was having any doubts about this adventure (which, I have to admit, I was not), this would have been a clincher.

Our producer/director

“We’ve got to really figure out the anchorages; where to place the boat so we have the best views, the perfect backgrounds. That kind of stuff.” I knew I was going to need a second cognac. I could just hear the director asking me to stop the boat from rocking because the cameraman’s feeling seasick.

“And so will the viewers.”


“The viewers. If the food’s rocking and rolling, they’re going to be queasy.”

“But seas move,” I protested. “Even King Canute figured that one out. Can’t you gimbal the cameras?”

“Maybe – but we need some movement. Otherwise we might as well be in a studio.”

So how much movement is too much movement, I wanted to ask, but figured that might be one of those ‘how deep is the ocean?’ questions.

Matt Cartsonis entertaining our guests

“Guests,” says the star cook. “What are you thinking?”

“Chefs who can play and musicians who can cook! That’d be great. Live music as part of the show.”

All I can think of is how to get them onto the boat, off the boat – and all those damn instruments. (I played an accordion when I was a youth, and had to lug it around.)

And what kind of music? “As the sun goes down.” Oh. I missed that. Now I have to organize the sunsets, too?

Post filming cocktail party

“Stories. They’re central to the show. Everything begins with story.” My stories always begin with “This is a true story. It happened to a friend of mine… ” That usually sucks them in. But then I wonder – does he really mean that or is he just playing me, knowing that I love anecdote. “And you’re a great raconteur, John,” he adds as if he’s reading my mind.

“Food and wine stories?” I ask.

“No. Well, yes – that and stories about the islands, about these waters. And about you and Linda. How you got together. The boat. Your lives.”

“You really think people are interested in that stuff?”

“Absolutely! This is a unique lifestyle – and the lifestyle is almost as much a part of the show as the food and the wine. It’s what makes us different.”

Make-shift editing room in the pilothouse

And so it began, this voyage called ‘Poseidon Cooks!’ And, sure enough, the cameraman asked for a little less swell, the soundman requested a quieter generator, and while there was a lull in the battle I found myself driving the crew around the bay, looking for ‘B-roll.’ Whatever that is. (Turns out to be all that additional material that brings color and life to a piece; that additional material which studio-bound cooking shows do without. Perhaps that’s why they need cooks who swear at their helpers and throw the utensils around like grumpy babies in an uncomfortable stroller.)


Linda’s been on camera all morning and now there’s a break between courses. Everyone’s looking at me and I remember that this part of the shooting schedule sees us in the dink, exploring the anchorage, with me giving it the Carl Sagan about the history, the geology and anything else that I can think of.

Shuttling the film crew

Halfway between Poseidon and the shore I make a violent U-turn. The cameraman would have gone overboard if the soundman hadn’t grabbed him. They shoot me very hurt looks.

“Sorry,” I say. “I forgot to put the wine in the chiller.” I haven’t gotten this old this gracefully by forgetting details like this – show or no show. I go to full throttle, imagining the scene as Linda serves the dish she’s been preparing for three hours, then turns to camera and says.
“Let’s talk about John’s wine pairing,” and I have to admit that the Trimbach is still in its case, at least twenty degrees warmer than any self-respecting Grand Vin d’Alsace would like to be quaffed.

Yes, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it and I’m the first to volunteer. In fact, I’d trample over anyone in the employment line ahead of me to have the pleasure of watching Linda shine as she talks passionately about her cooking. And that’s without the sheer enjoyment of her food (I think I can negotiate the position of Chief Taster) and the good company of the professionals who are part of the PC! Crew.

The Crew!