The Cooking Show That Never Was
Poseidon Cooks! is the result of a conversation Linda and John had several years ago, with a writer/producer friend who had fallen in love with Linda’s cooking and Poseidon’s cocktails. The whole idea ran aground for a few years while a succession of family illnesses and difficulties played out. But now that Poseidon is sailing again, Linda cooking up a storm and John trying to figure out how many more bottles of wine a 70ft power can hold, the original story of the adventure may be worth telling.
Once the idea began to bloom in her mind, Linda brought it to the boil.
‘We could cook in all the beautiful harbors and anchorages of Southern California! We could go to Mexico!’
‘The Mediterranean.’ the writer/producer chipped in. 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). Perhaps he’d had a vodka too many.
Originally, Poseidon Cooks! was to be a show and every show needs a pilot, a first episode to sell it.
‘We can shoot it at Smugglers,’ Linda said. ‘It’s like our backyard.’
‘Take a lot of planning, an investment’ mused John, husband, oenophile and skipper of MV Poseidon, but Linda checkmated him with ‘You should do all the wine pairings.’ Second only to Linda and Poseidon herself, John’s passion is wine, so if he was having any doubts about this voyage, being appointed Bottle Captain sealed the deal.
With the adventure agreed upon, the logistics kicked in.
‘We’ve got to really figure out the anchorages; where to place the boat so we have the best views, the perfect backgrounds, the right sea conditions. That kind of stuff.’ John reached for a second cognac, certain the producer was going to ask him to stop the boat rocking because the cameraman was feeling sick,. The trio shelved the question of boat movement which, further down the line, would become a factor in selling the show to network and internet buyers.
All three people in this discussion love music and agreed that live music should be a part of the show.
‘We can star chefs who can play and musicians who can cook!
All John could think of was how to get a bunch of musos onto and off the boat without dropping their instruments or themselves into the sea. Then he heard:
‘Music as the sun goes down, after a day of cooking and eating and drinking!’ Oh great, he thought. Now I have to organize the sunsets too? You’ll understand from this that Poseidon’s skipper have control issues…
‘Stories, said the writer. Well, he would. ‘They could be central to the show. Everything begins with story. Religion. History. The islands. Stories behind the food and wine. How you bought and converted Poseidon. Your own story! The romance… ‘
Linda is quite shy and she was thinking Hmmmm… not sure that has anything to do with cooking, but then she remembered that her own adventures in cooking began when she met John’s Italian grandmother and discovered garlic and olive oil, and heard her stories about growing her own produce and, being very pressed for income, created her own versions of the loaves and two fishes.
Plus it was a love of cooking and the sea that brought he and John together in the first place and that is a story in itself..
‘You really think people are interested in that stuff?’ Linda asks.
‘Absolutely! Two words: Anthony Bourdain! And yours is a very rare and unusual lifestyle, and lifestyle is almost as much a part of the show as the food and the wine. It’s what makes you different.’
‘I thought it was ‘A Cooking Show On A Boat’ that makes us different.’
‘Of course! But every cooking show has… cooking. How many of them can talk about the voyages you make while you’re cooking, the harbors and anchorages! The people you meet along the way! Eccentrics and characters! The local cuisines! The stories of the dishes and your variations on them. Anecdotes – you, Linda, John, the guests and their lives! Otherwise, what are we – just another few minutes of electronic wallpaper.’
(You may be thinking that now there are a lot of cooking shows that combine adventure with food but back then, though recent, there were very few – and none of them with the unique quality that Poseidon herself could bring to the table.)
Well, Linda muses, he may think cooking all starts with story but if you ask me it all starts with planning. First up, the menus and the provisioning… but then she stops. Maybe the writer/producer, now transforming into Attila the Hun as he preps and directs the nascent show, is right! Because there’s nothing better than listening to the market people’s stories. The fish guy. The herb guy. The butcher. The egg guy who knows every hen by name and probably her eggs, too. Feeds them more carefully than most people feed their families which, of course, is why his eggs are so delicious and as far removed from a Big Store egg as a skillet is from a sinking gravy boat.
Finally, anchored in the bay, shooting begins. The sea kicks up, which means from a flat calm to wavelets less than a foot high. Sure enough the cameraman asks for a little less swell. The soundman’s been requesting a quieter generator from the start.
Camera and sound roll and Linda talks about what she’s cooking, a mussel risotto with pan seared scallops. It’s so much more than simple instruction as she speaks of sustainability and how to keep the mussels alive until it’s time for them to make their ultimate sacrifice. There’s nothing vain or egotistical about her, just a natural charm and a great gift for instruction. One guest tells how saffron’s collected and why the process makes it such an expensive spice; a wine seller describes a trip to Provence and the rosé he discovered with a bucketful of mussels. Perhaps that rosé will be a good match for the mussels. Happily, he’s brought a couple of bottles along.
Maybe the show’s personal Attila is right. And maybe the original Hun would have achieved even more if he’d left the slicing and dicing to the cooks and concentrated on charming the hordes with good stories.
By the end of the day, every guest has sampled every dish and every wine pairing. There have been as many compliments as there are dishes multiplied by the number of diners. More important, maybe, there’s ben laughter and fun. Real camaraderie.
As the afternoon turns into another spectacular Pacific sunset, guests and crew gather in Poseidon’s large cockpit where singer-song writer Matt Cartsonis has everyone rolling about with the Blah-blah-blah song.
If this isn’t a great start to a new cooking show, what is?
The Show That Sank
We took the show out into the entertainment market at exactly the time cooking shows were transitioning from real cooking to reality cooking. Suddenly hair gelled loudmouths and vamping Barbies were everywhere. If in sixty seconds you couldn’t turn three apples and a dead rat into a meal fit for a jury, you were out.
Poseidon Cooks! may have been conceived as a fun show, adventures in voyaging and the galley, but it was, at heart, a serious cooking show and out of step with the market.
Even so, it garnered a lot of praise and some very near misses.
Perhaps what finally sank it was that the most promising pitch of all was curtailed when the creative genius responsible for programming stopped the pilot halfway through because he felt… seasick.
We could – perhaps should – have put the cameras on gimbals and neutralized any and all the minor wave action, but would Poseidon Cooks! then have been a show at sea? Might we not just as well have shot it in a studio dressed as Poseidon’s interior? With the famous B-roll material gathered separately?
Maybe we should have sought sponsorship by Dramamine.
The very good news is that out of this ultimately failed venture comes this next generation of Poseidon Cooks! The same exquisite recipes, the same intriguing wine pairings, the same entertaining anecdotes.
We had fun making the pilot for Poseidon Cooks! the show. We’ll have even more fun with this version and we hope you do too. Contact us. Tell us what you think.
Linda and John Andreotti
Ventura Harbor, CA