Four Ingredients to a Successful Cooking Segment

By: Andrea Trapani

Cooking segments on local news stations are a great way to highlight new menu features or restaurant items that may need an extra boost. They’re also a fun and high-energy opportunity to communicate key messages and activities going on in restaurant. But, pitching, securing and executing a cooking segment can be a tricky task. If the segment idea is not timely or relevant, it likely will not be selected for airtime. Moreover, if you’re not fully prepared or the details are not well thought out, there is a strong chance your segment will leave a bad taste in viewers’ mouths.

While there are numerous aspects to consider when creating a masterful cooking segment, here are the four main ingredients that we’ve found crucially important:

What’s the Hook?
Unlike executing a TV segment around a specific event or campaign that viewers can physically get involved in, cooking segments can be a hard sell as they very easily can sound self-promotional. We’ve found that producers not only want, but also need a timely and relevant hook to have a chef come in-studio to prepare a food dish for a cooking segment. Making sure that you address these needs is crucial in successfully securing a segment. Consider capitalizing on a charity partnership opportunity or a relevant holiday.

Have the Right Cook in the Kitchen
Cooking segments should be fun, energetic, visually appealing and informative. Make sure your chef/spokesperson adequately expresses excitement and passion for the craft and, most importantly, is able to talk while he or she cooking. If they spend too much time cooking and not talking, or visa versa, the segment will fall flat.

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics!
Make sure that you know, understand and can execute the logistics of the cooking segment. Does the TV studio have a stovetop? Pots and pans? Cooking utensils? Does it make more sense to cook/prepare the dish on-air, or have it pre-prepared?

We’ve found that preparing as much as you can on-air, and then having a “finished product” to show at the end is a great route to take to keep the segment fun and interactive. Choose food items that will look the most appealing on TV, especially after it travels from restaurant to studio. Consider how you’ll keep it warm or cold, how you’ll serve it to the on-air talent and how you’ll tie your restaurant or brand into the narrative naturally. And, don’t forget to bring additional food items or marketing materials to fill up the extra space on the table for display.

Always Bring Extras!
Not only do the anchors, producers, stage crew and staff love and appreciate when you bring enough extras to go around, but they deserve it too! It’s not just your own hard work that makes a cooking segment successful, but the hard work of the station team, as well!

Case in point, we worked with TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants and Del Taco leading up to Cinco de Mayo to promote their Epic Burrito Challenge, using the popular holiday to make the segment relevant and timely. We first determined the best spokesperson—one that not only knew the product and key messages completely, but who was also comfortable with preparing the food on-air while talking. We also made sure that we had the logistics down, including offering best practices for TV segments, determining what food items to bring, which dish we should prepare on air, what would be needed for the display materials, arrival time and other day-of logistics (address, where to park, etc.). The segment went off without a hitch and was an entertaining and highly-visible win! Plus, the station’s crew thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers!
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What other tips have you found to be helpful in pitching, securing and executing a cooking segment?