Behind the Scenes at Simply Ming's 10th Season Taping
Tsai preps a striped bass for poaching, and informs the audience that when you put your nose up to a piece of fish, it should always smell like the sea. All photos by Samantha Carey for Boston magazine.
Last week, Blue Ginger chef Ming Tsai invited us to check out the taping of his popular PBS show, Simply Ming, which is now entering its 10th season. Several local bigwig chefs will be appearing this season (Flour’s Joanne Chang, Toro and Coppa’s Jamie Bissonnette, and Hamersley’s Bistro’s Gordon Hamersley, to name a few) in order to mark the occasion— and on the day of our visit, Jody Adams (Trade, Rialto) and Jasper White (Summer Shack) were in the kitchen to cook with Tsai.
“If there is any way to celebrate, it’s to bring back the guns that have been here,” Tsai told me between takes. The show’s formula is still the same as it has been over the years: Tsai and a guest chef focus on one cooking technique, each concocting a recipe on the fly with 10 ingredients or less. So what’s new this time around? Tsai and his crew are slowing things down and incorporating more close ups on specific techniques so that viewers can gain a better understanding. “We are really trying to get this whole thing into your own kitchen” he explains. “It’s one thing to get it on your television set, but we want to get into your kitchen. We want people to cook this!”
Tsai and his crew will film 13 episodes in-studio (the Clarke Showroom in Milford), and then hit the road to film the remaining 13 on location. This season, he’ll travel to the Azores, Chattanooga, and San Antonio (to name a few destinations), meeting up with celebrity chefs and learning new cooking techniques along the way. While you’ll have to wait until the fall to watch it all go down, get a peek at our behind-the-scenes day with Tsai, White, and Adams ahead.
Chef Jasper White poaches striped bass in a bouillon broth, and shows Tsai how the water, when at the perfect temperature for poaching, will “smile” (i.e. the broth isn’t quite boiling, just making small ripples on the surface).
White has appeared on Simply Ming at least five times over the past ten years, including its very first season. “Ming is absolutely one of the great pros in the business,” White told me. “He is so good at what he does, and he is so easy to work with.”
Tsai gears up to put his poaching skills to the test—a technique that he feels has been overlooked by the culinary community for years.
White and Tsai taste test their collaborative creation: striped bass poached in saffron broth with fennel and potatoes.
Tsai sautes bacon lardons in a cast iron skillet while White whisks dijon mustard, rice vinegar and oil. “When you are a guest on a show, it can be awkward when you aren’t with someone who knows how to feed you, and kind of hold you up, and Ming is so good at that,” says White. “He has become a consummate professional. And all of the greats, Julia, Martha…when you work with them, it’s not even work.”
Tsai carefully plates his masterpiece for the beauty shot: a watercress salad lyonnaise topped with a red wine-poached egg.
In between takes, executive producer Julia Harrison and Tsai discuss the upcoming technique: caramelization. They make note of the most important aspects of the technique for Tsai and forthcoming guest Jody Adams to highlight throughout the episode.
Adams and Tsai shop around Tsai’s kitchen for ingredients. “You are being welcomed into Ming’s world,” Adams explains as she discusses her experiences on Simply Ming, “and he ensures that you have a good time and you succeed.”
Adams and Tsai joke around as they sip on rosé, talk about their kids, and prepare scallops with curried gooseberries.
“Cooking with Ming is a ton of fun,” says Adams. “What we are doing is important, but he makes it fun and doesn’t take himself seriously. There is a lot of joking and we learn a lot from each other.”
Chef Ming plates his last dish of the day: seared lamb loin chops served over a spinach, bulgar and heirloom tomato salad, garnished with tzatziki and caramelized plum halves.
After each dish is prepared, the chefs dress them up and send them around the corner to a perfectly lit mini-stage. The film crew takes ample footage and the photographers take beauty shots of each mouthwatering presentation.