A Chef's Life

Award-winning reality series on PBS, starring Vivian Howard

Role: Director of Photography

Project Description

Chef Vivian Howard explores farm-fresh cooking, family and community in North Carolina’s low country in this half-hour series. Each episode follows Vivian into cornfields, strawberry patches and hog farms as she searches for ingredients for her seasonal menus at her restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, in Kinston, N.C.

The small production team included Cynthia Hill, Director, along with Rex Miller and myself, Directors of Photography. Using a cinéma vérité style, we combined naturally occurring action and dialogue with scripted camera work to capture authentic moments in the most engaging way. Typically, this involved staying with subjects for long takes while waiting for the story to naturally unfold.

 
 

“Being around such intelligent, driven individuals really helped me grow as a person. As each episode pushed me to find that just-right angle for the most impact, my confidence and creativity hit new levels.”

For the five-season run of this inspiring show, I was truly part of something special. Along with director Cynthia Hill and the whole creative team, we were able to give a cinematic feel to real-world events—a very tall order.

This type of live action requires being hyper-present in my surroundings. Carefully listening to those on mic and paying attention to what’s happening, I had to anticipate the right moves to get the best shot for the dialogue and action. After the scenes were complete, Cynthia (the director) would have a list of shots we needed to capture in order to make the scene. It’s immensely satisfying to be able to respond, “I got it.”

 

Whether climbing into a pen with a wild boar, jumping out of the boat into waist-deep water, or hanging out of a car sunroof, I strived to get “the” shot.

Our team was filled with individuals who put their best efforts in and beyond each season. Vivian’s charisma and authenticity easily translated onto screen. Cynthia is masterful at telling a compelling story. And because all of this resonates with me so deeply, it’s been a privilege to have been able to document these stories for the millions of viewers who fell in love with A Chef’s Life.

Daytime Emmy for Best Culinary Program (2018)

Daytime Emmy for Best Director of a Lifestyle/Culinary/Travel Program (2015)

Peabody Award (2013)

James Beard Foundation, Vivian Howard, Outstanding Personality/Host (2018)

James Beard Foundation, nomination, Broadcast Media, Television Program, On Location (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)

Credits

CLIENT: PBS
AGENCY: Markay Media
DIRECTOR: Cynthia Hill
DPS: Rex Miller, Josh Woll, Blaire Johnson
EDITOR: Tom Vickers