Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich are business partners, husband and wife, and most recently, co-stars of the cooking competition series Conviction Kitchen, produced by Cineflix in association with Rogers and CityTV (Canada). The world-renowned chef and his restaurateur wife have no time in their busy lives to watch other ‘chefreality’ shows. Still, the no-nonsense couple trained several ex-cons in order to give each one a shot as potential staff at their new fine-dining restaurant in Toronto, all in the name of reality TV.
What was the genesis of the show?
Biana Zorich: Let’s start with the cliché [laughs]. We wanted to give back to the community, and to give back while working in our industry. Cineflix assisted us in getting 24 ex-convicts who had finished with their sentencing and parole, and who wanted a chance at really surviving and making more than just being on welfare, and that’s what we did.
You’ve both worked together a lot. How did it differ working on a TV show together?
BZ: For me it was night and day, especially filming during the nighttime. Once the clients were coming in, and my guests were affected by the bright lights and the cameras, the atmosphere of my restaurant suffered a little bit and I think a lot of my guests were dismayed by that. But you had to do it.
Marc Thuet: The kitchen is the kitchen. No matter what, when you have customers the stress level is the same whether you have cameras or you don’t. Sometimes, when you don’t have cameras, you don’t really have to control yourself that much. [When you do], you always have to make sure you control yourself because you don’t want to look like a tyrant.
BZ: The Canadian public is especially averse to [cameras]. [People] would come to the door and say what we’re doing is great and they support it but they’ll come back when the cameras are off. I think the American and Canadian mentalities toward being filmed are completely different.
Did the show work out the way you expected?
BZ: On my end it worked out much better because I got to keep four out of the six [staff members].
MT: My [staffing] didn’t work out too good. I have the top one left. Let’s be fair; [the kitchen] is a completely different beast. My guys come in at 7 a.m. and leave at 12 or 1 a.m. When you’re a waiter you come in at four in the afternoon. If you don’t have the passion that you need, and you don’t have the will to become a chef, you will [only] do it to a certain extent.
BZ: I think the concept of what we wanted to do works, but it’s a tough industry. If we were hairdressers and we worked eight hours a day we probably would have kept 11 out of the 12 [people]. But it’s a tough go, especially in the kitchen because they make less money and they’re here twice the amount of time. So what is the incentive? That in 30 years you’ll end up being another Marc Thuet? Well, are you willing to waste your 30 years doing that?
What do you think it is about the kitchen that makes it compelling for television?
MT: A show like Conviction Kitchen is a lot more of a documentary than a reality show. There was no staging going on. It’s the action. You have customers, this is still a restaurant and we still have to make money, so for sure the stress level is [high]. These guys make mistakes and I was taken away from my environment with my professional guys. With these guys I was a little bit lost and I think for the viewer it was exciting to watch. For me it was nerve wracking, and I wanted to kill some people, but I guess it makes good TV if you’re on the other side of the screen.