CTV. TSN. MTV. Food. One apparently simple subject, worthy of its own television network amongst the giants. It makes sense then, that McGill’s own television channel, TV McGill, would address gastronomy’s overwhelming significance in viewers’ lives. Food’s daily influence may in fact be felt by students more strongly than others. Once McGillians graduate from mom’s cooking and residence cafeterias and begin to live on their own, food becomes a more complex issue than ever before. It involves planning, recipes, shopping, and dirty dishes. The great caveat, however, is that this need provides unique opportunities to approach cooking and consumption with the entertaining, original approach that TVMcGill espouses.
In addition to providing news coverage of on-campus food issues – such as last semester’s report on student organization Campus Crops – the network features its own varied food-related programming. “Food is obviously an integral element of students’ lives, which is why we created ‘The Hot Plate.” ‘Cooking While Drunk’ is more entertainment-based, and involves voluntary groups of students getting together,” said TVMcGill’s executive producer Dan Beresh.
The most successful of these shows is “The Hot Plate,” a cooking segment created by 2010 McGill graduates April Engelberg and Amanda Garbutt that profiles simple, cost-effective recipes for appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The show addresses students’ hunger for painless cooking instruction, while simultaneously meeting TVMcGill’s goal to include and entertain the McGill community at large. Their show was so successful that it was featured on CTV and bred its own website, thehotplate.net. The young women continue production post-graduation in Toronto.
Beresh summed up the conception behind the network’s food-related programming: “the idea was, let’s have fun with the cooking. If we can teach people along the way then that’s great too, but the idea is to involve the student community and have a good time.” He stressed the importance of keeping food programming fun, light-hearted, and inclusive, since it is a matter that everyone can positively relate to. “Cooking is often solitary, so I think [our food programming] works on bringing people together around the idea of food and its success – or failure, in the ‘Cooking While Drunk’ case. A lot of times it is not about success, but about the degree of failure.”
While we treasure the qualities that TVMcGill boasts – innovation, student collaboration, and entertainment – the disparity between its coverage and that of mainstream cooking programs is evident, manifested in the infrequency of the shows. Unlike corporate networks, TVMcGill lacks big budgets, intricate lighting, and stage kitchens. This makes it difficult to keep up food-related programming, as does its reliance on the willingness of active student volunteers and the availability of their apartments for filming. Accordingly, the shows are not produced on a regular schedule, which results in a lower quantity of segments. As Beresh pointed out, “A food-related program requires a lot of specialty stuff in regards to recording techniques, so it’s very difficult to produce shows on the regular.”
The graduation of Engelberg and Garbutt last year meant the end of “The Hot Plate” on TVMcGill – a sign that other students will need to get involved and fill the void in campus cuisine cable if this type of programming is to continue.
The student-run TVMcGill approach to food and cooking encompasses the McGill way of life and draws us into to various cramped Montreal kitchens, with recognizable hosts as well as various guest-starring students. It showcases one thing that we universally love and value tremendously: good eats. Check out TVMcGill’s archives online at tvmcgill.com for some tasty recipes and hilarious entertainment, and lookout for, or better yet help create, what is coming up next.