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Have you ever wondered how the BuzzFeed Tasty team makes their food look so, well, tasty? On the latest episode of "Crazy Kitchens," TODAY Food got the chance to check out everything from the culinary gadgets to what's in the fridge at the kitchen studio in New York City.
BuzzFeed Tasty has been mastering the art of food videos shot top-down style since it launched four years ago. Between its studios in New York City and Los Angeles, BuzzFeed Tasty produces over 50 food-focused videos every month.
Tasty creator Kanchan Koya and producer Alvin Zhou took TODAY behind the scenes at the New York City studio to see how each delicious dish is put together and perfectly styled for the camera.
In the studio, there are four stations, each equipped cameras and lighting, plus a full working kitchen where the food is tested and prepared. According to Zhou, usually only one person is in charge of a video, from start to finish, including cooking, filming and editing. If a recipe is more complicated, two or three team members may be involved.
"Each Tasty video can take anywhere from two hours to about two weeks. My toughest videos have taken almost like a month to make but if it's a really easy dish we can have it within like two hours." Zhou explained.
All the fun home goods fit for a kitchen as organized as Martha Stewart's are housed in the studio's prop room. Cups, plates, accessories and utensils of all sorts are available to help producers capture the essence of the final meal being prepared.
Said Zhou, "We kind of have all things that we need to do to make our video feel like, you know, it's Valentine's Day or it's a holiday or it's dinner or it's a family party."
As for the the Tasty pantry, it's as dreamy as one would imagine — stocked with all the necessities of a typical kitchen (at least after a grocery trip on a generous budget), as well as some specialty ingredients and a spice wall full of dried herbs and spices. Things like fresh produce and refrigerated foods are delivered daily but producers are careful not overdo it on the ordering.
"We're really conscious of food waste here, so when we're making a food video, we test it to make sure we're getting it right on the first try so we don't have to do it over and over again," Koya told TODAY.
One of the most impressive features of the studio is the kitchen equipment room. While small in size, it holds hundreds of cooking utensils and kitchenware, from pots, pans and lids to knives, measuring cups and cutting boards. According to Koya, everyone who works in the BuzzFeed Tasty kitchen is attentive about keeping the room organized, but there is also a full-time kitchen manager whose job is to ensure everything is all in order and ready to go for before the camera rolls.
Keeping a tidy gear room is just part of the process. When it's time to actually film a dish being prepared, there are a lot of steps. Zhou said that it can take anywhere from two weeks to about a month from recipe development to actually publishing a video.
And, of course, filming a video with food is not like cooking in your home kitchen.
"I have to say the first time I did my Tasty video, I was shocked at the precision involved in the thoughtful placement of the ingredients, the movement of hands. It really is like an orchestrated dance of sorts," Koya admitted.
While filming a video, BuzzFeed team members help each other with framing and making sure there's enough room in the shots to put in recipe ingredient text.
Once a dish is complete, it's time to perfect the final presentation which, sometimes, takes almost as long as the recipe itself.
"We really focus our time and energy to make sure the final product looks great on the plate," Zhou said.
So, whether that means slicing a pizza or pie perfectly with a very sharp knife or placing cookies perfectly on a plate, it has to be done just right. Since recipes are tested before filming, it's rare that something would just totally fall apart in the final stages. But, if it does, it would have to be made again.
At the end of a shoot, the final dish is taken to the studio's unofficial tasting table where eager BuzzFeed employees can stop by for a snack.