I am now prepared to audition for The Food Network’s Cut Throat Kitchen! That is not an overstatement.


The challenges that I faced while providing 3 meals a day for the cast and crew of the Drama Club Movie were oftentimes downright comical, to the point where I often asked people if I was being punked, convinced there were hidden cameras somewhere.

When my friend (writer and director of the film) Joe McClean, who I love dearly, pitched me on the idea of taking on this gargantuan task, he said, “it will be an experience to remember!” “You’ll get an IMDB credit!” “I really want you to be a part of this!” “You’ll have access to a fully stocked kitchen!” “You won’t have phone or internet for 2 weeks, but it will be worth it!”

Three of these four statements are true. 

He was right, it WAS an experience to remember, and one for which I am extremely grateful. And yes, I will now have one IMDB credit that…ummm…I can say I have? Kind of a cool thing I suppose. And it’s very true, there was not a single bar of cell service or internet out in the middle of nowhere, where we stayed. There was no doubt in my mind that he did in fact want me to be a part of “this” and I’m very glad I was…BUT, it became very obvious, very quickly that he and I have extremely different definitions of a “fully stocked kitchen.” V.E.R.Y. Ha!

Let’s start here…








See that oven? It looks like a fine oven, but it wasn’t. It was so small that I couldn’t fit the ONE, single, uno, only regular sized cookie sheet in it that the kitchen had to offer. It also only had ONE rack which made it even less useful that it already was. PLUS, it may not look like it’s that high off the ground in the picture, but the door opened at boob-level on me, which made navigating it…dangerous.

Since I hadn’t notice just how small the oven was before shopping that first night, and roasted potatoes and sweet potato fries were already on the menu, bought, paid for, and driven 40 miles from the nearest store to the home where we were staying, I had to make-do.


After a lot of poking around I was able to find some small cookie sheets in the back of a very dark cupboard but they didn’t do much good since I could still only fit ONE of them on the ONE rack at ONE time.  Raspberries!

My only saving grace (that term is used very lightly) was a teeny tiny, and very flimsy, rack that I found in the toaster oven. I laid it in the bottom of that oven to provide a second layer on which I could place another small cookie sheet. While this did prove more efficient than just sticking to the single rack, it also meant shuffling the pans every few minutes to prevent burning.

I roasted the potatoes for the first night’s meal in SIX batches, as well as the sweet potato fries for the third night’s meal.

Nothing that required roasting was put on the menu after those two meals.  NOTHING.

Sleepless stress!

After the first night’s roasted potato debacle meal-stress I wasn’t able to sleep. Partially because we were on night shoots that first week which left my brain and body to be all like, “Why are we eating breakfast at 4:30 in the afternoon and going to bed at 7am?” But also because I just could not stop stressing about how on earth I was going FEED ALL OF THESE PEOPLE, in this kitchen, on time (every six hours– union rules) without losing my shit?

Do I have enough deli meat? Will there be enough sandwiches?

How long will it take a pot of water to boil that’s big enough to cook pasta for 23 people?

Do I even have a pot that’s big enough?

What order do I need to prep everything so it will be hot and ready at the same time…ON TIME?!  

I averaged about 4 hours of sleep for the first…well actually, probably the whole time. Definitely never more than that at ONE time. I might get 6 hours in a day, but that included passing out between meals…on my bed that was in the living room, right next to the kitchen.


See that mattress on the floor? That’s my bed. That’s where I slept for over 2 weeks. It was actually quite comfortable but there was nothing about it that was peaceful or quiet!

Now before I continue, you have know that I am by no means complaining about any of this.  It was an incredible experience that I wouldn’t have traded for the world. Seriously. And as I’m typing this, I’m laughing at the memories.

It was hard. It was cramped. It was hot. It was smokey.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we were 10 miles from “Rough Fire” a wild fire that had (has) been burning since July 31st. We could actually see the fire from our house at night, a glow coming from just behind the mountains, with a burst of flames every few minutes or so. Crazy, right?

But even with all of the discomforts and challenges, I loved every second of it. Well, except for those seconds when people would come in the kitchen to get coffee in the morning (or afternoon depending on the week) and ask me where the coffee mugs were…UM, I DON’T KNOW! LOOK FOR THEM! AND IF THEY ARE ALL DIRTY, WASH ONE! I only screamed this in my head, but I wanted to scream it out loud. Because, oh, by-the-way, the dishwasher was broken. I realized that just after I put all the dishes from the first meal in it, turn it on and found it a while later full of warm, standing water. Gross.

PAPER EVERYTHING FROM NOW ON! (I apologize to the environment, A LOT.) There weren’t any bowls or plates in the kitchen anyway, so those paper products were actually unavoidable. Again, sorry for adding to the landfill.

Okay, back to the “fully stocked kitchen” that didn’t have any plates or bowls…or serving platters or pans of any size worthy of more than two fried eggs…seriously.

Actually, that’s not completely true. There were larger pots and pans, they just weren’t in THAT kitchen. Fortunately there was a second, much smaller kitchen, in the house “upstairs” — no one knows why we called the second house on the property “upstairs” since it was actually out the door and up a partially graveled, mostly dirt, path which turned my feet and toenails black by the end of the two weeks, but that’s where I was able to find two large non-stick, wok-type pans and two large pasta sized pots. Also known as Andrea’s kitchen saviors.

TANGENT: I can’t remember how many times I actually showered, but it wasn’t as much as I would have liked because, 1) there rarely seemed to be a convenient time 2) they were in very inconvenient locations (in someone’s bedroom or “upstairs”) 3) my options with either were A) freezing cold or B) a shower so small that I couldn’t escape the water. Needless to say, my hair never really got clean…and neither did my feet.

Seriously, back to the “fully stocked kitchen”… In addition to finding my saviors, I was also lucky enough to find a really big crockpot…perhaps the ultimate savior!

The producer brought me two crockpots from his home at my request, but they were REALLY small…maybe 4 quarts? Not big enough to slow cook enough BBQ pork (10 lbs to be exact) to feed 23 people, that’s for sure! So when I found these nuggets of gold “upstairs” my confidence in my ability to make all of this happen, grew. YAY!

Here’s another picture of the kitchen…








Notice the life-saving crockpot front and center as well as the other two, of equal importance, as all three were required in order to make enough food at one time. (I heart crockpots!) Oh, you can also see the sign on the dishwasher that says, “out of order, please wash your coffee mugs and glasses.” That sign was minimally effective, but whatevs.

The menu typically consisted of 45-60 scrambled eggs made with left over veggies or sausage or deli ham and/or cheese that I prepared in those 2 wok style pans, as well as an assortment of fruits and baked stuff, like bagels and danishes, which were lovingly prepared by Sam’s or Costco.

The first week (night shoots) lunches were our big meal– BBQ pork sandwiches, pasta veggie chicken Alfredo, beef and bean burritos, and grilled Polynesian pork steaks (a BIG hit!). Then I’d make sandwiches or wraps for “dinner” at 4:30 AM.

The second week we switched to daytime shoots which provided a more normal schedule with a standard breakfast, lunch (sandwiches or wraps) and then dinner– the big meal: sloppy Joes, turkey chili, macaroni and cheese, pot roast and my favorite– jambalaya! (which I’d never actually made before— yes I am that daring and fearless in the kitchen)

I made everything from scratch and as I learned my way around that “fully stocked kitchen” I was able to plan better and get more creative. In true Andrea-fashion, I didn’t follow any recipes, I just made stuff up as I went. And (sometimes to my surprise) everything was a success!

I always made sure there were plenty of plants at every meal, salad and veggie sides as well as fruit available at all times. I usually offered a dessert as well…which I did NOT make from scratch, because homie doesn’t bake.

My other job was to make sure there were snacks, referred to as “craft services” or “crafty” for short, available 24/7.  (I think that will be part of my IMDB credit). This was a combination of nutritious foods like fruits and veggies, cheese sticks, beef jerky, granola bars, peanut butter crackers and also some junkie stuff like candy and red vines. (I heart red vines!)

This was my other lifesaver…








That thing makes 60 cups of coffee– which we emptied almost every day. I bought this the first night at Sam’s Club, after realizing that the “fully stocked kitchen” only had two 10 cup coffee makers– one of which did not actually keep coffee warm after it was done brewing. I knew that if I had to rely on just those, my primary job would be “coffee maker” and meals may or may not actually get made. I told the producer that I would pay for it out of pocket if I had to. I didn’t end up having to, but I would have, gladly. It was worth every penny!

This is the fridge where I stored quick grab things…








This picture was actually taken on the second-to-last-day so it wasn’t quite as full as usual. Yes, it was usually more packed than that. And those eggs? Well, until the last two days (when the fridge was less full) I had to keep ALL of the eggs “upstairs” along with all of the meal foods like meats, bags of lettuce, deli cheese and anything else that was allocated to actual meals. Before each meal, including breakfast, I’d hike “upstairs” and bring down what I needed to cook. This was especially exciting when everyone was asleep and I was alone where the “Hills Have Eyes” and even if I’d had a flashlight, I only had two hands so…I’m still here to talk about it, so obviously nothing bad happened.

Here’s the view from “upstairs” looking at the house “downstairs” where all the action took place. Can you see the well-worn dirt path?






I bought and prepared no less than 10lbs of each meat for every dinner— 10lbs pork loins, 10lbs of ground beef, ground turkey, sausage, beef roast, etc. And all 10lbs were always consumed.

We never ran out of food before everyone got served, but there wasn’t always enough for everyone to have seconds. This made my Italian-heart sad, but no one ever went hungry.

Oh! I also had a vegetarian and a vegan on the crew. So in addition to making the regular meal, I had to make sure there was something for them too. I purposely designed the meals so that the meat was separate from the rest of the food, that way I they could eat the veg and starches, but eat a different protein. I got REALLY good at making grilled cheese sandwiches for the veggie and found some decent vegan protein substitutes for the vegan— “sausages” and deli “meats.” The vegan of course didn’t eat cheese and the veggie wouldn’t eat shaped soy. Oy! Ha!

My days typically looked like this…

The first week (night shoots)

12:00 pm- wide awake wishing I was asleep

1:00 pm- Walmart for something I forgot

3:30 pm- start coffee (the one caveat of that big ass coffee maker was that it took almost an hour to brew)

4:00 pm- start making breakfast

5:30 pm- cast and crew awake and eating breakfast

6:30 pm- clean up breakfast

7:30 pm- fall asleep

9:30 pm- start making lunch

11:30 pm- serve lunch

12:30 pm- clean lunch

1:00 am- sleep

1:30 am- realize that sleep is impossible, get up and watch them shoot

3:30 am- start “dinner”

5:30 am- serve “dinner”

6:30 am- clean up dinner while everyone partied

7:30 am- try to join the party but unable to keep my eyes open, I’d ATTEMPT to sleep…in the living room…next to the kitchen…where the cooler of beer lived. Toss and turn until the natives went to bed around 9:00 am. Finally fall asleep, awake at noon to freak out again.

The second week looked much like the first, only AM was PM and I usually shopped between breakfast and lunch. A much more normal schedule, with the same amount of sleep.

Things I lost

This became a constant theme throughout the two weeks. For whatever reason I was ALWAYS losing shit. ALWAYS. I’d buy something the the store and then not be able to find it for days.

  1. Sweet and Sour Mix
  2. V8
  3. A bottle of Exedrine
  4. A box of Sharpies
  5. LOAVES of bread
  6. Scissors
  7. My purse– went missing for DAYS (in the back of the car where I had left it)
  8. A package of Pepto
  9. Paper towels (they fell off the back of the truck the first night)
  10. The rolls
  11. The keys

I’m sure there were more, but these are the things I can remember. Every day it was something.

Critters I encountered

  1. Some dear
  2. A raccoon
  3. A few bunnies
  4. A lizard
  5. A snake– OF COURSE!
  6. A tarantula (actually, they were ALL OVER the roads around 6:00 in the evening)









This little guy was right outside the front door– THAT WAS ALWAYS OPEN! (Notice the quarter for scale.)

Things that went wrong…

  1. I couldn’t fit two pans in the oven at one time
  2. I couldn’t fit two pans next to each other on the stove at one time (yes you read that right)
  3. The stove was either on high or it was on “off”
  4. The grill was either on fire or wouldn’t light at all.
  5. One night I turned the grill on and walked away to let it heat up. I came back a few minutes later to put the meat on and someone turned it off thinking it was on for no reason. It wouldn’t re-light. We had sandwiches for dinner that night.
  6. There wasn’t a colander big enough to strain the amount of pasta I had to make so I’d stand on my tippy toes holding the lid on the pot with pot holders over the sink giving myself a steam facial, trying my hardest not to burn my armpit
  7. I had to stand on my tippy toes A LOT
  8. The rice I bought had to be measured by weight– I didn’t have a scale
  9. The kitchen was obviously made for someone who is 7 feet tall, I am 5’1″. “Hey, can you reach that for me?” Was a question I asked a lot.
  10. I couldn’t see in the pots when they were on the stove because of my vertical challenges
  11. A 16 pack of paper towel fell off the back of the truck during my 40 mile drive home the first night, despite my attempt to tie it down
  12. The battery in the car I was driving died on me in the Costco parking lot– where apparently NO ONE owns jumper cables. I walked to Jiffy Lube and they rescued me.
  13. Things kept disappearing. All of the things!

Despite all of the challenges nothing ever burnt or was inedible, every meal was served on time, and most, if not all of the meals, were delicious. Even the chicken taco salad AND pasta with meat sauce that I had to prepare one day for 35 people. Go me!

There was also lots of fun too.

The movie was sponsored by Bowen’s Whiskey, Cabotella Beer, Smirnoff, and PBR— which meant that there seemed to be a never ending supply of alcohol. Couple that with a pool table, a poker table, a bar area, a beautiful outdoor patio and warm weather and you have yourself a party after every day of work.









I took part in games like Monopoly and steered clear of games like Truth or Dare– mostly because I was too exhausted.

But in case you’re curious, this is what happens when the cast and crew have a night off with endless amounts of liquor and a talented (sober or not) camera department with instant access to equipment…

Truth or dare turns into body shots, filmed like it’s spring break in Miami. (I got out of bed to take this picture.)








I think the best part of this picture is that Joe’s head is carefully cradled in his t-shirt. Because we all know that if someone is going to do a body shot off of you, your head definitely needs to be comfortable.

The over all experience was like summer camp for grown-ups who worked during the day (or night) and then just got stupid and had an absolute blast during the off hours. Of course this didn’t bode well for my sleep pattern since I had to be the first one up to start coffee and breakfast and was the last one finished because I had to clean up after dinner— plus I didn’t get a day/night off because even when they weren’t shooting, they still had to eat! But I was happy! I just kept playing the Barenaked Ladies song, “Who Needs Sleep?” in my head, like a broken record. And it turns out, I didn’t need much sleep at all, at least not all at one time.

Although I may not have functioned at full capacity, everything got done and I had a blast!  Sure, there were times when I had to dig REALLY deep to find the love in my heart to do my job with joy, especially when I was alone in the kitchen, feeling isolated, like an outsider, missing out on all the fun with everyone else (who weren’t actually having fun, but where doing their own jobs) But in those moments I’d remind myself that everyone was there to do a job and I was no different. And unlike them, who will have to wait months to see their final product, I was lucky enough to get immediate gratification from my job in the form of happy eaters full of appreciation and praise and that totally made it all worth it. #perspective

It was fun, it was hard, it was exhausting, but as with all things in life that force me out of my comfort zone, I’m glad I did it. Not one single regret!

Coming up next…part three of this three part series– The Surprise! And quite a surprise it was!

Oh! Two more pictures! I got real creative real fast, using lids from Costco sized veggie trays as serving platters and lids from Costco sized cookie trays as salad bowls (unfortunately not pictured)






And there are those sweet potato fries shoved into one of the wok-pans. You can also see the buns for the BBQ pork sandwiches beautifully displayed on a former Sam’s Club cookie tray, and those solo cups with the spoons? Those were our reusable cereal bowls.





Okay, that’s all. I’m exhausted from writing this!  Next up…PART THREE! The Surprise!


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