A friend of mine, who’s working on the reality show Conviction Kitchen in Vancouver, invited my husband and me to a free “friends and relatives” dinner on location last week. All we had to do was pay for our drinks, tip our servers, and be willing to be interviewed on camera, if we desired.
Gee, I couldn’t turn down a free meal and a chance for more exposure. Although I had never heard of the show, I was immediately curious. The premise of Conviction Kitchen, which will air its second season this fall on Sunday nights on CityTV, is that 24 previous convicts get a second chance. (The first season shot in Toronto.)
The show is the brainchild of business partners and chefs Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich. Thuet, a fourth-generation chef, overcame a troubled youth to cook at top kitchens around the world. He spent three years learning from Anton Mosimann, official caterer to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles).
Upon arrival at Delilah’s Restaurant in Vancouver’ s West End, where the show is shot, my husband and I signed a waiver, then waited on the sidewalk to enter. Delilah’s has been a popular spot in the city for years among local film industry types. Its plush interior, hand-painted low ceiling, and rich paint tones evoke the atmosphere of a classy speakeasy.
When we walked in around 7:30 p.m., the stools at the martini bar were full of people immersed in laughter and animated talk. Seated at a table for two, my husband and I watched a twenty-something camera operator and sound man move around the room, extending a boom mike over tables and following the maitre d’ as she interacted with guests.
At one point, a young man strode purposefully through the restaurant and headed for the kitchen, quipping “F—k her” as he passed our table. I figured that this sudden drama was a pre-planned wrench into the evening, gauged to get customer reaction. But people seemed barely to notice. My friend told me later that this was someone genuinely irate who arrived unanounced at Delilah’s. He wanted to receive payment for previous training or some such.
Our waitress had blue-streaked hair, which I complimented, and offered the table trick of lighting a match inside a folded match cover with one hand, which impressed me. We had the fixed friends-and-relatives menu: a mixed salad (with canned rather than fresh beets, my husband noted), excellent salmon with an aioli sauce, and delicious cherry pie.
Later, I was asked on-camera what I thought of the evening and the unscripted incident. I replied that it added gritty reality to the night and I preferred it to someone remaining prim and proper. Overall, it was a fun night, even though the film folks seemed disappointed that we didn’t have complaints about the food or activities. They need conflict to make good drama, right?