JENNIFER FAZEY: THE TALENT BEHIND THE MASTERCHEF TALENT
Masterchef is the type of iconic television program which needs no explanation or description. FOX’s trendsetting reality/competition/cooking series has been on the air for nearly a decade now and is beloved the world over. While food and the expertise demanded by the show is the obvious draw, the fuel behind the longevity of Masterchef is drama and personality. As with an extraordinary meal, the ingredients are mixed and tempered by the talent behind the production; those like co-executive producer Jennifer Fazey. This UK native has been involved in numerous TV programs which involve the culinary arts. As with the Emmy Award-Winning Masterchef series, Fazey is a key factor in what creates the final product which is deemed so appealing to public and critics alike. One of two producers in the control room producing the host judges, with main responsibility for Aaron Sanchez and Joe Bastianich (of Masterchef) as well as Daphne Oz (of Masterchef Junior), Jennifer has become an inaudible voice on camera yet a profound one off camera for the cast and crew of these shows. She’s taken her expertise and contributed to a Masterchef spinoff as well as an exciting upcoming cooking project. An insight into her world allows this producer to relate that it’s much more than simply the components you have; it’s knowing how to measure them properly which manifests riveting television.
Hosted by Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Bastiannich; Masterchef is a huge ratings draw for FOX television. Based on the original BBC series, this American version has made use of British talent in front of and behind the camera. Showrunner/exec producer Natalka Znak reached out to Jennifer to work alongside Danny Shrader (one of Masterchef’s other EPs) to “freshen up” season 10 of the long running series. Znak declares, “Jen was crucial to the success of season 10 of Masterchef. Her creative input and skill working with the talent are second to none and helped make Masterchef 10 the number one show on Fox this summer.” A major attribute of season 10’s popularity was the relatable tone which was prevalent among judges and competitors. Fazey remarks, “One of the main things we wanted to change was to bring more authenticity to the show. It was important that we established an atmosphere and a style of shooting where the cast and the judges could be themselves. We made a few tweaks to how the show was directed, filmed, and produced; such as a more fluid shooting style with little blocking and greater use of handheld cameras. We also re-designed the set to modernize the look and feel of the show. Additionally, our interview style was adjusted to always capture spontaneous & emotional moments. We strove to keep the mood backstage relaxed, fun, and honest; so that this vibe would permeate the entire crew and cast.”
The Season 10 semifinals of Masterchef took the adventurous step of transporting the production out of the US for the first time since Gordon Ramsay’s decade long tenure had begun. To make it even more personal for the host, one of the two episodes was filmed at Ramsay’s flagship restaurant in Chelsea. It was Fazey’s knowledge and experience of producing large shows in both countries which enabled her to execute these two immensely important episodes with a superb transatlantic team. The double digits of Masterchef’s seasons are an indicator of exciting television, manifested by talent perhaps invisible to viewers but strongly felt; talent like Fazey. Just as Fazey was hired for her fresh approach to Masterchef and Masterchef Junior, she reveled in the untainted originality of those involved in Masterchef Junior. She notes, “I worked very closely with Daphne Oz who was new to Masterchef Junior, though she has a great deal of experience as a TV host. Getting to know her personality and passion for cooking helped us to bring a sense of who she is to the scripts, which was a delight. When it comes to the youthful contestants, I think the kids have the ability to blow your expectations out of the water. We assume because of their age that their skills won’t be as developed, but there were certainly a couple of kids in this latest season  whom I think could have given the adult competitors a run for their money!”
Jennifer’s most recent project is focused on developing the TV documentary series The Cooks’ Books. Her vast experience as a showrunner and producer in television has given her insight and inspiration for this project yet to begin production. She declares, “Once I started researching the idea, it soon became apparent that there are a few names who have changed the culinary landscape over the decades via their writing of a specific cuisine; all without us really knowing or appreciating their work. In today’s culture where we can Postmate any kind of cuisine in a few seconds, I think we’ve forgotten how we got here. For me, their life stories are the perfect marriage of history, food, travel, and the unsung hero.” The Cooks’ Books will likely appear soon alongside such favorites as Chef’s Table, Salt Fat Acid Heat, and Ugly Delicious which have received international embrace on streaming services such as Netflix. As you await The Cooks’ Books, Jennifer Fazey’s influence will still be felt as she resumes her post as Co-Executive Producer on Masterchef’s upcoming season # 11. Hosts such as Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Lorraine Pascale, Michel Roux Jr, Nigel Slater, and Molly Yeh, will continually appear to delight fans of the genre, while Fazey and her peers will keep supplying the engine behind them.
Author: Patrick Wilson