I’m a TV food producer. Here’s what you should know.
In our industry there are so many different routes you can take in so many weird and wonderful corners – some of which may revolve around food but aren’t hospitality at all. We’ve spoken to food stylists, ready-meal recipe developers and more, all proving that your food career doesn’t need to revolve around late nights or working services. But if those careers are shrouded in mystery, how can you ever work towards them? Jonathan Scrafton is the Food Producer on Junior Bake Off and Bake Off: The Professionals. He didn’t even know his current role existed until he became a TV runner, found out about it quite by chance, and worked hard to get that job himself. The road has been rocky, but that just means he really knows what he wants.
The first step to getting the career of your dreams is knowing what’s out there. We’re here to help you do just that.
How did you get into your current role?
At first, I wanted to work in food and thought I might want to be a chef, but then decided that I wanted to work in TV, not having a clue that I could blend the two together. I got some work experience in TV with the goal of one day working on The Great British Bake Off (My favourite show at the time). Somehow, my second job in TV was as a runner on Bake Off (someone who gets teas, coffees, looks after talent, drives people around) and within half a day I learnt there was a mythical position where someone oversaw food. To me, she seemed to know everything about baking, niche ingredients, which baking tins were the best, which flowers were edible, etc and I realised that was what I wanted to do. I worked on Bake Off for three years (one as a runner, then for two years as a Food Researcher) before leaving food television to go and work on other shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Four in a Bed. I then came back to Bake Off to be the Judges Assistant Producer (producing Paul and Prue, as well as the Technical Challenges) before then becoming the Food Producer on Junior and Professional Bake Off.
What’s been the hardest thing about your career journey so far, and how did you get through it?
After working on The Great British Bake Off for three years, including Junior Bake Off, Celeb Bake Off and GBBO, I was told by a lot of friends in the TV industry that I should get experience elsewhere and that it was bad for my career to continue to work on the same kind of show. I listened to this advice and left Bake Off, but very quickly regretted it and was quite unhappy. I let other people influence me, but very quickly realised that actually I loved the people I worked with, looked forward to work each day and that isn’t a bad thing. I sometimes wonder about the things I missed out on in that time, but maybe I wouldn’t be where I am or have met the people I’ve met if I hadn’t gone elsewhere?
What’s the most unexpected thing about your role?
It doesn’t matter if you’re working with amateur bakers, celebrities, children or professional chefs, everyone needs and wants advice and guidance. Chefs are looking for a different kind of advice to junior bakers, but they respect and appreciate your honest feedback and guidance. You never know who wants to hear your opinion or what insight you might be able to give someone, as they’ll be coming to something with a completely different perspective to you.
What’s the best thing about it?
I get to look at, eat and talk about baking all day, every day.
When you’re working on a show and in the thick of it, there is no day off and no clocking off. I’ve taken phone calls at 11pm on a Saturday night, dealt with fighting chefs on Christmas Eve and driven myself back to the tent to move proving bread dough at 1am.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It depends if I’m on a shoot or not. If it’s pre-production, I’m in the office 10am-6pm each day – devising challenges, speaking with the Judges, helping the Bakers/Chefs with their ideas and recipes, as well as lots of paperwork. If I’m on a shoot, the day usually begins at around 6am and finishes anywhere between 6-8pm. I’m responsible for pretty much everything to do with food – from making sure everyone has the ingredients and equipment they need, ensuring equality and fairness across everyone, making sure everyone is hitting the brief of each challenge, dealing with any editorial food issues which arise and ensuring that all of the important food stories are captured by the Story Producers (the people who ask the questions to the Bakers/Chefs).
What advice would you give to someone hoping to get into your profession?
Always stay interested, ask questions, and stay hungry. You really cannot ever know enough, whether that’s about a topic or a person. If you’re not interested, then it’s not the right job for you.
What’s the best piece of advice that YOU were given?
Make yourself indispensable and always imagine that a journalist is listening to your conversations/reading your emails.
Tell us the weirdest thing you’ve had to do in the course of your work.
I’ve done some fun things as part of my job – I went horse riding with Deborah Meaden, baked over zoom with Olly Alexander and ran down a corridor with Alexandra Burke so she could meet Tina Turner to tell her how much she loved her. But the most surreal experience was working in Mary Berry’s house for a few weeks. I’d be the first person to arrive and would open up her house, make her a coffee and some marmalade on toast each morning. We even shared a Domino’s pizza (she wasn’t a fan!).