Discover more from on hand
Amanda Berrill, digital culinary producer at Studio Ramsay
Issue 18: On working for Gordon Ramsay and making all the food content.
Why hello there! Welcome to on hand! If you’ve landed here and somehow aren’t subscribed, I got you:
I’ve know Amanda since we were both students at Seton Hall (go pirates!). I was a college swimmer and she was close friends with a few of my younger teammates, so she eventually became part of the extended crew of swimmer-friends. Amanda didn’t get into food right away, instead starting in fashion and startups. But a layoff from a large tech company pushed her to pursue food full time. I spoke with Amanda on her career change, working for Gordon Ramsay, and how content gets developed and created.
Brianna Plaza:Can you tell me how you got into food?
Amanda Berrill: I studied public relations and Spanish. I had a few fashion PR internships with big name brands, which were really cool. But generally, it was totally miserable — I just hated it.
I'm glad I had that experience. But it was just not for me. When I graduated, I got hired at Fab., started in customer service, and then went into fashion buying from there. I was an assistant buyer and I had a really great boss, but I was on my own a lot. I ended up getting laid off from Fab. and I got a really nice severance package so I had time to figure out what I wanted to do.
I realized that since I like to cook, I enrolled at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Since I already had a degree, I didn’t need to do a four-year program with a bunch of 18 year olds. I was in classes with a bunch of different career changers.
I needed to do an internship to graduate and I got connected to Gramercy Tavern through a friend. I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was when I started, but I quickly came to learn that Gramercy Tavern is a very big deal. I started on the morning shifts and worked through my required hours in less than two weeks. I wound up staying there as an intern for three months and was eventually offered a full time line cook position.
I was line cook there for about a year and it was one of the most incredible experiences I could have ever had. I’ve never worked that hard in my life.
I moved back to San Diego where I was doing a bunch of random catering stuff here and there, just working wherever I could. I knew a few people, but not really. I was working the 4:00 AM prep shift at a catering place washing sinks full of lettuce, and I was just like, "I hate it here. It sucks." I was 26, living with my mom, I was like, "What am I doing with my life?"
I got a job at a cheese store and I was doing the balancing act between shifts at the cheese store and catering. They offered me the kitchen manager position, which was really nice. I think I did that for about a year or two, and then decided to move up to LA to be with my now husband, Drew.
Being at the cheese store was a really great experience, I met some incredible people, and obviously learned so much about meat and cheese. But being up in LA, I didn’t know anyone and it felt like I was starting over again.
I got back into catering in LA working on some large events, which is a whole different beast. I enjoyed my time there a lot, but I was working nights and weekends for not a lot of money. I also spent some time working for a company that caters to people with alternative diets and food allergies.
One day I randomly came across a posting online for a kitchen position at the Tasty arm of Buzzfeed. I knew what Tasty was, but I felt like I was living under a rock at that point because I didn’t watch a ton of how-to-cook videos. I juggled Tasty, catering, and private cheffing for a while but eventually was able to do just BuzzFeed pretty much full time.
Last October someone reached out about an opportunity with Gordon Ramsay and I thought it was a joke at first. This job just fell in my lap and I feel so lucky. I still had to go through the interview process, but halfway through a global pandemic, people were struggling for work so I feel so lucky that I was offered this job.
I work as a culinary producer for Gordon Ramsay and while there are ups and downs, every once in a while I’ll be driving home from a shoot and I am just like, “I feel so lucky to have this job right now.”
Brianna Plaza: In an industry that seems to be built on a lot of connections, how do people get jobs? And how do you even figure out what you want to do?
Amanda Berrill: Yeah, honestly, that's the million-dollar question right there. I feel I've never been one of those people that has a life plan and a five-year goal. I mean, for me, personally, I've just tried to have a positive attitude, work hard, and learn and continue to grow.
And I've just been lucky enough that opportunities have come my way through people that I've met. I know I have some stylist friends that are really good about the cold e-mail, but luckily I’ve never had to do that. If you can get your foot in the door anywhere, it's so helpful. Even if it’s a random job, just getting your foot in the door anyway you can and just show people that you’re a hard worker, you’re pleasant to be around, and that you can do whatever needs to be done.
That usually leads to, "Oh, that person is really good. Why don't we bring them back for X, Y and Z?" Or, "I don't have a gig for you right now, but I know so and so is looking for this type of person."
Brianna Plaza: I don't know a lot about Gordon Ramsay other than clearly he's doing so much, so what does your role consist of?
Amanda Berrill: Studio Ramsay works on a lot of different shows like Uncharted on National Geographic, content on Masterclass, and a lot of other shows coming down the pipeline. In my department, we do short-form content.
We’re a totally brand new team. My colleague Hayley and I basically built our entire studio from scratch, which was a really great learning experience. I am on the social end of things and Hayley is on more of the corporate side. I focus more on recipes that live on social platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. I develop recipes for these platforms and then we bring them to life in video form.
On some occasions, Gordon will be doing something like a Facebook Live on something like chicken wings, so I will write a quick recipe. He then shoots it and I will tweak my recipe to match whatever he’s doing. There’s a lot of back and forth, just transcribing what he does on camera to what we can actually post online for people.
Gordon has his Masterclass stuff, but that’s behind a paywall, so he just wanted to get more into the social video world. I have experience doing those top-down videos so I’ve been able to bring a lot of that to Studio Ramsay. Since his empire is built on restaurants, I was also able to bring my experience from Gramercy Tavern to this job as well.
Brianna Plaza: What was it like working in a lockdown situation when you produce content for other people?
Amanda Berrill: For now, there’s no Ramsay studio, we actually shoot everything at Gordon’s house in Bel Air. He doesn’t live in this house full time so we’ve got metro racks with all our props and equipment in his garage. We work with a small crew and when I first started we worked with masks on and got tested before coming in.
Making the transition from freelance to full time has been a lot easier than if I had had to go into an office all day, every day. I’m either at home, at the grocery store shopping for things, or at Gordon’s, so so far, it has been a really nice balance.
Brianna Plaza: How is working for Gordon Ramsay different from your work at Tasty?
Amanda Berrill: For me, it's been a very welcome change. At Tasty, it's fun, but there's a place for that type of content. But I often thought, "How many times can we deep fry a slice of pie?" It’s fun, but you got some assignments at Tasty and you're just like, "Oh, I wish I didn't have to develop this recipe."
Everything had to be more accessible, which I totally get. If someone is living in Ohio, we can’t have crazy ingredients that might be hard to get. But with Gordon, because he’s very much a global chef, he can work with a much higher caliber of cooking style than Tasty.
It has been really nice to be able to be not quite as restrictive with ingredients and methods. We have this debate internally a lot because Gordon is all about TikTok right now so he keeps sending over these crazy things he sees. But people don’t come to Gordon for the crazy, they come for practical cooking knowledge and impressive techniques. He still wants our content to be exciting and relevant, but for the most part, we break things down into different formats. We have some recipes that are more fun and pizzazzy and others that are longer and more intense.
Brianna Plaza: Other than Gordon Ramsay sending you TikTok ideas, how do recipes get decided on? Is it collaborative or do you pitch him?
Amanda Berrill: We do a lot of brainstorming and work on a monthly cycle. We’ll brainstorm at the beginning of the month and then test, write, develop, test again, and edit. We shoot the videos toward the end of the month.
We’ll meet with the other Studio Ramsay folks, and sometimes we're like, "Hey, this isn't quite working. What do you think about X, Y, and Z?” And then, we send those prompts off to Gordon with just some little inspirational photos. And usually, he says, "Sure, looks great. Thanks, gals."
Brianna Plaza: Since you’re on a more structured, corporate track, what is the next step in your career? How do you think about career development in the media space of food?
Amanda Berrill: I sometimes think about this and I don't really know what I'm going to do or where I'm going to be. My husband works for VICE so he can be remote forever, so it’s really my job keeping us in LA right now. Eventually we want to move back to San Diego but my job and industry are here. There are a lot of opportunities in San Diego, but they’re not quite as corporate. I don’t know, but I would love to see where this job takes me in the next couple of years.
I just want to keep learning, no matter where I'm working. I don't want to be stagnant for too long. So, I don't know the real answer. But basically, the team will grow, I think, at some point, and so I have no idea what opportunities will come that way. But hopefully, I can hang out and find some.
Brianna Plaza: Last year you did some food-related advocacy where you raised money via your cooking. Can you talk to me about what that was like?
Amanda Berrill: In June of last year when all the shit hit the fan, I just felt very, "Fuck, what can I do?" Everything felt so daunting and I came across the Bakers Against Racism campaign and realized I could use my baking skills.
A good friend of mine works at Netflix and he reached out and said that they’d match whatever I raised, so we worked together on what different foundations Netflix could work with. We picked six, and I used a spreadsheet and Instagram to organize the orders I got.
People were DM’ing me and I knew that delivery around town and confirming orders could get difficult, so I put together a menu of things I liked that were easier to make. I got pastry boxes, set up a delivery line, and delivered them all over LA.
I’ve also been working with an old friend from Tasty who has been cooking for low-income families in Chinatown. We have so much leftover food from our shoots so I’ve been working with her to turn it into meals. I’ve also been donating a lot of food to all of the community fridges that are popping up all over.
It's a good distraction where you're just like, "Okay, I can focus on literally the task in my hands." Donating money is obviously fantastic but it’s amazing when you actually drop off food and you know it’s going to nourish someone and help them in the immediate term.
Other things ~
‘A love affair with Le Creuset’: How a staple of the French kitchen turned into a global hit. I got a cobalt Le Creuset as a gift 10 years ago and it’s still one of my favorite things in my kitchen.
It’s summer, which means it’s watermelon season. The New York Times looks at where your watermelon came from.
I drink a lot of coffee so it’s great to see all the health benefits (but also maybe I drink too much?).