Three SAIT grads turn backpacking trip into a reality show
At Burt and Lucy's canteen, the walls are tarps and in place of a floor, uneven sand. There is no electricity, no working lights or refrigeration either. The kitchen prep area is littered with sugar canisters and jugs of vinegars — while white candlesticks stand freely for light.
It's 6 a.m. and Burt wakes from the top of the restaurant's dining table. He reaches for his Marlboros and tosses a ragged, white tea towel over his shoulder, grunting the entire time. The rising sun only means one thing — time to prepare for the day's rations.
"Mommy and Daddy's Canteen," known as MDC, is a scarcely furnished, dimly-lit cooking shack tucked away in the Philippine island of Palawan. It is also one kitchen, of many, where Travel and Escape's culinary reality TV series, "Chefs Run Wild," set the scene to learn how to cook traditional Asian cuisine.
The seaside town of El Nido is known for its uninhabited islands virtually untouched by tourism, and for show hosts and twin brothers Chad and Clayton Klyne, 34, and fellow SAIT graduate and co-host Lyndon Wiebe, 34, MDC couldn't have existed in a better paradise.
A passion for cooking
20 years and thousands of kilometres east, the twin brothers were working for their father at a catering establishment in Winnipeg. At the age of 15, the boys were prepping salads, chopping carrots and peeling onions. Growing up in the restaurant industry encouraged the two to pursue cooking full time.
Chad and Clayton aimed for a culinary arts degree in Calgary. After graduating from SAIT, they set off for Australia to pursue their dreams.
Wiebe, who also grew up in Winnipeg and later graduated from the culinary arts program at SAIT, had never met the Klynes. In 2002, he met Clayton while they both worked at the Country Hills Golf Club.
"After talking, we found out we knew the same people in Winnipeg," Wiebe said.
After bonding over their small-town roots and their shared love for food and skateboarding, the prairie trio started to plan their escape from Alberta.
"We met up in Australia and worked illegally there," Clayton said. The three men then made for New Zealand, where they worked in local restaurants and saved up some cash.
Wiebe said it wasn't until they were all sitting around having beers in 2008 when they started talking about a longer backpacking trip together — the trip that was about to change everything.
"We started talking about one last big hurrah before we all went back to Canada," Wiebe said.
Chad said they "had all done trips across Asia, Europe and everything else beforehand," bringing a camera at all times to capture their oddball moments.
Wiebe said they put together a short 45-minute view of their seven-month trip around Europe and Asia mostly hanging out and travelling but "there was this one scene," he said, "where Chad and Clayton were in the back of the kitchen learning how to grate a coconut," and it was that moment that defined their future filming endeavours.
"We didn't want to just go on a regular backpacker-booze trip," Chad said. "We wanted to learn something and make something out of it."
Learn as you go
So with no formal broadcast training, no extra funding and only a few thousand dollars they managed to save between them, the guys planned to live off of $30 a day while filming every moment possible.
"We didn't really know what we were supposed to be shooting," Wiebe said. "We didn't really know how to act in front of the camera."
Clayton said it took more than two months before they went into kitchens, due to the language barriers and a lack of translators. "Whoever was cooking would go ask the restaurant or hawker stall if" — Clayton said, pointing to his chest — "'I cook one dish'" — then pointing outward — "'You cook one dish.' And that would take 20 minutes in itself.
"We didn't plan any of the scenarios," Clayton continued, "we just showed up and tried to find a typical dish."
"Then sometimes," Chad chimed in, "somebody would pull out a lizard or a cobra heart."
During their trip through Asia they filmed in more than 70 kitchens, but many of them were in questionable condition, Clayton said, making it hard to get decent footage of the cooking action.
Trip leads to broadcast success
After six months of filming 100 hours of footage, the three Manitobans returned home to continue on with their lives.
"The ultimate goal was to make all these YouTube videos, and then it was going to be a selling point," Clayton said. But soon after the videos posted, Frogwater Media approached the chefs, and decided that a 15-episode series could be produced from the already-filmed footage.
"Other shows have guides and are all planned out beforehand," Clayton said. "Then everything else is kind of narrated in afterwards.
"We wanted to keep it quite real and also keep the bitchiness in there."
While they wait for an update on a likely second season, Clayton mentions doing a potential web series of instructional-cooking videos in the Toronto area, where all three hosts rent a house and recently opened a catering business together.
"The Toronto-based one would give us something to do," Chad said, that and after a broad trip full of exotic Asian cuisines, travelling and surfing, the three adventuring foodies admit they "fell in love with film and editing too."