Regardless of the ratings, the stars of “Dean and Jean do a cooking showsay their new show is a hit because the first season is in the box and they’re still married.
Each episode shows viewers how to cook a signature Thai dish, complete with dollops of culinary anecdotes and a generous side of domestic feuds between headstrong chef, Nuchjana “Jean” Guntong, and her equally headstrong TV producer husband, Dean Rainey.
The couple say the show – filmed in their Norfolk County backyard last fall and now airing on Bell Fibe TV1 – aims to entertain while showcasing Thai culture and illuminating the reality of an interracial marriage.
Dean is a headstrong Canadian television producer and Jean is a determined Thai chef. Together they attempt to do a cooking show about Thai cuisine. There is only one challenge: they are husband and wife. Follow Dean and Jean, in front of and behind the cameras, as they navigate their egos, cultural differences and marriage to make a cooking show!
The first is Guntong – who ran several restaurants in Thailand before emigrating to Canada – for cooking the star dish the right way. Then Rainey – a few years removed from his high school job chopping vegetables at a Chinese restaurant in Waterford – tries his hand at it in his own way.
“You talk more than you cook,” an exasperated Guntong complains in the pilot while trying to get her distracted husband toss the pad thai properly.
“You worry about the food part, I’ll take care of the TV show part,” Rainey retorts.
Working together meant putting their egos aside – for the most part.
“He’s the boss when he works behind the camera. For cooking, I’m the boss,” Guntong said with a smile.
“So it was a natural conflict,” Rainey added.
The six-episode season sees the two make mango sticky rice, tom yum goong, and pineapple fried rice, the latter creatively served in a hollowed-out pineapple. Also on the menu is pad ka pow, a beef dish that Rainey says is his favorite both for the flavor and the fun it takes to shout “pad ka pow!” while striking the air dramatically.
Guntong doesn’t say much on camera, but her sidelong gazes and arched eyebrows as her husband hollers say a lot.
Director Burman Lam came up with the idea for the show after working on the couple’s first community TV outing, Try Thai Tonight, a fancy and simple cooking show.
What viewers didn’t see was all the bickering between takes.
“I realized there was definitely a show within a show,” Lam said.
“They have this great relationship that doesn’t always seem perfect, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. What I wanted to show with this is that there’s nothing It’s bad that things aren’t perfect. That’s the reality of trying to get by.
It was a particular challenge for Rainey, a noted perfectionist who has filmed specials for CNN, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.
“It was very uncomfortable during filming, because you expose yourself to being judged,” he said.
“Maybe I’m too bossy in some scenes. Maybe I’m a little mean when I push her too hard, but sometimes she’s just too stubborn.
On-screen arguments over forgotten ingredients and poorly timed reviews are unscripted, he added.
“These are genuine moments,” Rainey said, sounding slightly worried. “Are people going to know that we have a romantic relationship and that we really care?”
Looking at the footage, Guntong said she recoiled from the faces she and Rainey made at each other.
“Working together as husband and wife is tough. Sometimes a real fight happens,” she said.
“After we finish filming and everything, we talk and say, ‘I’m sorry for being rude to you. And after that, it’s fine. »
“Sometimes we are angry for another day. It happens,” Guntong said with a laugh.
Food has been central to the couple’s story since they met 12 years ago in Hong Kong while queuing for Thai takeout. This chance meeting sparked an international romance that eventually brought them to Norfolk to raise their two children and start a Thai catering business.
Guntong said she loves talking about food, which is central to Thai culture.
“You could come to our house in the morning and eat until the evening,” she said. “We eat slowly and we talk.”
As Thai cuisine has become ubiquitous in Canada, Rainey said he struggles to name a TV show that explores Thai culture or even features a Thai person. He and Guntong hope their show will inspire viewers to experience a taste of Thailand for themselves.
The show is also a chance for audiences to “watch what an interracial marriage really looks like” beyond what is portrayed on reality TV shows as “90 Day Fiancé,” Rainey added.
“We are if you took this show and they were married for 12 years and had two kids,” he said.
“There is conflict. There is a misunderstanding. You will see the two cultures meet.
And that, as director Lam said, is “something very Canadian.”