Q&A with Kyle Terboss, Reality Television Supervising Producer and Show Runner

My good friend Kyle Terboss is on the road months out of the year, producing reality television shows that tell stories about everything from how to prepare meals like a professional chef to how psychic kids are released from evil spirits.  While he was in town recently, I caught up with Kyle to talk about the work that he does, which celebrity chefs he favors, and some of his top picks for exploring New York City.

Tell us a little bit about what you do?

I’m a Supervising Producer and Show Runner for several reality television programs such as Iron Chef America, Chopped, Food Network Star, Sandwich King, BBQ Pit Masters, and BBQ Pit Wars. I help to manage and execute each show I work on by overseeing both the creative and logistics. Some of the networks I produce shows for include National Geographic, Discovery, Destination America and Food Network. When we’re in production our days can easily last up to 18 hours. It can definitely be exhausting but I love what I do. My job has allowed me to travel all over the country and has taken me to many unique places I’d never imagine going to. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredibly talented people along the way.

Are reality shows changing today?

Reality television shows have greatly changed since the days of Big Brother 1 and Real World 1. Throughout the years, producers have become craftier with the process and discovered ways to produce these shows very efficiently while still keeping their costs down. Reality television is a very cost effective way for networks to continue making entertaining television. I don’t see reality television going away anytime soon. When reality television first began, the producers would film for 6 months to capture uninterrupted footage. Nowadays, a similar show can be shot within a month’s time because the producers will script and direct scenes in order to produce their final product in a timely manner. When you’re watching a reality television show these days and something crazy happens, it’s less of a happy accident and more of a well thought out plan on the producer’s part.

How real are reality shows?

Many shows that I’ve worked on in the past are real but that is all changing with the demand from the audience and the pressure on networks to create original content that is entertaining. Producers in reality television don’t leave a lot to chance, otherwise television would be pretty slow moving and there would be no money in it from advertisers. I recently worked on a television show where our cast members were considered part of a mob, blackmailing high ranking members of their community and blowing up their cars when things didn’t go as planned.  No, the cast was not actors but they knew the roles that they were playing and they knew the outcome that the producers wanted so they played along. I admit that most reality shows begin with a real concept however whether the show unfolds organically or not depends on how the producers perceive the show and what they want as the outcome to entertain the masses. As producers, we always approach shows with a plan.  Occasionally that plan doesn’t come to fruition.  Once while filming in the prairies of South Dakota, a 100-year storm flooded out the entire production set and living quarters so we had no choice but to go with the reality that we were given and it made for much more interesting television. 

What is one of the best places you visited through your work?

I was lucky enough to spend 2 years living in Hawaii, just working and surfing. While I was there I actually picked up a job as a car mechanic in-between television shows.  It turned out to be the best and most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

Who are the favorite chefs that you have worked with and why?

My favorite chef that I’ve had the pleasure of working with is Michele Ragussis. Michele has appeared on several shows on both Food Network and NBC. She’s currently the Executive Chef at the Central House in Provincetown, RI.  In my opinion, she’s the master of seafood.

Michelle Ragussis, Image courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Michelle Ragussis, Image courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Another chef I love and someone to keep an eye on is Jamie Bissonnette. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jamie on Chopped and Iron Chef America. He recently opened Toro here in Manhattan and is unquestionably one of the most talented chefs I know.

How has working on cooking shows contributed to your cooking abilities?

I’ve learned so much about cooking from the variety of shows I’ve worked on.  The best advice I get usually comes from Bobby Flay. I always incorporate his tips and tricks into my own cooking. I think my wife appreciates that. Bobby Flay is a master of his craft and he loves to share that information with everyone. He also cares a lot about the people he works with and that appear on his shows. 

What are your favorite food events in the city?

My favorite food event in New York is the Burger Bash at the New York Food and Wine Festival.  I am obsessed with burgers. I recommend everyone go to this event if they haven’t. 

What are your favorite restaurants in the city and why?

One of my favorite restaurants is Barbuto in the Meatpacking district. You can never go wrong here.  Chef Jonathan Waxman is one of the founding fathers of New-American style cooking and he’s also an extremely nice guy, which I appreciate more than anything.  Another incredible spot for BBQ is Hometown BBQ in Red Hook. I’ve worked on a lot of BBQ shows and have been to all of the best in the country but I learned about this one from my friends down south who competes on the professional BBQ circuit.  It’s one of the top 5 BBQ restaurants in the country, without question.

You have a degree in photography. What neighborhoods or spots in the city do you consider to be the most photogenic?

I think the entire city is photogenic; it just depends on what you’re looking to photograph. There’s an incredible amount of variety in every neighborhood. I personally love the block that I live on in Greenpoint (Huron Street and West Street).  It’s a block off of the water and has an incredible view of Manhattan with amazing light and sunsets. Years ago I shared this location with a few of my Directors of Photography friends and now I see it in a variety of reality shows, scripted shows and even films. On any given day if you walk down my street you’ll see a film crew.

Is there a NYC based photographer you really like?

One of my favorite photographers is a gentleman that I went to college with, Daymion Mardel. Daymion started off as an intern for Annie Leibowitz and then became an assistant for Richard Avedon.  He learned from the best and it shows in his work.  He’s one of the most talented photographers I know.

What does the future hold for you?

I would love to shift gears from reality television and start producing more documentary work. I’d also like to do much more still photography work than I allow myself to do now.  

Top three favorite NYC neighborhoods?

Rockaway Beach, Red Hook and Greenpoint.

Top three favorite NYC buildings?

The Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint is one of the most unique buildings in New York.  I love the Neponsit Health Center in Rockaway because of it’s dark, decrepit look.  It also has a lot of interesting history behind it.  And of course the Domino Sugar building – it’s iconic New York no matter which side of the bridge you’re on.

Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, Image courtesy of NYC.GOV

Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, Image courtesy of NYC.GOV

What’s your favorite part of living in Brooklyn?

My favorite part of living in Brooklyn is coming home to it after being on the road for months on end.  Nothing beats that feeling.  And it doesn’t hurt to know that I can walk out my door and find the best food in the country.

Thank you for your time, Kyle. We look forward to seeing your documentary work.

Follow Kyle on Instagram at kyle_terboss.

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