Behind The Scenes: Rivky Kleiman On The Set Of Sunny Side Up (Plus All About Her New Book!)
There’s a lot that you don’t see that goes into the making of a Kosher.com video. Hours of coordinating, conversations, food prep, changes of plan, retakes, and more. And though I’ve never run as much as a 5k, let alone a marathon, I still feel I can say that shoot days are my own personal marathon.
There’s a unique pandemonium when you’re on set. The mix of people and personalities, the different goals each person is trying to achieve, and the ever-fickle star of the show – the food – all come together to make up what can only be described as an organized chaos. This is perhaps never truer than on the set of Sunny Side Up. With four episodes filmed in a day and a different guest for each episode, Sunny Side Up is the show with the most moving parts behind the scenes. Filming in advance means wardrobes for different seasons, warning guests ahead of time if they should come dressed for winter in August, and asking our talented hair and makeup artist to adjust for seasonal colors or vibes. The details need to be thought out ahead of time, so it doesn’t look out of place when it airs. The same goes for the cookware, props, and chosen recipes.
Different cooks from different backgrounds means preparing foods from all over the world and quickly switching gears from a summery dairy fish recipe to a warmly-spiced Syrian staple. A common refrain from the owner of our set kitchen on these days is, “Are we making dinner for my family tonight?”
We were so lucky that Rivky agreed to come on the show because she was in the final week of shooting her cookbook! So, while the final photography was being completed, she drove up to North Woodmere to join Naomi on the set of Sunny Side Up. After working with her in the past, and having the honor of proofreading her latest cookbook (Simply, out now!), I’ve gotten to know the warmth, authenticity, and good-natured calm that Rivky brings to a room (even if it’s through her words or her recipes). As a producer and director, I knew Rivky would come ready for anything and excited to roll with whatever a shoot day brought her way. My job would be to capture her genuineness and the kind of knowledge and confidence that comes with plenty of trial and error, a keen taste for what’s delicious, and an ability to truly tune in to what people want and need in their everyday lives.
Here’s an inside look into what that day was like. Plus, stay tuned to learn more about what you should look out for in her new cookbook, Simply.
The Day of the Shoot:
For the Chanukah episode of Sunny Side Up, Naomi Nachman invited her good friend Rivky Kleiman onto the show. And while I’d love to say we were all in the Chanukah mood already, this episode was actually filmed back in August!
On set, we have our own version of Murphy’s Law. It starts off the same: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, but we add the caveat, “but not the way you planned for.” Rivky got a firsthand lesson on this that August day. Luckily, she’s one to roll with the punches!
After a minor accident the day before the shoot, Rivky was left driving a loaner car for the two-hour-each-way trip to and from set.
“I woke up really excited and went to hit the road,” Rivky says. She only made it as far as the highway, though, before car trouble (or spontaneous emergency braking!) forced her to turn around for another car. She left me a surprisingly good-humored message (with an alarm bell audibly ringing in the background) about being late and returned home only to set out again a short time later. Because we were filming three other episodes that day, this meant shifting the schedule around on the spot to make sure to accommodate Rivky getting there – no problem!
“That was drama!” Rivky recalls, laughing. True to form though, Rivky arrived unfazed and ready to cook.
“You walk in and, of course, it’s happening. It’s definitely happening!” Rivky says when I ask her what it was like when she arrived. Our host family’s home becomes both set and staging area, so the living room is converted to our hair and makeup studio, the dining room into our prep kitchen, and the kitchen becomes our stage. “It’s nice to be in a nice kitchen that’s very functional – it was very organized! Whatever you need, it’s there waiting for you.”
Despite her stressful morning, Rivky was all smiles, and her rapport with Naomi was immediate. “Naomi and I met through the foodie world,” she says, “I feel like we have a good, easy give-and-take [on camera]. It was fantastic working along with her!”
Getting the two true foodies together also allowed them share their expertise with one another and the viewers! It was very important to Naomi and Rivky that they add in some techniques that were exclusive to the video. “It was an opportunity to share some techniques and teach people some different things that they might not have known.”
For instance, deep frying can be intimidating for some people – especially once you start talking about an oil thermometer, but Rivky says not to sweat it! “We gave tips and tricks for how to fry without a thermometer and achieve perfection when you’re doing it at home.”
Despite the chaos, Rivky’s memory of set was mainly one of fun and comfort, “There was warmth and a really nice environment. We were all working together to get it right.”
About Simply, Rivky’s Brand-New Cookbook
For Rivky, the main goal in creating her follow-up cookbook after the success of Simply Gourmet was “that every recipe should be a winner, and I really tried my hardest to keep to that goal.” In fact, anything that wasn’t turning out the way I wanted got nixed.”
So, what else should we be excited for if we loved this sesame chicken recipe? “I’m really particularly proud of my poultry section,” says Rivky, “I like that it’s so well rounded. There’s something for everyone, and you shouldn’t get bored of it because there’s so much to try!”
And there really are so many delicious sounding (and looking) new foods to try in the book. How does she keep it all straight? “Even if it’s your recipe, and you know what goes in, you can’t remember every single thing!” Rivky says, “I do use my cookbooks all the time! There are times you don’t remember exact increments!”
And of course, I needed to know what her family’s favorites were from the book as well!
“My kids were tasting all along the way and giving thumbs up on soups, salads, fish, etc.” But the two resounding favorites? The Raspberry Lime Cheesecake Pie and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream Pie. “Those were really over the top!”
We’ll be trying it all! Though Simply initially sold out, it’s available on Amazon.
Behind-the-Scenes Fun Facts:
- As soon as we started talking about a Chanukah episode, Rivky knew what would make the best video. “I really think the Sesame Chicken was a no-brainer. It’s familiar, but to actually be able to pull it off so that it’s as good – if not better than – the restaurants… it’s game-changing!”
- This particular shoot actually had to be rescheduled due to a crew member testing positive for Covid almost two months earlier. Due to scheduling, our August date was the next soonest we could do it! This meant rescheduling guests – one of whom had to fly to New York twice to make it work!
- Naomi and Rivky are “kissing cousins” – Naomi’s husband’s uncle and Rivky’s husband’s aunt are, in fact, married!
- Rivky is a longtime member of the Kosher.com family! She connected us to one of our most-used host kitchens, where we film both Shortcuts and Easy Does It.
- Getting a line right sometimes requires multiple takes. Through the magic of editing, we can even use the first sentence of one take and the second sentence of another to get the best delivery.