Behind the Lens: Chop Down Hunger

In June 2021, we kicked off one of our largest projects, Chop Down Hunger, with our client Forgotten Harvest: a 50-minute, all-women cooking competition hosted by renowned Food Network chef Amanda Freitag and featuring local celebrity chef contestants and judges. The “cook-off for a cause” was broadcast live in early October 2021 to replace Forgotten Harvest’s typical in-person annual fundraiser in support of Forgotten Harvest Farms. 

We’re excited to share with you an exclusive look into the making of Chop Down Hunger.


Chop Down Hunger featured four local chef contestants, each accomplished in their own right: Genevieve Vang of Bangkok 96, Manal Hussein of For the Love of Sugar, Shanel DeWalt of the Kellogg Co., and Allie Lyttle of LaLa's Ann Arbor. 

A panel of local judges joined host Amanda Freitag in judging the competitors: Crystal Smith-Nichols, accomplished baker and 2017 “Chopped” champion, and Sue Selasky, Detroit Free Press food columnist.

Chop Down Hunger Cast and Film Crew

Each contestant was required to prepare three dishes, across three rounds:

Round 1: The Appetizer

Round 2: The Main Course

Round 3: The Dessert

Each round, the contestant dishes were judged on taste, creativity, and how well the pre-selected ingredients were used. The best part of it all – all key ingredients were locally-sourced from the Forgotten Harvest Farm.


This project required significant creative direction and logistical coordination to take it from concept to final cut, with a film crew of 15 and a cast of 7. After months of planning and pre-production, we successfully completed filming the event in just one (jam-packed!) day at Henry Ford College’s School of Culinary Arts.

Flow Video Crew (Left to Right): Steven Pankotai, Devin Polaski, Elise Ritschdorff, and Jamie Savalle

Our skillful and multi-talented Producer, Jamie Savalle led all aspects of coordination for the project – she ensured we didn’t miss a beat!

“The Chop Down Hunger competition was an exciting challenge that put our team to the test! Watching the production, client, and talent teams all work together to build such an impactful program was a career highlight!” - Jamie Savalle, Producer

We approached this project with extremely open minds – we had frankly never produced a full-length cooking competition before, and neither had our client! Bringing on Director Brandon Mata and Director of Photography Shane McMurphy – both with significant experience in reality television, a strikingly similar genre – added much-needed depth of experience to our team's bench. We pushed ourselves outside of our own box and our Creative Director, Devin Polaski worked diligently to ensure we met the creative needs of our client, plus some.

“I was thrilled to be a part of Chop Down Hunger because it combined so many things we love at Flow: a celebration of food, great people and places in Michigan, all while raising money for an incredible cause. It's always the best feeling knowing that the stories we craft help lead to tangible positive impact on our community.” - Devin Polaski, Creative Director

With just a two-week deadline to deliver first drafts of the show after filming, Director of Post-Production Steven Pankotai worked tirelessly alongside Video Editor Elise Ritschdorff to pore over more than 60 hours of raw footage and craft the 50-minute polished show.

“Working on Forgotten Harvest was a lot of fun! It was a fantastic challenge to make something on the level of network shows like Chopped and I think we nailed it. It was great to work with a client willing to push beyond the "expected" content and make something that people will really remember!” – Steven Pankotai, Director of Post-Production

Overall, the project was extremely challenging, but more importantly, deeply rewarding for all involved. We enjoy opportunities to push our creativity to new heights and this project did just that. Congratulations to the winning chef, and to Forgotten Harvest on a tremendously-successful event!

Check out the trailer…


Forgotten Harvest is a Michigan based non-profit organization that is dedicated to relieving hunger and preventing nutritious food waste, by collecting food that would otherwise go to waste and delivering it free-of-charge to local organizations and emergency food providers in Metro Detroit. Through community support and donations, Forgotten Harvest delivers 144,000 pounds of surplus food per day to local charities five days a week, providing families in need with fresh and nutritious food. 

In 2013, Forgot Harvest expanded their work to Forgotten Harvest Farms. The farm resides on more than 95 acres of land. Since its establishment, Forgotten Harvest Farms has grown and harvested more than two million pounds of produce.


Brandon Mata, Director // Jamie Savalle, Producer // Steven Pankotai, Assistant Director + Lead Editor // Elise Ritschdorff, Prod. Assist + Assist. Editor // Devin Polaski, Creative Director // Erik Steele, BTS Videographer // Rich Tran, CA // Alex Jacobson, Jason Lanham, Cam Ops // Shane McMurphy, D.P. // Trevor Stevens, Spencer Haydo, Gaffing/Lighting // Matthew Sisco, Ryan Cunningham, Audio // Hair + Makeup: Megan Simmons // Zack Breheney, Tech Director // LaChattie Smith, Business Ops // Ava Bernacki, Animation // Justin Wedes, CEO

-About the author-

La'Chattie Smith

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, La'Chattie has supported business operations both locally and in other cities across the US. In her current role, La'Chattie brings a wealth of project management and problem solving experience to Flow Video. When out of office, La'Chattie enjoys cooking and traveling to new places.