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Dan Cazzola talks 'MasterChef UK' and that iconic 'Bond Girls' dinner

When Dan Cazzola was growing up in the suburbs outside of Toronto, Canada, he often passed the time doing skits and making small movies. This was initially just a hobby, but as a teenager, he began interning at a local television station; from that moment, he was hooked. He had never thought of television as a career path before, but while shooting, directing, editing, designing sets, and creating new shows for his internship, he realized exactly what he was meant to do with his life. Now, as the Vice President of International Development for Endemol Shine, Cazzola has gone from that teenager with a passion for television to a global industry leader.

Starting out as a producer, Cazzola quickly climbed the corporate ladder. In 2014, he was named one of Broadcast Magazine’s International Rising Stars, a list of executives aged 30 or under who were making their mark in the global television business. When he began working with Shine Group in London six years ago, he became indispensable to the production company, producing MasterChef UK and creating original content for the highly successful franchise known around the world.

"I have known Dan for many years, as both a television professional and a friend. Without a doubt, he is one of the most well-respected and talented people I know. When we worked together on MasterChef, he was instrumental to the show's success and the team as a whole. He's fantastic to work alongside and maintains a level of professionalism as well as a commitment to his work that not many possess. When you see everything he has already accomplished, it’s obvious why he has such an esteemed reputation in the industry. Undoubtedly, we can continue to expect great things from Dan throughout his career," said Karen Ross, Managing Director of Sidney Street Productions and former Creative Director of MasterChef UK.

For a year, Cazzola produced all the challenges outside of the studio for three different versions of the franchise: MasterChef, MasterChef Junior and MasterChef Celebrity. Because most of his time was spent outside of the studio, he was able to explore Europe, filming at restaurants, military bases, even a villa in Tuscany and Buckingham Palace. Cazzola was in charge of finding locations and talent that had never been used before, no small feat as the show had already been on air for over ten years. This is where his knack for finding unique and compelling stories came into play.

“My decisions were based on what I would want to see on MasterChef. It had a huge existing audience but someone like myself didn’t watch it,” said Cazzola. “I thought along those lines. What would make me want to watch the show?”

One of Cazzola’s most captivating ideas was hosting a Bond Girls dinner. The show invited 12 of the James Bond franchise’s most iconic actresses to a dinner, including Britt Ekland, Shirley Eaton and Eunice Gayson, the first ever Bond Girl. Contestants were then challenged to produce and prepare a four-course, first-class dinner for the esteemed actresses. Cazzola pulled out all the stops for the event. Hosted at the world-famous Savoy hotel, Bond author Ian Flemming’s home-away-from-home, the actresses arrived in style in Aston Martin’s. At the time, the 50th Anniversary of James Bond was at the forefront of entertainment news. James Bond has proven to be timeless and appeals to all ages. Cazzola thought, being in the United Kingdom, it would be the perfect recipe for success, literally.

“Before MasterChef, I had worked on a show where Britt Ekland had appeared. She was one of the most interesting and engaging women I have met and that’s how I thought of holding a dinner party with Britt and all the other Bond Girls. All of them thought it would be great and a laugh to all get together and have our MasterChef finalists cook for them,” he recalled.

Another unique episode for Cazzola was shot at the Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in Europe, where contestants were tasked with feeding the hundreds of workers that service all the planes for British Airways. It was a great challenge to get everyone organized and receiving permission to walk the crews across the tarmac at one of the busiest airports in the world, but that is what made the experience so exciting for the cast and crew while making the episode, and then for audiences watching it.

“I had never done a cooking TV show before and had to become immersed in the world of Michelin stars, cookers and truffle oil. The best thing about being a producer is instantly becoming an expert on a subject. You act like a sponge and I never knew this whole foodie world existed. I met the most incredible chefs, ate the most incredible food and found an entire community around the world that lives and breathes food,” said Cazzola.

It was only a year after he began working on MasterChef that Cazzola was promoted to the international corporate side of Shine Group in London. He knows that his success on the show propelled his career.

MasterChef is now mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful food format in the world and I’m proud to have been a part of it,” he concluded.

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