Whether you’re an experienced chef trying to get onto the show Top Chef or an amateur auditioning for Master Chef, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for the process of competition cooking shows. It’s often about more than the cooking itself.

Be Yourself, But Better

While you don’t want to be phony or false, you do want to be entertaining and original. An audition tape is essential for the process, and thousands of hopefuls are sending in those tapes. The one you submit has to stand out from the pack. Do something different in your audition. They want to see some personality as well as some skill in the recorded audition. Try to impress them with your originality. Think about what sets you apart from other chefs and include that in your video audition.

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Watch Multiple Episodes of the Show

It’s never a good idea to audition for a reality competition cooking show without some idea of the format, the judges and the challenges. If you’re not in great shape, you likely won’t be able to run to the tables to grab your ingredients and jump through hoops on the way back to the outdoor grills. When you watch every episode a few times, you’ll know what’s expected of the contestants as far as cooking and personality. Television shows are looking for interesting contestants that will keep people glued to the television.

Practice, Practice, Practice

You should be able to dice carrots in your sleep, or know how to bone a fish. Have your friends bring over ingredients that don’t normally get cooked together. This will help you prepare for your debut on television in front of the judges. If you have a problem being in front of an audience, that can be a problem. That should be rectified before you even think about sending in an audition tape.

Learn New Skills

Anyone who has ever watched a cooking competition will see a chef complain that they don’t know how to bake, or that their pastry skills are lacking. It happens in every single show at some point. You don’t want to be that chef, so learn the skills that you’re lacking in the kitchen. If you’ve never worked with an ingredient that seems to be thrown at every contestant, brush up on your knowledge. Learn the principles of baking before getting on the show.

The Audition Food

Before you ever cook for the judges of the competition show, you’ll present food to producers and staff members who will narrow down the competition. For this part of the process, you’ll want to bring all your own utensils as well as everything you’ll need to prepare your meal. You’ll also need to think about the dish you’ll prepare. The food could sit for hours before it’s served to the panel. Keep this in mind when choosing the meal you’ll create. It should be tasty at room temperature.

You should never blindly send in audition tapes to a variety of competition cooking shows unless you’ve watched more than a few episodes and really absorbed the essence of the show itself. You’ll be able to figure out what’s expected of the chefs who end up on the show. It’s important that you really understand yourself and your cooking style too. It’ll be tested consistently throughout the process.