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The Food Network Casting Call

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

It would have been so much easier for me to stay in bed with the New York Times and a steaming bowl of latte this past Sunday morning, but I forced myself to go. I needed a challenge. It was for a spot on the 2010 season of The Next Food Network Star. I filled out the eleven page application with questions such as, If you were a vegetable, what would you be? A roasted poblano pepper. Why? Because I'm earthy, spicy and add depth to everything.

I pulled together a couple photos and got my resume professionally printed for the occasion. I also slipped them copies of my Huff Post columns so they could get a feel for my philosophy and culinary style.

This was the protocol: I waited almost two hours in a room of about 100 people. They called numbers in the order you signed in and you got 3 to 4 minutes of time with an interviewer while they taped you on camera. Everyone was asked the same questions (short answers provided): What do you do? right now - craft service & write. Are you self-taught or professionally schooled? self-taught. Why are you here? to get my message to a wider audience. What's one of your signature dishes? warm new potato salad with capers, parsley, garlic & mint. What's your unique culinary point of view? eat real food!

Truth is, I don't have a working TV anymore since the digital turnover; I haven't had cable in about 8 years and I've never seen the show. I went primarily to stretch myself. I'm carrying a torch here - I care very much about making a difference in the way people eat and live and it was great practice to be in front of a camera talking about that. And I'm proud to report I did a stellar job. I walked away feeling a great rush of energy, incredibly self-confident and well-spoken. It was well worth it.

If I'm perceiving the crowd correctly I'd say they were mostly an interesting mix of restaurant kitchen veterans and home cooks. There was a pair of young women who's names were called the same time as mine and we spent about five minutes together in the anteroom before going into interview. They were two friends who'd driven in together from Milwaukee. They had this schticky banter going non-stop in loud, caustic clips. Their very presence made me agitated. All I could think was, "Man, if I had to live in a house with these two broads, I'd blow my brains out." And that's precisely what makes for good tension on a reality show. Perhaps it was meant to be that I didn't get a call back.

Now on to my next challenge.

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