I was a contestant last night on ABC’s The Taste show
Last night, I made my nation TV debut on the Season 2 premier of The Taste on ABC, a reality based cooking show starring Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, Marcus Samuelsson and Ludo Lefebvre. The second season of the Emmy nominated show premiered January 2nd, 2014 and continues each Thursday night on ABC.
I had been invited to audition for the show and was chosen to compete from thousands of other contestants from across the US. We filmed the show in Los Angeles at the Universal Studios sound stage where they also film the NBC show “The Voice”.
The good, the bad and the embarrassing
First lets get the “negative” out of the way. Remember The Taste on ABC is television, and much more happened that what was shown, and apparently lots of the positive comments the mentors had for me ended up on the editing room floor. For every negative comment Anthony Bourdain delivered, he had two positive to follow up with and even went so far as to say “I want to commend you for what you’re doing for the nation in regards to weight loss.” This after Nigella Lawson told me she loved my food and my approach, and that I should have my own cooking show! I just wish those comments made the final cut.
The judges and contestants were very impressed a little home chef was able to make homemade flat bread in an hour, and truth be told so was I! I actually purchased some store made flat bread with my “food allowance” just in case my homemade didn’t come out. Nigella lovingly smacked Ludo in an “I told you so” manner when I confirmed her suspicions that the bread was homemade and the next day a handful of chefs asked me “are you the one that made the bread?”
Also I want to clear up before we get to the fun stuff, there were no “black onions” those were kalamata olives, but this is one bite and it probably made it hard to tell. And the shame, oh the shame… the ultimate meatball sin I forgot the cheese, hence why some were drier than I would have liked.
I had one hour, a clock running down, my two idols sitting in front of me, numerous cameras, a culinary team swarming around me and 2 producers asking me non stop questions… so yeah, I was a little distracted and forgot a few things, oh well I still made it on a team!
Here’s my Play-by-Play of The Taste on ABC:
And now the positives. I arrive on set at 5:00 am and they send me to hair and makeup, if you know me, you know I’m a makeup junkie, and we’re on the Universal lot so I got the scoop from amazing makeup artists and hair stylists on their experience working on shows and films. Including Nadege, my favorite makeup artist on set who told stories for doing makeup for the movie Avatar and helped me re-glue my false eyelashes every couple hours.
From hair and makeup we moved over to wardrobe, instructed to bring several outfit options I clung to hope that the red dress I spent a week’s worth of grocery money on would make the cut and… it did! I stood in the trailer alone with the stylist surrounded by all the mentor’s outfits for the entire season, if only Nigella wore slightly smaller shoes they could have fit me. We’re talking some serious fashion icons here, wait till you see what they wear this season, you will be impressed!
And then the waiting starts… hours go by and it feels like days waiting for my turn, and my poor fellow contestants quickly got to know my nervous quirk, I can’t shut up when I’m nervous! I mean it, really! I was the definition of a “chatty Cathy” I’m sure they thought I had gills because I didn’t even stop talking to breathe! The next day I apologized to the entire cast, but my embarrassment still lingers.
After one last makeup and hair touch up, and a microphone check (I had a tiny mic down my top and a pack on my back) I was handed the groceries I had picked up the day before. The clock was set to one hour and I was off to cook on my assigned station!
Immediately I was overwhelmed, I made homemade flat bread, tzatziki sauce, meatballs, a Greek “salsa” and a vinaigrette to top it all off, and can I just say I had one too many things to create, I barely got it all done in time. I had so many cameras swarming around me, producers asking non stop questions, it was broiling hot under all the lights and my timer stopped working, so I had to keep running back to the pantry to check my time.
The clock ran down with only seconds left and I still had my display plate to compete, I did a grab and dump and finished without a second to spare! I looked down and my dress was covered in flour and the belt had somehow come undone… I was dripping with sweat but happy that my weeks of preparing had paid off, I completed (barely) in an hour!
Off to the “blue room” to meet with my family, they thought I would have an answer for them, but this year we waited for the mentors to taste our food in this (gloriously air conditioned) locker room. The disappointment in their eyes only made me more nervous, they thought I would already have an answer from a mentor, not a belly full of nerves and more waiting.
Thankfully only a few minutes later I was whisked away from my family to climb up a staircase so tall I was worried I would be sweaty all over again just from climbing, but the second I reached the top, and the set, there they were… the mentors. I swear it felt like I was watching TV, so surreal it’s hard to put into words. Can I just say, Nigella is so beautiful she’s distracting! I had to make an effort to give the other mentors the time of day, I didn’t want to be rude although they might have understood about her blinding beauty.
The mentors ask me about myself and to my great surprise I had over 10 minutes on stage talking to them! When I told them I was from the Paso Robles Wine region Ludo exclaimed “I LOVE Paso Robles” and I should have caught on, but my fear was too great to notice Marcus grinning from ear to ear. We talked about Lose Weight By Eating, Anthony’s eyebrows raised when I told him about the over 6,000 pounds lost in the first 9 months of 2013, and Nigella went on and on (thank you Nigella) about how important it is to eat REAL food, she was very insistent that I should have my own TV show teaching people how to do just that, and that healthy cooking is what the food shows are missing nowadays.
Now that they know me it’s time to talk food, and right off the bat Ludo hates my dish, and I swear you can actually see my soul leave my body on TV, watch it again you’ll see! Over to Anthony who loves fat. I get it and did not expect to get chosen by him, he quickly says no thank you but commends me for my weight loss blog. Nigella liked my dish, had some notes to make it better but overall loved the style of cooking I brought to the table and in a very apologetic manner let me down easy. I was SURE it was all over for me!
Then it was just Marcus and I… I saw no one else on stage, no other mentors, producers, camera crew, it was so surreal. I had actually had a dream the night before that Marcus would pick me and was sure to tell a few cast members and family members ahead of time so they wouldn’t think I was nuts when I told them after the fact. He had notes for the dish but overall really liked it and was impressed with my palate, as soon as he said “but” with a big smile, my hands went over my mouth and I knew he was going to pick ME, and there it was the big green bar across his name, tears immediately flowed, so many tears of joy, jumping up and down (on my one good leg) and blowing of way too many kisses.
I rushed down the double flight of stairs (thankfully a production assistant helped me so I wouldn’t fall) and couldn’t wait for the doors to my family to open, they must have been turning the cameras on in the room and getting ready because they made me wait, and I pleaded the producer “Open it, open it, open it, open it, open it” finally the doors opened and the celebrating started… what a day!
Watch me on The Taste on ABC and cheer on #TeamMarcus