Saturday, April 20, 2013

What It's Like to Cook Off on a Reality TV Show - Cocktails and Gossip

It's been a little over a year since I had the ultimate foodie adventure of a lifetime and got to cook off in front of the camera on the Canadian reality TV show Recipe to Riches.

Me, and my two competitors, Stephen and Jen

With that in mind, I thought it might be fun for this installment of Cocktails and Gossip to give a little insider scoop on what it it was like to be part of such an incredible experience.

Introducing the Boozy Schmoozy

Those who have been around the blog awhile know this was a two year journey in the making because I auditioned - and almost got onto the show - a year before and was so devastated when I didn't go forward I just about gave up altogether. But time has a way of healing most things so that by the time audition season came around again, I had licked my wounds sufficiently and was ready to enter the ring once again - this time with a recipe for something I call Asian Snack Wraps, which turned out to be my recipe for potential riches as I was selected as one of three finalists from across Canada who would be flown to Toronto to compete.

Asian Snack Wraps

To tell you I had a bad case of nerves as I flew to Toronto - or worse - the first time I stood before the panel of judges, Chef Laura Calder, marketing expert Tony Chapman, and Chef/batch up expert Dana McCauley, would be the understatement of the year. But I believe that the most richly rewarding experiences any of us will ever have are the ones that require us to leave the safety of our comfort zones and push forward the boundaries that tell us "this is what my life is."

And so I did.

I stood on a set with cameras on me and a director telling me where to stand  and almost felt like I was out of my body because it was so out of context for what I would normally be doing.

As an aside - and throwing out a little gossip - both Dana and Laura are VERY tall! They are also both incredibly nice people, though they don't always come across that way on the show. Ditto for Tony Chapman who, though he says it like it is, doesn't have a mean bone in his body and was supportive to all of us.

And then there was the host, former Bachelor star and football player Jesse Palmer...

Not only is he an absolute sweetheart, he is also one of the most good looking people I have ever seen in person in my entire life. So when I tell you, the man hugged me, all I can say is "Respect my celebrity."

Ha ha ha!!!

I have to milk my 15 minutes of fame for all they're worth!

And then the challenge was issued... in hushed tones, Jesse let us know that we would have three hours to batch up our original recipes in a professional kitchen and prepare 300 units!


I literally almost fell through the floor.

The next thing I knew, we were whisked off to a kitchen where we each met with our chef mentors, and were given a small team of chefs to help us. My chef mentor was Chef Maggie McKeowen - who again, was very nice and a lot of fun to work with - even though she came off a little grouchy on camera.

That's okay, though, because there were times when I came across as a stark raving loon!

But who wouldn't?

I had three hours to find the mathematical prowess to figure out how to batch up my original recipe to 300 servings  - against an engineer, no less - Stephen figures out mathematical conundrums for a living - and then find the time to mix and roll out 300 very thin scallion pancakes, prep and cook the filling, and put it all together.

And that's where I made my fatal mistake...

Convinced that it couldn't be done, I decided to put the filling into raw dough, fold it burrito style, and deep fry - much to the chagrin of judge Dana McCauley who practically begged me not to do it.

Until the day I die, I will never forget my famous last words: "Dana, trust me."

While the finished product was still delicious...

As you can see from the picture, it is quite different from my original concept. My original recipe was something new and innovative but by electing to deep fry I had, in essence, just created a glorified egg roll.

Add to that, the dough when folded was quite thick and it was only after I had fried up the first 100 that we realized the dough inside was raw! I remember the moment in tunnel vision, fryer basket in one hand while the producer asked me, "What are you going to do now?"

The answer: I ended up re-frying the first 100 and my amazing team, re-rolled the next 200 which meant that, luckily for me, they were still incredibly delicious and it was enough to make me a runner up.

In the end Stephen who created Chipotle Chili Slams won, and Jen, who made the best whole wheat dough I have ever had, came in third with her Cornish Pasties.

And here's where I get sappy and tell you we all won - but really, we did.

Being on set, having hair and makeup people fuss over me, experiencing the catered lunches film crews enjoy every day, being interviewed on green screen, getting flown to Toronto, staying in a beautiful hotel, getting to meet interesting people, cooking on camera, and, finally, getting to watch as Chef Jason Rosso slammed back my Snack Wraps because he thought they were delicious  - it was all, truly, the experience of a lifetime!

So if you asked me today, would I do it all again?

With the retrospect and healing energy of time, I'd say "You're DAMN right I would! Where do I sign up?"

In the meantime my passion as a cooking show host on my Youtube channel CHARMED will have to suffice!

Tonight I came up with a KILLER cocktail to go with all this gossip! Give it play to find out what I came up with and if you like what you see, make sure you subscribe.


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