It doesn’t seem that long ago that Dana came back to the kitchen to let me know that the Food Network was on the phone. It wasn’t the first invite to do a TV competition, but this time I felt like I was at a great place to say, “yes,” and so I did.
Competing today is not as important to me as it was before. Previously, I needed to let Nashville know I was here. Now that I have a family and the restaurant is up and running, that’s enough for me to try and sustain and keep in line.
So, what was it like to find myself on a televsion set and prepare to compete against a celebrity Chef? I’ll tell you…
If you haven’t had a chance to read the first part of my NYC adventure, you can click here to bring you up to speed.
The morning of the taping I awoke in my New York hotel room at 4:00 a.m. to be ready for my 5:00 a.m. call at the studios. I was obviously very excited and there was plenty of adrenaline flowing. Once again, the Uber black came to pick me up. I remember vividly the ride to the studio. The streets were completely deserted and it was as quiet as you’ll ever see The City. The trash was being picked up and the steam rose up from below the streets. It was quite a scene to drive through in preparation for the big day.
When I arrived, I was welcomed by very kind folks. I was blown away by the number of people it takes to make the TV show happen. I met the producer first and was shown to my waiting room where I actually met the man who I would be competing against. (I would have to beat him in order to compete against Bobby.) It was interesting to hang out with him before the recording actually started. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, there is so much paperwork, preparation, and research that goes into making shoot day a reality. They even recorded while they read the agreement to us of what we were expected to do. We were then assigned a culinary expert who gave us a tour from top to bottom of our on-set kitchen. There are two kitchens each identical to the other and that mirror side to side.
We had to practice our entrance next. I did that about six different times. It was cool that they even spent time coaching us on how to do it. They wanted energy! On one take, I did a double tap to my left chest and over my tattoo. (See page 225 of our Lockeland Table book to see a photo of that tattoo and more.)You’ll probably notice that motion when you watch. The two taps are for strength and honor which are part of the tattoo which is dedicated to Cole. The gesture was for him when he watches the show. That moment gave me inspiration. Being away from home is a challenge for me.
Then Bobby came out and we were able to meet him and the first two people who would judge round one. They are not actually real judges, but rather are called “guests.” They are responsible for choosing the winner of that round.
When the cooking competitions for round number one began, we were all in the studio and talked for awhile. Then after we were ready, Bobby walked up to us and had the secret ingredient behind his back. When it was revealed there was a three-minute break to check microphones and anything else that needed to be addressed. Then the competition began.
By the way, what you see on TV is a real 20 minutes. No cuts. It’s a true competition. Whereas twenty minutes on an elliptical may seem like a long time, cooking a dish of food in that amount of time flies by.
I hope you’ll tune in this Thursday evening on the Food Network at 10:00 pm EST (9 pm CST). And next week, I’ll send you my blog update that goes “behind the scenes” and share what “really went down.” —Chef Hal