Every once in a while, I’m challenged to reach out of my comfort zone. Things are pretty cozy around here. I go about my days; family life, working on whatever DIY projects that are at hand, filming episodes for my show, and cooking hearty meals for my loved ones. But being competitive with others…….
Yeeaaaahhhhhhhhhh, not really.
Like, pretty much, never.
But when the peeps of Dutchess County tourism reached out to me and asked me to try out for the show Master Chef Home Cooks, I felt obliged to accept. And from the moment I said okay, I was uncomfortable, and found I was asking myself:
“Self! What are you doing??”
But I went through with it. I hymned and hawed over what I would cook and present. I thought about what I could make that would taste delicious at room temperature as the try out day would be long an no stoves or ovens were on location. And, I thought about how I could stand out, and prove that home cooks are just as tuned to details as the pros.
I figured I needed to encompass the whole home cook thing – I wanted my station to be like my table at home. I made a place mat. With that, I made a homemade napkin too. I carefully picked out some happy gerber daisies for a centerpiece and I made sure my outfit represented me as who I am. Preppy. Loafers with no socks. An all American sweater. Khakis. You know, The Preppy Handbook.
I was the only one with a table setting. The. Only. One. I was surrounded by only plates and foil tins.
With very careful consideration, I made this dish.
Every time I make it, it’s beautiful, and tastes as such.
Simple. Easy. Classy. Delicious.
The day of the audition started easy enough. I got up at 4:30 a.m. with enough time to get myself all camera ready, which really means, wear a ton of make up and hair spray the hair until you feel top heavy. I dragged Sean out of bed along with the kids. All the food that I prepped, I loaded into a bag and a cooler, and headed down to NYC for the 8:00 a.m. call.
Application in hand, I check in and then studied the faces of my competition. And as I looked at each one, they all looked the part, and I found myself feeling like a fish out of water.
First off, we had to march up and down a designated block area in Times Square chanting “Master Chef! Master Chef!” And part of me was feeling the love and the other part of me wanted to get the heck out of there. And while I was there among the crowd, I was networking, and finding the hearts and passions of those other contestants. With everyone I met, I couldn’t help but feel that I wanted each of them to advance; I wanted them to be the Master Chef victor. As much as I wanted them to advance, I wanted to break away. I wanted to bid adieu. Yet still, I wanted my dish to achieve a validation.
Time came where I was in a room with many others. Maybe 40? Maybe 50? I don’t know, I was too nervous to count. I had my spot. It was corner spot, maybe 24 inches wide, if that. I was already fond of those I was near. And intimidated. They were outspoken. They were loud. They were confident.
And the voice called: “you have 3 minutes to plate your dish, and the time starts now”
My head spinned around and before I knew it, my hands were working faster than my mind could think. With the place mat, napkin, flowers, and the just-in-case water all in check, I was piping that salmon mousse on to the puff pastry and making sure the arugula was just so. And I’m here to tell you, that 3 minutes goes a whole lot faster in a competition than when you’re bored and longing for entertainment.
Time was up and I was done. My dish was plated. I perused the dishes of my neighbors and knew that my dish could hold its own, but I was still asking myself, “really??”
The judge was coming from my left. Tasting and asking questions about each dish. In my mind I was rehearsing what to say; how to present my Smoked Salmon Mousse & Arugula Napoleon.
The judge was in front of me tasting my dish, asking all kinds of questions. He even asked me to identify 4 different cuts of beef – which I did, no problem. But the thing is, I connected with this guy too. I wanted to work along side him, not compete for him, Still, he told me that my dish was delicious. Very good. He took two bites.
Still, seems the only person I didn’t connect with in the room, was me.
Could I really go through with this?
Could I really be away from my family for 9 weeks?
Did I really want to go down and dirty, and compete with all these people and with those from the dozen other auditioning cities?
Nope. Not really.
Waaaaayyyyy out of my comfort zone.
And this cute little curly haired girl came by to ask more questions about us competitors. She was so young, I probably could have been her mother. She asked random and typical reality TV questions, but one question she asked, I pondered. And with this question, I really knew that I wasn’t cut out for this reality-based show:
“What kind of competitor are you?”
I just stared at her. The only thing going through my mind was “Honey, I just want to host a tea party for you. I can run circles around you and your every day life. Do you like tea sandwiches?”
Bottom line, I didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t asked to stay after and answer another round of questions.
I was relieved.
I left the room feeling more confident than I have ever felt. I realized that I’m my own competitor – a thought and a feeling that left me feeling driven.
As I was in the corridor waiting on the elevator, I hear my name.
It was my judge. The Executive Chef that tasted my dish.
He told me he truly enjoyed my dish. Some of the best salmon mousse he’s ever had. He explained how the show was about good food and competitive personality. He said I was too reserved. He asked me to try out again for the next season.
Naaahhhh, I said to him. No more competing for me.
Reserved? I so am.
Competitive? Only with myself.
Saturday was great fun. I learned a lot about television, but more importantly, I learned a lot about myself.
Not everyone in that room has a blog for an outlet. I’m safe to say that only a couple of them there are comfortable with the love of words and writing from the heart. Still, I was among dreamers, just as I am. And I’m happy in my own domain. I can only hope the best for those that advanced. Rock on with your bad selves.
For me, I’m going to hang out here, and hope to inspire the vast following that I have on my humble DIY and homemaker blog. I’m so grateful you’re here.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. And in the meantime, go ahead and make this dish. It’s flipping amazing!!