Wednesday, May 20, 2015
That time I auditioned for a reality cooking show...
So, this was me last September going to a live casting call for the show Masterchef, which premieres tonight. The short story is that I not only made it through that first round but through multiple subsequent rounds until I found myself flying to LA in January to spend almost a week with 99 other hopeful contestants.
I never really imagined auditioning for a reality cooking show. I mean, I like to bake and cook, but I have no training or anything like that. But while I was walking through our local farmer's market with the girls one day late last August, I was approached by a casting recruiter who told me about the open casting call in San Francisco in a couple of weeks and asked me whether I had heard of the show and would I be interested. I was wearing Rose in the baby carrier at the time and Clara was in the stroller, but I was intrigued enough to stand and talk for a few minutes while the agent took down my name and contact info and then asked me questions about what kind of food I like to cook, how I learned to cook, how often I cook, and what my sort of life story is (stay-at-home adoptive mom, former lawyer, Mormon), etc. and then took a picture of me. Honestly I went home laughing about the experience but thinking that the likelihood of me actually making a dish and going in to the city to try out were slim.
Until I got a phone call a few days before the casting call from a producer in LA who said they had read the preliminary info the casting recruiter had sent them and asking whether I was still considering going to the audition and if so, letting me know I would be on their VIP list and could go straight to the head of the line and essentially walk right in with my dish. I had imagined waiting in a line for hours with hundreds of other people and that hadn't sounded like much fun to me, but the thought of having a front-of-the-line pass was enough for me to think seriously about it, come up with a dish, and head out on Bart Saturday morning while Paul took the girls on a daddy-daughter date.
So that's how I found myself at the front of a snaking conga line of homecooks from all walks of life with my signature dish of Spicy Honey Chicken, coconut jasmine rice, arugala salad with citrus-cumin dressing, and mango avocado salsa in a bag just waiting to be plated for judging and critique. 20 of us went in at a time and were given 5 minutes to plate our signature dishes before a professional chef (not one of the celebrity ones from the show) came and tasted each part of what we had made. One of the funnest parts about the day was seeing what all these other people had made and hearing their stories and getting to know them. The lady next to me told me that she had made her dish 20 times over the previous month so she could have everything down perfectly. It was a shrimp tempura bon mi sandwich or something like that. Another guy explained his dish made with pork's ear something or other. One girl had a bunch of leftover panna cotta with berries that she let us all taste and it was wonderful.
Then things got crazy. I advanced to the next round, and then the next, then the next, then the next. Each time I thought that there was no way I was moving on. But just before Christmas I learned I had made the final cut and was invited to audition in LA in January with the other "top 100 homecooks in America" for a spot on the show. A couple of very generous family members in the area said they could watch the girls during the days while I was gone and Paul would be home with them for the weekend so I went.
I can't talk about what that experience was like other than to say that it was basically awesome and nerve wracking and I had fun and met such an interesting and diverse group of people brought together by a shared love of food and cooking. We were told that 40,000 other hopefuls had auditioned that season for one of our spots and getting to know the other 99 who made it to LA was so much fun. I can't wait to watch the ones who made it through that final cut (I didn't) tonight when the show premieres.