Gordon Ramsay wasn’t there. The end.
Ok, I didn’t really expect him to be there, but I had high hopes of it. Several friends have told me that I really need to share what the experience was like, so here it is. A mere 8 months later, but who’s counting?
The process begins a few months out; they announce the call for submissions and allow you to pre-register. I later found out that this pre-registration means you get to pick the time of day you want to show up for the audition, which can be especially significant depending on the city you’re going to. Anyway, I completed the application, about 12 pages of it, printed it and held on to it to carry it with me on audition day. You don’t submit it ahead of time.
The requirements to try out are pretty simple. No professional cooking experience, i.e., if you’ve worked in a restaurant you’re out. The availability to be their beck and call girl or boy for about 10 weeks, if selected. The completed registration. Oh, yeah, your signature dish, prepared before hand, ready to plate and be judged. No cooking, reheating, no plug-ins, nothing to be done on site. Just plating. That last bit sent me into a tissy.
First of all, signature dish? Me on a plate? I have this really, really bad habit of cooking a kickass dish, loving it, having The Hubbz rave about it, then never making it again. I’m on to something else. For weeks I deliberated over what to make, a decision made more difficult by the fact that it had to be something that would taste just as good if it wasn’t hot. Because, let’s face it, I’m not a dessert kinda chica. I didn’t decide on a dish until about a week before I was supposed to be in San Antonio. More on that later, first let me paint the picture of what was happening leading up to the audition on September 20th.
My day job was nuts and I was traveling to Oklahoma and New Mexico conducting training sessions for most of that month. Then, the weekend before the audition, I went home for this…
Yep. My gorgeous niece tied the knot and I just HAD to be there for the festivities. So, I made it back to Houston on Wednesday, to head on to SanAnton Saturday…, just a tad bit close. The last 2 episodes of the season played while I was traveling, so I caught up upon my return. In hindsight, I probably should’ve waited until after the audition because that’s when I realized that the grand prize was $250,000!!! For some reason, I had it in my head that it was 100K. That was manageable. But $250k just freaked the heck out of me. I almost wimped out. Don’t worry. I didn’t.
Once my little crisis had passed, I got busy figuring out a way to keep my dishes as hot as possible and shopping for said tools to accomplish that task. I know. I should’ve done that weeks, months earlier! I know. I bad. Finally on Friday I found what I was looking for and it was just a matter of getting my dish together. Raviolis de Otoe con Cordero Guisado. Is this my signature dish? I don’t know. Is this me on a plate? Oh, yes!
This is a dish I came up with a few months ago; I filled pasta with a mash of otoe, one of my favorite root vegetables which is also known as malanga, and a soft cheese flavored with masala spice. It is then topped with a lamb stew I made following my own recipe for Carne Guisada and pickled veggies over top to add another dimension and texture. The dish is me on a plate, without a doubt–I live to take traditional cuisines of the world and spin them a bit with the flavors and ingredients I grew up eating and the flavors on this dish are evocative of my youth in Panama.
So, Saturday morning comes, I wake up waaaay too early for my taste and proceed to cook the raviolis, reheat the lamb and sauté the veggies for the topping. I pack everything up, microwave the heck out of those jelly pouches that conserve the temperature, get dressed and off we go. San Antonio or bust!
Auditions were held at the Embassy Suites, I arrived right around 9am for the 10am group. First thing that struck me was how low key it all seemed. I expected to see a myriad of hopefuls standing in line outside the hotel, but I didn’t. Even the valet counter was readily available. Anyway, I walk in and get my official documents and I’m sent to the waiting room. There were about 100 or so people in the room and they would ‘audition’ you in groups of 20; I went in with the 3rd group.
In the second room, they had set up tables into a U-format and you just lined up around it in numerical order. Someone from the team walks in and gives you instructions about what is and isn’t allowed, then starts the timer and you have 5 minutes to plate and clean up your area. No pictures allowed, so the shot above is from my test run.
Round 1: a local chef, I believe, comes by and tastes your food, then asks you questions about the dish. Mine wanted to know if I’d made my own pasta: Yes, Chef, what were some of the flavors in the lamb, I mumbled them off. Then he said I should’ve cut the veggies a bit larger, as they were slightly overcooked; Damnit, Chef! I’m sorry, Chef! In the end, he complimented me on the dish, saying, and I quote, “This is very good, I really like it and great presentation.” Yup, uh huh, that’s what he said! I was very happy with my plating, but a bit disappointed in the veggies. Nonetheless, it was good enough to secure me a spot on the 2nd round; the interview with the talent people!
Round 2: The Panel of Personalities Experts. Five of us went in at once. My competition was a cute mom of a toddler, who was also an Army wife, had tried out for several endurance type shows in CA and had a penchant for wearing clothes she made herself out of Disney motif fabrics. Then there was the guy who had taught himself how to cook in a year and documented his weight loss on Instagram and had something like 200k followers. He wasn’t sure if it was because of his cooking skills or the fact that he often took bare-chested selfies with the food he made. At least I had 1 more personality than the other 2 people in the room at the time, still, I didn’t make the cut.
It was a really fun experience, though. After I was done hyperventilating for weeks on end and even though my nerves got the best of me as I spoke to the various selection people, I loved it. I would do it again and will likely do so this year, if travel permits. I learned that rejection isn’t as painful as regret or wondering what might’ve been. I won’t lie and say I don’t still sell myself short, I do, but not as short as I used to.
There’s a big wide world out there and I’m part of it!
PS: oh, I did have a brush with celebrity…
PS2: I haven’t seen any of the people who were in my group either. There’s always next year!