Part 10: Big Timin’ It
This is the latest installment in a continuing series that documents my personal quest to become the host of my own cooking show. Since this is a relatively new “career,” there are no vocational programs or community college courses to prepare me for it. From what I have seen, the two most important elements in securing such a position are passion for food and plain old dumb luck. Born with a passion for food, I set out to make my own luck.
Big Timin’ It
Since I began actually writing about food for a living, my life has been going well. Not only am I making seven and a half times as much per article with Current than I made for that first one published by Lagniappe, but the food editor for the latter has begun to mimic my style. My work, it seems, has created a buzz as the cuisine articles are what’s driving the success of both ‘Zalea and Current.
One summer day I get a call from ‘Zalea’s editor. Two appearances have been booked for October featuring cooking demonstrations from Food Network Chef Bobby Flay. The magazine is a sponsor of the event and, therefore, has been granted an interview with the Iron Chef to help promote the event plus his latest publication, The Mesa Grill Cookbook. I have been picked to conduct the interview.
Meanwhile, the meeting with the production company went well. Over wings and beer I meet the other members of Wade’s team. We hash out our different ideas for a cooking show called Coastal Cuisine and we are all on the same page as far as concept. The only thing standing in our way is financing. We need advertisers.
Each of us sets out to make contact with potential advertisers, something that is easy for me since I am already traveling the area talking to winery owners, chefs and shopkeepers anyway. If I feel the potential for selling advertising for the show, I get the contact information to Wade; he’s the money man. The wheels may be moving slowly but they are moving.
Finally the day approaches for the interview with Chef Flay. Because of my history in the entertainment industry, I am never phased when I get around famous people from that world. I performed publicly for the first time when I was five. Had the lead role in a play when I was 10 and have done a smattering of TV over the years. I’ve shared the stage with some of New Orleans’ legends and gotten a standing ovation at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. I’m in my element around entertainers. World class chefs, on the other hand, are a different matter.
Bobby Flay is a very influential chef and I count myself among the influenced. His bold style when it comes to the spicy flavors of the Southwest speaks to my natural tendency towards foods with strong, accretive flavors. I have long admired his blend of simple proteins and complex sauces. I guess it can be said that he presents his New World creations with a French accent.
There is also the public image to contend with. Flay has long been labeled arrogant and intense, a typical cocky New Yorker. Not a New Yorker in the way that Rachael Ray or Mario Batali are New Yorkers, people who’ve moved to the city and adapted. No, Flay was born in Gotham and has lived virtually his entire life there. And I am a food writer from Mobile, Alabama who has learned the bulk of his food knowledge from watching TV chefs like Bobby Flay.
A wave of anticipation rushes over me as the world’s most famous area code appears on my cell phone. I answer and hear a woman‘s voice, “Chef Bobby Flay for Stuart Donald.”
“This is Stuart.” I reply.
“This is Bobby.”