Okay, enough of my playing coy and talking about my “sooper seekrit cooking project.” Time to come clean with the truth: I auditioned for a cooking show.
In mid-December, my neighbor sent me this email, a forward from the Boston Globe site:
Cook with Ramsay
Boston Casting has put out a call for amateur chefs who want to be featured on a reality show with “Hell’s Kitchen’’ host Gordon Ramsay. “We will NOT be considering professional chefs who work or have worked in professional kitchens,’’ the call says. We take that to mean that Boston Casting is looking for participants for Ramsay’s newest show, an American version of “Gordon Ramsay: Cookalong Live,’’ which features the mean chef teaching average folks to make fancy meals. You can find more information at www.bostoncasting.com.
I went to the site and read the notice. It turned out that the Globe was only half right. They were looking for participants for a new cooking show that would feature Gordon Ramsay, but it was for MasterChef, a reality-type show along the lines of Top Chef that would feature non-professional cooks. A little web research revealed that MasterChef had completed its fifth season in England and had nothing to do with Ramsay.
A little more poking around turned up this page for the US production company that would be creating the show. Despite the association with the producers of The Biggest Loser, I was intrigued by the idea of Ramsay acting as a mentor to would-be professional cooks. It struck me as a move on his part to improve his image here in the States, which he had begun with the atrocious Cookalong with Gordon Ramsay.
I had always figured I could cook better than some of the yahoos I had seen on Hell’s Kitchen, so it was time to put up or shut up. Based on the instructions at the casting site, I sent this photo of me at Per Se:
and this email:
That’s me, David Shaw, about to start my birthday present: dinner at Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant (http://blog.belm.com/2009/11/30/birthday-dinner-at-per-se/, http://blog.belm.com/2009/12/01/birthday-dinner-at-per-se-continued/). That dinner was the most recent milestone in a journey that began when I taught myself how to cook in college (http://blog.belm.com/2009/03/31/how-i-learned-to-cook/).
Rather than go into exhaustive detail, I’ll point you to selected posts in the blog I started this year that is mostly about food and cooking.
I’ve been a big fan of Chef Ramsay’s for years, and have managed to watch just about everything he’s done for both British and American television. I’ve cooked his recipes, including this one from the most recent season of The F Word:
I have also been hosting dinner parties for years, the most recent of which is reported here:
What sets me apart from other amateur chefs is my depth of food knowledge, my precision and technique (I’m an MIT graduate), and my passion for good food prepared perfectly.
I look forward to hearing from you about the show.
Satisfied that I had made the effort, I continued with my work. Twenty minutes later I received this reply from Boston Casting:
Thanks for submitting to the Master Chef Casting Call.
We are REALLY looking for a great story: something different, something crazy, something traumatic that maybe impacted or inspired your passion of cooking.
I was wondering if you could dig a little deeper and figure out what your angle/your great story would be. I want to consider you, but I need to know more, I need something to stand out. And I mean REALLY REALLY Stand out!!
Please send your story (along with your contact info AND PICTURE) to firstname.lastname@example.org
The sooner you get this in to me- the better your chances are for getting an interview!
I figured I had received an automatic response, because there was no way anyone could have read all of the blog posts I included in twenty minutes. So I re-sent the photo along with a cut-and-paste of my “How I Learned to Cook” post. That was my story, and I was sticking to it. Email sent, I returned once again to my work.
Another twenty minutes later my phone rang.
“Is this David Shaw?”
“We’ve been monitoring the emails from Boston Casting. We’d like to ask you a few questions. Have you ever cooked professionaly? Have you attended a cooking school or enrolled in a cooking program? Have you written a cookbook or articles for a food magazine?”
“No, no, no, no, and no.”
“Great. Please show up at 1 PM on January 10th at Create-A-Cook in Newton. Bring your signature dish, something that can be served at room temperature. You’ll have time to plate and assemble the finished dish, but will have no access to any kitchen equipment — not even a microwave. We’ll follow up with an email; be sure to download the application and fill it out before you arrive.”
It was December 16th. I had less than three weeks to plan my attack, and one question loomed larger than any other.
What is my signature dish?
It took me two weeks to come up with the answer. You, however, will have to wait only one day.