Site Change + Auditioning for Food Network

Hey guys!! I’m really excited and feel so passionate right now, and I’ll tell you why.

  1. There’s a site change that I’m going to implement tomorrow and going on in the future. The site change will now feature 2 different kinds of recipes – vegetarian recipes, and meat/fish recipes. Why, you ask? The answer is that while I do maintain a vegetarian diet 80% of the time (I live with my boyfriend, he’s vegetarian, I mainly only cook meals for the two of us) I do eat a fair amount of seafood when I create new recipes and when I make dinner for a larger group of people. And, although I do not eat beef, pork, or poultry, I am constantly making new recipes to increase my skill set and strength in the kitchen (making things like duck, lamp chops, spaghetti and meatballs, steak) and whenever my family gives something a thumbs up, and it’s taste-test approved, I’ll post it on the site! That way, if you eat meat but still like to find some great vegetarian dishes, I’m your girl. Or, if you try to maintain a vegetarian diet but need a great meaty dish for a family gathering or other occasion, I’m your girl. Either way, there will be a tab for Vegetarian Recipes and a tab for Meat/Fish recipes. And, since my boyfriend’s mom is vegan and one of my good friends is vegan as well, there may soon be a vegan tab for recipes too 🙂

Okay so number 2! I auditioned to be on the show “America’s Best Cooks” on Food Network. It was my second time auditioning for the show, and I was so nervous. Anytime I do new things in the food world (audition for a show, upload a Youtube video) I get jitters and sometimes I even want to run in the other direction. However, this is how I step out of my comfort zone. If I don’t take all opportunities that I can, I can’t learn anything, can’t gain any knowledge.

Anyways, I tried out last year, and recalling it, it seems like a disaster, even though I was confident back then. I showed up to the audition, and then I realized you were supposed to bring a savory dish with you and fill out a 4+ page application. So, Chad and I drove to the grocery store, picked up all the groceries, drove home, and I cooked. And when I say cooked, I mean for real. Big pan of vegetable lasagna, huge loaf of homemade French bread (to give me a one-up on competitors), and an herb dipping oil to dip the bread in. I cooked and filled out the application, and before I knew it, 3+ hours were gone. Gone! So I packed up my lasagna, my bread, and my oil and Chad and I drove back to the audition. Once I got there, we talked to the producer and his assistant (they were really impressed I went home to cook and came back after all that time) and went to wait for the audition. Once it was my turn, myself and 5 other contests were whisked into a room. We had to take a culinary quiz, (where is ground chuck found on a cow? Don’t know? Me either. Oops.) and then we had to plate our dish. Plate?! Oh, forgot to tell you, in addition to coming back 5 hours after I left to go cook, I didn’t have a plate to present my dish on. Or a fork. So, I had to hang my head with shame as I asked the producers and judges for a plate. They handed me a small paper plate (so small), and they gave me a plastic fork and knife. I finally got the lasagna on the tiny plate, and it was not pretty. The judge tasted my food, didn’t tell me how it tasted, asked me a few questions, and then the producer’s assistant came to talk to me, asked me some questions (most of these are fuzzy now, sorry!) and then we left. I left thinking I had a pretty good chance…so naïve! I only had maybe 5 pictures of food that I had taken, and they were all dessert, and the producers wanted pictures of savory dishes. So, long story short! No call back.

So, fast forward to yesterday. I woke up at 6 AM, and cooked 2 brand-spankin’-new dishes for the competition. Chad thought I was crazy, cooking things that I had never made before for an audition. But my plan was foolproof (in my head); make two restaurant-quality new recipes that I had been wanting to try out, make them for my parents (I can’t just trust myself and Chad doesn’t eat seafood), see which one we like better, then recreate the dish, and bring that to the audition. So, I woke up at 6, and started on the Cioppino. For those of you who haven’t had the dish, it is a seafood stew filled with fish, shrimp, and mussels/clams, in a savory tomato based-white wine broth.

Cioppino 1

So, I made the broth, simmered it for 2 hours, and while it was simmering, made Rosemary French bread (for the judge to dip into his/her Cioppino if that was the winning dish). So, my parents came over, fussed over Chad and I, brought bagels, and waited patiently for me to serve the food. I simmered the shrimp, mussels, and cod, ladled the soup into bowls, topped with fresh parsley, and handed them to my parents. They took a bite, oohed and aahed over it, and decided they loved it, that it was the dish for me to bring.

Then came the salmon.

Salmon 1

I hurried back into the kitchen, seared the salmon, finished it off in the oven, made some nutty browned butter, put it in the blender with lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper, and took out my serving plate. I put the roasted jalapeno corn salsa on it, placed the salmon on top, drizzled over the sauce, then topped with some lime zest. I gave it to my parents, and watched their faces light up. My mom’s first words were “oh my god” and it was such a nice feeling! So in the end, the salmon won. And it took me about 1/6 of the time the Cioppino took me, so I was happy.

And then the even more fun part begun. I had to go back to the store, get more ingredients, get ready, drive to my parents house (since their house was a lot closer to where the audition was than our place) make the dish in a hurry, pray that it tasted just the same, wrap it in foil and throw it in the slow cooker container to keep warm (it maintains heat well), and drive to the audition. I think on the way I wanted to change my mind and go back home and rest. So, we got there, walked into the building, and I sat down to take a culinary quiz and finish my application (Can anyone tell you what Spanish sauce has red peppers and nuts in it?! I can, surprisingly). Then I got to go plate my food for the judge. Dun, dun, dun. But, hello! I was prepared this time. I had my serving plate clean and ready to go, salmon wrapped in foil, corn salsa in a Tupperware container inside a bigger container filled with ice, a spatula to plate the salmon, sauce in a squeeze bottle, lime zest in a Tupperware container, and a nice fork for the judge to use. Phew. And, the lady who judged me last year kept eyeing me! I said hello and that I remembered her from last year, then silently prayed she wouldn’t be my judge. She didn’t say a thing about my food, and I wanted input! Thank goodness, a nice man came up to me, introduced himself, and sat down to eat my food. He asked a couple questions (where I was from, and he also happened to graduate from the college I attend!), and then asked about the food and for a fork. He took a bite, said it was really delightful and very good, and then said a few other things, then he got up to get the producer’s assistant. I was so excited and relieved!The hard part is over. So then the nice assistant came up to me (I met her last year and she was so friendly), asked me tons of questions (What type of food do you make from scratch? Since you don’t eat meat, how do you think you would do if we threw you into a challenge with other people and told you to cook a meat dish? What’s your inspiration for the dish? If you could put a plate of your food onto a restaurant menu, which dish would you choose?) and on and on. It was a lot of fun, because I don’t often get the chance to talk about the food I like to make or what type of food inspires me (I would bore my family and poor boyfriend to tears), so I loved that. Anyways, after that I left, feeling really good, and the lady told me that I would know by 10 PM if I advanced.

So we drove home, and I waited. And waited. And looked at the phone. And sulked. And when 10 PM came around, I sulked some more. And whined a little. But now I feel like it was such a good experience, and I did 20x better than last year, and I will do 20x better next year. It was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to try again next year 🙂

If you made it this far, you deserve a million dollars. Or a puppy. I can’t give either of those to you, because I spend all my money on food. But, if you read some of this, or all of it, thank you! Writing this was also a keepsake as a reminder for next year, and so that I could tell you guys about the new plan for the site. And I promise, tons of new and delicious recipes are on their way!



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