Okay. Finally in. Finally out. Sitting down eating the dish I presented. I hope you all have enjoyed the suspense as much as I have.
I arrived at the open call at 3:30pm. I signed in. I looked around. I checked my parking meter, and I wrote you a letter describing the moments leading up to the open call. Finally, with my fingers fiddling, my heart palpitating, and my stomach grumbling, at 6:03pm, I and 15 others- the last group of the night- were escorted into… the Tasting Room! The casting crew had done a pretty good job staying enthusiastic and contagiously motivated the entire day.
The room was spacious. At its core, paper towel, wipes, and hand sanitizer were perched on the center table. Surrounding that table in sort of a horse shoe pattern, our “plating stations” lined the walls. With her trimmed blonde hair, Kristen, the casting producer or casting associate, outgoing and commanding the room, cheerfully explained to us the flow of our next hour. We would have three minutes from the end of her brief to transpose our dishes from their containers onto our serving plate, clearing the table of all else. Pictures would be taken (by their photographer only) and the “Food Experts” would follow, wanting to know all about the preparation of the dish and our cooking style. The casting team would be the last interviewers, digging to unearth everything beyond food- our personality. “Is the next MasterChef in this room?!,” she exclaimed, unleashing a roar from the contestants. The timer was set and plating began.
My containers were flipped, picked, and scooped. I prepared an orange swirl that hid quietly behind the citrus chicken and some sliced green onion adorned the mound of coconut rice and beans. The table was cleared and the judging began. I wished they’d hurry before my heart ended up on the table. I listened to others talk about themselves and their dishes. I heard of prior military experience or connections. I smiled as somebody said they forever struggle to label their style of cooking, as I continue to wage that war. The man standing beside me had prepared a chicken breast simmered in a tomato sauce with carrots and a saffron basmati rice. He asked me if I spent any time practicing presentation because it looked great!
I was the third on my end to showcase my skill. He approached me, asked how I was doing and what he was about to eat. “This is a citrus glazed chicken, with coconut rice and beans along with some sautéed green beans in a chili garlic sauce.” I offered the most cool voice I could muster. I wanted my passion to show forth but didn’t want to seem like I knew chef talk all too well. MasterChef looks for amateurs or home cooks- those who aren’t “professional chefs.” I wasn’t sure their definition and figured I’d let them tell me at their leisure. The next question he asked: “Do you work in the industry? This is a very professional looking plate”. I don’t remember seeing white elephant on anyone’s plate, but I sure felt like I was beginning to smell one. I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or a concern. I kinda work in the industry. I work in the Navy, as a sailor…and then a cook. But in the Navy, Culinary Specialist means so much more than food. He gave a thoughtful “Hm” accompanied with a smile and let me know, looking at my plate, Kristen was probably going to ask the same question. He proceeded with the rest of his questions, then on to the next plate that awaited him.
As promised, Kristen came by and introduced herself. We spoke about my job as a cook in the Navy, which led to talk of my time at CIA, NY and some other “Who are you?”, “What do you do?” questions. I wasn’t so sure how they felt about my culinary experience, but they at least liked my food and seemed to like me. Right fit for the show? We’ll find out.
We continued standing there until all dishes had been tasted and contestants interviewed. As the wait resumed, from the center table, sound waves carrying the voice of Prince’s Little Red Corvette began bouncing off the walls, sort of lifting the anticipation. Until it ended and we waited some more. (I hope you’re feeling this the way I did.) Three contestants were called to the center for further questioning and the rest of us were thanked reminded that this wasn’t necessarily the end of the road, but should they have further questions, or should we move on to the next stage they’d call us. Interpret how you choose but I’ll be waiting. Website says contestants will be contacted about 1-3 days from audition. I’ll let you know when those days go by. I at least know I’m capable of producing “professional looking plates”. Thank you all for your support!