DOWNUP with Amy Storch
March 19, 2008
In my long and illustrious career of bothering minor celebrities, I have:
1) Swiped fried calamari from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
2) Screamed IMABIGFAN!! at Ted Allen outside a wine festival while waving a commemorative wine glass at him.
3) Ate fondue with Project Runway's Laura Bennett; spilled fondue on self.
4) Non-consensually hugged Alan Cumming in the bathroom line of a restaurant.
5) Stared slack-jawed at 30 Rock's Judah Friedlander while he ate ravioli with his family.
LESSON FOR CELEBRITIES: if you see me, and there appears to be food involved in the scenario, RUN AWAY.
A few weeks ago, Jason got an email from someone at the Food Network. They were looking for local "food people" to participate in a new travel series that would profile a local chef. I was invited too.
Food Network People: We need some DC-area foodie people for this show.
Google: Here you go!
Food Network People: Oh look, he's married! Hmm, maybe she's a foodblogger too!
*Food Network People visit my blog on the day this entry was posted *
Food Network People: Well, THAT was easy.
LESSON FOR BLOGGERS: Visibility on Google is important, even if your blog is TOTALLY NOT.
Of course, we DID explain that I am not a foodblogger, and the Saltines were NOT involved in any sort of gourmet cracker-and-black-truffle napoleon amuse bouche, or anything, but they still liked the idea of husband-and-wife foodies, and invited us to be on some show we'd ever heard of as part of "panel" that would sit around and eat food and then talk about said food. I encouraged Jason to accept the invite, since I figured that, as part of PANEL, the OTHER PANEL MEMBERS were probably researched a bit better and we could sit back and let them talk and just be the idiots who are always on camera shoving free food into their mouths in the most awkward manner possible.
We showed up at the appointed time yesterday. I wore the only two items of clothing I own that currently fit. A old pair of maternity jeans from the Gap and a Liz Lange t-shirt from Target. I did not get a haircut for the occasion, and decided to take the risk that unplucked eyebrows won't be noticeable on HDTV. I looked somewhere between "sort-of pregnant" and "so how was the kegger?" My goal for the day was to stay away from the camera as much as possible, and to NOT THROW UP. (I have thrown up about 300 times since Monday, of course.)
"Hey," I said to Jason as he paid our cabbie, "I swear I just saw Bobby Flay."
LESSON FOR EVERYBODY, EVERYWHERE: The Food Network is run by Ashton Kutcher.
We walked in just in time to hear Bobby Flay challenge the local chef to a throwdown. A motherfucking Throwdown with Bobby Flay.
The restaurant was already packed, and the crowd seemed especially well-lubricated. We found some friends and took our place in the anonymous mob, and I breathed a sigh of relief because the crowd had a LOT of tall people who were willing to jump into the camera frame and scream WOOOOOOOOOO DC RUUULLLES! while I parked my ass in a prime bit of real estate next to the ladies room.
Bobby Flay is really blurry in person. That's a fact!
Bobby Flay and our hometown chef started cooking mussels and fries. (Moules frites!) The smell was...oh. Dear. Two minutes in and I was not doing well. Jason held onto my elbow to keep me from reeling and right then a guy with a headset approached us. He told us he needed to take us upstairs.
And once we were upstairs we learned the full extent of our complete and total punk'd'ing. We were not part of the crowd or a panel. We were the goddamned JUDGES.
"Just us?" I squeaked.
And judging would involve on-camera interviews and personal introductions, something called "hero shots" and also, you know, ACTUAL JUDGING OF FOOD. That we would do in front of the cameras, the chefs, and that crazy-ass drunk mob downstairs.
Our official God-like judging cards and beverages of choice. Well. Not my FIRST choice, anyway.
The good news is that the cooking smells were definitely muted upstairs. The bad news is that I was now nauseous for completely different reasons.
Oh my God, you guys. I fully admit to having my attention whore qualities, but I was TERRIFIED. OUT OF MY WITS. I wanted to RUN AWAY and I couldn't get my hands to stop shaking. I'm more of a print attention whore, I think.
Jason and I held hands and promised to never, ever leave each other's side during this horrifically surreal experience and solemnly swore to judge the dishes fairly and honestly, even though it sounded like the crowd would fucking crucify us if the hometown chef didn't win. (The judging is done blind, at any rate, I suppose you might be able to guess but you really only know the two versions as Dish A and Dish B.)
The camera crew came upstairs and miked us (the sound guy lifted up the back of my shirt and said, "Congratulations!" at the sight of the ulta-attractive navy belly band) and had us do a million and four takes of our personal introductions (whatever, like ANYONE is going to hear "amalah.com" and have any idea how to fucking spell it) and our personal tastes in moules frites ("blah blah texture balance flavor holy shit please let me stop talking now), and then we had to like...MUG for awhile. Arms crossed, hands on our hips, grimaces and tough-guy hard-ass judgey looks, or something.
Jason was especially good and hammy at these, while I just stood there and stared at the camera like a deer. AFTER it's been hit by the headlights. Of course, Jason had more problems SAYING stuff on camera, since he kept adding "uhs" and "ums" and they made him redo it all over and over. I think his problem was that he was actually trying to THINK about what he was saying, and make POINTS and SENSE, while I just opened my mouth and let nonsense spill out until I eventually got to a spot that seemed to call for a period. Then I would stop talking and stupidly look off-camera at the producer, who would sigh and tell me to do it again and to LOOK AT THE CAMERA THE WHOLE TIME, IDIOT.
I am telling you, those guys' jobs are really hard, and we did not help with anything.
I was really impressed with the custom judging cards, obviously. Maybe if the foosball table actually had a foosball I wouldn't have been, but we did what we could to pass the time.
Then it was time for judging. We were brought downstairs and the crowd was ordered to part for us, like we were some big-shot judgey judge experts of DOOOOOM (even though I'm sure everybody was like, "who the fuck?"). We sat down at a table with everybody behind us and Bobby Flay came and shook our hands and he is much shorter than I thought but is very very good-looking and an extremely sharp dresser. I would very much like a maternity version of his jeans, and the man can really pull off eggplant.
Unfortunately, I was not there to discuss Bobby Flay's personal style. We were there to judge moules frites, which...not exactly the most appetizing thing to the first trimester digestive tract, and I don't even know if I'm supposed to eat them at ALL, but I figured since these mussels were MOST LIKELY not purchased off the hood of a car parked on the shoulder of the interstate and were PROBABLY cooked with a high degree of care, I could risk eating a few. In the name of the Throwdown! Tis my duty! A higher calling!
(I think we maybe got a touch of the Stockholm syndrome during the hour or so of sequestering.)
They brought the dishes and told us to go ahead and eat and discuss and make notes, and I panicked for a second because there were no forks on the table. I asked for forks (complete with fucking BABY SIGN LANGUAGE, people, since I clearly do not get out much), and the director said, "Oh, you want forks?" Like, really? Is that your way, here in DC? How strange!
And then I panicked again because...yes? Right? You use a fork to get mussels out of their shells? I know how to suck down oysters but...mussels? They can be stubborn and slimy and there's all sorts of other stuff in the broth you need to eat in the same bite? Or fuck, did I just make a huge cutlery faux pas on national television?
She gave us plastic forks. And we dug in.
And here's where the story must end for now, in the name of preserving the sanctity of the results and the show, which most likely won't air until the summer. (I think they shoot the entire season pretty much back-to-back and then edit them all later.) (Jason's convinced he'll get edited out completely, and I am quite hopeful they'll replace me with a cute CGI bunny rabbit, or a digital Ted Allen.) I learned later that I said at least one completely boneheaded misinformed thing about one of the dishes, but was assured that my hair was NOT doing anything weird and I didn't have lipstick on my teeth.
When it was all over I ran to the bathroom because I'd had to pee the entire time but was afraid to pull my pants down in case the microphone slid off and fell into the toilet. The end.