I realize I’ve been a bit silent on the blog-posting front – 274 posts and only 9 by me. I’ve still been struggling about what to write. Virginia does great reviews of all our meals and there’s not much I can add on that front. I do travel a lot and, as a result, have plenty of meals on my own, but Virginia gets seriously jealous if I eat too well when I’m on the road. Occasionally I have musings, like how restaurants do a miserable job on website design, but I lack the confidence to put them into writing. I spoke with a few friends and came up with a few different ways I can get more involved as the features writer on TFB. For starters, I’m taking a page from Claire‘s book and I’m committing to post at least once a week going forward (much easier than promising to run 26 miles and then having to follow through). I can’t promise that any of it will be good, but I’ll have more features, book reviews, cooking tips etc. Also, while this might get me in trouble, I’m going to start writing about the good meals I have when I travel.
I wanted to start off my new posting-spree by introducing a theme, kind of like Virginia’s quest for the best pizza delivery. It would be a nice go-to topic for the weeks when I won’t have something prepared. Initially, I thought a grand search for the perfect post-coital snack would be fun but Virginia wasn’t willing to do the necessary research. No worries, I will come up with something. Since that idea went to bed (for now), I’m going to start my blog resurgence with something different.
Although I have been lacking in my posts, my role at TFB has not been non-existent. Besides being the webmaster I am also the press secretary. Virginia reads a lot of other foodie blogs and points me to contests we should enter, events to attend, and places to cross-post her musings. Believe it or not, Virginia is quite shy and when someone emails us at TFB for an interview, for example (yes, it’s happened), Virginia always asks me to follow up, and I do. This is the story of my first television audition.
Virginia sent me the casting call for a show called “Vacation Food Dude” that was (or is?) to be on the Spike network. The request was simple enough, fill out a form which asked questions about who you are and your food passion. I got called in for an audition the following day, right around lunchtime. My instructions were to bring my resume along with something to eat and talk about in front of the camera. I admit, I put more thought into what food I was going to bring than on preparing myself for the awkwardness of eating in that manner. I wanted something different that no one else would bring, with a complex flavor I can talk about at length. Also, my general sloth factored in and I wanted a place close to the casting office, so I picked up some Go Go Curry.
There were two people ahead of me when I arrived. One had a bag from Bar Americain and the other was in the room doing his audition. It sounded like he was screaming at the camera in there, and I got nervous for the first time. I picked up a form and started to fill out the necessary information, most of which I had already filled out on the form I emailed in. Isn’t there a more efficient way to do that? My nerves subsided (thinking sarcastically about the world helps).
After Bar Americain was done, I got up to begin and handed in my “acting resume” (my actual resume coupled with several printed posts from this blog) and my headshot (one from Kuala Lumpur on the street drinking from a coconut). There were two people in the room, one who I assume was the casting director and an assistant who operated the camera and gave me prompts and instructions.
I was calm and casual when being introduced. We exchanged pleasantries and talked briefly about how I got into food and what I do for a living (not related to TV at all). Then the camera started rolling and my first surprise came: “If you had a device that allowed you to travel anywhere in the world in seconds and I asked you to use it to take me for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner where would we go?” – @#$%, weren’t we going to talk about Go Go Curry? (I started to picture the travel machine invented by Mr. Garrison from South Park. Somewhere in the annals of the audition library of that casting company is a video of me with the smile of an immature 14 year old boy).
Well, ok, so I wasn’t prepared for that question, but I can think quickly on my feet. When my friends or clients come to New York I love taking them out to new places and introducing them to new things, I can do this. Breakfast, something unique, something the other candidates probably didn’t say… Dim Sum!!!! Virginia and I love Jing Fong in Chinatown, but that’s not really taking advantage of my teleporter… Dim Sum = Dumplings = Xi’An, China. Ok, we’re going to Xi’An for dim sum for breakfast. Although at the time I had not been to Xi’An (and now that I have I know I wouldn’t return just for the dim sum), I was able to go through the various dim sum and make it work.
Now I’m in my groove, hitting my stride, working my magic, some other cliché, and I decide that it’s afternoon, I bought this Go Go Curry and dammit I’m going to eat it. So lunch = back to NYC for some Go Go Curry. The casting lady tells me “nice segue”, @#$% that broke my concentration. I open the box and try to make a show of smelling, tasting and savoring the katsu. Damn, that was a big piece a put in my mouth. Chewing. 30 seconds of silence is a lot longer than it sounds. Still Chewing. Yum. “Describe the flavor” she tells me. Here’s where I really messed up. Describing flavors is not tough, I am usually very good at it, but under the gun is totally different. I deliberately chose the one food that is a complex mix of smoky barbecue, salty garlic mixed with sweet porky goodness. How do you describe that? The words are on the tip of my tongue. Damn, silence again. Oh yeah, “its a complex mix of smoky barbecue, salty garlic mixed with sweet porky goodness”. Boo-yah. That felt good.
Next up is the snack. Now, I figured I just had two Asian meals and I’m ready for a change of pace. There is no better snack than pizza and the best pizza is at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn. So I take the opportunity to use a magic machine that can transport me anywhere in the world instantly to travel 40 blocks downtown and across the east river (I’ve named this magic machine, the “#3 train”). By this point, I’ve totally wasted the novelty of this exercise. My mind immediately jumped to what I would really want and where I would really take someone in the non-fantasy world. I have a bit of a New Yorker evangelist complex. I love to show off the best spots in the city to visiting friends and clients and I guess I drew on my standard operating procedure as food ambassador. In New York, getting 4 great meals a day doesn’t require suspending reality. Ok, so I suspend reality when it comes to my stomach capacity, but that’s it.
Last up is dinner. Here, I struggled with a dilemma. There are a few restaurants I really want to try and a few that I know are good. Trying to impress at a new place is a big risk and can end in big disappointment (see the upcoming Jean Georges post). Going to a reliable place is a lock. Well, the goal here is to take someone else around for 4 meals in a day. If there was one place I’d want to go back to it’d be Alinea. Again, a waste of the “machine novelty” but the honest choice, I went with it. BOOM, another roadblock. How do you describe Alinea? Man, talking about food is easy, writing about food is harder, but being in front of camera and trying to come up with details to talk about on the spot with no prior knowledge of the specific topic is really tough. As tough as trying to describe the meal at Alinea. I think the casting director has lost interest.
That wrapped it up. I didn’t feel great about my performance but I was proud of myself for having gone and tried out. I left thinking about all the things I didn’t do right: I looked at the interviewer instead of into the camera. I spent too much time thinking and probably wasn’t peppy enough. My sweater fit awkwardly. Oh well, it was a unique experience, certainly fun and educational. We had drinks with Alissa (an actual actress) the next day and she told me if I didn’t hear back right away it meant I didn’t get the part. I figured as much the moment I left the studio. I guess I am left with my current job that sends me on projects all over the world and offers me the opportunity to eat at all kinds of places. (I collect my frequent flier miles so Virginia can come with me sometimes too). In reality, I am already the “Vacation Food Dude” and I wouldn’t change it for anything.