Yes, today, my 44th birthday, I got up before daybreak, put on mascara (you know what a big deal that is for me), packed some snacks, drove to the Burbank airport Marriott, and got in line to convince the lovely casting agents that I deserve a chance to compete for my own Food Network show.
The auditions were scheduled to start at 10am. I arrived at 7:30 and was number 17. We were all waiting in a big meeting room:
I expected it to be a lot more crowded, but fine - I had to go to work after the audition anyway, so fewer people ahead of me meant I'd be done sooner.
After about 20 minutes, Gaby Dalkin of What's Gaby Cooking arrived, looking completely adorable as usual:
She would make a perfect Food Network host, wouldn't she? And her food is amazing. She absolutely has the personality to have her own show. And I'm not just saying this to be nice and gracious. All I hope is that when she's as famous as Rachael Ray, she'll let me come help her prep on the set now and again.
So we waited and waited. Amy Jurist, who hosts these amazing underground dinners around Los Angeles, showed up and sat with us too. We all waited some more. And then Amanda, the casting associate who was playing Keeper of the List and Caller of the Names, called my name.
Off I went to the interview room. I sat across a table from another casting associate whose name I can't recall. She thumbed through my application, looked at me, and said (with a touch of boredom maybe? I'd probably be bored if I had to ask everyone the same questions all day), "So, why the Food Network? Why do you want to be on this show?"
Now here's the most interesting part of this whole audition thing for me. I'd been thinking hard about the answer to this question, and to the other questions on the 11-page application, for nearly a week. And at that moment I realized that even if I didn't get a callback, didn't get on the show, didn't get the chance to compete to be a Food Network host, I was still glad I'd done this. Because spending all this time working out how to articulate my pitch, my angle, my point of view - priceless, and knowledge that will help me as I move forward, wherever this food blogging thing takes me.
I'd been hoping to get a few stories into my 90-second interview: how I invited my Virgin America flight attendants over for lunch on their layover to cook Trinidadian stew chicken; how buying truffles for my first Trufflepalooza looked and felt like a drug deal. Neither of those made it. I did, however, work in that my colleagues, friends and neighbors drop grocery bags of backyard fruit at my house and on my desk, knowing I will turn them into delicious things like coconut loquat rice pudding. And that I rarely know more than a few hours in advance whether there will be four or 14 people at my dinner table. The Virgin America story probably would have worked better, but I just ran out of time.
The casting associate's second question was: "What makes you think you can compete on this show against professionally trained chefs?" I might have gotten defensive here, but in any case, I was assertive. Because I just threw a 13-course truffle dinner, with all original recipes, for 70 people. That's how. So there. Uh-huh.
She blinked, then gave me the dispassionate closing: We'll read all the applications tonight, callbacks within 24 hours, thanks for coming in. And it was done. Possibly the quickest 90 seconds of my life.
So, a little advice for anyone thinking about going to one of these open calls. Do it. You've got nothing to lose, and even if you don't get past the first round, you're bound to learn something. And, if you take a few pictures, you'll have something interesting to blog about. Good luck! And report back if you take the plunge!