Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In which I spend my birthday auditioning for The Next Food Network Star

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Here's an interesting way to spend one's birthday: Screw up all your courage and show up at the open casting call auditions for The Next Food Network Star.

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!

17 comments:

Gaby @ What's Gaby Cooking said...

LOVED THIS BLOG POST!! I had such a good time with you this morning! :) I'm glad we were there to do it together!! I'm pretty sure I won't be the next Rachel Ray this year... but maybe next year... and you bet your fabulous self that you are going to be on my show!!! :)

Erika said...

I'm glad you were there with me too. You kept me on an even keel - I would have been a nervous wreck without you!

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Good luck, both of you :)

Saltyseattle said...

Yay Erika!!! Happy Birthday, darling. Strange, those casting calls.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Happy Birthday, Erika! And what a terrific way to celebrate! Love your courage and your go-for-it attitude! Good luck and congrats!!!

Patti at Worth The Whisk said...

Well done. Very proud of you, and what a memorable way to spend your birthday. GOOD GIRL.

Lentil Breakdown said...

Cheers to your birthday and culinary cahones. Salud!

Dorothy from Shockinglydelicious.com said...

Your courage is breathtaking! Here's hoping you get a callback!

agablack17 said...

How awesome! Happy Birthday, Erika! What a start of another amazing year of your life. You're an inspiration. Love your spirit!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Good luck!!!!

Nancy said...

Wow.. I loved reading this post Erika!! It's something I would never consider (I would be way, way TOO nervous) but I so admire you and Gaby for going for it!!

Sending positive thoughts your way!!

Diane {createdbydiane.blogspot.com} said...

Happy Birthday!
Love your go for it attitude, I think the same way-you can only regret what you didn't try to do! Very inspiring!

Marc Osten said...

Bravo....

Neel said...

I went to a casting in New York just last week. They asked me what I did, followed by how I learned to cook. They didn't say anything about call-backs, although i'm sure they're not interested, lol, judging by the lack of response so far. I wonder if it's better to submit a video instead? The interview was really brief.

Erika said...

@Neel - yeah, my interview was brief too. I got the feeling they weren't really listening to my answers, but rather judging me based on how I looked and how they thought I'd come across on camera. Is it better to submit a video? Who knows. Maybe I'll try that next year.

almostFitToEat said...

Hello Erika,
Thank you for sharing! I came across your blog while doing research on open calls for NFNS. I just wanted to say you're great - and you've got a fan in Seattle.
The best! Looking forward to your posts.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Almost - thanks for the kind words! The next open call for NFNS here in Los Angeles is, um, TOMORROW. Still haven't decided if I'm going. :) Good luck to you!

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