|Emery and me at The Taste LA - yes, we are now officially the same height|
The food was great, of course. Every restaurant turned out excellent small plates, one thing more impressive than the next. My favorite bite: pressed watermelon cubes with basil oil and edible flowers from Chaya. The pork sausage sandwich with melon and chiles on ciabatta from Public Kitchen came in a close second. But picking favorites is hard, because, truly, everyone was on (or above) their game. (For snapshots of the event, see The Taste of LA slideshow on my LA Cooking Examiner column.)
|Watermelon with basil oil from Chaya - my favorite taste of the day|
Given my someday-aspiration of making my way into food television, I paid close attention to the chefs doing the cooking demos. Scott Conant, the restauranteur who often sits at the judges' panel on Chopped, has a huge personality and made the ladies swoon. Claire Robinson, host of Food Network's 5 Ingredient Fix, felt like your next-door neighbor. And Aarti Sequeira, winner of Food Network Star and host of Aarti Party, bubbled and giggled and glowed. They all had that certain something that made you want to keep watching.
|TV food host Claire Robinson talking about making butter|
So what do these TV chefs have that I don't (yet)? Based on what I saw, here's the to-do list for becoming a celebrity chef:
1. Learn to love talking about yourself. If you can't love it, at least get comfortable with it. When you're a TV food personality, it's only partly about the food. It's mostly about you and your perspective on the food. Scott Conant reminded the audience several time that he loves talking about himself and his life. It didn't come across as egotistical - instead, it confirmed in our minds that he was worth watching. Confidence is attractive.
|Scott Conant made two simple pastas and told stories about his youth|
2. Define your food philosophy. Scott Conant does Italian. Claire Robinson's about short ingredient lists. Aarti is all Indian, all the time. Each of these TV chefs has a point of view, sticks with it, and sells it.
3. Develop a stable of stories that support your POV. That wasn't the first time Claire Robinson talked about riding her bike down the road to the chicken farm while living in southwest France. Aarti, I'm sure, has talked in public before about her mother's famous prawn biryani. Write down the anecdotes that will entertain your audience, rehearse them, and trot them out.
|Aarti Sequeira spent more time telling stories than cooking, which was fine|
4. Get your teeth whitened. Sorry - it's a requirement. We're talking about television, after all. But being stick-thin doesn't seem to be necessary for food TV personalities, which gives me hope.
5. Accept help in the kitchen. You'll need assistants to prep and even do the actual cooking while you tell your stories and entertain the audience. Aarti, who made paneer (Indian cheese) and then saag paneer (spinach with cheese), hardly touched the food at all during her demo. It was her recipe, but everything had been chopped and measured ahead of time, and her assistant did much of the stove work too. It didn't detract from the experience at all, and Aarti thanked her helper effusively. Most of you have probably dreamed of having a permanent sous chef. Not me, actually - I like the process. But I guess I'd get used to it.
6. Be gracious about photos. Everyone made time for snapshots with fans. Including the adoring one I brought with me, as you can see:
|Emery with Scott Conant|
|Emery with Claire Robinson|
|Emery and me with Aarti Sequeira|