Life is quite magical, and thinking back on it, it is quite a funny story of how I came to be on the taste. As I deplane and step back into western society, I am flooded with the realities of everyday life. No longer will I be walking in the open fields of Transilvania Romania foraging for berries, or the bustling streets of Istanbul searching for unique spices. Rather, I walk through the terminal of Newark as my cell phone buzzes away reminding me that here we have cell service.
I check my messages as I make my way to baggage claim, I receive a message from a woman named Lauren, suggesting that I apply for a TV show. The trip to Eastern Europe marked a transition in my life. A shift in consciousness, and I believe that this phone call is the first step to actualizing my dreams. My heart skips a beat, as I realize this message is two weeks old. I immediately call her back eager to hear about the opportunity I have always dreamed about. Maximum of a month filming, chance to win $100,000? I am in. Ecstatic, I call my parents, explaining the trip, but more importantly the new opportunity.
So the casting process begins, and so does the reality of my daily life. I think it is fair to note that at this point I am working two jobs and spreading myself a bit thin. Searching for meaning in what I am doing, it seems as though this opportunity was a karmic connection.
Monday through Friday, I commute from Brooklyn to Midtown to work in a small private equity group where I help manage organic food brands. On Friday, I jump on a bus for three traffic filled hours to then work as a private chef for a family in Southampton on their gorgeous estate. Although working two jobs is grueling, the weekend filled with dinner parties and continual cooking get me through. They are an opportunity to creatively engage my passion and keep it alive.
With the new life changing opportunity of being on The Taste, I quickly make it my focus. I have never wanted anything more. I now spend my spare moments and admittedly work hours, filling out applications, getting on skype interviews and organizing recipes, all at the shot of getting an audition.
Auditioning is a serious process. It begins with a phone call, then another five phone calls where you must brag about yourself and justify you place. This eventually leads to a recorded skype interview. For me a milestone in the process. Then a follow up with the head of the culinary department, a food writer, and eventually a producer. After months of working through casting process, I finally receive a call.
I am at my desk, my boss looking over my shoulder, I see my phone light up and I excuse myself to a conference room.
‘We would like you to come to LA and audition for the Taste’ – I calmly say thank you. After the phone goes silent I wildly jump around the room, fist pumping, and silently screaming, I am watching my dreams come to fruition. It is now time to study.
I dedicate my cooking time to choosing the perfect bite. This was perhaps one of the more challenging parts of the process. With some many amazing things to cook, how was I supposed to represent myself it one simple bite. For now on, ever time that I cook, it is a recipe for the taste, racks of lamb, to the perfect breakfast bite, I finally settle on a dish.
Aromatic green curry broth, late summer vegetables and glazed black cod with fines herbs and a pickled mushroom. Knowing that this spoon will decide my fate, I practice over and over. I perfect the texture of each vegetable, the sear on the bite sized fish and heat of the curry. It is all in the detail.
The night before I set off, I invite a few friends over to practice the bite. The last opportunity to make a change. My dear friend Roy says there is not enough texture. Horrified, we spend hours running around Brooklyn looking for mocha and other textural components, only to realize it is Sunday and far too late. It is time to stick with my guns and trust myself. I am now as ready as I ever will be.
The flight is smooth. I take up a whole notebook rewriting my game plan and each step I will take to cook this dish in under an hour. Visualization is my friend.
Upon touching down in LA, the dream becomes a reality. I am whisked away to the Westin LAX. Here I will stay for, well as long as I make it. I settle into the airport hotel, unpack my 9 requested outfits and gaze out the window onto the dog park and airport. Tomorrow is the big day. I keep telling myself, make it through the audition, just make it through the audition. know that if I can make it through the first round, I can go far. In silence, I run through the series of steps that I must take countlessly. Sweat the aromatics, add the curry paste, caramelize it, chicken stock, coconut milk, more aromatics, Butcher the fish, clean my board, cut my veg.
We meet downstairs at 5am. The morning came early, but adrenaline has me wide awake. As the elevator opens, the lobby is filled with only 4 other people. I kindly introduce myself to Eric from Boston and resume reviewing my notebook. The lobby begins to fill. There are now 25 of us and we are all jogging for the same 16 positions.
As we load onto the bus, everything becomes much more real. We arrive at a massive hanger. We are now on set. We are put into a holding room. Bare bones, no bathroom, no couches, just 25 fold out chairs. The day begins. We are given a quick walk through of the set.
After a few hours of waiting, it is my turn to cook. I approach the stage, it hides behind a large black curtain. My adrenaline is through the roof. They hand me my basket of ingredients and the clock ticks down. Then we stop and wait. And wait. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… it is time to cook.