In cooking news, I auditioned for a reality show this weekend called Master Chef. I don’t really know what it’s about other than they were looking for amateur cooks and it had something to do with Chef Gordon Ramsey. So you just might see me on the boob tube in the future. Odds are you won’t, and even if I did make it, I most likely wouldn’t make it out of the first round where I would be blasted by the judges, told that I am an abysmal cook and should be relegated to nothing more complicated than Kraft Mac and Cheese and Tuna Helper. It was quite possibly one of the strangest things I’ve ever done. To start with, the application was twelve pages long. Twelve Pages! It included such questions as “Have you ever hit anyone in anger?” and “What is the last spontaneous thing you instigated?” or “Describe yourself in one word”. I like to think that I require more than one word to define. Then you had to bring a dish. They wanted something impressive something that is unique to you and your style of cooking. Well… huh. I’ll admit I was stumped. My style of cooking tends to be less impressive and more comfort, more like Snoopy slippers and less like Manolo Blahnik 6 inch, peep-toed heels. On a good a good day I might achieve brightly colored plaid rain boots (thanks Katie!). The point being, what in the world would I make? The other problem was how to keep whatever I make warm. The website expressly promised that they had no facilities for keeping anything warm. So, with all that in mind I decided to make Greek lasagna. Greek lasagna came about because my husband insisted that lasagna was gross, more specifically that ricotta was gross (he actually referred to it as cottage cheese... big difference!!!). I had on hand chicken, lasagna noodles, feta and spaghetti sauce. Thus Greek lasagna was formed. I updated It later with some sophisticated things like vegetables and I added the ricotta back in (mixed with the feta) because otherwise it was didn’t stick together. But all in all, it is a dish that is 100% truly mine.
I learned about the audition Friday afternoon from my mom (who heard it from a co-worker who reads this blog. Hi Martin!). I stayed up late chopping, boiling, sautéing and baking. I was up early the next morning so I could take a picture of the dish, make sure that it was as hot as possible, wrap it in layers of towels and then a really large insulated bag (Yay Sam’s Club bags!) and drive the hour+ it took to get to Buckhead. The Friday before had been sunny and warm and lovely. Saturday was cold, windy and drizzly. I didn’t bring an umbrella. I had to stand in line in the cold, rainy drizzle for nearly 3 hours. My lasagna actually stayed warm. I couldn’t feel my toes by the time I got into the building, but my lasagna was warm. Once I actually got in, I was shown to a small desk space in a room full of people (it was an auditorium in a cooking school) I had less than 5 minutes to plate my dish before the judges came by. I have never plated a dish for presentation in my life. So it took me about 2 minutes. I put it on a plate, threw on a little oregano and called it good. Like so:
So, I had time to observe the people around me. The woman next to me had this behemoth… thing. If my dish was Snoopy slippers hers was… well… shoes a crazy person makes out of cardboard boxes and aluminum foil. When describing it to the judges she called it pasta cake. It had chicken and spaghetti in it, beyond that I don’t know that I could explain it. I think the outside was over-baked lasagna noodles, and she didn’t try to keep hers warm. So it was cold pasta cake. Oy. Then it was my turn. The male judge took a tiny bite and asked me questions. Who taught you to cook? Why do you like to cook? What’s in your dish? How did you cook the eggplant? He looked really distracted while I answered his questions. I don’t think he looked me in the eyes once. The female judge did not try my dish, but she did give eye contact and asked a couple questions and then it was over. Less than 5 minutes tops. I stressed, I cooked, I stood in the rain for 3 hours, and I got 5 minutes. Oh well, it was an experience. Although on second thought, maybe I don’t want to meet Chef Ramsey and be on TV. I like laboring under the illusion that I am a competent and even sometimes creative cook.
Tomorrow I’ll post the recipe for my fancy Greek lasagna.