Sometimes I just remember stories that I think will make fine posts.
A couple of years back, I woke up in my nice NY City hotel room excited and nervous as all get out.
I just knew that I was going to make the best dishes that day and leave that Chopped studio $10,000 richer!
I had filled out my online application and totally lied my butt off like a true champion. I told them I cooked for emperors of obscure countries that are really hard to find or don’t exist at all, as well as for Steve Jobs as his personal chef for many years, but good luck calling him to verify that.
My education was incredible. I worked under and with some of the best now dead and unable to verify my claims chefs around, from Julia Childs in France to a run working with Anthony Sedlak at one of Canada’s finest non fast food restaurants whose name escaped me.
I told them I’d spent the past 10 years volunteering as a cook for the local elementary school where I was district lunch lady of the year 4 of those years and only lost the others because it turned into a popularity contest. That’s what I did by day and I volunteered at a fire station preparing dinners for firemen at night (they love firemen for some reason). This was in addition to feeding my own kids all the time and I made sure they knew that I was hoping to win the $10,000 so that I could donate all of it to the local homeless shelter and food bank (ha, yeah right!).
They were wowed, and chose me to be on their show.
In truth, I have no cooking skills or training and have never worked in a restaurant kitchen other than as a pizza maker over 20 years ago. I think that’s why I was feeling a little nervous.
They told us it was going to be a long day, 12 hours or so to film an hour long episode. I got to the studio after emptying the wet bar in my room that morning of all of the white liquors I could find and refilling the 7 bottles with water from the sink and returning them to the wet bar. I didn’t think the show would cover that part of the tab, and I certainly wasn’t paying $12 for a few ounces of hooch.
I walked to the studio and was starting to feel a little buzzed by the time I arrived and got introduced to the other three contestants. They were all younger than my then 37 year old ass and had all sorts of real culinary experience and training.
There was the black guy who looked angry at something or other. He was there to prove that he belonged on the cooking scene even though he came from the Bronx and grew up with 9 siblings in a very poor neighborhood. “Geez dude, you cook in restaurant, it’s not like you’re a fucking doctor or professional baseball player who’s made it against all odds. Get over yourself!” I thought to myself.
The next contestant was a lesbian with purple hair, of course. She also looked angry at something or other and wouldn’t shut up about how the $10,000 would be so great because she wants to marry her partner and yadda yadda yadda. Ok, bitch, whatever! I’m getting a headache already and it’s not even 9 am.
The final competitor was the obligatory fat guy and I think he was Mexican or Cuban maybe? I don’t know, if he said, I wasn’t paying attention anymore and I was really starting to feel distracted by a knot in my stomach from being so nervous.
We met the host of the show, Ted Allen, but not the judges. They showed us around the pantry and showed us how to use all of the different equipment and what not.
“What is that again?” I asked pointing to the blast chiller.” And this,” pointing to a blender.
They had filmed our introductions the week before, and I was pleased with mine. It showed me grilling burgers in my yard while my kids danced around yelling what a great cook daddy is like a pack of little retards. Of course I had to pretend I was an asshole and say that the other three contestants are going down because there can only be one winner, me! Then I held my spatula all gangster like because that was the douchiest thing I could think to do at that point.
We got our water boiling and our pans hot before the show really started, and when they were good to go, we finally got to walk to our stations. As we walked out, we were able to see the judges for the first time.
I took my spot as contestant number three behind my giant basket containing the mystery ingredients. I was right in between the fat Cuban or Mexican and the lesbian. Oh, if only I could know what was in you in advance giant mystery basket.
There was a lot of talking going on, but my mind was someplace else. I could only hear wa wa, wawawa, ACK! It was Charlie Brown’s teacher in my head. I was suddenly VERY nervous and my rational thought was retreating deeper into the recesses of my brain, trying to escape. What the fuck are you doing, Don? It demanded to know! You don’t know how to cook you lying asshole!! It felt like a real life reenactment of the dream I have a lot where I’m in a band playing guitar and the curtain rises in front of thousands of people only to have me realize that I don’t know how to play the guitar nor do I know the words to any songs!
Damn, I was starting to sweat already.
I snapped out of it for a second to Notice Ted Allen was introducing Alex Guarnaschelli.
Back in the dark parts of my brain again, my thoughts turned to my hatred of Alex Guarnaschelli. It was a hatred based on nothing in particular. I don’t know you, I thought to myself, but you’re kind of fat and sort of a bitch and I know you cheated during that contest to be an Iron Chef! She was clearly not the best chef out of that group. She wasn’t even in the top 5, but I think she was boning Geoffrey Zakarian and he was an Iron Chef judge. You slut! You don’t deserve to judge me!
Ok, Don, snap out of it…
The next judge was Marc Murphy. No!! I hate you more than I do Guarnaschelli! This is the douche who always complains that he would have liked to have a little bit more of this or that all the time! What a stupid ass thing to nitpick! Learn to eat your proportions together better, you prick! Grrrr, my mind was racing and I was fuming with hatred for these people who’ve never done anything good, bad or otherwise to me personally.
And finally, the third judge was Aaron Sanchez. Thank God, I don’t hate him for any reason. Plus, he’s Mexican, so I convinced myself that if I make him a fine Mexican dish, he’ll vote me on to the next round for sure. God, I sure hope there’s a packet of Old El Paso taco seasoning and taco shells in that basket.
But, I forgot about Fatty McMexican next to me. He and Sanchez just nodded to each other like they were old homeys. What the fuck?! Dammit, now I hate you too, Aaron Sanchez!! Everybody is against me for sure.
Seething with rage and dripping sweat like a whore on nickel night, the basket items were revealed. I still wasn’t in my right mind, and wasn’t hearing Ted properly when he rattled off the ingredients.
For your appetizer round, you will be tasked with making a dish from:
Green play-doh, and
I was about two seconds from fainting when the fat Mexican ran behind me and bumped me back into consciousness.
“Hey, Ted, what am I supposed to do with play-doh and fucking marbles and dog shit?” I asked the host, still not thinking straight.
“CUT!” Somebody yelled in clear disgust.
“No talking to the host or the judges, Don. Just cook,” instructed an angry lady with a headset.
We resumed filming and I made my way to the pantry. Everything was a blur.
I went to a sink and splashed my face with water. I felt much better and noticed a shelf with some wine bottles.
I grabbed a red and a white wine and went back to my station. I knew I could cook with red wine so I opened it up. I then opened the white wine and chugged 3/4 of the bottle without taking a breath.
“Whoooa whoooa, Chef Don just drank nearly an entire bottle of wine and hasn’t even touched any of his ingredients,” I heard Murphy say to his fellow judges.
I finished the bottle off with my second swig and looked over my ingredients. Thankfully, they were marked.
I was working with ostrich meat, chocolate pudding, brussel sprouts and quail eggs. What?
“I’d rather work with the dog shit!” I yelled to Ted, who just shook his head and scowled at me perplexed by my comment.
I took my ostrich tenderloin and sliced it into medallions. I threw some salt and pepper and olive oil on those bad boys and seared them in the pan. While they were searing, I put the pudding into a food processor with some sugar, mayonnaise, salt, ketchup, mustard, red wine, capers, pineapple juice, red pepper flakes, green olives, tartar sauce and cumin. I’d read somewhere that cumin was becoming a trendy spice. I processed the mixture into a nice consistency and let it rest while I tended to the other ingredients.
I took the brussel sprouts and threw one as hard as I could at Alex Guarnschelli, just barely missing her big fat head.
“Ha, ha, take that you bitch!” I muttered. The wine was really starting to shake hands with the liquor and do a number on my sobriety.
I tossed the rest of the brussel sprouts into a trash can and cursed them as being the most disgusting fruit ever.
“Those aren’t fruits, Don, and they’re a basket ingredient so you should use them,” said Fatty McMexican all of a sudden. Who asked him?
“Hey! Llll, lll…listen….listen here fa Fatty, I’ll, I’ll yew, yew, yew don’t you tell me what to do with my fruit! Do you want, want me to, to…. I’ll take this…hey, what kind of knife is this, Fatty?”
“It’s a Santoku, you crazy fuck.” Said, Fatty, followed by something in Spanish that I’m confident wasn’t flattering about me.
“Well, you, you leave my fruit alone or I’ll put this Suntoker knife in your belly, you unnerstand me?!!” I grumbled to Fatty.
“5 minutes left!” said Ted.
“FUCK!!!” I yelled at nobody and staggered to the pantry again.
I grabbed another bottle of wine and dropped it on the floor, shattering it into thousands of pieces.
On my hands and knees in the pantry now, and nearly in tears, I yelled, “NO!!!! Nooo God, not the wine!!!! Oh, wait, here’s another one!” to nobody in particular.
I opened another wine bottle and took a few glugs before I smelled the smoke.
“Hey, lesbian lady, you, you, you smell that?”
“Your meat is burning, dickhead,” she said.
“Oh, OH, POOP!” I wailed.
I quickly poured the red wine onto the meat and made a complete mess all over the stove. I was going to finish the meat off in the oven, but it appeared by the char that it wouldn’t be necessary.
I cracked open a quail egg and gently inserted the insides of the egg into the boiling water and then I dumped a bunch of salt into the pot. Realizing that time was getting short, I just threw the rest of the eggs in the same boiling water, shell and all. I then grabbed a brussel sprout out of the trash can and some white bread from the pantry.
I went and grabbed some plates but clumsily dropped every last one of them, shattering them all over the floor. No time to weep again, Don! I grabbed some bowls instead.
I put a piece of bread into a bowl, and then a piece of charred black meat on top of it, followed by my special pudding sauce. I chopped up a brussel sprout and put it on the sandwich and finally topped it with the poached quail egg and possibly some eggshell.
I decided to leave it an open faced sandwich and made three more the same way. As Ted was counting down from 10, I thought I was going to black out. For no particular reason, other than I just saw it there, I dumped the rest of my wines all over the four sandwiches.
“HA! Sammich soup!!” I yelled!
Ted said “time’s up,” and I was elated.
“I can, can, can’t believe I did it!” I said in relief.
As security led me out of the studio, I asked if anybody was even going to try my sandwiches! “Hey, I cooked those for you!! The least you could do is try a bite!”
Alex Guarnashcelli blew me a kiss as I was led past and promised me she’d try hers.
I hope she choked on it.
Photos from Foodnetwork.com