There is nothing more fun nor fickle than TV! The time, money and talent that goes into producing a show, even one episode of a show, is something none of us viewers could wrap our heads around. This story, a Food Network competition 2 of my children and I competed in, is a bit long but worth the read and the 4 minute video is all that got released. Video Here
November 2018 I received a call to do a new show, Family Food Showdown with Valerie Bertinelli as the host. I needed two family members that would do the show with me. My son Omar is a professional chef, an executive chef for one of the east coasts oldest and most elegantly executed event catering companies: Ken’s Creative Kitchen. He said, “No way mom! Cooking is a serious job I do and I can’t play at it in front 35 cameras. Nope, sorry.” All of my adult children cook and are dang good at it so, my oldest, Tomio jumped on board as did my youngest Leah. My son Gabe would also have jumped at the chance but with a young family and career he is building, he couldn’t take off to go.
Since you will never see this crazy fun, and tear-jerking episode, I will tell you the story instead.
2 families cook their first challenge round, against the other. The challenge for us was a favorite chicken dish from their fully stocked kitchen. We nailed it with a take on a Brazilian dish and renamed it, ‘Bobo de Frango’, a stew usually made with yucca, coconut milk, spicy herbs and shrimp. We swapped yucca for potato creamed into the spicy coconut base and chicken instead of shrimp. It was loved by the judges. The judges? Michael Voltaggio, Tori Spelling and Antonia Lofaso, (who was also the judge on the GGG show I competed in 2 months prior to shooting this show).
Round 2? We had to let go of one of our family members. They could stand on the side and call out orders and instruction but couldn’t touch anything. Leah opted to go. Since we won round one, we had the advantage. Back in our kitchens, of which had been stripped of everything except a few staples and ground beef with a bag of rice or shrimp with a box of pasta. We got to choose which to keep and which to give away. I was worried about the rice cooking time so decided to give the beef and rice away, to which Leah was screaming from the side, “mom, nooooo! They are a Filipino restaurant family. They will kill it with a rice dish!” Too late, I gave it away, and sure enough they won round 2.
Round 3. It was to be “Winner Takes All”! Now what? The other team could choose who would go from our kitchen, and we would do the same with them. They got rid of me, and we got rid of their head chef. Tomio against the chef’s wife! The challenge? Apples. What ever was made had to use apples. OMG! Fortunately the swearing is edited out. Leah and I were going nuts on the side, unable to help Tomio, while Tomio calmly, methodically attempted the impossible: Sfeehas (mini Arabic pizzas) using chorizo and apples on top, finished off with goat cheese and a drizzle of honey AND an apple, arugula, and walnut salad on the side!
WE WON!! Tomio won it for our family. When he presented it to the judges and explained his love for our family’s heritage and the food he grew up with, I began to cry… I don’t cry easily, not watching sad stories and especially not on national television. Leah whispers in my ear, “Ma, your makeup!” but it was too late. Valerie already asked why I was crying. Oh, good grief, this wasn’t going to be pretty. I explained that as a single mom of 4 children, Tomio often took on the responsibility to watch over his siblings and help me any way he could, and today, in your kitchen, yet again, he took the responsibility to win this for HIS family. Oh dear…. The look on the judges faces said it all.
Unfortunately, you will never see this show because Food Network couldn’t find a consistent spot to air the show. It was pulled. Revamped, renamed and is still struggling to get air-time. While I wish the show had aired, I feel sad for all that went into creating it, only to end up on the ‘cutting floor’ as it were.
I am not done with television, only now I am passionate to get involved in the visual storytelling aspects, not just competing in one show after another. I want to turn the camera on all of you, get your food stories told so we each can have that moment in the spotlight for ‘kitchen’ stories that have meant the most to each of us.
Thank you for reading our story xoxo