Posted by Lee Abbott on Mar 15, 2016 in Tips & Tricks

FOOD NETWORK CONFESSIONS EPISODE #5


TRUE LIFE RECOLLECTIONS: Episode #5
And the “behind the scenes” scoop continues…

Ah Television Editing.  You know…it is my day job and I absolutely respect the nature of making stories for television.  But here’s the thing…

On the show I’ve been solid and without drama… and therefore haven’t been getting very much screen time.  Kinda like my life – ha I’m hilarious!  But seriously folks… I’ve had no major crisis in the kitchen competition, made great food, and I haven’t gone to a 2nd elimination round yet, so I’ve only been seen in half of every episode.  Nice guy. Nice food. Nice…

Now… mind you this isn’t a vanity statement. This is coming from a guy who is incredibly excited and grateful for the exposure the show has brought for my other projects – so I can put food on the table for my kids.  This is about work.  You’re darn right I want my food to shine – I’d LOVE a spin-off project in food television and y’all know I’ve been trying to crack that nut for a few years.  So I was hoping for my food to come off on TV like it did in real life – better than the coverage it has received thus far.  For example, as quoted time and again from members of the crew and fans here at home, “Everyone is so good but your food is always the plate I want to eat.”  I’m sure my competitor compadrés completely biased friends and family say exactly the same thing!

But sidebar to the bummer of the episode…my buddy the super talented Dain Lee went home on a dish that was incredibly delicious.  (You bet I had a bite!) I was so sorry to see you go brother, and I thought Curtis handled it like a true gentleman by stepping up and feeling he let you down.  But YOU didn’t let anybody down Dain.  You are talented as hell and your family should be so incredibly proud.

But… my pretzel cheese biscuit, pork meatball sandwich with mushroom cream sauce, fennel and orange – friggin’ ROCKED!  It was SO DAMN GOOD!  In real life when Scott and Geoffrey came up and tasted it, they both rolled their eyes up and smiled while chewing a mouthful – come on they loved it.  They said nothing but amazing things about it, including how you could build a beer pub AROUND that sandwich.  Then they walked off.  Boom it was a mic drop!

Then…fair enough…the producers had them come back to do another take, to “find something” to say for drama.  Geoffrey said he didn’t know how to eat it – but how else would you eat a biscuit covered in deliciousness – but with knife and fork?  Like he just did?  And Scott said it was “interesting”.  Which in the interview I played into.  Fine we got our “how is this going to turn-out moment” for the cameras.  Cool.  Once again…

But… afterwords… Curtis came up and tasted it.  Alex tasted it.  The 2nd AD tasted it.  The culinary producers in the kitchen tasted it.  Everyone said, “That is a REALLY good dish.”  And all my peeps here in Santa Barbara – are begging me to cook it for them!  So…hmm…

I’m just wishing overall, through all the episodes, that my dishes got to stand-out more for the FLAVOR they brought.  For what they WERE.  That stuffed tomato seemed simple…but it was a POW of Red Pepper flavor.  It nailed the Red Pepper challenge in flavor.  And the plates that went back for judging and table-top photography didn’t fall apart – only the one that sat on stage under the lights for an hour did.  Which became the “topic” of critique in the show. The judges comment was that it was a bit mushy – when they loved how it tasted (and I know the one back stage was perfect).

Yes – Lisa and I won for our Surf & Turf team challenge.  Lisa my beautiful teammate you rock, and your Collard Greens elevated that dish sooo beautifully!  And…

That judge was Aaron Sanchez.  If the Ancho Chile vinaigrette flavors weren’t incredible – that would have been a fatal blow for us.  Alex said before we made this, “If you don’t nail it Lee – it’s Aaron Sanchez – that could send you home you know.”  I went for it.  That was a great story risk for television to cover.  He loved it!… and “Ancho” wasn’t even mentioned.  Arrrgh!

In the broadcast, I keep finishing “nice” and without drama… kinda safe and forgettable in the middle of the pack always leaving before the 2nd round – not that I minded!  Natasha you got emotionally and physically WORKED from time and time again having to go into the elimination round – but you ROCKED IT THERE and that is totally memorable.  Through blood sweat and tears you are earning your way into the viewers hearts – and mine too.  Man, I was so busy busting my butt across the kitchen that I had NO idea some of the stuff you’d been through!

So I’m definitely not taking anything away from any of my competition.  Nope.  They are all so damn good and their food so tasty.  But… they all also have had some great “made for TV” moments going on.  Anna and Zoe’s story is fantastic!  So they got the air time this week – super proud of both of you by the way.  I mean hell the show IS only 44 minutes long – and I’m an editor/producer so I get the broadcast time limitations.

But…

I’m also a Dad busting his butt for a career break.  For me this has always been about more than the $50,000 prize money.  I’m a competitor – and so very much more is on the line for me than cash.  This is for the future of my kids SOPHIE and CASH.  So I want this.  Deeply.

My food has tasted fantastic, and I’m not someone content with being a “background” player.  Key word = “content”.  I am grateful as hell for the opportunity – damn skippy – but I’m also a competitor with children to provide for.

And with Alex as my kick ass mentor – that food on the judging table has time and again freakin’ rocked so much more than it is getting credit for.  Thank you so much Alex Guarnaschelli for raising my home cook game to such incredible heights.  Truly madly deeply grateful for the gifts you’ve bestowed upon me.  I simply wish the audience knew better just how fucking good the food has been.

OK… if all we need is more drama… well then stay tuned for what goes down from here on out ;)

Cue maniacal mad scientist laughter here.  Ha. Ha. Ha.  Stay tuned…

~ Lee

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