Posted by Lee Abbott on Mar 28, 2016 in Tips & Tricks


And the “behind the scenes” scoop continues…

Kinda at a loss for words…this one was really tough to live. But here we go.

I’ve been having screening parties at a local Pub so friends can gather, but ya can’t really hear what is going on.  Also it’s a lot of information for those of us on the show to digest.  So the day after… I watch the show by myself on Amazon.  I mean…we want to see what we did, and if we sound like an idiot!  Plus MAN is it amazing to see what the other competitors were up to!  I mean during the competition we are all looking down at a cutting board so we had NO idea what the others were going through!

So on that note, this blog is about THEM.

Lisa Washington.  My Soul Cook.  My Team Alex Twin.  Let me start by saying, that I KNEW you were huffing and puffing over there.  And I personally saw you sucking air in the Green Room… your hands shaking.  You were at the LIMIT of your physical extremes and you were just barely hanging on….while slinging the knives and pans, and making amazing food.  For that – you are MY Champion.  I mean it.

Seriously. I’m competing, but really at it’s core, this is just a fun game. But you…my goodness…were just trying not to pass out.  AND making amazingly delicious and beautiful art.  Lisa I am so in AWE of you.  Look at this photo – fierce competitor.

And I know I’ve said this in personal texts but…here is my next wish…

I see you and I in a nice big family kitchen…cooking over a few hours vs. 45 min! We’re chopping veggies slowly…seasoning proteins slowly…sipping wine slowly…Children and grandchildren run laughing through the kitchen…spouses and extended family drift through for hugs and a finger taste of sauce before it’s ready…while you and I wink at each other and clink glasses….and just…talk.

I love talking with you Lisa. I miss talking with you.  You are an amazing human being and I am so blessed that this show brought us together.

Folks…in all fairness…in episode #6 when I got knocked out the competition was just too damn tough and I simply missed the “fire” in my dish.  Buh Bye…they all beat me. Boom.  They deserved it.

Then…the next day I got on a Red-Eye and flew home from New York to Santa Barbara.  I got in at 2am and collapsed in my full clothes into bed…totally worked…totally emotionally exhausted even more than physically.  I could have slept until noon…but…

At 6am the phone started going off – and I KNEW  what was happening. I knew it.

The thought rang clear in my head, “They’re bringing me back.”  I had no idea why – yet – but I knew it.  Sure enough… I check my messages and the Food Network Executive Producer is saying, “Lee we need you on a plane NOW.”  So…I drove 2 hours to LAX, hopped on a plane and by 3am New York time, I was back.  By 8am I was walking to set.

“Thank you Lee” the producers said.  My answer….”You’re thanking me?” Totally true!  I was thrilled for the second chance but…

The bottom line – Lisa was truly hurting.  I could see it in her face and those striking eyes.  I’ve known her for what, a week?  But I know HER.  I mean it. Cooking will expose you.  And Lisa….was in trouble.  And she’s a Tough Tough Lady.  She did NOT want to bow out.  But here she was thanking me for coming back?!

Now, here’s a funny story…  Lisa DID go to the hospital for a work-up, and the Dr. absolutely said “You’re done.”  Period.  Over.  Stop. Case Closed.  But…true to Lisa…

In the NY cab ride home back to the set she was thinking… “I can pull it together for one more roun……..” BAM!!!!!  Her cab got HIT!  BOOM!  Lisa gets hit by a car.  REALLY!!!

Lisa said she had one of those moments of, “Ummm…well….OK God…I HEAR YOU!  Jeez!” She literally got hit by a CAR!!!!

And so… in walks the big dude from California to pinch hit.  And the challenge is “P” and “F”   And I look in the fridge and see Pheasant.  Spelled with “P” …sounds like “F”.  Done.  Alex thought I lost my mind.  And….loved it ;)  Yeah Alex…time for us to swing for the fence.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

Zoe and Anna…come on.  I just re-watched the show in order to be able to really absorb what went down and OH MY GOD.  JEEZ you two are so damn talented.  I see your hearts and flavors on your plates and…OK Anna that was funny as hell that you stabbed your Lamb with that knife.  LOVE you.  Zoe…your flavors were popping off the TV.  I mean it.  I wanted to bite the head of that shrimp so bad…my kinda food.

But I could go on and on and on….

Zoe…you have grown more than you know from this journey.  (Coming from someone old and with plenty of battle scars)…I only smile about you.  :)

Anna…you have all the technical chops I will never have.  I mean it.  And now…There is a story growing, that will flavor your dishes more than anyone could ever put in a book.  I mean it.  Why else do my dishes taste so good? ;)

Natasha…I didn’t give you the time you deserved on this blog because… excuse me….you freaking KILLED IT in the first round with that gorgeous potato hugged salmon.  Yeah…I’m gonna make you make it for me one day ;) And…I’m gonna hold my gushing about you for next blog.  Because right now…

Lisa Washington.  My Soul Cook.  My Friend.  OK I’m gonna go there….  I’m sitting at my keyboard gettin writers block because there is FAR too much to possibly share with a reader.  And…yeah…I’m literally crying.  Yup.  Big ol’ softie. But…YOU deserve it.  Ya do.  Thank you so very much for coming into my life and for being such an amazingly inspirational force for ALL of the cast of “All Star Academy”.    YOU my dear….inspire all of us.

And Like I said…I see……..  a big kitchen….. laughter… children running through it… spouses and Grandmothers sneaking in for a finger dip in a pot of sauce… bottles of very good wine… soul music on the radio in the background… fellow competitors now friends and blood family Natasha, Jermaine, Anna, Zoe, Dain, Lynn, Monica, Alex, Robert, Andrew, and Curtis in the kitchen laughing and making me do shots… as I make a Santa Barbara Style feast for us… and only the Magnificent 9 really understanding… the journey that this has been.

Thank You Lisa Washington, Alex Guarnaschelli, Natasha Clement, Robert Irvine, Jermaine Wright, Anna Marie Cooper, Zoe Valladares, Andrew Zimmern, Dain Lee, Lynn Polisi-Duffy, Curtis Stone, and all the producers and guest judges who gave us this incredible gift called “All Star Academy”.

Cheers to y’all.  See you in my kitchen one day.

And Natasha and Zoe…ha ha ha…see you next week ;)