A while back I was contacted by a production company, who asked me to audition for a new cooking show. It showcased weird food combinations, that sound disgusting, but actually taste good. I declined, because as you all know, I am not that kind of cook. I specialize in simple, healthy, fresh foods, with nothing strange about them.
Time went by, and they kept calling. In January, they asked to me to come in for an open call, and make an interview tape. I didn’t intend to go, but the night before, I had a fortuitous conversation with someone who came up with the idea of hotdog sushi. I laughed it off, but at some point on the day of the audition, I decided to give it a try. I rolled a hotdog (organic and nitrate free of course!) and some baby gerkins in sushi rice and nori, sliced it, and garnished it with a srirachia based sauce and a mustard based sauce, and went for it.
Since I didn’t take it seriously, my tape was fun and lighthearted. Who would have guessed that a couple of weeks later, they would call me back?
They wanted the food to be a little more “Frankenfood-y”( like hotdog sushi isn’t weird enough?) and suggested dipping it in chocolate, using pineapple in the rice and all kinds of other things that made it sound disgusting. I am all for a little fun needling, but I don’t really need to go on TV to be berated about serving food I would NEVER, ever, think of serving under normal circumstances.
With all of the traveling I do, I didn’t have much time. I came back from a business trip and immediately went on location in a snowstorm, arriving home with just enough time to whip up something else. This time, I tried a coconut, pineapple rice, and a peanut butter, (think satay) dipping sauce. They really wanted it dipped in chocolate. I tried that, and rolled it in coconut. Then I had an epiphany: what if I used mac and cheese instead of rice? And what if I breaded and fried it? And served it on a stick? And dipped it in spicy marinara sauce? It might just be edible!
I submitted the latest version, and was cast on the show. I signed a non-disclosure and was sworn to secrecy about the outcome, but since the show actually aired last week, I think it’s okay to tell you about it.
On a freezing cold winter’s day, all of the contestants and their friends and family (I spared mine from the ordeal!) gathered outside of a studio in Harlem to introduce “Frankenfood.” We then prepared our delicacies, and presented them to a panel of judges. The prize was $10,000 and the chance to feature your dish at a restaurant in Times Square.
I suddenly became a nervous wreck. The contract basically stated that they could use any footage of me, and manipulate it however they wished to make the show more interesting. My last minute test of frying the mac and cheese sushi left me a little skeptical as to whether or not they would dissolve in the hot oil. Would my “Tokyo Corndogs” become the next big thing in food, or would they be a “hot mess” on a stick? It was too late to back out, so I went forward with the same “who cares” attitude that I started out with.
I made the mac and cheese the night before, and rolled and cut the sushi so that I could refrigerate it, to the point that the mac and cheese became firm. The producers loved the idea, and suddenly I felt as though I had a good chance. I dipped the sushi pieces in egg, rolled it in a combination of panko and breadcrumbs, and gingerly placed them in the hot oil. And they held together beautifully!!!!
The judges loved the presentation, the idea and execution. They liked the fact that it was like a multi-cultural carnival food on a stick, and had a little Asian influence (the sushi part and the Japanese panko), a little Italian (the breadcrumbs and the spicy marinara) and a lot of American comfort food influences, ( hot dogs and mac and cheese.) What fell flat was the taste of seaweed, with the cheese, noodles, hotdogs and tomato sauce.
So, as you can tell from watching the show: I didn’t win. In fact, I was almost completely edited out. I didn’t sing, I didn’t dance, I didn’t wear a weird outfit, and my food wasn’t so terrible that they had to spit it out. I fell through the crazy cracks, and that was fine with me! Just when I thought the coast was clear, I discovered that I was featured in a clip on the show’s website, as a “Frankenfail.”
It was fun to step out, try something completely out of my comfort zone, and throw caution to the wind about my image. It took 2 judges votes to keep you in, and I only got one on my side, who hated the seaweed taste, but loved my personal style. At the end of the day, for a fashion designer and blogger, that was the best outcome I could have hoped for!
Feel free to watch the show. If you blink, you will miss me, but my food is featured at the beginning and the end,and actually looks pretty good, if I have to say so myself! (and appartently I do!) Unfortunately, it didn’t taste as good as it looked.
If Andy Warhol is correct in his estimation that we all have 15 minutes of fame, I am pretty sure I still have about 14 minutes and 45 seconds left for another opportunity!
photos and video: courtesy of Spike TV / Frankenfood