Saturday, January 10, 2009

Food Network Surprise -The Neelys Come to Cook with Me

I was about to post a highly compelling and potentially award winning blog article about the virtues of artichokes –but I got derailed. You will forgive me, won’t you? It was for a good cause, I think. I didn’t want to spill the beans on my adventures this week in advance because I didn’t know what to expect but I think now is a good time. I’ll start at the beginning.

A couple of months ago I began a dialog with The Food Network. That’s right, the food network! Too cool. It was for a show called “Dear Food Network”. It’s a show where viewers ask a Food Network celeb a question via camcorder and they would answer from the studio. No big deal really. So I sent in my video. Next thing I know, a producer flies here to chat with me for an afternoon. They go on to tell me that they might like to send a crew to do a bit of video with me. Well, one thing leads to another and in the end, I have a crew of about 10-12 folks in my house helping me with a little food demo that I believe will be all of about 2-3 minutes of airtime. Then, in the middle of me “getting my ribs on” for the camera, I hear folks shouting my name from behind me. “Hey, Louis, Whatcha cookin’?” Spinning around I see Pat and Gina Neely pulling up to our sea wall in a boat.

I got punked. Turns out, I was set up by The Food Network from the very beginning. Since you’re reading this blog, I assume you know the Neely’s but in the event you don’t, they are successful restaurateurs from Memphis who have a couple of TV shows on Food Network. They went from a small show called “Down Home with the Neelys” (which they still do) to several specials and other shows. Amongst us geeky food people, they are pretty high in the pecking order and true celebrities.

Olivia and I seasoning ribs the night before

Do you ever wonder what folks you see on TV are really like? I do. Can anyone really smile that much? Well, in the few hours I spent with Pat and Gina, I can say that they do. Kind and easy going, Pat and Gina Neely are the same folks that you see on TV. After a bit of shooting, it was already lunch time for the crew (union rules). In true food network fashion, a pretty generous spread was set out in my garage. We all sat around and chatted for a bit before getting back to the business of making a TV show.

After lunch, we headed outside and grilled up some beef ribs for the cameras. My friends and family had a fantastic time and they were as surprised as I was about the celebrity guests. After our little segment, the Neelys answered another viewer question and cooked up a shrimp salad that they invited me to share. Delicious again.

What a long day!!! In the end, I learned quite a bit about how a shoot goes. If anyone thinks the job of the crew is easy, wow!.... Wrong! They worked hard from the minute they got here in the morning until the last person left around 9 PM. I learned how to do a “swap out”. That’s where you put the uncooked thingy in and a magically cooked thingy comes out. I learned that “beauty shots” are the staged pictures of food that one sees on the shows. The beauty shots they did here was the last thing they did and while they may look good on TV, the food had been out in the open for many hours. A food stylist is along to make sure the food looks good on camera though. I learned that a crew comes completely self contained, so if you are ever asked for your home to be a location, no worries. They even bring their own toilet paper. And I also learned that they WAY over-prepare. Not only did I buy a bunch of food at their request (of course they paid for it) but they came with TONS. My refrigerator was busting out at the seams when they left. The following day I had to smoke up the rest of the rib meat, about 25 lbs. I passed it out to my neighbors.

Mostly I learned that my little hobby paid off for a day. My over indulgent passion for cooking was coddled and exploited in such a humbling and beautiful way. They validated what I thought only I knew; that food prepared with true love for family and friends is worth talking about and in this case, sharing with the world.


Barbara said...

How exciting. As you yourself said, you always find the good party! And thank you so much for thinking of me and asking Gina to call was great talking to her!

Run DMT said...

That is really cool! Congratulations on your recent success! :-)