For me anniversaries are personal, birthdays, weddings, birthday deaths- you keep them in the family, its private- a select few you choose to tell, share with, celebrate or commiserate with and then its another day .
1 YEAR AGO …
However this anniversary is oh so public as it was a TV anniversary, a win, my most public place ever I WON THE TASTE UK, its not being recommissioned, the US version has also ended after 4 seasons but I truly DONT care, I WON THE TASTE UK and it has platformed me to another place.
Now behind the scenes as with most things its never what you see, I’ve written a lot about the year the events I’ve done since but never the nitty gritty, the real life stuff, the good the bad the indifferent, the oil that wheels the glossy front page, the stuff that well you really dont see.
I have never really dissected the show, or how it went each time, the behind the scenes, the people…..Now i cant declare this an expose, nothing as exciting as that at all. Its the internal churning’s of the Land of TV, which itself is a parallel universe where once in it and until your spat out is a completely different universe.
Ive written this in 3 parts only because Im aware its a blog post- should be punchy, and there is a lot to say on reflection this is a bloody brilliant achievement and Im not going to dismiss or omit bits (which Im sure i will even over 3 parts!) The story and how it began has now got its own glossy finish to it, but the raw truth is more like this…..
A long time ago in a galaxy not far from here…no really sometime in 2013 when watching a TV quiz show and my husband saying I can do that, me stating well go on then, he did, he went and applied for a TV show The Chase and got through but due to work commitments re-arranged a few times and eventually they gave up trying to organise for him to attend.Stay tuned in it does make sense …….
When a customer ( now very very dear friend) came in with a tiny cutting for a TV Show for people to apply who could cook up against professional chefs on Channel 4 with Nigella Lawson – they were adamant I should I apply and my immediate instinct was dismissive…If you know me this is a normal state of affairs, I dismiss, ponder, question, query and then when least expecting it go ahead and do stuff!
Now detail wise this is when it gets a little murky I have said it was then after a glass of red wine I applied- I know it wasn’t an instant application or thought and a whim when I did – whether red wine was truly included Im not sure – although it normally is! As is normal for me I do it and then easily delete the action, I genuinely throughout most of this process was unattached to the outcome
The process then began rolling – On sending my application I got the cursory return email response, and then a while later a REAL email returned to me saying considering my application and would be in touch if I had been taken through to the next stage – now there is a time delay here of I really cant tell you all i know is that the filming started in October so the process must have started July time I think!
I had been left a garbled message by one of the team (Fran), about someone from London had phoned for me! It was duly ignored as no further information was given! When I got a call again, the team member said its that person again from London- I took the call rather reluctantly- in between serving customers , telling me about the audition they wanted me to attend at Manchester Palace Hotel a few weeks later,( it could have been the next day I have no idea my time reality is and has always been very distorted). I do recall being told I would get a letter with all the details in and what I needed to prepare.
I was in my first year trading as a deli cum Coffee Shop and was busy therefore my full attention was not on an a random application or audition I was due to attend.
The Audition day arrived and I had been told to prepare 2 dishes which would have to be finished at the audition and be plated up on camera,this bit I was at the time okay with- the dishes I was preparing for assembly was :
- Chilled Sweet Pea Soup Cup with edible Flowers and I’m not sure but am certain there was something else at this time of writing I cant remember!!
- Sticky Toffee Pudding Pie Cheesecake with Salted Toffee Sauce again it was with something else and my memory doesn’t serve me well as i cant remember what else!
Im naturally a last minute person – feel that i thrive under stress- whatever- just means i like to squeeze the last minute out of everything and this particular day was no exception- there had been some planning someone to cover the deli, and a friend driving me to the audition so a big tick-
I had agreed to have my hair done which was a complete disaster as the hair dye ended up more on my forehead than anywhere else and it was then styled in a way that ( at my request-seemed a good idea at the time!) was so not me ,I looked and felt ridiculous. I took some clothes screwed up in a bag and as usual totally inappropriate clothing but took them anyway, my friend Clare was driving me and off we set with prepared audtion food in tow.
I cant tell you what I was thinking or feeling at this stage, I’d be lying if I filled in the blanks, I think it was most like what a complete t@£$ I look!
Im glad I was familiar with the Palace Hotel as I used to hold my Regional Meetings there in my world of Vodafone and P4U! Its a old majestic slightly battered but rich historical building an old bank which was converted into a hotel and its walls Im sure have many a tale to tell!
The foreboding of the hotel wasn’t off-putting and I set off worrying about had my cheesecake flopped, melted or just not stood the travel. Fortunately on checking it was tad softer than i wanted but no food disasters
We had arrived earlier than the time allotted and i sat in my work clothes -stained with coffee and food and decided to get changed. I didn’t get changed, I went to the bathrooms and unraveled my ridiculous hairstyle , slapped on a bit of red lipstick, brushed my hair with my fingers and tied it into a ponytail -original I know!
I was going as me and need to feel like me- whatever that ended up looking like on camera.
I was ushered into a room with 2 other people who were obvious being auditioned as well, and greeted warmly by 2 production assistants , told to get my food ready and put it on a tray.
I said hi to all present, which if i recall correctly wasn’t responded to, and set my food out, doing the looking over the shoulder as discreetly as I could and then realised it wasn’t discreet at all, so went over and introduced myself and asked what they had made.
It was my realisation that at this point it didn’t matter as I couldn’t change my dishes and neither could they! My commercial background kicked in- get yourself noticed by being present, vocal, happy and inclusive so off I set to be just that.
There was a young man who looked like he was going to implode either with nerves, fear or just sheer worry who described this very elaborate and great sounding dish – I forget the details and a rather dashing looking lady with a thick foreign accent who had made one of the worst looking dishes I had seen – it seems it was a traditional dish to her heritage who was I to dismiss either. They both went in before me and quite quickly returned with their trays , packed up and left without any words, so it was just me left I was the last person of the day!
I was summoned with my tray in both my hands I walked with trepidation as I didn’t want to drop my tray ( natural Klutz) and entered the room next door to be met by 3 people.
3 to 1 always a little daunting at the best of times, a large black looming TV camera in the corner which took up a lot of space ,a table with lots of paper on it. The 3rd person dismissed themselves saying they had to leave as they had a train to catch , again this is also an unnerving sign as it made me feel a little like your last and least important person, the other 2 people Victoria and Neil where warm, engaging and they explained the camera was on, be natural (can I be anything else) and the audition began.
It was a presentation of my food with shaky hands I do remember that bit, nerves are good of course means you care (I realised at this point I did), each dish was plated up and I chatted away about why i had chosen each dish . The chilled sweet pea soup was a dish I had made for my first ever fine dining meal for my husbands business associates and the Sticky toffee Pudding Cheesecake was a derivative the family favourite and had a oozy centre with toffee sauce like a fondant but in a cheesecake with a full sided buttery biscuit crust so nothing leaked out, I even piped the top of the cheesecake , on reflection that seemed a little brave !
Whilst preparing and dressing chatting about my food they asked me lots and lots questions, the bright sunlight had me squinting and all i could hear was the reverberations of my delicate (NOT) accent bouncing around the room. It was a food interview with the foreboding camera looming down on me throughout
They both tasted the food with lots of oooms, ahhs and seemed to enjoy it , I was then asked to answer some questions on food and test my knowledge; thought i did alright at that bit, sniff a few spices and name them again thought I passed this bit and then the most awkward part look into the camera and talk about yourself, not comfortable at all but got through it.
We seemed to chat for ages and I have to say felt okay about the whole process and thought well if thats it I actually thought you TV people were ok- thank you. I got told I would be emailed or phoned and if I didn’t hear anything then I wasn’t being taken any further. In light of being the last person of the day I truly didn’t think I did badly but was completely left in the dark about how successful I had been.
I think I may have been called later that day or the next , It was really quick, and asked to go to Londonand audition for the actual TV show – which I thought thats what I was doing, but this was the successful regional auditionees reduced down to 25 hopeful people that had been chosen out of 1,000’s (again maybe be making that bit up).
The reality of it was I was off to the iconic Pinewood Studios and a mass of paperwork was sent to me regarding specifics, filming schedules and contractually about my silence!
I had passed and I was going to meet Nigella in the flesh! WOW oh and cook food and also be on TV National TV – wowsers- second thought what if Im crap then this couldn’t be good for business could it! Third thought was what if i dont know that much about food- eek!
REVELATION at this point I had no idea who the other Judges/mentors were so bought their books off Amazon and read up quickly!
Watch out for Part 2 arriving inPinewood, Slough Travelodge and Filming behind the scenes – I know your fit to bursting waiting ………….