While this post is not about cooking from my book, I feel it is important to share with folks why I have made this decision, because it has everything to do with Gordon Ramsay and my food experience.
A number of years ago as some of you know, I decided to start this journey of cooking my way through this book and writing about my experiences. I won't lie this has really helped me become a better cook and I wouldn't change it for the world, in fact this is back where I need to be.
I've tried out for MasterChef 3 different times. One, I never got a call, the second I made it pretty far, and this time I fell flat on my face. I was elated when I heard that this year was going to have a casting right here in Phoenix, I was ecstatic and immediately started planning what I was going to do and with the help of a few friends I decided I would do corned beef and colecannon. It is one of my best dishes, and while it may seem simple it's a two week process, and it is the best corned beef you will ever have. I do it every St. Patrick's Day and every year my parties grow.
This time however was different. In my haste to get my brisket into the oven, I made a rookie mistake and did not rinse off the brine. I slow cooked that brisket overnight in the oven and the house smelled amazing the next morning. I flew out of bed to the oven so excited to pull out what I knew was going to be my ticket to being on the show, and finally getting to cook something for Gordon Ramsay. One bite and I burst into tears, it was SALTY and when I think something is too salty then you know its horrid, because I am a saltaholic. My dear husband to the rescue helped me find a few middle pieces that weren't so bad, and when put on top of the peppery colecannon, and drizzled with the horseradish cream, and grainy mustard, it all balanced out and I was quite confident I was a winner.
But I have to back up a week or more. I really had a bad feeling about this audition starting about a month before hand, and I told family and friends I really didn't want to try out this year. I was barely recovering from 5 months in a wheel chair and I was very uncertain of my health, but there was more to it, I just didn't have it in me. Family and friends kept encouraging me to go for it because it was my dream. But was it? I didn't know anymore. I never got over that feeling but I agreed with them, if I didn't go for it, I would always wonder and probably kick myself for not doing it.
Then a week before my audition a friend of mine (I will keep his name out of it) decided to take his own life. I don't know why I was so overcome with sadness because we didn't really know each other all that well, but there was just something about him that made me happy. His memorial was the same time of my audition down in Tucson. Once again, I did not want to go for it, but he was so excited for me to be on that show when he was alive I think he would have kicked my butt if I didn't go. So I went. I thought for certain that I would make it on that show because I had him with me there that day. I wish I could reach out to his partner and hug him right now.
So I got there early and I was the second group to go in. My dear friend David Martinez was there cheering me on, and Monti Carlo was there cheering everyone on. David is a very special person, and I would later that day find out how special Monti is.
Friends, I could not have plated that dish better if I was a professional chef, (a professional chef helped me with ideas, thank you Rita) it was beautiful. I was VERY proud and I could tell the food experts loved it. They did their usual thing, and then the debating and then called out the numbers of people who would be moving on in the next stage. Patiently I waited for my number to be called, sadly that didn't happen, and my whole world came crashing down around me and I left the room completely gutted. I couldn't believe how absolutely devastated I was. At least I knew I would have my husband and daughter there waiting for me so I could cry on them, but they weren't there, they were kicked out of that hallway. Who was there? Monti Carlo and Taryn Jeffries. Monti had offered to keep an eye on my wheelchair for them so I would have it when I came out. I was just sobbing and the genuine compassion those two ladies had in their faces was very touching, I'm glad they were there. Then David and Bea came up to me and David said "Don't cry mama" I think that made me cry more. I didn't want anyone to feel bad for me, I just wanted to feel bad for myself. My family has to feel for me, that's why they are family. These people? They didn't have to give a rats butt, but they did, so I think that helped a little.
The crying didn't stop for a long time, maybe an entire week. One day while I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, my daughter Tara made some flip comment about how much money Daddy spends on things for me in the kitchen, and I said "well you won't have to worry about that anymore" She asked why and I said "because I'm never cooking again" She was very upset because after all Thanksgiving is coming and there is no way we are not having Thanksgiving, its the one day of the year I live for.
It was at that exact moment that it hit me. If Gordon Ramsay heard me say that, he'd probably kick my ass into the next county. I had just given up! Resigned myself to be a failure. It was at that moment that I realized my motivation has always been wrong. Sure originally it started out because I wanted to meet Gordon Ramsay. Well I had already done that, so really no big deal. It was more than that, the obsession to be on that show was way deeper than wanting to meet him, I clearly proved that if I wanted to meet him I could (probably the best day of my life) Even though everyone kept saying "there's always next year" I knew that next year wasn't going to come. I really wanted to be on MasterChef to prove to my sister,and all the people in my life that I was worth something, and look what I accomplished! So I had given up my love of cooking for what? A reality show? Come on! The people that really matter love me and accept me for who I am. That's what counts! I found myself resenting pictures of Gordon Ramsay when he was posting about the Iron Man competition and I was angry with him! That is when I decided it was over for me. I didn't have a food dream, I didn't want to write a cookbook, I didn't really have any reason to be on that show like those who make it actually do. No, my motives were all wrong, and I realized that. I didn't like that feeling I felt toward my hero I would rather continue to think of him as the man who inspired me, yes ME to be a better person and to be confident in what I loved. I needed to go back to that. Would MasterChef in anyway improve my life for the better? The answer for me is probably not. So there isn't much point. I need to be okay with who I am and not what others want me to be. I lost sight of why I started this journey, it was always about me becoming better at what I really loved to do, and that just isn't right. I had to ask myself "why do you cook?" The answer was always there. I cook because I love to make others happy, and there is no place happier in my home than the kitchen.
I talked to my dear friend Ben Starr and shared these feelings with him and he gave me the courage to write what you're reading today, along with my husband who said I should write about how it made me feel. The fact is, I still feel sadness, but I know that I have so much more to give. I will find the meaning in my life if I have to keep plugging along for the rest of it.
For those of you who have encouraged me along this path, I am ever grateful for you. If my trying out for MasterChef was intended only so I would realize that I don't have to prove anything to anyone, well then that is a positive outcome.
So this ends my MasterChef journey. I will forever cheer on those who dream of winning it all. As for me. I have already won it all.
I love you Chuck you make it all worth while. I love you and my family and friends with all my heart.