Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Today's Secret Ingredient Is - Free Food!

Alternate title - Comic Relief!

Some of you may know that the 'Top Chef' show has been in the Boston area in recent months. At some point, they held court at Fenway Park, where one of the judges is none other than Our Man Shank!

If it's free, it's for me!
The e-mail arrived in my in-box in the middle of May. A fellow named Chris wanted to know if I could join the “Top Chef” judges for a lunchtime taping at Fenway Park over the weekend. They already had booked Dennis Eckersley and they were looking for another person familiar with Boston baseball.

I can do that, I figured.

I know all about Fenway.

I know how to eat.
That's what we hear, Mr. One Mile Run...
I checked with my 28-year-old daughter Kate, a high school English teacher who is something of a reality TV buff. A couple of weeks earlier, Kate had mentioned that “Top Chef” might be shooting its upcoming season in Boston. This seemed to be a very big deal to her. When I casually mentioned the invitation, my smart, mature daughter reacted as if I’d been asked to join the Rolling Stones on stage at their next concert.
Ahhh, still dating ourselves, are we?
“Are you kidding me?’’ asked Kate. “You have to do that! That’s the coolest thing ever! Tell them ‘yes’ and then find out who is going to be there!’’

OK. I called Chris and told him I could tape the show. I asked him who was going to be at the table with Eck and me and he started rattling off names. Padma. Tom. Hugh. Ming. Blais. The names meant nothing to me, but when I relayed them to Kate it had the effect of someone telling me they were going to sing with Mick, Keith, John, Paul, and Janis. Clearly, these “Top Chef” judges are the rock stars of food tasting.
Except these 'rock stars' aren't dead or collecting Social Security cheques.
On Sunday, May 25, Kate and her husband accompanied me to the show’s taping at Fenway.

“Top Chef” is top secret. Show representatives repeatedly reminded us that we couldn’t talk about anything until the episode aired (Oct. 29 at 10 p.m. on Bravo). There was to be no tweeting, no Facebooking, and no casual conversation of this day. We had to sign a confidentiality agreement; any breach would put us at risk of paying a Dr. Evil-esque penalty of “ONE MILLION DOLLARS.’’
Forget the million bucks; missing out on free food would probably make Shank wire his own mouth shut.

We met the big shot judges and they were all very nice. Tom is from New Jersey and knows a lot about sports. Hugh is a Montreal Canadiens fan and wanted to know where he could safely watch a Habs playoff game on TV in Boston. (nowhere! - ed.) I recommended Post 390, because it has great food and it was near his hotel. Padma was tall and friendly. She had a lot of questions about sports and said she’d been asked on dates by a couple of the New York Yankees.

“Jeter? A-Rod?’’ I wondered.

She wouldn’t say.
Of course it's Jeter! Come on, will ya?
It didn’t matter to me. Even if Padma dished about the famous Yankees, I couldn’t write about it because of . . . ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Just before noon, we started our taping in the third base dugout. We paraded up the steps and strode toward our elegant table on the warning track, directly in front of the Green Monster. We had assigned seats — mine was across from Tom and next to Padma. Color me happy. A little nervous with the cameras rolling, I neglected to pull out Padma’s chair when we seated ourselves.
Such an inconsiderate cad. No Padma date for you!

Now here's the really funny part:
Then came the parade of chefs from the visitors dugout. Three at a time. Carrying all forms of meatballs, peanut sauces, ribs, duck, and pork bellies. They all seemed pretty nervous.

Tom, Hugh, Ming, Blais, and Padma were pretty rough on the contestants.

Not me.

I couldn’t bring myself to insult the anxious young chefs. Call me crazy, but ripping professional ballplayers comes easily compared with this. Who accepts a dinner invitation, then insults the host or hostess?
Because they're professional food assholes. Shank's a professional sports asshole. That's the difference.

Tune into Bravo tomorrow night at 10:00, everybody!

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