Today’s behind-the-scenes story of my experience on Rachael Ray’s Great American Cookbook Competition: how I made it from the TOP 5 to the TOP 4.
For those of you who watched the first challenge, you’ll remember that Brent went home for one reason–the infamous butter mishap. His nerves got the best of him and in that one split second when his eggs splashed into the butterless pan, he knew he had made a major mistake. Brent is a tremendously talented chef who made a simple error. It could have happened to any one of us.
Something else that could have (and did) happen to many of us during that challenge: burnt butter.
Before the cameras turned on…
The five of us stood in front of our stations and waved our hands over the saute pans to guess the temperature. Of course, this was only a guess. The real testament of a pan’s heat is what happens when you place something inside of it. As the clock began and Rachael yelled go–three of us watched as yellow pads dropped into our skillets and immediately began to bubble and brown. I snatched mine off of the skillet and wafted away the smoke.
My first reaction: “Not a chance in hell am I placing innocent whisked eggs into a cauldron of sizzly burnt butter.” I glanced up at the clock. 10 seconds passed in what felt like a blink. I tossed my hands frantically to peak the attention of the stage manager who resembled Hugh Jackman. I mouthed “towel” and pointed to my pan. I was certain he would smile and toss me the cloth I was requesting to dab away my mistake. Instead–he threw a shrug in my direction and I realized I was on my own.
I considered using my hair, or my jacket, or a nearby contestant to wipe the browned bits from my pan.
Instead–I added fuel to the fire. And by fuel I mean: olive oil. It was my only chance to reconcile the non-stick surface of my skillet that I desperately needed to achieve a model omelet. As I dropped the eggs into the pan and began to glide them around the hot surface, I looked up again at the timer. Holy clock, batman. I had wasted half of my precious time trying to signal Hugh Jackman. I now had barely 60 seconds to produce something that resembled a French omelet. I looked back down at my eggs to see that the bottom had cooked, but the top remained runny. I used every tool at my disposal–a fork, a spatula, my finger.
It was in that moment I realized I had one choice. A choice that would end up being one of the biggest risks I could possibly take on national television.
I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and hoped for the best.
What you see on the show is the before and after of this very moment–without the defining point. I knew that my only chance for creating any sort of omelet was to do exactly what I would have done in my own kitchen. The flip. It’s one thing to be in your pajamas on a Sunday morning flicking eggs around like no one’s business. If they splatter all over the kitchen, well, as Julia Child would say, “Whooooo’s to see?!” I didn’t have a choice. I went for it. Unfortunately with four other contestants all struggling at their stations, the actual flip wasn’t aired. So what appeared to be a semi-easily made omelet…was actually the result of a phenomenal risk.
Before: Deep breath, Fanny. You’ve got one shot. Take it.
After: Holy sh*t. I can’t believe that just worked.
Check out the video below to see how it all went down.
Stay tuned to see what happened next…