"I know that life is for the taking, so I better wise up, and take it quick." - Bran Van 3000
I have had some pretty wild adventures, done some crazy things in my lifetime.
- I had my own custom wedding gowns featured in a major regional wedding show at the age of 18.
- I packed up my car and moved across the country (to a province I knew NOTHING about) on a whim at the age of 18.
- I proved doctors wrong ("You'll never walk properly again") after a car accident wrecked me, eventually going on to figure skate again.
- I've been snuggled up with a Playgirl model, keeping his half naked body warm under my cloak on a cold, rainy March swimwear shoot in a broken down old barn. (On another occasion, I've waded barefoot into a VERY cold, partially frozen lake Ontario to fish a photographer's reflector out during an early february photoshoot for my ready to SWIMWEAR line!)
- I picked up and moved to a foreign country and married a guy I'd only known a few months (5 before the move, 6 before the marriage!)
- I created a product with the specific intent of having it sold on ThinkGeek ... and they picked it up! (Since discontinued).
- I've watched Klingons cut one of my cakes - a 4' Bird of Prey - with Batleths, and I've made a TARDIS cake for Wil Wheaton.
- I convinced my husband that we should buy the first house that caught my eye in an ad... and then we battled massive stress and repairs after it was destroyed by a tornado just a few short months later!
- I designed and created a gorgeous Neopets inspired gown in just 4 days as a gift to someone I'd never met, on the other end of the country. This brought together almost 30 other people, who donated cash (to buy fabric) and goods to make Homecoming VERY special for one teenage Aspie.
... the list goes on. Yep, life has taken me on some pretty weird paths.
This spring, the list grew. I did the wildest, most ridiculous, LEAST "me" thing ever - I went and competed a major reality TV show.
Those of you who know me well, go ahead and pick yourselves up off the floor now.
Yes, I am one of the 100 people presenting our signature dishes to Gordon Ramsay when MasterChef Season 4 debuts on May 22. It was a completely bizarre and traumatizing experience, and I came out of it with ton of VERY diverse new friends! More about friends and trauma in coming posts.
Anyway. You're probably wondering "WTF?!" ... and I have to admit, so am I - still! - to a degree. So, let me explain.
Money has been awfully tight since the tornado. We hemorrhagged money over the repairs - we blew past our insurance coverage by over $60,000 instantly, and we're *STILL* working to fix everything. We took out a mortgage, have a disaster loan, and are generally overextended in every direction - definitely NOT the debt load we had anticipated when we bought the house just a few months before the tornado.
When you're that over extended, it forces you to take a good hard look at what you're doing.
Now, my cookbooks are great - you should totally buy them! - but the cookbook market is super saturated. I'm not getting rich off them by any means. I certainly don't have any advertising budget to help that along, so I have to rely on social media and word of mouth, for the most part - doesn't exactly pay the bills. The sewing manuals bring in a bit more money, but again... no advertising budget, PLUS we're talking about extremely small, niche markets - I'm not even making minimum wage, at this point. Couple all of that, with the fact that I'm completely unemployable? Ugh.
So one day I was trying to think my way out of this financial pickle, and I noticed a tweet about how that Snooki person is a TWO TIME New York Times BESTSELLING AUTHOR. Can't find any reference to it now, but at the time... man, it broke me. I really, truly weep for humanity.
Anyway, within minutes of THAT, someone forwarded me a link to a casting announcement for MasterChef, telling me that I should try out. I'd never heard of it (I can't stand reality TV, and don't watch cooking shows!), but it was going to be casting here in Minneapolis. I looked at my finances, I looked at my unemployability, and I looked at that stupid tweet about stupid Snooki, and in that moment, I sighed and resigned myself to "if you can't beat them, join them".
I put on a brave (and somewhat social!) face, and sailed through the initial audition. In the months that followed, there were many more interviews, requirements to be filled, dozens upon dozens of contract pages to be read and signed... and SO much preparations to be made.
All the while, I looked at this as being a last ditch effort at making a go of the cookbooks. That maybe I could build enough of a name for myself - that when people see what I can do - that I'd be able to compete against the massively flooded cookbook market and earn a living at it. That if that didn't come to pass, I'd face the facts and move on to some other line of work, rather than continue to tread water.
So, you see... this was a business decision, and a matter of "desperate times call for desperate measures". I still think that "reality" TV is the bane of society, and I know that a lot of you guys feel the same way. I just really hope that I haven't disappointed you by going down this path!
For what it's worth, I conducted myself with honor the entire time. I did not have drama with anyone at all while I was out there, and told the producers from day one that I would NOT be engaging in such antics. Hell, I even had a plan - before I even arrived in LA - on how I'd deal with the inevitable "who do you think will be next to get eliminated?" drama induction questioning.
.... I'd look around for someone dressed appropriately, and single them out. When asked for clarification, I'd say they'd be next to go, as they were wearing a red shirt! LOL! I was VERY determined to not embarrass myself, the autism community, or my homeland - Canada!
In the months leading up to the show, I went from being resigned to doing this as a huge personal sacrifice (I was dreading it!) that needed to be done, to kind of looking forward to it. At some point along the wait, I actually started being excited for it, and couldn't wait to leave for LA. I started to look at it as a chance to... how do I put this?
When I was in my teens, I took up speed skating as a way to cross train for figure and roller skating. I enjoyed it, and it was good to finally have a use for my massive quads. Anyway, I had the opportunity to represent my province at the Canada Winter Games - kind of a mini Olympics experience for youth back home. You get team uniforms, live in an "Olympic Village" type setup, and compete. Would have been awesome, but I missed it by ONE SPOT.
(To add insult to injury, I'd slipped, fell, and got passed by the figure skater that *I* had encouraged to join me in speed skating... and had to listen to her stories from the games forEVER after she got back!)
So, to me, this was going to be like having a second chance at that... I'd be flying to somewhere I'd never been, given a roomie, and be holed up in a sequestered situation with a bunch of strangers that I'd be "competing" with. I LOOOOOOVE competing. Love it!
So, I started to look at it less like "I'm selling my soul and going on 'REALITY' TV!" , and more like I was getting ready for a competition. It awakened that part of me that's been dormant since I had to stop skating, and ... I liked it. I really missed competing, and I prepared for and trained for going to compete on MasterChef like I was training for the actual Olympics. It became a full time job for me.
I could go off on a million tangents, at this point - SO much has happened since the day that I decided to try out. It feels like a lifetime ago...
Anyway, for the next while, there's going to be a fairly heavy amount of MasterChef content on here, so I'm sure I'll cover everything eventually. I may not be able to say how I - or anyone else - fared on the show, but I can share this: I'm happy to say that I finally did fulfill a minor "bucket list" item I've had for a long time!
As soon as I was told that I was going to LA, I automatically adopted "Drinking in LA" as my theme song for the whole adventure. I'm Canadian. You say "LA" to a Canadian of my age, there's a good chance they're going to get it as an earworm. You couple "LA" with some pretty heavy feelings of "WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?!", and... yep. Perfect theme song.
I am proud to say that I finally had the chance to drink in LA. I even designed a cocktail named for it ... will blog it eventually! I may not have been 26 when it happened, but hey... it was a once in a lifetime adventure.
In the meantime, now that Fox has finally released the cast list... Click here to view my MasterChef USA Season 4 cast directory. It includes the 5 names left off the Fox release (???), plus a ton of blog, website, and social media links!