On The Menu: The Reality of Getting On A Reality Show. (Part 1 of 2)

Cooking on TV can help sell my book. Getting on TV is hard.

But I believe in myself. And in chances. I get an opportunity to step toward my goals -- I take it. I got on TNT's new reality cooking competition series, On The Menu.

I just wrote The Pink Marine, a memoir about my time in Marine Corps boot camp. Writing a book is hard. As difficult as completing recruit training. I thought finishing the book meant the process was over.

But like I learned in the Marines, there's always another battle. I typed "The End", turned the page and met a new challenge: Marketing. Marketing is hard.

I've built one of the most globally recognizable brands with millions of built-in customers that guarantees success in everything I do. No I haven't. But I love hard work.
Here's what happened. One day as I chilled in Montreal, nibbling on pain au chocolate, I read an email asking if I cook the food I write about on my blog. The email is from the offices of a new television show -- On The Menu. I lean in closer to my laptop. I'm interested. They ask if I want to compete on their cooking show.

I do!

I love Skype. I put on a live Skype cooking show every night I'm apart from my other half. Skype lets me audition from Montreal for the producers back in California. We talk about my cooking. The casting director is fun; she makes me comfortable. It's -22 ootside, so I pull on my fur hat to show her why not to be in Canada. Asked when I plan to thaw my way back to my home in Santa Monica.

"Sunday night," I say.

"Come in Monday," she says. "Oh, and bring your best original recipe -- cooked, plated and perfect."

I run on this philosophy: Nothing's a problem; everything's an adventure. Thank you USMC.

12AM Sunday: Land at LAX. 7AM Monday: Push a cart and myself awake with coffee at Whole Foods. 10AM, 11AM, 12PM, 1PM: Cook, test, recook, retest my most impressive dish. Halibut in parchment. My most impressive is now my most important.

I ease each attempt out of the oven with the care I use when removing the funny bone from the game Operation. I rush my plated dish to the car and buckle it in like strapping a patient down for surgery. I drive as if delivering a kidney for a transplant.

I worry about my fish getting cold but I save space for concern that I look good. Before entering, I flip my hair almost sending my dish flying along with my bangs.

I have a blast at the audition. They taste my dish and seem to enjoy it and me. I look into the camera, trying my best to answer all the questions in a way.... that will get me on the show. That's the goal. The Marines taught me to accomplish a mission. I hold onto a thought as I wonder if it's going well.

I defended our country for 6 years as a Marine, and it's still here. A guy like me. So... I can nail this audition. 

I have no idea what I'm doing but I really want to be cast on this show. Even if I never get to talk about my book, I want this opportunity. And -- I can cook.

I also want this show to be on TV. We all read about the disconnect in our society -- people's heads buried in devices, not feeling that the things they see (safely from a distance) are real. Mark Burnett is a game changer. Each week, four home cooks compete. The challenge is that the contestants create a new dish for a national restaurant. The winning dish goes On The Menu at that restaurant the very next day. Instant connection. We get to eat the dish we just saw on television. What we see, is what we can get.

Almost everything's fun for me. But nothing's easy. It wasn't easy to get in the Marines. I lied on the paperwork. My recruiter taped a lead weight to my crotch because I didn't weigh enough. I thought I was going to a summer camp canoeing in great boots. But I made it through. (Bet you can't wait to read my book.)

I get on the show. I meet Ty Pennington and cook for one of my culinary heroes, Emeril Lagasse. Imagine, a home cook like me!

(Part 2 of this story will be published October 4th.) 

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