I couldn’t be more excited to announce that the Paula Deen team contacted little ol’ me this week with some GREAT news! I’ve been invited to attend Paula Deen Live! in Savannah as a special guest on Friday, August 8 where I’ll be LIVE tweeting and posting about the show on Facebook from the historic Lucas Theatre!
The surprise came earlier this week when I checked my food blog’s email account. The subject line read, “The Heart of Home Cookin’ Coming to Savannah, GA!” It was Paula’s social media coordinator requesting my presence in the Hostess City. Be still my heart. As a life long fan of Paula’s, you can imagine my excitement when I read these words:
To get right to the point, we came across your blog, Some Kinda Good – and we love it! Paula is so excited about her LIVE event, and she wanted to invite some of her biggest fans and supporters, specifically Southern bloggers and influencers.
Do y’all know how many Southern bloggers there are in the world?? I am beside myself and honored that they chose me. Mama and them already purchased their seats!
If you’d like to join the fun, check out Paula’s website for all the details or, follow me on Twitter and LIKE Some Kinda Good on Facebook so you don’t miss a thing. Join the conversation on social media using #PDLIVE. During the event, word also has it that there’ll be a few small surprises in store for you! Paula’s come back tour kicks off on Friday, August 1 with stops all over the country. Be sure to check back after the event for a follow-up post, too. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Here’s a sneak peek at the fun that awaits. Good times…See you soon PAULA!
With the dog days of summer comes trips to the beach, picnics, grilling out with friends and family, baby showers, weddings, you name it! Summertime is entertaining time and I couldn’t be more excited to announce “Nibble & Nosh and Everything Posh!” a food and style event I’m hosting with my longtime friend Chad Steed, in his sweet home of Alabama.
Tailored for entertaining, the event boasts Southern recipes and innovative style ideas for hosting the perfect summer soirée . I’ll share dishes you can prepare with minimal effort that are big on flavor and presentation! Guests will sample bites of my bacon, lettuce and fried green tomato sliders with spicy pimento cheese among other refreshing grilled desserts, appetizers and warm-weather-friendly beverages. In addition to my live cooking demonstrations, Chad of “The Stylish Steed” lifestyle blog, focused on living well for less, will bring his creative taste to the table teaching guests how to personalize parties with custom cloth table linens, unique lighting elements, painting techniques and easy floral arranging.
You may remember Chad from our brief appearance on The Dr. Oz Show. We met on the mission field in the summer of 2002 during college and have been the best of pals ever since. We always have a good time together and this event will be no exception. I’d like to personally invite you to join us as we sing, laugh and demonstrate how to entertain with ease on Thursday, May 15 at 6 p.m. at the Gadsden State Cherokee Arena. Admission is $5 in advance or $8 at the door. Tickets may be purchased at the Gadsden State Cherokee Campus.
This special event is sponsored by the Continuing Education Department at Gadsden State Community College.
Six days. Five airports. 4,830 miles round trip. 35 people nationwide.
Over the summer of 2013, I auditioned for Season 2 of ABC’s The Taste, a cooking competition reality show. After a two-month process of interviews, loads of paperwork and intense anticipation and waiting, I was selected out of thousands to be among the Top 35 contestants in the nation to compete on the Audition episode which premiered on Jan. 2, 2014 at 8 p.m. They flew me to Los Angeles, California and put me up in a 24-story hotel in the Hollywood Hills where I had a view of the pool, the palm trees and seven lanes of interstate.
This is my story.
Filled with big dreams, confidence and high hopes, I left rural Georgia with my California-titled iPod playlist including Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway, Eminem’s Lose Yourself and Jay-Z and Alisha Key’s Empire State of Mind. From the airport, I posted LeAnn Rimes’ One Way Ticket music video on Facebook and sang the “West bound train” lyrics in my head.
Fast forward through Day 1: I traveled through four time zones, experienced plane delays, checked in at the hotel and got somewhat acquainted. Day 2: I shopped for ingredients. Day 3: On scene at Universal Studios, I felt like a movie star in a hair & make-up trailer and had my outfit approved by two British people in the wardrobe trailer. On-camera interviews were completed. Day 4: Showtime.
The first 15 minutes of the season on set were mine. I was the first contestant to face the mentors. I’ll never forget the moment I entered the set through the “pantry,” and rounded the corner to step on stage. There were big lights, lots of extras and over 15 cameras–from every angle–ALL pointed at me. That made some contestants nervous, but I reveled in it. “This is it,” I thought. It was my moment to shine. Everything I’d waited for. I gave it to them. I smiled. I played my Southern character with pride, relishing in the fact that I was the only contestant there from Georgia. I lived every moment. As I walked on set, I heard one producer shout to a camera man, “We got a good one!”
Aside from the challenges I faced, like my first time cooking on a gas stove, using pots and pans I’d never used before, along with shopping in a region where ingredients are titled “Southern Style Grits,” I kept a level head and remained cognizant of the time. I was given an hour to cook and plate my signature dish: Shrimp and Grits with a Creamy White Wine Sauce. While chopping vegetables and talking with producers, I burned my first pan of bacon. I also almost mistook lemon grass for my garnish because I couldn’t find green onions in the refrigerator. Nevertheless, I kept going.
I finished the challenge with five minutes remaining, having successfully plated my dish and all six tasting portions–two for beauty shots, four for tasting. I put forth the best creamy white wine sauce I’d ever made. Some memories fade and some feelings are fleeting–but one that will remain with me forever is stepping off the set and feeling that rush of fulfillment wash over me. I had done what I came to do, and I had done it well.
Then I exited the stage and was escorted to the friends and family room where I would see my boyfriend, Kurt, and two of my very best friends, Chad and Charity. They were flown out for a three-day period during my stay. Following a brief touch-up with the make-up artist, I opened the door to the family room and saw the people I love sitting on the edge of their seats with expressions of expectation so vivid. We had been separated since the previous day, and the emotion and excitement I expressed was nothing short of real.
After that high, I faced my fate. I would wait for the producer’s cue, then walk forward and stand on the spoon-shaped “x marks the spot.” There, right in front of my face, just steps away, sat Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Marcus Samuelsson and Ludo Lefebvre–in the flesh. It was one of those moments where you’re present, but beside yourself. I saw their lips moving and heard them speaking, but had it not been recorded, I would question if it ever really happened. There I was, a food blogger from small town Blythe, Georgia and Twiggs County farm country, in Hollywood on a set at Universal Studios, in front of these well accomplished, renowned culinary experts. They had just tasted my food.
British home cook, food writer and bestselling cookbook author Nigella Lawson was the first to tell me what she thought. Nigella’s team is the one I had hoped to join. Nigella and I were wearing the same color–both royal blue dresses, so right off the bat, it was meant to be.
She asked me to introduce myself and tell her a little bit about my dish. She was interested in “the powdered seasoning” I’d used and the spice in the dish. Unfortunately, she’d decided that my shrimp were “slightly overcooked,” and the Old Bay seasoning I’d used was too much. “As you know we made our decisions before we met you,” she said and with what seemed regretful, she pushed her red “No” button.
I was crushed, and I knew my chances of joining the others’ teams were dim. Sure enough, with every comment followed the dreaded red button.
After everything I’d heard about Anthony Bourdain, I must say, I thought he’d be the toughest judge. As it turns out, he was one of the kindest to me. We agreed that food was such a personal thing. “Unfortunately for you, I didn’t have an emotional connection to your shrimp and grits,” he said. He had been surprised that I wasn’t professionally trained though, noting that the Old Bay gave my dish a restaurant quality. That was HUGE coming from a man who’s traveled the world. I’ll take it.
Marcus Samuelsson said my passion was evident, and that he liked how my dish represented the region of the country from which I came. With a quick and succinct comment, Ludo Lefebvre said “It wasn’t my thing. I didn’t like it. It’s a no.”
Everyone has their taste buds, and America would be a boring place if we all liked the same things.
So, as show business would have it, all four of the judges rejected me. It was time to pack it up and head on back to the Peach State, but not before I drank a Shirley Temple on Hollywood Blvd., got my picture taken in front of the notorious HOLLYWOOD sign and took pictures of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I exited the hotel with my 50-pound suitcase in tow, containing clothes with the tags still on them, as Adele’s Chasing Pavement played over the elevator like the well-timed beat of a drum.
I won’t forget the talented people I got to compete with and the connections I made. I will carry this experience to the grave.
Me (left) and Pastry Chef Vidya Krishnan (right).
Restaurant owner, Michelle (far left), me, Carlos Davis and Pastry Chef Vidya Krishnan.
Carlos Davis (left), co-owner/Chef of Riffs Food Truck in Nashville, TN, was one of my competitors and a new friend for life.
My appreciation for the South has never been greater than when I travel outside the South. I came home with new eyes. At the grocery store in my hometown, as I pushed my buggy through the produce department where I’m known by name, where hardly anything is gluten-free, organic or vegan, and where Johnny Cash plays on the radio, I was home. Home in my Southern, two-lane, suburban, football-loving town. If ever I needed a reminder of exactly who I am, traveling serves it purpose.
One word of advice: No matter the outcome, go after it. Always go after the things that make your heart beat.
“Find something your passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” –Julia Child