The scene this morning at the Art Institute was way more subdued than the American Idol casting call last year at the Coliseum. But what do you expect from people who want to be the next Bobby Flay not the next Mariah Carey?
[caption id="attachment_181" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The waiting room at the Art Institute"]
The Next Food Network Star casting call began at 10 a.m. this morning, and by 10:30 about 35 people had made their way down for an initial screening and the chance to drop off an application, which included photos and a video.
People had come from all over the Southeast to apply, but plenty of locals wandered in on a whim. I didn't recognize any Charleston chefs save for the Cajun Donnie Bulliard, who just premiered his own cooking show concept at the Signature Kitchens location a couple months back. One lone guy in a chef's coat was dutifully filling out the multi-page application. Jeremy Campbell was on his way to work on the line at Oak Steakhouse but stopped in because his mom encouraged him to apply. "My mom watches the show all the time and thought I'd be perfect," he said.
[caption id="attachment_185" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Robert and Dawn Alt from Manning"]
I also chatted with Robert and Dawn Alt, restaurateurs from Manning, S.C. who are currently rebuilding their restaurant after a fire decimated the interior. Robert, a self-taught chef who's worked and run plenty of kitchens, had more professional experience than a lot of other hopefuls. Diane Furlow, a nursing anesthetist and home cook, drove down from Charlotte, N.C. to meet the casting agent. She sent in an application last time, but thought she'd have better luck at an open casting call.
[caption id="attachment_184" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Amy Madden from Atlanta"]
Amy Madden from Atlanta has already had some face time on the Food Network and liked it so much, she's gotten serious about pursuing this cooking thing. She made it to finals of the Ultimate Recipe Showdown last year for a pasta recipe. She's also written a cookbook and has run a catering business, so she feels pretty well suited to the task at hand.
[caption id="attachment_186" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Caroline Jackson"]
I think my favorite applicant was Caroline Jackson, a longtime local F&Ber who worked as the GM of Fish and Boathouse before launching her own personal chef business earlier this year. She's cute, friendly, and has a concept. Her business is called FUEL, which stands for Fill Up and Enjoy Life. Catchy. She also can articulate a motto for her show: "How to have adventures in your kitchen." Promising. I liked her a lot and felt like she had a good chance to at least get a call back, if not get flown to NYC for a more extensive screening. She has one of those intangible qualities that would make you watch her on TV — as we chatted, I kept pulling more and more interesting tidbits from her: she worked for Mario Batali, she'd been on the Food Network before (with him), she toiled as a line cook in D.C. and then tried to make it as a jazz singer in New York. That's good material right there. Susie and Bob would just love her. Seriously.
Despite not seeing any familiar faces this morning, I was told by Paige Crone of the Art Institute that Fred Neuville of the Fat Hen had come in earlier that morning to meet with the casting director. And Duffy Ingle, the crazy cowgirl over at the Daily Dose, posted on her Facebook page yesterday that she was applying too. I didn't see her there, but I'm sure she and her outsized personality will show up and get some love.
Hopefully some of our other executive chefs and restaurateurs will stop in before the day ends at 3 p.m. And if you miss the casting call, it's not too late. Send your application in via the website.