|Susan Ungaro, President James Beard Foundation|
It's Monday and Mason and I are in Palm Springs for the America Cooks With Chefs finale and announcement of the winning team. It has been a whirlwind weekend and lots of fun. As with any contest, there is so much that happens behind the scenes.
In August of last year, I got an email from my Weight Watchers group about a cooking competition, they were looking for a short video audition explaining my challenges with food and weight. I shared that I've struggled with my weight my entire life and now I see Mason struggling growing up in a "Super-Sized" world of processed food. I submitted my entry and went on with my day. A few months later I learned that I had been selected as one of six contestants who would be paired with a James Beard award winning chef, I would go to a 3-day kitchen bootcamp where we would create a recipe that was 800 calories or less and then we would compete with the other contestants and their chefs to find a winner. The prize consisted of two trips including spending money - but no prize for winning the contest, that was kind of weird to me, but who was I to question it? My first trip was to Portland, OR where I met my Chef Mentor, Naomi Pomeroy who was awesome. She created the recipe and we only had one day of filming - it was not a collaboration and it was not a 3-day kitchen bootcamp. Though I certainly learned a few things, it was not the full deal I thought would happen based on the contest promotion.
|Mason wants a car to come for M. Partak|
This weekend was part two, a weekend in Palm Springs at the Clinton Foundation "Health Matters" summit where all six of us contestants and several of the chef mentors came together to serve our dishes to the attendees of the conference and work the crowd for votes to make our recipe the winning recipe. Mason is part of my story so the producers asked if he could be included, of course I said yes so Mason made the trip to Palm Springs with me. The trip was really great, we were picked up in a town car at the airport (Mason said it felt just like a limo!), delivered to a gorgeous resort where we had a room with a view. All of our meals were included and we got to meet and get to know so many cool people. Mason was interviewed by a large online magazine and they just think he is the cat's meow! There may be something down the line for him with them, that's cool, so stay tuned! We did some more filming and we worked with the chefs at the resort to make sure our recipes were exactly the way we wanted them for the upcoming dinner. We all manned our stations and served our food with crazy enthusiasm and fun. Mason stole the show prepping my dish and serving it up with a dose of Siracha sauce. The night wrapped up before 8:30 PM and speaking only for me, I was exhausted! Mason and I went back to our room and called it a night. This morning we had breakfast and met with the production crew to go over what to expect at
|Mason pitching a large magazine editor|
This is not sour grapes or anything like that, it's simply to explain that I didn't lose. You all know I am a competitor, yet I was simply the face of a contestant in a competition who did not contribute anything to competition at all. I didn't create the recipe, I didn't cook the recipe the attendees tasted, and the votes we earned with our energy and enthusiasm didn't really matter in the end anyway. It's hard to be disappointed and feel like anything at all when I know (now) I was really just along for the ride while this program is being developed and fine tuned. We will have the opportunity to give feedback to the production team and I will be sure to share all of this with them - in addition to the fact that one of the contestants is an employee of Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers is a sponsor so it seems to me it's a conflict of interest that this person was selected as a contestant.
All in all, I won. I won two all expenses paid trips with spending money. I got to meet amazing people and Mason had the opportunity to see his mom in action and shake a few hands on his own. I got to do lots of on camera work that I love so much, and I got to be part of something that has a really cool message for America - get in your kitchen and cook! I have been inspired to create delicious recipes that are healthy and do more to take care of myself. Finally, nobody went home empty handed - we all got 3 months of Weight Watchers personal coaching, Mayo Clinic cookbook and health assessments, a $50 Sports Authority gift card, the Weight Watchers cookbook, and a set of Calphalon cookware. I don't think of that as losing!