This last Tuesday night, I pigged out on huitlacoche and nopal tacos in front of America--United Tastes Of America, that is. The new food show on the newer Cooking Channel was in Southern California this past November for their "Tacos" episode, and yours truly got hit up for it.
It all happened out of nowhere, too. Within two weeks--from the first probing email to an agreed recording date---Jeffrey Saad (wittier-than-thou host of the show) and I were at Guelaguetza, a L.A Oaxacan food landmark, munching on thick, handmade tortillas filled with (insert alternative, face-cringing-for-most-of-America pork part, fungus or insect here).
I haven't seen the episode myself actually (attending a transfer requirement class > watching myself on national television) but the Twittervine sent me congratulatory @'s the night it aired, so something must have went right. Thank god for T.V magic is all I have to say.
As some of ustedes may know, this is not my first time stuffing my face in front of millions. People still trip out on that Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern L.A. episode I recorded back in 2008 (eating most of the same things that I ate on United Tastes, now that I think about it). So, I thought it would be helpful to share how exactly those opportunities fell on me as well as how to go about shooting these things, especially since that always seems to be everyone's first question when they discover I've been on TV before.
There is no easy way to score these things, I can only reiterate the fundamentals of making it in any industry: network! To the max especially in the food media industry, which means you have to ultimately be homies with your "competition." This point is vital: this last taco show gig was actually forwarded to me by Grub Street L.A. A while back, I lost an awesome opportunity to shoot with Jamie Oliver because no other Southern California blogger--or cook--knew how I "really was like" back then. Producers will ask your colleagues about you, and if they can't back you up...guess what? They will give the privilege to some other token Mexican, just like that.
Second of all, be insistent, persistent and ruthless. That Bizarre Foods segment happened within a two-week time period as well. I went all out (I think I wrote about a three-page reply) in the first mass email the production agency sent out. Use the phat angle that your mamma gave you, maing! (in the King's English, there is no other human being on the planet that knows what you know, how you know it. You must make that clear to them.)
Now, a few things to keep in mind when shooting these suckers....
First of all, eat or drink something before you go. If you already saw the United Tastes segment: Notice why there wasn't much of me talking? It's because I was pretty damn hungry, and as us Mexicans like to say, hambre mata (hunger kills) Don't expect to eat while shooting. I learned this the hard way: at the final shooting time for Bizarre Foods, I was famished; thus, I cared less about the cameras all around me and literally had lunch come recording time. Could've done better if I was properly fueled.
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Secondly, TAKE SMALL BITES OF FOOD--less than half of your usual mouthful, to be exact. The producers have the most state-of-the-art editing tools, but there is no way they are going to magically edit your fat ass. At least pretend to know basic table etiquette.
Thirdly, leave no cheesy food pun unsaid. Seriously, food-show hosts are some of the most-wittiest mo-fo's alive. You best have at least one catchy verbal haymaker if you don't want to seem like a tasteless square next to a rambunctious T.V show host. Eating offals? Well, say then say the food is "offal-ly good"! Cheesy for writers, but comedy GOLD for those TV producers.
Lastly, humility, man! Just go with the flow; don't try to outshine the host. After all, it's the host's show, not yours.
That being said, if you guys would like to judge me, The Cooking Channel will air The United Tastes of America where I was featured in again tonight at 8 p.m., and midnight. Hopefully, I can catch it this time and laugh at myself and my pendejadas...