French Pork Pies (Tourtières) OR “Keep on Looking Busy for the Love of TV”

Don’t tell anyone this, but sometimes when I’m bored at work I go into the men’s room and watch myself in the mirror while I angle my arms in different directions and pretend I’m a hieroglyphic.

Other times I sit at my desk and stare silently, with a balance of frustration and thought on my face.  You’d swear I was trying to work out a production issue.  But in my head, I’m actually deciding what music I want played at my funeral.  I’m nearly ceratin that the “thinking theme” from Match Game ‘76 is what I’d like for when they carry my casket out of the church.

Working in television is not glamorous.  Appearing on television is glamorous, but working in television is just long hours.  Minimum ten to twelve a day, sometimes sixteen or more, almost all of it on your feet when you’re in production, and then far too much of it in a chair when you’re in post-production.

You’re often working out of rooms with no windows, overhead Gestapo lighting, a shortage of trash cans, and heavy, boxy old Mac desktop computers that crash when they try to bring up a website and auto-save a phone list at the same time. The kitchen has nothing but diet sodas, Hershey’s Miniatures and Cheez-Its.  You may start a television show eager and optimistic.  But by the time the show spits you out the other end, you’re pale, your pants don’t fit, and you discover all your house plants are dead.

But there’s no time to express how tired you are while you’re in the thick of it.  You’re almost always behind schedule.  Your shows aren’t being edited fast enough. The network has decided your set should be red instead of lime green even though you wrapped production six weeks ago and the set is sitting in a dumpster in Lancaster.  Also, you can’t use that shot of the breaded chicken strips you desperately need because the camera caught some idiot standing where he shouldn’t have been standing, and upon closer inspection, it turns out that idiot is you.

You just have to keep working.  You have to always be busy.

And when you’re not busy, you have to make it appear to everyone else that you are.

When I absolutely can’t concentrate on work any more, I’ll pick up a piece of paper and walk around the halls for ten minutes or so with a look of rushed worry on my face.  Another producer might say, “What are you working on?” and I’ll say to them, “Trust me.  You DO NOT want to know.”  And then they’ll run away from me as fast as they can, like I’ve just started talking about my experiences with prison sex.

Sometimes I have the phone up to my ear and when someone comes up to assign me another task, I just hold up the “can’t do it right now” finger, then point at the phone and make a sad face.  They’ll walk away thinking I’m trying to convince a contestant to sign that release form no one remembered to have them sign before they appeared on the show. They’ll never know what I’m actually doing is listening to what time Inside Out is playing in theaters across the country, one zip code at a time.

I believe in breaks, but television production does not, so I have to make them happen any way I can.  I’m really not qualified to participate in any other field except show business.  Thankfully in show business, with a lot of stamina, a little bit of brains, and a massive talent for being able to trick people into believing what you want them to believe – home viewers, studio audience members, the person about to hire you –  you can go very, very, very far!

I’d share more tricks on how to always “look busy,” but I’m under the gun to get these pork pies done in time for dinner tonight.

Or am I??

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January 23 is National Pie Day!

I don’t know about you, but January 23rd is about my least favorite day of the year. About as far away from Christmas and as deep into the deep, winter doldrums as we can get. Oh, and by the way, it’s still an exhausting nine months until my birthday.  Thank heaven for The National Pie Council and whatever high-ranking government palms they had to grease to have today officially declared “National Pie Day!”

In honor of this day of reflection, celebrating all that the pie has given our nation, I give you my FIVE FAVORITE PIE RECIPES also known as the ONLY FIVE PIE RECIPES I KNOW! But don’t let that fool you. They’re all terrific, and well worth the day off of work. Wait.. you didn’t report to work today on accident, did you? It’s National Pie Day, you know! Didn’t you notice the lack of traffic on the freeways?

And don’t go in to work tomorrow either. That’s National Peanut Butter Day! No, I’m not kidding.


Señor Verde’s Gaucho Pie

You really do have to be careful what you wish for. I’d say I went too long without a producing job, and while I was endlessly scrolling through employment sites, making calls, and creating multiple versions of my resume to make sure I had every angle of Hollywood covered, I would routinely say to myself, “Boy, I’d be happy with just about any producing job.”

Then I got one.
Now I’m working long days that often lurch well into the nights, my feet hurt from the countless hours running around on stage, my clothes all smell like amazing dishes I never get a chance to sample, and my ears ache from headset wear. And I’m routinely saying to myself, “Boy, I’d be happy with just a few days off to cook.”

Don’t consider this a complaint by any means. Beat the Chefs is going to be a really fun show. And if you have GSN, I hope you’ll tune in when it premieres on Thursday, August 23 at 9:00 pm ET/PT.  I’m really thrilled to be a part of it, not just because I get to watch three amazing pro chefs do their thing, but I’ve also gotten to meet some wildly talented cooks from across the country, and I’ve watched many of them go on to cooking show glory!

A bit of the press release for the show follows. And I’ll certainly be posting pics and details on my producing time on the show once the episodes hit the air. Even better… I will absolutely be re-creating many of the recipes from the show here in the months to come, so get ready for a food-fueled fall here at Tv Food and Drink!

Lastly, after you check out the 4-1-1 on the show below, I highly recommend clicking through and taking a look the recipe for this gaucho pie. It got more flaky and flavorful with each passing day, and kept me fed through an entire week of no cooking time whatsoever.  Since it’s disappeared, I’ve had to mostly subsist on turkey sandwiches slapped together in 30 seconds and dark chocolate bars dipped in the giant jar of peanut butter living out its days in my fridge.  Whoever said the Hollywood life is glamorous clearly worked as a longshoreman.

BEAT THE CHEFS is an hour-long show, in which everyday people who love to cook set out to prove that their family recipes are worth prize money and bragging rights. Each week, the show pits homegrown talents against three professional chefs as they cook the same dish—from firehouse chili to Grandma’s famous chicken and dumplings—with one question in mind: Whose tastes the best? A panel of critics will judge and decide if the amateurs can “beat the chefs,” and if they can do it, a cash prize of $25,000 is theirs!

The show’s three regular chefs are…

Chef Beau MacMillan – Known for his victory over Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America” and as co-host of “Worst Cooks in America,” Beau MacMillan is executive chef of Elements restaurant at The Sanctuary resort in Arizona, named one of the “Top 100 Restaurants in America” by Gourmet. MacMillan trained at the prestigious Johnson & Wales University and is acclaimed for his distinctive style, using the freshest ingredients to create American food with Asian accents.

Chef Antonia Lofaso is familiar to foodies as a fierce competitor and favorite on “Top Chef” and a finalist on “Top Chef All-Stars.” After graduating from the French Culinary Institute in New York City, she began her career at Wolfgang Puck’s famed Spago in Beverly Hills and later went on to run the kitchen at Los Angeles hot spot Foxtail. She currently serves as consulting chef for Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City, California. Her first book, The Busy Mom’s Cookbook, will be released in August 2012.

Chef Jeff Henderson was the first African-American executive chef at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, a sought-after public speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Cooked. A former at-risk youth who turned his life around after discovering his talent for cooking, Henderson has proven to be an inspiration to others. After apprenticing with renowned chef Robert Gadsby, he worked his way up through 5-star restaurants around the country, including the Hotel Bel-Air and L’Ermitage Beverly Hills, before landing at the 5-diamond Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. He will open his own restaurant in Los Angeles in 2013.

Click Here for My Recipe for Mexican “Gaucho Pie”

Three Berry Pie with Brown Sugar Topping

I didn’t intend for this to be the pie I made to celebrate having to put my cat to sleep, but that’s the way it turned out.

Z had been back and forth to the vet for about a week, and the ultimate diagnosis was a cyst inside his intestine which would most likely have just grown back had I spent the several thousand dollars on surgery to have it removed.  His disposition in that week had altered itself from playful and relaxed to sullen and despondent. He wasn’t eating or drinking, and he couldn’t use his box.  It was clear he could not find a comfortable position for himself to rest.

I started this pie in the late afternoon, while wallowing in denial over what would have to be done.  Michael arrived later in the evening and talked me back into reality.  Without being able to use his box, there wasn’t a lot of time for Z.  None of us were benefitting from delay.  So after a few more crying sessions, I finally caved and said to Michael between sniffles, “Ok… let me just get this pie out of the oven, and while it’s cooling we’ll take Z in, and then when we get back we can eat it.”

I understand dividing my attentions between a dying cat and a three berry pie with brown sugar topping might seem a bit coarse.  But once I had accepted what needed to be done for Z, it was no longer tough for me.  We had shared fourteen years of companionship and he’d been content and healthy through all of it. Below is the last picture we took of him.  The heart sleeve on his paw is covering up the IV that was delivering the dose that would move him on.  He was at ease all the way through the end, purring and nuzzling me.  I could not have asked for a better end for him.

It’s been over a month now, and I’m starting to hear the call of kittens at the Saturday afternoon pet adoption fairs outside the Petco on Sunset.  But I’ll hold off a while longer.

And we did go back home that night and eat the pie.  We topped it with ice cream. We each had two giant slices.  At his peak, Z weighed approximately 19 pounds, so I’m sure he would have wanted nothing else for us.

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