~~Some of the Best Ally’s Kitchen’s Chest Bump Moments~~
~~And this is just a sampling~~
Taste of Israel ~~ Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my cooking and culinary passion would take me to the Holy Land as one of 7 international bloggers invited as guests of Taste of Israel and Stand with Us. What an adventure~~five days literally packed with food, eating, culture, culinary training, learning, traveling, floating in the Dead Sea and seeing that we’re all so much alike in this vast world~~our connecting DNA is food~~nothing else matters because we all need this nourishing love to survive.
Traveling to TelAviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, shopping in the amazing Jerusalem market, reading from a Biblical passage atop Mt. Caramel, journeying to the Judean Desert, eating in two MasterChef—Israel judges’ restaurants, watching the Druze village women prepare & cook, learning the right way to eat a Crema ball, having dinner at the historic King David Hotel, and virtually being treated like a rock star by our gracious hosts was totally surreal~~especially for a girl who was born and reared in the hollers of West Virginia. Yes, dreams do come true!
World Food Championships ~~ Las Vegas was on fire with cooking and food, and I and my Dole Team were in the midst of this grueling and intense competition ~~ but, this was more than food, it was an amalgamation of good people, talented home cooks, and professional chefs coming together in a quest to dazzle the judges! Delicious new friendships were hatched. ‘Dole Delicious Moments’ was born.
Tasty and tantalizing parties were thrown. Sparkly dishes were presented. And, in the end, an emotional & glimmering universe of food was unveiled! My scrumptious cooking ended after making it to the Top 10 in my category—riding further would have been only icing on the stunning cake!
WFC Blogger ~~ Entering cyberspace with my thoughts and words that potentially impacted thousands reading these blogs catapulted me onto a stage of food competition and helped others become part of it. Writing for the WFC website meant sharing my ideas, my trade secrets, my adoration for food and competing with others. And, all the while knowing that I was challenging these readers to become better…because when they were better, so was I. No pay, just pure gratification knowing that my background & gifts could put someone else on this path of food exploration!
Dole California CookOff ~~ No idea what to expect as I journeyed there alone. Only knowing that I was going to have fun, throw down some mean meatballs, and capture the moments of exhilaration, win or lose! I was totally blown away that Jennifer and Sara were there~~FB foodie friends who’d made the trip just to see me, support me! And, then there was Janice, a neighbor/friend from decades ago long before family, kids and real adult life, now a successful TV producer, who knew I was there and shifted her & her girlfriend’s plans to be part of this momentous occasion with me!
Immediate connections were forged & new friendships were made with Rosemary, the Dole team, and others. And, yes, I won this huge competition!! It was surreal~~the only thing missing was Ben, my soul mate, my rock, who could share in this joy, but he was doing something more noble and just~~he was riding his bicycle 150 in 2 days miles to raise money for MS.
Aspen Food & Wine Festival ~~ Considered to be the crème dela crème of Food & Wine Festivals, I had no earthly idea I’d be there with Ben, all expenses paid, for four days of glorious wine tastings from around the world, food tastings prepared by world-renowned chefs and upcoming chefs, celebrities, and just regular home foodies like me. Of course, this was all because of #earthsfinest ~~ FIJI Water! Just imagine June in the Rockies, in gorgeous Aspen, in the center of the quaint village town with the towering mountain peaks surrounding you and being one of about 5,000 fortunate folks to get tickets.
My food styling and photography got me there as the winner of Fiji’s Best Foodie Blogger Photography Contest~~who’d ever thunk? And, I had only picked up and learned to use a swanky high-powered professional camera only two years prior~~***click click click*** and lots of practice and hard work paid off!
The Daily Buzz ~~ I’d watched the show. Never did I think I’d be on the this nationally-syndicated morning show sharing my winning recipe from the Dole California Cook Off and talking about competing in the World Food Championships. With the close and detailed support of Jess from Dole’s ad agency, Finn Partners, and Gayle, my go-to-get-it-done WFC assistant, I flew to Florida, cooked my recipe in a hotel kitchenette about the size of a tiny powder bathroom, and then we schlepped it to the slick and dazzling studio of TDB.
Lance, the host, was adorable~~a few takes, roll a few meatballs, talk, ***nom nom*** Lance eats, shoot some B-roll, and I’m officially viewed by hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, when the show aired!
KeyRingApp ~~ The #1 shopping app at Google Playstore. Downloaded by nearly 9 million users and growing by thousands daily. Who in the devil would think about advertising one of my holiday recipes with KeyRingApp, having a gorgeous photo of the ‘Blackberry Basil Dessert Bites’ light up the cell phone screen with a simple click, and letting more of the world meet ‘Ally’s Kitchen’!
I watched my social media followers and website stats those three days of the ad campaign increase by 30-50% ~~ and, all of this came about because I entered their contest at the 11th hour knowing that if I jumped in that arena as a food gladiator, I just might slay the lions and come out the victor!
WFC Reality TV ~~ A film crew was at my house early in the morning until late in the evening on my birthday~~I shared my life, my family, my friends, my home, my kitchen, my food, my world with them. And, every breath, snort, laugh, sigh, and action was captured on camera. About 12 hours of filming, a long interview~~some poignant and emotional moments~~my dear sister, Nan, there with me powdering my nose & wiping away the sweaty forehead shine.
Yes, I’m a ‘featured foodie’ competing in the World Food Championships in Las Vegas where they also filmed me~~this is truly reality TV because there are no re-takes—it’s one recipe, one time frame, one take, then the judges table~~cameras rolling. This show, and, I have no idea what the name of it will be, will air in the Spring of 2014 on A&E~~America will share snippets of me, maybe 30 seconds if lucky, and the ‘rest of the story’ as Paul Harvey used to say~~well, the ‘rest’ will probably be lying on the proverbial editing floor.
Another Reality TV Show ~~ For 4 months I was put through hoops, some of them flaming hoops, hoping to be cast on NBC’s new primetime home chef competition reality TV show airing in 2014. What was it like~~hours creating my recipes for submission, filling out paperwork, talking to their professional chefs, casting agent(s), production assistants, helpers and others by phone. Oh, yes, lots of emails requesting more information, pictures, and videos.
The production company flew me to L.A., three days before I was to depart for Europe, to their studios to work with professional chefs~~grueling time factors, a marathon of cooking dishes over and over in one day~~sometimes making a complete dish, start to finish and plating for judges in 10 minutes. I was exhausted, but I knew I’d done a ‘high five’ job ***chest bumps***!
The big wig producers, most near my oldest son’s age, met with me wanting to get to know me, who is this woman, can she cook, can she compete, will America like her? Probably the most challenging of the hoops was getting to the finish line, yes, I was on the very very short list~~I was in Zagreb, Croatia, received an email, and the head casting agent said that I needed to have a copious contract agreement signed, notarized and back to them within about 36 hours. Try doing that in a foreign country! Oh, yes, the world of reality TV~~the tease of being cast, the black hole of not knowing. The phone call saying if the show is picked up for more episodes, they’ll get back with me. No, don’t hold your breath I say to myself ~~the frontier is full of more opportunities. It’s all about the journey, not the destination. And, btw, I can’t wait to watch it!
Cooking Contests~~I entered a lot of contests, and I must say I won my fair share of those I entered. Some were big with great winnings, like the DOLE California Cook Off. There were small contests and the prizes were always things I wanted and needed like cookbooks and pots and pans. These contests take time, energy, and creativity~~but the best thing about these contests is that they offer a chance to get into the arena of life and have more fun than standing on the sidelines and watching!
Trips & Travel~~ I flew so much in 2013 that I earned Delta’s Silver Medallion status~~what’s that mean? Well, for those who fly a lot, some mighty nice perks, like free luggage checking (3 bags!), priority boarding, yes, walking on that fancy read 5×8 red carpet, and getting a tad more ‘respect’ as Rodney Dangerfield would say when calling Delta. From multiple trips stateside—L. A., Florida, NYC, Colorado, Las Vegas and more to international locations like Tuscany, Croatia, Germany, and Israel—I became a road warrior in 2013 right as I’m way past AARP status, have qualified for Social Security, and am approaching Medicare nirvana!
I call it my ‘magic carpet’—I can take my foodie luvs who follow me on social media and my website with me and enchantingly share everything from new spices, dishes, and cooking to more headbands and dust, dirt and scuffs on my boots!
I have no idea what 2014 holds for me, and, quite frankly, I’m glad a lot of it is gonna be a surprise~~yes, there are some irons in the fire, but I can’t divulge those until the right time. For now, I’m gonna do what I always do~~take each day as if it’s my last and make each and every moment count doing what I love most~~being a happy-make abd sharing my passion for good eats! So hang on to my magic carpet because it’s because of you that I’m here rockin’ Ally’s Kitchen!