I am always ready for my close up, so when the Food Network was in town looking for people to “Bite and Smile,” for the cameras at Cúrate and Nightbell this weekend, the people in charge heard that some guy named Stu Helm would be more than willing to do both of those things at either of those places! Yeah, Man! Bite. Smile. Bite. Smile. Bite bite bite! Growl a little bit. Smile. The show being filmed was the first official episode of Chef Justin Brunson’s tentatively titled “Meat Masters” series, which is slated to air “sometime in the future,” as I was told directly. Ha! Here’s a couple of meager pics and a synopsis of how it went down.
FOOD NETWORK CAMERA CREW SPOTTED IN ASHEVILLE!
Chef Katie Button to be Featured on First Episode of “Meat Masters,” formerly known as “SEARious Meats” with Chef Justin Brunson.
I recently received a text from the good folks at Heirloom Hospitality, (Cúrate and Nightbell), asking me if I might possibly be free in the early evening one Saturday to be a “Bite and Smile” person for a Food Network shoot. Um, let me think about tha… YES!!! Biting and smiling are two of my strongest skill sets! I can also chew, swallow, talk, and gesticulate with a fork in my hand!
I’ve done it all before!
I was a bite and smile interviewee for an episode of the Travel Channel‘s Bizarre Foods spin-off called “Delicious Destinations” that was being filmed at Buxton Hall Barbecue once, and featured Chefs Elliott Moss & Ashley Capps. I was asked to eat and talk about pie.
So, just in case you’re wondering: It’s pretty easy to do these things. The hardest part is showing up hungry AF, and then waiting around forever to be filmed. The restaurants do provide some food while you wait, so it’s all good, and when the film crew is finally ready for you, it’s all over in no time! The sound person mics you up, the director sits you down, a production assistant puts a plate of food in front of you, and you’re ready for your fifteen seconds of fame! First the camera person just films you eating… while everyone watches you in total silence. It’s a little fuckin’ weird, but that part is over fast, and after just a few minutes they ask you to…
“Take a forkful of food, and hold it… thank you!”
Then you’re done with that, and the actual interview starts. For the Travel Channel show, I never met the host, and for this shoot at Cúrate, I did get to meet show host Chef Justin Brunson — he was really nice and very down to Earth — but I wasn’t interviewed by him.
In both cases it was the director who interviewed me. They sat across from me, off camera, and asked me a series of questions that allowed me to expand, but kept me concise and on point at the same time. I know that they do kinda want you to say a bunch more stuff than they’ll actually use, because the more you say, the more they have to work with, but you also gotta talk about pie if they want you to talk about pie, and not wander off into cake land or cookie town. PIE. Or delicious, meaty canelones, as the case was at Cúrate!
No matter what the show or situation, when it comes to off-camera interviewers, they tend to like when interviewees repeat the question (more or less) in the answer, as in, “Stu, tell us what you like about these canelones.” “What I like so much about these canelones is… (expletives deleted)” Yeah, no, swearing on camera is frowned on, as is showing up looking like total shit. I may not be as pretty as some of the other (actually very pretty) people who showed up, but I did put on my blackest hoody and pants.
The director might also ask interviewees to say certain phrases that fit in with the theme of the show. So yes, during the “Meat Masters” shoot, I did call Chef Katie Button a “meat master,” which I’ll admit was a bit of a cringe-worthy moment for me, not because she isn’t a world class expert in meat, but because I would never use that term myself. Meat. Master. But hey…
When a director from the frickin’ Food Network asks you very nicely if you can possibly work the term “meat master” into a sentence, you fuckin’ work the term “meat master” into a sentence.
The directors from both Travel Channel and Food Network were very nice, and the one from the Food Network actually seemed like my kinda people. She was dressed entirely in black, for one thing, and told me that she gets to drink her husband’s wine ever since he quit. Awwwww! Just like me and Dawn. I wish the fun folks from the Food Network were staying in town a little longer! I totally wanted to take them on a never-ending food tour of all my fave places in town! Gah! How fun would that be? Anyhoo…
As I mentioned already, the director from Food Network specifically asked me to eat and talk about Cúrate’s super yummy and excellent canelones, which are pasta filled with MEAT. Ground beef, pork, and chicken livers, to be precise. The super-tender, meaty, pasta tubes are covered in a creamy bechamel sauce, topped with manchego cheese, then baked off until brown & bubbly on top. They are hotter than fuck when they first come out, so let them cool or burn thyself mightily. #negativeexperience But once they’re just warm enough to eat, they are soooo comforting and delicious to really tuck into.
I wanted to fuckin’ die on camera with every bite I took.
So, as you can tell, it was not difficult at all for me to bite and smile and talk and chew and wave my hands around with genuine enthusiasm for these canelones, and basically for anything Chef Katie Button and her team, at either of her restaurants, throws in front of me. She’s a semi-finalist in the James Beard Awards as I write this, BTW, and a world class chef by any standards. For me, it’s really an honor to eat her food, and brag about it — and the whole city and entire food scene, you better believe it, Asheville — in front of the cameras for the nice people from the Food Network!
Thanks to: Tamsen and Heirloom Hospitality for inviting me, the Cúrate kitchen for feeding me, and of course, thanks to Chef Justin Brunson, and all the very nice and friendly people in the crew who filmed me, recorded my voice, asked me questions, and told me “you did great!” at the end. Biting and smiling on camera is always fun for me, and I’m always game to do both! When it comes to the amazing food in Asheville, the bites are awesome and the smiles are fer reals!
ABOUT CHEF JUSTIN BRUNSON and MEAT MASTERS (née SEARious Meats) “The nation’s food lovers are taking more notice of what’s going on in Denver restaurants. Prime evidence: chef/restaurateur Justin Brunson — of Old Major, Masterpiece Deli and Culture Meat & Cheese fame — now has his own Food Network show. Like his restaurants, the show, called SEARious Meats, will focus on meat — lots of it, prepared by Brunson’s friends and colleagues in Denver and around the country.” Read more HERE.
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Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.