It all started with a dislocated rib in my back and few Tweets with the man behind the Recipe To Riches Twitter handle.
He was very encouraging. Not that 2400 kms is unrealistic to drive, though with limited mobility in my arms made it seem like perhaps it was not my time. Which was killing me. Since I started building my gingerbread houses I have become a very fierce competitor. And right now in Canada, there is no bigger food competition then getting to be a part of Recipe To Riches.
The application on to the show sat open in my laptop for probably close to 18 hours that day. I filled it all out, saved it and thought best to sleep on the idea. By 7 the next morning the application was sent in and I had a list of Chiropractor appointments set. I was going to do this, rib dislocation or not. You just do not sit and watch an opportunity like this slide by.
I received an email later in the day asking for more information about myself and my recipe. I sat down with a huge mug of steaming tea and began to write. I was thrilled they wanted more information. If there is one thing I can write about, it is my passion for food, this recipe in particular. I know my product is solid. I have gifted it to 100’s of people over the years and they always come back inquiring about it, looking for more, talking about how much they enjoyed it.
Next came the telephone interview. We talked for what seemed like at least a half hour. Reviewing all the information, the recipe, a bit of history. I have to say, the team behind the show is amazing! They are friendly, easy to talk to and they make it effortless.
Now began the waiting period. They were doing the auditions in Halifax and I was told I would get a call the by Wednesday the 15th of following week. With everything being up in the air we began planning the trip. It is a 1200 km drive to get from Grande Prairie to Vancouver, the majority of the drive is through the Rocky Mountains. Plans were made. Fingers were crossed. Life resumed, though it consumed every thought and most of my conversations the following week.
I would lie in bed at night when it was dark and visualize the batch up challenge. I could see myself in the kitchen, excited to take my recipe to that next step thinking about what issues could arise from working with batches larger then I had ever imagined. I spent 2 days making my goodies. I did the packaging and worked out the labeling as to what I would picture of my product did indeed make it into the store. And finally after a very long week, I got the call inviting me to Vancouver!
We left just after 4 am Friday morning for a whirlwind trip of a lifetime. 14 hours and 900 pictures later, we arrived in Vancouver!
This was the view from the balcony on our 26th floor room!
I was to be at the Hyatt Regency by 2 on Saturday. I had a fantastic sleep, a great late breakfast and then started to get ready. By noon there was a noticeable shake in my hands. The nerves were very much at the surface. I had made notes on the drive up and did some review as I paced the hotel room. I must have pulled that folded sheet of paper from my pocket a dozen times that afternoon.
I had never put myself out there like this before, personally, this day was going to be huge moment in my journey, and not just with the show, but one of those character building moments I will remember forever.
We arrived just after 1. We signed in, handed over the paperwork, I received my numbers and was directed to the first waiting area to turn over my goodies. There was a buzz of quiet excitement in the room. I sat, reading and rereading my notes. Did a bit of people watching and listened to the crowd outside the doors cheer when someone would come out wielding a gold ticket!
The atmosphere was amazing! The energy was high, everyone was in great spirits and I felt so thankful just to be there. Who would have imagined, this shy prairie girl, sitting in a hotel in Vancouver about to see 3 of the most influential people to be on the Food Network.
Time rolled by quite fast, there were so many people coming and going. And then my food was picked up and taken away. This was getting more real by the moment. The gal that had checked me in came into the room and started making annoucements, getting people in order and advised us about what was coming next.
A small group of us were moved into the next room, one step closer to the judges. The first thing you noticed in this room was the lights and video team. In the center of the room was a circle of tables where we got to prepare the food for the judges. We were told to be very quiet, on the other side of the wall was where they were doing to taping. In one corner was where you went to get wired with a mike. And the double doors on the far wall was the hallway to the judges.
I have to say, you have no idea what goes on behind the scenes of a production like this. They were an amazing team. You consider the amount of people and food they were dealing with. It was truly inspiring to be among such professionals. It was like a well oiled machine. It was very cool to watch and I appreciated in that moment that I got to be a part of it.
I had been miked, washed and did my plating and then went to wait by the door to the hallway that led to the judges. I could start to feel the nerves creep in. I sent a text to Jeanne back home, letting her know I was about to go in and before I knew it I was taking my walk down the hallway to the judges. There I was checked once more, the number taken off my pack and now I wait.
There was a black curtain in front of the doors leading to the shooting area. I was lead in and met the director where he quickly gave me direction as to what I would do once I was called.
I rounded the corner, walked to the spot marked on the floor, looked up and there sat Laura Calder, Tony Chapman and Dana McCauley.
Immediately I noticed that the sample bag I had wanted the judges to see was not on their table. That did throw me off my game as I was going to start off by talking about that. I found out later it has been opened up and plated for photography purposes. With 3 more bags sitting back in the waiting area, I wish I would have taken one in with me. Pleased with the labeling I had made and was excited to show them what I had in mind for store packaging. Looking back over it now, I was more prepared for the next step in the process, the packaging, big production and defining what makes it a President’s Choice product.
All 3 of the judges had good things to say about my product. I do know my nerves were a factor and I really did not come across as strong as I know I could have. Laura being a Chef pointed out a few things with the product that I agreed with and I have started working out what I could do for a more polished product and am hitting the kitchen tonight with a few ideas.
Tony was a great supporter of what I had brought. He also had some good things to say. He did pose a few thoughts that of course I has responses to…… 5 minutes after our meeting. I am a great problem solver though I need a few minutes to process the information and come up with a solution.
Dana also had good things to say. I have been a long time follower of hers on Twitter and she did recognize me when I went to shake her hand on my way out. That was also a very sweet moment in my day.
I am very proud to say my product did earn me a gold ticket. I have been bombarded by people asking what exactly does that mean. The response on Twitter and Facebook has been tremendous. Thanks to all who have followed my past few weeks. Your support through this has been fabulous and I really appreciate it. Anyway, back to the gold ticket, it means exactly what the ticket says. I now wait for another call.
The crowd cheered when we walked out with our gold tickets. There was a group of 4 of us and we did some takes with the video cameras with the crowds behind us! Again, very cool moment in the day!
Over all. It was a highlight of my life. And rates up there with one the best experiences ever.
I was very glad to find I was not overwhelmed by the cameras, that was my biggest fear walking into this. And I was more star struck by the judges then I had anticipated, which definitely did not help with my delivery. Of all the things to come out of my kitchen, there is nothing I am more passionate about then what I presented in Vancouver. It is unique, feels rich and luxurious and is made with simple ingredients. It is memorable and makes you crave more! What could be better then that.
I hope I get the opportunity to meet them again and carry this further. I am very focused on the market and how well I know my product could do given the opportunity. After all, the bottom line is this is about business.
I did also get to met the mystery man behind the handle on Twitter! Thanks Kyle, for everything! It was a pleasure to meet you and thanks for keeping in touch those first few days into the process.
You can check out part two of my journey to the Top 5 in Canada here!