The Taste is over, and I am so proud to say that I came in third place - the last home cook standing!
I can't begin to tell you how happy I was to be there. I was - and still am - so proud to be part of something like this so early in my career. I had only been cooking seriously for a few years, and to make it so far among so many talented chefs and cooks was a huge accomplishment in itself.
How did I get so far? Cooking simply, and from the heart.
"These are really simple, blunt combinations of flavors but man, they're really hitting me right front and center." Anthony Bourdain's words about my food during the finale. Did that happen? Still pinching myself just thinking about it. A proud moment, to say the least.
There have been many. And of course, things that made me laugh. The way Ludo and I's relationship was portrayed, for one. Ha! He jokes around a lot, and that's about it. I was dying laughing when they played the sexy music when they would pan to a shot of him and I. Seriously? Too funny.
The truth is, he was a real mentor - and still is. One of my proudest moments - in my entire life, and I'm not even kidding - was when I met his wife right after the finale at our wrap party and she told me that everyday he used to come home and tell her how proud of me he was. He would say, "Oh, Sarah made blood pudding today, can you believe it?" or, "Oh, you should have tasted Sarah's tacos, they were great!" I can't even tell you how it made me feel to hear that. It was one thing for him to say he was proud of me on television, but to be excited about it in his personal life when he got home at the end of the day ... there were no cameras around for that. That was real.
Gregg and I still talk to Ludo. He talks to us about our pop-up, and wants to connect us and help us in any way he can. Really, he is still mentoring us today, which is pretty incredible.
The hand-holding thing - should we address that? :) Did Ludo give me ideas - did he teach me things? Yes, of course! Like I said, he was a true mentor. There was no way I was going to be given an opportunity to learn from a chef of his caliber and not take it. We had mentors there for a reason. Mentoring, however, is most valuable to those who feel they can benefit from it - who, are the very least, aren't too proud to take the opportunity to learn.
I do wish that you got to see more of the cooking process on the show overall. And I've heard a few comments that the show was more about the mentors than anything else, so I think showing more of the contestants and our personalities would have been cool. But alas, it was the first season, and the first time for a cooking show to be aired on a major network, so I'm sure it was hard to decipher what viewers would want to see. Just like I said in the finale, there is no room for disappointment. I'm eternally grateful for the opportunity, no matter how you slice it. ;)
My life has changed immensely because of this, really. I like to joke that, "a reality show changed my life" - because it sounds so ridiculous, but it's true! I was inspired to move to New York. I opened a pop-up restaurant. I'm now doing what I love most - entertaining, throwing dinner parties, creating memorable experiences around food - for a living. I couldn't have dreamed it up if I tried.
I have also grown as a chef so much since doing the show. There were so many moments as I was watching when I thought, "Oh my God, I could have done this or that ... or why didn't I think to do this?" A lot of it is a factor of working under pressure, but for me, it has more to do with the fact that I had never cooked professionally before. Now that I have, I can see why professionals would have a major advantage over home cooks in a competition like this. I've learned more in the past few months than I did cooking casually at home for years.
Were there moments I was scared that I would screw up, or wouldn't know what to do? Of course. But I never let them bring me down. I stayed true to myself, and kept pushing myself harder. After all of this, getting as far as I did in the competition, and now being in NYC doing what I love ... I know I can do anything.
It's a very satisfying feeling, sitting where I am right now. It's funny, because I started my first blog in an effort to show people that cooking is nothing to be afraid of ... that if you have a desire to cook, you can. Experience, culinary degree - or not. It feels like it's all come full-circle, because that blog cultivated my love for cooking and led me here, in so many ways. And if by doing the show, I got to show a few more souls that they, too, can and should follow their dreams and desires - in the kitchen and otherwise ... well, that's all I can ask for.
Endless love to all for your support and kind words! Every note you've sent and word you've spoken has given this experience another depth of meaning for me. THANK YOU!