Beef or Rattlesnake For Top Chef Quick-Fire?

Author’s note:  This is a continuation of a series of blogs about the experience of watching my daughter, Chef Dakota Weiss,  make her way through Bravo TV’s Top Chef Texas, currently airing on Wednesday nights. 

When my daughter, Chef Dakota Weiss, insists that her slow braised beef bourguignon with glazed root vegetables remains a featured item on the swank Ninethirty restaurant menu at the W, Westwood, I shouldn’t be surprised.  Why? While wrangling with writing a memoir, I recalled how at age nine that, at times, I either cooked dinner, or we went without. There was usually a pot roast in the fridge and I taught myself how to slowly braise the beef with glazed root vegetables in an electric skillet—although I had no idea that’s what I was doing. Now it’s a meal I can prepare one-handed and blindfolded.  It’s also one of Dakota’s favorite dishes when she comes home.

It’s true comfort food—something I’ve repeatedly placed on my menu since last spring when we had an inkling that Dakota could be on the TV reality show, Top Chef.

  “Well?” began each text I sent Dakota.

“Nada,” she texted back.

This went on for what seemed like forever. “Forever” equating to maybe a few months,  and me standing at the wine tasting bar at Harmony Cellars with my longtime  friend.  Fur Elise rang on my Blackberry indicating a text from Dakota. “It happened,” was all she typed. 

“OMG!” I squealed while my friend swished her taste of chardonnay about her tongue.

“What? Is everything okay,” she asked with alarm while trying to quickly swallow the wine.

“Hold on,” I implored, and then texted like a mad-woman, “Does this mean TC?”

Fur Elise played again, this time signifying Dakota’s incoming call.  “Are you on?”

“Well, Mama, let’s just say there are changes in the air.”

Of course I had more questions than ask.com, but I knew Dakota was limited in her ability to answer.  These reality production  are hush-hush.

I stood in the middle of the wood-paneled winery and wanted to scream. Instead, I whispered to my friend, “Dakota’s gonna be on TV.” She got my drift and went back to tasting another pour—possibly a Pinot Grigio. 

This is when my self-inflected wounds from biting my tongue began.

By early June my comfort food menu added to my waistline. (“Give me a grilled cheese sandwich and give it to me NOW!”)

How do you leave your job ?  Where are you going? What about your dog? Will we see you before you leave?  Will we be able to talk to you while you’re gone? Do you get paid? How will you deal with your bills?

Hey, I’m a mother.  I worry. It’s my occupation.

Near daily phone conversations ensued, as did my Technicolor dreams and nightmares about food, Dakota, and television. And I couldn’t eek out even one blessed word about what was happening.  I couldn’t explain why I bordered on near frantic and dropped my other communications like hot oil (frying potatoes).

The same weekend as my granddaughter’s birthday in New Mexico, was the weekend Dakota packed for a  “culinary adventure,”  and flew to some unknown part of this big country. 

Fur Elise played and I punched the green phone icon. “WHERE ARE YOU?”

“I’m not in LA.”

“When do they start filming?”

“ I don’t know.  But I’ll give you a call when I can.  Gotta run, Mama.”

The next three days were akin to being force-fed soured raw eggs.  Was she on or was she not? How long would this take? OMG what if she get this far and then sent home?

With no definitive answer by the time my oldest daughter drove me to the airport after celebrating granddaughter’s  second birthday, she and I hugged and swore who ever got the call from Dakota next would immediately ring the other person.

I boarded the U.S. Airways flight out of Albuquerque to Phoenix.  Before takeoff, I called my oldest daughter. “Any news?”  

“She hasn’t heard. She’s thinking it’s a no-go.”

The flight attendant announced it was time to turn off all our electronics.  My anticipation level rose because a lot could happen between Albuquerque and Phoenix and I could be out of the loop.

As the 737 rolled into the blistering summer heat of Phoenix I punched in Dakota’s cell phone. “Nothing going on here, Mama,” she worried.

Pulling my lightly packed luggage into the terminal I went into my Wise Advice From Mama mode. “It’s my guess that you are seriously being considered.  If you were off the show, I can’t imagine that they’d continue the expense of your stay.  So, I’d take this as a good sign.”

My flight out of Phoenix was two hours late.  I grumbled that I’d not get home until midnight and I was already worn out from the stress of this Top Chef business, my weeklong stay with the grandkids, and knowing I had mounds of work to tackle when I got home. The airport quieted down as the clocked ticked further into Sunday night.  I wheeled my carry on to the nearest magazine stand, bought some juice and a granola bar. 

I squirmed back into the leather bench and killed time with the other disgruntled passengers. I slowly tore open the granola bar and balanced the juice on my luggage.  Fur Elise resounded.

“Hi Mama. I love you.  I have to go now. I’ll call when I can. Love you, Mama.”

The phone went dead and I wanted to stand in waiting area 11B and scream MY DAUGHTER’S ON TOP CHEF!

Here’s the video that People Magazine recently posted that shows what happened the next day after Dakota was picked for the top 29 contestants: http://www.people.com/people/article/0%2c%2c20539563%2c00.html

One mystery resolved and over.  A new adventure began.

Would Dakota have to quick-fire armadillo and rattlesnake in a jalapeno-raspberry reduction sauce?

Top Chef Season 9 premiers on Bravo TV, Wednesday, Nov. 2

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