Being on reality tv: being me, trying my best and having fun

It seemed like fun when I first read the advertisement (sent to me by a number of people who thought Neil and I would be “perfect” for this).

Umm.. yeah, hosting dinner parties is what we do. It’s what we do well. Ask any of our friends.  From simple pot lucks to over the top multi-course extravaganzas, we always go out of our way to put on great food (and wine) for our guests.  And we love to do it (though some of us would love it more if we had a bigger kitchen and a dishwasher…).

So we applied for the show, pitching our “ultimate dinner” as an around the world themed meal, complete with wine/ beverage pairings for each course.  We were selected for an in-home audition where we cooked a rocking bavette à l’échalote and home-made sweet potato frites complete with homemade mayonnaise and chatted a little about our ultimate dinner and about the premise of the show.  Three couples who don’t know each other dine at each other’s houses to compete for a (then unnamed) prize.  With a budget and a time limit.  It would be all about the food.  It was, after all, the “Ultimate Dinner Party”.  We mostly wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be like Come Dine with Me, where people typically give low scores to their competition so that they themselves have a better chance of winning.  Oh no, we were assured, it would be a classy affair, judged by a professional chef and an etiquette “expert” from England.  The guests wouldn’t be judging the food at all.  After all, this is Canada and Canadians are nice and polite. Oh-kay then…

A few weeks later we received an email that yes, Food Network Canada would love us to appear on the show and thus ensued some negotiations about when this would take place.  We finally settled on a date a few weeks in the future and started to put our thinking caps on.

Two days later, we received a call letting us know that the filming date had been pushed up. By weeks. In fact, would we be ok to film in, say, 9 days?  Errr… ok. I guess.

So we just sped up our preparations. Finalized our menu. Made it work with the $350 budget we were allocated with pennies to spare (side note: who ever heard of an “ultimate” dinner for what would be 7 people with such a low budget – including wine, I might add?  Fortunately our home cellar offered both high and low end solutions but still…).

We filmed our pre-show interviews a few days before the dinner day. I was enamoured with the beautiful equipment and the gorgeous lighting we were afforded in our normally yellow kitchen. Yes, I coveted those lights…

Cleo thought it was all pretty fun too!

The weekend before the filming day dawned bright and sunny.  Our house was overtaken with all sorts of equipment and cameras.  We tried to do a little prep in between making sure Cleo was not running out of the constantly open door and making sure our house was in good hands.

(yes, Cleo was quite the helper)

I spent a while out in the trailer looking at the camera setup.  So interesting.  From a production standpoint, I was fascinated. The food and the actual dinner really seemed to take a back seat and it was all about the “production”. Sounds like a given being that it’s TV but until you have seen it in action, you can’t understand how “unreal” it all is.

The day of the dinner, it seems we did everything but cook.  We posed for those silly “game face” shots, we met with the judges and talked about our menu, we dodged cameramen and crew and various pieces of equipment as we precariously set up our glassware and dinner table amongst the chaos.

I don’t think we ever really had time to sit back and take stock that we were preparing 9 dishes on camera and serving 10 (the last course was a cheese plate which, curiously never made it onto the show) in a three hour period. Because when you look at what we managed to achieve, it’s pretty impressive.  Especially when we managed to serve this meal to complete strangers and actually had a pretty good time in the process.

See – happy faces, broken glasses, Anthea going back for seconds and thirds of the (apparently non existent) cheese platter.  All signs of a pretty fun evening.  And if you judge the amount of fun by the amount of dishes, well it was most definitely the ultimate party.

(yes, wine pairings for 5 different dishes will create a lot of dirty glasses..)

The week continued with the two dinners at the other couples’ houses.  Dinner 2 was much more formal in nature than ours – mostly due to the fact that their house afforded them the luxury of being able to host different parts of the meal in different rooms (side note: we actually do have a sitting room in our house, a lovely one, though you would not know it from seeing the show where people are portrayed as uncomfortably standing around during hors d’oeuvres.  We were told to keep the action in the dining room and kitchen, which proved to be one of our “downfalls”.  I do think if you ask the 50+ people who crowd our house for our annual holiday party if they thought having a seat would make the party even better, they would be surprised you were even bringing it up).

By the third dinner on the Friday night, we were all pretty tired. Nine hours in one week is a long time to spend with people you know, let alone complete strangers!) Our hosts did not want me to take any pictures so I just have the one. As we say on DPW (seemingly 15 000 times) “Cheers”

At the end of the week, Neil and I wondered (at length) how they would edit what were, at the end of the day, three very pleasant and fun dinner parties. Sure we had all been coaxed into giving some constructive criticism in the “Confessional” but on the whole, we all got along pretty well and had a lot of laughs.

Over the summer (yes, this was filmed months ago – not so good for a worry wort like myself), articles like this one in the Globe and Mail started to come out and the true nature of the beast became more and more clear.  All of a sudden, it didn’t seem like we were in a “nice Canadian” contest after all.

Which made us scratch our heads more – where would they find the drama in our fairly polite, fairly civilised week’s worth of dinner parties?

Yesterday when the episode aired for the first time at noon, I had a steady stream of emails, tweets and messages all afternoon, mostly telling me we came across as ourselves. There were however a few messages asking me why I had not mentioned I am a food blogger. Because apparently I was being berated for taking photos of the food. Ok. Deep breath.

I was on tenterhooks until later last night when I was finally able to watch our episode.  On the whole, I have to say it could have been a lot worse. From the 30+ hours of footage edited into a one hour show, there are so many incidents that could have caught the editors’ attention.  Apparently, the girl who wears her heart and feelings on her sleeve (me) made great tv and I received quite a bit of camera time.  I mean, sure, you sign the agreement that says you may be depicted in an unflattering way (layman’s terms but you know what I mean) but I, being naive, trusting little me, believed that if I behaved myself I would be fine.

But being myself did not serve me well this time around. If you are reading this, you will know that I am a blogger. And a good one at that.  So the fact that I *might* want to document this experience for my blog would seem natural, right? I am proud of my blog, I love my blog and you can bet that it was a huge part of the experience from the actual application form to the audition to the week of filming. I expected to be on the show taking photos of my food. Doing what bloggers do.  And there I was. Again and again and again. With the camera. Curiously, no mention of the blog. None. The only explanation given for me taking photos was that I was doing it “for posterity”.  It seems like a large piece of information to not include and (insert pouty face here) it seems like an easy way to portray me as a rude hostess and guest. Which I am not.

It also seems like an odd thing to focus on in a supposedly food-centric show.  With regards to the food, I am so proud of what Neil and I pulled off. That meal was awesome. In fact, so awesome that we made it all over again, for one of the Project Food Blog Challenges.  A few minor plating changes but none of the dishes changed. They were that good.  I think we tackled the “ultimate” part of the challenge with great gusto and determination and given the original premise of the show, I feel we went above and beyond what was expected.  Sure, I acknowledge that there are a few food-related things we could have done better (and did the second time around).   But in the end, our dinner was fun and tasty and not intimidating for our new friends.

No, we didn’t win the $1000 of cookware and I am actually ok with that. In my heart, our dinner was special and if others didn’t think that, well that’s their prerogative.  Though actually, we all had such a good time (at all the dinners, not just ours) that it’s hard to think that we didn’t all appreciate everyone else’s efforts.  I’m more concerned that people across the country are thinking I am a rude and weird guest. Because I am not. I love dinner parties – especially if someone else is cooking. I get excited about food and am passionate about it.  I hope at the end of the day, that shines through.

Coming into work today was nerve wracking – what would my colleagues have thought?  A rousing cheer and many pats on the back for taking a risk answered my question.

And I leave you with this.

Student A:  Mlle Michels I saw you on tv – that was so cool!
Me: Was I really awful?
Student A: No you were great and you nearly won.
Me: But I didn’t win…
Student A: But you tried really hard didn’t you?
Me: Yes I tried my best.
Student B: High five Mademoiselle!
Student C: But did you have fun?  Because that’s the most important thing.

Doing your best and having fun are two qualities I try to encourage in my own students so this was absolutely what I needed to hear.  It’s always good to practice what you preach, right?

Would I do it again? Probably not. Did we give it our all? Absolutely. Was it fun? At the time, yes.

Dinner Party Wars airs (again) on Food Network Canada on Sunday, November 14th at 12pm, 8pm and 11pm (all EST).  You can also watch it online here.

* Did you see my World on a Plate, Destination: Umbria video? I would love your vote to move on to Round 8 of Project Food Blog where we have to bake with pumpkin.  I have some pretty fun ideas…  Voting open 6AM Pacific Time on Monday, November 15th until 6PM Pacific Time on Thursday November 18th.  Simply click here (note: link no longer live) to read the post and vote.   Many thanks for your continued support.

** Did you know? Jamie Oliver is speaking in Toronto on November 18th.  Thanks to The Art of Cooking, I am able to offer a discount to you, my readers, of $10 per ticket (more if you purchase more than 5 tickets).  Click here for the special promotion code to be applied to your ticket price.  Don’t miss this event – I saw Jamie speak last year and it was inspirational to say the least. It inspired me to start Les Petits Chefs, for one…

139 thoughts on “Being on reality tv: being me, trying my best and having fun”

  1. Kudos to putting yourself out there and while it’s true that TV won’t always show people in the most flattering light at the end of the day you showed Canada it IS possible to make amazing food in a somewhat small kitchen and make professional chefs do the Yummy sound ! Well done.

  2. I still think its awesome that you did it, Mardi. They suck for editing it like that though. I did watch your Umbria video and thought it was awesome – you seem destined to have your own travel/food show. Reality competitions? Eh. Does anyone ever come out of those looking good?

    (And I’m sorry but the prize was cookware? How ridiculously lame is that?! No wonder they kept it a secret – no one would have competed!)

  3. Mardi, I thought you did a tremendous job and it is inexcusable for them not to explain the camera, considering you talked about it at length. I think they should have introduced you as a teacher and a food blogger at the beginning of the show. Because you are! And you have an AMAZING blog we all love with lots of followers who adore you. The fact that they didn’t and you have actually done articles (with photographs) for the Food Network is so not fair. You were very brave to do this challenge, one I personally would never do, especially now and I actually thought you came across great. You were someone I would want to hang out with way more than anyone else there. Your food was impressive, looked delicious and was very ambitious!

    I could go on and on and on… but overall, when I think of the three couples you stand out the most in a positive way and so does your food.

    I would have fallen in love the lighting too BTW. Oh to have REAL lights in my kitchen to fix the white balance? Sigh… I can not believe you did all that wine tasting without a dishwasher! And your wine cellar? Totally impressive. Like I said, I could go on forever. I’m going to share this on my FB page, it’s a great article which all your articles are. Bravo Mardi! And thank god that’s over.

    • Thanks for your support Suzie. At the end of the day, I knew they would edit all of our behaviour to suit the “story”. I just didn’t realise that they would leave out key information. I guess I should just be flattered that they thought I made good TV, right? LOL!

  4. Mardi, reality shows are rarely depict true reality. Your passion for food came shining through and you should be proud of that. By the way, I’m in complete love with your wine cellar!

  5. That’s so cool that you were on the show!! I didn’t catch the episode, so hopefully they will post it online. The episode description sounded a little harsh (“And why is Mardi taking travel photos at the dinner table?”), so I’m disappointed as well that they would paint you in such a light. I think you should be proud that you cooked such an amazing meal on television 🙂

    • Thanks Laura. I am very proud of what we managed to achieve. Also, the descriptions hardly match the final product. Our ep was called “Cats and hammered” – presumably because our cat Cleo had a lot of film time and presumably because someone got drunk. In the end, neither Cleo nor any drunk guests were shown.

  6. Great post. We watched the show and think you did a great job. I am pretty, I dont know, upset that they would focus so much on the interaction, or the edited interaction rather than the food.

    Great wine cellar 🙂 When are we coming over for dinner?

    • Yes well when we auditioned, we were told it would be all about the food. I guess, just like you can’t believe everything you see, I shouldn’t have been so naive. And you and Mrs Guilty Kitchen are welcome in our house anytime when you are out east here!

  7. You are so brave, far braver than I, to do what you did. I am utterly in awe of you right now for taking the risk, putting yourself out there, and doing a great job. Television is a tricky thing. A friend of mine was once on a ‘reality’ show – he eventually won the whole thing – and I was amazed how they were able to edit him into a cut-throat, self-serving jerk. He is NONE of those things. I’m sure their ‘production’ efforts added the element of drama they felt they needed, and I am so sorry that by doing that you felt anything other than how you should feel … and that is AWESOME. Because you are. Your friends, IRL and in blogland, know it, and I am sure Canada knows it too simply because of the fantastic meal you prepared. I am proud to know you, and proud you took the chance and showed Canada that you are a force of nature in the kitchen!

  8. As sneaky as the TV producers were regarding the reality show, I wouldn’t worry about your portrayal b/c everyone who watched it and know you still love and respect you. Your students especially sound lovely and are a testament to you both as a teacher and a wonderful person. Congrats on being so courageous to be on camera and for what sounds like a delicious meal!

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  10. Mardi, having met you once and spending part of an evening getting acquainted over a pint, I can say that you seemed like an amiable person and someone I could hang out with. Afterall, we are also foodies!

    I too recall the casting call for this show, I thought about signing up for all of 5 minutes and decided against it. The issue I have with reality TV is that it really isn’t. Like any show, there has to be a story, a beginning and an ending and a good guy and bad guy.

    Reality shows manipulate and skew reality…and image makers can make nice guys seem like a-holes (apparently Gordon Ramsay is a great guy and Jamie Oliver is an ass). If such huge personalities can be massaged and and twisted like a handful of plastacine then imagine what could be done to us, the TV novice?

    The editor(s) of a show can magnify what they want and leave on the cutting floor what they don’t. On the episode you were on, you got the lucky/unlucky roll of the editor’s dice.

    Remember, we are also food bloggers, we have strong opinions and in the eyes of chefs and restaurants, we need to be put in our place. Perhaps that’s why there was no mention of your hobby/passion or was it that if they plugged one blogger then a line-up of only bloggers would try to be on the show (when they want regular folks too)?

    You were not presented fairly and as for who won the contest…matters little…arbitrary. Having watched a few episodes of Dinner Party Wars, I’ve seen prior show contestants be shown in a less than flattering light. Who defended these people in a blog post? Would this blog post have been written with this angle had your won or would you have cried fowl if another contestant was a victim of the editor’s manipulation?

    Why did you appear on the show, for fun, for exposure, to be discovered or all? Consider it a learning experience and go back to entertaining and cooking for family and friends. Keep on pushing boundaries be it in the kitchen or in life or in media.

    I always try something once, especially food and drink and on most occasions in life. If I taste something new and I like it, then I’ve discovered a new food, drink – a new flavour…more options in the kitchen. Conversely, if I try something and I don’t like how it tastes then I’m content that I tried it, I don’t have to ever taste it again but…I can say I tried it.

    It could very well be you now don’t like how “reality TV” tastes but…at least you were brave enough to have tried it. Most can’t say that.You’re braver than most.

    • Peter, you make some excellent points here and I thank you for taking the time to comment so thoroughly. You are right about so many things but I thing the most important point you bring up is trying new things – this was exactly what that was all about. Hopefully we will hang out over a few more pints in the future!

  11. I agree with your students… If you gave it your best and had fun, then that’s AMAZING! I never would have the guts to go on a TV show. Friends always ask me about trying out for TV cooking shows, and I’m always happy to tell them that TV is something that I have no desire to do. Good for you for giving it a shot and doing your best.

  12. Wowww I think that is so amazing that you did this and went through all that trouble planning and preparing… I think I would’ve totally cracked under pressure, lol.

  13. I haven’t seen the show yet, but I’m sure you did a great job on the dinner. That’s the frustrating part about TV or reality TV — it’s edited for entertainment…for the show. Lots can be taken out of context, and of course they’re deliberate…for show. I’m miffed that they didn’t mention you were a food blogger — but a fellow food-snapping person would certainly know. 🙂

    Can’t wait to see it, though.

    PS I wish Cleo would have been in the video!

  14. you are so brave for having participated in this and for taking the chance on what it would all turn out to be like! i am sorry they didn’t paint you in a better light though, for you are a tremendously talented writer, photographer, and cook. you win huge points for what was certainly the most ambitious menu and for the sheer amount of creative effort that went into your meal. you and neil really put yourselves on your dinner table, and that spoke far more highly of who you are as hosts and cooks than their slanted editing gave you credit for. as is often the case, the truth has come from the mouths of babes, so to speak . . . you had fun, you tried your best, you learned something. it was a worthwhile adventure and all who know you are proud of what you did!

  15. I agree with Cat…….anyone who has had the pleasure of attending one of yours and Neil’s dinner parties know there are no better hosts than you two. The food is always excellent,the wine chosen with care and the evening is always memorable. What more could anyone ask for.

    Well done Neil and Mardi…….take a well deserved bow.

  16. I thought you and Neil did a great job! I would have been honoured to have been a part of that dinner party!

    As a former TV producer it’s no surprise how they edited things. You and Neil seemed to be the most unique and interesting and given the other couples you provided more material (she takes photos! of food! how strange!) for them to skew and distort. Reality TV is pretty much the pits and totally sleazy.

    Overall just think of this as a neat experience to file away in your memory bank.

    I still heart you!


  17. Well, I’ve fallen in love all over again with Les Petits Chefs for that interaction. Out of the mouths of babes, hey?

    I agree with everyone above that you guys should be patting yourselves on the back for doing yourselves so proud with the dinner. It really was incredible and you are to be commended. Also massive kudos for having the balls to get involved in this. So many of us think it would be cool to do something like this but are too lazy or fearful to have a go. Like the little chefs seem to agree, having a go is SO IMPORTANT and says a lot about the type of people you are.

    As someone who has been lucky enough to have been a guest at your house, I thumb my nose (and shake my arse) at the powers that be for misrepresenting you. In some ways though, perhaps it is better for us that know you (and who may be lucky enough to dine with you again) that this has happened, otherwise the queue to be a guest at your place may be far too long to negotiate 😉

    I guess this whole experience is a reminder that by putting yourself out there, you are opening yourself up to possible negativity, but if you don’t put yourself out there then what is the point in life? We must take risks if we are to succeed and have worthwhile moments, and I think that we all realise this and have great RESPECT for those that we see are taking those risks. Seriously.

    Big hugs your way xxx

  18. MARDI, what a wonderful experience, and an even more wonderful post about the experience.

    I take off my toque and bow to you.

  19. Oh Mardi, I love that you never stopped being you. I loved watching you share your excitement, even if they exploited certain things. Neil and you were so knowledgeable, and I felt that you went all out. It’s fascinating to hear both sides of the story – seeing it as well as what went on behind the scenes.

    I would consider it a pleasure if I ever was to dine (and maybe even cook!) with you :).

  20. I think you nailed it when you said”….until you have seen it in action, you can’t understand how “unreal” it all is…” Absolutely true! It is such a relief when it’s over, huh?! It seems that it wasn’t as horrible as you thought it would be – I’m glad! BTW, your students are such sweethearts for those comments!

    • Thanks Emme. And you’re right. It could have been so much worse for me or anyone else on the show, given how they skewed a tiny part of the proceedings (the photos) and made it into a huge deal. Yes, my students help me keep my thoughts in perspective.

  21. Bravo Mardi! I’m so glad you guys gave this a go with your integrity in tact! Often times, people compromise their true selves for the camera but it’s clear you guys played hard and fair. I’m going to try to watch this show some way and you can bet I’ll be cheering madly for my blogger friend! 🙂

  22. You and Neil are winners in my books! Kudos to you both for throwing an amazing party with a great theme running through the whole meal, and really pushing the bar by offering so many courses and so much variety. Your party wasn’t about the smoke and mirrors. It came down to your love and passion for food and travel, and that truly came through in your menu. My hats off to you both! I would never be able to do so much in such a short time, and to do it so well!

    Having once been a dinner guest at one of your dinner parties, I can say that you throw a KILLER dinner party and you are truly a fabulous hostess! So proud of you Mardi! xoxo

  23. Wow! That sounds like a nice experience. Sorry you didn’t win and they didn’t mention your blog! At least you got a nice post out of it! Is there somewhere we can view the episode online?

  24. Having had the delightful honour of dining with you and Neil, I can only say that anyone who edited out your obvious passion for making and sharing food is most foolish. You are both very brave and can be proud of yourselves.

  25. It was great to see you on the show yesterday. My husband thought I was kidding when I said I met you the previous evening. The food looked absolutely amazing. You and Neil did a fine job. Most people know never to believe whatever you see on television and I’m sure you don’t have to worry about that at all. The proof is in the posts above 🙂

  26. Wow is right!! You rocked Mardi and who cares about the $1000 prize. You and Neil won that and everyone who watched would agree. Well done!! Great pictures, great fun and a wonderful experience. Blog on!!

  27. I haven’t seen the show yet (I will watch your episode though!) as it’s reality tv and that usually means that things get taken out of context to make for drama and to portray people as something other than they are. Making this very brave indeed!

    I’m glad to know that the meal was great and that the other people who participated were good company as well! Too bad the real “reality” part was lost. I’m sure with our couple of conversations and the other comments that it would have been a fantastic dinner party 😀

    • Yes, it was interesting to see where our episode aired (very late in the season, though we were one of the first episodes filmed) – obviously we didn’t have enough drama at all! And yes, we had a lot of fun that week! You just can’t tell from watching the show!

  28. What an experience! The whole thing sounds like a marathon! Despite the fact that you weren’t depicted in a completely accurate light, it’s all part of the reality tv experience. That being said, your dinner party sounds like it was a lot of fun! Can I R.S.V.P. in advance for the next one? 😀

  29. I am sure it was a hectic week full of happenings…Preparing a meal for your own family can be tiring..I can imagine preparing for complete strangers…

  30. I had such fun reading this post. What an experience that must have been. Whatever the outcome, you’ve experienced something that most people will never get to and would give their eye teeth for. That alone is priceless. Your love for food shines through everything you do. You are a total winner in my book!

  31. This is our favourite show. I have read most of this blog entry.

    I have to say, while I join your friends in congratulating you on your ‘war’ effort, if contestants were graded based on being a guest, you would have been relegated to last place immediately. Who takes photos of their plates at the table? At the table filled with your guests in your own home is in poor taste, but then you were doing it at the home of the other contestants. If I were hosting you in our home, regardless of your professional bio, I would have been heavily put off.

    The entire show seemed painful for you. Remember in the beginning when one of the show hosts suggested you try to avoid appearing like a snob foodie? You really should have tried harder.

    If you’re good at what you do, take pride in that quietly…why do you find the need to insult everyone else who invited you into their home? You weren’t isolating your insults to verbal food criticisms….the expressions on your face were worth one thousand words. You even tried throwing the other team under the bus with your comment about the minimum 3 courses.

    I think, all in all, you chose the wrong show to appear on. You should have come down off your pedestal and invited food network to just produce a documentary about you, your travels and your working life.

    • Andrea, while I haven’t seen this show, and I can’t comment on Mardi’s delivery during the show, I can say that this is her personal space, and everyone should respect that.

      I know that she is putting it out there for everyone to read (and watch), but I ask you, is it really necessary to say things that would hurt her feelings on her personal space. AND if you are going to go so far as to do so, please read the entire post next time.

      Instead of just “most of it”.

      • First of all, thank you for your reply.

        You state:
        “this is her personal space”
        I did not scour the internet looking for this blog. In fact, as I subscribe to Twitter, a link was proffered by Food Network Canada. I followed the link to their site, which brought me to this link here.

        I believe the internet to be a public forum, made even more so with links to personal blogs posted on high-traffic sites.

        As a post-script, I would like to let you know that I did read the entire blog and I have no desire to alter my initial response. I did not, at any time, insult Mardi’s creativity, ability or home. I have no qualms with the food she prepared, but maybe there is something to be said for simplicity. The winning team had only 3 courses (brings to mind KISS, eliminating that last ‘S’)

        I imagine opinions would be very different for those who are personal friends of those portrayed on reality television. However, I felt this blog entry to be a further put-down of the other contestants, the show and the network written by a poor sport.

    • I am sick and tired of women being told to feel good about themselves quietly and meekly. Part of the show is they are supposed to be honest about their reactions to the food and the experience. I think Mardi did a great job doing that. This comment really oozes condescension. I think it may be you who needs to come off your judgy pedestal.

      • “I am sick and tired of women being told to feel good about themselves quietly and meekly”

        I don’t believe I was addressing gender, specifically.

        There is something to be said for all humans who have quiet pride in themselves.

        Thank you for your reply.

  32. I haven’t seen the show yet, will watch it when it re-airs this weekend. So, I’m glad that I was able to read this post before I saw it. Reality TV is a misnomer. It is not reality once edited for ratings. I loved your video and I love your blog. They are the reality of Mardi.

    BTW I think that you and your husband are very brave to have done the show, not to mention quite talented at pulling off such a wonderful dinner party in your home with all of the production crew present.

  33. I had a smile on my face the entire show – watching my friends doing what they do best… and on tv!! = fantastic! Congrats on pulling off a much more complex and a far more difficult dinner than the other two couples. I think it’s blasphemous the cheese plate was cut!! How dare they leave out France! 🙂 You are the champions in my mind! 🙂

  34. Mardi I am really proud of you. Do not worry what anyone else thinks of how you come off, remember that most of those people will never have the joy of being a dinner guest in your home! If they were, they would know you are a food blogger, and they would be THRILLED to be a part of it!

    I applaud you for doing something challenging and remaining who you are. And I flippin wish I had food network Canada! DAMN!

  35. Wow, what an interesting experience! I can understand how frustrating that must be, to feel misrepresented in the name of them wanting to put on a good show. It really makes me wonder about other food shows, reality shows, etc. I met a guy from one of those tattoo reality shows once and he said that half the people you see working in the shop don’t even really work there. I think that most people understand that it’s all just for television and there is a lot that is manipulated in the editing to make it “interesting” for viewers.

    Anyway… it sounds like you came out of the experience with a great attitude, and it’s so cool that you even had the opportunity to be involved with something like this! I remember reading that project food blog post where you said you’d pulled off the dinner twice… now it all comes together! Great post, I have to say I read the whole thing, you write very well and I kept wanting to know what happened next! 😉

  36. Yikes, Andrea — talk about being “heavily put off” — I think your comment rude and hurtful. Even though the TV show left Mardi’s camera unexplained, don’t you think the other couples knew why she had it? And I have to say, I’d much rather watch someone who doesn’t mouth niceties to people’s faces then slam them in private interviews than one who does. Wearing her heart on her sleeve as Mardi says is at least honest. I won’t go on because I’m in the US and haven’t seen the show in question, but do realize you are hurting an actual human being’s feelings here.

    • Aw it’s ok Carrie but thanks for having my back. I knew that going on the show and subsequently writing this post that I would open myself up to this type of comment and it’s fine. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and to believe (or not) what they see on TV.

  37. First of all, a huge pat on the back for your strength and courage! As much as all of us may dream of being on tv, doing this would scare the pants off of me. And thanks for posting it. It is fascinating to hear what really goes on behind the scenes and how they cut down so many hours to get such a small slice of an entire day. Amazing how the whole thing works. And frustrating, I can agree with you there. I hope to be able to watch the show on the internet. In the end, it really must’ve been a great experience for you and Neil.

  38. Mardi and Neil, I hope this doesn’t come across as brash, but here’s what I think: I think you came across as food nerds. There I said it.

    But I would have totally come across the exact same way. Hosting a dinner party without cameras and crew in your house is hard enough, but with all the pressure added on and Prompts from the crew as well, it’s hard to imagine anyone coming off as friendly and joyous.

    I did think you and Neil seemed like the best choice for the win, what with your generous donation from your (GORGEOUS) cellar and the ample amounts of food . (Whoever that blond woman was, I feel sorry for her. I would much rather have had an around the world culinary journey than three simple courses I could have made at home *zing!*)

    In any case, I think the risk of being on reality TV has just proven itself once more, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about. You have an amazing blog and we all love you for it!

  39. Simply put, this is the crappiest show on Food Network. It’s not funny, or educational. Just another production company intent on making schlepp programs to fill time. Painful to watch the nonsense that this show is.

    You and your husband seem like decent people. Have you caught the bug to be on reality TV then ?

    And for all the hassle you were put through. A $1000.00 set of cookware. Cmon. That’s so low budget.

    • I must agree! $1000 in cookware? I mean, for the caliber of cooks they want to see on the show, wouldn’t they already have their preferred cookware? Maybe it’s actually a gift certificate so you can buy things you really need for in the kitchen…

      And…is that $1000 retail? Because I bet Food Network gets a discount!

      But I do like the show…maybe in part because it’s Canadian and it’s always good to see Canadians on television.

    • Olive, as I said earlier, we didn’t actually know what the prize was until it was revealed. In any case, it wasn’t about winning a prize. I am sorry you think it’s a crappy show. It’s not my fave either (and that was before I even saw our episode) mainly because it’s not the show that was originally pitched to us.

  40. oh my gosh, mardi…i’ve been debating over the past several weeks whether or not to have my annual christmas party. my house is a mess, my kitchen a disaster, and my weeks through the holidays booked up and crazy.

    your post has totally inspired me to go ahead with it again!! thanks for sharing and i wish i could see the show! 🙁

  41. I’ve worked in TV as a producer/director for 15 years and this is the way TV is going (alas). I say that because it’s all about “Finding a Hook” to bring the viewer back between segments/commercials in this remote-controlled 500 channel age. So if that means fabricating a hook (ie Mardi taking pix) then that’s what producers will do. I’m Not saying it’s right- but I know first-hand this is what happens in shows to ensure ratings. Frustrating for Mardi and Neil though because yes, so much is left up to the audience to “decide” for themselves and they are exceptional hosts (I know this first hand as well). But like they say, Andrea, try walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. You may find it’s not as easy or as comfortable as you think!…

  42. Mardi,

    I haven’t yet seen the show but I think that your participation is a feat in itself to be extremely proud of! It’s so upsetting how sneaky television production can be–but I’m sure everyone knows that words and people are twisted if only to bring in as many viewers as possible.

    Congratulations on a successful job…which, by all the comments above mine, I say confidently despite not seeing the show. I can’t wait to watch it again on Sunday!! I’ve set up a reminder on my phone so I won’t forget!

    Your Petite Chefs are adorable. And kudos to you for instilling such beautiful and positive thoughts and energy in them. You have been an inspiration to me since I entered the blogging world and continue to be so! (I apologize if that offends you since I’ve been such a big slacker later–haha:):) )

  43. Mardi! I commend you for putting yourself out there! You can never predict how the producers of reality TV shows will edit the footage. Regardless of how they made you look on TV- I’m still on Team Mardi 🙂
    Have a great weekend!

  44. Hi Mardi –
    I wish I could see it. It had to be some pretty fancy editing to make you look in any way rude! I’m glad you had fun and shared the experience!

  45. Mr. Neil here…just letting everyone know I’ve survived the show and the post. 🙂

    I’m just waiting quietly in the weeds to add in a word. 😉

    Busy workday, though – so might not be until the weekend…

  46. sounds like you did a great job (both at throwing a dinner party AND teaching kids to be good humans). i guess that’s reality tv for you. drama is always better than real life, for ratings.

    • People misrepresented on reality tv shows unite!

      You will be bemused to know that they called my “popette d’uova” “meatless balls” and my “île flottante” a “floating marshmallow”. talk about dumbing it down 😉

  47. It seems that all in all, this was an unpleasant experience but I doubt you are the first couple and equally doubt you will be the last to join in something that ‘seems’ fun but that is edited and manipulated to provide the ‘drama’ so requisite of un-reality TV. It’s a shame your experience was so negative; it sounded like it would be such fun!

    Hopefully it was at the very least a learning experience. The one thing I have to admit…I’m surprised at your taking photos through the process and would have thought that participating in this event would have circumvented the food blogging aspect as it was in itself a video journal.

    I’ve read too many commentaries since I started blogging that cite how annoying that picture taking experience can be for other diners and I do believe we have a great responsibility to insure that our craft does not interfere with the enjoyment of others. Surely a tough call but just as surely one we have to be cognizant of.

    • Actually it was not unpleasant at all. As I said in the post, we had fun. And it was a learning experience. Re: the photos, I asked permission (multiple times) of both other hosts and in the end, have probably less than 15 photos from the two dinners where I was allowed to take them. Hardly as intrusive as it is made out to be.

  48. It’s TV. It’s a voracious beast. It lives and dies on the basis of the number of viewers. Conflict, drama, edginess work better – we’re all guilty as viewers.
    It’s here today, gone tomorrow. It matters not. What it gave you was an experience and, every time that happens, you learn something.
    You and Neil gave a great dinner party – you’re happy that you did your best, nothing else matters. Well done.

    • Cheers. And you’re right. Of course. Imagine that all the conflict, drama and edginess they could pull was some girl taking photos and a barbecue not working at the third dinner party! Must have made for some difficult editing!

  49. WOW! I’m so impressed that you were selected – what a huge compliment to get that far and even more successful to pull off the meal! I can’t handle cooking in front of one person let alone a camera set! 🙂

  50. I had NO idea you were on the show, and to be honest, after reading that Globe and Mail article, I don’t think (ok I KNOW) I couldn’t have done that. For me, entertaining is far too stressful and hosting a dinner party where people are able to go off camera and rip me to shreds would not be something I could take.

    Bravo to you! 🙂

  51. It is a horrible show. Not because you were on it… but because of exactly what happened to you. Corban took his culinary training at NAIT and is an Edmonton boy. I am really sad that the show is produced and edited in such a disgusting fashion. I don’t even watch it anymore. It is degrading and unfortunate. I would never put myself in the hands of the media… in any way. I haven’t see your episode, and probably will not. I am actually surprised to read that you put yourselves through all of that, but am glad you had fun at the time.

  52. I haven’t seen your episode yet, but I’m sure you did great! Fellow bloggers would totally understand your picture taking!
    I find the show to be a little strange to be honest. Have you seen the episode where a woman pretends to get sick to throw off her host? Who does that?

    • Yes, it is a little strange, I agree. And yes, whilst we’re talking bad etiquette, pretending to be ill from the food or putting a mouse trap in the bathroom seem like way worse behaviour than taking a few pictures. However, since we can’t always believe everything we see, I wouldn’t want to judge those ladies on how they were depicted either…

  53. Ughhh! The things that end up on the cutting room floor huh, know what you mean. Good for you for doing it, it would have been so much fun.

  54. Definitely a congrats to you! I do love what your students told you in the aftermath. As a teacher, and food blogger as well, it was quite fascinating, because I think we often learn as teachers that we are our own hardest critics, whereas someone else would say we did great – regardless.

  55. Surprisingly, we were just talking about Corban at a meeting and the show came up and someone saw your episode and said you two did fantastic… that you were clearly a blogger by how passionate you were about food and your photos (he is a blogger, too – and we all recognize one another) and that he was shocked (actually SHOCKED) you did not win.

  56. Cleo here.

    I just wanted to say how *upset* I am that NONE of my endearing conversation and tail-flicking made it onto the show. Never mind all this other clap-trap about how people are portrayed – I didn;t even get a CHANCE to be portrayed.

    On the cutting room floor, indeed….


    Cleo Mimi Cat

    P.S. And I *loved* the nonexistent cheese course, me.

  57. Congrats on the filming! And I agree with your students, it’s not whether you win. It’s that you tried so hard. Looks like you had a huge production. Editing can be so cruel. But hey, at least Cleo looked fabulous and didn’t get carried out with the crew.

  58. I competed on a reality TV food show in June where they did the same thing. It was fun to do but then all of a sudden you see the finished product and it’s not exactly (ok, nowhere near) what you thought it would be…

    • Well those are the risks I guess. Though I do agree – even though you know what you are signing up for, it’s still so interesting to see how it turns out in the end especially when you were there and had a totally different view of things.

  59. Reality shows have been around for quite a while now and one does know how the editor’s love stories! Thats how it works, people like a story.

    The important part is that you were brave enough to dive in. The part that the food blogging part was not mentioned can have many reasons. Don’t real chef’s sometimes hate we food bloggers? Either way I think it was unfair. But love what u say towards the end, you had fun when you were at it. Its an experience and I’m sure its all worth it in the end!


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