To sum up: FOX's Kitchen Nightmares came to Austin to rescue El Greco, a family-owned Greek Taverna. The taping was in September; I sent an email, was screened, and deemed acceptable to appear for the "after" taping segment. On arrival, I was asked to sign a "blogger's" non-disclosure agreement (different from the NDA I was asked to print and sign and bring with me to the restaurant). The NDA asked that I not reveal anything about the taping of the show before it aired. It aired Friday, which means my dirty laundry airs NOW.
(Note: This was excepted from an email I wrote to friends right after the taping).
In person, Gordon Ramsay resembles a tall, handsome, thin, strong, wrinkly ginger Sultana.
So I didn't get the email confirmation until after ten pm the night before. Work dragged by, then me and Francis showed up a little early for our 5:50 reservation, just in time to walk around the corner and see a massive camera rig, several buses, and a huge crew of
weary-looking people who had probably been working long days all week at the tail end (I hope) of a record-setting Texas drought. The crew asked us if we were there for dinner, we said yes, then they asked us to back up because GR was making his entrance to the restaurant!! So we backed up - beep, beep, beep - and watched as the camera swung and GR walked - strode, even - purposefully across the street into the place: what a thrill. Just like he does on TV!
Then came some waiting. We went around the corner into a not uncharming parking garage and handed over our NDAs to the production staff. Basically, we agreed to let FOX use our likeness, not be paid, pay for our food, drink responsibly, not drink if we were under 21, turn off our cell phones, and not take pictures. Then we were photographed, and told to wait in a line.
It helps to remember the bizarro aspect of Austin of which people are so freaking cheeful about waiting in lines. Waiting is half or maybe more than half the fun of whatever the thing they are waiting in line to do. It isn't unpleasant, just a little Stepford Wife-y, but hey. Anything that makes standing around in a parking garage next to a porta-potty in over 100-degree heat more tolerable is fine with me. And yes Austinites, I do find your cheerfulness tolerable.
After a few sweat beads burst through our skin, a producer came up to me and asked if I could say how many readers my blog has. I was purposefully vague - and I never really check the stats. I said it varies and it can be thousands of page views for some stories, and hundreds a day, depending. I really don't know. He fished, "millions?" I doubt it. More like thousands.
We waited some more. I never closely checked the time during all of this, but there was a lot of waiting. Then another producer approached us and said that Gordon liked food bloggers (I know, he's done that schtick on the show before!), and that he may say "Delicious Austin" but not "dot com" and that I may be featured on the show. Woo hoo, sure - but there was also a dude in a wheelchair and a dude from the military an I think a Fox journo from the local channel here, so it's a long shot that me and my blog would be featured. I plotzed anyway. I puked and died. I was like, can there please be a shot of GR reading my blog and chuckling, "oh Alex, ha ha, you donkey." Or at least reading it and complaining, "Oh come on! You donkey!"
I had to sign a second NDA saying I wouldn't blog about the production aspects of the show - but can tell you guys!!
So we wait and wait - then finally get to make our filmed entrance. Twice. We had to go back because a car came down the road. The producer asked us to walk in a second time and said, "for posterity, guys?" The crew was so nice.
The place was lovely - open and airy, blue and white, with red tiled roofs over nooks in the space. Super cute, with round blue place mats and big, heavy white jugs of water on the table - very needed for the hot day.
After we waited to be seated, GR came over and shook my hand. He is fit! Tall. Francis made fun of me for being so excited.
There were about four camera guys working the room and a boom guy, all with weight belts
and heavy gear. There were three or more producers inside. And I saw a hidden camera focused on us, and a few more placed around the room. It's a small restaurant!
Then we were seated. Service was awkward, and even more so were the cameras, which came up to film every table, often. We were asked by producers to direct our conversation about the restaurant and the food when the cameras came around. This of course made me want to hold up a copy of that day's paper and talk about current events, but I did not.
The owner, a lovely lady with fantastic skin who could be in her 50s, could be in her 60s, seemed stressed-out, very overwhelmed. Her smile left her face as we were there - about two hours in all. She stressed out over changing tables for new parties, and I saw her hand two bottles of wine to a table so they could open it themselves! Whoops.
We did not hear GR yelling at anyone. I did see him supervise the line. I can't say that I even saw the chef working. I am sure he was there, but he made no impression on me. The producers kept asking us to wait saying that chef wanted to talk with us (GR or chef Jake? I have no idea), but we lingered long after our baklava was eaten and then just left. We did exit twice do the crew could get their shot - for posterity.