Red Lobster Fantasy – The Camera Adds 10 Pounds to…My Forehead

the delicious on tv: usa character fantasy
My hands were tightened into tiny little fists of furious excitement under my desk in a desertate attempt to contain myself. I had sucked in a barely audible gasp that elevated in volume to a silent shrieking in my head.

They wanted me! Little Delicious moi?! They wanted to use me as a food “expert” on TV!

I re-read the email from the production company about 12 times out of sheer excitement before I stopped. Whatever idiotic grin I had plastered on my face was slowly peeling away to reveal utter horror.



TV? Like…television? Like I’d have to be…on camera? And the ten seconds of my big fat blabbing maximum headroom that didn’t hit the editor’s recycling bin would somehow get electromagically transferred as red, blue and green lights across a massive multi-netowrk of cables, waves, and satellite beams to the screens of the seven people who actually watch Saturday afternoon broadcasts of late ’80s/early ‘90s movies and don’t change the channel during the five-minute interstitial spots that might be more worthless than a commercial?

Those seven people might actually see me…on screen?!

I immediately swore off carbs for the next two weeks.

Then I went and ate a cupcake to calm myself down.

On Saturday afternoons, the USA Network shows movies. Don’t act like you’ve never woken up hungover at 1:30 on Saturday and did a marathon viewing of Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, the Breakfast Club, and the second showing of Sixteen Candles. To take up time between mvoies, USA airs what they call “interstitials.” Character Fantasy is one of these five-minute show where the hostess scoops up a regular person out of their mundane little life, takes them to an “expert” for advice, and makes them over into their personal character fantasy – surfer, wedding planner, pop singer…food critic?

Sounds like me!

No, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t the person who was going to be transformed into a world reknown food critic in just under five minutes of TV time. If it were my personal fantasy, my friends, it would be a very bad reality show. Someone else’s fantasy “job” is to be a food critic, and the show asked me to stand in as the expert.

Stop laughing. I’m sensitive.

I was a little surprised myself, and as much as I wanted to play along, I asked the Producer’s assistant if they were out of their f**king minds?! I am not a food critic, nor am I an “expert” in either food or critiquing. I suggested they contact an actual, professional food critic like J Gold or someone from the LA Times. They didn’t care. I suspect their asking me had something to do with my being much, much less expensive. You know, like “free.”

After I verbally agreed to act as a coach to an aspiring food critic (I still can’t get over how utterly ironic that is), I felt a bit like a sell-out. Perhaps “sell-out” isn’t quite the exact term, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be perceived as being like every other person in LA who would do anything just to get on TV with the hope that perhaps they would be discovered into stardom. Had I been ignoring a dream of being a much less adventurous, though no less foul-mouthed female Tony Bourdain? Did I secretly want to be the next Sandra Lee with an ethnicity that actually matches my Asian last name? Was I hoping that my grossly disproportionate head could out-size Giada?

Nah, I wasn’t selling out. Let’s not forget that 1) I actually have quite a problem with my face being “outedanywhere, let alone on camera, and 2) I haven’t had my TV hooked up in over a year. TV is dead to me. I just thought it would be fun.

However, I could use no such logic to reason my way out of hypocrisy when it came to the episode’s location.

We were going to be critiquing the food at What. The. F**k?!?! Red Lobster.

Red F**king Lobster?!?! For the Seafood F**king Lover in me?!?! I had to keep myself from falling over when the assistant told me, almost apologetically because she knew. She knew. Oh, she knew all right. Red Lobster is a chain. Not only is it a chain, but it’s a chaaaain. There is nothing inherently wrong with restaurant chains. Once there are two locations, a restaurant becomes a chain; Mastro’s is a chain. However, no food critic in his or her right mind would review the Red Lobster chain. A food blogger, yes (obviously), but not a real food critic. Do you see Jonathon Gold kicking back in a badly upholstered corner booth with a pail of Alaskan King Crab legs and hush puppies?!? Of course you don’t, because it doesn’t happen. Just by virtue of suggesting that a food critic could write about Red Lobster, the show would be sending the wrong message to any other aspiring food critics out there – or at least, to the one aspiring food critic of the seven total people watching movies on USA on a Saturday afternoon.

Did I mention we were doing this in a Red Lobster restaurant in Orange County?!?!

That one hurt me. It really did.

As much fun as I make of Red Lobster, I do have to give them credit for delivering to its target market. The understanding is that except when I am hurling Cheddar Bay Biscuits at my own face at a comfortable cruising speed of 500 calories per minute, I am no longer part of Red Lobster’s target market. (There was a point in my distant childhood when Red Lobster was a fancy night out for my family.) Beyond the fact that I already have a mild aversion to the restaurant’s namesake, more than half the items on Red Lobster’s menu are potential cause for a merciless attack on my immune system by a small army of very angry histamines. My only real options at Red Lobster are finned surf or turf. In either case, the food is fairly plain. Besides, who goes to Red Lobster to order a steak?

Honey, you go to Sizzler for that.

The shoot – OMG! I feel like such and Industry person saying “the shoot” – was fun because I got to experience just how much time and effort goes into producing one tiny five-minute spot. I had to be on-site for little more than half a day, and my gi-ada-normous, bloated face appears for all of about, oh, 10 seconds. I have new respect for all the folks in entertainment production. The tedium of take after take after take of the exact same sentence is exhausting. At least the Executive Chef whom they flew in
from Red Lobster Headquarters in Florida was sweet enough to send me off with a few biscuits. For that, losing my food cred and the commute to OC were worth it.

The final spot aired on a Saturday afternoon in July. If you swear to the higher being in which you believe that you will neither laugh nor judge, I’ll let you watch it online.

** a year ago today, bread & porridge is better than an MBA education **
** two years ago today, harry potter eats tortilla espanola after partying in ibiza **

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