I banked the curves along the stately, pine tree-lined streets of Beverly Hills, the sun’s beams splintered by branches
and needles. I wanted to admire the antiseptic beauty of the neighborhood but there was no time really. I was late for a shoot. My pal Chef Megan Mitchell (remember from my CLEO review?) was filming a one-off cooking show promo, and she wanted me to be one of her guests.
The star! Chef Megan Mitchell.
It figures that I would be the only person that could please Megan, her producers, and the show’s future audience. After all, don’t you want someone tall (6’0”), dark (almost all year round), handsome (arguably) and polite (anyone?) to come cook with you? I’m also single, so any attractive strangers please leave comments with your cell number.
Winding a residential road, I couldn’t help but catch glimpses of the opulent homes – some seemingly plopped down by a crane or helicopter onto the manicured, jungle-like slopes. Others appeared old enough that they might have been carved right out of the hillsides. There was also no parking. My Honda rolled up slowly to a tight spot where one end was a driveway, and the other a lipstick red sedan. I could fit. But it might be a little tight. Inching forward, I slid in nicely, but I love-tapped the vehicle in front.
“Oops.” I murmured, feeling slightly bad, yet again, in city where parallel parking is status quo, it happens. So I was going to go about my day when – VROOM — the sedan roared to life.
“oh… shit.” I grumbled. Now I definitely had to do the whole “hey I think I hit your car there” thing. I glanced at the bumper which already looked dinged up to begin with but didn’t see anything glaring. I knocked on the window and a chirpy woman rolled it down. On the passenger’s seat, she had a basket with a yapping Chihuahua in it.
“I nudged your car.”
“I hit your car when I was parking.”
“Oh I thought that might have been what happened. I was like, did the earth move or did someone crash into me?!” She stated with performed bewilderment. I was immediately not in the mood for this.
“There isn’t any damage I don’t think, but you should take a look.” The woman stepped out to inspect.
“I think this is you.” She decided pointing to a huge, scrapey dent in her bumper.” I almost laughed.
“That is most certainly not me.”
“Then here.” She said again, pointing to another massive void of red paint.
“Um, I don’t think so.” That mark didn’t even line up to my front bumper.
“Definitely this one” She points to some serious scratch. My eyes rolled so hard it hurt.
“Listen, I barely touched your car.” I declared.
“Okay. Well, I’m not gonna worry about it.” She replied studying me.
“Sorry about that.” I departed down the street to find the right house where the shoot was taking place.
Arriving at the large and white, smoothed stucco home, I sauntered onto the property with swagger. Clearly, the talent had arrived.
“HI!” A sweet, shorter woman came out from the massive front door, “are you the pizza guy?” She continued.
“I ordered some pizza.”
To be fair I kinda did look like this dude:
“No. I’m Alex. Alex Rose? For the shoot. I’m the talent.”
“Oh! Megan’s friend. I’m Cat the producer. How are you? Sorry, I thought you were the…”
“Yeah. The pizza guy. I wasn’t even holding any pizzas.”
“Come inside.” Cat exclaimed, kindly ignoring me.
As I entered the tall ceilinged home laid out with marble floors, fun paintings, expansive mirrors, and vintage trunks, I went into the kitchen and was immediately handed a glass of wine by James – my friend and good ol’ Chef Megan’s Bae-thing. There was a round of other greetings. One was to a lovely young woman by the name of Dianna. I had to get her name a couple times as I was actually trying to focus my character in my mind for my scene. Turns out I wasn’t the only talent there that day.
Going out onto the porch that looped the home and stared over Los Angeles, I got the idea that this was all going to be way more epic than what was initially led to believe. Creeping up to where the crew was filming Megan – she was flanked by two guests and they were grilling chicken. Behind them a pool and then open-air. We were cliff-side baby.
Someone passed by me with some props.
“Excuse me, do you know what I’m cooking with Megan?”
“Ummm, you’re making cauliflower.” The prop-person went on their way.
Cauliflower? I thought. I don’t even like cauliflower. I downed my cup of wine, found a nearby bottle, then poured another. Suddenly, Katie Danza, wearing a makeup apron and a smile darted over to say hello.
“Thank god you’re here.” We both said to each other probably at the exact same time. “I’m doing makeup.” I looked at Megan who looked natural and radiant.
“She doesn’t even look like she has on makeup.”
“That’s the point honey.” Katie purred.
“Are you going to do my makeup?” I asked fanning myself, “I want to look perfect for the camera.” Katie looked me up and down.
“I could probably powder your face so you’re not so shiny.” Megan called her name and Katie darted off to take care of business. Shiny??? Was I shiny? I looked up at the sun then down at my drink. I cleared the cup.
When Megan’s grilled chicken / arugula salad scene was done, she hurried by me, quickly giving a hug, a smooch, and saying “I’m so glad you’re here!” before sprinting away to get her hair fixed, Katie trailing not far behind. I emptied the wine bottle into my solo cup.
The arugula salad that would later be consumed.
Then the pizza came. Thank God. I grabbed a couple slices and talked to that girl Dianna while she munched on some pita chips. We talked about how we both knew our talented chef, and as our conversation continued we moved onto how good pita chips were, and then we had a pita chip photo shoot because I thought the blue bag perfectly matched her blue dress. Throughout this entire time and until Dianna left not soon after our pita promo, I had no idea it was actually Dianna AGRON (Hello, Glee?). Clearly I had been so blinded by my own delusions of grandeur to notice actual important people.
Dianna hitting the perfect note while singing her love of pita chips.
Megan and Katie came out to take part in pizza, and while they ate, I gave them a slightly dramatized rundown of the lady whose car I clunked earlier.
“… and THEN she started pointing out all these ridiculous scrapes and saying I had done it!” Everyone agreed that I was being treated unfairly. Of course, right as I finished, I turned around to find the Chihuahua woman talking to the producer. My mouth dropped.
I can literally hear the crunch of Megan biting into this pizza
“Excuse me!” I whispered to Megan and Katie, grabbed a beer and ran away. What was Chihuahua Lady doing here?! Who did she know? What did she know? In a panic I found a pack of someone’s cigarettes, grabbed one, and smoked it. I was stressed. And my part was coming up soon, and I wasn’t even in character yet. Who was I? Had I known Megan long? Where was I coming from? Was this “her home” that she was cooking at? So many questions. Not to mention I was apparently a human-shaped reflecting pool (sans powder) and grilling possibly the worst vegetable of all time. When I put out the cigarette I saw the Chihuahua staring at me. It yipped menacingly.
I had two enemies that day.
Perfectly timed to ease my anxiety, local blogger, life coach, and friend Sherry Levine arrived with two bottles of white wine and some lovely wedges (shoes that is). She was playing the role of one of the Dinner Guests.
“This house is aaaaamaaaaaziiiing” She sang. We couldn’t chat long about our lives since the time came for Megan and I to grill some albino broccoli. As I got mic’d the crew explained to me how this was going down. I’d enter as Megan’s friend (I was playing myself unfortunately) and I was bringing a bottle of wine. More wine? OKAY!
My chopping station
Sherry handed me one of the grigios she picked up. Katie coated my face with powder, and someone else told me that I’d be roughly chopping parsley and capers. I had to get focused. Looking over, I saw the Chihuahua woman eying me from back of set. ::GULP::
I strolled up to Megan medium-drunk and offered the wine like some goon-server of an upscale, waspy restaurant. We poured glasses for each other and talked about how we were going to cook cauliflower.
“I hate cauliflower.”
Megan looked at me: “Okay…” She smiled at the cameras. A pro and quite versed in improv as well, Megan went with it, thus creating a narrative where her idiot friend who hates cauliflower would then make cauliflower under her tutelage, eat it, and eventually fall in love with the vegetable. IMMA STORY GENIUS.
This charming grillin’ and grinnin’ couple (well me not so much)
Anyway, as the cauliflower prep continued, there was a dressing: lemon zest, juice, parsley, olive oil – you can check out the whole recipe here on Megan’s website: http://chefmeganmitchell.com/recipes/item/grilled-cauliflower-with-jalapeno-and-capers.html
When it came off the grill we showered the plate with parmesan, jalapeños AND roasted pine nuts. The best part was how incredibly delectable the cauliflower turned out to be. I didn’t have to fake any enjoyment. And as it happens out cauliflower CAN be delicious and not just look like some weird, pallid growth.
Megan’s perfect grilled Cauliflower
The cameras stopped rolling. The scene was over. Quick, fun, and very painless. Not to mention we got plenty of laughs. But I wasn’t through yet — there was the final dinner scene where all of Megan’s guests would congregate to eat the food they had made with her, and of course, that was going to be the best part. I snuck away to see if more pizza existed, and as I picked at the last slice, the Chihuahua woman was again nearby sipping a bottled water.
“Didn’t think you’d see me again did you? After crashing into my car.” She said grimly. I could only laugh nervously, and I didn’t know what to say except:
“Did you taste the cauliflower? It was so good.” She didn’t smile. I stuffed a pizza crust into my mouth and disappeared into the house to hang out with this dog:
Eventually the sun was setting and all of us chipped in to set the large patio table outside and fill drinks: a Megan-made berry + vodka cocktail, more wine, and James handed me a Corona, because for some reason he thought I needed another drink.
Sherry and Katie are table-ready
Plates of food landed on the table: the grilled chicken topped with dressed up arugula and tomatoes, avocado toast with chopped boiled egg, and finally the familiar cauliflower perfectly presented with a layer of melted parm.
The Avocado Toast
We toasted Megan, which I think sounded more like slurred yelling than an actual toast, but more embarrassing was that we were filmed eating for a very long time. I’ll only speak for myself when I say that cannot possibly be attractive on tape. But whatever, the food was dank as hell.
Cleaning up, I admired all the hard work that the crew, the director, Cat the producer, of course Megan, and the rest of the team had put in on a Sunday. Megan is one of those people that pushes forward, a goal in mind with a plan on how to reach it. Not to mention her talent as a chef and a personality.
Grilled Chicken — or what was left of it.
The entire shoot was really special and I can’t imagine someone not being thoroughly entertained by what was put together. In a sense, it was the essential L.A. day: the sun was bright, the temperature arcing from hot, to mild, then disarmingly cool. There was unrivaled food and wine, wonderful people to be surrounded by, and of course a production crew filming it all — the ultimate example of the dualistic nature of Los Angeles.
It’s a city that’s the center of performance and habitat of the performer, hosting both the face and the mask, existing in reality and also interpreting it for the rest of the world. It’s what makes the metropolis one of the most bizarrely unique places ever. And here I am just lucky enough to eat in it. And that’s fine by me.
P . S .
Before parting for another time – I’d like to mention other hard-working people I know, and who hail from my Alma Mater UNC-Chapel Hill. Daniel Rego, Ryan Haskins, Ben Sahle, Tim Tippens, along with others are raising funds through Kickstarter to tell a poignant tale that takes a tragic story and morphs it into something awesome.
DESERT BLOOM hopes to follow a young-man named Tyler who’s stricken with a unique syndrome which gives his life a knowable timestamp. So far my dudes have raised almost 9,000 -nearly $3000 short of their $12000 goal. Watch the trailer here and help these guys make something that fills us with inspiration and gratitude.
As always, word up. And eat up.