Four Minutes of Fame, Part II

Read Part I
Things have gotten a little weird around here since I posted the Today Show announcement on Monday. I’ve been inundated with requests, pleas, bribes, and other such tomfoolery in order to worm out of me the name of Ms. Producer A. But I shall not cave! Think about it: She and I have never met. At the moment, she’s a blinking cursor on the screen, the sum of her e-mails, the voice on the other end of the line. Why, then, would I pass out her name willy nilly, like business cards at a car dealership convention? Plus, it’d be obvious who divulged her secret e-mail address. No, discretion is the better part of valor. And although I’m not exactly the most discreet of persons, I shall remain so in this regard.

That aside, some more details leading up to my national debut. In a phone call with Ms. Producer A, I found out that a car will pick up The One, Renee Schettler Rossi, Cindi Kruth (my TV assistant) and me—yes, I have a posse—at 7:30 on Monday morning and drive us to Rockefeller Plaza. That’s all of 30 blocks—I could walk it—but I love the feeling of being important, even if it’s for just 1 1/2 miles. Like I’ve always said: I was born to have staffs and staffs of people to do my every bidding. Apparently, though, God never got the memo.

I was also instructed to show up at the studio on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. to hand over the ingredients and cataplanas to the prop men and do a walk-through of the demo. This is wicked cool. Whenever I’ve done TV in the past, I’ve showed up, waved to a few people, set up my kitchen, and 30 minutes later a disembodied voice from the control room has said, “Stand by…and…,” which cues the host, usually the marvelous Desiree Fontaine, to GO! But to walk the Today Show set with no cameras rolling will be enormously helpful. For the past two months I’ve watched nearly all of the show’s cooking segments, making diagrams of the set, figuring out how I’ll navigate the two islands, choosing where I’ll place my hand on the counter so I can lean over ever-so-nonchalantly, deciding where I’ll hide my bottle of Xanax. I also gave Ms. Producer A. a long list of demands: 1.) Smear ample Vaseline on the lens of the camera that will focus on me, 2.) Use some sort of special optical thinning contraption that distorts what I look like, making me appear skinny, and 3.) Festoon my dressing room with nothing but white roses—they soothe me. Oh, and 4.) Supply two bodyguards who will escort me from the studio to a waiting town car after the segment. (What? I’ll need some sort of buffer from all my newly acquired fans.)

Then this afternoon, I received a call from Bianca Henry, food stylist extraordinaire on the show, for a little pre-production meeting. We’ve met several times before and in an e-mail earlier today reminded me that we even worked together once. It just goes to show you that even though this business has its share of, well, some less than stellar people—remember Lady Beelzebub?—there are some truly upstanding folks. Bianca and I bumped into each other at the Saveur party last year—me literally swaying from weakness because my arm was being ravaged by a staph-like bacterial infection, thanks to an oral surgeon’s shoddy injection. (But that’s another post for another blog.) And while she probably thought my weaving was due to too much wine, she was warm, asked about the book, me, my family. Now, I mention all of this because not 24 hours later, the Today Show called my publisher asking for my reel. (Ha! What reel?) Although Bianca denies she had anything to do with it, I think it or’leaps coincidence. Alas, nothing happened, until eight months later when Giuliano Hazan intervened with the inimitable Ms. Producer A.

Back to moi. The wardrobe department (AKA The One) has been busy. So far we have two contenders for outfits: a blue shirt and a white shirt. (Jeans are a given—you can’t get me out of them even with a crowbar.) I vetoed the white shirt—not exactly slimming—and am considering the blue. The One is campaigning for a dark cashmere sweater, which remains a possibility. I assumed any kind of patterned or striped shirt was out because it can cause a moiré pattern on TV. But Ms. Producer A. said, “Oh, wear whatever you want. With high definition there’s no problem—it picks up everything.” Curses, you HDTV!

Tomorrow I’m off to the Ironbound, the Portuguese section of Newark, NJ, to pick up some smoked sausages, fabric for set decoration, and other items that may be of visual interest.

Oh, and I’ve lost three pounds since Sunday. Fifty-seven more to go in five days.

The word "David" written in script.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. David, I just watched the online version of your TODAY segment & you were great! Not a sign of a white sideburn & you looked svelte. Too bad you didn’t get to cook with Meredith, but perhaps she got to sample your gorgeous dish afterwards. Kudos to you & THE ONE for his coaching. Have you cooked with Emeril—my second favorite Portuguese chef?

    1. Martha, you flatterer—I want to move to Kansas and marry you. Thanks for the kind words. Svelte? Not exactly, but passable. I don’t think Meredith got a taste afterwards—mostly because the hosts and the crew dove right in. Four cataplanas full of food went in no time. And I haven’t cooked with Emeril (it would be tremendous fun), but I was a guest on his Fall River, MA, show when he did “Emeril Live.” I sat with his father. I’ll pass on your compliments to The One.

  2. A huge thank you to everyone who sent well wishes via FaceBook before, during, and after my The Today Show appearance.

  3. I’m looking forward to meeting you on the set in the morning. I’m the stage manager, and the note about your spot called your web site “way cool.” Well, that’s good enough for me. Then I saw the peacock, and your secets are safe with me. Get a good night’s sleep. Have an extra glass of wine. I already did.

    1. Mark, your writing to me the day before the show is “way cool.” I was on the set today with Bianca Henry, going through the blocking for the segment. It was a thrill. I’ve already had a second glass wine, will watch “Desperate Housewives,” and then trot off to bed. See you tomorrow.