Jun 27, 2009

The Callback

Denise: Mandy wrote this callback piece. I was laughing until I cried. It is so wonderful to hear someone else's perspective. I'm 58 and just hoping not to sneeze and pee in my underpanties. Note to self; facelift and bladder lift.

Denise got a callback. We were not surprised. The audition really was delightful as it was not auditioney: we were seen right away, everyone we met with was cool, relaxed, intelligent and personable. They set us up for success, and Denise totally sold it. They even told us at the audition that they were going to call us back.

We have this job in the bag, thought we. We were plotting ways we would make these quickie weddings pop while being intimate and classy on a small budget, and Mandy resolved postponing her trip to see family in Ann Arbor since she would be needed in Texas very soon.


Then the callback happened.

Exactly one week later, we headed back to the valley, wedding favors on silver trays and all. Denise spent 2 1/2 hours on the application and had unearthed her portfolio.

Denise: All famous people in my old portfolio are dead...not sure dead stars still a selling point.

Our audition time was 3:20pm and we got there right on time after much HelLA traffic and a directional brain fart (how many ladies with a GPS and maps on iphones does it take to find the building we were just at? Maybe it was God trying to warn us).

Denise: Some days, I don't know my own name...

We were greeted by a familiar face, who seemed a bit strained which we assumed was normal when the Executive Producers are in the house. She said "come on back" and we were like, wow! They were waiting for us! All we need is a red carpet. We went down the hall and into a small, windowless room full of...our competition. Yep, this was not the audition, this was the holding tank.


We had the opportunity to small talk with an aging talent manager and fashion show planner (qualified how?) and a young nymph in a thong and a purple silk mini-dress (negligee) who asked questions that came out as accusations ("Where do you live!", "What part of Santa Monica!", "Don't you love Don Antonio's!").


Denise: I asked Mandy, "does that old broad look older than me?" That's all I cared about...and totally hated Cassandra in her thong. Should wedding planners
dress as hookers? Need to think about that....

We also got to enjoy the casting dude, dressed in shorts and high tops with a Bluetooth in his ear, talking at us while playing video games on his Dell laptop. He completely ignored us.

Denise: He liked us when we brought cupcakes last week. Now he's talking about his penis. I told Mandy " we can't write about, his penis...we have to call it his Mr. Johnson." Mandy said we were giving no publicity to his penis. Oops.

Then there was the premise shift. Complete 180. Did we miss something? Did we not read the fine print? This sweet little "let's give some deserving couples a lovely wedding" show instantly became a show (and an audition) we did not understand.

We haven't even mentioned the unintelligible intern who compulsively ate every pastry in the holding tank (wedding planner wannabes bring lots of sugar with them,apparently). She couldn't make it through a sentence without a random tangent, for example, "Okay , I'm going to take your picture, stand there, God I want a hot dog, I don't know where that came from." She took multiple shots of us against a wall, next to an overflowing trashcan with an hours old chicken Caesar salad on top. Yummy.


Denise: Mandy was more offended by the full trash can than I was. I am used to full garbage cans as I have catered for 20 years. HATED the intern. She was...a moron.

A brief hour and a half after we arrived, we were taken in with our marching orders (ENERGY! Pretend like you have had two cocktails (we wish)! We told 'em we've saved the best for last!).

No pressure.

Denise was nothing short of brilliant. She made 'em laugh, she was great with her memorized copy and even made the only male executive producer squirm a bit (go girl). If they want experience, heart and brassy humor mixed with a tiny bit of mania, we've got the job.

Denise: It's never good to make the EP squirm...Mania? Me? Wish EP was gay....queens love me.

We're not holding our breath.

Jun 22, 2009

Father's Day BBQ With Cindie



Father's Day was a perfect excuse to grill all day long. Here I am playing tug-o-war. The dog won.



Looks a bit goopy here, but it is the epitome of summer grilling deliciousness!


My kitchen helper is my nephew Blake. He also took the photos (awesome job, Blake!).




Father’s Day Shrimp Skewers
Serves 8-10

1 head garlic, peeled
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

Place everything but the shrimp in the work bowl of a food processor or blender and process until creamy.

Place shrimp in a bowl and pour marinade over top, stirring to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Soak bamboo or wood skewers in water for 15 minutes.

Heat grill on high. Remove skewers from water and place 2 or 3 shrimp on each. Grill until shrimp turn bright pink on one side, 1-2 minutes. Turn and cook until cooked through 1-2 minutes more.



Since we had so many people at Father’s Day dinner this year (Wally is a popular guy!), there wasn’t room for grilling vegetables and shrimp so we cut the veggies (red, yellow and green bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, red onion, carrots) up and spread them in a large pan with some of the marinade stirred in.

Roasted in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes and we had a beautiful side dish! The meal was rounded out by my mom’s homemade coleslaw with raisins and almonds.

Jun 18, 2009

The Wedding Reality Show Audition



Sometimes we're a bit bored on a Tuesday and we think to ourselves; why not put on a wedding dress, make a cupcake bouquet and drive to Burbank for a wedding reality show audition?!

Just kidding.

Denise had a super fun opportunity pop up and, using her creative talent and moxie, thought it would be pretty damn unforgettable to have blog mistress Mandy sport her $99 David's Bridal dress and accompany Denise to talk to some producers (said dress was purchased for some upcoming "gorgeous wedding on a budget" TV segments). It totally worked!



Mandy unearthed the dress and took a drive over to Denise's abode. She learned there is a reason why the bride doesn't drive the getaway car. It's not easy navigating LA without getting tulle in some uncomfortable places.



At the production office. We were a bit early and decided to have a pre-ceremony photo shoot. Mandy is relaxed in her supporting role.


"Can I have a cupcake yet?" asks Mandy.

"No, you may not. You might get sprinkles on your polyester. I can offer you 3 Tic Tacs, however." replies Denise.



Helpful tip: No groom leaves a bride at the altar if she's carrying a cupcake bouquet. Love (and buttercream) is blind.




And if he does leave you at the altar, you already have the subsequent binge right in your hands!

In all seriousness, the audition itself was a smashing success. Denise is a marvelous fit for the show, the producers were super cool and it would definitely be a great opportunity to spread the word about Food Fanatics. Now we will wait and see...so stay tuned!

The Joys And Wonders Of Styling Canned Corned Beef





Jun 16, 2009

How To Fake A Sorbet by Cindie Flannigan



After some experimenting with various ideas for making non-melting sorbet in the Food Fanatics laboratory (there's a lab coat in my future), I finally hit on one that works like a charm and looks totally real. After you scoop this mixture it will stay in place without melting for DAYS!

1. Dissolve 16 packages unflavored gelatin in 4 cups water.
2. Thaw 1 pound frozen fruit (whatever kind gives you the look you want) and stir into gelatin mixture.
3. Refrigerate and let set until firm, at least 3 hours.
4. Use ice cream or portion scoops in desired size to make scoops.
5. Place scoops on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and freeze to get an icy look, or use as is.
6. Plate and garnish as desired.
7. This will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for weeks or freeze for years. Thaw to scooping consistency before using.

This mixture is a wee bit messy to work with (see photos of Denise working with it), but it works so great it's worth it!

Jun 10, 2009

Cindie And Jenny Rock Good Day LA With The Two Hot Tamales



Jenny and I styled a segment for Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Millikin, the Two Hot Tamales, at Good Day LA Wednesday morning. The segment was live in Fox's driveway, which was blocked off for the morning shoot. The spot was sponsored by California Avocados, which are delicious. We've been eating them for days thanks to Lori Small from GolinHarris.

Click here
to enjoy the segment!




Susan and Mary Sue will be cooking at the Share Our Strength "Taste of the Nation" on Sunday, June 14, between 1-4 p.m AT Media Park. More than 40 of the city’s finest restaurants and mixologists will be taking place at this delicious event.

I Want To Be A Personal Chef by Blog Mistress Mandy




Starting a new career is scary. I have started a few (masseuse, copy writer) and have considered many (greeting card designer, personal organizer, gift basket maker). I have a tendency to get super overwhelmed which leads to paralyzing fear which results in no new career.

Being a personal chef has been on my radar for at least five years. I cook everyday for myself and my husband and have loved being in the kitchen since I was little and in charge of making "veggie trays" (involved lots of french onion dip in lettuce leaves as centerpieces).

I also tend to feed friends, neighbors, strangers...any excuse to make "raw" truffles or a black bean and mango salad. Yes, I do express my love through food and thought that going into someones home to create dishes that will nourish and give pleasure seemed like a natural extension.

Now that I am almost done with culinary school, I'm thinking now is the time. Until I start thinking about business plans and insurance and a license and a kit and joining an association and networking and finding clients and keeping my other work intact and am I good enough...?

New mantra

Pause. Breathe. Take a baby step.

I feel so blessed to know about and own Denise's "how to start a home-based Personal Chef Business". I have scoured other how-to books on this subject which have a combination coma/panic effect on me. I'm bored and I'm discouraged and while Denise provides the same valuable information, the tone of the book is completely positive and supportive. I am actually EXCITED to make a business plan (total miracle-I'm the girl who cried through homework and quit math Senior year as soon as she got a college acceptance letter).

I feel like Denise is on the journey with me. She has peppered the book with her own experience as a personal chef which makes for a more interesting read AND provides confidence as a student and aspiring chef; if she can do it, maybe I can do it!

Here is an example of why I adore this book:

"Anything and everything can go wrong. How it affects your business depends on how you choose to respond to it. I've cooked for some of the richest people in the world. At one place there was a Picasso hanging above the stove. I am not making this up. This did not inspire me to cook. It made me a nervous wreck. I asked them to remove it; they didn't understand why I was so nervous! I mean, it wasn't like it the Renoir or anything! Silly me.

I've found the best communication strategy is to be straightforward with my clients. In return, I hope they will be the same with me."

Love it. Real world advice from a woman who has created an incredibly successful career, and she truly wants me to do the same. I can hear a little voice in my head saying "this is not rocket science, people! Use your skills, cook with love and enjoy yourself and your clients"!

If you or someone you love is considering entering the personal chef realm, this should be a first stop.

Jun 8, 2009

How To Fake A Souffle Part I



What I Like Best About Food Styling
Denise Vivaldo

I've made a lot of souffles in my life. I love to eat them and I love the way they look.

When it's time to photograph one or make one for a TV segment, it can be nerve racking!



Today, Cindie and I were re-testing a souffle recipe and after we ate our souffles there was a deflated one left on the counter. We knew we could put it to good use.




In the past, to make a fake souffle I have stuffed a souffle dish with Angel food cake
and then painted souffle batter on that, baked it for a few minutes and it looks pretty good.

Another time, I put a styrofoam disc in a false bottomed souffle dish and painted that with batter which was a pretty souffle, too. Those souffles looked as good the next day as when they first came out of the oven.

Food styling tricks, I love to fool the camera. To be continued...

How To Fake A Souffle Part II





So after cooling, our real souffle deflated (naturally), but we can still wanted to make it look fabulous for the camera. How? Simply tuck it into a smaller souffle dish. Voila - camera ready AND edible.

Smoke and mirrors, babies.

Did we make you hungry? Here is a great recipe. Enjoy!

Jun 4, 2009

To: Betty White, Love: Denise Vivaldo





The best day I ever had in 20 years of cooking in Hollywood was working with Betty White. I was asked to work on TV Land’s series Back to the Grind.

The producers and clients turned friends called me to help. I worked with them many times before and they were excited about this particular show.

What made this show different was that I would appear on camera with the talent, that talent being Miss Betty White (or Sue Ann Nivens depending if you are old enough to remember the Mary Tyler Moore Show). Betty was 86 when we shot this segment and between takes she told me she had been on TV for 58 years. I figured as much since I’m 58 years old and I can’t remember I time I didn’t watch her.

In case some of you don’t know, behind EVERY cooking show there lies a food stylist or a culinary producer - depending on budgets. Whatever title they give me, my job is to shop, step-out the recipes, sometimes create the recipes, write out tips for the cue cards, help with dialogue, decorate the counter with hero (finished) plates, and then in reverse clean-up, breakdown and go home to work another day.

If the talent is not much of a cook, I work to try and make them comfortable with the food or the camera- wherever they need help. On this blessed day, Cindie and I headed to work not really knowing what we were supposed to do.

I shouldn’t have worried. Please watch the tape –Betty is a master. I put the food out on the counter, Cindie prepped behind me, and the tape just started rolling. And yes, her eyes are that blue. Like aquamarines.

Betty was warm, kind and gracious. She wrote the script with the writer and pretty much told us all what to do in the smartest, funniest way possible. When the director stopped me once yelling “ cut ”, explaining that I had missed some text, Betty shot back –“ No she didn’t –I heard her- you must have missed it!” She told me what great timing I had and how she appreciated that. She also apologized for making fun of my beautiful food, but it was all for the show.

I can admit it now: I truly have girl a crush on Betty White.

To get the edited 22 minutes you watch, the production company shot all day into the night, about 16 hours. Betty was in almost every scene. There was never a complaint from her. She is the consummate professional.

On Monday night I went to a premiere of the The Proposal; a delightful Disney film for the early summer moviegoers. I went because Betty was in it. I waited in line with many other fans at the reception, hoping for a few moments to speak with Betty. I thought I was at a Gay Right’s Parade; the boys love Betty. I reintroduced myself to her. I don’t know if she remembered me, but I was able to tell her that she stole the show. She immediately said, no… and then with those sparkling blue eyes, asked me “ Really?”

Go see The Proposal and you will understand this love letter.

Jun 2, 2009

Ready To Start Your Catering Career? Learn From The Best This Month!




Denise will be hosting a catering seminar June 27th-28th at Let's Get Cookin' in Westlake Village.

This intensive two-day workshop is $395.00, which includes a copy of Denise's fabulous book, How to Start a HomeBased Catering Business. You will leave the weekend armed with all of the information and tools needed to begin a successful catering career!

Click here for more information or to register

Or, if you're a phone person, call 818.991.3940

Hope to see you there!

Jun 1, 2009

The Proposal Movie Premiere


Denise has a wonderful neighbor, Jasmine, who handles publicity for Disney and invited Denise to the premiere of The Proposal. In turn, Denise invited Mandy and husband, and off we went to stargaze, eat our free bucket of popcorn and view a romantic comedy that, in fact, WAS sweet, touching and funny!


Our first red carpet. Hmmm, too comfortable to be tourists, too old to be actor wannabes, too married to be cruising...I decided to pretend we were documentary filmmakers doing research on the culture of the red carpet.


Yep, there's Ryan. This was the first of several sightings, including him brushing Mandy's shoulder at the Roosevelt during the dessert reception. It was shocking to the newbies (that would be Mandy and husband) that all of the cast, including Sandra Bullock, were just standing around us mere mortals, breathing the same air. It was a gawk fest, for sure.


Sandra on the red carpet. How fabulous did she look? Very. We love the fact that she is 44 with a lineless face and a cellulite free body; it keeps Mandy's body dysmorphia intact.




Husband enjoying some wedding cake at the dessert reception. We also tried some amazing Japanese pastry, fruit tarts and carrot cake. Oink. Other star sightings included Elizabeth Banks and Adam Shankman who is a guest judge on the best show that existed ever on television (according to Cindie and Mandy), So You Think You Can Dance?

Thank you, Denise, for the amazing evening. Husband is in love with you.

A Stylist's "Kitchen": The Movie

Just a little something to start your week off right! xoxo