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Good Morning, Spokane

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#1 Daily Gullet Staff

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 10:22 AM

hspace="8" align="left">by David Ross

"Your crab was dry," Mike says as I walk into his shop, Williams Seafood Market and Wines in the Spokane Valley. He tells me the crab cakes I made on TV back in December looked delicious . . . but the giant Dungeness Crab that he donated for the on-camera display "looked dry and the shell wasn’t shiny enough."

Mike’s brutal critique doesn’t shake my resolve to do another seafood dish. I tell him I’m at the store to purchase the shellfish that I need for the dish I’ll be doing on Sunday: "Grilled Shrimp Stuffed with Crab."

But thanks for the constructive criticism, anyway. I guess I should count myself lucky. My small fan base includes a wisecracking fishmonger. Such is the life of a cook on local television.

+ + +

Today I’m preparing for my 34th show on "Sunday Morning Northwest" on KXLY-ABC 4.

During the week, the program is called "Good Morning Northwest." The show focuses on news and weather, and serves as the lead-in to "Good Morning America," on ABC.

On Sunday, the show takes a different turn-much like the local programs that first aired on television back in the early days. The laid-back, carefree attitude and spontaneity of live, local television, lives on at "Sunday Morning Northwest."

The first half-hour of the show always includes a reading of the newspaper headlines from the small, rural, farming towns that surround Spokane. If a moose decided to take a dip in the community pool in Omak, you can be sure it will make the headlines of the Okanagan County Chronicle -- and it will certainly by noted live on "Sunday Morning Northwest." The weather is usually done from a live remote at a local community event.

Of course, the Sunday show is never complete without a cooking segment featuring a local Chef or nervous home cook.

We’ve seen everything from "Roasted Loin of Elk with Huckleberry Demi-Glace" presented by the Chef of a fancy resort in Northern Idaho to the Woman who won the Spam cook-off at the Interstate Fair.

It’s all done in the spirit of promoting local Chefs and restaurants while having fun with food and cooking. (And as fate often demonstrates on live TV -- the viewers have a few laughs at wacky cooks who muster-up enough courage to come on live television and make some sort of horrendous tuna casserole).

We try to make the recipe simple enough that it can be done in a reasonable amount of time, but we don’t restrict ourselves to doing recipes in 30 minutes or less.

If you have to chill the custard base of the ice cream overnight, that’s what we tell the viewers. While we may use short-cuts on-camera to demonstrate the steps of the recipe, short cuts in the actual recipe aren’t allowed for the sake of convenience.

If crab cakes taste better when they’re sautéed in clarified butter, so be it. We don’t forsake flavor at the cost of cutting fat and calories. We present the most flavorful dish possible.

I e-mail the producer about three weeks before the show with a general idea of the dish I’m planning. Then about three or four days before the show, I send the recipe of the final dish. This allows KXLY to do promos up to two days in advance of the show: "Coming up on KXLY Sunday Morning Northwest, our favorite local chef, David Ross, will be preparing a delicious dish using fresh Dungeness Crab and Shrimp from Williams Seafood in the Valley."

The recipe we post on the station’s website is usually written to serve 6-8 people. But, when you cook on local television, there is a very, very important consideration that you must factor into your shopping list-enough food to feed the crew.

That means a recipe written for the public to serve precisely one "Shrimp Stuffed with Crab" to each of 8 guests, is a much different, and much larger recipe, behind the scenes. It’s more than just a matter of prepping 8 stuffed shrimp. It’s a matter of stuffing 30, maybe even 40 shrimp.

I triple or quadruple the quantities called for in a recipe so that I can feed the cameramen, the floor director, the producer, the hosts, the sports guy, the weather lady, the DJ’s in the adjacent AM radio station booth-every person working in the studio on Sunday morning will have at least one of these delectable stuffed shrimp. (It’s vital to send the crew home sated; they are the ultimate taste-test panel. If they like your food, the viewers will like it too.)

After the recipe for the dish I put together an "Invoice," a shopping list of ingredients that lists the cost of the products I’ll be buying for the recipe. This serves as my contract, if you will, for KXLY.

The final piece of the written paperwork for each show is the "script" that I write for myself.

This isn’t the same type of "script" that might be rehearsed by the actors on "The Bold and The Beautiful." The only person that reads this script is me. (And maybe the co-host who glances at the script tucked under the plate displayed on the set). When you cook on local television you don’t rehearse with other actors. If you choose to rehearse you do it at home ahead of time.

Remember, this is live TV. We don’t have room for errors. We don’t do re-takes or re-shoot scenes. We’re LIVE! For my own piece of mind, I need a script as a sort of crutch to lean on. (Hey, Martha always has a cheat sheet on the counter).

The script is my guide to all the points of the dish that I want to convey. This Sunday, I want to mention Williams Seafood and the array of products that Mike offers. I’ll talk about using wild American shrimp because they have a sweeter taste than farm-raised, and I’ll demonstrate how the prosciutto serves as a natural wrapper to hold the crab stuffing in the shrimp.

The script helps me with my timing when I’m on-camera -- and timing is critical when you cook on television. I rehearse the script over and over and over in my living room, while a little white kitchen timer ticks away.

I can’t tell you how many professional chefs and amateur cooks I’ve seen on television who didn’t rehearse their bit-and the results on live television were disastrous.

(Like the chef who -- at the moment of presenting his dessert -- realized that he left the ice cream in his car. In the sun. He literally ran out of the studio, on live TV, to go get the ice cream.)

The only small measure of direction I get from the Floor Director on the set is when I’m told to "look into the camera" seconds before the red light comes on.

+ + +

I’ll need two of Mike’s best crabs for Sunday’s show -- one for the meat in the crab stuffing, and another one for the display of ingredients on the set.

This morning Mike takes literally 20 minutes to scrub and wash the shell of the prized "display crab." As he toils away, I vow to honor his crab by insuring that the shell will be kept wet and shiny during its appearance -- or I won’t be able to show my face in Mike’s shop again.

I’ll be making a crab cake mixture to stuff the shrimp. I’m wondering if Mike can top himself after the wondrous crabs he’s already given me, but he doesn’t disappoint today -- his fresh Wild American Shrimp fished out of the Gulf of Florida are just the right size to hold my savory crab cake stuffing.

In the case of Sunday’s dish of Stuffed Shrimp, the recipe calls for grilling the shrimp on the outdoor barbecue. But we won’t be barbecuing the shrimp on camera this Sunday. I’ll grill the shrimp at home and then we’ll go through the motions of the cooking process during our live segment.

I try to have all of my prep work done by late Saturday afternoon so I all I have to do on Sunday morning is pack the coolers and drive to the studio. There won’t be a Hummer limousine at my doorstep on Sunday morning waiting to whisk me in comfort to KXLY. I’ll be driving myself to the studio in a Dodge pickup.

My home office serves as the "staging" area for packing the coolers. Make note of the supplies on the floor next to the cooler-dishes, toothpicks, silverware, tongs, spatulas and kitchen towels.

And yes, I am following the direct instructions of Mike the fish guy -- I bought a spray bottle at the "Dollar Store" so that I can keep our precious "display crab" wet on camera.

+ + +

I’ve never cooked on the "Today Show" on NBC in New York. I’ve heard that cooks who appear on "Today" are escorted into what is called a "Green Room," catered with lush displays of fresh fruit, vegetable and cheese trays, pastries and a never-ending assortment of beverages to await their few moments of fame. We don’t have a "Green Room" at KXLY. What we have is a room used by the weekday news staff to script out the flow of the news programs.

Not having a Green Room is a blessing in disguise. The atmosphere in the studio is very casual and I don’t have to sit in a cold, lonely room waiting for a perky intern to escort me to the studio. I wait in the studio.

You learn to be patient and immodest around the crew -- these are the people who watch you unzip your pants in the studio. You pull out your shirt so they can thread a small microphone from your waist, underneath your shirt, up to your neck and then clip the little mouthpiece to your collar.

The only style advice I ever got was from my co-host, Teresa Lukens, who cautioned me not to wear a striped or checked shirt on-camera-something about the pattern of my shirt being a distraction to the viewers. (And I thought the girth of my waist was more of a distraction to the viewers than the pattern of my shirt).

I don’t wear a Chef’s coat, because I don’t consider myself a Chef. I’m a cook and I want the viewers to relate to my story and my personality with ease and comfort. I want them to feel comfortable going into their kitchens at home and creating the types of dishes they might have at a restaurant. I don’t want to scare them by thinking only a guy in a chef’s coat can cook good food.

Our kitchen at KXLY comprises an electric, flat-top stove inserted into a formica cabinet on wheels, held in place with sandbags. We don’t have an oven, refrigerator, freezer or running water. We make do with what we have-and that’s why I bring my own spatulas, spoons and water bottle to spray the crab.

After the "Pet for Adoption" segment, I’m allowed on the set to get ready. I usually have about 15 minutes to unpack the coolers, put the ingredients on display and get the stove-top heated.

We begin our cooking segment with a 30-second lead-in, usually after the local sports report. Teresa introduces the dish we’ll be doing and then we break to another commercial. I don’t have a lot of time to grill shrimp when we go live on KLXY -- only four minutes total for cooking time and discussion of the dish with my co-host. I’m lucky to have Teresa as my host. She knows food and cooking. She knows that prosciutto is cured Italian ham and she knows it’s thin and slightly salty. She knows to ask if smaller prawns will work for the recipe. And without prompting, she’ll ask why I’m using fresh Dungeness crab instead of canned lump crab meat. At the end of the segment we cut to one last commercial.

As we come back live, Rick and Teresa are their normally gracious selves, tasting the stuffed shrimp and declaring it delicious. The show is a wrap.

One more taste-test lies ahead before we can bring this journey to an end. What will the crew say about my "Shrimp Stuffed with Crab?"

They tell me the stuffed shrimp were delicious. But you know what they really liked? What impressed them the most? The radishes.

About a week after Sunday’s show, I went back to Williams Seafood to get some photos of the shop for this story.

I find Mike behind the counter cutting fresh tuna steaks.

"At least it looked fresh this time," he says.

+ + +

Epilogue

Shortly after I finished this piece, I began working with KXLY on our next cooking segment, which was scheduled to take place on Sunday, November 16.

The plan was to cook some unique side dishes that the home cook could easily do to accompany the holiday turkey or prime rib. At least that was the plan until I picked up the local newspaper on November 2.

When I turned to the business section, I saw the ominous news: "KXLY cancels weekend news program." I immediately contacted the producer.

I had been cancelled -- a victim of the horrible state of the economy. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Cancelled after seven years and dozens of live cooking segments. Cancelled.

Because "Sunday Morning Northwest" wasn’t the lead-in program to "Good Morning America," on the weekdays, it relied heavily on local advertising for its survival. ABC wouldn’t (and KXLY couldn’t) carry the burden of producing a local show that didn’t feed into network programming.

With so many local businesses filing for bankruptcy and others literally closing the doors, one of the first budget items to go was television advertising -- advertising revenue that paid to produce "Sunday Morning Northwest."

I wasn’t the only on-air "personality" to get the pink slip. The weekend weather "person" also got her walking papers. Rick and Teresa Lukens returned to the security of the KXLY-AM 920 radio booth and continue with their weekday morning drive-time show.

And I have taken an unwanted leave of absence from local television. At least for a few months.

Loyalty is not a word that is highly regarded in the television business. If ABC cancels you, you talk to NBC and so I’ve shifted my ambitions to KHQ -- the local NBC affiliate.

KHQ airs a local morning program seven days a week. So if the culinary Gods are praying for me, someday soon I’ll begin doing a live cooking segment on the "KHQ Morning News."

* * *

David Ross lives in Spokane, but works a one-hour plane ride away. When he's not tending to his day job -- or commuting -- he writes about food, reviews restaurants and -- obviously -- does food presentation. He is on the eGullet Society hosting team for the Culinary Culture and Kitchen forums.

#2 maggiethecat

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 12:25 PM

David: Your pink slip is Spokane's loss, but this great piece is our gain. (I'll never look at a crab again without itching to reach for a spray bottle.)

Margaret McArthur

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#3 David Ross

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 02:01 PM

Thanks Maggie. After being admonished by Mike for having a dry crab on the previous show, I vowed not to let him down again by putting a tired crab in front of the camera. (I take on the burden of not only being the cook, but also the role of food stylist).

I bought two crabs for the show-one to use in the recipe-
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And this beauty, which I named the “Display Crab”. This would be the crab that would be misted before going on-camera-
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The other crab was used for the mixture that would be stuffed in the shrimp-
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In addition to being schooled on dry crabs on the set, Mike also told me to make sure the crab shell didn't break in transit from my home to the studio.

The display crab getting wrapped for the trip to the studio-
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The mister for the display crab. (All display crabs now have this water mister written into future television contracts)-
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The “fresh from the sea” display crab and other ingredients on the set-
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#4 shellfishfiend

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 04:43 PM

Thank you for this behind the scenes look at live cooking segments. It sounds like they were lucky to have such a passionate home cook on the show. I hope someone else snaps you up soon. And your fish guy sounds like a character.
Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

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#5 David Ross

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 06:57 PM

Thank you for this behind the scenes look at live cooking segments. It sounds like they were lucky to have such a passionate home cook on the show. I hope someone else snaps you up soon. And your fish guy sounds like a character.

View Post


Thanks, and yes, Mike the fish guy is a character-and one heck of a nice man.

He's part of a member of a vanishing trade, old-fashioned Fishmongers who actually know how to scale and filet fresh, whole fish. He's fished commercially in Alaska and is an expert on the seafood and shellfish that comes from the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

And the story of course wouldn't be complete without some photos of Mike and his shop.

Mike's shop-tucked in a small strip mall-
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Mike, the critic of Dungeness crab, cutting fresh tuna steaks-
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#6 toweringpine

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 08:09 PM

A great read, thanks David!

#7 CDRFloppingham

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 04:36 AM

YouTube link to the broadcast please.

#8 Peter the eater

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 08:13 PM

Very nice job, David. Thanks for sharing you perspective - many communities don't have a grassroots guy of your caliber. Keep doing what your doing.
Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .
Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .
Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

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#9 David Ross

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 10:53 AM

Thanks Peter, I appreciate the kind comments.

The true story about cooking on local television is deeper than my appearances on KXLY or Mike the fish guy's Dungeness Crabs. The real story is about the often-overlooked world of cooking on local television. Yet it's also a story about the birthplace of food on TV-local television.

I'm but one of any number of cooks across America who work in near-anonymity, presenting food and cooking on local television. I'd like to think that in some small way we are doing our part to celebrate and promote the foods, farmers and purveyor's in our communties that provide us with the products we use in our shows. That is a part of the grass-roots effort that you are speaking to.

I often say that we must respect the traditions of the past in order to value what we have today-and that applies to food on television.

The first cooks who appeared on television built the foundation for today's mass-marketed world of food on tv. It may appear that "Meals in 30 Minutes" or "Semi-Homemade" don't have any link to the past whatsoever. They do.

If it weren't for Mrs. Florence P. Hanford cooking on Channel 3 in Philadelphia in 1949, there just might not be an entire network devoted to food and cooking today. (Nor would we likely see brand-names like Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee).

My hope is that the story of my travails with a diva Dungeness Crab on KXLY will provoke some thought and discussion about how the cooks on local television today carry-on the traditions of the past. Thank you again.

#10 CaliPoutine

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 11:38 AM

Is there any site online where we can view your past segments?

#11 David Ross

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 12:25 PM

Is there any site online where we can view your past segments?

View Post


As of today, no, we don't have a link at KXLY that would allow you to see videos of past shows-another one of the interesting little details that are unique to cooks on local television. We aren't dealing with the most technologically advanced editing equipment at my level of television.

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As you can see in the above photo, the normal course of action was to give the director a blank VHS tape to record each show. At the time I started cooking on KXLY, we didn't have the capacity to record the shows directly onto CD's. (The photo also depicts the "script" I use on-set, including a copy of the recipe. You can also see my invoice for the groceries, with the huge budget of just over $75 for the Shrimp Stuffed with Crab).

Then we convert the VHS to a CD and add graphics and subtitles. It's a very lenghty and somewhat expensive process.

It seems unimaginable now, but I started cooking on television years before anyone had even heard of YouTube, I-Phones or any of the other means for instant posting of video on the internet that now pervade our daily lives.

I will see what I might be able to do. Thanks again.

#12 Dianabanana

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 06:19 PM

Well, shoot! I live in KXLY's broadcast area, and thought "Huh! I'll have to try and catch this show!" Then I got to the last section. What a bummer.

You also threw me for a loop with the name Teresa Lukens. We bought our first house from a Teresa Lukens (same spelling) in nearby Sandpoint, Idaho. I went looking for a bio of your Teresa online and it doesn't seem to be the same person, though.

#13 David Ross

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 09:23 AM

Well, shoot! I live in KXLY's broadcast area, and thought "Huh! I'll have to try and catch this show!" Then I got to the last section. What a bummer.

You also threw me for a loop with the name Teresa Lukens. We bought our first house from a Teresa Lukens (same spelling) in nearby Sandpoint, Idaho. I went looking for a bio of your Teresa online and it doesn't seem to be the same person, though.

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Nice to hear from a fellow resident of the Northwest. Thank you.

Teresa has been at KXLY for many years. Although Sunday Morning Northwest was cancelled, she and Rick still do their morning show on KXLY-AM 950 radio, and she still appears on the various news programs.

As I mentioned above in the story, Teresa was the perfect host to work with. (And I've worked with other hosts-er, news personalities-who didn't have a clue as to the difference between a Dungeness Crab or a Blue Crab).

Teresa's timing was impeccable. She would always let me take the lead, then would ask questions at precisely the right time. If we were using fresh bread crumbs to make crab cakes, she'd ask why they were better than canned bread crumbs. If we sauteed the crab cakes in clarified butter, she knew to ask how to make clarified butter-and why it was better for frying crab cakes than regular butter.

Over the course of the years that we worked together, we developed a level of comfort with one another that I think came across to our viewers. Thanks again.

#14 CDRFloppingham

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 01:18 PM

David, perhaps you took my post not as I intended.

I would love to see a youtube of your broadcast.

That's all I meant.

Edited by CDRFloppingham, 09 March 2009 - 01:22 PM.


#15 JAZ

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 07:44 AM

David, how did you get started with the show? Is your background in professional cooking? Did you know someone from the show?

It also sounds as if you weren't the only guest chef on the program; is that right? Who were the others -- home cooks like you or local restaurant chefs?

#16 David Ross

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 03:32 PM

David, how did you get started with the show? Is your background in professional cooking? Did you know someone from the show?

It also sounds as if you weren't the only guest chef on the program; is that right? Who were the others -- home cooks like you or local restaurant chefs?

View Post


Great questions, thanks.

As for my background, no, I am not a "professional" chef. I'm what I would describe as a very studied self-taught home cook. And while I've cooked and worked in restaurant kitchens, I've never done so professionally. I'm an average guy with a day job that happened to find a love in food and cooking, and that led me to cooking on television-which has led to me writing about food, cooking and dining.

Unlike most people who find a career in television, I didn't start in a small market and then go Hollywood. I actually started my stint in tv by entering a competition that was filmed in Hollywood and ran nationally on PBS-"MasterChef USA."

Years before there was "Top Chef" on Bravo, "Iron Chef America" on Food Network, and the abysmal "Hell's Kitchen" on Fox, "MasterChef" on the BBC was the pre-eminent cooking competition on television-with competitions for both professionals and amateurs.

The BBC brought "MasterChef" to PBS in 1999 and thus began the competition to name America's top "amateur chef."

I happened to catch an episode of Season One of "MasterChef USA," and at the end of the program, I decided to write to the producer's for information about the competition.

The competition format for “MasterChef USA” began with written entries. About 20 of the written recipes were selected and the "chefs" were invited to regional cook-offs where three would be selected to be a part of the show.

The final group of 26 amateur cooks from around the country came together in Los Angeles for filming a 13-week competition.

After 12 weeks of eliminations, I “survived” as one of the top three contestants that would go on to vie for the title of “MasterChef USA,” in the 13th and final episode.

You can read about my adventures and travails on “MasterChef USA” on PBS by going to these links:

http://www.themediad...asterchef_1.htm

http://www.themediad...asterchef_2.htm

http://www.themediad...asterchef_3.htm

http://www.themediad...asterchef_4.htm

After starting my television cooking career on PBS at such a lofty level, I guess there was one direction to go-back down the media ladder to cooking on local television. But I wouldn’t call it a fall from grace.

Rather, after my fast start on PBS, I returned to my roots and found a home cooking on local television in Spokane. I didn't know "who can talk to who"-I didn't know a producer, director or cameraman. I just sent them a letter telling them my story and they responded by inviting me to come cook on "Sunday Morning Northwest."

Once I settled in at KXLY, I discovered a respect and admiration for sharing the craft of cooking through the intriguing medium of television. I don’t think I would have found that same appreciation had I gone directly from “MasterChef USA” to become the star of a cooking program on the biggest food network on cable television. One could say that in my case, being humbled by starting big and then finding my way back home became a gift.

KXLY-ABC 4 in Spokane, 1950’s television studio architecture at its best--
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We tried to vary the people who came on the show to present a dish. One week I might be showing the viewers how to mash potatoes, then the next week it might be the junior winner of the Hershey's baking chocolate competition at the fair. The next week might showcase a local Chef cooking a specialty from their restaurant, or a group from a local Church promoting a Holiday cookie drive.

That variety of cooks, chefs, kids and just plain people who liked a good molasses crinkle cookie is part of what makes live, local television so fun and memorable.

#17 ChefCarey

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 03:38 PM

David,

Enjoyed your piece and I can relate. Can I ever!

I am a chef and I played one on television.

I started by doing a half-hour cable access show in Memphis, Tennessee. (I was invited to do it).

I did that for about a year. One day I received a call from the director of programming at the local CBS affiliate - Channel 3.

He asked me if I'd like to do a regular segment on their local morning show. He said there would be no pay initially, but they would pay for ingredients and I could plug projects, books etc.

The show was canceled after about six months. (The host went on to do a children's show on the local PBS station).

But, I wasn't canceled. They asked me to do short segments for the noon news. Sent a location truck to shoot them at my school (The Memphis Culinary Academy).

That worked well for a year or so. Then I noticed my segments were being sponsored. I asked about that and if any revenue was coming in. They said yes, and they would figure out how much of it I was entitled to. Six more months. No revenue.

About this time in conjunction with a friend of mine who did video and had an advertising agency, we made a demo tape and sent it to the Food network at their request. Also about that time the Food Network got rid of their programming director and the focus switched from wanting a professional to wanting "home" style stuff. So, that went nowhere. My friend suggested I change channels - to the local ABC affiliate - Channel 13.

The program director offered me a spot on the noon news with the munificent stipend of $25.00 per show. Hey, it was $25,00 more than I was getting. I took it. Then he asked me if I would do a restaurant review thing for the evening news, too. I said sure. I didn't really review them. I went in,talked to the chef, cooked with him/her and then sat down and ate.

Then they canceled the noon news. I sensed the station might be in a wee bit of trouble. They were.

So, he asked me if I would do a segment on their morning show. Cook a little and be part of the panel and sit around and rap. I did and enjoyed it.

Then they canceled the morning show.

Then they sold the station.

Then they canceled the evening news.

I've never been personally canceled. But, I am beginning to wonder about the coincidence of every show I've ever been a part of being canceled.

I bathe regularly.

Edited by ChefCarey, 18 March 2009 - 03:40 PM.


#18 David Ross

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 05:30 AM

David,

Enjoyed your piece and I can relate. Can I ever!

I am a chef and I played one on television.

I started by doing a half-hour cable access show in Memphis, Tennessee. (I was invited to do it).

I did that for about a year. One day I received a call from the director of programming at the local CBS affiliate - Channel 3.

He asked me if I'd like to do a regular segment on their local morning show. He said there would be no pay initially, but they would pay for ingredients and I could plug projects, books etc.

The show was canceled after about six months. (The host went on to do a children's show on the local PBS station).

But, I wasn't canceled. They asked me to do short segments for the noon news. Sent a location truck to shoot them at my school (The Memphis Culinary Academy).

That worked well for a year or so. Then I noticed my segments were being sponsored. I asked about that and if any revenue was coming in. They said yes, and they would figure out how much of it I was entitled to. Six more months. No revenue.

About this time in conjunction with a friend of mine who did video and had an advertising agency, we made a demo tape and sent it to the Food network at their request. Also about that time the Food Network got rid of their programming director and the focus switched from wanting a professional to wanting "home" style stuff. So, that went nowhere. My friend suggested I change channels - to the local ABC affiliate - Channel 13.

The program director offered me a spot on the noon news with the munificent stipend of $25.00 per show. Hey, it was $25,00 more than I was getting. I took it. Then he asked me if I would do a restaurant review thing for the evening news, too. I said sure. I didn't really review them. I went in,talked to the chef, cooked with him/her and then sat down and ate.

Then they canceled the noon news. I sensed the station might be in a wee bit of trouble. They were.

So, he asked me if I would do a segment on their morning show. Cook a little and be part of the panel and sit around and rap. I did and enjoyed it.

Then they canceled the morning show.

Then they sold the station.

Then they canceled the evening news.

I've never been personally canceled. But, I am beginning to wonder about the coincidence of every show I've ever been a part of being canceled.

I bathe regularly.

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Chef Carey-great hearing your story, although I'm sorry you suffered the same cancellation fate that I did.

Don't feel alone-my appearances on KXLY were cancelled, as was the MasterChef USA series on PBS, as was my stint doing a daily cooking tip on KQNT AM 950 in Spokane. I too suffer from the perpetual cancellation bug.

I don't know if my 15 minutes of fame have already passed or not-at least I'm not openly admitting to it, and I'm still sending out CD's and proposals to try and catch another wave.

#19 ChefCarey

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 06:56 AM

I don't know that I've completely given up, either,David. I've have one appearance on a local Portland television station - the morning show- since I moved to Oregon. I made crepes to plug a series of classes I was teaching at a cookware store.The producer said I was good and if I had any ideas for other things to let them know. We'll see...

#20 David Ross

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 11:26 AM

I don't know that I've completely given up, either,David. I've have one appearance on a local Portland television station - the morning show- since I moved to Oregon. I made crepes to plug a series of classes I was teaching at a cookware store.The producer said I was good and if I had any ideas for other things to let them know. We'll see...

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Keep sending inquiries to the producer's and you'll definately get back on. Did you appear on "AM Northwest" on KATU-ABC? I think that's the only show of its kind with a local format left in Portland.

I did a cooking segment on "AM Northwest" in Portland about the time I started working with KXLY in Spokane. We did appetizers and cocktails for New Year's Eve. I was paired with the weatherman at the time-a young guy who I nearly choked with my cranberry martini.

A few years later I was watching CNN one morning and the same guy shows up as the head weather anchor-Rob Marciano. I guess some people who start on local TV do eventually hit the big time.

#21 ChefCarey

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 01:16 PM

Did you appear on "AM Northwest" on KATU-ABC? I think that's the only show of its kind with a local format left in Portland.

Yep, that was the one.

#22 David Ross

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 12:32 PM

Every television show seems to run its course. Whether it’s cooking on local television in Spokane, or “Seinfeld” on NBC, eventually every show gets cancelled, the contracts aren’t renewed, or the on-air personalities go on to other projects.

Whatever words go in the press release to describe the “change in direction,” it’s a sad day indeed when any show comes to an end. But those of us who’ve had the great pleasure and opportunity to cook on local television realize our good fortunes.

I was able to bring a part of my life to our KXLY viewers-and I was able to promote the local farmers and fishermen that bring their products to our tables. I was able to share my love of the elusive, wild huckleberry with my neighbors. We shared a laugh or two and a great love of food and cooking.

When people step on a stage and accept an award for appearing on television or in a movie, we often groan at the obligatory speech thanking “the best crew I’ve ever worked with.” As I reflect on my run of shows on KXLY, I realize that the recognition of the crew is just as important as my own self-satisfaction or the thank you letters from our viewers.

The crew-the news journalists, the team of producers, directors, engineers, sound, camera and lighting technicians-are the ones who made my crab-stuffed shrimp and radish salad come to life.

Most of the crew work behind the camera in anonymity, wrapping the Saturday night news after midnight, then coming back to the studio at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning to get ready for “Sunday Morning Northwest.”

Some of the crew members of “Sunday Morning Northwest” were recent graduates of the Edward R. Murrow School of Journalism down the road at Washington State University in Pullman. And like me, some of them were simply trying to catch a break in television at a local station in a mid-market.

The story of “Good Morning Spokane” wouldn’t be complete without a few more photos of the crew and the finished dishes we prepared on what would be my last appearance on KXLY’s “Sunday Morning Northwest.”

This shot is from my studio “kitchen” looking toward Teresa and Rick on the news set-
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During a commercial break, I’m tending to the stuffed shrimp in my “kitchen.” Note the backdrop scene of Spokane behind me. (No, it’s not a live shot of the Monroe street bridge, although it appears to be when you’re watching from home).

Rick couldn’t wait for the segment before tasting one of the prawns-
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The simple Radish Salad, the favorite of the crew-
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Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp Stuffed with Dungeness Crab-
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One of my favorite food photos-and the most prized memory of my run of cooking on KXLY-the crew tucking into my food. The expression of pure pleasure on the cameraman’s face says it all-
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#23 David Ross

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Posted 08 April 2009 - 11:26 AM

+ + +

Epilogue

Shortly after I finished this piece, I began working with KXLY on our next cooking segment, which was scheduled to take place on Sunday, November 16.

The plan was to cook some unique side dishes that the home cook could easily do to accompany the holiday turkey or prime rib. At least that was the plan until I picked up the local newspaper on November 2.

When I turned to the business section, I saw the ominous news: "KXLY cancels weekend news program." I immediately contacted the producer.

I had been cancelled -- a victim of the horrible state of the economy. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Cancelled after seven years and dozens of live cooking segments. Cancelled.

Because "Sunday Morning Northwest" wasn’t the lead-in program to "Good Morning America," on the weekdays, it relied heavily on local advertising for its survival. ABC wouldn’t (and KXLY couldn’t) carry the burden of producing a local show that didn’t feed into network programming.

With so many local businesses filing for bankruptcy and others literally closing the doors, one of the first budget items to go was television advertising -- advertising revenue that paid to produce "Sunday Morning Northwest."

I wasn’t the only on-air "personality" to get the pink slip. The weekend weather "person" also got her walking papers. Rick and Teresa Lukens returned to the security of the KXLY-AM 920 radio booth and continue with their weekday morning drive-time show.

And I have taken an unwanted leave of absence from local television. At least for a few months.

Loyalty is not a word that is highly regarded in the television business. If ABC cancels you, you talk to NBC and so I’ve shifted my ambitions to KHQ -- the local NBC affiliate.

KHQ airs a local morning program seven days a week. So if the culinary Gods are praying for me, someday soon I’ll begin doing a live cooking segment on the "KHQ Morning News."


* * *


Sometimes stories like mine tend to fade away over time. The internet, like television, is sometimes a very fickle form of media-what's popular at one moment often vanishes within an hour and the original story is lost forever.

But rather than fade away, I'm hoping that in the coming weeks I'll be sharing some good news with you and we'll continue our journey into my story of cooking on local tv.

I'm currently in discussions with another station in Spokane to see if they are interested in working with me to air some cooking segments. Our discussions are only in the initial stages, but I sense some interest on the part of the Producer and there is a second request for more CD's of my work. I hope that in the next couple of weeks I'll have some good news to share.

#24 David Ross

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 11:15 AM

Unfortunately, the word came in the form of an email yesterday-"Mr. Ross, we have decided that we are not interested in pursuing cooking segements for our Saturday morning news program. However, we will keep your CD's on file in case we have an interest in the future."

And so the search for a new home for cooking on local television continues.

#25 David Ross

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 04:25 PM

It's funny how sometimes things come full circle. Well, I'm hoping the circle is almost complete, it's just going to take a bit more time and perseverance on my part for that to happen.

So I'm given the pink slip when KXLY cancels "Sunday Morning Northwest." After some initial interest on the part of KHQ, I'm sent the "Dear John" e-mail letting me know that they aren't interested in hosting cooking segments on the morning program.

I cower back to KXLY, swallowing my pride and using the little amount of local star power I have, to basically beg them to take me back. I'll tape any time of day, any day of the week, just let me cook. I'm hoping my great relationship with Teresa, one of the top on-air personalities at KXLY, will help in the effort.

I've set the computer to send a message to KXLY every two weeks. I'm hoping it's just a matter of time before I'll be back on KXLY, serving-up some of Mike's seafood to the viewers.

#26 David Ross

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 02:24 PM

David, how did you get started with the show? Is your background in professional cooking? Did you know someone from the show?

It also sounds as if you weren't the only guest chef on the program; is that right? Who were the others -- home cooks like you or local restaurant chefs?

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Great questions, thanks.

As for my background, no, I am not a "professional" chef. I'm what I would describe as a very studied self-taught home cook. And while I've cooked and worked in restaurant kitchens, I've never done so professionally. I'm an average guy with a day job that happened to find a love in food and cooking, and that led me to cooking on television-which has led to me writing about food, cooking and dining.

Unlike most people who find a career in television, I didn't start in a small market and then go Hollywood. I actually started my stint in tv by entering a competition that was filmed in Hollywood and ran nationally on PBS-"MasterChef USA."

Years before there was "Top Chef" on Bravo, "Iron Chef America" on Food Network, and the abysmal "Hell's Kitchen" on Fox, "MasterChef" on the BBC was the pre-eminent cooking competition on television-with competitions for both professionals and amateurs.

The BBC brought "MasterChef" to PBS in 1999 and thus began the competition to name America's top "amateur chef."

I happened to catch an episode of Season One of "MasterChef USA," and at the end of the program, I decided to write to the producer's for information about the competition.

The competition format for “MasterChef USA” began with written entries. About 20 of the written recipes were selected and the "chefs" were invited to regional cook-offs where three would be selected to be a part of the show.

The final group of 26 amateur cooks from around the country came together in Los Angeles for filming a 13-week competition.

After 12 weeks of eliminations, I “survived” as one of the top three contestants that would go on to vie for the title of “MasterChef USA,” in the 13th and final episode.

You can read about my adventures and travails on “MasterChef USA” on PBS by going to these links:

http://www.themediad...asterchef_1.htm

http://www.themediad...asterchef_2.htm

http://www.themediad...asterchef_3.htm

http://www.themediad...asterchef_4.htm

After starting my television cooking career on PBS at such a lofty level, I guess there was one direction to go-back down the media ladder to cooking on local television. But I wouldn’t call it a fall from grace.

Rather, after my fast start on PBS, I returned to my roots and found a home cooking on local television in Spokane. I didn't know "who can talk to who"-I didn't know a producer, director or cameraman. I just sent them a letter telling them my story and they responded by inviting me to come cook on "Sunday Morning Northwest."

Once I settled in at KXLY, I discovered a respect and admiration for sharing the craft of cooking through the intriguing medium of television. I don’t think I would have found that same appreciation had I gone directly from “MasterChef USA” to become the star of a cooking program on the biggest food network on cable television. One could say that in my case, being humbled by starting big and then finding my way back home became a gift.

KXLY-ABC 4 in Spokane, 1950’s television studio architecture at its best--
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We tried to vary the people who came on the show to present a dish. One week I might be showing the viewers how to mash potatoes, then the next week it might be the junior winner of the Hershey's baking chocolate competition at the fair. The next week might showcase a local Chef cooking a specialty from their restaurant, or a group from a local Church promoting a Holiday cookie drive.

That variety of cooks, chefs, kids and just plain people who liked a good molasses crinkle cookie is part of what makes live, local television so fun and memorable.


After a lot of work, I've finally begun the task of putting my shows up on You Tube. This is the first appearance on MasterChef USA on PBS back in 2001 cooking in the Northwest Regional Round.



#27 David Ross

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 06:07 PM

The final dish on the final cooking segment on "Good Morning Northwest."

Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp Stuffed with Dungeness Crab-







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