Our family thoroughly enjoys watching Chopped on the Food Network.
Harper, especially, begs me every week to lift the “no TV during the school week” rule in order to watch Chopped on Tuesday nights.
I haven’t caved.
This morning, we set out to visit the Grand Opening of Giant Eagle’s Market District in Robinson, not to shop, but to meet Ted Allen, the host of our favorite Food Network show. Harper was estatic to get the opportunity to meet him. Zane? Zane just wanted a bagel.
I asked George to navigate off of the tiny, and not most helpful, map that was included in the mailed announcement we had received, knowing full well that my GPS wouldn’t register the street – for the entire complex is that new.
I think I probably asked him 3 times, “Is there any exit listed or cross street? Anything?”
So we got off in Robinson and tried to use our sense of smell to find the place.
Yeah, apparently we’re not real talented in sniffing out locations, plus, this is Pittsburgh. No grid. Just hills and turns and Oh! A cool drive-in!
The drive-in was nowhere near the store. We were most definitely lost.
Realizing we’d gone too far south, I turned around to backtrack only to hear my very humbled husband remark, “Oh, um, sorry, the map says to take the Ridge road exit.”
He apologized, and then realizing that it was now 11:00 and that Ted began his cooking demostration at 11:00, we prayed that God would redeem the fun that we had planned – that we’d still get to see Ted’s demostration, and have the opportunity to meet him. I know, maybe it seems silly to pray about meeting a Food Network celebrity, and even I told the kids, “Hey guys, Ted isn’t Jesus”, but I also know that God listens to all our requests, and I believe He is a fan of family time, and this was definitely a family gig. I didn’t want to have our plan thwarted due to a minor maptastrophe.
The parking lot was a zoo, (of course), so I had George let me and Harper out while he and Zane found parking.
The place is mammoth. Convention center huge. Once inside, we had absolutely no idea where to go. We were dodging carts, and shoppers, and resisting the urge to stop and sample, in order to get to the demonstration area. It pains me to think of all the cheese cubes we passed without indulging. Hey, when on a mission, one doesn’t stop. Even for cheese.
After the confusion of asking an employee for directions and being led in the completely wrong direction, we finally found the demonstration area and took up camp stage left to watch Ted and a chef from Market District make shrimp scampi and some apple tarty thing for desert. George and Zane had met up with us by that point, and we all took a deep breath.
Saturday To Do List: Watch Ted Allen’s cooking demonstration. Check.
Towards the end of the demo, Ted announced he’d be going upstairs to sign his new cookbook. Before he even uttered his last word, we were gone, darting to the stairs to get in line for autographs.
Outside the room where he’d be signing we were asked, “Do you have your ticket?”
What is this? Willy Wonka?
A most wonderfully kind and gracious employee of Market District explained that all those wanting to see Ted needed a numbered ticket and that she would be more than happy to get us one. However, at this stage in the game, our number would be in the hundreds.
I SWEAR I didn’t put on an act. I was tempted. But in lieu of pure drama, I just opted for the truth. I just got close to the employee’s ear and simply said, “We didn’t know about the tickets. My daughter LOVES Chopped and we drove down from Beaver just to see Ted and get his autograph, and have to be back in Beaver by 1:00.”
“Wow. All the way from Beaver? Wait here. I’ll get you in. Hang here a minute.”
It was only a 15-20 minute drive. It’s not like we took a complete day trip to meet Ted. But, ok.
She returned with paper for the kids and pens.
“This is for you to get autographs. You’ll be first in line.”
And we were.
Ted greeted us as he passed us to enter the room. And then, once situated, they waved us in.
He was sooooooooo amazing to the kids. Shook their hands. Asked their names. Really made it about them.
Yeah, I’m gay-crushing.
He LOVED both Harper and Zane’s names, and we talked literature for a blip. Then he asked Harper what she liked to cook.
“Ritz Cracker Pizza’s.”
“Oh, I don’t know that dish. Tell me the ingredients.”
“It sounds great, Harper, like soft nacho’s.”
He then turned to Zane and asked what he liked to cook.
“Chocolate chip cookies.”
“Me, too, Zane. Do you like chocolate cookies with nuts or without?”
“Yeah, most kids don’t like nuts in their cookies.”
He was incredibly engaging with the kids, all while I was feeling completey self-conscious about continuing the conversation in front of the long line of fans who were actually holding tickets, although I secretly harbored the desire to ask Ted to please go all Queer Eye for the Straight Guy over my husband whose wardrobe has often been referred to as “Urban Lumberjack”.
He signed color photographs for the kids, and one for our neighbor, shook our hands, and thanked us for coming out.
We left the room and Harper erupted with, “THAT WAS SO AWESOME!” And then, as a family, we stopped a moment to lift up a prayer of thanks for this seemingly small favor.
I will be sending a thank you note to Ms. So and So, for she didn’t have to usher us to the front of the line. No, she could have stuck to the “law “and sent us back to get a ticket and wait just like everybody else. But instead, she placed grace before the rule and gave our family a really cool morning.
If she can break the rule, so can I.
Harper may now watch Chopped on Tuesday nights.
Zane? He just wants a bagel, and chocolate chip cookies sans nuts, and will conk out by 9:00 anyway.