Born to Grill
Family ties to the Travel Channel.
My cousin David Guas has a television show on the Travel Channel. It airs on Wednesday nights at 8pm, and this coming week the show he filmed in New Orleans hits the screen.
I won’t lie – I’m a little envious of David. By “a little,” I mean, “a lot.” But I also love David and his family, and I’m pretty content about the state of my life at the current time, and maybe in my dotage I have learned that jealousy is a green-eyed monster to be avoided. I don’t know; I do know I’m very happy for him.
And I’m also very, very happy to be able to write that I actually really like his show. Because I would have had to write about it regardless, given that he’s my cousin, and if I didn’t like it the balancing act I’d have had to manage would have been extremely uncomfortable. “It’s interesting …” I’d have said, cringing. Fortunately David is smart and talented and his show is produced by smart, talented people.
Per the name, American Grilled is a cooking competition in which the contestants use a grill as the principal cooking method. Like the Food Network show Chopped, the main ingredients they’re given to cook are a surprise. Unlike Chopped, this is a show that focuses on the specific location in which it’s filmed. This makes sense, as the show is, after all, broadcast by the Travel Channel.
David has been on television before. In July he appeared on the Today Show for the 20th time; he’s appeared on Chopped and Unique Sweets, also on the Food Network. Unless I miss my guess, he and his father will at some point also host a show about their connection to the food and people of Cuba, but that’s a tale for another day…
My point is that David is somewhat used to the spotlight, and that’s apparent when you watch the show.
If you’re interested in how a show like American Grilled gets off the ground, here’s what David told me. The show-runner who cast him on Chopped, Beth Schiff, gave his name to Neil DeGroot, who was putting together a show for the Travel Channel. DeGroot gave his name to Patrick McManamee, a producer for the Travel Channel, who contacted David directly and set up a meeting. That meeting went well, and within a day they agreed to shoot three episodes.
Those episodes did well in focus group testing, but it still took a few months for the Travel Channel to order an additional 10 shows; the 13 shows comprise the first season, and they’ve been airing in the order in which they were shot.
The day they filmed in New Orleans it was overcast and raining. I went down to the French Market to watch the sausage being made, and to wave at David. I had lunch at the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen and had a great conversation with the mother of one of the contestants. I was impressed by how prepared the crew was for the rain; I’ve lived here 45 years and I don’t think I’d have had tents and such ready in the event it rained.
So I was there, but I’m not going to tell you who won the competition, largely because I don’t know who won the competition. I wasn’t around for the end of the filming; I had to get back to my day job and I knew better than to ask David who won before the show aired. You’ll have to find out who won with me next week when the show airs.
I think there are a number of things that make the show successful. Part of it is, as David told me, that the Travel Channel has provided the resources to make each location the center of each episode. Chef Clifford Gulibert heads a culinary team who spend a great deal of time just tracking down local ingredients for the contestants to use, and connecting with chefs and other folks who can give the show some insight into the culture of the place they’re filming.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am biased where it comes to my cousin David. I have known him since he was about 2, and am still in debt to his father Mariano for many, many reasons. David is one year younger than my brother would have been had he lived and though I should not associate the two of them I do. I’m very, very proud of David.
American Grilled’s New Orleans episode airs Wednesday on the Travel Channel at 8pm, as mentioned above. You should watch it and let me know what you think unless you don’t like it in which case you should write a letter to someone about your concerns.