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Not Newton's Next Food Network Star

I recently appeared on NewTV's Neighborhood Cooking, a real learning experience made fun and informative by host Candy Gold. But I think I'll leave the celebrity to her and others more suited to cooking on camera.

I am a foodie to the core (no pun intended). I have Food Network or Cooking Channel on in the background the way many people leave on CNN or ESPN.  I can while away blissful hours in a cookware or fine food store as many can in a shoe department or bookstore.

So when Candy Gold of NewTV’s Neighborhood Cooking asked if I would like to be a guest on her show, you’d think I would have jumped at the chance.

Instead, I quaked in my comfortable slipper socks and spent many sleepless nights before the taping of the show obsessing over what to cook, what to wear, what to say, even what color to paint my fingernails since my hands would be on camera.

But it ended up being a truly delightful and very informative experience…that I don’t think I’ll be repeating any time soon.

Cooking on camera is a very different experience from either cooking at home or writing about cooking and food. That’s not to say that food people don’t make for good on-camera personalities, but there is more to it than that.

“Everybody is the star of their own kitchen,” Gold says. “And the best recipes I’ve ever gotten are from my friends and neighbors. And that was my original concept- to go into other people’s kitchens and cook with them.” 

It was from this that Neighborhood Cooking, which takes place in Gold’s Newton kitchen, began.

Gold, who grew up on BaldPate Hill Road, didn’t start out as a cooking show host. She got into doing Neighborhood Cooking (or Newton Cooks, as it was known before it was “syndicated” to other local cable stations in the area) in a rather unusual way.

After a 2009 New Year’s Eve party at her Newton home, and with her career as a journalist and freelance writer temporarily on hold due to the economy, Gold went to search out Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and accidentally happened upon .

“I saw this screen on my TV that said, ‘If you have an idea for a show, please call NewTV,’” Gold recalls. “And I looked at my husband and said, ‘I wonder if there’s a wine or food show.’ I literally called that following Monday morning.”

Fast-forward two years (which included four months of training on the equipment) and Gold is an established presence on cable access channels throughout the area. Gold and her husband, Martin Waters, do most of the shooting and editing for Neighborhood Cooking, with the help of NewTV staffers.

 that featured a contest-winning sandwich made with her former mother-in-law’s brisket recipe.

“My son made a brisket sandwich with ketchup and two slices of white bread,” Gold laughs. “I thought, ‘I would melt cheese, or make it like a Reuben.’ And then I started playing, made a cold side and a hot side. The cold side had homemade pickles and homemade cole slaw. The hot side I do a caramelized onion spread and melted cheese and put the brisket in the middle. And that was the sandwich.”

All of this experience and expertise are what made my debut as a television chef so easy and fun. But they didn’t resolve the issues that will keep me from following my friends’ urgings to try to become The Next Food Network Star or audition for Gordon Ramsey’s Master Chef.

Writing about food and foodies is a relatively easy task for me. I mean, who doesn’t like to talk about delicious dishes and other folks who are fascinated with food? And when I write columns with my recipes in them, while it’s a lot of work to write out measurements and detail instructions, knowing that our readers will get to experience the same yummy food that my own family enjoys from my kitchen inspires me.

Similarly, the preparation of food in my own kitchen is a pleasure. While many people dread meal planning and grocery shopping and then prepping all the ingredients, not to mention the actual cooking, I find the entire process very relaxing and creatively energizing.

It’s a whole different story when you are trying to do it on camera. When I taped Neighborhood Cooking, I did have the luxury of having all of my ingredients magically ready at my fingertips (having “everything in place” when you begin cooking/baking is called mise en place). But there’s a reason this step is necessary to the smooth running of what is essentially, as Gold acknowledges, “entertainment.”

You have to talk while you’re cooking. Not just talk, but also engage in conversation about the food and yourself and the stories behind the recipes, while you are trying to beat an egg or peel a zucchini or put little daubs of butter evenly over a dish of hot noodles.

And you can’t do things you’d normally do at home, like lick your fingers or invoke the “five second rule” when something falls on the floor (though Julia Child was famous for dropping things on the floor of her kitchen set and then just charmingly tossing them away). You have to be both a more entertaining but also more sanitized version of yourself while performing an activity that, for me, is normally very familiar and relaxed.

I truly enjoyed the entire experience of appearing on Neighborhood Cooking. And Gold says that she loves having “regular people” on her show, so I would encourage any of you home cooks brave enough to ignore my own pitfalls to contact her through NewTV’s website and see if you can give it a go.

But I am going back to just writing my column here on Newton Patch and preparing food in the comfort and anonymity of my own kitchen. Food Network will have to find someone else to launch into fame.

Editor's Note/Disclaimer: Candy Gold is a writer and contributor for Newton Patch.

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