The non-professional side of Madison's food scene may be poised to have its profile raised a notch or two with the advent of a new Spike TV series that plans to devote at least one segment to innovative home cooks from our area.
Frankenfood will be the network's first food-centric show.
At this point, the show's producers are investigating "different places across the country, looking for real, everyday people," says Debra Fazio-Rutt of Spike TV. Madison, presumably, will yield cooks dishing up something fresh; other cities on the audition list that are somewhat unexpected are San Antonio, Austin, and Houston, Texas. Also on the list are New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Paramus, New Jersey.
The casting call for Frankenfood asks potential contestants to bring in their "unexpected food concoctions" (as described on the press release). The recipe could be a family heirloom, explains Fazio-Rutt, something developed over time, or even something thrown together at the last minute from found-fridge ingredients for an impromptu dinner party. According to a statement from the production company Sharp Entertainment, "We are looking for people who think outside the box and create interesting food combinations."
Madison-area auditions will take place at the Sheraton Madison Hotel, 706 John Nolen Dr., this Saturday, Dec. 7, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
"Everybody gets a ten-minute slot," says Fazio-Rutt. Cooks should be prepared to talk about the story behind their dish, why it's unique, and why it could or should win. Then the cook needs to walk the show producers through the process of cooking the dish, explaining "how it's built," and its culinary influences. Finally the cook will be asked to eat the dish and describe its taste. The casting producer will also try the dish. However, the backstory of a dish could be as important as the taste.
While the described concept for the show would seem to encompass "over the top" flavors and/or inventive hacks, overall the search may be for delicious. The term "Frankenfood" is meant to describe "revolutionary creations that mix outrageous and unexpected ingredients to create delicious and unique flavors," according to Fazio-Rutt, and has absolutely nothing to do with how the term is generally used and understood around this area to indicate genetically modified foods.
Spike TV has ordered 10 half-hour episodes of Frankenfood, but how they'll be divvied up among the targeted audition cities is up for grabs and will depend on the food and talent discovered during the auditions; "the number of episodes devoted to Madison depends on what we find," says Fazio-Rutt. She expects at least one episode would center on Madison-area cooks and their dishes, possibly more. "Everybody should bring their food and their stories," she encourages.
Local cooks picked for the Madison episode or episodes will ultimately compete against each other to win their dish a slot on the menu of a local restaurant. That restaurant has yet to be determined. Those coming out on top will also receive a cash prize.
Cooks interested in the casting call should prepare by filling out a questionnaire prior to the tryouts, and bring at least one serving size of their dish and a current photo of themselves to the Sheraton.
The show will be hosted by chef Josh Capon (Lure Fishbar, B&B Winepub in Manhattan) and Philly cheesesteak guy Tony Luke Jr.. Capon and Luke will also judge, as will a representative from the local restaurant picked to add the winning dish to its menu.