I tell people that everything I have learned about life I have learned through cooking or at the very least, food experiences. These lessons still keep on coming. I thought I would take a break from my “Is it still Good” series talking about one of those lessons I learned this week.

A few months ago, I was asked to try out for the Food Network show CHOPPED. Never having even heard of the show, I figured, why not try out. Never believing they would
call. I forgot about it in the same breath. But surprisingly, they called me to tape for the show. Something about loving my personality and energy! I was super excited! I would be on TV doing what I absolutely love, cooking. This should be easy! I had this in the bag. Well, not quite. How shall I say this? I sucked! Well perhaps sucked is putting it mildly. I’ll try to think of a stronger adjective. But, yup, lesson # 1 hit me hard and fast: Be prepared for when opportunities come your way. Many times, I hear people complain about how unfair life is, or how they don’t get the things they want. Sometimes its not that life does not offer us opportunities, it’s just that we are not prepared for them so we squander them, or plain old, don’t recognize them as such.
After my horrible defeat on CHOPPED, I told a few friends about the taping but I wouldn’t tell them when the show would air. I did my best to hide the fact that I appeared on the show. Lesson # 2 was around the corner: All things done in the dark will come to light. Come to light this did. The internet was the one little monkey ranch in my plan to remain as an anonymous contender on the show. The same wonderful following that enjoyed reading my articles in the Haitian Times, the same group that attend my events and parties, and the same supportive clients that continuously hire me for their functions, are also the ones who brought it all to light. “Oh Nadege, I just saw a commercial on the Food Network, I’m so proud of you”. “Oh my God Nadege, I just saw you on TV.” After days of deleting every wall posting on my FACEBOOK profile page that made reference of the Food Network, I caved in. I just accepted the fact that tons of people would see me do horribly on live television.

Usually I’m a person who accepts things very lightly, for the life of me; I could not understand why I felt so horrible and ashamed about this one incident. I am a klutz, I fall down on the street all the time, I walk around with spinach in my teeth, and I make blond statements on a quite a few occasions, so I thought I had become numb to embarrassing moments. Why was this so hard to swallow? But then I realized why: when I first got on the show, I was so proud and honored to be the Haitian on the show. Especially since the actually taping took place about a week after the earthquake. I really wanted to represent in a positive light. But when I lost, and lost badly, I felt like I let everyone down. It didn’t feel like Nadege lost, it felt like Haiti lost. That thought brought me to Lesson # 3: Arrogance can rear its ugly head in the mild form of altruism.

This was a hard one to swallow because I always thought I was far from arrogant. As much as I wanted to represent Haiti, and represent Haiti well, Nadege losing was just that, ME LOSING. Not Haiti. I was only one person, and for me to think that my defeat could bring down the image of a whole nation, is down right absurd and arrogant. Haiti existed prior to me and the whole other slew of others who have been on the Food Network and other stations. We are simply a thread in the quilt, not the quilt. While it is important we do our part, we can’t get too caught up in ourselves.

After I accepted Lesson #3, it became quite easy to realize Lesson #4: Your friends don’t really care if you win or lose when you appear on the Food Network to compete on a nationally syndicated show; all that matters is that you were on TV! 

Nadege Fleurimond is the owner & business manager of Fleurimond Catering, Inc., www.fgcatering.com, an off-premise catering firm serving the NY/NJ/CT/MA areas. She is also the author of a Taste of Life: A Culinary Memoir, a humorous and heart warming compilation of recipes and funny anecdotes. http://www.nadegefleurimond.com. Please submit thoughts and questions pertaining to the column via email at nadege1981@gmail.com.

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