Donna and family left for NY for the Chopped Grill Masters shoot a week before me. I was tied up at work so I couldn’t join them for a week-long holiday. My plan was to fly in on the red eye and do the two-day shoot and fly back to work. Here’s Donna’s story of her spring break NY trip 2015.
The Chopped Grill Masters Journey, Part V
By Donna Fong
After months of preparation, the day had approached for our family to make the journey east for the Chopped Grill Masters shoot. We had planned to visit Washington D.C. during my daughter’s spring break. It was meant to enhance her 5th grade U.S. history lessons and instill a sense of patriotism. I never had a sense of American pride until I stepped out of our country. I was hoping to jump-start that pride with a visit to our nation’s capital.
It just so happened that the filming dates were the Sunday and Monday after our trip. So we extended our vacation by three days and pulled my daughter out of school for two additional days. Our family (my brother (Ray), my daughter (Miranda), and Harry’s daughter (Amy)), spent four days in D.C., one day in Philadelphia and then joined Harry in New York.
There were some concerns about rain but for the most part, we remained dry and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Our families are well matched for travel, being overly focused on eating much of the time. Priorities during the trip were eating a pizza, cheesecake, a pastrami sandwich, Matzo ball soup, bagels and a Philadelphia cheese steak. Thanks to Uber and the subway system, we easily navigated ourselves from one eating joint to another.
When the vacation portion was over and the filming began, Amy went home and my brother became the babysitter for my daughter. Harry arrived in New York City ready to win. The first night there, he was watching YouTube videos on cooking. It was then that I learned that Harry likes to cram. All of that cramming made me nervous so I studied my recipe flashcards in the kids’ room. I hadn’t cooked in weeks since I had a business trip, a BBQ class and then our vacation right before filming. I felt rusty which made me even more nervous.
The Grill Masters episode was filmed at Queens County Farm in Glen Oaks. It’s just outside of New York on the bottom half of Long Island. From what I could tell, all of the contestants were staying in the same hotel and mostly on the same floor. So running into our fellow contestants was easy and often. Who isn’t going to recognize Danielle Dimovski of Diva Q, Mike Davis of Lotta Bull or Candy Sue Weaver of BBQ’ers Delight and the former president of KCBS?
Before dinner, we ran into Candy Sue. I’ve known Candy for a while now, having run into her at national contests. Her southern drawl sounds romantic no matter what she’s saying. Candy is a sweet down to earth person who is well known on the BBQ arena. She is also super smart and understands the nuances of human nature. I loved talking and listening to Candy.
New York is a long way from home for most of us barbecue competition circuit cooks. So seeing one another on the road, when our families are at home, is a warm ray of light. Those of us who have cooked on the BBQ circuit understand that teams are not so much adversaries but old friends. We cheer for one another. We take turns winning each weekend: some more than others. So when I ran into my BBQ friends, I was always excited. We chatted for as long as we could.
Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX and Part X