Nicole Gaffney

We’re all a little too aware of the way personal chefs have been portrayed on reality food shows. The producers have long had a habit of selecting wackadoodle folks who have nothing in common with the craft and career path we’ve honed. So, when we learned that APPCA member Nicole Gaffney was selected as a finalist of Food Network Star, we knew that finally we’d be well represented to the public.

Nicole didn’t let us down. Indeed, she did us proud. On Sunday night we watched the finale with bated breath, hoping that as one of the three finalists in this long road she’d prove the winner. Unfortunately, viewers–in all their wisdom–selected cowboy Lenny.

On Rachael Ray

In our eyes, though, Nicole is truly a winner–and she knows it, too. Out of tens of thousands of applicants she was selected to compete. She made some gaffes (who didn’t!), but she learned from them. And, she was a trouper. Remember Episode 3’s Cutthroat Kitchen challenge when she got a spice grinder to grind her meat for spaghetti and meatballs and then, in the middle of making her dish, she was sent to stomp grapes? Who else could channel Lucy Ricardo and turn grape stomping into a charming comedic routine? That was our Nicole!

Stomping the grapes

“You have to be slightly insane to do a competition like this,” she laughed back then.

In that same episode, she came out of whatever shell they judges felt she’d been locked in and helped create a zany Hershey’s commercial selling Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, trilling her Spanish R’s like a nut in her blue poncho–and helped win the challenge.

Reese's Pieces

Nicole’s Coastal Cuisine point of view (our Jersey girl “Food Network Star de la Mare”) was consistent, week after week. Okay, she had to get over her self-acknowledged “resting bitch face,” and find her bubbly side. And she did. She came to be at ease in front of the camera. The turning point came in week six, when Giada told her to just let go and stop being wound up so tight. “Be who you want to be.”

Green screen dreams

That was what she told call-in viewer Traci from New Jersey on finale night. “When Giada told me I was wound up too tight, I realized I needed to relax.”

Presentation counts for a lot, clearly, on a television show. But the food can’t fail. And in every challenge, Nicole’s food was praised by the mentors. They loved her food from the first–from her sesame-crusted tuna with spicy soy glaze that was her introduction to us, her couscous salad that chef Alex Guarnaschelli had to follow her on, her spicy pork kabobs with pineapple that she demoed at Knott’s Berry Farm, her fried frogs legs with spicy tamarind glaze and cucumber mango slaw along with her desconstructed s’mores dessert in Las Vegas, and even her spicy shrimp and vegetable lettuce wraps–even though it wasn’t a hit with the little kids. Okay, there was that brush up over prosciutto versus serrano ham–but let’s just let that go…

Vegas pool party

When Bob opened that first red envelope on finale night and it turned out that Nicole had hit third place, you could see the disappointment on the part of the judges and Susie, who told her, “I’ve always thought the world of you and just seeing you today so elegant and such a lovely person… It would have been a pleasure to have you join this family.”

With Robert Irvine

Bobby Flay told Nicole that she had a natural ability to be on camera. “I was rooting for you all the way. This is just a bump in the road to your success.”

And here Nicole showed all the class she’s demonstrated throughout the competition. “It’s been a huge dream of mine. It was life changing. I’ve grown so much as a person and learned so much about myself. Maybe I’ll get to be on TV someday.”

Ronnybrook Milk Bar

Nicole, no doubt your dreams will be realized. But whatever you do and whatever path you take, you’ve already shown the world what a real personal chef can do and be. You’ve been one of the best ambassadors for our career that we could dream of. Bobby’s right. This is just a bump in the road. Your journey is just beginning and there are great things in store for you! We will avidly be reading your blog Too Full for School to learn what’s up next!

#teamNicole

What did you think of Nicole’s run on Food Network Star? Is there a cooking show you want to audition for?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

Pete McCracken

Our beloved “answer man,” Pete McCracken, passed away on June 20. Pete, who was not only an APPCA member but a city councilman in his town of Porterville, Calif., had suffered a heart attack in late May and also had cancer.

Pete and I had been exchanging emails for the past month on a project we were working on and he never said a word about his illnesses. For me, personally, his death has been a big shock and heart breaker. He was truly colorful; those who knew him reveled in his stories. And he had many.

For those of us in APPCA who participate in the online forums, he was, indeed, our answer man. Post a question and you could count on Pete doing thorough research and coming up with an answer. He would fully investigate topics and provide informative links. It was a passion with Pete to have the answers for everything and we loved him for it. In fact, once something was answered by Pete the conversation pretty much ended, with all parties fully informed.

As you’ll learn if you go to the Fresno Bee’s obituary, Pete was a man of many and diverse talents and interests. He was a farmer and spoke Arabic, having farmed in Yemen for three years. He consulted in a variety of countries for the World Bank on agricultural irrigation and drainage. For a couple of years Pete and his wife Wanda owned and operated Le Bistro, a French restaurant in Porterville. And,  following his passion for dance, the couple also owned and operated a dance studio that taught Western dance. With all that, Pete still found time to serve his community as chairman of the council of cities in Tulare County, a member of the Porterville’s Planning Commission, and Porterville’s mayor from 2009 to 2010.

And, of course, Pete was an accomplished chef.

How could a life so rich not be celebrated! He was a really smart man, one heckofa chef, and a true individual! One of a kind, indeed! We send our condolences to Wanda, his son Matthew, and his three stepchildren. And we encourage you to share your memories of Pete below.

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Week 5

Photo courtesy of Food Network

APPCA member Nicole Gaffney pretty much sailed through week five on Food Network Star. The eight finalists were driven to Knott’s Berry Farm for their challenge–preparing an assigned classic American food pairing for the 4th of July in one hour and then presenting a live demo of the dish in four minutes to an audience in the theme park’s Wagon Camp Amphitheater.

Nicole was assigned barbecue pork and onion rings. Well, how does a chef make barbecue anything in an hour? Nicole quickly came up with Spicy Pork Kabobs with Pineapple, creating a chipotle marinade inspired by Mexican tacos al pastor. Then she did a quick pickle of a shallot before breading and frying it to make onion rings. Through this, during one of her little camera interviews, she made a point about herself that went viral on social media. “I have a chronic case of resting bitch face,” she said. “I need to put on a smile and work it.”

Work it she did. Judge Bobby Flay said he liked both her food and her fun demo. But while the other judges agreed that she engaged the audience and made a good dish, Giada De Laurentiis pointed out that Nicole didn’t quite link her dish to her Jersey Shore background or coastal POV. Nevertheless, she is safe and moving on to the next challenge next week. Go Nicole!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

 

 

 

 

 

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