OK, I admit, I’ve never really thought of myself as a ‘grandma’ in the traditional sense. I mean, yes, I loved and adored my paternal grandmother, Alice, whom I was named after. Much of my cooking was inspired by spending hours on end in the kitchen with her. And, I think I have a lot of her ‘piss n’ vinegar’ personality. I didn’t know my Croatian grandmother, Mary, very well. She passed away in her early 60s. Such a shame because I could have learned so much from her. And, here I am now in my 60s, and I in no way resemble the ‘grandmothers’ that I were in my life. But, I am a grandma, and I’m showing the world on Food Network’s new show, Clash of the Grandmas!
I mean my Grandma Alice was probably not much older than I am now when I hung out in her kitchen back in the late 1950s and 1960s. But, she seemed ‘old’ to me as a kid. Oh, yeah, her personality was sparky, she was witty, she was full of energy, but she looked old. Wire rim spectacles. Frumpy dresses, handkerchiefs tucked under the arm of her sweater or dress, grey blue short curly hair that was meticulously done once weekly at the ‘beauty parlor’. Very much the same with what I can remember about my Croatian grandma.
And, here I am in 2016 very much a grandma. I knew I’d always be a mom, but a grandmother, no that seemed only for ‘old’ people. However, with the advent of Food Network’s new hit show, ‘Clash of the Grandmas’ all that has changed. Grandmas are no longer the images that we might have plastered in our minds from decades ago. That stereotype has been shattered! All you have to do is watch this hit show and see what I mean. Or go to Twitter and put in the hashtag #clashofthegrandmas and read the tweets about this show. Yep, it’s the next best hit for this network after ‘Chopped’!
I’m a grandma who’s known to my seven grandchildren, ranging in ages from 25 to 14 months, as Mama Ally. I like to think that I’m the kind of grandmother who is hip, current and keeping up with the changes in the world, especially technology and social media. I know I’m the kind of grandma who does cool things with the kids, from snowshoeing, camping trips, motorcycle riding to, yes, making cookies in the kitchen.
So, what possessed me to audition for ‘Clash of the Grandmas’? Well, it was a strong desire to share with the world, but primarily to share with my grandchildren something that, I hope, will inspire them to keep on truckin’, keep on growin’, keep on dreamin’ as they someday enter this stage of their lives. This honor of being a grandmother is part of my joie de vivre of life and boho living.
Competing on ‘Clash of the Grandmas’ was not a walk in the park. I’ve done a lot of food competitions, and this show was right there in the tops for grueling. You have to have a razor focus. Be cool under immense pressure. Think quick on your feet. Be able to execute within tight and ticking time limits. And, more. You have the huge element of surprise not knowing what you’re going to be asked to cook. Nor do you know what glitches the show’s producers want to throw in to keep the episode interesting and entertaining! You can’t be a grandma who’s not in pretty darn good shape either because filming, being on your feet for hours, being surrounded by cameras, makeup, hair, people, and information is coming at you in split second speed!
How in sam hill did I even make it to the show? Well, the first thing you do is go through a long tedious and detailed audition process. It can last for weeks or months. Casting agents and assistants are gathering information. They want to dig into who you are, what makes you tick, your personality, your life and see if you’re the right fit for their audience. Will you be fun to watch. Will you capture the hearts of America? Do you have a back story that’s compelling and engaging? From Skype interviews, videos, photos, phone interviews to sending in recipes, food photos and more, these casting agents dig deep to find the right people for these Food Network shows.
Then what happens when you get that call that you’ve been cast? Well, it’s another round of months of paperwork! More details on your recipes. More information on your family. More photos. Appearance release forms signed by anyone who might be in a photo that they decide to use in final production. One photo I submitted was of my four of my children/spouses and the grands, but, yes, minus one daughter, her hubby and two grandsons. The casting age emailed me back and said, ‘Ally, all we want is your ‘immediate’ family, not your extended.’ I said, ‘This is immediate! And, there’re four missing!’
Filming the show is all together another experience! Yes, you’re flown to L.A. All expenses paid. But, this is far from a ‘holiday’ or ‘vacation’. You’re out there for a purpose. There’s big money involved. In the case of this show, ten thousand dollars to the winner! Everything happens like a tornado. There’s makeup. There’s hair. There’s wardrobe. Food Network chooses the apron they want you to wear. And, yes, these are ‘granny’ lookin’ aprons that I never wear in my own kitchen. I prefer a tight black or white waist tied chef’s apron! While you have some say so in what you wear, the production team selects and chooses from what you’ve brought with you.
Probably the best part of this amazing experience on ‘Clash of the Grandmas’ was meeting my ‘competition’…the other grandmas. And, boy, were they spicy, hot and fun! You form new friendships, you talk about your grandchildren, you share pictures, but in the end, you walk into the Food Network kitchen to your ‘grandma’ station and you go for blood. You want to win! But, regardless of the outcome, whether you get cut or make it to the very end for the final cookoff, you know that you’ve done something pretty phenomenal. More than just sharing family traditions and food. More than whipping up fine recipes and dishes. You’ve shown the world that dreams truly have no expiration date. And, that in this new world, this 21st century, the concept, the ideal, the image, the persona of ‘grandma’ has forever been altered by ‘Clash of the Grandmas’!
Four globe-trotting grandmas take off on a culinary world tour! First, they have to make pizza the Belgian way, using a waffle iron as their only baking source. Next, it’s “aloha-ole!” as the grannies make a mash-up of Hawaiian and Mexican cuisines. Then, the final two grandmas go tropical as they turn the ingredients from a frozen daiquiri into a dessert that will earn them $10,000.
Competitors: Karen Darensburg (Albuquerque, New Mexico), Claudine Marshall (Agoura Hills, California), Ally Phillips (Murrell Inlet, South Carolina), Genevieve Vang (Detroit, Michigan)
Judges: Sharone Hackman, Aarti Sequiera, Jake Smollett