Friday, September 16, 2011

Wow, Thank you, Frito-Lay!

Yesterday was such a fun day! I woke up bright and early: the clock said 5:30, but it was my usual 6:30 EST wake-up time. I had plenty of time to check my e-mail, upload some pictures, visit the hotel gym and get a leisurely breakfast before we headed over to Frito-Lay at lunchtime. They put on a delicious lunch buffet with BBQ pork, salads, beans, and cookies. They had enough variety that I could put together a good gluten-free lunch, even having some tasty fruit salad for my dessert.

The view from the test kitchen
The grounds around the Test Kitchen were gorgeous - they had a full wall of windows overlooking "Frito Lake", with trails for walking around the lake. We were too busy to get outside. I guess I brought cooler temperatures to Texas with me, because there was a nice cool breeze coming through the door they had propped open (there were cables leading out to a truck with a satellite dish on it... lots of high-tech equipment all over the place).

The technical side of the live video feed
I got a tour of the test kitchen with Chef Stephen, the Executive Research Chef in the test kitchen. The kitchen pantry was awesome, with sliding shelves and all the ingredients arranged in alphabetical order. I could really have fun experimenting in that kitchen! They had every kind of cooking and kitchen equipment you could imagine - at least five different ovens, including a pita oven that can go up to 800 degrees! Chef Stephen showed me his cookbook library. I think he said there were over 800 cookbooks. LOL, if I ever publish a cookbook, I'll have to remember to send him one! Fun trivia: Vincent Price wrote several cookbooks, and even had a series of audio cookbooks!

Chef Stephen and his cookbook library
We were a little late starting our rehearsal, which was getting Kristen a little stressed. Kristen, Madelyn and Lauren worked very hard behind the scenes to get this event put together. They were a joy to work with, even under pressure! The rehearsal went well, and gave us the chance to fine-tune a lot of details. Chef Stephen came up with quite a few ideas, like making a mixture of ground beef and ground lamb, and let me present that information, making me look smarter!

During the rehearsal - before make-up & my official apron!

After the rehearsal, I headed over for hair & make-up. What a treat! I was joking around that I didn't even have somebody do my hair & make-up for my wedding! When she was having a little problem getting my bangs to stay the way she wanted them, I said that they had a tendency to slip into that "Ruth Buzzi look". She said that she had just done Ruth Buzzi's make-up a few days before that... that Ruth lives in the Dallas area! I told her that she should look up the old Disney movie "North Avenue Irregulars" to enjoy some classic Ruth Buzzi humor!
Make-up time!

The 5 o'clock "show time" was there before we knew it. It all went by so fast! Things were so well orgnized behind the scenes that things flowed very smoothly. Ingredients were all measured out and set in place, cue cards were taped to the walls, and we'd been over the general script several times, and we were ready to go. My spot was in the middle, so I got to step out by the cameras afterward and watch the rest from that angle.  I learned a few more things while watching Chef Stephen prepare the other recipes, Now I know how to prepare an avocado, I didn't know the skin would just peel off like that! I'll just have to make sure my husband isn't in the kitchen when I do that trick with the knife to remove the pit! That would make him nervous! Fortunately, everything went as planned. The only glitch was that we ended a little bit early.We didn't have any armadillos wandering in through the open door or anything like that! Chef Stephen was so enthusiastic as tasted each of the recipes, making me feel like some sort of master cook. I hope Angela and Meghan also got that feeling as he made their recipes!

Once the kitchen and video equipment got cleaned up, we headed out to dinner. The original plan was to go to an Italian restaurant, but when Chef Stephen found out about my gluten intolerance and my love for Greek food, he arranged for us to go to a Greek restaurant. He even picked up some gluten-free pizza crusts and arranged for the restaurant kitchen to grill them, so I would have a gluten-free alternative to pita pockets. Thank you, Chef Stephen!!! The Greek restaurant was fantastic, and I got to try some new foods, like grape leaves wrapped around artichoke paste. So, I can no longer say that I've never had an artichoke! I had a delicious Greek salad with lamb on top, and then a nibble of a Baklava ice cream cake. I don't think I've ever been at a restaurant so late that they turn off the lights in the kitchen! Another first for me! We stayed at the restaurant until nearly ten pm!

Visiting the Flavor Kitchens was a fantastic experience. Chef Stephen is very passionate about introducing new flavors made with natural ingredients. You can see the video by visiting the Frito-Lay Facebook page and click on the "Snack Chatter" link at the left. Here's a link to the page on the Frito Website that has my recipe.

On Friday morning, I had time for one more adventure before I head home: a tour of the Frito-Lay plant, to see how chips are made! It was amazing to see how they could change some things around and use the same machine to make some very different chips, and how huge some of the machinery was. I couldn't help but smile when the guy told us in his Texas drawl about tossing five hundred pounds of corn into a machine to cook! I don't think I've cooked 500 pounds of corn in my twenty-five years in my kitchen!

I was impressed with the way that Frito-Lay works so hard at recycling. All through the plant, there were recycling bins for paper, cans and bottles. During the tour, I heard about how batches of chips that don't go right will be used for livestock feed (I imagine there are some happy pigs in Texas, munching on chips that got a little too brown around the edges!). Other by-products of the production line are used for composting. Even the heavy-duty paper bags that hold 50 pounds of corn or other grain get put into collection boxes for recycling. There was a strong emphasis on safety, too. Even though we were just walking through the production floor, not touching anything, we still had to remove all jewelry, and wear hair nets, ear plugs and safety goggles. That was quite a fashion statement!

On the way home from the airport late Friday night, I had to run into the grocery store to pick up milk for breakfast. As I walked back to the dairy section, I passed a display of Frito-Lay products, and it made me smile. I think I'll be smiling for a long time. It was a fantastic trip!

"Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: 

"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

No comments:

Post a Comment