It's On and Poppin'! Major Weekend in DC: Lemon & Vanilla Flan Made it to Food Network Casting & Cooking For Paquito D'Rivera!

Can’t you tell I’m UBER EXCITED. GIRL FOOLISH EXCITED! I wish all my weekends were as sweet as this past. It seems as though I’d have to move back to DC to enjoy these moments. So many last minute beautiful things occurred in the last few days. Not that great things don’t happen in Atlanta (like cooking for Outkast, or teaching cooking classes twice a month), but sometimes being surrounded my family and *ride or die* friends is priceless.

Take a few minutes to read and I promise you’ll be inspired to go out and do your thaannng!

So I didn’t make it a public announcement here that I was auditioning for Next Food Network Star, Season 5. I had to get my mind right and not be torn and tattered by all kinds of thoughts of the FN, from nay sayers and lovers.

I’m a lover, baby…

But for the few of you that knew and wished me well–THANKS A MIL!!! I felt your well wishes all weekend (Michelle of Bleeding Espresso, Lys at Cooking in StilettosMelissa at Alosha’s Kitchen, Don over at Mr. Orph’s Kitchen and all my Facebook friends, you’re so sweet and too generous!). I hustled a last minute flight to DC on Thursday and flew up. I could have done a 3 min vid and sent it in, but nah…I wanted to show my face. Friday morning was nothing like what I expected. Over 100 ppl showed up–not what the casting folks were expecting, either. All kinds of characters ya’ll! Oh my goodness. Chefs, writers, wine connoisseurs, chatter boxes, teachers, etc…Energy was cool and relaxed. I was 30th in line. Does that mean something? Earlier last year a little bird spoke to me and told me that this year was going to be my IT year! BIG things were going to happen. So I was feeling good. I sat for 2 hours before I got called in. 4 minutes later and I was invited to come back yesterday to do a 3 minute technique! Too bad we couldn’t do anything then ‘cuz I was ready to go with my *secret weapon* in one hand a lemon/vanilla flan in the other!

Okay so that was Friday. But on Saturday, as I’m trying to find energy to get up and go to church, my mother says: “Mijita, Paquito viene pa’lmolzar en una hora. Levantate y ponte a cocinar!” WHAT. Are you freakin’ serious!? Paquito D’Rivera was coming over for lunch in an hour and I had to cook for 8!

If you know me by now, you know I’m a musician, too. I sing and play the cello. So anything music floats my boat. And if you don’t know, Paquito D’Rivera is a 9-time Grammy winning International Latin Jazz Saxophonist. He and my father have been friends for 40 years and have in the last 4 years rekindled their childhood friendship. So when he’s in town, he always pays a visit, unannounced. I’m particularly excited b/c he’s a world class musician, I get to cook for him and more importantly he’s CUBAN!! When I first met him, we were both in Atlanta and he treated me as if I were the only person in the whole theatre.

And if you watch Food Network’s “Iron Chef”, you’ve seen him be a judge twice already (Morimoto v. Sanchez w/seabass and Cora vs. Falkner w/honey). I’m so relieved I wasn’t subject of his critical wrath as Sanchez or Morimto (can’t remember which one he slaughtered) was on national TV. That would NOT have been good for my stardom pitches!

So with no real time to plan, I jumped out of bed and did what I know best! I made a 6-course traditional Cuban meal and that lemon vanilla flan, just what he loves and seldom eats at home (how cool his wife’s name is Brenda!) The day was absolutely beautiful, so my mother quickly adorned our deck so we could break bread outside, against the perfect sun and light wind.

After I made black beans over rice, garlic infused tenderloin with a Savignon/Merlot and tomato sauce, fried plantains, boiled yuca with garlic mojo, and a gorgeous avocado salad, we sat down and blessed our meal. Over a wonderful wine Paquito brought, stories of life in Cuba, and talk about my new endeavors, we ate all that goodness. I loved it when he entered his quiet space as he savored the meat and yuca.

(Carne con papa, traditional yuca con mojo, sweet fried plantains, ensalad de aguacate)

(Fresh out of the shower, enjoying an ‘al fresco’ lunch on my parents deck)

(PacMan and me going over cookbook proofs)

(Cuban chatter)

(a red-headed me with Pacquito)

(bro, dad, Paquito, mom, me, cuz, niece)

What is so incredibly telling about his last minute, unexpected visit, is that I had called him just 2 weeks ago to ask him for a huge favor on a project I’m working on, but had not heard back as he was in touring in Japan. When I told him, in confidence, he gladly offered to do what I solicited from him. This girl jumped and screamed THANK YOU!!!! Hug, hug, kiss, kiss. The lemon flan you see on the table in the pics, and a few shots of Cuban espresso finished off an exquisite lunch.

This is why good food is so important! People say yes when their stomach is about to pop with food stuff!

I ended my Saturday just so thankful for my life and all I do! Oh my gosh, I am so darn lucky sometimes, I swear! But let’s talk about how I didn’t sleep last night, praying all night, falling asleep in the middle of my prayers (I’m so sorry God), and coming up with all kinds of food stories I wanted to share, like how food is STILL rationed in Cuba with monthly allotments. I was so ready to get it over with. I went in with my mom in support of, a new flan that smelled and looked damn good and the *secret weapon* in tow! Went in, did my thing and walked out.

Get this though. Last night, as I’m watching the amazingly funny Tina Fey do a perfect mockery of Sarah Palin during the Veep debates, she said something that made my face light up like it hasn’t since I fell in love with a certain guy. Toward the end of the faux debate, *Sarah Palin* says she just loves to bull-fight and eat CUBAN FOOD! What!?!?! Did she just say she loves CUBAN FOOD! Are you serious! I don’t care if it’s a lie or not, but how random or NOT is it that of all foods in the world, she would say she loves CUBAN FOOD–the very food I’m highlighting and basing my own show I’m trying to convince FN they need! Did the writers just make that up? Or does SP really love Cuban food? I don’t care, really, I’m just geeked that it put my food on the map on that level (though not really the first time on TV). And if SP loves Cuban food, why can’t the rest of the world love it!?! OH My Precious God. Say what you want. Confirmation is what I heard.


So tell me my faithful readers, was this weekend not awesome or what!?! Thank each of your for being so kind and sweet and always sharing your wonderful thoughts on my food and crazy life! I always want you around! Wish me great luck! I’ll keep you posted.

This is what I made for Paquito and the casting girls, who, off the record, were super cool. We had political and fashion talk–so girlie.

I love it.



Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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0 thoughts on “It's On and Poppin'! Major Weekend in DC: Lemon & Vanilla Flan Made it to Food Network Casting & Cooking For Paquito D'Rivera!

  1. Well girl, what can I say? You are one busy woman and that makes me so happy 😉 I wish you the best of the best. You deserve it :)

  2. I don’t know how many of your readers can appreciate the thrill of cooking for Paquito Rivera but I have been a Latin music afficionado my entire adult life…and I think that’s a pretty cool experience. P.S. Tina Fey was taking off on Sarah Pallin’s pandering to the south FL vote…jokingly saying that she loved Israel and Cuban food (thereby covering a large population of the area.) Isn’t she great in the role?!

  3. You’re so right, what a fantastic couple of days.  This goes to show that hard work does in fact pay off, and it’s sooo worth it.  I like how you kind of just ‘throw together’ a dinner for 8 like that.  Ya know, gourmet food, no big deal :)

    I believe in signs sometimes.  That Cuban food thing with the Food TV is just too close of a coincidence, don’tcha think?  Good luck times a million

  4. Bren, wow.. what can I say.  I admire you spirit.  I wish you all the best with everything.  Be sure to keep us posted on what happens.  I shall pray to the FN gods to make sure they know what is good for them!! 

    Keep on ROCKIN’!!!!!!

  5. I’m glad you made it. I guess now I should try the flan. Did you tell them you come with a full production team? Lights (me), Sound (me), Music (me), Video (not so much)…
    I ‘ll see ya soon…

  6. What up Star! I see your still doing your thang.
    “True playa for real, ask Puff Daddy”
    The Game is yours.

  7. Hey Brenda, thanks for adding me on FB, the food kind. 😉 Gosh, you cook, sing AND write? is there anything that you dont do? lol.

    How cool is that you’re auditioning for the next food network? I wish you all the best.

  8. Your table and menu are just glorious! I am starving now. And I soooooo wish you luck with the FN gig. That would be the ultimate. I haven’t had a lot of Cuban food but what I have had was fabulous! We have one place here in OC.

  9. Congrats on the weekend–that’s a lot of exciting news! I’d be rooting for you if you made it on FN. Keep us posted!

  10. Congrats Chica!  I know you will get a call back because you are the BOMB and of course a smart and beautiful Latina goes a long way.  Besitos!!

  11. You’re a multitalented star in the making.  I’m pullin’ for ya!

    And seriously Bren, your feast looks… just wow.

  12. What a wonderful story and beautiful pictures of your family.  Im praying God will continue to bless your life.  He has given you some great gifts.  You are very talented and man ,girl your food is the bomb!

  13. Bren, I swear you have some good Karma around you! Everytime I come here, I hear something even more spectacular!  You are blessed girl!
    Congrats to all your wonderful news! Can I get some of your Karma????

  14. FN would be very lucky to score a talented young chef like yourself.  This is something that I’m sure the public would enjoy watching.  I know I would watch with a pad n paper writing down all techniques. Bravo!

  15. I want to thank ALL of you that left a comment so far! This is all very exciting and I just wanted to share with you. The audition was great but a just a wee bit curve ball was thrown at me! And if you don’t know who Paquito D’Rivera, look him up!! I promise you’ll love him and his work. He’s a master at what he does!

    And thanks to the new readers this week! I’ll be making sure to stop by your blog and bookmark you. The more friends, the better!


  16. I am so happy for you!!! you’re going to get the spot on the show, I just know it cause well you’ve got the drive and personality for it! also your flan was amazing and your cookbook was beautiful.  Good luck!! =]

  17. Bren, thank you so much for visiting my blog.  I must say you have one magnificent site.  I love it.  I will be back to view some more.  I’m glad you liked the Chocolate 3 Leches cake.

  18. Bren –  not only does Food Network need your Cuban Cooking, they need your ENERGY! Best of Luck to You!

    Love your menu and alfresco table!

  19. YAY! Glad for you I hope you make it on Food Network and kick all those other chefs ASSES lol.

    You deserve a show if they gave that talentless FAKE latino cuisine cook “Ingrid Hoffman” who cooks nasty misrepresentations of foods of various Spanish speaking countries, which they did, they would be brain dead not to pick you for a show.

    Food Network needs some REAL ethnic food, they need a good CUBAN cook, who was taught to cook old school from mama like you, go represent what real Cuban food is not like a bunch of those “faux” latino cooks.

    :) Wish you success!

  20. Hey I saw your Yuca Con Mojo video, how come you did it so different from the typical Yuca Con Mojo, I thought the Mojo is suppose to be a sauce, like the garlic is mashed to a paste in the mortar with salt, then you add “Naranja Agria” or “Limon verde” and incorporate well, after you heat extra-virgin olive oil to a near smoke “a su punto” and carefully add it to the garlic lime mix and incorporate into a sauce that’s what we do in my home.

    Or is how you did it a particular way that they do it in some places in Cuba??? Or is it just to appeal to a braoder audience who can’t tolerate the pudgent garlic in the sauce or stand bitter oranges and limes?

  21. Thanks so much for visiting … you have a great blog and I wish you all the best in your FN endeavors. Just by looking at this page I immediately get that you have a great personality and they would be lucky to have you on there! Look forward to reading more of your recipes.

  22. What great news and good luck to you! This seems like it’s right up your alley and when they call you, make sure you squeeze in a couple bars of your best song and your amazing voice!
    You’re a triple threat. Be cool and classy and don’t let them take you out of context and misrepresent you Bren! You are so talented, they better show that through to their audience…or else! They’ll have seriously pissed bloggers banging at their door!

  23. Okay so how bout that Lemon Flan sounds amaZing!  Not enough people can appreciate the fresh taste of lemon warmed by sexy vanilla.  YUM!  I’m going to learn to make it.  Thanks for sharing girl.  You make life sound so exciting and i LOVE IT!

  24. Girl, you make me laugh! FN should know by now they need more Latinas on their network (I could do with less Italian food, too).

    Si se puede y tenemos fe en ti!

  25. You live such an extravagant life, darling! Love it. And I love your parents deck/backyard. I want to live like that one day, and also give my mother that life as well. Good luck with FN! I have a good feeling about this! Pa’lante in 2012 for all of us!

  26. You are with the most interesting people, and have exciting anecdotes to share with us. I wish you all the best with FN. A Cuban food show is what they need, and you are perfect for that. Keep us updated.

  27. BREN, what an awesome weekend, filled with all the things you love: Family, food, a great musician who is like family…and a great audition to boot…good luck girl…you deserve only the best…besitos!

  28. Bren what a fabulous weekend…cooking, family and friends…all the best things life has to offer….good luck on the Food Network…you would be awesome to watch. You go girl!!!

  29. A great way to kick off the new year! Sounds like a wonderful weekend full of opportunity. Good things come to those who think positively. Thanks for sharing this recipe :)

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