Back in March, I received a call from a producer with Page Productions, producers of Food Networks “Diners, Drives-Ins and Dives“. She was researching Cleveland for an upcoming show and wanted to know my favorite places to eat — and they didn’t necessarily have to be dives, but as she put it, cool, quirky, unique and still somewhat unknown. I gave her my picks, talked to her a few times between phone and e-mail and never heard from her again. Which is kinda becoming routine now – reporters, authors and producers from around the country do their research, find people like me, pick our brains and tease with opportunities, then poof – not a word until I hear/see/read about sans project like everyone else months later (not that I mind – I’m more than happy to talk food and share my thoughts with just about anyone!).
Cut to last month when I received an email from chef Eric Williams at Momocho telling me that they were selected for the show and to see if Jamie and I wanted to come in for the taping. I couldn’t type fast enough – of course a very big YES and thank you for including us! The catch – I couldn’t say anything until after (which is near impossible for me, but I made it – and to think, I could have “scooped” the local media…). At any rate, I was thrilled that Momocho, along with Lucky’s, were picked for Guy’s show. And it just so happens that those were two of the places I gave the producer (along with others I’m sure).
As we approached the restaurant last night, we were greeted by Guy’s old red convertible in mint condition parked out front (I’m a foodie, not a car enthusiast… corvette maybe?). As we entered, there was a small crew, big cameras and lights – and Guy Fieri, with an even bigger personality and a lot of big, bold, heavy bling. We sat down right in the middle of the restaurant and ordered drinks and dinner (adobo braised pork, grilled mahi mahi and albondigas – as always, absolutely amazing!) and just watched and listened with excitement as Guy interviewed Eric and other diners.
This was obviously exciting for us to watch and be part of, but just imagine how Eric Williams, Heather Haviland and the Geraci’s felt? Here’s some of what chef Eric Williams had to say about the experience:
His reaction to finding out: “Super excited and flattered, although I did ask the producer when she called me what category does Momocho fit into. It was explained to me that DDD focuses on one-off unique places. I’ve watched the show enough to know that Guy leads off the show by saying, ‘If you’re funky, we’ll find you.’ “
First impression of Guy: “He’s for real. He says what he means and doesn’t hold back. He said throughout the filming that he loved everything by using his own lingo. By the way, he renamed the pork carnitas “thunder pork” and said he didn’t like the tortilla chips served with the guacs and salsas. He liked the fact we fried them to order but likes his chips to be thicker. He’s got a killer sense of humor and obviously loves his job. We had a great time cooking together. Guy also made plenty of time for autographs and pictures for customers and fans after filming.”
Guy in the kitchen: “Guy doesn’t cook much, his role during filming is to promote Momocho and get excited about what I was cooking – they want us to cook and show off what we do and how we do it. He gave his opinion on a couple things off camera but was really there to have fun.”
Favorite dishes he sampled: “He loved the machaca taquito (coffee and ancho braised beef brisket) – said they belonged in shamalamadingdong town!”
The overall experience: “Unbelievable experience. This is a great opportunity to promote Momocho and Cleveland’s culinary scene on a national level (DDD filmed at other Cleveland locations this week). Also, this is great for my staff. This gives them a little validation for all the hard work they do daily to make Momocho a success – especially my two chefs, Damon and Tom. These guys are unbelievable!”
His son Jackson’s thoughts: “Honestly, a little disappointed. He thought they were going to film him cooking with me. We did drag a chair up to the kitchen so he could watch them tape some last minute details and recipes after everyone left. Plus, Guy signed a baseball hat for him and gave him the wristband off his arm – that made him really happy. He actually went to bed wearing the wristband.” I saw Eric’s son, Jackson, wearing the wristband and didn’t realize that at the time – very cool of Guy!
What went as expected and what didn’t go so well: “I don’t think it could have gone any better. The production crew was amazing. We banged out all the dishes and recipes under schedule. They had cool personalities and we played a couple pranks on each other – they made it a very easy and fun experience.”
Air date: “Should air in September/October. Food Network will send me a notice three weeks prior. We are planning a watch party at Momocho on that Monday night.”
The one drawback to all of this? We’ve been loyal devotees to Lucky’s and Momocho for quite some time now. While I’m thrilled for the wonderful national coverage that’s ahead for my favorite city and restaurants, I won’t be so happy when I can no longer get a table! So seriously, if you’ve yet to go to Momocho or Lucky’s – what are you waiting for? Lucky’s is amazing for breakfast (and now Vine & Bean) and Momocho is hands-down the best modern Mexican restaurant – period.