Over 50 Chicagoans turned out to vie for the vacant Check, Please host position yesterday in the first round of meet-and-greets with show producers at Calo Ristorante in Andersonville. A slice of food media, chefs, and laymen, some waiting over two hours, packed the bar before heading into a two-prong rapid-fire interview arrangement in the adjacent party room. The last prong featured an on-camera chat with producer David Manilow, eerily reminiscent of a first date as hopefuls tried to condense their personal and food backgrounds into a comprehensive yet brief package in attempts to impress the show founder and executive producer. It was the first of two initial groups, with the next gathering in early March. The deadline to apply is March 1.
"I want to see how natural they are, easy going, and smart," Manilow said when asked about what he was looking for. "I can tell right off the bat if it's someone I want to get deeper with." Manilow estimates that 20 percent of those that attended will make the cut.
The group that showed up were from all walks of life, from the recognizable to the incognito. Writers and broadcasters included Jen Weigel (CBS, WGN, Tribune), Bill Daley (Tribune, WGN), Lakesha Rose (WGN, ABC7), Kate Bernot (RedEye), and Anthony Todd (Chicagoist.) Chefs in attendance include Jackie Shen (City Tavern, Friendship Chinese, Argent, Chicago Cut), Matt Eversman (Charlie Trotters, Saigon Sisters, OON), Philip Foss (EL Ideas), Suzy Singh (MasterChef), and Fabio Sorano (Letizia's Fiore.) Cleetus Friedman (City Provisions) was a no-show. Dan Salls, owner of the Salsa Truck, was the last person to interview.
The laymen auditioners were as interesting as the media and chefs. The rest of the group were made up of bartenders, servers, hotel industry, singers, comedians, and even a cop. Many people remarked how "un-industry" it was and how the attendees were from all walks of life.
Manilow says over 200 people have applied so far, with many more expected before the deadline. "It's a feeding frenzy," he says. And if people are wondering why they were filming informal beginning auditions, Manilow says he's considering making a documentary of the process. "It's a definite maybe." And it's only getting started.
· All Coverage of Check, Please [~ECHI~]
· Check, Please [Official Site]