Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Taco Spot

Reality TV is a weird thing because everyone is  really acting even though they tell you they're not acting.

I actually read in a magazine that there is –for serious- a reality television SCHOOL in New York where they teach you how to be a bitch, i.e. get ratings.

Of course, they say they teach you how to "bring out the most of your personality" but who are we kidding?

I've seen Flavor of Love. And Flavor of Love2.

Reality competition shows, however, are something I can get behind, since there's a goal other than getting a rose and/or getting proposed to on a beach. Where you’re judged on talent instead of looks and/or bitchiness.


How are they going to do it??? Will they have enough time?? I’m on the edge of my seat!!!!!

What’s even better, though, is watching a reality TV cooking show where you KNOW SOMEONE COMPETING.

Does that make ME famous too???

I had the distinct pleasure of watching my friend – chef and restaurant owner JV - compete on a reality cooking show called Food Court Wars on Sunday night, where he battles it out with another restaurant to win space and free rent at a food court.

Get it? Food court wars??

It’s strange to see someone you know on TV. A lot of  “Oh My God!” yelling when he was on the screen.

JV owns a taco restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina called The TacoSpot, and it’s the most delicious fish taco I’ve ever had. It’s so good I can’t eat any other fish tacos because they aren’t even half as good as his.

I’ve eaten his fish tacos for eight years, which is how long I’ve known JV, and to see them on the BOOB tube made me smile big. I wished I could reach in and grab one.

JV started his business when he and I were close, and it was called La Cocina and he sold T-shirts that said “neighborhood Taco dealer” and I still have mine, no you can not borrow it.

He slowly worked his way up from La Cocina the old-fashioned way. 

He worked incessantly, writing recipes on little pieces of paper in the middle of the night, served tacos at countless Farmer’s Markets and even had a food truck before getting a new name and new location. 

He worked long hours, seven days a week to feed the world the best fish tacos on the planet. 

Nothing came easy for him. 

(He doesn't have a piece of beach wood on the wall painted with the words “Struggling man” for nothing. Also: big Grateful Dead fan.)

It’s very much in my nature to get all in my head about everything, and when I saw JV on TV, I teared up.
(I imagine mothers of Flavor of Love girls also tear up, but for different reasons.)

It brought me back to when JV first opened La Cocina slinging tacos to hippies on the beach and now he’s a legit business owner with enough clout to be ON THE FOOD NETWORK and judged by chef Tyler Florence.

Do you remember Tyler Florence? He was the“chef” at Applebees in all the commercials. You know, the one responsible for your Bourbon Chicken. (He also blew UP. Probably from eating too much Applebee's.)


Everything about the one-hour show brought memories flooding back from eight years ago.

The lunch boxes he had to make in the first challenge, for example, reminded me of when he used to make ME lunch boxes to bring to work, and everyone was super jealous.

Even seeing Mikey, his partner on screen, made me tear up. I remember when Mikey, his now manager/cook was first hired at La Cocina to be a cook and JV picked him up and dropped him off everyday.

I suppose that would make this Mikey’s 8-year anniversary.


Even JV’s accent, which I always said would win him over in a Top Chef-type competition, brought me back to 2005. And I reminisced some more.

But maybe that’s just because I’ve been feeling homesick about South Carolina lately and its glorious (and free) beaches.

Maybe I’m just homesick for really good fish tacos.

I’m so good at this remember-ing game that I even KNEW JV was going to be in the weeds before they shoved it down viewers’ eyeballs.

While JV is the most pleasant and funny person I know, he’s bashful about dealing with customers. And I know why.

It’s because he gets awkward when dealing with the people eating his food, judging it.

It’s the same thing when I see someone in front of me reading the newspaper, reading an article I wrote. I hide.

My best friend Kristin was JV’s long-standing front-of-house person “order taker” at all the farmer’s markets and when he first opened Taco Spot. It was like a big family.

Which is what I thought about when he had to walk around the mall giving employees his lunch boxes.

And I could see JV’s face tense up when Tyler “Fatty” Florence (haha) critiqued his taco. I know that face. Now America knows that face.

Now, I don’t mean to make this all about me (uh, can’t help it) but I have never been prouder than when I saw JV on the screen.

No one deserves more recognition for how far they’ve come than him. And I’m glad I was at least a small part in helping him get to where he is today. I think I’m going to wear my neighborhood Taco dealer shirt to bed.  

I know three people who have been on reality TV shows, and I'm overly obnoxious about asking them behind the scenes stuff. 

Because there are a ton of behind the scenes stuff. And I'm…overly obnoxious. 

JV said it was pretty straightforward, although they cut out a part of him getting pissy with Tyler (dammit…that would have been good viewing!) and they staged a fight between him and his wife that never aired (not good viewing.)

But it was a fun show nonetheless – who cares about the other ladies selling empanadas on the show– and YOU BETTER BELIEVE I’M WATCHING IT AGAIN AT NINE O’CLOCK TONIGHT (10 p.m. eastern time).

If nothing else, to see the fish tacos again, hear the Southern drawl again (darlin’) and remember the days of my favorite lunch box.


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