Whether it's Julia Child tossing about deboned ducks, Emeril Lagasse banging pans, Paula Deen added more butter or Guy Fieri sampling all types of roadhouse food, I am addicted to cooking shows. There is something fascinating to me about the chemistry of combining ingredients, spices, temperatures and techniques to produce culinary masterpieces that taste as wonderful as they look.
My latest food show is ABC's "The Taste," found on Thursday nights at 7:00 p.m. It is a cooking competition show wherein four celebrity chefs pick teams of aspiring cooks, then mentor them through the following weeks of culinary growth and experimentation. And, this season, Mason has its own member of the cooking teams - Don Pullum.
Don is probably best known locally as the winemaker behind award winning vintages at Sandstone Cellars, and also a driving force in the vineyard growth in Mason county as he imparts his own knowledge of viticulture to new growers in the area.
On last Thursday's episode, Don was one of many folks competing against one another to secure a spot on one of four teams headed by the chefs. There was some footage of an interview with Don and scenes of the Pontotoc Vineyard. When Don walked out to the judges to find out what they had thought about his fried oyster dish, he carried a glass of Mason County wine with him and made clear to the judges that Texas did, INDEED, produce extraordinary wines.
Two of the four judges gave Pullum's spicy dish the thumbs up, then courted him to be on their team. Pullum's potential mentors were author Ludo Lefebvre and restaurateur Brian Malarkey. Don was polite in declining Malarkey's overtures, opting instead to go with the Ludo team based upon a cooking demonstration he had seen in Austin.
Don will make an excellent competitor on The Taste, and he will be a great ambassador for Texas and for Mason County. He is smart, witty, polite and inventive. He also loves his adopted hometown of Mason, as well as the rest of the Texas Hill Country. He never misses an opportunity to promote his beloved Texas wines, the beautiful landscape of the hill country, and the joy of culinary experimentation. The next few weeks should be interesting and enjoyable.
There have already been people who came to Mason after last week's show, just to find out about the local wines and to discover the town they had only just learned about after watching the television show. Such publicity is hard to purchase, and a Godsend when it is dropped into our laps.
Another Mason resident has been going through the "American IDOL" auditions, and we will be hearing more about her later; but, for now, Don is our local star. It's an interesting spot for him to occupy, as he would rather put his food, his wines, his friends and his countryside out front and center while he comfortably remains an interesting character in the background. No matter the final outcome for his spot in the competition, Don is destined to move to the front.
We all love our little town. But, we can't exist as an island. We have to have visitors. We need shoppers to patronize the local stores. We need hunters to lease property, buy corn, and eat their meals. We need wineries to compete for the fruit from Mason County vineyards based upon its superior quality. We need people to visit, shop, eat, sleep, hunt, photograph,,,,, and then we need them to return.
Don and "The Taste" have given us a wonderful spot in the public spotlight. And, like a job applicant, we have our foot in the door; but, it is now up to us to make a great impression and make one-time visitors return visitors. Every week, "The Taste" will have snippets of footage from Mason, whetting the appetite of visitors from near and far. Once they arrive on our doorsteps, we are responsible for impressing them and bringing them back later.
Thanks and good luck, Don! Now it's our turn.
It’s all just my opinion.