Recently, I have arrived to the remote mountains of Idaho where I will be working with some private clients for part of the summer. It is proving to be an amazing place that will help me clear my head and bring new inspiration to the kitchen. The last couple of weeks have been powerful and I have a story I’d like to share with you…
In 2005, I participated in a competition on Food Network to create the next Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavor. I was 1 of 3 finalists, but I didn’t win. Six months later Häagen-Dazs called me and said they still wanted to produce my ice cream, giving me the grand prize money anyway. Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle (or TCSB as some of us refer) was born and sold on the shelves for a few years as a Limited Edition flavor. It was pretty damn tasty.
The experience was amazing, as were the kindred connections that I developed with some of the production company crew. Very shortly thereafter, Corrina Robins, Mike Harris and I brainstormed about a food/travel show where I would trek across the world on a very tight budget: staying with families and learning about food. Then, Corrina became pregnant, I became the chef for a pro-athlete and the idea was shelved.
In 2007, Mike helped me edit some footage I had once shot in Guatemala into a short “sizzle reel” meant for distribution to networks. My camera skills in those days left a lot to be desired, and the reel never did sizzle. He was unbelievably patient with me as we poured over hours of footage, futilely hoping for a shred of brilliance to emerge from the project. He did make something genius out of the nonsense, but it never went anywhere.
More recently, over the last year, Mike and I had begun discussing a cooking show with a twist. We were trying to get some traction with a network, but the problem was that I didn’t have a “calling card” of the current me. It was time to invest in the filming of a video.
On March 15th, 2014 with the dedicated help and vision of Rebecca Carter, Daniel Doty, Anthony Esposito, Cameron McDonald, Cristy Padial, Robert Shaw, and my “cooking class cast,” the footage was shot and passed over to Mike. He skillfully organized an entire day’s worth of tape, with a touch of micromanaging from Rebecca and me, into four minutes of something pretty special.
The video was almost perfect and hours from completion when Mike was hospitalized with a sudden onset of pneumonia. Two weeks later he was in a coma with a collapsed lung and excessive brain damage. In the early hours of May 29th, Mike passed away. “That’s a wrap,” his unwaveringly strong wife, Sonja, posted to the hundreds of friends keeping vigil.
The debut of this video is incredibly bittersweet, but it is time to let it fly, in honor of Michael Harris.
This is the final finished project of his exceptional career. With the few unfinished details, it is perfection. Thank you, dear Mike, for your tireless efforts to edit this world into a better place, your dedication to your family, your wit and snarky loving sarcasm and for the imprint that you left on our lives. You are a warmth in our hearts forever.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the making of this video, and to all of you that have supported my journey along the way! We’d love to hear your comments.