I love the show Chopped on the Food Network. The vicarious adrenaline rush. The weird ingredients. The chef’s emotional back stories. In my opinion, it’s entertainment at its best.
Recently, my mom and I marathoned the 5 part Chopped Grill Masters series filmed on an Arizona ranch. We plod on (fists clinched and white knuckled) through 3 appetizer rounds, 3 main course rounds, 3 dessert rounds, and 3 winners until finally reaching episode 4. The chef introductions tumble across the screen, a deeply blue-eyed, wide- brimmed hat-wearing chef debuts. His name is Kent Rollins. He is a cowboy. A specimen of iconic Americana traveled up into the 21st century. Like a character from a Larry McMurtry novel. His accent, background, and code of ethics provide the proper authenticating measures.
“Wait,” my mom says, “did they say he’s from Hollis, Oklahoma?”
I rewind a bit.
“He’s from Hollis. That’s where your cousin lives!”
We root for Kent Rollins throughout episode 4. He makes it to the final episode! He makes it into the final two competitors! …he gets taken out in the final round. Nevertheless, it was awesome to see a chef from my cousin’s hometown make it so far. He was amazing to watch!
The story doesn’t end there. Turns out, my cousin, her husband, and Mr. Rollins are all friends. My mom recently went to visit my cousin and expressed her amazement and pride at seeing a chef from Hollis appear on national television. My cousin relays that my mom and I are fans of Chopped and enjoyed cheering Mr. Rollins on. He responds by giving my mom and I a signed copy of one of his cookbooks!
What a gracious gesture! Connecting with the author of a book, no matter what the book is about or how distant the connection, makes reading all the more meaningful. Sometimes we stumble on these connections by accident (like in this case) or we seek them out by connecting with authors on social media or going to signings. Either way, it really makes the reading experience personal. It also reminds us, as readers, that books are living documents, representations of the authors who dedicated their time and heart to producing them. Though the morbidity of life often inhibits this, bringing a book back to the hands who created it is truly humbling and exciting all at once!
So for the remainder of the summer, you can find me reclining under the lone tree in my backyard, reading my favorite westerns, and enjoying some delectable ranch recipes!
Thank you for reading!