Before I go into this week's tear-jerking post, I am fortunate to tell you that all my peeps in Japan are fine, but my thoughts are with everyone who is affected by the earthquake. This is truly awful, sad, and devastating for all of us. Japan may be well-equipped to handle the situation technologically, but if you can, please donate to Red Cross, or Japan Society's Earthquake Relief Fund, or buy Lady Gaga's wristband for the relief. This is the time for everyone to help out! Japan, you will recover!
When I bring home-baked goods to work, cook for friends, or entertain large groups and host big parties, people often tell me, "You are so Martha," or "OMG, you should definitely sell these desserts!" I never thought I had that kind of talent, since i mostly like to cook and bake to relieve stress. Anyway, we're talking about MARTHA, the goddess of homemaking. How can I compare myself to her?! Yet, come to think of it, I bake, I cook, I knit, I arrange flowers, and I do a lot of homemaking stuff creatively, in fun, economic ways, as you can see some of my stuff below.
Structured flower arrangements for a work event:
A flower arrangement at my work's entrance way (this taller than six feet, by the way):
This winter's cowl creation. Bold cabling for a manly guy like myself:
I knit this because I saw a beautiful cowl at the Burberry store, which was $350, and thought I could recreate it myself.
A broach made out of embroidery threads, using braiding technique:
I can also dress a kimono properly. This was for a friend's wedding. Yes, this was the dress for my wedding cake challenge.
What do you think, am I Martha enough?
Back in January, I happened to watch her show, and that's where I was awakened. Martha announced, "I am looking for ReMarthable people, who are just like me, creative, innovative, and marketable in homemaking. Submit your entry by February 18, and you have a chance to win a BMW X3 customized by ME!"
I was hooked, not so much about the prize, but the whole concept that she is looking for someone just like her. I convinced myself that she was telling ME, Yamahomo, that I MUST submit my creations to be the next Martha. After all, she is getting old and her brand is solely herself, and there could only be one successor: ME!
I pondered long and hard about what I could submit to enter the contest. It's hard to differentiate yourself from other talents out there. Sure, I semi-professionally arrange flowers, and I can knit, but people who go on her show for crafts are quite highly-skilled.
So it came down to either cooking or baking. She is looking for an amateur who could create something great. Though I have come up interesting cooking ideas, I usually suck at creating recipe since I just add this or that and never in the same way next time I make it.
Then I thought, how about my MO-Desserts? [My desserts made with rice flour = MOchi-ko = MO!]
As you know, I obsessed over my MO creations. I went on a rampage, starting with the MOffins. Then came the CreMO Brulée, MOdeleines, and most recently MOcarons. They are all great, giving new textures and flavors to some of the most popular desserts. On top of that, the cultural bonding of these creations will definitely hit her sweet spots, especially since she loves Japan. Using Asian ingredients to create Western desserts--how brilliant! So I made up my mind and one evening, I cooked all four of my MO-Desserts for a photo shoot the next day.
My kitchen was a factory that evening. First, I made the MOcaron shells, and while they dried on the counter, I mixed the MOffin batter and put them in oven. Meanwhile, I made the MOdeleine batter, but as you remember, the batter has to rest so I decided to bake them next morning.
While all the bakings are being done, I made CreaMO Brulée on the stove. Such hard labor for just a few photos! I could have bought all of these things pre-made, and pretended that I made them.But that's not me. When you present something to Martha, it must all be the real thing. She sees through everything. This is the power of Martha.
Once everything was baked and cooled, I was ready for the photo shoot. I bought a nice plate, and instead of taking individual pictures of each item, I thought it would be more impressive to have everything together.
We decided that the above picture is too Martha magazine-ish, so we decided to go with the image below.
I also had to come up with 250 words of why I am ReMarthable. I involved my friends and after a couple of back and forth exchanges, on February 17, a day before the deadline, I submitted the picture and the text below.
My name is Ryohei YamaMOto. I was born and raised in Japan but am now a proud New Yorker.
Most days you can find me wearing a hand-made bowtie, preparing to entertain in the kitchen. I have several friends who-- besides calling me the Japanese Martha-- have adopted gluten-free diets for health reasons. This could be disastrous in the dessert department, as most American desserts rely heavily on wheat flour. But I’ve developed a ReMarthable specialty that blends Japanese culture and ingredients with Western dessert classics.
Instead of wheat flour I use rice flour (mochiko). It’s healthy, really easy to use in baking, and it’s delicious! Through a lot of trial and error I have developed MO-Desserts.
In addition to MOffins, creMO brulee and MOdelaines, my signature MO-Dessert is the MOcaron. I have been refining both the taste and the baking process. MOcarons can be temperamental creatures, but I have now perfected the recipe for delicious flavors like matcha (green tea) and kinako (roasted soy powder)!
People love to experience the cultural and culinary merger of Japanese ingredients and Western foods. When I share the cooking and baking process and the delectable final products, everyone tells me I am truly ReMarthable. Or is it ReMOrthable?!
So I was done with submission, and very skeptical about it.
The next day, around 1:30pm, I received an e-mail from the show's production assistant.
Thank you for your submission to our ReMarthable contest. We are currently reviewing submissions and are considering yours! Please email us a high resolution photo of yourself and your submission photo, as well as the best phone number to reach you at. The photo resolution must be at least 300 dpi or 1920 x 1080 pixels. If you’re unsure of the photo resolution, still pass along the best quality photo you have. Please send the photos by Monday.
I know this is short notice so thank you in advance for the quick response. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us. We look forward to hearing from you!
I didn't see the message until Saturday afternoon, and I had a dinner party Friday night, and talked about my submission, etc. I didn't think I would make it at all, but all my friends were very encouraging.
When I saw the message, I FREAKED out. I was making Peking Duck at the moment, and I was like, "Joly shit, I need to find a professional photographer to take a picture of me!" Since I had a couple of friends that night to taste the duck, as soon as they arrived, I consulted with them what to do, what to wear, where to take a photo of me, etc. My heart was pounding already.
We came to conclusion that I shouldn't take a professional photo of me, since the product picture (above) looks semi-professional, and sending a professional headshot may be too much.
So I took this picture in front of the Peking Duck being roasted in the oven, and sent it out.
Then I checked out the official rule book of the contest. According to it, potential finalists will be notified on or about March 2nd via email. For two weeks, I waited and waited and waited more, thinking about what to wear, which bow tie to match which shirt, how to tell Martha I should succeed her show, etc.
On March 2nd, I was beside myself, looking at my phone, checking my email every two minutes. Nothing happened.
I was pissed off, especially since I thought about this a lot, and realized my potential, but she didn't, or couldn't. How could I talk about my creativity in 250 words? I should have sent her other creations and should have told her that I can do ANYTHING! I was telling my friends that I will bring this whole idea to Rachel Ray and she will totally dig it. At that point, my feelings toward Martha were definitely sour.
On March 3rd, I was totally depressed, but carried on the day as usual. I didn't even check my phone, nor e-mail all day.
I went out for drinks with a friend for happy hour, and as we were walking to a bar I realized I hadn't checked my phone at all that day. So I opened my phone, and there was a voice mail from someone I didn't know. I checked the message, and it was from Martha's people.
"Hi, my name is so and so, please give me a call at your earliest convenience."
I dropped my bag on the street, screamed a little, shaked a lot, and immediately checked my email. There was a message from an administrator of the contest, that I WAS CHOSEN AS A POTENTIAL FINALIST and they need to run a background check, so they needed my social security number.
Holy shit. HOLY SHIT!!!
I sent my SSN right away. The next day, I spoke with the person who left voice mail the day before.
Martha's rep: Hi, how are you? [She pronounced my name almost correctly, which was definitely a good sign]
Me: I am very fine, thank you.
Rep: So you are chosen as one of the potential finalist for ReMarthable contest, and I need to ask you a couple of questions.
Me: That is so great!
Rep: First, I know you are in New York, but can you basically walk to the studio on March 28, 29, and 30?
Rep: And if you do win the contest, you will be given BMW X3, and you need to pay $5,000 in taxes, can you pay for that?
Me: Whatever Martha customizes, I will pay for at any price.
Rep: Great. Ok, we will decide the finalists by the end of next week, and I will let you know either way.
Me: Thank you so much, and I am looking forward to hearing from you!
My knees were shaking, I thought my future was set. I will be traveling with Martha to all the fun places, enjoying cocktails at her home parties, making MOcarons with her in her gorgeous kitchen, guiding her through Japanese towns, and heck, she will visit my mom's house and enjoy her home-cooking meal as well and we will all totally be BFF!
Over the weekend, I made more MOcarons. While I mixed the batter, I practiced what I would say about how I came up with my MO-Desserts, rice flour and kinako. Should I talk about it from a celiac disease angle, or nut allergies, or should I stick to Asian/Western combination, or what else could I make using rice flour. My head was filled with Martha.
Monday passed, then Tuesday passed without any updates.
I was hopeful in one moment, then totally pessimistic a minute later. I was thinking how many "potential" finalists were chosen, and calculated my chances on being in the final five. I was also a bit suspicious since I wasn't being interviewed over the phone. If I were the producer of the show, I would want to speak with potential finalist personally, especially with my Asian face, who knows if I can even speak English.
This was all clouding my head. Maybe I was the contingency, since I can walk to the studio? If better finalists can't make it to the city, I would be chosen? NO! Yamahomo, don't think that way, she should totally choose you since you are awesome. There are 3,400 entries, and I am probably in the top ten, which is already super great, so even if I don't get chosen, it is a great experience.
NO she MUST pick me since I am destined to be the next Martha.
This is basically what went through my head every minute on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, my phone rang. Yes, it was from the show's people. This is it. This is the phone call to decide my entire future!
Martha Rep: Hi, this is so and so from Martha show, how are you?
Me (with a shaky voice): I am fine thank you.
Rep: Once again, thank you so much for your submission. Unfortunately we didn't choose you as the finalist of ReMarthable, but I wanted to let you know since I am sure you were anxious to know the result.
Me: That's too bad, but I totally understand...
Rep: I am sorry, but please keep trying, and keep baking!
Me: Thank you.
And it was over... I was rejected.
Surprisingly, I wasn't in a state of suicidal, nor crying, nor punching someone. I was actually happy. This was my first ever submission to any type of contest in my WHOLE life, and if I were to be chosen now, I can totally see myself becoming Charlie Sheen within two years. Fame should be built up, not come in a second like Snooki.
Also this experience gave me a lot of confidence in myself. Whatever I create for fun, for guests, for colleagues, I have the potential to make it into something ReMarthable.
Having said that, what went wrong?
A.) Obviously others were better than mine.
B.) I was too good to be included in "amateur" category.
C.) My background check didn't pass.
I want to think it was B, but for now, I will settle for A. We should all tune in the end of this month, and see if it turns out that:
A.) Yep, their stuff is definitely cooler than mine
B.) WTF, I don't understand why I wasn't chosen
And I am not going to lie, I am still hoping one of the finalists gets injured and I will be called upon as a back-up.
Dear Martha: I will be back.