6 posts

Game Theory: What Is It? How Can It Work For Me?

Game theory is in the news lately. For some, this may be the first they’ve ever heard of the field. For others, game theory might be part of an economics class they took back in college that they can barely remember. Luckily, I have unprecedented access to an economics professor who teaches game theory and who agreed to sit with me and answer some questions about using it to get a raise, get out of doing the dishes, and to (maybe) get laid.
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QOTD: What Is Your Worst Interview Story?

On the left: perfectly good business-casual interview look. Below: not so much.

Interviews. We all hate them. Dread them beforehand. Fear we flubbed them afterwards. But they are a necessary evil.

Woman I know was once interviewed by a company that was all gung-ho starting a new project. They flew her somewhere to interview with someone from Mahogany Row. Then there was a long, long silence. Through the grapevine she found out the project had stalled, and was eventually abandoned. Then guys who had interviewed her started turning up at her company looking for work. Continue reading

Crasstalk Interviews The Sexorcist Author Vivi Andrews

Growing up, after buying coney dogs and flurries from the independent ice cream shop up the road from where we lived and across the street from where we went to middle school, my sister and I would bike over to Kay’s Books, a small, dingy little place filled with love for words, and we would spend the rest of our allowance on comics, Archie for her and Spiderman for myself. The comics were located right up front, and just off to the side was the Romance section. I liked to laugh at the cheesy covers featuring illustrations of that guy from the butter commercials and the equally cheesy titles. Who read this stuff? As I began to write myself, I thought, who wrote this stuff? Don’t people want to write about big ideas, about great philosophical conflict? Continue reading

Behind the Scenes of Top Chef: Just Desserts with Chef Erika Davis

This March, Top Chef: Just Desserts‘ Erika Davis led a dessert demonstration for those interested in making the perfect mousse. Today, Erika is the Executive Pastry Chef at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club and the Ambassador for Callebaut Chocolate. In addition to teaching us how to make a trio of chocolate desserts, she was kind enough to answer questions from the audience about her background, her experience on the Bravo show, and her advice for Season 2 contestants.

Cookie Dough and Kosher Cooking

Erika has been baking since she was knee-high and began decorating cakes when she was 12. She was, of course, a big fan of the Easy Bake Oven – multiple Easy Bake Ovens. “I would blow that joker up just so I could get a new one every Christmas,” she says. She even sold cookies and cakes to her teachers in elementary school. Her chocolate chip walnut cookie, one of the cookies she used to hock to her teachers, was part of the winning team during the bake sale competition on Top Chef: Just Desserts. (Remember Team Pep Squad vs. Team Glee Club?) You can buy the cookie dough that helped crush the glee club like a chocolatey delicious Sue Sylvester at The Ultimate Cooke Dough Company.

After graduating community college for culinary school, Erika got her professional start at several kosher bakeries and restaurants in the Detroit area. Her tip for making a moist parve (non-dairy) cake? Soak it in simple syrup (water and sugar).

Pre-Heat the Oven: The Top Chef Interview Process

When producers called Erika to ask her to apply to the show, she asked if she was being punked. After recomposing herself, Erika gave them her contact information so they could send her the 28-page application. She also had to send them a video demo of her doing something in the kitchen. Next, she was flown to LA for a two-day lock-in in a hotel where participants were only allowed to leave if a show rep came to get them. They were given psych evaluations (a question I’m sure many people have had after watching some Bravo shows). In fact, they met with 3-4 different therapists. According to Erika, the therapists would say “this is who you are and this is your personality” – and totally nail it. Finally, the potential contestants would meet with a couple producers who would decide who moved on to the show.

The Top Chef Challenge

The contestants stayed in LA for 32 days – whether or not they were eliminated early on. When they arrived, they were put in a hotel room and all recipes and personal items were taken and put in a Ziploc bag. Erika thought, “I’ve just been stripped naked!’ because everything that is personal to you is gone.” As a pastry chef, cooking without recipes would also be a major challenge.

The show took care of the contestants the entire time they were there. Erika notes that the downtown LA loft they were put in was not glamorous like the facilities seen on regular Top Chef. Because it was the first season of Just Desserts, they did not have a major sponsor like Whole Foods since no one knew how the show would turn out. Surprisingly, the cooking show contestants weren’t fed the most delectable of culinary cuisine – Erika soon grew sick of grilled chicken and Caesar salad. The schedule was grueling. It isn’t movie magic – The first quickfire really did take place their first day there. The episode where they were challenged to create a chocolate outfit was a 20-hour day. They started around 10:00 pm, worked into the morning, went to bed around 7:00 am, and woke up for the main event at 11:00 am. Once a contestant was eliminated, he didn’t get to go home; he was put up someplace else for the remaining time and worked on voiceovers.

Simmer Down Now

Unsurprisingly, competing on the reality show came with a certain level of stress.

Says Erika:

There was no break [in the competitions], and they do that to see what you can take on stress and see if you’re worthy. . . You gotta be tough. After a while, it’s like, ‘do I wanna be here?’ You start second guessing yourself. Is it worth it? But it was completely worth it because it just showed how strong you were. And it couldn’t have been harder than us just busting our tail in the kitchen at work, but it was constant without proper sleep. You don’t get to sleep in your own bed, you don’t get to see your family. They take everything away from you that’s your comfort, no bible, no books for reading, no computer, no nothing. All you have is yourself and the people you have in the house.

Her way of dealing with the drama? “I stood back and let everybody clown.”

Advice for Season 2

Bravo recently announced that Season 2 of Top Chef: Just Desserts is being cast now.

Erika’s advice for the next batch of contestants?

Be true to yourself. Believe in yourself with your flavors and your talent, and [say] a nice prayer with your family before you go, and know that you have a support group. For me, I was going against myself; I wasn’t going against Seth or Danielle or Morgan. . . I had my own little war, and if you watch the show, you will see everyone had their own little war, but that’s what made the show, that’s what made each character their own personality. Be yourself and know that you are worthy of being on there or else they wouldn’t have put you on there.

Chocolate Chips Pic