My Day With Martha

My Day With Martha

Food & Drink

My Day With Martha

Imagine a room full of food bloggers, laptops in place, at the Martha Stewart Show. Well, one of The Food Channel followers on Twitter, Deborah Smith, can do more than imagine it – she lived it. Deborah was invited to be part of the audience at the Martha Stewart show devoted to food bloggers – and we asked her to tell us about her day.

Yesterday, I was one of the fortunate bloggers to attend the Martha Stewart show dedicated to blogging. We had to be in Manhattan and in line for the show by 8:30 a.m., which meant a 4:45 a.m. wake up call, a half hour car ride to the train station and then over an hour train ride into the city. Since I am a big city chicken and rarely if ever make the journey alone, I think I got about three hours sleep.

And, to make matters worse, Martha had everyone stressing about what to wear. All ticket holders got the same instructions which included:

  • Please dress to impress. Everyone in the studio audience should be prepared to be photographed on camera.
  • Women: Dress to impress! (_again with the dress to impress_). Dressy and fun—a chic dress, dressy jeans, or trendy and fashionable outfits are suggested. (_Does she realize a lot of bloggers are stay at home or work at home moms whose idea of trendy is a clean shirt and blown dry hair?_) Bright colors photograph best. Recommended: Dress shoes/heels.
  • DO NOT WEAR: T-shirts, large printed logos on shirts (_there goes my JerseyBites.com t-shirt_) or pants, white shirts, or wild prints. No hats, sleeveless tops, or gym sneakers are permitted.

So, consequently, I had to go out and buy a new ‘bright colored’ shirt since all I own is white, black and beige. Then I tried on about ten pairs of pants and finally decided on my ‘trendy’ jeans. Leave it to Martha to stress me before I even walkout the door. I had visions of her waiting at the entrance to personally inspect each and every attendee. ‘No, sorry, your boots are not shiny enough, you’ll have to go. You’re not a good thing.’

After dressing to impress and the long commute into the city, I landed in line right on time. I met up with my friend, Vanessa Druckman from Chefdruck.com and a fellow food blogger, Lisa Grant, from Jersey Girl Cooks. We were herded into the studio’s ‘holding room’ and asked to take a seat. The audience warm up guy, Joey, made a very energetic entrance and taught us the ins and outs of being a stellar studio audience. We learned how to clap in double time and how to fade out the applause. (So much to remember all while live blogging.) Not to mention just looking up from my computer and pretending to actually watch the show now and then.

Eventually, we were herded once more into Martha’s studio. Let me tell you, I’m a cynical Jersey girl but even I was impressed. I felt like Charlie walking into the mysterious Wonka Chocolate Factory. I know I had a stupid grin on my face. Everyone’s cameras started flashing, including mine.

I was ushered by one of the audience herders to my seat and continued to take pictures of the set. It was all there, the greenhouse, the working kitchen and Martha’s main kitchen, complete with copper pots and beautifully arranged open cabinets. Martha’s magical world right there in front of us.

The show began with Martha explaining to the home viewers what a blog is and where the name came from. Then, she introduced her sister and assistant who manage the Martha Stewart blog. I have to believe neither one of them ever sleep. Martha said she takes the pictures for the blog and emails them at night with notes, ‘find out who this person is, look this up, etc.‘ We know Martha only sleeps four hours a night and now we know what she’s doing the rest of the evening.

There were some heavy hitters from the blogoshere in attendance. Martha, of course, invited the bloggers from her Martha’s Circle blog network. Might as well give them exposure; they make her money. Deb from SmittenKitchen.com was in the house and Matt from MattBites.com was a featured guest during the cooking segment. Smittenkitchen claims to get over 1 million visitors per month and Mattbites is up in the 60,000 area. I’m sure it helps your numbers to be a part of Martha’s circle. It sure couldn’t hurt.

Next Martha introduced her four magazine editors and presented them with free Canon G9 cameras donated by Cannon. Not sure why Martha’s employees need donated Cameras, but who am I to question the inner workings of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.?

While most of the posts I’ve read about the Martha show reported on the show’s guests, I was far more interested in what was happening during commercial breaks. I’m a theater girl at heart. I’ve played some very minor roles in plays and musicals and done some stage managing, so taking in the behind the scenes chaos is always thrilling for me. During commercial breaks, Martha let her guard down and showed, to me at least, that she was stressed. She would lean back against the counter and exhale, you know the big, puffed-up-cheeks kind of exhale, no smiles. She’d give her staffers telling looks like ‘Holy crap, this is hard.’

I think doing a show for an audience full of bloggers has got to be a little nerve wracking. Not only are we writing in real-time about everything going on but we are not doing the normal ‘audience approval sounds’ like oooooohhhhs and aaaahhhhhhs, which we were coached on in the holding room. Many of us, me included, are not very engaged at all. Not intentionally; we’re just more worried about our own audience and giving them a juicy ‘live from Martha’ piece than playing the part of enthusiastic audience member.

During the interview with Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin from Politico.com, Martha had a very notable gaffe that would probably have gone unnoticed if the staff had resisted correcting her via the teleprompter. She accidentally called Sarah Palin, Sharon Palin. Martha was very embarrassed, and admitted so. I think I actually saw Martha Stewart blush. It happens to the best of them, Martha. You had a lot of names to remember.

The last guest on the show was Margaret Roach, the former Editorial Director for Martha Stewart Living who launched a blog under the same title as her gardening book A Way to Garden: A Hands-On Primer for Every Season. In almost six months, AWaytoGarden.com has welcomed 65,000 “newcomers.’ All I have to say is that it pays to be ‘a friend and colleague’ of Martha Stewart.

Roach calls the frogs she features on her blog, ‘sexy beasts.’ Margaret learned from Martha that ‘cute with a lot of substance’ is what sells and she follows that advice. I think I need some kind of cute pet in my kitchen to help taste test my food. Maybe I’ll start taking pictures of my Corgi, except he can’t eat table food because he’s got a weak stomach, and, trust me, there is nothing cute about that.

The cherry on the top of our day with Martha was the free HP Wireless printer that each and every audience member got as a departing gift. Very cool. Free stuff. Yeah.

Before we could leave, Martha had to tape a piece for a show airing next week on the best hot dogs in the Tri-State area. She and an assistant tasted 27 different types of hotdogs. Martha confessed to the audience that she adores hot dogs and it showed. At one point the stage manager told her to speed it up and she shut him right down. She was going to take her own sweet time tasting every last one of those dogs.

In the end, the superhuman Martha Stewart showed us that she is very much human. She is a woman who stresses like the rest of us, makes public gaffes that she owns up to, and loves, loves, loves hot dogs. Now that’s my kind of woman. Thank you, Martha, for a once in a lifetime experience.

Deborah is a passionate cook, mom and food writer. She writes about her quest for food with attitude at JerseyBites.com.

Photo credits: Deborah Smith

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