Check, Please! Wins James Beard Media Award & Northern CA Emmy!

Tina Salter and Leslie Sbrocco receive 2007 James Beard Media Award for Best Local Television Show
Tina Salter, Series Producer and Leslie Sbrocco, Host of Check, Please! Bay Area receive the 2007 James Beard Foundation Media Award for Best Local Television Show

“And the winner is…Check, Please! Bay Area!

These are the words that we’ve been waiting to hear, but at this moment we can’t quite believe our ears. We jump to applause and cheers at the James Beard Awards. Leslie says the words of thanks but even she is stumped — it’s one of the rare times that I’ve seen her at a loss for something to say. Then, which way to go to get off the stage? You don’t realize how difficult that decision can be.

Photos next, and then back to the table for the next course and celebration.

That’s it! We won…let it sink in, call to Michael Isip, VP, Television Content & Education Network, Northern California Public Broadcasting, KQED – KTEH – KCAH; Kurt Mendelsohn, the show’s Executive Producer; June Ouellette and Carol Gancia, the very hard working Associate Producers, finally family and friends waiting to hear at home. Next, Kristin Green, Leslie’s PR person and very good friend, appeared with a bottle of Perrier-Jouet. Perfect.

Now onto the food! The dinner was prepared by a variety of chefs with mixed results. Brendan Slaven of the Millennium Broadway Hotel prepared hors d’oeuvres of Bacalaítos, Stuffed Cipollini Onions, Sesame and Coral-Crusted Shrimp Brochettes, Charred Fillet of Beef with Goat Cheese-Stuffed Tomatoes, Szechuan Pepper-Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Shiitake-Peanut Salad, Colombian Potato and Beef Croquettes, Truffled Farm Eggs with Caviar, Barbecued Oysters with Savory Corn Cakes, and New Zealand Mussels with Sweet Thai Chile Sauce. I can’t say that I tried many of these tidbits, as I was way too nervous. But once seated in the very beautiful, burgundy-curtained, 1903 theater inside the Millennium Broadway Hotel, I did enjoy the tasty salad by Sara Moulton. It was a salad of Baby Arugula with Aged Gouda, Savory Praline, and Whole Grain Mustard Dressing. It was not overly dressed and was crisp and fresh with a good balance of acid and sweet — it hit the spot! Next came Tom Douglas’s Wild Seattle Salmon Fillet with Rice Cakes, Cucumber Pickles, and Shiitake Chips. Well, the rice cake was similar in consistency to that of runny polenta and impossible to eat with the chopsticks supplied alongside. With salmon in raw, cooked, and caviar form, it just didn’t come together. The one crispy element, the skin, was delicious, and I do like salmon caviar, but the whole was marred by the mushy purée of goop puddled in the center of the plate.

One other surprise announcement referred to the evening’s wine: someone at the hotel had signed for cases delivered that day but couldn’t find them, so we ended up drinking Woodbridge Chardonnay!

Next, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Fortunato Nicotra prepared Braised Flat Iron Wagyu Beef with Spring Vegetable Ravioli. This dish worked well, although the beef was too fatty for me — thank goodness for paper cocktail napkins! I did, however, love the ravioli. The pasta was perfect with a filling that was both fresh tasting and creamy, delicious. I think I would have enjoyed a plate of the filled pasta-pillows alone! Finally Gale Gand made Mocha Panna Cotta with Fleur de Sel Caramel and Wayne Harley Brachman made an Espresso-Halvah Sundae with Raspberry Suzette Sauce served with a Sandeman 10-Year-Old Tawny Port. The chilled, rich chocolaty mousse contrasted with the crumbled wafers of chocolate in every spoonful, so you got a cream and crunch in every mouthful. I had planned on having just one bite but ended up with an empty bowl.

To continue our celebrations, we met up with some of Leslie’s local wine friends with more toasts and lots more bubbles.

To follow, a week later…

Check, Please! Bay Area wins Emmy Award
Tina Salter, Series Producer; Leslie Sbrocco, Host
Carol Gancia, Associate Producer; June Mesina Ouellette, Associate Producer; Katherine Russell, Director

“And the winner is…Check, Please! Bay Area!

This time it’s the EMMY’s (pdf) we’re back in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts. Another reception, this time with no open bar.

After a sip of wine it was into the theater with a large center stage Emmy statue and a sparkling backdrop. Very glamorous. Here we had a larger party from KQED with not only Leslie and me, but also June Mesina Ouellette and Carol Gancia, Associate Producers; Katherine Russell, Director; the very important Jeff Clarke, KQED’S CEO; and Linda O’Bryon Chief Content Officer, along with lots of other KQED filmmakers. We witnessed not only the Check, Please! Bay Area award presentation, but also a number of other “wins” for the station. In fact six productions ended up carrying away big black boxes filled with golden statues.

This time it felt good to walk on stage with the team. After thanking what I thought was everyone, I thought of more names that should have been mentioned, but it’s too late now. Once again the hardest thing to do is find your way off the platform and through the curtains. Then it’s the same procedure with photos. This time we swap the one presentation Emmy that’s reserved for on-stage handling and receive our own engraved versions — it’s really cool to see your name on such a prestigious ornament!

After finding our way back to our seats, we watched the rest of the program — two and a half hours of it. Then, a catered buffet with salad, asparagus, salmon, and beef. I won’t add any comments here except to say that the asparagus was perfect: tender, crisp, and still warm; not easy with 600 mouths to feed in an hour.

Loud music and dancing ended the evening. With two awards in one week, I’m very proud and ready for bed.

posted by Tina Salter, Series Producer

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  • Dr. Leslie Sekerka

    Good day to you. I’m very sorry to say I was disappointed and saddened to turn OFF your show (one of my favorites!) this evening. In the future, please coach your guests or use editing techniques to cut the commentary that is vastly inappropriate for PBS. The objectification of men and women is not OK with this viewer. Your endorsement of such, by leaving in the guest’s comment in tonight’s show about the “hot” mailman was just highly inappropriate and condescending. Thank you for helping your guests and the program stick to culinary enjoyment and fine dining rather than lust. You’re setting an example for social norms with your (thus far) excellent television contributions. However, as a public broadcasting station I would hope that the producer (Tina) and host (Leslie), you would each own this responsibility and honor this public trust. Thank you.

    Be well,
    Leslie Sekerka