During the dinner hour we exchanged pleasantries with the others that sat at our table. Every now and again I would chit chat with the middle aged man sitting to my right. Whenever I asked him a question, he would look away when he answered. He had very strange, evasive body language. From what I could gather, he was there on a comp from the casino host and he really didn't know anything about the event that he was attending. He had a kind of weathered look, like he wore the road map of a lot of hard living on his person. It was tough to nail down whether he his mileage came from drinking or gambling or both, but something about him had me on edge. I would have bet a large sum that he had served time in his lifetime. At least that's what my woman's intuition told me.
At one point early on, he had gotten up and tried to find another table to sit at, but he ended up coming back to our table. It seemed to me that he was scanning the room looking for single women.
When dinner was ending and they finally made the announcement that Chef Colicchio was going to join the party, the young girl at our table kicked into motor-mouth mode. She yammered on about how much she loved him and how she came all this way just to see him and how she couldn't believe that he would be sitting with her and yada yada yada. Another 10 or 15 minutes passed before he finally came out. He was flanked by handlers and security in front of him and behind him as they escorted him up on to the stage. The girl at our table fixed her gaze on him.
Being that it was a tailgate party, our special guest came to the stage in very casual garb - shorts, a printed button down shirt, straw hat, flip flops and a heavy five o'clock shadow. He welcomed the crowd, told them that the chef (insert unpronouncable chef name here) from the casino made all the food, said that his dad encouraged him to be a chef, said that he loved good barbecue then said thank you and good night. Citing his need to move on to his next "event" his handlers attempted to wisk him out the same way that he came in, but a stalwart few managed to rush him for pictures, including the Chef groupie at our table. She got her picture and came away complaining that he was "short". He didn't look short to me. Fickle.
I am a Top Chef and I don't have to shave.
As he was carted away by security like Elvis leaving Madison Square Garden, there was a collective groan that sort of said "that's it?". He was in our presence for about three minutes. No, I'm exaggerating it was more like two minutes. Right after that they announced that dessert would be served. It's like the event planners figured, let's plug up their mouths with cake so that they can't complain.
Feeling somewhat gipped by the brief appearance, I made my way to the dessert bar and took an assortment back to the table for Dave and I. We munched on mini sized versions of oreo cheesecake, raspberry cheesecake, strawberry shortcake, some sort of blueberry parfait and fresh fruit. There were too many desserts to choose from, so I kept it to things that I knew that we would like.
Our tablemates, fresh off the letdown of a hit and run appearance and of not actually having any VIP's at our table, seemed to poke at their desserts half-heartedly. My cynical nature never allowed me to anticipate his actually coming to our table, so I was not disappointed. It didn't matter to me, really. I wouldn't have known what to say to him if he did sit with us. I am a dork in the best of situations. Combine a famous chef with my normal awkardness and complete inability to make small-talk and I probably would have done something stupid like call him Chef Ramsay or ask about the new season of Hell's Kitchen.
Just as they were starting to clear the plates away, they made an announcement that he would be coming back to answer some questions. This reappearance smacked of someone important complaining to the right person.
He came back out and did a breif Q and A session. One of the handlers kept looking at his watch and counting down, three more questions, two, more, one more. I managed to ask a question in the Q and A, but I had mentally resolved his departure, so any meaningful questions had left my head already. I tossed a throwaway question at him about grilling and his answer was equally throw away. He was not staked to this event, probably because he had another right behind it and because his wife was due to give birth to his first child any moment and he was understandably distracted.
I am a Top Chef handler and I count down the questions and my eyes shoot laser beams.
We began making plans to move on to the next event, also hosted by Colicchio. We would have to leave Bally's and go back to Harrah's for that event. That's when the convict to the right leaned in and asked if we wanted to share a cab with him. My fight or flight response kicked in right away and I started to stammer, but Dave went ahead and said yes. Something about him bothered me alright, and I didn't really want to find out if my intuition was right or not.
. . . tune in tomorrow for part 3 and the conclusion to our road trip story.