Momma throws down


My Momma Throws Down is a new comedic cooking competition that will be airing on TV One starting in April 2012. It is hosted by Ralph Harris (as seen on Last Comic Standing) and produced by Triage Entertainment (who produced Iron Chef America).

Yesterday, I went to the filming of the show at Turner Studios in Atlanta. It was actually quite an entertaining experience.

First of all, the set was beautifully done with two stations for each of the competitors, neatly organized pantries and starlit ceilings. The competition starts out with family members of the mamma’s who swear by the food she cooks. They have to nominate (or mominate) their mom’s to be the best cook out there.

The lively supporters also have to engage in a round of “smack down” where they verbally (in good humor) attack the opponent, saying “Your mama cooks so bad….no one shows up for dinner, there is a state of emergency…etc.”

In another round, one family member from each team is blindfolded and asked to taste and decided who has the most delicious dish. Often times, the person is unable to pick his/her own mamma’s food and ends up disappointing her!

The celebrity judges on the show include African-American foodies, actors, authors and more. Yesterday, there was Jessica Harris, Malinda Williams, Vanessa Williams and Nicole Ari Parker. The judges had to taste the competing dishes and decide which one was the best. In the first challenge, the winning signature dish won $500 and in the second challenge the two mamma’s had to cook an entire meal racing against the clock. The winning mamma won a prize of $2,500 in cash.

While there are hardly any elements of The Iron Chef in this show, it is a family-friendly lighthearted comedy with the backdrop of a kitchen feud. It gives an opportunity for everyday mom’s to shine and be valued for what they do for their families day after day.

Being on The Marriage Ref….

It all started last year, when my husband and I were watching the first season of The Marriage Ref on NBC. Being Jerry Seinfeld fans, we enjoyed the mature harmless humor that the show produced. Even then, in his heart still wanting to appear on a show, my husband said “We are too normal for this.”

I decided to fulfill his dream by writing in about our story and sending some pictures. I wrote about my passion for travel, and my goal to see the world (My math worked out to be seven countries a year). Husband is not against it, he just doesn’t want me to go alone. In fact he would like to see the world himself. But with his work as his number one priority and excessive work related travel, he is sometimes not able to take off and join me. Should that prevent me from continuing on my journey? That is the question for Tom Papa, The Marriage Ref.

A few months later, we were invited for a casting call, followed by several phone interviews, a psychological assessment and tons of paperwork! Once we got through, the cast came over to our home in Atlanta and filmed my husband, myself and our two pets for the entire day. It was a fun day and we felt quite comfortable in front of the camera. Mostly because it was an informal conversational-type setting in our living room. The producer asked us how we met, what we like about each other and to explain our problem. They looked for cues around the house (like the world map) that supported each of our arguments and filmed us separately. Around the time, I was going on a 3 week volunteer trip to Morocco, so the producers got some juicy material to build into the story (me unpacking). My friend and co-volunteer, Leslie taped me on the camel back in the Sahara when we were there for the weekend, which also made it to on the episode.

In December 2010, The Marriage Ref flew us to the NBC studios in New York City for a taping in front of celebrity judges and live audience armed with an audience polling system! (Eeeeek) New York is so festive that time of the year and I always enjoy going there during the holiday season. We taped for an entire day, starting with choosing our costumes, getting our hair and makeup done, to touring the stage. We also got to watch our own video that was filmed at our home a few weeks before. Then the producers pepped us to be ready to defend ourselves, have our key points ready and walk in with our game faces on! There were two other couples who we got to talk to in the dressing room, but weren’t allowed to discuss our issue with them.

We were told who was going to be on the celebrity panel, but didn’t really get to meet them till we appeared in front of the live audience. By then everyone had watched our video, while we were anxiously waiting in the next room. We had no idea what they were discussing about us. Only an occasion “aaahh” or loud clapping gave us a hint that the audience seems really into it.

I have to say I was quite nerves after I watched the tape the first time. I felt like it was biased towards the husband and I had a good chance of losing the argument. It had made him appear to be a poor innocent nerdy husband, who was working all the time, while I am having a ball of a time around the world, adding to his suffering with my exotic travel photos. I had to change all that!

Some clarification was clearly necessary. I pointed out to the judges, Ali Wentworth, Patti LaBelle and Bill Maher that the travels mean much more to me than vacation. It is where I derive my learning about different cultures which I put towards my writing of food and travel, and teaching international cooking classes. Also, in Russia and Morocco I took volunteer trips where I worked in orphanages and taught English. Eventually, it is the travels that gave birth to the idea of Go Eat Give (earlier this year), an international movement that encourages people to learn about different cultures through food and community service. Patti did change her vote after finding out about all the wonderful things I am doing and Ali was always on my side. Bill however, was a fan of the “bacon” so he did not give me his vote.

So, I won the argument against my husband, but not the “rightist of the night.” In the process, he lost his right to argue on this topic! I still had a blast during the entire process, especially watching the live show on TV with friends.

Watch the show online for a limited time on