When a producer from Food Network called Sheila Haworth, owner of Custom Catering, to see if she’d be interested in applying to cater during the filming of “Restaurant: Impossible” at Ducky’s Restaurant, she jumped at the chance.
The producer told Haworth they’d make a decision the next day.
She didn’t hear anything.
After several days, Haworth sent the producer an email asking what was going on.
They told her they went with another caterer, Windmill Grill.
“I was crushed because it was the biggest opportunity of my life, and I didn’t get it,” she said. “It was the biggest disappointment I think that I ever felt.”
Filming of “Restaurant: Impossible” began on June 27. That afternoon around 2 p.m., Haworth got a call from the Food Network producer. She opened the conversation with, “Hi, heartbreaker.”
Her heart didn’t stay broken for long.
The producer asked Haworth if she’d be able to take over catering duties for the rest of the filming. They needed her by 5 p.m.
On the inside, Haworth was panicking, thinking about everything she’d need to prepare dinner that she didn’t have. But on the outside, she played it cool. She told the producer, “Sure. What do you want?”
They settled on chicken parmesan — something Haworth had never made before.
Immediately, she went online to The Food Network website and found a recipe for it.
“Being a caterer, I’m not like a restaurant where I can just go and pick something. When I cater, I [shop] for what I need. I cook it, and I serve it,” she said. “The only thing I had on hand that I could start was my sauce.”
Haworth ordered bread from Martino’s Italian Villa since she didn’t have time to bake her own and sent her husband, Jeff, to Marsh to pick up items while she got the kitchen ready.
“I’m trying to get all this together, and I did. So finally we got down there [to Ducky’s], and of course we didn’t know where to go. It felt like it was 186 degrees. I was sweating, but we finally got it all set up,” she said.
Host Robert Irvine was on site, and with his blunt and honest personality he’s become known for, Haworth said she was petrified.
“Everything worked out. They loved the food,” she said.
After dinner, Haworth was eager to know what producers would tell her to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day. However, everyone was busy, and it wasn’t until late that evening that Haworth got a breakfast order. She’d be making an omelet station, something else she’d never done in her 25-year career.
“I’ve made omelets for my family, but not like this,” she said. “I had to buy two hot plates because I didn’t even have anything to cook them on.”
The next morning, Haworth made the omelets, and she said people loved them.
Later that morning, someone told her to come inside. Chef Lee Lucier wanted an omelet.
“I went in there, and he said, ‘I’ll just do it myself.’ I said ‘OK.’ He’s like 6’8”, so I’m just thinking, ‘Whatever, dude. Whatever you want, cook it,’” she said with a laugh.
After the omelet was done a few of the producers and chef Lee were standing around when Haworth told them she had a confession. She’d never done an omelet station before, she told them.
“They said, ‘Well, you win. You win the prize,’” she said. “So that was really good. That was a great compliment from them.”
For lunch, Haworth made a variety of sandwiches.
As dinner was approaching, she again was asking and asking what the producers wanted on the menu. Finally, after no answer and less and less time, she decided for herself.
“We did the lunch, and I still didn’t know what I was going to fix for dinner, so finally I just went, ‘OK, here’s what I’m fixing,’” she said. “I fixed them a Cajun meal, and it was just yummy. They loved that.”
After the meal, Haworth was looking around, wondering how she pulled it all off, she said.
“Four meals in 24 hours with a three-hour notice. It was just a cool thing. It was like ‘Catering: Impossible.’ It was fun,” she said.
Having been a fan of the show for years, Haworth said it was a great opportunity for her to be able to cook for The Food Network, as well as meet all the people she had only seen on TV until then. Haworth said Irvine was exactly like he is on the show.
“He’s just like you’d think,” she said. “But afterward, he was real gracious to everyone, thanked them for being there and said Kokomo had the most volunteers of any show he’d had. We did some photo ops, and he was real cool and real jovial.”
Since, Haworth has been in touch with the network and requested a letter of recommendation from the show that she could use in the future as a reference for potential clients. They obliged.
“It was just such a really great opportunity,” she said. “I’m glad I got it.”