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The Great American Recipe

It was an exhilarating experience appearing on The Great American Recipe on PBS, Season 2. Read on for more behind the scenes action and what this experience taught me.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I was first approached by PBS. And to tell the truth it probably wasn’t PBS.

What I quickly learned about this experience is that there are more independent contractors, independent companies, independent everything and somehow they end up pitching an idea and it all comes together as a show.

However, I was told not to say show. Still haven’t figured out why!

It began June 17th, 2022. I received a direct message on Instagram from someone telling me my food looked delish and then asking if I’ve ever been on TV before.

He proceeded to mention casting a a new cooking show and would love to chat. After waiting a few days I decided to give him a call and that was just the beginning.

Within days he asked for a video and if you know me, I am a rookie when it comes to making videos or reels. After all, it took me forever to learn how to take a decent photo!

From there I was told I’d be contacted by a producer but that seemed to take forever. I was sent a non-disclosure that basically gave them everything but my first-born and then I waited.

And waited. And thought hey-what the heck? That’s show business!

After 5 long weeks, I get another request for recipes. Now keep in mind there are no parameters given. Send me 10 top recipes.

No guidelines given for time frames required, what type of food, etc, etc!

And then you really need 16 dishes-which isn’t quite true because what are you going to serve with these dishes? You can’t just have fish on a plate!

And so on and so on and still no acceptance; just a maybe. And to be honest with everything going on in life, it’s hard to  set aside everything to meet their requests on a timely basis.

But I persevered and perhaps didn’t write my regular blog, as I was busy responding in a professional manner (LOL) to these people who only had their deadlines to meet.

The Great American Recipe Abbe Odenwalder

Then it was time to write the recipes in their format which took some time and still not knowing if you were accepted. 

And then being asked about other recipes and it began to feel so redundant.

Then it was time to talk with the food director who determined your cooking skills over the phone.

I was told there would be many interactions with her helping to tweak recipes while on set-if that became the case-and which I later found out was not really the case.

But a very nice person she was.

And then there were more contracts and a point where my husband just flat out asked me if I wanted to do the show.

Absolutely, I said, whereupon he said then don’t even read the damn things because if you do you probably will be too scared to participate. (And as I write these words, I  hope I am not violating anything I shouldn’t!)

It wasn’t until August 11th that I finally received notification that I was chosen.  Actually it was kind of anti-climatic at that point!

Why everything was so rush-rush is beyond me! Me, being me, meant I really didn’t carefully study what I submitted until I received acceptance and when they finally gave us the time frames and challenges, I realized that some of the things I submitted might not work.

So that meant tweaking things in a very short time and this process did not allow for much tweaking! Not to mention that all three kids were home which totally distracted me!

I am not one to use many gadgets in the kitchen so having to incorporate things like an insta-pot was not easy for me.

And I kind of figured the stove would be gas and here at 1684 E. Lake Drive there is no gas! 

Needless to say there was also wardrobe. I spent more than enough time shopping which was very unnecessary given that I would be covered in an apron the entire time on set.

But after all-I did want to match!

After sending countless outfit combinations to be approved, I was told they would be fine and when I got there I was told maybe not.

Yes, my name is spelled wrong! 

Abbe Odenwalder wardrobe

The cycle kept repeating in every avenue of the production, and I more than wondered what I was getting myself into.

Covid test? Yep! Luckily I had it at the end of July, so I was clear!

But still we were tested every day and had to wear masks when we weren’t on camera. 

And yes those flecks are dust because the hotel did not know the meaning of dusting, even when I slipped the roomkeeper $20 to clean well!

covid test

Everyone was assigned a producer whose job it was to help you with your story and interview you on set; among many things they were our confidant and friend and gave us positive energy to see the process through.

We spent plenty of time talking before we even made it to Virginia.

And each interview lasted up to several hours. I didn’t know I had that much to share!

Airline tickets? Those arrived on August 30th for travel on September 1st. Like I said, everything was last minute!

Virginia? We could have been anywhere, because all I saw of Virginia was a beautiful barn wedding venue and a hotel room that needed major cleaning.

It’s not that they tried to find us a dirty hotel. The grounds were beautiful and the rooms could have been more than adequate when the air conditioning was working, (assuming they knew how to dust), but the manager of this property seemed to be operating without realizing there were actual guests that stayed at the hotel.

The ceiling fan was covered in an inch of dust, and well, no need to go on, but the ambiance which could have been there, wasn’t.

Truth be told we spent little time in the hotel.

With 12 to 14 hours on set, and a half hour drive each way, by the time we exited the elevator and found our beds-usually unmade- we just collapsed!

the great american recipe

The best part about being on The Great American Recipe?

By far, it was the cast! I have made a new family for life and that is pretty special.

OK, I was the oldest and I kind of figured I would be, but once we all got to know each other, age just became a number.

Alright, they did have more social network skills and perhaps a bit more energy, but we were all great cooks and quickly became family.

And what a special family it is-one I can be certain I will want to be a part of the rest of my life. 

I can now travel to most parts of the country and have someone to visit!

All of us were in close proximity our entire time on set. We ate together except when we were required to eat in our rooms.

When we were lucky we were able to eat breakfast from the hotel, but generally we ate all three meals from whatever catering company was providing on set that day-and some were better than others.

Though our handlers tried to get us hot food, generally it wasn’t.

And when we did eat at the hotel it was whatever DoorDash delivered and though our main handler tried to make it good, well, let’s just say I lost three pounds while I was there.

Eating at the hotel restaurant was apparently not in the budget, unless we got lucky.

And eating the food we cooked? That was disposed of before we could even complain. How sad.

There was a lot of good food in our group which none of us ever got to taste.

So have I ever eaten Guyanese food? Or even native Hawaiian food? Sadly, I have not.

And forget Leanna’s lasagna soup, Khela’s kale salad, Brad’s salatim, Ted’s French fries, and Maria’s bolognese. The answer is still no.

The Great American Recipe Season 2

Would I do this again?

Without a doubt. Though my brain was fried for awhile after I returned, one does not often have an opportunity to experience this.

Seeing the process was exciting and competing with circumstances beyond my control was challenging. 

I proved to myself that I can stand up to the competition and though many things caused me nightmares throughout, I realized I am a lot tougher than I thought.

Perhaps it is age and yes, it is easier to reflect at this point-but trust me there is still a lot of second guessing on my part.

I still have bad dreams on what I should have done differently!

For one, if I had been allowed to cook what I wanted and had they had the right ingredients and had the barn air conditioner not blown the gas flame on my stove from under my burner, had the food been served hot to the judges, may have made things easier.

Cooking out of your element does change things, but that is part of the adventure and what an adventure it was.

Should of, would of, could of? At this point it doesn’t matter.

I believe The Great American Recipe is a good show-yes, it is still TV and yes, there is so much more one could say-but isn’t the magic of TV not knowing all the behind the scenes? 

It’s the stuff they don’t tell you that creates the magic.

Abbe Odenwalder The Great American Recipe Season 2

Allow The Great American Recipe to transport you to many different cultures and cause you to reflect on your own heritage. Realize how special each one of us is.

Learn your own story and own it.

I’m proud to be an American and without getting too patriotic, hopefully, The Great American Recipe will make you realize that this could have been your recipe. Your story.

Recipes are a story. They evolve as we evolve. They tell us about our past and help us to continue into the future.

When we make them we are reminded of those that came before us and hopefully in the future they will allow our grandchildren or future generations to remember us.

Food is one way of bringing people together in a kind way. And right now we can all use a bit of kindness in this crazy world.

And yes, I may have been on TV, but your story is equally important.

After all, we are all The Great American Recipe.

The barn Great American Recipe

Want a teaser? Here’s a nice article that Rocky Mountain PBS did complete with a really nice video.

Westword did a great article, too.

I was even live on Good Day Colorado!

(I’d love to hear your story. And make your favorite recipes. Send them my way!)

Need Some More?

Check out Part 2 of The Great American Recipe!

Chinese Chicken in Garlic Sauce

Chinese chicken with garlic sauce

Apricot Chicken with Olives and Sumac

Chicken with Apricots

Sublime Orange Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Orange Cake with bowl of frosting






Leslie Lerew

Monday 2nd of October 2023

Abbe, you were my favorite! I too am from Colorado and didn’t even learn that till the end. I also love Vietnamese food, eat it about 2x a week. Please send me our post your deconstructed Chicken casserole with cheesy sauce. I signed up to be a subscriber! Thank you


Sunday 15th of October 2023

Hi Leslie, Sorry it took me so long to get this to you. I've been out of town. Cheesy Chicken Casserole

Karen (Back Road Journal)

Monday 19th of June 2023

How exciting...I'll tune in this evening Abbe. Congratulations, I'm sure that a lot of people were interviewed for the show and you made the cut.


Monday 19th of June 2023

Thanks Karen! I have no idea how many they interviewed. YOur guess is as good as mine. But yes it was fun to do and lots of second guessing and being told what to do. Hopefully they will be true to their word and make us all look great!


Sunday 18th of June 2023

What a shame they did not have a meal after the show to get everyone the opportunity to taste other's creations. I sure do hope they simply did not dispose of that food into the trash!!!! I follow you site and love 'most' of your recipes. I have tried many things I would not normally tried. I live in the Denver area, so do appreciate that your recipes are made for a higher altitude. Thank you.


Sunday 18th of June 2023

It was a shame! Glad you are enjoying my recipes. As I used to tell my kids-as long as you like most of it-that's good enough for me! If there is something in partuicular you'd like me to improve on, I'd love to hear it. It's the way I learn!


Sunday 18th of June 2023

how interesting and exhilarating for you. and very nerve racking of course!