Thursday, March 15, 2007

Martha Martha Martha - live and in person in NYC

Ever since Martha Stewart broke out of prison and started her new daytime show, I have to admit I have been a faithful viewer thanks to Comcast DVR. I tape the show every day and watch it when I can at breakneck speed, fast-forwarding through the commercials and the boring segments of the show. Say what you want about her but the woman is amazing. It's one thing to be knowledgeable about cooking or gardening or crafts but she's truly an expert at all of them. And, yes, now she has a million people working for her that come up with most of the ideas and make her look brilliant but it wasn't always that way and it's clear she has a wealth of her own knowledge about all of these topics. I actually learn a lot watching her show as opposed to some of the other cooking shows that are highly entertaining (Iron Chef America, Emeril, etc) but not necessarily educational. So when my friends from New York called me saying they had tickets to a taping of the show, I couldn't resist the opportunity to see what really goes on behind the scenes.

Of course the day I went, it was February 14th, the worst weather day of the year in the Northeast. Snow, sleet, slush, ice, wind and frigid temperatures. Not exactly an ideal day to travel. But if the Acela train was going to NY, so was I. When the 6:15am train left South Station, I was on it - fully equipped with my iPod loaded up with an episode of "Heroes" and plenty of music, and lots of reading material. New York was an absolute mess when I got there. Not a plow in site. No sidewalks shoveled. Cab drivers fishtailing all over the road. But the show must go on as they say.

click on the image above to get a closer look at Eleni's beautiful cupcakes!

My friend Cathleen and I had a little time to kill so we went to Chelsea Market, home of the Food Network as well as a wide variety of wonderful food specialty stores - Eleni's (cupcakes & cookies), Fat Witch Brownies, The Lobster Place fish market, Hale and Hearty Soups, Amy's Bread and lots more. The building itself is very industrial and worth a walk-through. And I guarantee you one of the food shops will suck you in. The bright colors and beautiful displays of Eleni's immediately grabbed our attention and before we knew it, we were sitting down eating cupcakes for breakfast. The red velvet cupcake with chocolate ganache frosting was our favorite. Moist cake and intense chocolate frosting. Killer. The smell coming from the Fat Witch Brownies shop was intense. There was no way we could eat brownies after those cupcakes however they had tiny samples on the counter which was enough to find out how incredibly rich and delicious their brownies are. I believe Oprah has selected them as one of her "favorite things" in the past and I can see why. I could have stayed there all day sampling the many wonderful foods but before we knew it, it was time to make our way through the blizzard over to Martha's studio.

When we arrived at the studio, there was a small line outside. We had to stand in line briefly which on a day like that was not pleasant. The whole process of getting into the studio is very Martha-esque. Perky preppy girls with Madonna headsets anally ushering you into the correct lines and ensuring you "stay in line." Once you get through the security check, you enter a room with a large flat screen TV running episodes of, what else, Martha. There's an adjoining room so that all the guests have a place to sit. What I found most amusing is that they have computers set up but the only website you can view is So go head and shop on the Martha Stewart website but don't expect to look for a restaurant, check the weather or your e-mail while you're waiting.

I expected there to be a nice snack there for the audience and I was not disappointed. There were perfectly baked heart-shaped linzer cookies and bottles of water - all of which had to obviously be consumed before heading into the studios. I had high hopes for the bathrooms but definitely was disappointed on that end. That bathroom could have been in any mall or movie theater in America. Basic stalls, sinks, nothing special. No high-end hand soaps or 10-ply toilet paper for us.

While we were waiting, Joey "the warm up guy" who, if you watch the show, Martha often banters with on-air. He's sort of annoying but he's very down to earth and does a great job of keeping you entertained while you're waiting to be ushered into the studio. He instructs you on all of his hand gestures which signal "big applause," "medium applause" and my favorite, the signal to get the audience to say "Mmmmmm" (a clockwise motion of his hand over his stomach) - obviously for cooking segments.

When we got into the studio, it was very cool - and very cold. It made David Letterman's studio (known for being cold) feel like a sauna. We froze through the whole show and ever since then I watch the audience to see if they're bundled up and I often see folded arms, scarves being worn and other indications that they're freezing too. "Joey" explained that the lights get really hot which is why they have to have the temperature so low. So, if you go, wear a warm sweater.

The studio is amazing and huge. Her kitchen is a dream kitchen. Lots of storage, large counter space and every pot and pan you could ever desire - all perfectly polished looking shiny and new. To the left of the kitchen is another closed-in kitchen where her chefs "Wes and Angie" work their magic. There are large glass windows so you can see them in action and so that Martha can yell at them when they've done something wrong that's throwing her cooking segment off. To the right of the kitchen is a greenhouse with a variety of beautiful plants and flowers - all real and gorgeous of course. We were seated in the front row center which may sound ideal however there's a camera guy and a huge camera on a crane right in front of us so you, in turn, have to crane your neck at times to see what's going on but it's not that big of a deal.

Before the show starts, Joey kills some more time by talking with the audience, informing them of the guests and trying to interact with the audience by asking where everyone is from, etc. Come to find out, the main guest of the show (Katherine Heigl from Grey's Anatomy) pretaped her segment with Martha due to scheduling issues. That was a total bummer because her interview included the cooking segment which I was very much looking forward to. However, they showed the interview up on the monitors for us to watch and it was a pretty boring interview so I didn't feel too badly. What we did see was an interview with Tim Gunn from Project Runway along with 3 designers from Parsons Design School. There was a little runway show featuring the designs of the designers which was very cool. The clothes were gorgeous. We also saw an interview with a kid who is the youngest to have ever climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. He was very articulate and as cute as can be. And Martha was actually very good with him. She has hiked the mountain as well so was able to share her experience and make him feel at ease.

Well what about Martha, I'm sure you're wondering. What's she really like? How does she look in person vs. on TV? She is probably the one famous person I would say is exactly the same as you'd expect. Very professional, buttoned up, a bit distant but cordial. In the Q&A session after the show, she kept her distance and never got very close to the audience but she was nice. She's very tall and I hate to say it, but she's definitely put the pounds back on since prison. She's got a good amount of noticeable back fat. Meow! Sorry. Had to share. I'd have back fat too if I had all the dinner invitations she did. Good for her!

So overall the experience was a lot of fun and worth braving a blizzard to get there. I recommend the experience if you're a fan. It's fun to see her in action. If you're interested in going to the show, you can order tickets online on There are typically two tapings per day. A live show in the morning and a taped show in the afternoon. They tape shows so that when Martha is jet setting around the globe, they have shows "in the can" that they can air. You can also wait on "stand-by" but you're better off trying to get the tickets ahead of time. The only disappointment, as I mentioned, is that some of the segments have already been taped which is a bummer. But you roll the dice when you attend a taping. You never know what great guests might be on, what they might give away or what you could learn. That's the fun of it. It's also cool to watch the show at home afterwards to relive the day's events. And, as always, it's just fun to be in New York!

Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue - between 15th and 16th Streets

Martha Stewart - TV studio
221 W 26th St - between Seventh and Eighth Avenues
For tickets:
Click here for info


Anonymous Donna said...

I still can't believe you traveled in that horrible weather but it looks like it was worth the trip. Sounds like a good time!

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Madeira Mama said...

What an interesting review. I've always admired Martha and moreso now that you also think she's pretty special after seeing her in action.

6:25 PM  
Blogger strawberry shortcake said...

Thanks for braving the weather to meet me, Lynne! And, glad you thought it was worth it.

7:59 PM  

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