Ty Pennington, former host of the wildly popular ABC program, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," will be appearing at this weekend's Downtown Raleigh Home Show.
Pennington, who will speak at 11 a.m. Saturday on the show's main stage, said in an interview last week that he will talk about current homebuilding trends and share affordable interior design tips as well as stories about his nine-year run as the bullhorn-wielding host of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
He'll also discuss his new show with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Pennington will be the host of "On the Menu," a culinary competition premiering on TNT on Oct. 3. The show gives home cooks the chance to create a dish that will be featured on the menu of chain restaurants, such as Chili's, Denny's and Outback Steakhouse.
This isn't Pennington's first visit to Raleigh. In 2007, he came with the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" crew to renovate the home of Linda Riggins, who works for Building Together Ministries, a Raleigh nonprofit that helps needy families. Not only did the crew and volunteers renovate the home where Wiggins lives with her husband, William, who is legally blind, and their three children, in less than a week, but they also repaired the charity's basketball court and playground.
Reconnecting with families
Pennington said there are certain families who appeared on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" with whom he tries to stay in touch and even exchanges Christmas cards. Often, he sees those families again when he travels around the country doing speaking engagements.
"Whenever I am in town, I will run into them at an event like this," he said.
On his to-do list, Pennington said, is an idea for a show where he travels around the country revisiting those families, staying at the homes and updating viewers on the families' lives.
Pennington said his new show, "On the Menu," isn't that different from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Both shows, he said, have the same premise: "Make someone's dream come true."
Pennington explained the new show's format: Four people, none of whom are trained chefs, start by tasting a dish and trying to re-create it. One contestant is eliminated after that challenge. The remaining three try to create a dish for fans of a particular chain restaurant. There are hidden cameras to record diners' reactions, and Pennington interviews folks to see which dishes worked and which failed. Afterward, the contestants are narrowed to two people, who have to refine their dish for the restaurant's executives. There are some kitchen failures, he said, such as when one contestant removed oysters from their shells before grilling them.
The winning dish will appear on the restaurant's menu the day after the show airs. The fact that viewers get to taste the food that they saw on television is what makes the show different from other competitive cooking shows. "We've never been able to see it and taste it," Pennington said. "That's sort of revolutionary."
Throughout the competition, Lagasse serves as a mentor to the contestants.
Pennington said he and Lagasse have very different personalities but work well together on screen. "I'm loud and obnoxious. He's quiet and says one or two words," Pennington said. "We had an instant connection. We got along really well."
While Pennington learned to cook at a young age as the son of a single mother, he said the show has been a culinary education: "I'm learning an amazing amount about food."