With cameras rolling in the Browning Center’s Eccles Black Box and two chicken dishes to sample, Madonne Miner was not only choosing which dish she preferred, but also which club would be receiving a $3,000 cash prize.
“It was very hard for me to make a decision,” said Miner, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.
The roasted chicken breast seasoned in butter, salt and a bit of garlic and covered in a bread batter was Miner’s choice, and the Associated Actors and Technicians Club was presented with the large cardboard trophy check in the seventh edition of Dining with the Dean, a program produced by Brigham Young University Broadcasting.
Sean Bishop, a theater student and president of AAT, helped prepare the food, but was rehearsing for the regional premiere of “Xanadu” down the hall when Miner unveiled the check and announced the winning team.
“I was sitting in rehearsal just watching the clock, knowing they were in there,” Bishop said. “I was trying to pay attention to what I was doing and stay focused, but my heart was kind of in the other room.”
The club members didn’t celebrate for long before they and the broadcasting crew were gliding down the hall toward Bishop’s rehearsal room.
“They came charging in the door,” Bishop said. “I saw the camera lights . . . and everybody looked so happy.”
Bishop and his team were given $30 at noon last Friday and three hours to prepare a three-course meal for Miner.
As they started to prepare the tough chicken, they didn’t have a meat tenderizer or mallet and the pan was bending, so they double-bagged the two breasts and started beating them with a hammer.
“No matter how simple a dish might seem, the students always find a really unique and fun way of executing it,” said the show’s executive producer, Daniel Patterson, upon reflecting on their method.
It worked for Miner.
“I have to say that the main-course chicken was fabulous,” she said.
The broadcasting crew visits institutions across the country to film its show, and has recently pitted the University of Utah Soccer Club and the BYU Spirit Squad against each other in an episode. The episodes run each Thursday at 7:30 p.m., and the WSU episode could run in a month, Patterson said.
“The mission of Dining with the Dean is to showcase universities and students and present them in the best light possible,” Patterson said. “We realize that there’s a lot of reality programming out there that capitalizes on a more sensational approach to television. We think that the general viewing audience is growing tired of that kind of broadcast material.”
For Andrew Crandall, a member of the Spanish Club who occasionally watches reality television like “America’s Got Talent,” said the experience was bittersweet.
“Right before they unveiled the check, I felt . . . there was probably only about a 30 percent chance we were going to win after I had seen the reaction and facial expressions of the dean as she tried the different foods we had prepared,” Crandall said. “I thought there was still a bit of a chance, but I did prepare myself a little bit for ‘hey, we may not win this.’”
Even though the Spanish Club didn’t take the $3,000 prize, it received $300 from the dean’s office.
“We didn’t want either team to think of itself as having lost,” Miner said. “They were great competitors. They certainty deserve something.”
Bishop said his club would like to use the $3,000 to start a scholarship.
“We had a lot of friends who weren’t able to come back because of the funding,” Bishop said. “We thought it would be maybe the best and the most appropriate for AAT to put that money into a scholarship fund.”
He said he’ll be watching the episode with his teammates when it comes out in a month, maybe over some baked chicken and a remake of the brownie they prepared as a dessert for Miner.
“It was a trip,” Bishop said. “It was really fun.”