Mr. Okra gets close to “Good Eats” host, Alton Brown during taping of the Food Network show. “Okraphobia,” starring Delta State’s Mr. Okra, will premiere Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 9 p.m., with additional air-dates to include Thursday, Sept. 28 at midnight; Friday, Sept. 29 at 9 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1 a.m.; and Friday, Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.
Delta State University’s “Fighting Okra” nickname and mascot have earned repute and television fame over the years, having been featured on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman” and ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” The bit parts have paid off for Mr. Okra, as finally the wildly popular mascot landed his first leading role on The Food Network’s “Good Eats,” starring Alton Brown.
The episode, “Okraphobia” will premiere Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 9 p.m., with additional air-dates to include Thursday, Sept. 28 at midnight; Friday, Sept. 29 at 9 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1 a.m.; and Friday, Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.
Delta State’s athletic director, Dr. Brad Teague, was originally contacted by Dana Popoff, a researcher with Be Square Productions in Atlanta, Geogria. Investigating on behalf of “Good Eats,” Popoff inquired as to the availability of Mr. Okra.
Jason Umfress, director of career services and assistant to the Vice-President for student services at Delta State, accepted Popoff’s request and went to readying Mr. Okra for his close-up. Originally crafted in 1998 by Brian Formby, a since 2000 Delta State graduate, the “Fighting Okra costume was in desperate need of an overall. We needed to represent the University with more of a professionally crafted costume,” acknowledged Umfress.
Familiar with Stage Craft, Inc.’s work on Delta State’s Statesman costume, Umfress sent the company a Mr. Okra-inspired beanie baby to serve as reference. After several revisions, Mr. Okra was now ready for his close-up and shipped to the “Good Eats” set.
Popoff reported, after taping, “I think it is going to be a really fun show. Mr. Okra has a much bigger part that I originally anticipated.”
The plot of the episode features, according to Popoff, “The concept for the whole show is that Mr. Okra has a talent agent (the same character we have used in the Sweet Potato show and Vanilla show) who is promoting Mr. Okra. Sid, the talent agent, is looking for an angle to put Okra in the spotlight.”
Now in its 10th season, “Good Eats” is a television cooking show created and hosted by Alton Brown, airing on Food Network. Likened to television science educator Bill Nye, Alton explores the science behind the cooking, the history of different foods, and the advantages of different kinds of cooking equipment. The show tends to focus on familiar dishes that can easily be made at home, and also features segments on choosing the right appliances, and getting the most out of inexpensive, multi-purpose tools. Each episode of Good Eats has a distinct theme, which is typically an ingredient or a certain cooking technique, but may also be a more generic theme such as Thanksgiving.
For more information on the Okra mascot or to schedule personal appearances by the Statesmen, Okra or Delta State cheerleaders, please contact Jason Umfress or cheerleading coach, Heather Hilderbrand at (662) 846-4646.