By David Manilow |

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Welcome to the Check, Please! blog. We'll take you behind the scenes, have special features, lots of video, maybe have guest bloggers and more.

Check, Please! began in 2001. It was created because I thought that there should be a television show where you could get credible, authentic information about Chicago's wonderful restaurants. But, to me, the show is also as much about diversity, neighborhoods, cultural differences, history and stories of the American Dream as it is about food, service and atmosphere. I always look for, at least, a couple of things: We try to put three guests on the show that you would usually not see dining together, and we try to pick three restaurants where most of our viewers have not been to all three.

O.K., let's get to the good stuff. How did President-Elect Obama get on the show? Well, back in the late 1990's, my close friend Bob Rivkin suggested that we all go out to dinner with his close friend, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. I think our conversation went like this:

Dave: Barack Obama! What kind of name is that?
Bob: No. Seriously. This guy is going to be a big deal someday.
Dave: Yeah. Sure. Whatever.

So, the Obamas and I struck up a relationship. By the way, they're as wonderful, warm, inclusive and intelligent as you could possibly hope that they would be.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2001. Check, Please! is looking for guests because we haven't really started the whole online cultivation thing. We had already taped three episodes, but for show #4, we had a firefighter (friend of a friend of my biz partner, Joel) and a funky retail buyer (friend of our assistant, Taryn), but we needed one more guest to balance out the table. Who could be better than my friend, the politician?

So...why didn't the show air? Here's what happened. After watching Barack on camera for a few minutes, I said to myself, "He's unbelievable, he could be president one day." So, I put the show in my desk and waited. It was a risky move, but I knew that it would be best in the long run.

Well, that's not really what happened. In reality, when the cameras started rolling, the fireman kinda froze and the retail buyer took a while to warm up so we were left with a show that was heavy on the State Senator and light on the other two. It just didn't "feel right." Also, we were just starting so we were a little nervous about what we were putting on the air. So, it stayed in my desk drawer through the convention speech and the announcement in Springfield and through the primaries. We decided that, because it is our 100th show and it's the week before the inauguration, it's a wonderful time to take a look back at Barack Obama on Check, Please!.