Jumping Into the Fray

by in Behind the Scenes, July 24, 2010

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Hey, Guys: I’ve been following all the chatter going on here at Star Talk and to put it simply – I had to join the conversation!

Every week, through the remainder of the show, I’ll be happy to answer questions you send in via our blog here, Facebook or Twitter. If you don’t have a question, but a comment – well, leave that too. I love reading your insights (and several have made me laugh out loud). Keep ‘em coming!

Now, let me get to your questions.

Do you guys watch the behind-the-scenes footage of the cast, kitchen incidents, etc. before making an evaluation decision?Nicole Miller

Wow, excellent question, Nicole. There are hundreds of hours of footage from every episode, so it’s not logistically possible to screen and edit it all for us in time for judging. But the producers are vigilant about making sure we know EVERYTHING that went on behind-the-scenes. We get massive amounts of background notes before every judging event. The notes detail and transcribe every notable moment for the finalists while they were shopping, cooking, living together, etc. Why? As we say in this competition, character matters.

How long do the eliminations really take? The editing makes it seem really quick.Jenny Cohen

On average, we talk to each finalist for about an hour. Every judge addresses every finalist. We spend a lot of time giving them constructive advice. In the early episodes, these sessions can take about 10 hours. It all gets edited down to 12 minutes (of course, all my best lines are left on the cutting room floor). Pity the poor finalists – we’re sitting all this time; they have to stand.

Hi Bob. Have you ever thought about the contestants judging each other? Kris Mohnen

Hmmm. That’s an interesting idea, Kris. We haven’t, although we do that on The Next Iron Chef when they’re all pro-chefs. Maybe we’ll try it?

Hello Bob. I was wondering how someone goes about presenting an idea for a Food Network show. Who would a person contact, and what kind of presentation would you be expected to give?Devin S. Forbes

I’ve got bad news, Devin. For legal reasons, we are not permitted to review show ideas from individuals. We can only take pitches that come from major production companies (i.e., those who produce network series). So if any of you have an idea, you need to make a deal with a production company, who would then pitch it to us.

Have you ever tasted something that you had to spit out, or even made you sick?Mike Walters

Luckily, no food in this show has made me sick yet, though some has briefly made me lose the will to live. A few weeks ago DAS and Tom served jerk slaw which everyone but me actually spit out (I was fascinated that they could fit so many horrible flavors onto one fork). In two weeks, you’ll see a dish that I call the WORST DISH in the HISTORY of The Next Food Network Star. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Would you consider taking someone whose food and technique is not the best (but rocks it on-camera) or vice versa – knowing that they will need work to be ready for their own show? Or, are your criteria that they have to excel in both areas? Tim McMillin, Sr.

Our stars really need to have expertise and food credibility to make it, mostly because our viewers are smart and food savvy. That said, if we saw someone who had the inherent personality and passion for food, but just hadn’t learned proper technique yet, we might tell them to come back after they had been through culinary school and had some experience.

What is the most important factor in picking a star? Rebecca Stuart

Well, it’s not quite grammatically correct, but there are TWO most important factors when picking a star: A charismatic personality that pops on camera, and an authentic passion for and expertise in the food world. Unfortunately, those qualities are so rare to find together. But if it was really easy to find people like this, I probably wouldn’t have a job.

How much thought is put into the candidates' ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc. when choosing contestants for The Next Food Network Star, Chopped, etc? From the outside it appears to be far too much. Gary Saunders

Our candidate pool and our audience is richly diverse in every way. So, we’re lucky to be able to pick the finalists we feel have the most potential while still being able to reflect the diversity of our viewers.

At the start of the season do you have a gut feeling about who the winner will be? If so, how right have you been? Hope Harris- Gayles

I’m right about half the time. But no matter what the initial feeling is, you never know how the finalists will do when put to the test. Last year on the first day of taping, I thought Melissa, Jeffrey and Jamika radiated the most charisma. Two years ago, I thought Aaron was disastrous at the beginning of taping. Three years ago, I never could’ve guessed Amy. But Guy, and the Hearty Boys I had a good feeling about from the start.

That’s it from me. Now, what say you?

Talk to you next week.

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