Melissa’s Insight: Listen to Those Judges!

by in Food Network Star, August 4, 2011
Jeff Mauro
Jeff did well in one of Melissa's favorite challenges: The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. You can catch new episodes of her show, Ten Dollar Dinners on Sunday mornings at 9am/8c. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

This week, I’m extra excited for the episode: It’s a Best Thing I Ever Ate (love that show!) challenge and then a finalist roast with top comedians. Before I move onto the episode, I thought I would share a couple of (random) fun facts, since I’m feeling like we are now friends.

1. Whenever I see The Best Thing I Ever Ate, I think of the time my husband and I ate what seemed like a gazillion spoonfuls of spicy aioli on camera at 7 a.m. in order to illustrate how delish the sauce was in a fried calamari dish for the appetizer Best Thing episode. Nothing says “good morning” like a belly full of mayonnaise and fried seafood.

2. Speaking of roasts, little-known fact about me: Years ago, before kids, I was a full-fledged member of the Friars Club. And you thought I could just make a mean potato-bacon torte!

Back to FNS: A few weeks ago on my blog I imagined sitting down with each of the finalists to give them some been-there-done-that advice. Today, I’m going to highlight some advice or words from the judges that jumped out at me as being the important gems of the episode. (You are all welcome to agree, disagree, discuss, right here in the comments.)

Susie Jimenez

Susie: I couldn’t agree more with the judges that Susie has that raw talent, a certain X factor. Bob spoke one of the truest lines of the night when he told Susie that while you can train people to do a lot of things, you “can’t give people personality.” Susie, though, has it. In spades.

Vic: The judges and comedians encourage Vic to get rid of the “Vegas” and embrace a more genuine point of view. And with all the buildup of Kramer calling himself Cosmo, Vic Vegas announces his real last name. I’m a little thrown. I mean, I realized that he wasn’t born Vegas, but guess I hadn’t fully appreciated that the “Vegas” thing was more a point of view than a nickname. I assumed Vic Vegas was Vic Vegas long before signed up for FNS. Hey, it works for my cousin Bunny. She’s my age and I still think half my family doesn’t even know her name is really Sherri. So I thought it was like that. I hope I’m right. I’d be pretty bummed to find out that this was a pseudonym born out of marketing calculations (or worse, POV creation).

Jeff: The judges told Jeff that “the room just relaxed and opened up” to him. It’s simple: Make people feel good about themselves and suddenly they will like you more. It’s as if all those good feelings about yourself translate into goodwill toward you. Don’t worry about people liking you — make them like themselves.

Whitney Chen

Whitney: Whitney is smart, pretty and a fantastic chef. But Susie Fogelson wonders if perhaps she “doesn’t know about herself and food” enough for the job. What insight! The difference between being a great cook versus knowing with your soul how food fits into who you are and why you are the one to deliver that food is subtle, but critical. Why? Because you can never be the best chef in the whole world. But you can be the best person to exemplify your unique relationship with food. That’s what this competition is all about.

Mary Beth: If you’ve been reading my blog every Thursday, you know I like Mary Beth and wish she could tame her scrunchy-faced, oh-so-serious side a little more. The judges give her great advice when they point out that people “want information in an entertaining package.” Even then, Mary Beth looks so serious and concerned, saying that she prides herself on making her information “accessible.” Now, in all fairness, perhaps editing had a role here, but just in case, I must point out that accessible is not the same as entertaining. In any case, the real problem is the sizzle missing from the steak.

Lastly, while it certainly wasn’t the most important thing said all evening, Bob Tuschman’s comment that he had driven Korean cars that weighed more than Vic’s prime rib deserves an honorable mention, because it was my biggest laugh of an episode filled with major comic talent. (BTW, Bob is also very clever and funny in real life.)

Whitney goes home, which seems fair. We’re nearing the end here, and I’ll be honest — I just don’t think we’ve seen enough from her. Yes, being in front of a camera can be daunting, and there are many new skills to master in a very short time. But after a month and a half, it shouldn’t be this difficult to let a charming, genuine personality shine through at least most of the time. Remember Bob’s words to Susie? You can’t teach personality.

In any case, clearly I can’t call this, so I won’t even try. I’ll tune in with you all next Sunday. And by Sunday, I mean Sunday morning on Ten Dollar Dinners (Zucchini Carpaccio!) and Sunday night for Food Network Star. Anyone else wondering who indeed does charm Alton Brown, as the preview teases? Any guesses?

See what Melissa’s cooking up on Ten Dollar Dinners, check out her Facebook Fan Page and follow her on Twitter (@melissadarabian).

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Comments (164)

  1. Martin says:

    Dear Melissa: You mentioned that you AND your husband were on an episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate. I have a question for you. Why does Food Network think that we care about your husband or his opinion? Your husband is not really that attractive and, truly, the audience could care less about him. You are the star, not him! When I watch other TV shows on other networks, the stars do not involve their spouses. Also why are the male spouses always featured in FN shows, and we never see female spouses being invited. This all seems very sexist and degrading to the FN female stars. Please answer in a future blog post.

    • Not necessarily true. Paula Dean has done shows with her husband, sons, brother, wives of sons, and grandchildren. Rachael Ray has done shows where her and her husband go to different cities and try different restaurants. You even occasionally get to see her dog. Giada has had her husband, daughter, and I beleive her aunt on the show. Guy has done shows with his sons, sister, nephew, and mother. And on and on. So give Melissa a break.

      Cooking and eating together is a bonding experience (beside a filling one). And even though I don't care about Susie F's needing for the contestants to have a background story, having and sharing a show with family and friends is a good visual way to flesh a star out. Especially if they get along.

      • Grandma Joyce says:

        Personally, I like to see the interaction with the families. The success of the individual is often enhanced by their family members, so I like seeing the spotlight being shared.

      • applestycx says:

        I like Giada's aunt. They should give her a show.

    • MissyB says:

      You have got to be kidding. Ina's husband is on her show all the time, Paula Deen same way, and the Neelys have had just about every family member and friend possible on their show. Stop making a big deal out of a tiny thing.

    • Babbs says:

      FN not including female spouses is actually not true. I have seen Bobby Flay's wife Stephanie Marsh, and his daughter on several episodes...Stephanie has even served as a judge on Iron Chef America. I have seen Emeril Lagasse's wife and children on Emeril Live. Tyler Florence did an episode with his son. Guy Feri has included his wife and son's and a host of friends on his show. I don't think Melissa's "Best Thing I Ever Ate" point was her husband's the question is what is your point? Viewers always like to know the personal stories of the chef's they watch. If you don't like Melissa, don't read her blog or watch her program; degrading Melissa's husband serves no purpose and is mean-spirited.....bad form dude.

  2. Rube says:

    How would Obert Irvine do on FNS since he lied about his resume, just like JAG...

  3. brownjoe21 says:

    What an excellent episode this turned out to be! Susie Jimenez killed the challenge, and was so much fun. Jeff Mauro and Mary Beth Albright were both excellent for the panel. Vic Vegas and Whitney Chen? Not so much. I liked Whitney's preformance over Vic's. However, I feel that the best decision to send home would've been Vic. I feel that Whitney is a star. I would obsess over her now non-existant show. Last night's epidosde, Mary Beth was eliminated. It's EXTREMELY hard for me to say this, but they made the best choice there. My guess on who the winner will be? Susie. Hands down.

  4. karen prack says:

    I would like to see a food network show on making sandwiches or all about sandwiches show. I am not a sandwich person but hopefully a show on making them would change that. I would like Jeff to win the food network star competition.

  5. Laura says:

    Sorry Melissa. Can't agree with your comments about Susie and Whitney. Susie doesn't have "it" for me and I find her less charming week after week with the childish giggling. Her food, for the most part, does not look appetizing.When one of the judges told her she had no idea what Susie just said her response was "I don't either!" If any other contestant had said that they would have been nailed. She got another pass. I felt the judges couldn't wrap their minds around Whitney changing carreers and were afraid she might change again. Her personality was great on camera so not sure what you saw that I didn't. I personally though Whitney was farther along in the competition that you were at this point.

  6. brownjoe21 says:

    Can't say that I agree with you, Laura. Susie's only giggly off camera - when it comes to the camera challenges, she is still the fun girl we all know and love, except she brings culinary expertise into the mix, which establishes her credability. Susie is a great chef, and a great personality. The judge's are trying to pick someone that'll please everybody, but you can't do that. Susie's personality ignites up some people's hearts, and douses others. She's my top runner in this competition, the second best thing since Aarti, my food crush.

  7. Michelle says:

    Have you ever noticed that with the reality shows the winner is never the person we've been led to believe it will be? Every week we hear how wonderful Susie is. Sorry, Susie. That doesn't speak well for your chances and I'm ok with that because I don't think I could sit through an entire show with you. Jeff is touted as being so natural and fun and winning all these challenges. Uh oh, Jeff. That means you probably won't get it either for which I'm thankful. I don't want a show about "sammiches." If he had a different type of show - yeah, probably. That leaves us with Vic. Vic, whom the judges have such "serious concerns" over. I think Vic will win and I'm glad. I would watch his show in a heartbeat and probably make a whole lot of his comfort foods. Good luck!

  8. Sandy says:

    I personally think that Jeff winning a program just shows that the Food Network is heavily bigoted both against Mexicans and women. Although I like Jeff and I think he has a typically flamboyant but likable American personality, if there are enough people out there who are just dying to watch a big dude with somewhat banal and uninteresting anecdotes make a sandwich, then this fully explains the current political and economic situation that the U.S. is experiencing. Can't believe the outcome!!!!