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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