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. Kelly says:

    I caught a few minutes of Melissa's $10 Meal show the other day. It's funny that I thought Whitney looked smoother and more polished on camera than Melissa does on her own show.

  2. Lily Bell says:

    Melissa needs to shut up. She has nothing to offer. Need to bring in Aarti who chould teach everyone a thing or two. I have said it before, I will NEVER watch a show with any of these people. Everyone of them suck and the Food Network knows it. This has been the WORST SEASON EVER of the series. I think they really need to review their screening process for next year.

  3. Moochy says:

    It's so interesting to read comments & see how we all react differently to what's on the show. Mary Beth, to me, is awful. She doesn't seem to have the "food chops" of some others, and I'll take a pass on her show. Can't stand her voice style. Vic is fun because he's different but I haven't seen anything that would make me want to watch. Susie is a cutie but too immature yet to have her own show. They should keep her around at the network, though, to let her develop as a chef & personality. Jeff is watchable. Not a sandwich fan but can see the possibilities as long as they don't box him in.
    I agree with what others have said about the judging. It's been very confusing to me and I don't think they even know what the viewers really want to see. Personally, I'm not big on the "stories" the personalities tell; boring and not relevant to the food. There's way too much emphasis on the big, phoney smiles and what Aunty Em taught them during their childhood....who cares? Just give us some good, entertaining TV with some creative recipes we want to try at home. I haven't been impressed with any of the FNS winners of the past except for Aarti, who is a true talent in both personality & skill. Cannot stand Guy Fieri and all the others fade into the background (including Melissa who bores me completely). So, although the show is fun to follow, it becomes irritating at times. Still addicted, though, so there must be something that keeps me coming back...weird.

  4. Lesley says:

    I think Whitney was a huge threat to Melissa, which is why Melissa seems so tough on her. I still think the judges eliminated the most natural, easy-going contestant that had the best cooking chops. We'll see more of Whitney, I'm sure. I'd love to watch her show - maybe the cooking channel is a better venue?

    I do like that Melissa actually says something in her posts, unlike Grant Dudley.

    • JamesinAlaska says:

      I have often wondered if a number of contestants are just too good. And "competition" for chefs who already have their own show. It might explain some of the "cattiness" and harshness in judging. This is a reason I think we should either have "term-limits" for how long someone can have a show (3 yrs.--by then, they already have Cook-books and tons of money, and its time for new blood/new faces)--OR--DO NOT, let ANYONE who already has a show do ANY judging at all. Wolfgang Puck may be exception. He doesnt seem to have any axe to grind.
      I notice that Bobby Flay happened to post a Beer-braht recipe on here very soon after Jyll did very good with hers. And it seems as if Giada can be quite Catty with anyone at all who may "invade her territory". There may be even more examples.

  5. Dudd says:

    Grant Dudley is an idiot. The Dud is nothign more than a butt boy for the FN judges. His only job is to justify their decisions.

    • vert2013 says:

      This wasn't written by Grant Dudley

    • I guess what bothers me about the FN Blogging Hosts (Dudley and others) is that we do not get their bios, creditials, resumes, or (Susie F.) backgrounds nor is access provided to them. They just say what they say and let the conversion fly.

  6. Duet says:

    Why does MB's get hate about her cooking? Big Daddy knows nothing about food yet he has a show. The only thing he has going for him is that he's black.

    • vereader says:

      I love Big Daddy's show. He has so much personality, and he does know how to cook. He has an accessible style, and I really enjoy his suggestions, although he likes a lot more heat in his food.

    • ohgrowup says:

      Bet you wish you were black too -- then at least you'd have one thing going for you.

  7. vert2013 says:

    It kinda bugs me that the writers of the blog (no matter who it is) always agrees with the judges. There is no way that the author can never find something negative about how someone was judge during the entire season. Isn't the point of a blog to share your opinion? It seems to me that the authors of this blog blindly listen to the judges and have no original thought.

    • cooksforfun says:

      I really enjoy the Top Chef board because the judges (even guest judges) do a blog about each episode and you get to see where they're coming from more..... and they can be quite humerous.

  8. JamesinAlaska says:

    Who will Win?
    Hard to say.
    I am not too wild about Jeff. A show about Sandwiches just doesn't seem
    interesting. (Does anyone REALLY need to be "taught" how to make a good sandwich??)
    Mary Beth seems like a down-to-earth and fun lady to talk to and hang out with, but is a wee-bit too serious for the show and her cooking chops are simply
    not consistent enough.
    Vic. Frankly, it seems as if Food Network WANTS him. Didn't he blow it, like, 4 times in the beginning? Anyone else woulda already been let go. He can make good stuff but I have to agree with Guy Fieri's earlier comment to Vic about seeming like "Frankenstein". And I'm sorry, but, I just cant get over his tattoo's. That's just me.
    Susie---I like her. She is easy-going and not "loud". Has a great smile and enthusiasm. And she can Cook! Quite well. Now that Jyll is gone, I'm rooting for Susie.
    I think Mary Beth shoulda gone home last time instead of Whitney. Now, I think Mary Beth and Jeff should be the next two to go. It'll be between Vic & Susie. Any thoughts?
    Creator of

  9. Guest says:

    For everyone saying a show with sandwiches is boring, know that bobby Flay has signed a contract to do a sandwich show. I wonder if he stole Jeff's idea.

  10. mel says:

    The only thing I feel fairly competent on is Vic makes it through this week, beyond that its anybodies guess

    In speaking about Graham Kerr If Food Network could find someone with his capabilities and put them on in Prime Time Like Emeril was, they would have a hit going away.

    Graham had one of the best shows ever produced and by far and away better than anything produced today by Food Network.

    In committing on Grahams second series run it was mentioned on the other page that his show changed up due to his having a Heart Attack, that is not actually the case it was the love of his life his wife that came down with Heart Trouble.

    In his first series he always cooked with plenty of Butter and Wine and all his foods were basically a Heart Attack waiting to happen, so what he did was create new dishes using less fat, and at the end of each show he put up a calorie, fat chart showing the original recipe and the modified recipe and how much everything went down BUT IT STILL TASTED GREAT and didn't lose to much of what the original dish was.
    You might say he was the first to take the old fatty, high calorie dish's and put a lean and mean spin on them.