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. Feebie says:

    I would not watch Susie and just can't understand why they would want her to host her own show, if anything it's going to end up being just like arty attempt to attract multicultural viewers without an actually good show......Just let Jeff have his own show already.
    and PS. adding sentimental music in the background during Susie's bit and fast paced music during Jeff's hasn't changed the polls one bit so quit trying to subliminally alter people's views.

    • 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.

      • JamesinAlaska says:

        Here's another thing to think about:
        Suppose you apply for Job. Any job.
        The current staff never takes a VOTE to approve whether or not you
        get hired.
        So, all this business about about getting along with "the Family" is way overdone. Just hire a good Cook with chops and personality, an then TELL those to already have the Job to make every effort to get along with the new hire. We dont gather the troops to take a vote. (It may reduce alot of the "Cattiness", too). The Boss makes the call. Keep thgose who alreaady have a show off of the judging.

  2. Lola says:

    I was very disappointed with this episode. The whole "Best thing I ever ate" challenge was a complete waste of time and seemed to set Whitney up for failure. At least they had to cook for the Roast challenge. I agree with everyone's comments regarding the judges inconsistant messages week after week. Jyll was sent home for having an unclear POV, while Vic is advised during elimination to change his POV (after how many weeks?) and survives. I like Vic but don't know if I would watch his show. I agree with other posts that a sandwich show would not survive for long. I am going with Mary Beth. I really like the Sunday Suppers POV. It appeals to families and singles- who doesn't like ending the weekend with a nice meal surrounded by friends and/or family? I think Mary Beth would get better on camera over time just like many FN veterans. From that brief promo for next week I see Penny as Mary Beth's sous chef. I fear there will be more drama than cooking.

  3. Serious cook says:

    I would have watched Whitney. I would watch Mary Beth. Jeff's off color remarks aren't what a woman wants out of a TV cooking host, particularly with children in the same room. I can't see anything appealing in a show with Jeff and his sandwiches. Susie on the Best Thing I Ever Ate had three plates food going at once, ate like a glutton and burped. I don't want to watch that on TV. Additionally, she's 31 years old and tries to act 15. She needs to act her age and stop repeating the same tired story with every episode. People don't tune in to listen to her personal history, her giggling, squealing or look at her hideous tattoo. No one of my acquaintance would watch Susie. Home cooks are serious about their cooking. Would never watch Vic or anyone who has self-mutilated themselves with tattoos and/or metal devices driven into their skin.

    I agree with those who say that Jill was sent home for not crying, but Whitney was sent home for crying, however, Susie cries and that's warm and personal. The judges need to make up their minds. Everything points to the fix being in for Jeff or Susie. Bet Susie wins. In which case I won't be watching next year.

    • terichef says:

      I totally agree with you. I was really between Whitney and Mary Beth. I wouldn't watch Vegas, Suzie or Sammishes-although I have to admit; I made a company dinner including really good bread rolls (they turn out huge/ homemade yeast) with a ham and salad served with a side of my mom's homemade mustard; everyone made sandwiches!! This was also on my fine china; go figure.

    • JamesinAlaska says:

      Perhaps we should require the judges to specifically declare *their* point-of-view--and stick to it. They seem to be contradicting themselves this year.

    • KimbaLion says:

      Serious Cook: does "self-mutilated" with "metal devices driven into their skin" include all those lovely pierced earrings that Giada (and most of the other female Chefs) wear? What's wrong with a little personal style?

      • Paul says:

        I agree. All the comments about not being able to get past the tattoos surprised me. Maybe I don't understand, but what is there to get past? Every little old man that was in the service has mermaids and anchors and hearts all over their arms and chests. It's just a way of expressing something or making yourself beautiful (in the eye of the beholder folks) And really no different than the fact that women all over the world slather paint on their faces every day as if they weren't okay the way they look without it. It's just a funny world. get over it and let people be who they are without your having to "get past it." For Allah's sake, your going to watch him cook. You're not going to date him.

  4. vereader says:

    Vic still has his Vegas tattoo! Seriously, of the remaining chefs, I like Vic and Susie. I'm still hoping Orchid will get a shot on the Cooking Channel--and there was something about both Jyll and Whitney that I liked.

  5. Bob Toren says:

    It sounds like your nose has some experience with this.

  6. applestycx says:

    Answering Melissa's question "who charmed Alton Brown": The way the show has been going so far; I am guessing it was Penny.

  7. Marty says:

    I don't usually comment on this stuff, but here goes anyway.

    I was seriously surprised that people actually liked Mary Beth. She seems like a nice enough person, but I do believe that, should I accidentally turn on a show she was on, I would fall asleep. They keep talking about her humor, but I haven't seen it.

    Susie is cute, but I don't see the "it" that they keep talking about. I would not watch her show.

    Vic, while I love him, doesn't have "it" either. I was really rooting for him at first, but there is something that just doesn't seem real to me (wow, I sound like the judges now).

    I was upset by the way they treated Jill. Honestly, I thought that no matter what she did they were going to tell her she was fake, and I never saw that. Looking back, you can see their constant discouraging comments weighing her down week after week. I think the judges are the reason that she lost her momentum.

    I did like Whitney. She seemed very sincere to me, and obviously she can cook.

    As for Jeff, I gotta say, I wasn't crazy about him early on, but I think he is really showing us his personality now. At first he seemed to be trying too hard. Making silly, unnecessary jokes and such. However, I do that when I am nervous, so I get him. Now, he is relaxing more, and I like him.

    Overall, I have seen a trend. If you shine too much at the beginning (like Orchid) you are going down. Orchid was too good at the beginning. The judges praised her, and, from what I saw, gave her nothing to really work on. Then they fussed at her because she didn't "evolve". If she had been less than stellar at the beginning, she would still be here now. I think someone (if they are smart) will go back to her and give her another shot. (I have some issues with how they dealt with her in hr last Bobby Flay interrupting her to ask one of the others a question then asking her why she didn't talk more. The fact that she was polite should have made her more likeable, not less! But alas I regress)

    I do love Bobby Flay (not as familiar with the other judges) in his personal shows and on Iron Chef America, but I don't like they way they have handled some of the contestants. Oh well. It is always easy to see what is wrong when I am sitting at home on my couch! hehe

    Wow, I have rambled on and on and said nothing! Maybe I should try for my own show. I have lots of stories!

  8. foodntwrklvr says:

    I think many fail to realize FN is just trying to find someone who is relate-able to others and someone who will offer them something different. It is probably not easy to do. There is only a small margin of their audience commenting on these blogs. The majority likes the so called "reality" shows like, chopped, cupcake wars, NFNS, extreme chef, etc..People don't want just cooking shows only. I think they do a great job of providing both..I love Food Network Prime time and I know I can also watch just a regular cooking show too! I think Melissa's Show has a great concept especially in these time of economic woes, and the high price of groceries. So many on these blogs complain about this and that.. bashing the finalists, bashing judges, yet you are no better. You claim "too much drama on the show" yet while doing nothing but creating drama on these blogs.

    Thank you Food Network, you are my favorite and most watched channel keep up the good work!

    • JamesinAlaska says:

      I couldn't disagree more. Here's why:
      1. How do you know that "only a small margin" comment on here? In terms of raw numbers that may be true, but stop and think---if most of the people on here express DIS-approval of the "reality show style", its a safe bet that there are LOTS of others who dont write here that feel exactly the same way. There is no reason at all to believe that the ones who write on here dont accurtately mirror "the silent majority." Where there's smoke, there's fire. If people gripe here, you can bet there are many, many more "out there" who dont bother to write but feel the same way.
      Point #2: you say we create drama right here on these blogs.
      Not really.
      Many are just honestly expressing disapproval and maddening frustration. But its their honest feelings.
      Frankly, you seem out of touch with the audience. Especially if you're dismissing them as irrelevant or not significant on here.

    • Grandma Joyce says:

      Before the year of 'the Debbie", I don't remember such a focus on the mean and nasty side of the contestants. It was then and is now, distracting from why I tune in each week. We said it then and again loudly this year, drama is not why we watch Next Food Network Star.
      I am so hoping Penny was edited to provide the drama the network thought we wanted, and this week she will be seen as nice. If that is the case, that was sad for her to be made the villian in our eyes.
      Please, Food Network, no more contrived villians for the sake of ratings.
      I have no clue as to who will be sent home tomorrow night, after the surprise last week of Whitney being sent home.

    • foodntwrklvr says:

      Don't take it so personally...all I am trying to say is many people like the reality style shows on the food network. (The prime time shows are very popular ). obviously, all here are watching NFNS right? all on these blogs are tuning in and commenting, if it was so bad none of you would watch it! The prime time shows are very popular. don't take my comment so personally, it was in general. I have no problem with those who are disappointed and can say so constructively, but many here are mean and call others names, make fun of the judges and contestants etc, seems not right and very much dramatic. After all the admin had to disable and delete comments so what does that say? I am not dismissing anyone as irrelevant, but the comments about people being illegal, and terrorists, judges being trailer trash, and snooty...that is just uncalled for, Makes Penny look like a saint!

      *These shows were taped last year. The winner has already been chosen, and their show already been taped.

      • JamesinAlaska says:

        No one is taking it personally.
        You are right about nasty comments. Some of them are too much. I agree about the deleted comments.
        But many more comments are not so severe. Many are simply frustrated that the judges contradict themselves. Someone gets sent home for crying. Another one cries and stays. People need to have a point of view. Others need to think outside the
        box. Giada told Jyll her camera presentation was "spot-on". Later Susie F. says she isnt genuine. (I never did understand how they got that). And on it goes. Vic messes up 4 times in the beginning and they keep him anyway. Anyone else woulda already been gone.
        People feel some of the judging is arbitrary and favored. And then there is "Cattiness".
        I dont believe that the majority likes reality type shows. Prime-time always gets hire ratings than daytime. Unless they start showing episodes of autopsies, prime-time would probably do better anyway. The fact that people DO express their frustration here at all tells me there must be many more who dont write on here that feel the same way. There is no reason to believe that this blog doesnt reflect/mirror the larger audience who doesnt bother to write. Dont take it so personally.
        As for the prime time shows, I think they are sorta popular by default. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if people already the FN channel on earlier in the day, and just simply leave it on.

  9. Guest says:

    Mary beth is SO anoying! In my mind she should have been gone before orchid. I was so shocked when Whitney went home! From the time I saw her I thought she was going to win!! So disapointing.
    Also this week it was hard for me to watch Susie be so impolite eating like that!
    So in my opinion: Judges: Let go of mary beth and long live the sandwich king.

  10. caralynn says:

    I sure hope that FN reads these comments & takes them into consideration since we are the viewers.
    I'm glad Whitney is gone, she was boring no matter how you look at it. Hope MB is the next to go, she doesn't interest me, not a big personality there either. Again, Jeff, I don't want to watch a show about sammies, I mean really, who can't figure how to dress up a sandwich. While I agree Susie has a fun personality I don't need to watch another Mexican food show. It doesn't seem as if they do well anyway. There have been past Mexican shows & none of them really hit it big. Now VIC, MY FAVE, IS THE ONLY ONE OUT OF THE REMAINING FINALISTS THAT I WOULD WATCH. I like Italian food, I like homey, cozy food that I can relate to. I even liked the Lachanga idea tho he didn't explain it well, it looked delish. My vote is for the sweet MAMA'S BOY. I think Penny is one of his sous chefs 2night, hope she doesn't screw it up for him. And I think, not positive tho, he's paired to cook with MB, I hope she has a good day ONLY to help VIC WIN.
    Bobby, we all know you have a ton of shows & restaurants but you come off so damn cocky. Smile, relax, & the get the hell off your high horse. Thought Giada was a judge this year, she hasn't been on every episode, whats up with that? PS - I miss her show everyday italian where she made italian food, I actually watch reruns on the cooking channel.

    • Paul says:

      The show was finished filming months ago. It's not possible for what we say here to influence the outcome, even if FN does read our comments.

    • KimbaLion says:

      Caralynn, I completely agree. Vic is the only remaining finalist that I would watch. He's fun, just vulnerable enough to be relatable, and dares to take chances with his food. Really, wouldn't you love to have him come to your house and cook you dinner?