Jury Duty: Q&A With Bob Tuschman

by in Food Network Star, June 12, 2012

In the July/August issue of Food Network Magazine, television exec and Food Network Star judge Bob Tuschman answers viewers' most-asked questions about life as a cooking show judge.

Do you have an idea of who will win the show from the beginning?

I usually have a good sense of who the front-runners will be. The first time the judges meet the finalists face-to-face is on day one of filming. While the crew adjusts lighting and cameras, we have about 20 minutes to silently stare at the finalists. During this time, I gain a good sense of their confidence and charisma. But that doesn't mean their food or personality will hold up through 11 weeks of challenges. Front-runners often stumble.

Are you a cook?

I'm a type A executive, but I'm a type B-minus cook. I would never be on Iron Chef America, but I wouldn't be on Worst Cooks in America, either. I cook to relax, so I like things slow, easy and uncomplicated in my kitchen.

How do you eat all that food when you're judging?

Happily! And then I still eat three square meals on top of that. I don't think I've missed a sit-down meal since I was a first-grader in Cleveland. It's a comforting ritual I can't seem to give up, even when I'm judging and eating huge amounts of food. Luckily, I swim every day and my metabolism is fast. But not as fast as it was in first grade. Those were the days.

You're the head of programming, so did you cast yourself on the show?

No, I was asked to audition — along with a bunch of other Food Network execs — for producers from CBS Eye Productions, who make the show for us. Susie [Fogelson] and I were cast. I love being on the show, but I'm glad I kept my day job.

What happens when you disagree with Bobby Flay about the food?

It was difficult the first few seasons because I respect Bobby's food expertise so much. But my food opinions are just that — my opinions. Bobby recently told me he enjoys it when we disagree because he values my opinions as a non-chef but a serious food lover. Or maybe he was just being kind.

Do you judge finalists more on their food or performing skills?

Finalists must be equally talented at both. While we can't teach anyone to cook in 11 weeks, if the food expertise and raw charisma are there, we can teach them camera skills.

What's the worst dish you've ever eaten on the show?

That honor goes to Tom Pizzica from season 6 and his infamous "bacon steak." I lied when I said on the show that it was the worst thing I'd ever eaten. I couldn't actually eat it, let alone cut it. Sometimes even very talented chefs have very bad days.

Do you have a favorite finalist from all of the seasons?

All of my babies are pretty.

Catch Bob judging Food Network Star Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.

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Comments (33)

  1. MYK says:

    Perhaps I'm out of line, but there's a disingenuousness to the elimination process. First off, I'm not convinced that Bob and Susie are the only authorities; it feels as if there are other puppetmasters behind the scenes that we're not privvy to. Second, if someone's POV is not suited to FN, say so. It smells like a lie of omission to tell the audience and the contestant that they're cut for reasons we're not shown; when it appears that's not the true reason at all. If you're going to single someone out for a failure, citing a specific example of this behaviour would be in order. Third, it's obvious that certain personalities have zero chance, yet they are kept around for some kind of dramatic effect. There's a logic to this, but, again, lacks a certain level of transparency for the audience. No one's going to watch the I'm Better Than You Half-Hour Cooking Hour.

    While I'm not specifically referring to the Judson/Martie debacle, it fits the criteria I've laid out. If Martie had a knockout POV, I could see holding onto her and trying to get her to understand that less (mouth) can be more, but her idea has been run through the mill on every season thus far... And failed.

  2. Rueben says:

    Hi Bob! I love your critiques. You are spot on most of the time. I am a swimmer too. It really burns up the calories. Good to know you are proud of all your "babies."

  3. Brianna says:

    Bob Tuschman clearly has "it out for" Ippy...he has continously "haunted" Ippy with comments about Ippy's "laid back style" (not every FN finalist must be a loudmouth, or do cartwheels, or dress like a caricacture of some type) demeanor. Ippy appears to be a calm, mature young chef who lets his cooking
    do the talking.
    Bob Tuschman is out of touch with what the majority of viewers want for FN star....a great chef with new and interesting recipes and a genuineness that we don't often see in TV land. Ippy has what it takes to be the next Food Network star.

    • Tammy says:

      I don't think any of the judges "have it out" for any of the contestants. I think they have personalities that they like more and hope they can come along because they think they will appeal to the viewer. I think that is why Martie is around. I don't think she has real cooking chops though and I cringed at her comments about Pennsylvania. She seemed very ignorant. I can't remember exactly what she said, but something like "the state of nothing". Umm, Philly Cheesesteak, Hershey's chocolate, and Philly Cream Cheese right off the bat. Her mushroom thing was pretty uninspired. Time for her to fly.

  4. anibundel says:

    All Bob's babies are pretty...and end up on Cooiing Channel when they don't win. Kelsey and Jeffrey come to mind....I'm starting to think Justin will follow suit...they'll find him a nice slot after the Good Eats reruns and before NadiaG....
    Speaking of which, why didn't anyone mention NadiaG when Bob said he hated "characters"?

    • MoHub says:

      Nadia G is not only a character, but she gets away with some pretty risqué material—something Nikki and Michele were harshly criticized for, and their remarks were mild in comparison.

      Maybe it's because Nadia G is Canadian.

      • anibundel says:

        I think it's because she's "late night" fare on Cooking Channel. I was struck last year how quickly they came down on "High Heels In The Kitchen" as being too sexy as well. All I could think of was maybe that South Park episode hit a *little* close to home?

    • Tammy says:

      Good response! I thought of her when he said that too. We love Nadia G in this house, especially my hubby & he doesn't even cook. Nothing wrong with characters if they are good ones. :)

  5. Chernynkaya says:

    I love the new format. Just one comment from an avid viewer: While I DO need to at least not dislike a cooking show chef, one thing I do expect is that they really know how to cook. Personality is far down on my list of wants, as long as they can teach. I've found that in the past, winners are not actually good chefs, and I think that ruins the Food Network brand. If I can't trust you, I won't watch. I hope that this year, you make excellent cooking skills your Number One priority. (unless they are to be given a show like Guy Fieri's, where it doesn't matter.) Ina Garten is a great example of what I'd like more of: she's hardly hyper-sparkly, but she can cook and teach me. And she's likeable enough.

    • jmm says:

      Ditto on the new format. I think a better Food Network TV show will be created because of this format.

      The in-fighting and backstabbing had grown tiresome and now it's gone for the most part. Here's hoping Top Chef clues in and changes their format!

  6. Sheila says:

    your #1 priorty for picking your next star should be, are they as good a cook and as plesant as Ina Garten. You say you are looking for star quality, pep, personality etc. Why not look for a soft talking, plesant, smiling, informative and a good cook without them having to "perform". Just have friends over to make them their favorite food, include them in the process, like setting the table, and enjoy the food they have prepard. There are too many kooks cooking on the network now. Too many "personalty shows" instead of cooking show. People aren't interested in the cook's family background or how Mama did it. You need to sit all of the contestants down and have them watch a full day of Ina's show or Bobby Flays show. That's all the instruction they would need to prepare them for a good show. Oh yea, and they have to be able to cook.

  7. Rollo Tomasi says:

    This is my view. The judges ask the contestants for family stories and ask them to have pep because it loosens them up. The one thing I don't want to see is a wooden robot on T.V. Have you ever gone to a party and not known anyone there? It's nerve racking. When you find someone to talk to, what do you talk about? Family, job, hobbies etc....

    I'm not a hugh fan of the new format. Having three teams allows certain people who can't cook to stay on longer. Why not cut them early and allow the people who can cook the mature in front of the camera? Why not pick a bottom person from each team? Watch some of Bobby Flays and other FN chefs when they first started out. They were bad. But as time passed they calmed down in front of the camera and look at them today. I'm still a little upset Eric was cut so early. Great cook who had the smarts to better himself in front of the camera. He just wasn't given the time. For now I'm rooting for Justin or Emily.

  8. Food Fan says:

    Not the greatest analogy. Because at a party, there isnt a topic, so people talk about family, job, etc as you said.
    But a Food Show is its own topic! its about FOOD and not the Cooks childhood, divorce, emotional struggles, drama. We can always click on their Bio/profile if we're curious, but why? I wanna learn the recipe and recreate something delicious. Emeril said quite little about his Family and was a huge success anyway.

    • Jerilee says:

      Agree. A party is like a free for all. Talk about whatever you want. A cooking show is specific. It's about the specific food type, or method, or era. I don't care about their personal history, unless it's specific to a type/method of cooking.

  9. Michele says:

    FN Star needs 2 new judges....Bob T. and Susie F. eliminated Linkie but kept Nikki ? Oh dear God.
    The Judges liked both womens' dishes, but they decided to bank on Nikki's newfound "softened " persona, rather then Linkie's inherent warmth? I just don't get it. Is FN trying to find a new "Star" that will appeal to the viewing public or not ?
    And, Martie is still in this running ? She seems to be a sweet lady, but handle a national TV show? I don't think so.

  10. wifey231 says:

    Honestly, Bob, while I don't have anything against Martie, I don't think her POV is even remotely unique. The fact is that her POV could be the love-child of Paula Deen and that blond lady, Sandra-something. Also, the Barefoot Contessa is ALWAYS throwing some kind of party (though I love Ina's snooty ways...*snickers*). Anyway, I'm sure that Martie will get a show based on her feedback, so far. She's cool. Nothing against her. She funny and relate-able, but so are your other stars. My problem is she seems to be more of the same. Food Network is becoming so vanilla, in some ways, and I mean in terms of the types of shows you air.

    In my opinion, your most exciting new personalities are Chef Anne Burrell who seems to break all of the rules with her quirky personality and competitive spirit; I think Aarti is promising, if given a true chance during a weekday, afternoon; Chef Zakarian is intriguing just because the guy is so freaking intense! And finally, nobody can give an evil-eye like Alex Guarnaschelli. I just like her toughness.

    I think Food Network needs shaking up. You guys need an edge. I'm tired of all the smiley faces -- even though I ***LOVED**** Emily on this year's Food Network Star. She's a smiley face with a personality! Anyway, mix things up a little bit. Give us another Justin Wilson (Cajun Chef); Martin Yan (Yan can Cook); Julia Child. These people aren't all smiley and bright-eyed, but they had serious personalities. Guy Fieri worked because he has a personality, and I don't know much about these older chefs, except they were fun and they could cook!