Poll: Who Was the Best Mentor?

by in Food Network Star, July 19, 2012

Alton, Giada and Bobby - Food Network StarWhen it comes to mentoring, Bobby’s, Alton’s and Giada’s styles couldn’t be more different. In the season premiere, we learned what each was looking for when they hand-picked their teams of five Food Network Star hopefuls: Bobby sought out no-nonsense cooks, Alton culinary teachers and Giada outgoing personalities. As the season continued, it turned out that the mentors’ selection criteria mirrored their own leadership styles.

Bobby found it most effective to maintain a professional relationship with his team and to tailor his instruction to each individual's needs. He spoke of his approach to the other mentors in an exclusive video. “I really try to bounce off the people that I’m mentoring, because I feel like they sort of drive me to the way I’m going to mentor and what I’m going to actually utilize to help them,” he said in Miami.

Alton’s natural teaching ability came to light in the midseason of the competition when he held one-on-one reviews with his finalists, offering them constructive criticism and tips on how to improve. Justin found his meeting extremely helpful and said that Alton was “one the most effective teachers I’ve ever had.”

Though Bobby and Alton primarily focused on training their finalists, Giada strived to create a family-like atmosphere on her team, offering motherly advice when her hopefuls needed it most. Yvan was especially grateful for Giada's guidance after he gave a successful live performance with Guy Fieri. He said of his mentor, "It's funny how a producer can really get the best out of you. It's like a mom. They know what you need even when you don't."

No mentor’s method was completely foolproof — all three teams having suffered losses — but finalists on each team achieved winning moments both in the kitchen and on camera. If they could repeat the season, do you think Bobby, Alton and Giada would choose to mentor in the same way?

Check out this behind-the-scenes video of Alton, Bobby and Giada comparing their mentoring styles and discussing the pros and cons of their approaches to the season.

Tell us: Who do you think was the best mentor?

Be sure to tune in to the finale on Sunday at 9pm/8c to see who you chose to be Food Network’s newest star.

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Comments (458)

  1. cherrycooks says:

    For the most part, Alton's team demonstrated creativity, imagination, and the ability to "think outside the box". They were also intelligent enough to accept and utilize AB's wise counsel that was clearly evident in their improvement and progress throughout the competition.

  2. Phineus says:

    I would say Bobby Flay. He was direct, professional, and candid without engaging the drama or the "rah-rah" attitude.

    • Guest says:

      I agree that Bobby Flay was the most professional mentor. I like Alton Brown, but lost respect for him when he yelled. I think he got better toward the end - obviously - with two of his team members in the finals.
      This year's "mentor" format forced the early elimination of too many worthy contestants.
      More like a game show, and it's all about a team "winning" each week. But the viewers are the losers - unless FN decides to produce additional shows with some of the popular (but eliminated) chefs!

    • bobbie says:

      You have a great point

    • yummy says:

      i'm glad someone shares my opinion

    • Jimmy says:

      I do like that his attitude was good and how Bobby mentored was professional, but his theory of picking his team wasn't good. It's the next food network STAR. Food is 50% Star is 50%. He picked his team on 100% cooking.

  3. Sandy says:

    I first need to say I do not like the mentor format at all. I really hope next year they go back to the old format. That being said it had to be Alton all the way!

    • Sumay says:

      I actually liked the mentor format - aside from the network demanding that they eliminate a person from each team to keep the teams even. It should be that they eliminate people on their abilities during the competition and nothing else. Wish there was a way to have everyone compete against each other without having teams - but having mentors to help them through everything.

    • Bobbrowntown says:

      I liked the new format at times, but it did mess up the unusual mixing of styles that came from the old format.

    • Terry says:

      I agree. I am not a fan of the format, mostly I dislike the vote being done by the viewers. I want pros doing the final decision. They know more than we what will sell. Who has enough depth to make a profit for them. That profit only comes from polishing the talent. The public can't do that. If the public wants really good talent on these shows let the professionals take responsibility for developing it.

  4. Food Fan says:

    Alton was the best Mentor.
    Bobby's NEW show "Open in 3 Days" is better for Bobby. I like his using a Checklist and then crossing things off as the show progresses. Check it out.

    BOBBY wanted people who could cook, which is good, but his people lacked personality.
    GIADA picked people on her team that I liked right away (Ippy, Linkie) and while Giada could be said to be more encouraging, she also seemed uneven in her support amongst her own team (favoring Martita).
    ALTON picked people that were more Quirky (which is NOT my favorite thing) and came off somewhat rude at times (shut-up-and-cook)--however, I am willing to forgive a bit of harshness if the coaching and info given is useful towards developing and doing better. This is where Alton shines:
    What's good, what's bad, why?, and here's what you need right now.
    So, his teaching/mentoring is best. But---that does not mean he is picking the best people to be on his team to even mentor in the 1st place. Thats different. I liked Emily more for creative-cute-nostalgic than being too out-there, or too nerdy.

    • cjcal says:

      Interesting idea. I am trying to think of the other contestants and if they would have been a good match with Alton. And, I'm thinking ... very few. Ippy and might have been better off with Alton. I just don't know.

      • Food Fan says:

        This is not intended to force anything on you. (I dont do that. I just share my "reasons for and against" and state my case). But i think it could work because:
        Its not about Alton "creating Sons & Dauthers of Alton". Thats just a Justin-thing this time around. Its More about Alton making his people clearly aware. Of upcoming pitfalls. Of here's where yer strong, here's where yer weak. Here's how & why, and this is what you should focus on next. And why. Its this nitty-gritty usefulness and getting-right-to-it where Alton does so well. And what if had someone relaxed yet outgoing, with good chops right from the get-go. The only lesson I might have for Alton himself, in all this, is that for all his good advice, just be careful to still let people be themselves and not morph them into something they aren't. As long as he avoids that, and keeps doing like he has, he's great! Martie has really come a long way. He could have helped Emily, if they would have kept her. But I would tone down and yes I would lessen the quirkiness of the people he picks to start with next season. Emily was best in that regard. Interesting without being weird. The word "endearing' comes to mind along with her solid kitchen skills.

    • [undisclosed] says:

      There is no such thing as too nerdy. Even rereading the lord of the rings twice a year.

    • flemke says:

      Giada not only favored Martita, she was downright catty to the female contestants who were not on her team. I don't like her.

  5. ajohnsonstogner says:

    Alton Brown was the best mentor. The Next Food Network Star isn't just about technique although that matters (and Alton can take on the best of them professionally as a chef I'd bet). It isn't just about creating a home on tv within your home (Paula Dean is already covering that base and making family around the table and helping out in Mom's kitchen into a pile of money). I appreciate Bobby for what he does- cook technically and very seriously. I appreciate Giada's warmth and touch of international sensuality in her home and food for what it is. It's great that Giada wanted to bring the world to our tables which is probably something she was asked to do. It's great that Bobby wanted to make sure we could all learn technically challenging chef quality but doable food. But Food Network has many exceptional people who are doing just that.

    Other Food Network stars- to just list a few- have those skills as well- technique and warmth like Ina Garten (love her food, home, and openness) or nonsense technique and humor in Alex Guarnaschelli. Artie's Party has charm, and internationally cute techniques. Bobby and now Geoffrey Zakarian (On Chopped or Iron Chef) already provide incredible touchable technical shows. AND honestly Anne Burrell can swing my vote for technical expertise and American sensuality in her home and food anytime. I am a HUGE Anne fan! Use her recipes constantly for special holiday meals to wow family and friends BECAUSE of the challenge and do-ablity! She is professional and technical AND MOST IMPORTANTLY FUN! (I want to know her and hang out at her house when I watch her. Now I'd love to see Team Alton, Team Ted Allen, and Team Anne on the Next Food Network Star and see the CHARACTERS that developed on those teams!).

    Each member of Team Alton shared two things with each other and their mentor - they could really pull off techniques but more importantly- they were individuals. They were people you wanted to know and spend time with for fun! They might play off each other and their mentor but they were all wonderfully eccentric and unique. Alton Brown brought viewers something the other two teams just didn't have enough of in my opinion. He brought people I wanted to know better and to see grow. Alton brought out characters that I wanted to engage with each week and route for Sunday nights. Every one of his members were CHARACTERS larger than life. Some were more interesting than others. Some were more grounded and knew who they were and gave him something more to work with, but all of them were people you really want to see on your tv set.

    Alton brings that aspect to every show he is on, to the people he works with on Iron Chef or Good Eats. Remember the LIVE holiday special???? Every chef there interacted more warmly (even goofing around as Guy was calling in), had more fun, and cooked like a family preparing a home style holiday feast as Alton EMCEED- because Alton EMCEED. That was Alton subtly mentoring and guiding even then. I even watch his Welch's commercials to see how the people smile drinking the juice or eating the jam (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyPY1cFgVUs) because Alton Brown probably made them happy before they shot the commercial! Alton Brown makes you want to watch his shows, read his books, cook his recipes, and I even record any food network specials he is appearing in!

    And Alton has another gift that I can only illustrate with my own family history. Alton Brown has been my 12 year old son's hero for half of my son's life. While most kids his age couldn't wait to see Scooby Doo or Sponge Bob, my son watched and rewatched Alton Brown do ANYTHING. My son asked for Alton DVDs and books for Christmas presents. He wanted Iron Chef recorded because his bedtime came before the show can on the air. He taught his kindergarten class science lessons using cooking information from Good Eats and Alton Brown. My son wanted to dress like Alton and do a demonstration for his 4th grade career day.... and his teacher LOVED it and the kids were intrigued by it! I'm convinced that Alton can do one more thing that I'm not sure the other two can't do as well... reach all age groups of any sort of people and make you connect and comprehend, retain and recreate and all the while thinking it's just for fun!

    With Team Alton, he chose, or brought out of each member, technically sound people who could also make their audience curious to know them and their shows better. You want to watch his team members because they were fun and you just knew if you were part of Alton's team's party you'd have fun. You were pretty sure that his party's parting gift bag as you left the shindig, hootenanny, or gathering would be as it always is with all things Alton more information about well... good eats... that you can technically recreate from people you cared to get to know and spend time with. If there's an Alton Brown party I want to be there (if my son doesn't roll me for the tickets first!). Alton Brown is the king of the Food Network (Not just The Next Food Network Star but any show on the network) mentors.

    • To the point says:

      Write a book already.

    • Stinky says:


    • Sumay says:

      I agree with your term that Alton has a gift. My kids love watching his shows and always ask to watch them again. They now think they are little chefs if they just shuffle their food around on their plate in a better design that I had it - yep - they are much younger than your son - but he still has that impact on them.

      While others may be rude enough to show their boredom in reading anything but a comic book - I appreciated you taking the time to write. Thanks

    • AB Fan says:

      I agree with Sumay - your post was great and I agree with basically everything you said!

      I think Alton truly cares about people - and even when he's being tough, like on Marty in the Chopped episode, it's more of that tough love style. He did what needed to be done to get Marty to focus because he wanted her to succeed not fall short. And Marty totally understood - she's a big girl. She knew he did it for her own good, not to be 'mean'. When his team talks about him, you can tell they truly respect him and feel he is genuinely there for them and cares about each one - which speaks volumes.

      And his reaction was priceless when they were waiting to find out who was chosen for the pilot between Justin and Marty - he was in tears at just the thought of one them having to leave! And then when they both got chosen - that was one of the best moments ever! You could feel the bond they all had and it was just so heartwarming. You don't see that very often on reality tv competitions. Instead you get the drama and the back stabbing and snide comments, etc. I truly appreciated the kind of team spirit Alton fostered along the way.

    • Bob Toren says:

      Al Capone had a shorter sentence.

    • Kelli says:

      I for one enjoyed your assessment, and love Alton as well. Glad your son has a good role model in mind...way to go!

    • Marilou Lacy says:

      In agree totally. If I never see Paula, Ina or Giada I would be more apt to return to Food Network as MY default channel. I love Alton because I want information not just a smile and a recipe.

  6. Nancy says:

    I loved the format of the show this season -- the teams, the challenges, the mentors. However, I feel cheated b/c I could not vote in the 2-day window they allowed! And I watched the show loyally every week except for July 15 and that cost me the chance to vote. Not fair!!!!!

    • yummy says:

      i must disagree. If there are more than 2 good people on a team, one must leave. Thats what happened to Emily, and it shouldn't of happened to Emily.

    • Lynn says:

      DVR baby!!! I'm a night shift nurse who works every other weekend, and every other Monday morning is when I got to watch it. I was still able to place my vote, both online and by phone!

  7. Marla says:

    I've never been a great Alton fan, but watching him mentor his team changed all that. He's a great teacher, honest (who can forget his rebuke to Martie -- "Shut up and cook." ) Bobby was a terrific mentor/teacher on "Worst Cooks," but as the series went on he didn't seem as engaged. And then there's Giada. I'm not quite sure what she did to "mentor" her team except to say things like "We're going to kick their butts" and other generalities. Her leaping around, making faces and attempting to turn herself into the center of attention grated and I think her team was short-changed. Like other posters, I also sensed that Ippy and Martita (and if she had called her "my fiery Latina" one more time I would have gone off the deep end) were her favorites.

    I would love to see Alex, Amanda and Marc from "Chopped" as mentors, with Bobby and/or Alton as a judge. Bob and Susie -- THE NETWORK -- clearly aren't focusing on cooking skills, but on marketability and story-telling and someone with real cooking chops needs to be in that group on a consistent basis.

    • Sumay says:

      Oh my goodness - I never would have thought of that - but that would be an awesome show to watch!

    • Renée says:

      I thought Giada's "My fiery Latina" comments were vaguely condescending.

      • steve says:

        And racist. Can you imagine the backlash if someone said "my fiery causasian" or "my fiery black guy"? Race has no place in cooking or presentation. Or anything IMO.

    • sherylf says:

      I would love to see Alex or Amanda from Chopped on there but I'm no so sure about Marc - Alton clearly has been and still is one of my favorites, but we still need to have Bob and Susie judging merely because they do need to make sure the marketability and story-telling are still counted - you can have the best cook in the world but if they are dull no one will realize they are even on the TV.

  8. mita says:

    These comments are quite interesting. I certainly appreciated the hard work Alton put into his mentoring. Bobby Flay also was consistent and helpful, but Giada was a cheerleader with favorites. As a teacher, I do think these mentors can be quite helpful, but the Network wants storytellers instead of cooks. I really think cooking bad food (as some of the network cooks do) is a disservice to the network, but maybe storytellers with bad food is what the TV viewers want so it is what the network wants. I'm frankly confused about the criteria for being a Food Network Star. Bobby makes good food, Alton is a good teacher, and Giada is a pretty cheerleader. I agree with the readers who did not like Alton until he saw him mentor. He has progressed from arrogant to endearing in my books.

    • Food Fan says:

      The people *dont* want story-telling. Many of them have written and said so. We are wondering why the judges want them so much when so many viewers are sick of them.

      • Monte says:

        I'll tell you exactly why. It's one of the demographics they're selling to. "Personal stories" sell to certain people. Not to most of us, but to certain people. And the people who are attracted to "personal stories" are the ones who go down to Target (or wherever) and buy a jar of pasta sauce with Giada's face plastered on it. Or a Rachael Ray "Garbage Bowl" (yes, people actually buy a "garbage bowl"). It's about moving product, unfortunately.

        I'm in your camp, though. I don't need the personal stories. If I like your food, I may buy your cookbook or something. Just TEACH me how to cook DELICIOUS FOOD. And teach me the WHY as well as the HOW.

    • sherylf says:

      I don't find Alton to be arrogant per se, but he does have an extremely dry sense of humor which the average person would not like - myself I love Alton and his ability to teach whether it is on his own show or his latest venture with NFNS

  9. Sumay says:

    My kids - and I - all found Food Network after falling in love with "Good Eats." Finally - a show that not only shares a recipe but they share with you the "whys and wherefores" of what you do. It was an awesome idea.

    Last year when I saw Alton in NFNS I was shocked because he seemed a bit arrogant. However, I still loved what he taught in his shows and continued to watch. This year I have been able to see more of his personality and his abilities as a mentor - and it has given me even more appreciation for him. I just wish we had more of him teaching again - like in the old days. I love having him on Iron Chef - and his knowledge of food is greatly suited for the show. However, I want more of his teaching brilliance to help me as I grow as a cook myself.

    I was overly thrilled when I heard he was trying to eat healthier in his everyday life. That's the whole reason I found him to begin with - I was trying to learn more about the reasons behind cooking to learn techniques for cooking healthier food. Unfortunately - they haven't jumped on that POV to produce a show that will really benefit us. That's one I would be willing to pay for, for sure!

    It's sad that MANY MANY MANY shows that Food Network produces are more focused on unhealthy eating. We travel all around America to find the most unhealthy food to celebrate. We watch shows that are always praising the use of globs of butter. While it may taste better - I have always found that UNHEALTHY COOKING is way easy to master. The harder part - AND THE MOST IMPORTANT - is how to make healthy food taste delicious so you can eat and be happy while supporting a healthy lifestyle. I know that Elie Krieger (not sure of sp) has something like that going on - but I would love to SEE MORE!

    I want to leave my children a better legacy that the one many of our parents left for us - let's leave the unhealthy eating - unhealthy portions - and complete lack of understanding of food behind and embrace what food was meant for - to NOURISH and ENERGIZE our bodies and minds.

    If you like chopped - why not have a show where contestants instead have a food that they all need to compete to make healthier - whether it be by cooking it differently or using ingredients differently - and let them do it against the clock.

    You have people traveling all over the world tasting food that is utterly dripping in the oil it is cooked in - why not have someone travel all over to find the healthier foods that taste delicious - and let's not neglect those people who are vegetarian or have other food choices - they can be celebrated too. Why not have people vote in the best healthy restaurants and then do a show on the top choices?

    All I'm saying is that there is way more out there that can be celebrated about food than just the unhealthy side - America is starting to wake up - it would be nice if Food Network could reflect that change.

    • Renée says:

      How did you get your comment through with so many characters? I had to cut mine way down before it would stop telling me I needed to make it shorter!

    • guest says:

      Too long.

      • Sumay says:

        It takes more thought to write a well written piece than the few words you decide to waste your time adding to the conversation.

    • @PamelaGrow says:

      I so agree with you. I love to cook and I love to bake...but I am changing my diet gradually by incorporating a lot of raw and vegan cooking. Surprisingly it's not only fun, it's amazingly delicious how the real flavors of food come through. I know that healthy doesn't sell corporate sponsorships but I would love to see the FN feature a raw and/or vegan chef.

    • Monte says:

      The problem is that a lot of health food has gotten a bad reputation.

      A lot of people think of it as being eaten by those who think they are "holier than thou", as it were. Not saying it's true, just that's the apparent reputation.

      The other thing is, people think of it as people drinking soy milk, and eating tofu and granola and wearing birkenstocks all the time. Not saying it's a correct assumption, just that it's an assumption.

      What I don't think people realize is that simple changes in their everyday lifestyle (including their diet -- in the original sense) can be healthier. As an example, I cut out soft drinks (Colas) about 5 or 6 years ago, and haven't touched one since.

      Another change is this: When you cook a steak, cut three or four pieces off of it, and just eat those. This is also money-saving, because if you have a 10 or 12 ounce steak, you can essentially feed 3 or 4 people with it.

      Chicken? Boneless, skinless chicken breast.

      Sautee vegetables in olive oil. It's healthier than butter, and you can still bring out great flavors.

      Don't overdo the desserts, don't overdo the empty calories, and EXERCISE!

    • Mike McElroy says:

      I agree with delicious and healthy cooking. Triple D seems to delight in finding huge, messy, and unhealthy food. Even though we have visited several of Guy's choices, we almost always find something there, that is tasty and healthy. What's so hard about that? Give us a chance to prove that good health sells. It may be a slightly different audience, but it is still part of your viewing audience. Bring us into the 21st century with fresh food and healthy ways to prepare them.

    • Mike McElroy says:

      Alton Brown all the way. A favorite in our home since we first starting FNW. A mentor who has teaching down to a science!

  10. FNGossip says:

    Alton is running away with the vote here.... As I think Justin did with the final vote..