For years on Food Network Star you've seen Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson guide, grow and, ultimately, judge and eliminate dozens of Star hopefuls, but how much do you know about these face of Food Network executives? Just in time for next month's all-new Star premiere, on Sunday, June 2 at 9pm/8c, FN Dish chatted with both Bob and Susie to learn a bit more about their roles at Food Network, their experiences in the kitchen, plus their thoughts on past seasons of competition and what makes an ideal Star candidate. Read on below to get the inside television scoop from Bob, senior vice president/general manager of Food Network, then read an exclusive interview with Susie.
Tell us a bit about what you do. What does a typical day look like for you?
Bob: My limousine picks me up at noon. I try to get a good half-hour of work in before heading off to lunch with one of our stars. Depending on how many martinis, I usually go straight home to prepare for another stressful day!
Oh, for real? My day is usually back-to-back meetings. My (extraordinary) programmers and I review show pitches, brainstorm new ideas, and watch rough cuts of new episodes and series. I also meet with agents, producers and our stars to talk about new projects. It’s fun! And they pay me.
Working at Food Network must mean you're surrounded by food all day, or at least thinking about it. Do you like to cook at home?
BT: On Sundays I usually make a stew or pasta, which I use as a “main” all week long. So when I get home weeknights, I steam a few veggies, drizzle on olive oil and reheat the weekend dish. Dinner is on the table in about 10 minutes. I’m asleep in about 15.
What's your favorite type of cuisine, whether to cook or eat out?
BT: Anything Mediterranean. I love the sun-drenched cuisines that rely on vegetables/fish/olive oil/beans and, of course, wine, so: Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Moroccan.
Do you have a favorite Food Network recipe?
BT: No, but I swear I’ve used all 50,000.
What was your most-memorable meal? What, where, with who — details, please.
BT: My favorite memories: Sitting with Ina on her porch on a lush summer evening, splitting a pitcher of her frosty margaritas and noshing on her homemade guacamole and chips. Lunch at Bobby’s summer home — splitting a bottle of rose while he grilled freshly caught snapper … A pasta feast Giada made for a few of her Food Network Star friends … sipping a Prosecco and watching the sunset over the Pacific. I swear we don’t only drink together.
This is the ninth season of Food Network Star. Has it gotten easier for you to tell who the most-promising contenders from day one are?
BT: There are always a few who have a natural charisma and bigger-than-life energy that instantly catch my eye. They usually become not just my favorite, but viewer favorites.
What's one of the most important things you've learned from past seasons of the show that you carried with you into this upcoming season?
BT: Never stand next to Susie when she’s in 6-inch heels. I look like a very old third-grader.
Has there ever been an instance when you and Susie have felt one away about a particular finalist, but the other judges — Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis — felt differently? How was it resolved?
BT: Remember, Alton, Bobby and Giada are all accomplished producers, besides being stars. So while the five of us often disagree, it rarely splits along lines as cleanly as Bob and Susie on one side, and the stars on the other. We’re all executives with differing viewpoints. Ultimately, the majority rules.
What's something about filming the show that fans at home might not realize?
BT: The judging sessions — a few minutes of TV time — take hours and hours and hours to tape. They’re really mentoring sessions, not judging. We spend a lot of time trying to “grow” each finalist to achieve their Star potential.
Fill in the blanks: A Food Network star must be ________, must enjoy ________ and must be able to ________.
BT: Must be electric, must enjoy talking to a single glass lens and must be able to live life on a bigger scale than you or me.