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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 Susie, senior vice president, marketing, creative services & brand strategy, then read an exclusive interview with Bob.
Tell us a bit about what you do. What does a typical day look like for you?
Susie: Busy! I have the best team in the business, but it takes a lot of meetings, brainstorming and work sessions to keep this ship sailing. We’re all pretty much nonstop from the minute we get into the office, but we also all manage to have a good work/life balance, which is the most important thing.
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?
SF: Yes, my family recently moved to a new apartment in Brooklyn with a lovely, open kitchen, and we use dinnertime as family time. Cooking is a great relaxing way to unwind at the end of the day, have some fun with my kids and do something healthy for my family.
What's your favorite type of cuisine, whether to cook or eat out?
SF: I’m from Los Angeles, and you just can’t beat the delicious authentic Mexican food I grew up eating as a kid. As a result, I’m a sucker for fresh, crunchy flavors like tortillas, salads, fish tacos and anything in a wrap.
Do you have a favorite Food Network recipe?
SF: Anything by Giada — my family loves her recipes.
What was your most-memorable meal? What, where, with who — details, please!
SF: My husband and I love Blue Ribbon in Brooklyn; they have amazing Kumamoto oysters that they shuck right in the front of the restaurant. We like to sit at the bar, have oysters and sip on their delicious ginger martinis. It’s the perfect night out!
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?
SF: I think so, yes. You can usually spot that glimmer in someone’s eyes that indicates they’ve got something special, some wildly creative or unique perspective that makes them stand out. But you also have to keep in mind that some people are like fine wine and they need time to ripen. Those are the folks that can surprise you, and it’s worth being open-minded and patient and wait for them to reveal themselves during the process.
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?
SF: That you need to have an open mind because there are so many different ways to partner with talent and so many avenues to pursue. Oddly enough, I find that someone with a very distinct and strong point of view is often the person that reaches the most audiences. In this fragmented media landscape, a specific point of view is really attractive and important.
Has there ever been an instance when you and Bob 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?
SF: Of course. It happens every season! It’s just not normal for five people to agree on everything, and I think that’s one of the things that makes the show feel interesting and real. There’s no one way to resolve a disagreement — usually it comes down to everyone passionately pleading their case until we come up with a resolution that feels right. There’s a bit of lawyering involved.
Fill in the blanks: A Food Network star must be ________, must enjoy ________ and must be able to ________.
SF: Must be one of a kind and effusive, must enjoy food and people, and must be able to be consistent yet creative.