Season 9 Dictionary + The Dial of Doom

by in Behind the Scenes, June 4, 2013

Star Season 9 Finalists and JudgesThe newest season of Star kicked off this past Sunday night, and along with 12 new contestants, there are a couple of new features added to the show that may be unfamiliar to fans. This handy little guide should help navigate you through the next 10 weeks of competition.

Challenges: This season there are two different challenges that can occur in each episode. If an episode includes a Mentor Challenge, that means Alton, Bobby and/or Giada will help guide the finalists through that day's events. The mentors will share their advice and raise any possible concerns they may have. After the Mentor Challenge, finalists will be faced with a Star Challenge. This can consist of cooking demonstrations or presenting to a focus group.

Finalists: This year the mentors are tasking 12 hopefuls with weekly challenges in the ultimate multi-month interview for the chance to earn their dream television job. The contestants bring with them a mix of backgrounds, including culinary school, restaurant management, private chef and food blogging.

Focus Group: New to Star this year, a group of ultimate Food Network fans and food enthusiasts will help the mentors decide who came out on top and on the bottom during the challenges. This group will also be the driving force behind the dials of doom (see below).

Food Star Kitchen: When the finalists aren't on location in and around Los Angeles, they'll be cooking and presenting in this space (see photo below).Food Network Season 9 Star Kitchen

Mentor-Judges: Alton, Bobby and Giada are back this year as both mentors and judges.

Network: The "network" includes Food Network executives Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson.

Pantry: Located in the Star Kitchen, it includes common items like spices, kitchen gadgets and serving pieces. Fun fact: There are 36 spices available to the finalists, and the most-used spices include red pepper flakes, garlic powder and chili powder (see photo below).Food Network Star Season 9 Star Kitchen Pantry

Stew Room: When the judges are deliberating about the top and bottom performers, the finalists gather in this room.

The Dial of Doom

Food Network Star Dial of DoomWhat might be the most-exciting and nerve-wrecking addition to Star this season is the dial of doom. It records levels of like and dislike among the focus group, and then the mentors use those numbers to help formulate their decision for the top and bottom performers.

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Comments (32)

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  2. msjs0315 says:

    I know t's just the first episode and it takes time for viewers to get into the swing of a new season, but I have to say I found it very dull. At least four or five of the contestants probably shouldn't even be on the show, for one thing. And I wish B, G and A could at least act as though they were enjoying themselves.

    Finally, I thought subjecting the contestants to a focus group with so little preparation was odd. At least give them a week or two to get some practice under their belts and learn from their mistakes. BTW, the 'Dial of Doom' sounds like a cheap knockoff of 'The Gong Show' from the 1970s.

  3. Crouton40 says:

    Frankly, I'm not wild about focus groups. Too quick. Too arbitrary. Anyone can turn a knob for 30 seconds. But we dont know WHY. Too much of an unknown. No details. Those people aren't even interviewed. (And no, I'm not asking for that, either).

    Really, I honestly feel, that "you" -and all of us--in these threads/Blogs- are the BEST focus group and feedback that the Network could possibly hope for! We watch the shows! We're better informed and more experienced with the show than someone sitting one-time at a picnic table with a dial. And we write out our thoughts, our likes, our dislikes, our feelings and our reasons. How could that not be more informative and useful than just having a turn with some meter? It's not that it's "bad", but if I were a top exec, I would, by far, look here for audience perception and clear feedback. Just my opinion. (but at least you know why). Clarity is good.

    On another note, to address above, what Sarah mentioned about Challenges:
    I am looking forward to seeing and hearing both: food challenges and on-camera.
    Speaking only for myself, about personality: of course I like to watch someone I can relate to (we all do). But for me that doesn't mean they have to somehow be any sort of super-human dazzling mega-personality. Actually, for me it's in 2 parts, personality-wise:
    1. Just *don't* be a turn-OFF (conceited, too hyper/loud, weird or dull) and...
    2. Informal w/an easy smile, understandable with a bit of playfulness, really draws me in! That's relateable to me. As if a knowledgeable best-friend were showing-me-the-ropes and building my confidence in the kitchen that yes, I *can* do this! It was easier than I thought and it turned out scrumptious! Don't know yet who that is. I'm having fun watching. :)

  4. Shannon says:

    I like the statement the "Dial of Doom" will help them formulate their decisions. To me, what I read that to say is "We may or may not take the focus group into consideration". I do not think I am going to like this "dial" aspect, but we will see. It made no difference in their decision in the first episode. Additionally I don't feel they showed us the actual results of the "dial" on all the contestants.

    • Crouton40 says:

      I hope it doesn't factor too heavily. Have any of those people in the focus group even consistently watched the last 3 seasons of this show?

      For me, it's too arbitrary. We have no idea *why* they voted the way they did. And if you were a top exec, or in marketing/advertising, etc., wouldn't you wanna know what influences an audience? I would. This dial thing could be something as arbitrary as: so-n-so is a handsome hunk so I'll vote for him. Or, I don't really like Miss "X" much at all but I really hated the person just before her, so I'll boost this one up higher this time.
      But can they cook?
      Can they explain?
      Were they somehow obnoxious or was it some other reason? We don't know. No details. Too much of an unknown.

      Far better, for people to post why they feel the way they do --in here!
      WE ARE--the best focus group. We keep watching the show Anyone can turn a knob. I can understand wanting to get some quick feel from the folks who were there, but it does seem too arbitrary to me. (my opinion). I would much rather get feedback from all of you who write in here. Long live the Blog! :)

      • Shannon says:

        Question: Who really believes that fan votes were the determining factor on last years winner. I have to say that I truly do not. I kept up on watching the meter bar results of who was ahead on a daily basis but I also avidly read the comments on the boards. To me, it just did not seem to come out clean in the wash. That is why I don't have a lot of faith on these "dials" and you are correct in your questions: Are these folks even avid "Food Network Watchers" or have they simply responded to an open casting call.

        • Crouton40 says:

          Good point. Alot of people said they didn't believe it last year.

          I, too, watched the online vote. Martita and Ippy were in the top for a good amount of time, yet neither one of them won. But on the other hand, it *was* emphasized that "America (apparantly not Bob & Susie) would pick the winner" by voting. I think of the Fan Vote/weekly poll stuff is: whoever-has-the-most-Facebook-friends. And again, just like turning a dial, anyone can get their friends give 'em a "like" with an easy click. But are they doing their friend a favor? Do they even watch the show? Can they compare this year to last year? Do those same people ever bother to express themselves by writing anything definite for others to read--like we do here? I would think you and everyone else on these blogs are more informed. Like a commercial:...the few...the proud....the Bloggers...maybe you, too, can be one of us!" ...and they can! "Express yourself!" (wink) hehehehe...couldn't resist. Well, that's probably it for tonight. Tomorrow's another day...and NEXT Sunday, the Kitchen Awaits! Who knows--what adventures will be in store? mwuuuahahahaha!

  5. Eggpants says:

    if I had one of those dials and danushka appeared on screen i would push the meter to the red zone so hard i'd probably end up breaking the dial

    • Elderleigh says:

      Did adding someone deliberately into the mix who generates negative audience reaction start with Penny - or was it a result of the responses to Penny? Wow - a true nasty - television gold!

      Danushka appears to be of a similar type. She's an ex-model and "private chef" and maybe she is a wanna-be actress too.

      This type of move does get the drama going and generates talk.

      Of course, "The Powers That Be" would have to know that the people picked for these roles have a specific but limited use. Maybe they do separate advertising for someone willing to be "this year's Penny" and the chance to be on television is all the compensation needed.

    • food network fan says:

      I totally agree with you on that :)

    • food network fan says:

      If I ever met her I would ask why she acts so mean and cold on the show

  6. Dottie Pimental says:

    Don't know all the ins and outs of getting the winner "behind the camera" but just know that every year I look forward to the Food Network Star and am never disappointed! It is so fun and enjoyable to watch. This year's bunch look interesting and can't wait to see who emerges ass my special pick, and is it the same as the eventual winner. Most every season, it is! Just a thought, when Susie or other judges say, "tone it down, you are over the top and are acting too much" maybe that is the real candidate's personality, then they get confused and try not to be too loud and then they are lectured for not projecting enough. Last year I saw that happen and a few got confused. I sincerely hope that the winners are not selected because of their personalities and then by the way, they can cook pretty good too. That means only outgoing personalities need apply, even though they may have a terrific point of view of cooking and add much to the viewers' knowledge of cooking, just a thought!

  7. Roger says:

    Everybody is the most real in the beginning. So if we like them then, its probably the most genuine.

    • Shannon says:

      Roger, I agree 100 %. I hate phony, I can see through it a mile away. Phony smiles and fake personality are a complete turn off to me. My favorite personalities on FN are the ones who are real, not always polished, not always perfect and not always PC. So overall you made a great assessment.

      • Elderleigh says:

        I'd also add not walys loud and hyper. There is nothing wrong with someone who is not shouting from the roof tops.

  8. @Aquabun2 says:

    Another non-fan of the dial. The mentors, Bobby Giada and Alton, Susie and Bob, are the ones talking to the candidates each time and they're the only ones who taste the food each week. I think they should definitely take input from the TV audience concerning whose show we'd watch, and whose we would not. It's about who would have staying power for TV audiences, after all. BUT I think it's a bit of a cop-out NOT to make the decision on the ultimate winner yourselves.
    One other thing, why do the winners each year end up shunted into the wilderness of Sunday morning TV by a network that gives us 4 straight primetime hours of GUy Fieri on Monday nights, and often another 3 or 4 hours on Friday night, also? I LIKE triple D but that is WAY too much.

  9. Brian_Dialsmith says:

    Appreciate the comments and feedback about the dials. As the developers of the Perception Analyzer (aka "Dial of Doom"), I thought I could shed some light on the role the focus group and dials are playing here and in the process, perhaps address some of the concerns being brought up here. The Perception Analyzer dials have the unique ability to capture continuous feedback from each focus group member every second as the competitors perform, capturing the instant, in-the-moment, impression. The graphical lines show the collective feedback from the focus group for each second of the competitor's performance. From there, we can generate a total mean score for the full presentation and additionally, show exactly where competitors peaked and where they bottomed out during their presentations. The feedback from the dials is then used to set the stage for engaging dialog between the competitors and the mentors as well as give the mentors an additional tool to help coach the competitors on their presentation skills. The Perception Analyzer is a tried-and-true tool for public opinion polling and market research and has been used in similar context to this to help train and mentor professional speakers and hosts around the world. Hope this info is helpful.

  10. William says:

    Where the competitors peaked and where they bottomed out we can all see just fine for ourselves. If you were a liberal or a conservative would you trust someone from the other party with a dial? They will just toe the party line and bash their enemies. Still too subjective.