It was just last week that we here at Star Talk broke the news about the upcoming season of Food Network Star, which kicks off on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c. Among a crop of talented hopefuls judge-mentors extraordinaire Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will search for that one contender who has the coveted combo of culinary chops and on-camera charm. Each of the 12 finalists comes to the Star stage with unique personalities and kitchen experiences, and in the coming days, we'll introduce you to all of them. Today we'd like you to meet Addie Gundry.
Addie, 30, has always been book smart and driven. The valedictorian of her culinary school, Addie has built an impressive resume at such a young age, including stints working for iconic names such as Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Martha Stewart. She is currently the culinary director for a lifestyle publishing company, in addition to publishing her own food blog and cookbooks focusing on easy, elegant and entertaining dishes. Proud of the accomplishments she has made, Addie is ready for her next challenge — being a Food Network Star!
Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.
Addie Gundry: My culinary point of view is easy, elegant entertaining — all things food and beverage that are easy to make yet elegant to serve for any entertaining occasion.
What would you most like to learn from Bobby and Giada, be it something in the kitchen or on camera?
AG: What I most want to learn from them is how to best utilize the time you have to show who you are. I think it's really hard to have 30 seconds — what do you say, what do you not say?
What do you think is the most-valuable thing you could teach a Food Network viewer?
AG: I think the most-valuable thing I could teach a viewer is how to create food and drinks that are very easy to do so you can do it at any occasion you have in mind but [also] very elegant to serve. So I'd like to show people that you can create food that's delicious, but also show them how to style it and entertain with it.
How did you prepare for this competition?
AG: Well, I watched previous seasons of Food Network Star to get a better idea of how the challenges worked. ... I spent a couple hours watching Brunch @ Bobby's and Giada Entertains, because I really did feel like I got to know them a little better, and that will help me, I think, when I speak with them.
Which part of this contest — the cooking or the camera work — intimidates you the most? Please explain.
AG: I was formally trained at culinary school. I worked in fine dining for many years — for Daniel Boulud, for Thomas Keller — so I certainly have culinary experience. But I'd say in a competition setting, I feel more at ease just speaking about my food and my personality. I think with my personality it's easy to communicate who I am and what I do. But actually executing on a dish for X amount of people is intimidating, just because you have limited resources and limited time. ... If it's cooking and presenting, I feel like I have no experience in presenting and a lot of experience in cooking, yet I think the cooking is actually the harder part.
Win or lose, what do you want to take away from this experience?
AG: When it's all said and done, I think the most-important thing to me is that it was mine to lose going into it. I want every challenge for me to feel like I gave my best in every way possible. I know everyone probably feels like it's the worst thing when you get sent home because of something you know you messed up or [because] you fell short. And so when it's all said and done, I'd like to look back and feel like I didn't leave anything on the table, I gave it my all and feel proud about being asked to leave. And, obviously, I think I will learn a lot in [terms of] culinary — tips and tricks, how to do something quickly — as well as how to present food. So, I think it's as much of a learning experience as it is an opportunity to win.
What does the term "Food Network Star" mean to you?
AG: To me, it means you've made it in this space, not only in the culinary space, but also as this authority that people look up to. ... There's a lot of shows that are really one-dimensional — where you're the best chef, you're the best baker or you're this. Where [as] Food Network Star — if you become a Star, it really means that you are not only an amazing cook, but you're also a personality that people want to look to, people want to learn from. ... You're somebody who people actually say, "Oh, I want to tune in and watch her, because she is someone who inspires me [and] someone I respect." Being a Food Network Star, it's the best you can get, because it's not just about the food; it's a lot about the personality.
What's your greatest strength in the kitchen? What's going to set you apart here?
AG: I think my greatest strength is [that] I am very quick. I have an ability to think quickly on my feet, both when it comes to creating in the kitchen as well as presenting. I'm articulate. Aside from just going to culinary school and having a career in culinary, I went to NYU, I graduated with the highest honors there, I've always been very academic. ... I think having a mind in this competition helps, because I think a lot of people can get bogged down with all of the craziness, and being able to actually take a minute to think about my strategy, how to change what I'm doing if it doesn’t seem like it's going well, etc. will really help me.
What is the strangest thing we'd find in your refrigerator right now?
AG: We have two fridges. We do have a fridge in the basement, which is my husband's beer fridge, essentially. However, what makes that kind of weird — upstairs [the fridge is] pretty normal, but whatever spills over from upstairs ends up in between beer. So it's like a beer fridge with a 10-pound bag of carrots from Costco that didn't fit upstairs.
Let's say it's a regular Tuesday night and you're at home. What are you having for dinner?
AG: I do a lot of meal prep on the weekends. On Sunday, we grill a ton of chicken, chop up a bunch of vegetables, etc. It helps to keep us eating healthy throughout the week. And so on a typical Tuesday, I would take that grilled chicken and make it into something fun for the evening — but easy. So I'd say Mexican food. I would say I'd make a quesadilla or some sort of taco with some chicken. So take the chicken as the bland base and turn it into a spicy taco.
What do you consider to be your signature dish?
AG: My point of view and a lot of what I do revolve around entertaining, and so when people come over, there's always a cocktail that's creative and different so people don't have to go straight to the bar or have a glass of wine. There's always something they can just grab right away that's interesting. And I always make a cake. I don't really know why, but I just like making cakes. ... Whenever we entertain, I make some sort of edible party favor, and so my guests leave with something they can eat or drink on the way home or the next day.
What dish or ingredient will you simply not eat?
AG: I've never really been into the delicacies that a lot of people love. I don't like foie gras really. I don't like chicken livers. ... It kind of weirds me out, to be honest, which I feel like I've never been able to say. As a chef, you should love that stuff. And I just don't. I don't like off cuts of meat. Nothing about that appeals to me.
What's your favorite guilty pleasure food?
AG: I could live off of bread and cheese or bread and olive oil, which I certainly let myself have. But having it as a meal is sort of a guilty, gross pleasure.
What's one dish you have to have at your last supper?
AG: I'd like to drink something, eat some pizza and end with a piece of vanilla cake with vanilla frosting.
What do you want to say about yourself to fans watching at home?
AG: I want to make sure people can relate to me. ... I don't want people to think, "Oh, she's got it together," and I'm not relatable. I'm from Minnesota, born and raised on a cattle and corn farm. I actually had a very down-to-earth upbringing, very non-traditional. My parents were divorced very young, both have been remarried. I didn't come from a perfect home. Where I am now, I look very put together, and I want to make sure people at home see that I am relatable and honest.
What's the first dish aspiring cooks should master?
AG: I would say to try and do a one-pot dish. ... If there's all these elements to it, I think it can get really overwhelming. ... Learn how to make a meal in one pot, and that will allow you to focus on it. And then once you feel comfortable, you can move on to adding multiple elements.
Mark your calendar for the premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c.