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 Toya Boudy.
A personal chef and mother of three, Toya, 34, exemplifies her native city of New Orleans, not just through her Cajun and Creole cuisine, but with her zest for life and personality. Growing up surrounded by parents who cooked traditional New Orleans food, Toya started practicing in the kitchen by the age of eight and was previously a culinary instructor at a local cooking school. From her deep-fried catfish to her bananas foster with fried cake and ice cream, this firecracker of a chef empowers viewers to have fun with their food.
Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.
Toya Boudy: Cajun and Creole cuisine made simple.
What would you most like to learn from Bobby and Giada, be it something in the kitchen or on camera?
TB: How to better execute what I have in my head.
What do you think is the most-valuable thing you could teach a Food Network viewer?
TB: How to be comfortable in the kitchen and being themselves without copying someone else.
How did you prepare for this competition?
TB: I did a lot of mental preparation. It’s basic law of attraction, really. In my room, I have tons of papers on the wall with affirmations written, and I do a lot of meditating. I did watch the seasons before, but I watched them not to pick up anything. Actually, I stayed away from food shows more than anything. I watched the character and the judging style more. And then I’d watch other shows, not to catch on to food, because I didn’t want to taint what I had in me. I wanted to be natural. So, I watched them and noticed no one of Food Network is [rude]. So, it’s a character thing, one. And then I watch how they judge, and I see what they like and what they look for and what they don’t. That’s how I’ve prepared.
Which part of this contest — the cooking or the camera work — intimidates you the most? Please explain.
TB: I definitely do not want to sound cocky, but neither one of them intimidates me. I feel like I’m capable. I feel like I’m a pencil that needs sharpening, but I do feel like I’ve already proven to myself that I could teach people. My YouTube channel is good because I can teach people. I’m not funny. I’m very boring. You would think this girl’s as dry as a paper towel, but people who’ve never touched a piece of chicken can cook gumbo because of me now. So, I know that I can teach, and I know that I’m entertaining, but it’s just tying the two, and I believe that’s what I’ll get here, win or lose. I’ll learn how to tie the two together, and I think that’ll be a big start for a bright future, with Food Network possibly.
Win or lose, what do you want to take away from this experience?
TB: A show. I’ve watched that too. ... It’s not just [the winner] who can get a show. You’re in front of producers. You spark somebody’s interest, you start gaining a following, people like you, people like your story. I have a hell of a story. I know once people see me that I’m going to inspire a lot of people.
What does the term "Food Network Star" represent to you?
TB: I always see it as being a good food authority, someone who makes people really comfortable with food, and somehow makes them comfortable with themselves, and shows them how to have a better quality of life. And quality of life because I look at food as like a love language for me, so I believe everyone you see, there’s people that they reach. There’s an Alton group, there’s a Giada group, there’s a Pioneer Woman group. There’s a group for everyone. There’s a line full of people, and all these people are being highlighted that this type of person can be inspired [by], and there’s a whole section of people that’s not inspired yet. I think that’s what Food Network Star does. They fill the spots that inspire people.
What's your greatest strength in the kitchen?
TB: Bringing good flavor quickly.
What is the strangest thing we'd find in your refrigerator right now?
TB: Tons of hot dogs. Frozen foods, like nuggets and stupid stuff like that. My family, they get so damn excited [about that].
Let's say it's a regular Tuesday night and you're at home. What are you having for dinner?
TB: Sunday’s a big meal. Mondays I hope there’s leftovers. Tuesday would be something quick, like a quick chicken pasta, shrimp pasta. Something like that.
What do you consider to be your signature dish?
What dish or ingredient will you simply not eat?
TB: Tripe. You can’t even deep-fry that and give it to me. And you can deep-fry a lot of stuff and give it to me. ... But, no, not tripe. Ugh. The look.
What's your favorite guilty pleasure food?
TB: Cheese fries. All day.
What's one dish you have to have at your last supper?
TB: Good char-grilled oysters.
What do you want to say about yourself to fans watching at home?
TB: Even if your walk hasn’t been identical to my walk in life, allow me to inspire you, because I will.
What's the first dish aspiring cooks should master?
TB: Gravy. And smothered anything. ... I could just stick with smothered chicken, only because it’s a meal that stretches.
Mark your calendar for the premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c.