All Posts By Bob Tuschman

Jury Duty: Q&A With Bob Tuschman

by in Food Network Star, June 12, 2012

In the July/August issue of Food Network Magazine, television exec and Food Network Star judge Bob Tuschman answers viewers' most-asked questions about life as a cooking show judge.

Do you have an idea of who will win the show from the beginning?

I usually have a good sense of who the front-runners will be. The first time the judges meet the finalists face-to-face is on day one of filming. While the crew adjusts lighting and cameras, we have about 20 minutes to silently stare at the finalists. During this time, I gain a good sense of their confidence and charisma. But that doesn't mean their food or personality will hold up through 11 weeks of challenges. Front-runners often stumble.

Are you a cook?

I'm a type A executive, but I'm a type B-minus cook. I would never be on Iron Chef America, but I wouldn't be on Worst Cooks in America, either. I cook to relax, so I like things slow, easy and uncomplicated in my kitchen.

How do you eat all that food when you're judging?

Happily! And then I still eat three square meals on top of that. I don't think I've missed a sit-down meal since I was a first-grader in Cleveland. It's a comforting ritual I can't seem to give up, even when I'm judging and eating huge amounts of food. Luckily, I swim every day and my metabolism is fast. But not as fast as it was in first grade. Those were the days.

You're the head of programming, so did you cast yourself on the show?

No, I was asked to audition — along with a bunch of other Food Network execs — for producers from CBS Eye Productions, who make the show for us. Susie [Fogelson] and I were cast. I love being on the show, but I'm glad I kept my day job. Read more

About Last Night

by in Behind the Scenes, June 6, 2011
Food Network Star Judges My fellow judges agreeing with everything I say.

What did you think? Pretty good premiere, right? Let’s dive right in to the deep end and talk about my impressions of the finalists. Then, I want to hear yours. Let me warn you – I reveal last night’s eliminated finalist in this post. If you don’t want to know who went home, then you shouldn’t read.

Vic. His tattoos make him look tough, but there’s a sweetness to him that jumps off the screen. He’s likable and when Bobby commented that he makes you, “want to know more about him” – well, I couldn’t have said it any better.

Alicia. When we questioned her on her accent, we had no idea that she would take it the way she did. She sounded like a Valley Girl -- I didn’t think saying so was insulting. Were we wrong? And by the way, I was taken completely by surprise by the immense disdain between her and Penny – more to come there, later.

Orchid. Warm, engaging and the camera loves her. Her food was to die for. It may sound cliché, but I can’t wait to see how this orchid blossoms. I know – that was a bit cringe-worthy.

Whitney. I like her confidence. Camera loves her. She has a slight edge to her which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ll see how it shakes out.

Jeff. Funny guy. Can be a bit over the top. Warm. Love the sandwich POV – accessible, everybody loves him (if he can bring something new to the game). Sandwich King? We’ll see.

Mary Beth. Food Writer + Former Attorney = Smart. Love that. But can she bring warmth and humor to the screen? Can the food writer be a food star? Jury is way out.

Chris. Loud and a bit “frat boyish.” He has a lot of work to do. Right now, I’m having trouble coming up with something more to say about him. That’s not good.

Susie. She’s a spitfire. Love her personality (and what a story). But I’m confused about by her POV. I need to see more of HER in it.

Katy. Boy am I confused. She wants to be a thousand things. This may work in her life, but not on TV. All those props illustrated the problem. I need a simpler, clearer, stronger POV and persona.

Justin D. Seems nice and smart, but so far hasn’t left a big impression.

The Other Justin. Memorable – for good and bad reasons. Anybody else thinking Avatar? Confident cook. There’s an expert, passionate guy there – but NOT on camera. Flat.

Juba. Such a likeable guy with an interesting POV – until he gets on camera. Like ‘The Other Justin,’ persona is not translating on camera. Lots of work needed here.

Penny. She’s a tough personality, but she cooks great food. I wouldn’t want to get caught in her cross-hairs (Alicia), but I could eat her food all day. Just stop with all that “sexy” talk.

Jyll. Something I really like here. Funny, down to earth, warm. But her promo? Ouch. Teleprompters are evil. I’m withholding judgment because overall I see promise.

Howie. I always feel bad for the first to go. I really thought his success in radio would have translated into an advantage to get him further. Oh well.

Where’s “The” and “Next?”

by in Behind the Scenes, June 2, 2011
Star Judge Bob Tuschman Bob Tuschman, General Manager, Food Network

It seems like only yesterday that we were launching this show called The Next Food Network Star. We premiered the show in the summer of 2005 and immediately you made it a success (you also made a few people big stars). Is it as hard for you to recall that Guy was once a competitor on this show as it is for me? It feels like he has always been a Food Network talent. But look at us today. Here we are on the cusp of season 7. We’ve dropped “The” and “Next” from our show title (Food Network Star is cleaner) and we’ve added more finalists (15 this year) along with new twists and turns to the show. (You’ll have to watch to find out what those are.)

What can you expect this season? Look for great food, tears, not-so-great-food, more tears and truly outrageous moments. Did I mention tears? This show is dramatic, but the most exciting season to date. Here’s a small glimpse of what’s to come. Also, starting Monday I’ll be blogging here weekly to give you my firsthand account of the previous night’s episode. I’ll share my honest opinions and I expect you to do the same. If you disagree with Susie, Bobby or myself (I expect you to disagree with them more than me), lay it on me.

Sunday night’s premiere (9pm/8c) is two hours and doesn’t disappoint. Check out our finalists then vote in our pre-season poll.

I’m excited to start another journey with you. Buckle up.

Welcome, Aarti!

by in Food Network Star, Recap, August 16, 2010
Next Food Network Star Aarti Sequeira and Rachael Ray Food Network host Rachael Ray and Star winner Aarti Sequeira

We have a winner. And I mean a real winner.

Bobby, Susie and I agreed that Aarti is a fresh, natural and exciting talent. She’s both sophisticated and down to earth. Beautiful and relatable. Her food is both comforting and exotic.

Mostly, I think she’s a natural television presence: relaxed, radiant and warm.

Choosing wasn’t easy. She, Tom and Herb were each so different — in personality, point of view and cooking styles. There was something to love about each of them. And fans were passionate for their favorite. And sometimes against anyone who wasn’t their favorite.

Seeing the volley of comments last night from viewers showed the passionate emotional connection that Tom, Herb and Aarti were each able to establish with fans. That encouraged me that any of them could have been the right choice.

But ultimately, Aarti was our choice: a natural star, with an exciting point of view, amazing cooking skills and most importantly, ready to have her own series on television next week.

Aarti will be bringing her party to Food Network starting next Sunday at noon.

Over and out.
Bob

All I’m Looking For Is a Star

by in Food Network Star, August 9, 2010

Bob Tuschman

So here we are heading into the final stretch with TOM, HERB and AARTI. Am I surprised by these final three? Yes, actually.

If you had asked me before we taped, I may have guessed that the final three standing would be ARIA, AARTI and, maybe, BRAD.

I couldn’t have predicted that ARIA would have started out as astoundingly impressive as she did … and end up on such a low note.

I couldn’t have predicted that BRAD would struggle so much for so long with the camera … and never really make peace with it.

I couldn’t have predicted that TOM would finally find a way to mix his low key slacker vibe with humor and cooking creativity to become a real contender.

I couldn’t have predicted HERB would find a way to fuse his Latin and Healthy point of views so appealingly, and in a way that lets his inner-star shine through.

And I couldn’t have predicted AARTI would struggle all season long with her self-confidence in ways that nearly sunk her, and our confidence in her, over and over.

That’s what I love about doing this show. You can never predict anything.

So, do I have a favorite going in? Not really. All I'm looking for is a star. I think each of these three have the potential, but in wildly different ways. Can't wait to see what they do with their pilots. I'll see you at the finale.

Your Questions, My Answers

by in Food Network Star, August 2, 2010

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Another episode, another finalist sent home – this season seems to be flying by, doesn’t it? What did you think of last night’s elimination? I think we surprised many of you.

Keep your questions and comments coming on our blog, on Facebook and Twitter. I’m attempting to read them all (and respond to as many as possible).

There is an interesting variety of questions this week:

You mentioned Charisma and Passion. No argument there. Question: How do you decide when charisma is too loud – and how do you decide when passion becomes over-the-top (and simply too much)? What is your "yardstick?" – From James

That’s an excellent question, James. For which there is no excellent answer. It's always 100% subjective. The bigger the personality, the more polarizing they are. The personality that strikes me as electrifying and effervescent will oftentimes strike others as obnoxious and annoying. Ultimately, we go with our guts on which we think has the right combo of charisma, energy and passion to excite a wide variety of viewers.

Guy seems to be the most successful of The Next Food Network Stars and to me it is because the viewing audience voted on it. Have you reconsidered returning to that format? – Sarah Lyons

Sarah, I would offer that Guy's huge success is totally a factor of Guy's unique talents and personality. We love hearing from viewers which is why we have fan votes, polls, and chats. But we ultimately think what makes The Next Food Network Star unique and popular is that viewers get insight in to how the network chooses and develops its stars.

Do the stars and/or the contestants all have to have original recipes or is there a staff for that? – From Gillian

All of our stars and contestants use original recipes that they create for the shows they appear on. We do have a talented staff of chefs in the Food Network Kitchens, but they develop recipes for our non-television products, like the Food Network Magazine, our website, cookbooks, etc., but not for our stars.

In deciding elimination at this stage of the game, how much of the decision weighs into their performance this week versus their overall performance? – Nat Atkins

We start by just considering how each finalist did in this week's challenge. Then we broaden out to consider how this performance fits into everything we know about them so far. Ultimately we're trying to answer just one question: are we looking at a potential star?

How do the judges handle disagreements? – Dottie Jo

Bobby, Susie and I have had our fights and some have been real doozies. You'd think as head of Programming, I'd have the last word. But you'd be wrong. This week's elimination decision was made only after 4 hours of painful debate, which ended at 3am. Susie was so emotional about it, that when it came time to announce our decision, she couldn't get the words out through her tears. She whispered to me that I would have to announce it. It's a painful process.

I have so missed your weekly commentaries this season. Thanks for giving viewers this glimpse behind the camera. Unfortunately, there often seems to be some manipulation within challenges as to pairings and/or food prep assignments, even though that may not be the case. Would you consider some method for assigning partners, groups, or food that would dispel even a hint of manipulation--a drawing of numbers? – From tigergal75

Thanks Tigergal, I've missed writing my weekly blog too, which is why I'm hopping back into the weekly fray now. Assignments and pairings happen in all sorts of ways throughout the competition. Sometimes they're totally random. Sometimes the winner of a camera challenge gets to make the assignments as their advantage for winning. And sometimes we make the assignments precisely because we need to see how someone will react in a challenging situation. Personally, I like the variety.

Is there going to be another competition show for Anne Burrell? I loved the Worst Cooks in America show – she made it amazing and is my favorite and it doesn't seem she gets the air time like Alex and some of the other chefs. – From Sammie

This year was the first season of Worst Cooks in America with Anne Burrell, and it was a huge hit. Happy to tell you Anne will be back in January with an all-new crew of worst cooks.

Bob, any chances of seeing the judges cook alongside the contestants at any point? – From Miessj

Not a chance – for your sake as well as ours. I'm the first to tell you I'm a passionate food lover, but not a chef.

Would you consider bringing back some of the strongest contenders in the previous NFNS seasons to compete for a spot? Many of them seem to have grown in their culinary expertise (and perhaps camera presence) since they last competed. – From Nikki

We have actually discussed this. But every year we've found so many intriguing new contenders, we haven't wanted to give up one of their slots to someone who already got their shot.

When the contestants do a camera challenge, do they just get one shot, or does the audience just see one shot? In a real show, would not the host get a couple of takes to get a bit right? – From Lisa

The finalists only get one chance at a camera challenge, and you see it. Yes, in a real show, the star would get multiple passes, and eventually the final few will get the same opportunity. But for now, we're still testing innate camera skills, potential and charisma – so just one take per person.

 

Serena vs. ME

by in Behind the Scenes, Videos, July 28, 2010

No, it’s not as dramatic as it sounds – but, Serena definitely had words for me when we were reunited at The Next Food Network Star After Party.

Oh, and yes – she did address the unforgettable “singing” moment.

Watch the clip, it’s pretty funny.

Watch Video Now
Click Image for Video

 

Jumping Into the Fray

by in Behind the Scenes, July 24, 2010

nfns6_bobt_s4x3_lead

Hey, Guys: I’ve been following all the chatter going on here at Star Talk and to put it simply – I had to join the conversation!

Every week, through the remainder of the show, I’ll be happy to answer questions you send in via our blog here, Facebook or Twitter. If you don’t have a question, but a comment – well, leave that too. I love reading your insights (and several have made me laugh out loud). Keep ‘em coming!

Now, let me get to your questions.

Do you guys watch the behind-the-scenes footage of the cast, kitchen incidents, etc. before making an evaluation decision?Nicole Miller

Wow, excellent question, Nicole. There are hundreds of hours of footage from every episode, so it’s not logistically possible to screen and edit it all for us in time for judging. But the producers are vigilant about making sure we know EVERYTHING that went on behind-the-scenes. We get massive amounts of background notes before every judging event. The notes detail and transcribe every notable moment for the finalists while they were shopping, cooking, living together, etc. Why? As we say in this competition, character matters.

How long do the eliminations really take? The editing makes it seem really quick.Jenny Cohen

On average, we talk to each finalist for about an hour. Every judge addresses every finalist. We spend a lot of time giving them constructive advice. In the early episodes, these sessions can take about 10 hours. It all gets edited down to 12 minutes (of course, all my best lines are left on the cutting room floor). Pity the poor finalists – we’re sitting all this time; they have to stand.

Hi Bob. Have you ever thought about the contestants judging each other? Kris Mohnen

Hmmm. That’s an interesting idea, Kris. We haven’t, although we do that on The Next Iron Chef when they’re all pro-chefs. Maybe we’ll try it?

Hello Bob. I was wondering how someone goes about presenting an idea for a Food Network show. Who would a person contact, and what kind of presentation would you be expected to give?Devin S. Forbes

I’ve got bad news, Devin. For legal reasons, we are not permitted to review show ideas from individuals. We can only take pitches that come from major production companies (i.e., those who produce network series). So if any of you have an idea, you need to make a deal with a production company, who would then pitch it to us.

Have you ever tasted something that you had to spit out, or even made you sick?Mike Walters

Luckily, no food in this show has made me sick yet, though some has briefly made me lose the will to live. A few weeks ago DAS and Tom served jerk slaw which everyone but me actually spit out (I was fascinated that they could fit so many horrible flavors onto one fork). In two weeks, you’ll see a dish that I call the WORST DISH in the HISTORY of The Next Food Network Star. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Would you consider taking someone whose food and technique is not the best (but rocks it on-camera) or vice versa – knowing that they will need work to be ready for their own show? Or, are your criteria that they have to excel in both areas? Tim McMillin, Sr.

Our stars really need to have expertise and food credibility to make it, mostly because our viewers are smart and food savvy. That said, if we saw someone who had the inherent personality and passion for food, but just hadn’t learned proper technique yet, we might tell them to come back after they had been through culinary school and had some experience.

What is the most important factor in picking a star? Rebecca Stuart

Well, it’s not quite grammatically correct, but there are TWO most important factors when picking a star: A charismatic personality that pops on camera, and an authentic passion for and expertise in the food world. Unfortunately, those qualities are so rare to find together. But if it was really easy to find people like this, I probably wouldn’t have a job.

How much thought is put into the candidates' ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc. when choosing contestants for The Next Food Network Star, Chopped, etc? From the outside it appears to be far too much. Gary Saunders

Our candidate pool and our audience is richly diverse in every way. So, we’re lucky to be able to pick the finalists we feel have the most potential while still being able to reflect the diversity of our viewers.

At the start of the season do you have a gut feeling about who the winner will be? If so, how right have you been? Hope Harris- Gayles

I’m right about half the time. But no matter what the initial feeling is, you never know how the finalists will do when put to the test. Last year on the first day of taping, I thought Melissa, Jeffrey and Jamika radiated the most charisma. Two years ago, I thought Aaron was disastrous at the beginning of taping. Three years ago, I never could’ve guessed Amy. But Guy, and the Hearty Boys I had a good feeling about from the start.

That’s it from me. Now, what say you?

Talk to you next week.