All Posts By Debra Puchalla

More Reasons to Paarti: Happy Birthday, Star!

by in Behind the Scenes, August 19, 2010
Next Food Network Star Aarti Sequeira
Watch now as Aarti and her husband, Brendan, break into song for her 32nd birthday. Make a wish, Next Food Network Star!

What a whirlwind for Aarti Sequeira. Sunday was her Star win, followed by a busy week of appearances and interviews. And today Aarti celebrates her 32nd birthday. We caught up with her up in Studio B at Food Network's Chelsea HQ with her husband, Brendan, and raised a fluffy-flowered cupcake in her honor. Watch her hubby serenade her — so sweet. And yes, she shared the treat during the impromptu b-day "paarti." (You can also catch some cute pix of the couple and their family here.) Want to share your birthday wishes with Aarti? Leave comments and we'll share them with her, or check out her Facebook fan page.

How should Aarti celebrate her birthday?

Finale Chatterbox: Party’s Here

by in Community, August 15, 2010
Congrats, Aarti!
Congrats, Aarti!

Cue the confetti: Aarti Sequeira is the Next Food Network Star. Challenge after challenge, she fought for the spot, rollercoastering past insecurities and weaving the Selection Committee's suggestions into her delicious dishes and effervescent demos. Big-flower purveyors rejoice! More important, home cooks can look forward to Aarti's sparkle and charm as she teaches them--starting next week!--how to experiment with exotic ingredients and use them in everyday cooking. Tons of you joined Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson for our live finale chat tonight, talking through the whys and wherefores of this wild season, commenting along as the judges and a focus group screened the demos and as the drumrolls rolled. Check out the archive to see who said what. Kudos to all this season's finalists, but only one person can be the Next Food Network Star. Congrats, Aarti.

What do you think?

Bonus Caption This: Coulda Been a Contenda

by in Behind the Scenes, August 12, 2010
Caption It: Next Food Network Fallen Stars?
Caption It: Next Food Network Fallen Stars?

Brad, Brianna, Serena and Paul returned last week, brought back after their ouster to aid Aarti, Aria, Herb and Tom. Would you be glad and gracious or bummed and baneful? Ya think they'll watch the finale Sunday? Wish any of them made it to the finale? Vote now for your favorite from among all the chefs--the fan favorite will get a web series. Then caption the picture. My riffs on what they're thinking, left to right: "Where's my hat?" "What? The party can't be over--I'm here." "I swear I will slow it down." "Bobby, I like your tie, honey..."

What do you think's going on here?

Susie Speaks: Steps Toward Joining the Club

by in Recap, July 27, 2010
 Susie Fogelson, Next Food Network Star Judge Watch Susie tell why the Supper Club scene matters

Do you Supper Club? Susie hadn't before this week's episode, and neither had I--dinner out or in with friends, sure, but not as an exclusive foodcentric standing date. So it wasn't surprising that some fans balked during Sunday night's chat.

How is cooking a posh multicourse meal for a few dozen hipsters helpful to home cooks? In a get-it-only-here vlog, Susie Fogelson, senior VP of marketing and brand strategy, reiterates the importance of a Food Network star's versatility. He or she has to be able to cook and present food well, but also to present him- or herself well, too, regardless of the audience. Razzle-dazzle diners set an appropriately high bar, Susie says. "They were hip--one was hipper than the next," she adds. "Our star needs to be able to hold their own in that crowd and not be intimidated." Hear extra insights from Susie about why Aria wobbled, then see which of the finalists impressed guest Chef Michael Cimarusti, of Providence LA, as having a "true sense of self." Star power is revving up.

What challenge so far do you think best sets up the finalists for Food Network stardom?

 

Chatterbox, Episode 7: Sing for Your Supper (Club)

by in Community, July 25, 2010

Crunch time is here, and it has nothing to do with breakfast cereal for dinner. Poor Serena belted out the tunes but didn't strike a chord with the Selection Committee. Pasta la vista, bella. Aria had a little memory lapse, forgetting her manners and interrupting Aarti, right when the team leader was introducing their course-by-course Supper Club extravaganza. (Hmm, wasn't Aria upset when Dzintra interrupted her a few weeks back?) Mano a mano, up next. Aarti came out fighting with a killer Green Chicken Curry after last week's dip, topping the challenge along with Brad, who brought his A-game cooking chops--and lamb chops. Who's your favorite? Tom, for his part, brought the salt. Too much of it, that is, according to Bob, Susie, Bobby and the food-loving diners who weren't loving the Unemployed Chef's salt(y) cod. Happy Herb was cooking this week but apparently needs to be a savvier shopper. (Susie, you're right. He saved cash for his team but almost took one for the team as a result.) Maybe grocery goddess Melissa d'Arabian, last year's Star winner and host of Ten Dollar Dinners, could help him--dazzling on-air this episode and online live tonight, offering up commentary and dinner ideas alike. Tell us which finalists' recipes you're making at home this week, then check out the chat transcript below for the way, the truth, the light--all sorts of fan fare, so to speak. Next swank Supper Club, Melissa's invited, and so are you.

Caption This: Stress on the Star Set

by in Behind the Scenes, July 21, 2010

NF0606_Aarti-Stressed-Feature_s4x3_al

Last week's fete at Frank Sinatra's wasn't the happiest paarti for Ms. Aarti. The next challenge is right around the corner, bringing a fresh chance to prove herself. What, pray tell, is she thinking? Help us make the picture sing--caption it. Then click over and vote for your favorite finalist.

Exclusive: Bobby Dishes on Aarti and Aria

by in Behind the Scenes, July 19, 2010
WWBD? Watch Bobby's online-only vlog.
WWBD? Watch Bobby's online-only vlog.

After shooting episode six at Frank Sinatra's former home, Bobby recognizes that Star is falling down to the wire. "Consistency, to me, is very important when you're trying to put forth what your food point of view is," he says in a FoodNetwork.com exclusive vlog, reacting to Aarti's Camera Challenge and explaining his appreciation for her smoked salmon canapes.

Less impressed with Aria's shrimp-as-pig-in-blanket (she threw the pig out the window!), Bobby knows what she should have done--or at least he is sharing what he might have done, his Re-Flay. "Imagine pork belly wrapped in phyllo or puff pastry or something very light, and then..." Watch Bobby now, in his own words. Cue the mouthwatering.

Chatterbox, Ep. 6: Hat’s Off to Running With Knives

by in Community, July 18, 2010

Maybe it was Frank Sinatra's swank piano-shaped pool or the breezy Palm Springs air. After teetering along in past weeks, as Bob Tuschman said, Brad the Tin Man got his joints oiled, showing off a newfound swagger. As he wrapped up his reinvention of chicken cordon bleu, he sprinted across Sinatra's lawn with a knife (don't try this at home!) to finish on time, but then was cool as a Rat Packer before the Selection Committee, Ted Allen of Chopped and Food Network Magazine's Maile Carpenter. Fans chatting with us liked what they saw--though the jury's still out on the Justin Timberlake lookalike's "Pro" moniker. Former finalist and funny guy Adam Gertler, host of the sweet new show Kid in a Candy Store, stopped by to chat again, this time not only, ahem, complimenting Serena's pout but also sharing his awe at Susie's perfect hair. Don't doubt it, Mr. G, it's coiffed daily in a way that dazzles. Less perfect were performances by Aarti, Herb and Brianna. Unfortunately, Brianna's distaste for tuna noodle casserole showed even after she amped up her own version with crab and Brie. Poor diva downer--if she had gotten a different dish or minded her toasty 'shrooms, would she still be around? Smart cooking tips and techniques, creativity, salesmanship and a positive point of view aren't too much to ask more than halfway through the competition. (Who's doing all of the above best? Vote for your favorite finalist daily.) Check out the chat archive below, then watch our vlogs to see what Bobby would have done differently this week and what Bob, Susie and Giada had to say about what and who got burned--and whose cooking simply sings.

Foes, Frenemies, BFFs: The Many Faces of Serena and Brianna

by in Behind the Scenes, Community, July 15, 2010

NF0603_Feature-Serena_s4x3_tz

NF0604-BTS_Brianna-Shock_s4x3_tz

Is the Serena-Brianna dramarama done? Have they reached detente? Not that long ago Serena was in tears after a kitchen collision and a foot injury--with Brianna to blame.

When the pair partnered in a food truck challenge this week, they fought like sisters, "but in a good way," Brianna told the Selection Committee. They hugged it out, learning that their dishes--empanadas and panini and gyros--scored a win. As the intensity is upped, can they keep it civil?

NF0603_TS-StarChal-4_s4x3_tzBrianna's facing heat for her cool approach. Bob T talks in his vlog about how the audience in the live demo simply disengaged: "Brianna was probably the biggest offender there; her presentation just left them flat." But in her vlog, Giada counters that Serena "is stuck in what she wants to do," rather than connecting with the audience and judges. (Funny, that's not the impression you get over on Food2, where Serena debuted, in a way, before Star was a twinkle in her eye.) Given that they both, like the other finalists, have work to do, it might be best for them both to go ahead and get along instead of resorting to schoolgirl spats.

NF0605_BTS-Serena_s4x3_tzThen again, maybe not. Don't you get fired up by people who rub you the wrong way? Doesn't the next Star need passion and intensity and strength? Could it be strategic to set your competitors off their game by distracting them with faux, or real, ire? I'm guessing I'm not the only one who is hungry for more, because it is, after all, entertaining.

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Hug. It. Out.

Now it's your turn. You make the call: Should Serena and Brianna stay frenemies or foes or become BFFs? We want to see your comments (though the comments you've shared toward them in the past few weeks indicate you prefer warm and fuzzy to too cool for school). Tell us what you think.

Then check out the fan vote and vote for your favorite finalist--last I looked, Brianna was the favorite of 2 percent of voters; Serena was at 7 percent. Tough times with each other but limping along together?

Bobby Flay Energizes Herb and Takes On Cheeseheads

by in Behind the Scenes, Recipes, July 12, 2010

Cooked: Herb and his oil blend run out of gas. Bobby tells him what he should've done instead.
Cooked: Herb and his oil blend run out of gas. Read on and watch to see how Bobby would've made it work.

Energy Chef Herb was crestfallen when he and fellow finalists failed to beat the three-minute buzzer during their cooking demos. Stage right, enter Grill It Guy and all-around Superman Bobby Flay. In less than three minutes, Flay troubleshoots a trio of Star hopefuls' dishes, transforming them from meh to masterful. And he shows off some dapper duds, to boot.

In this week's Re-Flay, he jazzes up Herb's cooking-oil stir fry conundrum in a flash, then takes on Team Wisconsin. The king of Bobby's Burger Palace tells Brad and Aria they needed fattier beef (20 percent fat!) for better burgers. And if your marketing plan includes boasting about being Cheeseheads, he advises, skimping on the cheddar is a bad call, no matter how you slice it.

Listen to Bobby's advice before the next episode.

How can Bobby make it look so easy when the finalists look so tortured? C'mon, did anyone look good? Vote for your favorite. Then check out this week's scrapbook starring Dame Paula Deen. And no, Aria's injury was not Brianna's fault.