All Posts By Maria Russo

Maria Russo is an editor at Food Network, now living in New York City after being born and raised in the great state of Michigan. She likes her eggs runny, her pasta cheesy and has been known to throw back dozens of oysters at a time.

Inside Food Star Kitchen: Exclusive Photos and Culinary Trivia

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, July 28, 2015

Food Network StarWhen the finalists started their Star journeys, the expansive hallowed halls of Food Star Kitchen were surely overwhelming and downright intimidating. But by the time the remaining rivals entered the arena Sunday night, eight weeks into the competition, they were surely (hopefully) well-accustomed to the surroundings, familiar with the kitchen's offerings and prepared to execute two challenges within its walls.

Star Talk was on set during the filming of Food Network Star, Season 11, and we checked in with the show's crew to find out more about how this over-the-top culinary workhorse was created. This massive set — a whopping 95 feet by 100 feet — took the team a day and a half to build, and it's outfitted with two kitchen spaces, multiple ovens, cooktops and refrigerators, plus an expansive pantry. Inside this alcove is where the finalists shop for their dry goods as well as secure the tools they may need for a particular cooking challenge. From grains and flour to oils, pots, pans and spatulas, it's all arranged neatly on dozens of shelves.

Read on below to see more exclusive snapshots inside Food Star Kitchen, and hear from the show's culinary producer, Dave, about what it takes to make the cooking challenges possible.

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One-on-One with the Latest Food Network Star Finalist to Go Home

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, July 26, 2015

Food Network StarIt's the nature of the Food Network Star beast that even though no matter how badly finalists want to achieve their dreams of stardom, ultimately only one can win the coveted title, and with that, 11 finalists will be going home. Every week Star Talk will bring you the first exclusive interview with the most-recently eliminated finalist. From thoughts on mentors' critiques to reflections on past challenges and hopes for the future, be sure to check back every Sunday night for the latest one-on-one chat. We're about to break down the ins and outs of tonight's new episode and reveal who went home, so if you've yet to watch the show, read no further until then.

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Caption It: Bobby vs. Burger

by in Food Network Star, July 24, 2015

Food Network StarTo some, burgers may be just that family-friendly, crowd-pleasing cookout classic, but to Bobby Flay, burgers are a beast unto their own. As the owner of more than a dozen successful Bobby's Burger Palace restaurants and a past Burger Bash champ, he knows just what to look for in a successful burger — and what to avoid.

Check out the sneak-peek photo above from Sunday's brand-new episode of Food Network Star. Before he and Giada De Laurentiis take a bite of the burger before them, Bobby studies a half of it, taking into account the apparent ingredient layers, color and texture inside. Given his serious-looking stare and all-business demeanor here, what do you imagine he's thinking about this burger? Do you predict that he and Giada will be impressed by it?

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“It Feels So Much Better to Be on the Other Side” — Damaris Previews Her Star Appearance

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, July 23, 2015

Food Network StarIt was only two years ago that Damaris Phillips was likely feeling many of the same emotions and anxieties that are plaguing Alex, Arnold, Dom, Eddie and Jay today. After championing through the remaining weeks of Season 9, she earned the coveted title of Food Network Star, and now, with multiple seasons of her own show, Southern at Heart, under her belt, she's returning to Food Star Kitchen this week to mentor this year's crop of hopefuls. Just in time for brand-building challenges and all-important camera tests, Damaris will be on hand to guide the finalists as they inch one step closer to potentially joining the ranks of Damaris and the other past winners.

Star Talk caught up with Damaris to find out what it's like for her to be returning to set not as a rival, but as a peer among Bobby and Giada. Find out what she had to say, and learn how her own experiences in the competition will affect her judging this weekend.

What's it like working with Bobby and Giada as a peer and not as a competition hopeful?
Damaris Phillips: It feels great. It feels so much better to be on the other side. Competition is awful. ... The part that I like about mentoring [is that] I feel like I actually have advice to give, which makes me feel really proud that in two years I’ve gone from literally being a hot mess to having advice that I think would help, and I mean that feels great, and I think a lot of it has to do with Bobby and Giada and their mentoring.

The Season 11 set is the exact same one you competed on two years ago, isn't it?
DP: The exact same set! Every time I go on, it is anxiety.

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“Your Numbers Will Thin from Three to Two” — Watch the Latest Round of Star Salvation

by in Food Network Star, Videos, July 22, 2015

Just when the Star Salvation hopefuls thought there couldn't be any more surprises in store for them, they learned on Sunday night of one rival's unexpected decision to quit the contest — Michelle wanted to leave early to return to her family — which meant there'd be no fourth rival joining them this week. "Your numbers will thin from three to two," host Jeff Mauro warned the remaining contestants, Rue, Matthew and Emilia, as the three took their places for the ingredient innovation challenge.

The name of the game was all about embracing the flavors of a local ingredient: avocados. It was up to them to shine a light on this beloved produce and use it in new, transformational ways. In the end, one rival's over-the-top risk meant safety from elimination, while another's failure to meet the standards of the challenge caused a teary exit.

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For the First Time Ever, Someone Quit: What Do You Think About That? — POLL

by in Community, Food Network Star, July 21, 2015

Competing on Food Network Star brings opportunities of a lifetime, like competing on a national stage, the biggest and most-inspiring one there is, and being mentored by industry legends Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis — and that's not even counting what happens after winning. But with the contest comes sacrifices, like having to leave home and be away from family for an extended period of time, which is precisely what Michelle Karam couldn't handle, as she explained to the Selection Committee of her decision to walk away from this once-in-forever chance and quit the competition with just weeks remaining. She shocked her fellow finalists and the judges with her unexpected decision, and in her one-on-one exit interview with Star Talk, she explained of her husband and children, "They trump everyone and anything else." Michelle added: "I’ve never once during this entire competition had anyone else in my mind. Every second. Every minute. Every day. They are my life." She also apologized to her fellow finalists: "I didn’t know I wasn’t going to be able to go on any further until I got to that point. Truly. I left the day if not the moment I figured out I could no longer go on."

Fans, after watching the dramatic exit unfold on Sunday night, what did you think of Michelle's decision to quit? Are you proud that she put her family before all else, or are you disappointed and thinking that she gave up on a dream? Are you simply shocked and unsure of what to make of the news? Tell us in the poll below. For a look at how the unprecedented actions played out on Sunday, click the play button above.

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One-on-One with the Latest Food Network Star Finalist to Go Home

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, July 19, 2015

Food Network StarIt's the nature of the Food Network Star beast that even though no matter how badly finalists want to achieve their dreams of stardom, ultimately only one can win the coveted title, and with that, 11 finalists will be going home. Every week Star Talk will bring you the first exclusive interview with the most-recently eliminated finalist. From thoughts on mentors' critiques to reflections on past challenges and hopes for the future, be sure to check back every Sunday night for the latest one-on-one chat. We're about to break down the ins and outs of tonight's new episode and reveal who went home, so if you've yet to watch the show, read no further until then.

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Caption It: Where’s the LOL Emoji When You Need It?

by in Food Network Star, July 17, 2015

Food Network StarThe timed challenges, the unexpected twists, the life-changing prize that will be awarded in just a few weeks — these factors and surely others contribute to the high-pressure, higher-stakes atmosphere of Food Network Star, for both the finalists competing and the judges mentoring the hopefuls. But that doesn't mean the group doesn't know how to let loose and laugh every once in a while.

Take a look at the sneak-peek photo above from Sunday's new episode. It appears that Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are all about the LOL, as is guest judge Richard Blais, who'll be on hand for the food truck challenge this week. What do you think they're cracking up about, and who's responsible for causing this kind of belly-chuckling hilarity?

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Midterm Elections: Who’s the Frontrunner and Your Current Favorite?

by in Community, Food Network Star, July 16, 2015
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Food Network StarFrom first-impression spotlights and sunny days at an alfresco food festival to a not-so-sweet baking challenge, a 4th of July switcheroo cookout and a think-on-your-toes improv challenge, the remaining rivals have survived six weeks of camera and culinary challenges, and now only half of them remain as they reach the midpoint of the competition. As they gear up for the second half of the contest and you, the fans at home, get close to meeting your newest Food Network Star, we want to know who you think is the frontrunner thus far. Are you banking on one of the final six being crowned the winner, or do you think one of the Salvation hopefuls is going to come back and claim the title?

Vote for your favorite rival here to support him or her in the fan poll. Right now Christina, who was ousted in Week 1, is claiming a whopping 17 percent of the votes, while Emilia's in second place with 12 percent of the votes, and Jay and Matthew are tied with 11 percent apiece.

Need a refresher on who's made the most — and fewest — strides so far? Click through the photos below to relive each week's challenges.

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When You Cook Brunch for Bobby, It Better Be Perfect

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, July 16, 2015

Food Network StarJust as the Food Network Star finalists ought to put their best dishes forward in an Italian-food challenge for Giada De Laurentiis, on Sunday they surely better bring the best of their brunch game in the Mentor Challenge, as Bobby Flay knows just what to look for in this beloved morning meal. From savory selects like scrambled eggs with ham and herbs to rich, sweet plates like cinnamon-laced pancakes with cherries, Bobby — the host of Brunch @ Bobby's and a longtime lover of brunch — is no stranger to creating craveworthy brunch dishes. So he'll expect to see finalists' most-impressive offerings come Sunday, especially since time is running out before a new Star will be crowned.

Ahead of Sunday's brand-new episode and the upcoming brunch challenge, Star Talk caught up with Bobby to find out what it takes to turn out a quality brunch plate. "Brunch takes a lot of attention to detail," he told us. "And that’s the key to brunch. It’s a casual eating event, but it takes a lot of attention to detail." He also noted that part of the essence of brunch is "all in the details," as the meal often depends on multiple components. "Cooking the eggs perfectly, making sure you have a lot of muffins and scones and things like that."

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