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.

Giada Dishes on Finalists’ Biggest Mistakes and Their Must-Have Traits on Day 1

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 20, 2015

Giada De LaurentiisBeginning this summer, on June 7 at 9|8c, 12 eager Star hopefuls will strut their stuff on food's most-inspiring stage, but of course only one worthy rival will be crowed the victor and Food Network's newest Star at the end of the journey. Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are back to mentor the finalists through telling challenges, and together they'll work to discern who has the chops both in the kitchen and on camera, and who simply can't cut it. Star Talk recently caught up with Giada, and she dished on what the Star experience is really like for the finalists and what fans should know about the competition. Read on below for her exclusive interview, then check out this insider chat with Bobby.

After mentoring for so many seasons, are you still amazed at the transition that needs to take place in order to find that glimmer of Star power within someone?
Giada De Laurentiis: I'm surprised that somebody actually makes the transition that fast. For Bobby and myself, it took a while to get comfortable. It takes a while to sort of understand yourself on camera and who you are and figure it all out. So I'm always surprised that in this short amount of time, someone can actually make that transition. It's pretty cool. I mean, of course Bobby and I didn't have mentors like what we're doing with them, but I think it's shocking.

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Bobby Reveals the Secret to Star Success and Shares Advice on How Finalists Can Prepare

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

Bobby FlayYou heard it here first: Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay are back to mentor 12 finalists through the ultimate job interview in the hopes of finding a glimmer of stardom within one worthy hopeful. The competition kicks off on June 7 at 9|8c, and in true Star fashion, the mentors have all-new challenges up their sleeves, each designed to showcase competitors' culinary chops and comfort in front of the all-important camera. Star Talk caught up with Bobby to get the dish on what fans can expect this season and to learn his take on what finalists ought to do to succeed in this grueling contest. Read on below for an exclusive interview.

What's the secret to success for a Food Network Star finalist?
Bobby Flay: They need to be who they are and not try to be somebody who is already on the network. A lot of times people try to copy something that we already have. And so I think it's important for them to just be that person, so hopefully they'll become — like, if their name is Tina, for example, now we have Tina, as opposed to the next Rachael Ray.

What do you find most surprising about this competition and what it asks of the finalists?
BF: It always surprises me when they make the same mistakes that they've been watching [other finalists make] for the last 11 years. Because obviously these people get savvier and savvier every year 'cause their homework is to watch Season 1 through 10. And so when they make the same blatant mistakes that other contestants have made, and have been eliminated as a result of those mistakes, that always surprises me. Read more

QUIZ: What’s Your Culinary Point of View?

by in Food Network Star, May 18, 2015

QUIZ: What's Your Culinary Point of View?The key to being a Food Network Star isn't simply being able to show off sharp knife skills. Star power requires a sparkly personality to hook an audience on TV, and with that comes the ability to convey a strong, simply message — aka the all-important culinary POV. Click the "start" button on the quiz below to see if we can guess what stories your food would tell in the kitchen.

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Star-a-Day: Sita Lewis

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 17, 2015

Sita LewisThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing New York's Sita Lewis.

Sita, 47 (New York), is a veteran television producer and culinary instructor, and now it’s her time to be in front of the camera. She has produced countless food segments for daytime television shows and knows just what it takes to succeed. Sita has an African-American and Italian background, and both food cultures come together to form her “Italian Soul” food philosophy, with dishes like sweet potato stuffed shells, and sinfully good soul-food classics like mac 'n' cheese, candied yams and fried chicken.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Sita Lewis: My culinary point of view is Italian soul; it's Italian flavors mixed with Southern soul flavors all put together.

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
SL: I would ask Bobby how to make the perfect steak on the grill, and Giada, I would ask her how to make the absolute perfect risotto.

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Star-a-Day: Rue Rusike

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 16, 2015

Rue RusikeThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing Brooklyn's Rue Rusike.

Rue, 26 (Brooklyn), is originally from Zimbabwe but has lived all over the globe. She is a private chef who is passionate about southern African cuisine and believes good cooking comes from love, patience and a happy soul. Rue is ready to introduce her favorite dishes and heritage to a bigger audience by taking away some of the mystery and making the cuisine approachable to the everyday home cook.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Rue Rusike: My culinary POV is southern African with modern French techniques.

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
RR: I would love to learn from Giada how she is so at ease on camera, how she's able to keep the smile and cook the way that she does. She makes it look absolutely flawless. Bobby Flay, I would love to gain his speed with knife skills.

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Star-a-Day: Rosa Graziano

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 15, 2015

Rosa GrazianoThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing California's Rosa Graziano.

Rosa, 38 (Los Angeles), is a first-generation Italian-American who grew up in her family’s deli and catering business in New Jersey and learned to cook at her Neapolitan mother’s side. She eventually moved to Los Angeles and noticed a void in Southern Italian cuisine, so she decided to bring a taste of her mother’s dishes to the West Coast with her own food truck, which she operated for several years. From arancini to zeppoles, Rosa is ready to share her love of Southern Italian food and culture with kitchens across the country.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Rosa Graziano: Southern Italian foods, Southern Neapolitan foods. First-generation Italian girl. I was raised by the side of my mother. It's not a choice when you're an Italian girl. You just — you just have to do it. So that's how I learned about cooking and food.

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
RG: I want to grill with Bobby. Giada is so delicate; there's something really delicate about her. I'm fascinated because she's such a delicate Italian. To me, when I think of my family — we're Southern Italian — it's a little bit heartier. She's intimidating to me because she's so great at what she does. I would make a pizzelle with Giada. To me, that's a metaphor of who she looks like and what feels like to me.

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Star-a-Day: Michelle Karam

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 14, 2015

Michelle KaramThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing California's Michelle Karam.

Michelle, 39 (Santa Barbara, Calif.), is a master multitasker who does it all: She is a mom of three kids under 10 years old, as well as being a website owner, radio host and private chef. Inspired by her Mediterranean roots and her husband’s Latin heritage, she loves fusing the two cultures together for unexpected flavor combinations. As a busy mom, Michelle knows that the pantry often dictates what’s for dinner — so she wants to dive in and teach families how to use what they have to make a delicious, fresh meal.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Michelle Karam: Full of love, family friendly, fresh and tasty

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
MK: I think I would ask Bobby how he is able to be so successful with his recipes — he does it with such ease — and learn how to present recipes that way. And I would love to ask Giada how she manages to just smile and look perfect and friendly and approachable. Those two pack a punch.

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Star-a-Day: Matthew Grunwald

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 13, 2015

Matthew GrunwaldThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing Arizona's Matthew Grunwald.

Matthew, 22 (Scottsdale, Ariz.), is the youngest finalist, but don’t let his age and exuberance fool you; he’s got the experience of a chef twice his age. He began working in professional kitchens at 16 and became a food writer by 17. Matthew eats, sleeps and breathes food, and is dedicated to bringing today’s online food trends and social-media experience to the masses.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Matthew Grunwald: Millennial, social media-driven, youthful cuisine

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
MG: To sit down with Chef Flay and just have him teach me everything he knows about Southwestern cuisine, and also I would love to talk to him about running restaurants from a business perspective and how he manages all that.

From Miss Giada, I would say a lesson in the biz. A lesson on TV chops. I would love to sit down with her and kind of pick her brain.

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QUIZ: Which Food Network Chef Is Your Spirit Animal?

by in Food Network Star, May 12, 2015

QUIZ: Which Food Network Chefs Is Your Spirit Animal?You watch their shows and cook their recipes. You may even fancy yourself a would-be friend of some of your favorite chefs. But have you ever wondered which among them is your kindred spirit in the kitchen and out? From Bobby Flay's signature use of bold Southwestern flavors to Alex Guarnaschelli's penchant for sweet treats and Jeff Mauro's ability to crack jokes on command, each Food Network star brings something different to the table, and now it's your turn to find out which of them you're most compatible with. Click the "Start" button below to begin this quiz.

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Star-a-Day: Jay Ducote

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 12, 2015

Jay DucoteThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing Louisiana's Jay Ducote.

Jay, 33 (Baton Rouge, La.), calls himself a food ambassador for South Louisiana, and he’s ready to take the gig nationwide. Jay’s passion for cooking started at LSU tailgates, and now this charismatic chef has his own culinary media company. His deep connection to and appreciation for the Louisiana food scene has led to cooking-competition victories and media awards, and he is primed to bring that award-winning personality and charm to the screen.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Jay Ducote: I am a blogger, radio host, professional tailgater and Cajun boy that just wants to bring good flavor and outdoor cooking to Food Network.

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
JD: Bobby, I would want to learn some of his master grilling techniques. I mean, I'm pretty good on the grill — and outdoor cooking and barbecue is really one of the things I'm best at — but I also know that there's so much to learn, and Bobby is a master. So I would love to spend a day just grilling with Bobby Flay and learning from him.

Giada, I would really want to learn what she does best, which is Italian, and the authentic food to her. I've never been to Italy. I've been to parts of Europe — Ireland and Portugal is where I've been most of the time — but I've never experienced true Italian outside of Italian-Americans cooking in America. And so that's what I would want to learn from her is just some of the Italian techniques and sauces and pasta.

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