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.

Help Your Favorite Finalists Top the Fan Poll

by in Food Network Star, May 29, 2014

Food Newtork Star, Season 10 FinalistsYou've read their first exclusive interviews, watched their earliest casting videos and heard all about their signature dishes, and on Sunday's premiere episode of Food Network Star (at 9|8c), you'll see the Season 10 finalists face off in the job interview of their lives. Now you can help your early favorites claim the top seat in the Food Network Star Fan Poll by voting for them daily.

Check out the Fan Poll here, get to know more about the 12 Star hopefuls and cast your vote up to 10 times per day for the rivals you think have what it takes to outlast the rest.

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Watch: The Making of the Cast

by in Food Network Star, May 26, 2014

Food Network Star, Season 10 FinalistsYou've already met this year's 12 Food Network Star hopefuls, and just this month Star Talk shared the first exclusive interviews with each finalist to showcase their goals for the competition and their thoughts on the mentors. Now, just ahead of Sunday's all-new Season 10 premiere, it's time to reveal a look at the contestants before they were competitors, back when each of them was just beginning the road to stardom.

Each now-finalist created a casting video, and these brief clips reveal their cooking styles, histories in the kitchen and culinary passions — and just maybe you'll catch the first glimmers of a future star. Click here to watch all of their casting videos and learn about their pasts plus go-to cuisines.

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Star Kitchen Preview: Finalists Reveal Their Signature Dishes

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 21, 2014

Food Network Star, Season 10 FinalistsEarlier this month FN Dish introduced each of the Food Network Star finalists, and for the first time, fans learned more about the competitors' culinary points of view (POVs), plus insider details, like their hopes for the contest, thoughts on the mentors and go-to midnight snacks. Much like POVs, cooks' signature dishes often reveal their style in the kitchen — what cuisine type they gravitate toward, which ingredients they're most comfortable with and perhaps even their history in the industry — and for the Season 10 contestants, their most-famed recipe (or the lack thereof) reveals plenty about who they are. Read on below to hear all of the finalists explain their signature plates, then watch their casting videos to learn more about them.

Aryen: I would say miso salmon. A basic soup in Japan is miso soup, so basically miso salmon is a take on that.

Chris: My signature dish is what I love to cook. Since I'm all about presentation, modern cuisine and doing it easy, I have a signature lobster napoleon salad. It basically has some technique of using molecular gastronomy. It's very simple. It tastes delicious, has some flavors that pop. It has texture. It's beautiful to look at, and it's beautiful to eat.

Christopher: My signature dish — it varies to the guest. I don't think there's any one dish I've ever done that completely defines me as a cook. I think there's many chefs out there that would have a hard time with this too. You don't want to paint yourself into a corner. What my signature dish is in the fall or what's selling the most could be completely different by winter and springtime. I really don’t like to repeat. I like to do something, and I like to change it and move on. Maybe it's just because I'm still pushing the envelope and I'm not really resting on the oldies. Constantly doing new stuff. I don’t like to get stagnant.

Donna: My husband loves my meatloaf. It's really hearty. It's high-quality nutrition. … You feel so good when you eat it. It's like a hug for your digestive tract. … I love it with my smashed sweet potatoes with maple butter. I serve the meatloaf with an onion-and-peach ketchup. And then I do kale with golden raisins and toasted almonds. It's a full plate, but the thing that's important about the food that I make, it's very strategic. Everything that I make is for optimum nutrition.

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Food Network Chefs Offer Star Finalists Expert Industry Advice

by in Food Network Star, May 20, 2014

Food Network Star, Season 10 FinalistsFor 12 hopeful Food Network Star finalists, the journey to potential stardom is just beginning, and the world of food television is likely still endlessly exciting and overwhelmingly daunting at once. As they prepare for the ultimate hands-on interview and attempt to score the sought-after job of Food Network host, they'll need all the guidance and constructive critiques they can manage in order to land among Food Network royalty at the end of the summer.

Because no one is able to speak of the ways to succeed in the business quite like those who already are, superstars Guy Fieri, Damaris Phillips, Geoffrey Zakarian, Sunny Anderson and more A-list chefs came together to offer the Star contestants their key pieces of must-know advice. They spoke of expert tips, like the ability to "understand what your point of view is," according to Scott, and offered tales of insider experience that only industry veterans could share. Browse this photo gallery to hear from these icons and more, and learn their ultimate advice just in time for next month's Season 10 premiere.

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Quiz: How Well Do You Know the Food Network Star Mentors?

by in Food Network Star, May 17, 2014

Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Alton BrownNo strangers to Food Network, Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are culinary superstars — and just the kind of icons that the Food Network Star finalists are hoping to become. To achieve such a level of fame both in the kitchen and on television, the contestants will have to prove to Alton, Bobby and Giada that they have the coveted combination of culinary chops and shining personality that the judge-mentors seem to naturally exude. As you prepare to watch what will unfold on the all-new 10th season (premiering Sunday, June 1 at 9|8c), FN Dish is testing you, Star fans, to find out how well you know this year's decision makers. Test your Star smarts with a quiz and answer questions on insider trivia about Alton, Bobby and Giada.

How Well Do You Know the Food Network Star Mentors?

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Star-a-Day: Sarah Penrod

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 16, 2014

Sarah PenrodSarah Penrod, 30, is a born-and-bred Texan who comes from a family of entertainers. She's been performing for her whole life and also has serious culinary chops, as she now owns her own business. This feisty chef has worked with celebrities and athletes, and she always keeps things entertaining in the kitchen. Read on below to hear from Sarah, and learn about her style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.

Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can.
Sarah: The concept is that we're all so busy, and we're losing the source of love and joy and passion in our lives, and that's our relationship with our partner. And I want to bring that back to you by teaching you how to do these awesome date nights, and I'm the perfect person to 'cause I've been a private chef to celebrities and professional athletes. I have to do some really cool stuff visually, and I think that I'm the perfect person to do date night 'cause I'm madly in love with my husband.

How did you prepare for the competition?
Sarah: I auditioned [for Season 8] and I didn't make it, and I was heartbroken 'cause I've been watching Bobby Flay since I was 10. And it felt like a personal rejection, but I knew it wasn't, and I knew I had major camera issues, so I went and trained with a communications trainer, and I self-produced my own show, called Let's Eat Houston, which is a Web series, and it's also on our Houston public access [which] is pretty huge, and it's pretty significant. ... So I did that, and that is how I prepared to do this. I literally prepared.

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Star-a-Day: Reuben Ruiz

by in Community, Food Network Star, May 15, 2014

Reuben RuizReuben Ruiz, 27, grew up in a traditional Cuban family that owns restaurants, and he started working in kitchens when he was just 10 years old. After struggling with his weight for many years, he now specializes in healthy dishes with a Latin influence, and he's honest, outspoken and high energy with a strong work ethic. Read on below to hear from Reuben, and learn about his style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.

Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can.
Reuben: The flavors of Miami — I want to bring those to the limelight. The tropical cuisine of the Caribbean, and Central America and the flavors that we have over there. But also with a healthier perspective on life as well. Most people don't know I've lost a hundred pounds, and I did so naturally. And I've been able to maintain it, more importantly, now for seven years.

What are you most looking forward to in this experience?
Reuben: I think more so the critiques that I'm going to get from the judges. I think any critiques help you grow as a person, as an individual as well. And hopefully be able to take that and make my business better as well.

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Star-a-Day: Nicole Gaffney

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 14, 2014

Nicole GaffneyNicole Gaffney, 29, isn’t just another personal chef — her magnetic personality and innate culinary talent set her apart from the crowd. She grew up cooking with her Sicilian grandparents and comes from a family of commercial fishermen, and her "coastal cuisine" take on food is heavily influenced by her family and growing up in a seaside town. Read on below to hear from Nicole, and learn about her style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.

What are you most looking forward to in this experience?
Nicole: Learning. Yeah. I'm really looking forward to learning. Just with the other competitors alone, I think there's so much each of us can take away from the other person — not just in terms of cooking knowledge, because there's a ton of stuff to be learned there, but just about life in general and TV presence. This whole experience — the things that we can take away from the judges and the mentors ... I feel like what I'm going to know when this is all said and done versus what I knew going into it is going to be monumental.

How did you prepare for the competition?
Nicole: I definitely tried to hone up on my recipes. I reference recipes all the time. I feel like if I was thrown into a kitchen and had to wing it, I would be alright, but I wanted to really memorize certain things, especially when it comes to baking. I don't know if there's going to be any baking challenges, and that kind of stuff has to be pretty precise. Whether it's a half a teaspoon of baking powder or a teaspoon of baking soda can totally make a difference in what you're baking, so I wanted to make sure that I had some really solid stuff in my head ready to go. I tried to watch some past seasons and listen to some of the critiques that the judges gave.

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Star-a-Day: Luca Della Casa

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 13, 2014

Luca Della CasaLuca Della Casa, 38, was born in Italy and is an adventurous, rugged outdoorsman with a passion for food. He worked his way up from dishwasher to executive chef, and he is determined to bring people together around a table to share food, Italian style. Read on below to hear from Luca, and learn about his style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.

Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can.
Luca: My point in my culinary view is what I learned from my grandma. That means very simple recipes, a good knife and the freshest ingredients. That makes the most-amazing meal.

How did you prepare for the competition?
Luca: Well, yes. I went to see some old seasons of the show. I was aware of the show and I saw episodes of it, but I didn't know it perfectly, so I thought I better go back and see everything they do, what they ask them to do. And so that's what I did, and try to put my thoughts together.

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Star-a-Day: Loreal Gavin

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 12, 2014

Loreal GavinLoreal Gavin, 26, is motorcycle-riding, guitar-playing chick who loves tattoos, and she's been trained in culinary arts, baking and pastry. She was raised by her grandmother, who taught her to cook from her soul. Read on below to hear from Loreal, and learn about her style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.

Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can.
Loreal: I have a grandmother's soul from the Deep South and an insatiable lust for adventure.

How did you prepare for the competition?
Loreal: I didn't. I just knew that I had to come in here and be myself.

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