All Posts By Maria Russo

Maria Russo is an online editor at FoodNetwork.com, covering top-tier show and talent packages and managing the FN Dish and Star Talk blogs. She grew up in a tight-knit Italian family in Michigan, where food was the focus of most conversations and it wasn't unusual to talk about the next day’s lunch and dinner menus while eating breakfast. Maria graduated from Barnard College in 2012 and currently lives in New York City. She likes her pasta cheesy, her eggs runny and her oysters briny.

WATCH: 2 Cringe-Worthy Presentations That We Can’t Unsee

by in Food Network Star, Videos, June 14, 2016

You know those moments on TV that make you wince and curl up into a ball as you watch the action unfold through your fingers over your eyes? That happened not once but twice during this week's episode of Food Network Star. The stakes were high as finalists cooked for VIP hotel guests Jesse Tyler Ferguson, of Modern Family fame, and YouTube's Hannah Hart, and not everyone handled their nerves well.

As Monterey put the finishing touches on her sea bass dish during her tableside presentation, Bobby asked for details of the plate, to which Monterey simply replied, "Be patient." That's the retort to end all retorts, right? It was as uncomfortable as it sounds.

And not long after, Monterey was back in the spotlight, this time helping Ana with her dishes — and gaining an unfortunate nickname in the process. "Nut girl! Are you burning my nuts?" Ana questioned Monterey. Even the mentors couldn't help but laugh. And with Ana's obvious nervous energy added to the mix, the situation turned awkward — quickly.

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

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, June 12, 2016

Food Network StarWith only 11 short weeks to ready finalists before a winner will be chosen, the Food Network Star beast is such that week after week, hopeful competitors will fall, faced with the crushing disappointment of elimination. Here on Star Talk, we'll be bringing you the first exclusive exit interviews with the ousted finalists as they're sent home. Check back here every Sunday night for new one-on-one chats to hear from the just-eliminated competitors, learn their thoughts on the competition, and find out how they feel about the mentors' critiques of their final dishes and presentations. We're about to break down the ins and outs of tonight's new episodes 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: Call-Waiting Edition

by in Food Network Star, June 10, 2016

Food Network StarIf Food Network Star finalists think their mentors, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, have particular requests when it comes to their presentations and offerings on the plate, just wait until this weekend when two special guests drop by unannounced. Hannah Hart, of YouTube's My Drunk Kitchen fame, and Modern Family sensation Jesse Tyler Ferguson show up and give the competitors game-changing calls just when they're least expected. If the rivals want to succeed, they'll have to think quickly and learn to embrace the unexpected amid contest pressure.

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Star Salvation Exclusive: Eddie Jackson Returns to the Competition to Judge Ousted Rivals

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 9, 2016

Food Network Star: Star SalvationIt was just one year ago that Eddie Jackson was in Food Star Kitchen, battling 11 other hopeful rivals with the goal of earning the coveted title of Food Network Star. Now, with that victory secured, he's returning to this hallowed arena, this time not as a finalist but as a judge of Star Salvation. Yesterday we chatted with his fellow judge, Alex Guarnaschelli, in an exclusive interview. Now we're bringing you a one-on-one chat with Eddie. Find out what it's like for him to return to where it all started and get his thoughts on the pressure competitors face at this stage of their journey.

What's it like to be back in Food Star Kitchen, where your own Star journey began just one year ago?
Eddie Jackson: I got to be honest, it’s weird. When I walked into the kitchen I almost ... had a mental breakdown because I thought about all the stress and stuff that I had to go to just to win, and it’s only been a year, so, you know, it’s still fresh in my mind. So I got to admit: It’s a little awkward coming back in because I’m freshly removed from the competition. But at the same time I’m just privileged and very honored to be giving these eliminated finalists any advice that I can.

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Star Salvation Exclusive: Alex Dishes on Her Mentoring Style and Reveals Crucial Advice from Bobby

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 8, 2016

Food Network Star: Star SalvationYou hear from Alex Guarnaschelli in her weekly Star Reports, where she breaks down the Food Network Star competition like only a veteran judge can. Now, starting this Sunday night after the all-new episode, she and Eddie Jackson, last year's winner of Star, will join forces to judge Star Salvation. Together they'll challenge this season's ousted finalists to both camera and cooking tests over six weeks in the hopes of finding one hopeful worthy of re-entering the Food Network Star competition.

We caught up with Alex to find out what skills she'll be looking for in the eventual winner and learn her approach to mentoring the competition. Read on for an exclusive one-on-one interview with her, then hear from Eddie.

What do you need to see in them in terms of camera skills and cooking chops in order to find your winner?
Alex Guarnaschelli: I’ll tell you the No. 1 thing is that I have to believe them. I think that it’s really, really hard to let your nerves go and to say, "Wow, maybe what I’m saying isn’t exciting enough, or I should be doing this or that and just putting it out there." Sometimes when you just honestly and transparently admit what’s going on around you and relate it to how you live your life, that’s actually the stuff that separates you from the pack because people aren’t able to do that.

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Fan Poll: Vote for Your Early Favorites

by in Community, Food Network Star, June 7, 2016

Food Network StarAlright, fans. Be honest. You met the Food Network Star finalists just a few weeks ago, but we're guessing that you've already picked your favorites. Right?Finalists' true personalities are becoming clear to the mentors — and likely you watching at home too. We want to know what you're thinking at this point. Who are you rooting for? Need a refresher about what went down? Check out these top moments from the first, second and third episodes, and go behind the scenes with the crew.

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

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, June 5, 2016

Food Network StarWith only 11 short weeks to ready finalists before a winner will be chosen, the Food Network Star beast is such that week after week, hopeful competitors will fall, faced with the crushing disappointment of elimination. Here on Star Talk, we'll be bringing you the first exclusive exit interviews with the ousted finalists as they're sent home. Check back here every Sunday night for new one-on-one chats to hear from the just-eliminated competitors, learn their thoughts on the competition, and find out how they feel about the mentors' critiques of their final dishes and presentations. We're about to break down the ins and outs of tonight's new episodes 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: When the Cameras Aren’t Rolling

by in Food Network Star, June 3, 2016

Food Network StarOn the set of Food Network Star, the hours are long and the days are many. So when there's a break in filming and the mentors are left simply hanging out between takes, they do what anyone would likely do in their position: pose for the photographer and snap some candid shots, of course.

Take a peek at the photo above. It was taken behind the scenes of Sunday's all-new episode, in which finalists work in teams to film promos for a would-be Food Network show. While both mentors are smiling for the photographer, Bobby Flay has taken to doing a little dance. Or perhaps he's striking a pose. Or showing off his slick shoes. To be honest, we're not exactly sure what he's up to, but there's no doubt he and Giada De Laurentiis appear to be having fun.

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Make All of the Winning Recipes from Food Network Star

by in Food Network Star, Recipes, June 2, 2016

Food Network StarGood news, fans. If you've ever watched mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis swoon over an especially impressive dish from a finalist on Food Network Star and wished you, too, could experience what they're tasting, you're in luck. We're collecting all of the winning recipes from each challenge in every episode and sharing them with you so you can try them at home.

No matter if you're craving Rob's succulent crab cake or Ana's Cuban-inspired burger from the premiere, or Damiano's seafood taco or Jernard's Greek-inspired mac and cheese from Week 2, we've got the how-tos for you to make these dishes and others. Check them out below, and keep coming back here to find the latest recipes available.

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Take a Photo Tour of Food Star Kitchen

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, June 1, 2016

Food Network StarThough the Food Network Star finalists met in Food Star Kitchen for evaluation in the premiere episode, Week 2 marked the first time they cooked in the arena. This massive space, complete with an expansive pantry, a demo kitchen, a wall of ovens and more cameras than you see on TV, is the ultimate in function. And with the lights, Star logos, and abundant supply of common and next-level ingredients alike, it's pretty cool too.

While we were on set, we snapped photos throughout Food Star Kitchen, from the shelves full of tools in the pantry and the produce picks up for grabs to the finalists' workstations outfitted with handy gear and seasonings. Read on below to check out exclusive behind-the-scenes photos of the set that you won't see while watching the competition unfold on your TV. Plus, find out little-known culinary trivia about the show from the culinary producers.

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