All Posts In Behind the Scenes

I Just Have To Be Myself

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 9, 2010

Aarti Sequeira

There aren't enough exclamations to convey my excitement:
Leaping Lizards!
Jumpin' Jehosaphat (sp?)!
Holy Carp!

Nope. None of them work.

Here it is, our chance to actually DO the thing we've been fighting tooth 'n' nail for! And while I'm nervous (who wouldn't be), most of me is actually calm. It was always the cooking at the drop of a hat that spooked me. Being in front of the camera is fun! When I look in that camera, I'm going to imagine my husband Brendan, my family and my friends on the other side. I wonder whether anyone is going to help us through this thing? Cooking and talking to camera is much harder than it looks. I'm going to stick to my original mantra: be bold, and be joyful. After all, this may be one of the toughest challenges yet – putting everything we've learned so far together in one short pilot – but people watch Food Network to escape the difficulties, the pain, the doldrums of real life. We've got to bring the warmth, the joy, the fun... and wrap it around a tasty morsel and some kitchen know-how.

What could be easier, right? Hmmm.

I'm so happy to be up here with Tom and Herb. They've become brother-like to me. They even tucked me into my bed last night (an empty room now that Aria has left), and simultaneously kissed me on either cheek.

"My two dads!" I said, and they laughed.

Next Food Network Star Finalist Herb Mesa Next Food Network Star Finalist Tom Pizzica Don't get me wrong. They're fierce competition. Each of them can cook their pants off, and their brand of personality is so unique to who they are. I can't replicate it. Herb energizes you, and makes you feel optimistic about reaching your health goals. Tom makes you laugh and makes you feel like extraordinary food is within your grasp. It's sort of comforting to me - I can't be them. So I just have to be myself, do what I do, and see what happens.

We're all going to have a new career at the end of this, whether we win or not. But let's be honest. None of us want to lose. We might love each other to bits, but our competitive streak is still alive and kicking. Winning this thing would be a massive, humongous, gargantuan blessing to any one of our lives. Winning would make the last 9 weeks of sacrifice, challenges and no sleep all worthwhile.

Still, should either of my brothers win, I know I'll be almost as happy as if I had. I will wrap my arms around them, squeeze them half to death, and cry with joy. Because once you win this thing, it is no understatement to say that your life will never be the same again.

My Friends Call Me Big Chef

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 9, 2010

Tom Pizzica, Next Food Network Star Finalist

Oh God, there it is again. You would think with 9 weeks down in this competition this feeling of raw nerves in the pit of my stomach would have diminished a little bit by now. With my hanging-on each week and practically clawing my way through 9 other finalists to reach this: the pinnacle, the finale, I can honestly say that I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life. It is probably because I’ve never wanted anything more than this!

I have only one solo Star challenge victory under my belt, but I made it to the end and I could not be prouder of what I’ve accomplished so far. The Committee sees something in me, and I cannot let them down with a ho-hum “slacker Tom doesn’t care” performance on the pilot!

Waking up in NYC the morning of the pilot shoots, I still can’t believe I made it this far. Well...I guess I can believe it, but there is still the biggest challenge yet to go. Oh God, I’m going to throw up. This is it. This is why I fought tooth and nail (and got some good luck) for nine weeks. This is my “Big Chef” pitch to the Network, the last chance to blow away my competition and win my dream, and it has to be more perfect than anything I’ve done so far. It will be. “Big Chef” isn’t a cooking technique. It’s more of a cooking philosophy and a way of life in the kitchen that is absolutely 100% me and one I’ve been working on for 18 years. No fear Big Chef and stay bold and in control Big Chef. Man, I really should have eaten something this morning instead of pounding 3 cups of coffee. I should know better by now!

Giada De Laurentiis on The Next Food Network Star In the car over to Chelsea Market, Aarti, Herb and I run through the list of Food Network stars we have met along the way and those who we have not. We know somebody big is going to help mentor our pilots and we all guess Giada since she knows us and has been there for us throughout the competition (I would have been dead in the water at the Grove challenge if not for her advice and guidance!).

Rachael Ray on The Next Food Network StarSo when Rachael Ray shows up...well, it doesn’t help the nerves at all! She’s the master! The guru of cooking and talking at the same time! To say I’m intimidated would loosely describe my emotions; however, like all the personalities we have crossed paths with in this competition she is warm, genuine, and well receiving. She gives me great confidence and advice going into my pilot, and then she tells us she will be there to direct them. I can’t be more excited to get in the studio. Hi Rachael, I’m Tom Pizzica, my friends call me Big Chef.

Caption This: Episode 9

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 3, 2010
Alton Brown
Alton Brown

Sunday's episode finds the remaining four finalists (Aria, Herb, Aarti and Tom) in New York competing in an Iron Chef America Challenge. Alton, Morimoto, Cat Cora, Michael Symon and of course, Bobby, will all be there inside Kitchen Stadium.

In the episode, Alton has an "interesting" exchange with one of the finalists.

How would you caption this photo?

 

Watch/Chat With Giada

by in Behind the Scenes, July 30, 2010
Click Image to Chat Click Image to Chat

Can you EVEN? The very first email I read this morning informed me that we had confirmed Giada De Laurentiis to participate in our live chat on Sunday night. I’m excited!

Bring your food questions, your thoughts on this season – Giada will be discussing it all!

If you haven’t chatted with us before, it’s easy – it’s fun, and if you love watching The Next Food Network Star, why wouldn’t you watch (and chat) with Giada?

See you Sunday at 9pm/8c – Giada will be expecting you.

 

Serena vs. ME

by in Behind the Scenes, Videos, July 28, 2010

No, it’s not as dramatic as it sounds – but, Serena definitely had words for me when we were reunited at The Next Food Network Star After Party.

Oh, and yes – she did address the unforgettable “singing” moment.

Watch the clip, it’s pretty funny.

Watch Video Now
Click Image for Video

 

Jumping Into the Fray

by in Behind the Scenes, July 24, 2010

nfns6_bobt_s4x3_lead

Hey, Guys: I’ve been following all the chatter going on here at Star Talk and to put it simply – I had to join the conversation!

Every week, through the remainder of the show, I’ll be happy to answer questions you send in via our blog here, Facebook or Twitter. If you don’t have a question, but a comment – well, leave that too. I love reading your insights (and several have made me laugh out loud). Keep ‘em coming!

Now, let me get to your questions.

Do you guys watch the behind-the-scenes footage of the cast, kitchen incidents, etc. before making an evaluation decision?Nicole Miller

Wow, excellent question, Nicole. There are hundreds of hours of footage from every episode, so it’s not logistically possible to screen and edit it all for us in time for judging. But the producers are vigilant about making sure we know EVERYTHING that went on behind-the-scenes. We get massive amounts of background notes before every judging event. The notes detail and transcribe every notable moment for the finalists while they were shopping, cooking, living together, etc. Why? As we say in this competition, character matters.

How long do the eliminations really take? The editing makes it seem really quick.Jenny Cohen

On average, we talk to each finalist for about an hour. Every judge addresses every finalist. We spend a lot of time giving them constructive advice. In the early episodes, these sessions can take about 10 hours. It all gets edited down to 12 minutes (of course, all my best lines are left on the cutting room floor). Pity the poor finalists – we’re sitting all this time; they have to stand.

Hi Bob. Have you ever thought about the contestants judging each other? Kris Mohnen

Hmmm. That’s an interesting idea, Kris. We haven’t, although we do that on The Next Iron Chef when they’re all pro-chefs. Maybe we’ll try it?

Hello Bob. I was wondering how someone goes about presenting an idea for a Food Network show. Who would a person contact, and what kind of presentation would you be expected to give?Devin S. Forbes

I’ve got bad news, Devin. For legal reasons, we are not permitted to review show ideas from individuals. We can only take pitches that come from major production companies (i.e., those who produce network series). So if any of you have an idea, you need to make a deal with a production company, who would then pitch it to us.

Have you ever tasted something that you had to spit out, or even made you sick?Mike Walters

Luckily, no food in this show has made me sick yet, though some has briefly made me lose the will to live. A few weeks ago DAS and Tom served jerk slaw which everyone but me actually spit out (I was fascinated that they could fit so many horrible flavors onto one fork). In two weeks, you’ll see a dish that I call the WORST DISH in the HISTORY of The Next Food Network Star. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Would you consider taking someone whose food and technique is not the best (but rocks it on-camera) or vice versa – knowing that they will need work to be ready for their own show? Or, are your criteria that they have to excel in both areas? Tim McMillin, Sr.

Our stars really need to have expertise and food credibility to make it, mostly because our viewers are smart and food savvy. That said, if we saw someone who had the inherent personality and passion for food, but just hadn’t learned proper technique yet, we might tell them to come back after they had been through culinary school and had some experience.

What is the most important factor in picking a star? Rebecca Stuart

Well, it’s not quite grammatically correct, but there are TWO most important factors when picking a star: A charismatic personality that pops on camera, and an authentic passion for and expertise in the food world. Unfortunately, those qualities are so rare to find together. But if it was really easy to find people like this, I probably wouldn’t have a job.

How much thought is put into the candidates' ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc. when choosing contestants for The Next Food Network Star, Chopped, etc? From the outside it appears to be far too much. Gary Saunders

Our candidate pool and our audience is richly diverse in every way. So, we’re lucky to be able to pick the finalists we feel have the most potential while still being able to reflect the diversity of our viewers.

At the start of the season do you have a gut feeling about who the winner will be? If so, how right have you been? Hope Harris- Gayles

I’m right about half the time. But no matter what the initial feeling is, you never know how the finalists will do when put to the test. Last year on the first day of taping, I thought Melissa, Jeffrey and Jamika radiated the most charisma. Two years ago, I thought Aaron was disastrous at the beginning of taping. Three years ago, I never could’ve guessed Amy. But Guy, and the Hearty Boys I had a good feeling about from the start.

That’s it from me. Now, what say you?

Talk to you next week.

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.

A Love Story or Two (OK, Maybe Three)?

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Recap, July 19, 2010

NFNS6_Brianna-Grating-Cheese_s4x3_lead
My first love was Dzintra, but as with all great love stories – ours was cut short far too early. After the enviable Dzenis-Dudley romance of 2010 ended, I knew I must move on and find my next reality star romance. Serena and Brianna both fit the bill perfectly. But, who would I choose? To love one meant I would have to hurt another. I’d been left so heartbroken before, I couldn’t stand to hurt one of them like that. Oh, how I’ve been conflicted!

Serena and Brianna have made the decision-making process very difficult. In my reality (yes, it’s a bit skewed), both have been competing for my affections. Serena with her unintentional comedic timing, Brianna with her diva-esque quality – both have been screaming, “Choose me! Choose me!” It has been embarrassing, actually. When the ladies argued a couple of episodes back, I knew that I was at the root of the tension. I hate it when ladies fight over me.

This sordid love triangle brings me to last night’s episode. Again, watching the two of them cook at Frank Sinatra’s house to win me over – or the judges, whatever – was difficult to watch. Even though Brianna was very hard on tuna casserole (a fave meal of mine), I knew the tuna hostility was really misplaced anger – she wanted my decision, and she wanted it NOW.

As Herb, Aarti and Brianna were left standing in front of the judges – one of them about to be eliminated – I finally made my decision. As I watched Brianna in her blue dress bravely stand before the panel, I knew she was the girl for me. The thought of losing her was terrifying! I couldn’t withstand that kind of pain. And once she survived this elimination, she and I would move forward with our relationship. She would forgive me for having been so confused for so long and Serena? Well, she would come to understand that cupid’s arrow had struck – and once that little dude strikes, he can’t be stopped.

And then, it happened. They sent my girl home! Can you EVEN? I threw my shoe at the TV! How dare Bob, Bobby and Susie, yet again, come between me and love?! It’s like they have a personal vendetta against me and are determined to have me die alone. Bobby, if you’re reading this, can’t you help a brother?! When did you turn on me?

Brianna, my love, I must let you go. I will always carry you (and Dzintra) with me.

Serena, you lucky girl – I’m all yours! Honestly, now that I sit and reflect, it has been you all along. Seriously. NF0607_Serena-Preview-Feature_s4x3_lead

 

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.

In the Stars’ Shoes: What’s You In a Jar?

by in Behind the Scenes, July 16, 2010
Brad Sorenson's Three-Onion Cherry Jam
Brad Sorenson's camera challenge effort: Onion Cherry Jam

During this week's camera challenge, Susie asked the finalists to create a food that was "you in a jar." Some finalists had more success than others cramming themselves into said jar. Brad's 3-Onion Cherry Jam shined at the judges' table, but he forgot to flash his million-dollar smile for the Venice Beach crowd. Meanwhile, Tom made the audience crave his Citrus Marmalade (even on yuck-factor foods like brussels sprouts and chicken livers) but the taste made Bob shudder, "He made me want to buy 12 jars…but I would have returned them all." And poor Serena! Before her big comeback, the granddaughter of the "patron saint of marinara sauce" botched her bottled Amatriciana sauce and gave a nerve-filled presentation.

The moral of the story: It's easier said than done. So, what would you make? Would your jar be butter-filled like Paula's, as spicy as Bobby's or totally off the map?

TELL US: What's you, in a jar?