All Posts In Behind the Scenes

I Think Paula Will Just Know

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, July 10, 2010

So as many of you are already aware, Paula Deen is the special guest judge on tomorrow’s episode of The Next Food Network Star. What do you think she'll be able to bring to the table for the finalists?

I'm actually a pretty avid Paula fan: I, too, adore Southern cooking and, I too, think it might not be worth hanging around if the world somehow ran out of butter. Add to that the time I had the good fortune to actually meet her in an airport. She soooo did not disappoint: on-the-spot clever, jokingly self-deprecating -- believe me, I could go on. In short: I’m ALL ABOUT seeing her hang out with the Star cast.

And yet … most of my anticipation has nothing to do with how downright fun and engaging I think she is. Here's the thing. Whether you're watching her on TV or being briefly (though very graciously) accommodated by her in an airport, you sense that this is a woman with crazy-sharp instincts when it comes to sizing people up. I got the sense she could tell me my ultimate life goal with nothing else to go on besides my description of the in-flight meal. (Yes, this was awhile back when you could still get those.) So tomorrow, I'll be keeping a sharp eye out for any subtle Paula "indicators." (Of course, the finalists' food will be a factor -- this is not a lady to hold back when it comes to stating what she likes and what she doesn't, I mean come on). But ... Is she looking a bit longer at Brad? Taking a moment to squeeze Aria’s hand? Smiling more when she’s around Serena? Hmmmm ….

Behind the Scenes: A Hot Tamale, Green Day and Obi-Wan

by in Behind the Scenes, June 29, 2010
Good company: Bobby, Jonathan Waxman, Susan Feniger and Eric Greenspan Good company: Bobby, Jonathan Waxman, Susan Feniger and Eric Greenspan

Think about the best thing you ever ate and how you'd make it again. Now think about someone else's fondest food memory and cook it, recapturing their happiness. Then make the dish the pick of a world-famous chef. Good luck, right?

That's why on Sunday, guest judge Chef Susan Feniger of Ciudad in Los Angeles (and co-host with Mary Sue Milliken of Food Network classic Too Hot Tamales) was "impressed with the calmness of many of them." Keyword many. Herb had a tough time, still recovering no doubt, and Serena and Paul stumbled while Aarti and Brianna sparkled. (Check out some caught-in-the-act pictures.)

Guest judge Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose and sometime Food Networker, said, alluding to his own experience on last year's Next Iron Chef, "One of the greatest things about these shows is everyone is working from their own perspective." After the challenge, Chef Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto, kind of a cook's Obi-Wan Kenobi (he says) and a mentor to Bobby Flay, offered advice to the finalists. Note to producers: This would've helped the finalists, uh, beforehand. "Make it simple," Waxman said. "It's harder to edit yourself than to add." Standing next to Waxman and introducing him as an inspiration, Bobby needed a little editing--see for yourself.

See the Judges' Real Reactions Now

Still Got That Chill

by in Behind the Scenes, June 23, 2010

It's pretty clear by now that Brianna knows what she's doing when it comes to cuisine. So far she hasn't had a single dish come out less than great — no mean feat under typical challenge conditions, you know? But when will she start to thaw? Despite recent urging from the judges to start warming up to her guests, her demeanor is still detached, even arrogant. So how did she wind up with a win this week? Listen to Bob's take on her victory ... and see if you think she would have won without the "luck" factor he mentions ....

See What You Think

From Where I Sit: Episode 3

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Recap, June 21, 2010

I'm going to miss Dzintra. I must admit, I cringed with the rest of you when she shushed Aria – but, come on, you couldn't take your eyes off this finalist. Her unpredictability was fascinating. She was a pistol and the show won't be the same without her theatrics. I've written so much in previous blog posts about Ms. Dzenis, that now, I'm simply going to let Dzintra leave and stop talking about her. She has moved on and so must I. Farewell, Dzintra.

Brad (aka Justin Timberlake’s Lookalike) took his hat off in a few scenes this week and it totally threw me for a loop. I almost didn't recognize the guy. If Aarti stops wearing her flower I’m really going to be in trouble. I'm certain both Brad and Aarti wear these items to help them stand out from the crowd. I like these little added touches and think they shouldn't be filmed without them. You know how restaurant waiters have a pencil stuck behind their ear? I'd like to see DAS carry a utensil behind his. Perhaps a spoon? Yes, that should be his thing.

Herb. I dig him. He's an Atlanta boy and so am I. If for no other reason, I have to cheer for one of my own. However, if I could speak to him before Episode 4, I would offer my brother this advice, "Be authentic." Herb's enthusiasm, his smile and often times his whole demeanor comes across as forced to me. Be yourself, Herb. We Georgia boys have enough genuine personality – we don't have to be fake.

I did not care for how Paul treated Serena in the team challenge. I found him to be obnoxious, overbearing and a bit sexist with his comments. He needs to dial that mess down. He has a comedic, stand up background and maybe his shtick is funny in one of those venues? But, in this format, he's coming off as a big jerk. And, I like Serena too much to see her treated like this. Stop it, Paul.

Tom. I think he may be a sleeping giant here. He seems like that kid who sits in the back of the classroom all quiet and elusive, and then he graduates and invents something the world can't live without. Sure, his hair makes me nervous, but like Aarti's flower, Brad’s hat and DAS's spoon, it's his thing. Don't get a trim, Tom. I'll get used to it with time.

Clearly her teammate didn't want to hear anything she had to say (first paragraph), but Aria's voice comforts me. She has been told that she speaks to people like they are kindergartners (and she really does), but there is something about this cook that draws me in. I would so watch a show starring Aria. Perhaps more than any of the other finalists, I find Aria very easy to relate to.

Movin’ On Up …?

by in Behind the Scenes, June 16, 2010

So it seems a tad early to me, but Giada thinks the Star action has already reached a point where the "real contenders" are about to cut loose from the "don’t-quite-cut-its." Here's the catch: It may not be who you’d expect. Check out her philosophy on the concept of finalist potential ....

See If You Agree

Keepin’ It Real: Episode 2

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Recap, June 14, 2010

Alrighty! Let me dig in on some of my standout moments – and then I want to hear yours!

NFNS6_Dzintra-Kneading-Dough_s3x4_tzI must admit, I was expecting (and hoping for) a little Dzintra Drama. From the comments I’ve read, she has clearly rubbed some of you the wrong way, but as I explained last week, I enjoy her! If there was a Team Dzintra t-shirt, I would buy it. As a matter of fact, I’m going to make one and wear it around the office.

0137548_Giada-With-A-Smirk_s4x3_tzIn the first challenge, Giada told the finalists that if they couldn’t “cook and talk at the same time,” that they didn’t need to be in the competition. This is where I would make my exit. Think about it – some of the tasks you do (and do well), can you clearly explain what you are actually doing while you’re working on that task? I’m talking out loud now as I type this and all I can come up with to explain my action is, “Writing. Typing.”

Poor Aarti was called out on the “dead air” she left while on camera. I felt badly for her. You know she just wanted to hide behind her hair flower. And Serena? She was criticized for speaking waaaay too fast. Sure, I couldn’t understand a word she said, but really, isn’t having too much to say and speaking super fast to get it all out better than silence?

0137547_Duff-Goldman-With-Hand-Up_s4x3_tzDuff was a guest in this episode and introduced the second challenge. Who doesn’t love this man? Am I the only who thinks Duff’s cakes shouldn’t be eaten, but preserved? They are true pieces of art – they shouldn’t be cut into like savages! Hmm – I’ll save this topic for another day.

NF0602_Feature-Aarti_s4x3_tzThe Santa Monica Pier Challenge was CRAZY! The finalists had to create a savory party plate inspired by carnival food. Can you even imagine? Aarti’s inspiration was funnel cake – and she had never even eaten one before (which is just a travesty – someone get this girl a funnel cake, ASAP)!

NFNS6_Brianna_s4x3_tzBrianna seemed to shut down a bit in this competition. I think she was overly tired. You know how it is when you’re exhausted – you reach that point where you’re simply DONE. Brianna needed a nap to put that pep back in her step. If Bob and Susie had only provided her with an air mattress out there on the pier, she would have been fine.

NFNS6_Doreen_s3x4_tzElimination time. As you saw, Doreen was the second finalist to depart the show. I did understand the judges’ decision to send her home. Giada had said earlier in the show that her facial expressions “made her not want to watch.” Well, that’s clearly not good. But in her defense, in the pier challenge, Doreen was given a “Root Beer Float” to inspire her savory dish. Merciful days, a Root. Beer. Float? My facial expression would have been far from cute, too. So long, Doreen. I’ll miss you.

NF0602-BTS14_Tom_s4x3_tzThat’s my take, what’s yours? Any standout moments for you? Oh, I’m thinking of devoting an entire blog entry to nothing but Tom’s hair. Thoughts?

Chatterbox: Live Chat Archive, Episode 2

by in Behind the Scenes, Community, June 13, 2010

Take two. Second episode, another hopeful's dreams, dashed (no spoilers until you check out the transcript). The top ten remain. Quite the dramatic evening here at Food Network. Duff was in the house--or on the pier in Santa Monica, as it happens--and had the Finalists cooking up savory dishes inspired by the sweetest of carnival foods. Sweet, or not so much. Cotton candy for dinner? A candy apple side dish? Waffle cones as a main? Not quite. The fair fare ranged from fantastic to brow-furrowing (Doreen, why are you so mad?) and the Finalists stepped up with confidence. (Aarti, that means you.) Bob, Susie and Bobby all had tough words, and so did fans. Plenty of you wanted to see Dzintra, Paul or Doreen go home--and even all three. Lots of you wanted Aria and Herb to stay. Wishes, granted. Call me Zoltar, just back from the carnival. In coming weeks, we'll have special guests joining the chat, so be sure to stop by. You never know if you'll catch a star, ready to share secrets. Meantime, vote for your favorite finalist and get every recipe (plus Instant Re-Flays, Bobby's makeovers of Finalists' dishes). Plus, check out the Episode 2 video gallery and check back here throughout the week to hear from Bob, Susie and Giada with their spin on all the action.

(Real) Judge Empathy

by in Behind the Scenes, June 10, 2010

In every good competition show, there are always key attention-grabbing moments that make you think, “Wow. How awful/awesome/cool that must be for him/her.”  In watching the Star premiere, I actually had this reaction to quite a few things, but one in particular surprised me. As I watched the Selection Committee tell Alexis why things just weren’t working … and explain to the other hanging-by-a-thread finalists why their outlook was not so good, either … I felt about as bad for the judges as I did for the competitors. Weird, right? But then it occurred to me: Despite the fact that the judges (obviously) know it’s a contest and are well aware there can be only one winner, they still have real hope for ALL of these guys. They spend lots of time around them off-camera and, you have to figure, they probably glimpse lots of potential that we never get to see. Check out what Bob says here about DAS, Doreen and Alexis:

Hear Bob's Thoughts

Two Things: Elimination & Dzintra Drama

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Recap, June 8, 2010

NFNS6_Alexis-Brushing-Off-Hands-02_s4x3_leadSomeone had to go – that’s how the show works! And, as you saw Sunday night, Alexis Hernandez was the first to bite the dust. Did you agree with the judges' decision to send him home? He seemed a bit shaky, but honestly, I liked the guy. What's your take?

NFNS6_Dzintra_s4x3_leadThe premiere became a bit dramatic with Dzintra’s eye situation. I like offbeat people – I find them interesting and they keep you on your toes. Dzintra definitely is one of those people! What did you make of her whole eye debacle? The other finalists seemed to think she was being super dramatic. Do you agree? I, mean, I go into a full blown, eye-watering, red-faced tizzy if a small speck of dust gets on my contact. So, perhaps she shouldn’t be judged too harshly?

Tell me what you thought of the premiere!