Competing on Food Network Star brings opportunities of a lifetime, like competing on a national stage, the biggest and most-inspiring one there is, and being mentored by industry legends Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis — and that's not even counting what happens after winning. But with the contest comes sacrifices, like having to leave home and be away from family for an extended period of time, which is precisely what Michelle Karam couldn't handle, as she explained to the Selection Committee of her decision to walk away from this once-in-forever chance and quit the competition with just weeks remaining. She shocked her fellow finalists and the judges with her unexpected decision, and in her one-on-one exit interview with Star Talk, she explained of her husband and children, "They trump everyone and anything else." Michelle added: "I’ve never once during this entire competition had anyone else in my mind. Every second. Every minute. Every day. They are my life." She also apologized to her fellow finalists: "I didn’t know I wasn’t going to be able to go on any further until I got to that point. Truly. I left the day if not the moment I figured out I could no longer go on."
Fans, after watching the dramatic exit unfold on Sunday night, what did you think of Michelle's decision to quit? Are you proud that she put her family before all else, or are you disappointed and thinking that she gave up on a dream? Are you simply shocked and unsure of what to make of the news? Tell us in the poll below. For a look at how the unprecedented actions played out on Sunday, click the play button above.
From first-impression spotlights and sunny days at an alfresco food festival to a not-so-sweet baking challenge, a 4th of July switcheroo cookout and a think-on-your-toes improv challenge, the remaining rivals have survived six weeks of camera and culinary challenges, and now only half of them remain as they reach the midpoint of the competition. As they gear up for the second half of the contest and you, the fans at home, get close to meeting your newest Food Network Star, we want to know who you think is the frontrunner thus far. Are you banking on one of the final six being crowned the winner, or do you think one of the Salvation hopefuls is going to come back and claim the title?
Vote for your favorite rival here to support him or her in the fan poll. Right now Christina, who was ousted in Week 1, is claiming a whopping 17 percent of the votes, while Emilia's in second place with 12 percent of the votes, and Jay and Matthew are tied with 11 percent apiece.
Need a refresher on who's made the most — and fewest — strides so far? Click through the photos below to relive each week's challenges.
It was Emilia's plan all along on Sunday night to take a grand risk in front of the judges, as she explained of her plans for her comedy club performance in front of mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, plus Food Network executives Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson, "I know going into this presentation I have to do something risky, something that's going to show who the real Emilia is." While she indeed delivered on her risk, it surely didn't pay off; by roasting her fellow finalists during her demo, mocking them, and calling to attention their perceived flaws and quirks, she came off as "mean-spirited," according to Bob. Bobby, too, noted the awkwardness of her performance, as he said, "It got a little uncomfortable there at the end." And Susie admitted, "I felt slightly abused by her."
But Emilia told her side of the story in her exclusive exit interview with Star Talk and explained, "I stand by the fact that I took a risk; I wish I would have thought about doing it in a different manner." Though she added later, "I knew the guys would laugh. ... You know, they're like my brothers, so I'm allowed to make fun of them."
We want to know what you, the fans, think of Emilia's presentation. Did she go too far in mocking and insulting her fellow finalists, or was it simply all in the name of good fun and a laugh? Cast your vote in the poll below to share your thoughts.
Dom and Michelle may have been challenged to deliver a fitting fusion of flavor on Sunday night, but what they presented — both on the plate and in person — was anything but harmonious. "Just make the food and let's get this done," Dom told Michelle, deciding for their twosome that he'd make risotto and she'd prepare an add-in, which left Michelle feeling sidelined on her own team. "OK. So it's The Dom Show, and Michelle is the dumb sidekick," she grumbled, frustrated that she had little creative input into their dish. When it came time to present, their frustrations quickly got the better of them. Dom felt Michelle to be usurping their intro, and he proclaimed, "Like a true marriage, the husband can't get a word in edgewise," ultimately leaving the crowd feeling awkward and the Selection Committee stunned. "That was painful to watch," Giada said afterward.
Do you, the fans who watched the argument unfold, think that one person was correct and another was clearly in the wrong? Are you in agreement with Dom and his all-business attitude, or do you think Michelle was right to speak up during the presentation? Who are you siding with? Tell us by voting in the poll below. (If you need a refresher on what went down, click the play button on the video below.)
Not only was Sunday's episode all about each finalist's first chance to impress the Selection Committee, but it was also their first opportunity to wow, you, the fans, who are watching the journey unfold. From their initial struts into Food Star Kitchen to their final moments at evaluation, the premiere allowed you to see the competitors as they are under pressure — both at the stove and away from it — and learn a bit more about their all-important culinary POVs.
Each week it's up to you fans to decide which of the rivals is your favorite and who you think is worthy of topping the fan vote. As it stands right now post-premiere, Christina, the finalist who faced week 1 elimination, is holding the lead with 20 percent of the votes, while Matthew and Emilia, both of whom had only OK showings on Sunday, are following closely behind with 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
You've read all about this season's 12 hopeful finalists, watched their casting videos and gotten the first tastes of their signature dishes, and you've likely already picked one — or a few — to root for during this week's premiere (Sunday at 9|8c). Now it's time to help your favorite finalists top the fan vote.
Currently Christina Fitzgerald is in the lead with 21 percent of the votes, though Matthew Grunwald is close behind, currently earning 16 percent of the votes. To help them secure their places, and to bring up the rankings of the other finalists, all you have to do is vote for them online. You can vote as many times per day as you'd like; once per day after voting, you can enter the sweepstakes for your chance to win Star superfan swag.
Food Network Star fans will have a chance to ask Alton, Bobby, Giada and all 12 finalists questions during the final episode, which airs August 10 at 9|8c. Before the winner is revealed, everyone will gather at Food Network headquarters on August 6 to tell all and view never-before-seen footage from the season. Bobby, Alton and Giada will also share their favorite moments during an emotional look back at the remaining finalists' journey to the finale.
Is there something you've been dying to know from the season? Do you want to be on the Food Network Star finale?
Star Talk is soliciting Skype viewers and callers throughout the country who would like to be part of the show that tapes on Wednesday, August 6 starting at 10am|9c.
For the first time on Food Network, fans have the chance to voice their opinions in real time with Star Sound-Off.
How It Works
1. Every Sunday while you're watching the live show at 9|8c (Eastern time zone only), you'll see live trivia and polls appear on the screen.
2. To participate, go to FoodNetwork.com/StarVote the moment you see them and cast your vote. You'll see the results* live on TV moments later.
*The results of these specific votes will not affect the outcome of the episode. Fans of Food Network Star will, however, get to vote for their favorite finalist on Aug. 3, which will determine the winner on Aug. 10.
Reuben 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.
Guy Fieri, Justin Warner and Damaris Phillips. These three Food Network chefs weren't born into stardom; it took a journey from fandom to fierce competition on Food Network Star to turn their passion for food and people into a career and to ultimately help them break into the world of television. If you've ever found yourself at home wondering how you, too, could end up on Food Network, the time has come for you to prove your star power.
Food Network is currently casting Season 10 of Food Network Star, but before you can show off your cooking chops to the mentors and dazzle the network with your camera-ready personality, you have to begin the application process. Check the official casting website to download an application and to complete instructions on how to apply, and consider visiting one of the open casting calls (listed after the jump) in a city near you.