A no-nonsense first challenge, a surprise 13th finalist and a pan set ablaze in the kitchen — Sunday's Food Network Star premiere was full of flare-ups and near meltdowns that kept the competitors guessing at every turn. But while the action was unfolding on-screen, there was no shortage of antics taking place behind the scenes either. Check out these insider photos from the set to see what the cast, mentors and crew were up to between takes, and find out what it takes to make this show possible.
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The Comeback Kitchen competition came full circle for mentors Tyler Florence and Valerie Bertinelli on Sunday night, when they guest-judged the premiere of Food Network Star, Season 12. Martita, the winner of the three-week journey to redemption, took her place among the other 12 hopefuls. And Tyler and Valerie were on hand to see the fruits of their training and their hard work pay off when she delivered a strong first bite of food and a solid presentation.
There’s always so much hype and nerves when a competition gets off the ground. You sit in the greenroom with all the other contestants, laughing (and, in my case, devouring several bags of BBQ potato chips ... ) and chatting about where you’re from and what you cook. A blast of chilled air runs through the room as soon as the producer enters. It goes from a fun little meet 'n' greet to an unsolved "whodunit" mystery in a hot second. The most-important aspect of the first episode is getting a look at each contender before elimination. What difference does elimination make, you wonder? Well, as soon as someone gets sent home, a door on complete, free expression and disclosure closes. Contestants fear every little comment they make to the judges. Every sprig of parsley, every lemon wedge could be the wrong move and land them on the next flight home. And, let’s face it: Being the first person sent home is always an added kicker. Contestants on Chopped will say to the judges: "I don’t mind not winning. I just don’t want to go home in the first round." That’s only partially true. EVERYONE wants to win. The stakes are particularly high here because the winner has accolades, bragging rights and a shot at a great culinary future on television!
Martita, 39 (San Diego), showcased her talent on Season 8 of Food Network Star. She began working in her family’s restaurant business at a young age, with her mom’s authentic Mexican home cooking inspiring her culinary passion. Martita's parents moved to the United States two years before she was born, and she credits them with her work ethic and perseverance. Martita attended a few semesters of culinary school, but most of her skills are self-taught. She loves to entertain and cooks with loads of Mexican flavor!
Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.
Martita Jara: I cook with the flavors of Mexico with a California twist.
With 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.
Comeback. Accomplished. After an intense three-week journey on Comeback Kitchen, one previously ousted Food Network Star finalist claimed the crown tonight and secured a spot in the cast of Food Network Star, Season 12. With that coveted opportunity in hand, this person is set to begin yet another journey, this time to potential Stardom. We're about to chat with the winner, so if you haven't watched the episode, don't read any further yet.
While the Food Network Star competition is 11 weeks long, finalists have but one single opportunity to make a positive first impression on Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis. Recently both mentors told us the importance of these initial meetings, as Giada explained: "That first day, that first impression, we keep going back to. And sometimes it saves you and pushes you through." Bobby said, "I don’t think you ever forget the first impression of somebody," though he was quick to note that there's room to grow later if need be. "I’m very open in terms of making people evolve," he added.
What started as a pool of countless applicants is now just a crop of 12: those lucky dozen hopefuls who are set to compete on Food Network Star, Season 12. But before the finalists became just that — the competitors who are officially part of the cast — they had to prove themselves, their culinary histories and their on-camera charisma in introductory casting videos. We got our hands on those first-person accounts, and now it's your turn, fans, to watch these exclusive clips and see what you think of the rivals as they present themselves. Read on below to view them all.
We're just days away from Sunday's Food Network Star, Season 12 premiere (at 9|8c), and while it's likely too late for the finalists to make drastic improvements to their culinary chops and suddenly master the art of talking on camera, it wouldn't hurt them to come into the competition with some helpful tips in mind. That's where current Food Network stars come in. Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray, Geoffrey Zakarian and, of course, the mentors, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis — these icons and others have seen their share of competitions, and many have competed in them as well, so they know just what it takes to succeed. Read on below to hear the expert tips and industry know-how they have for the contestants.
Picture this: Multiple cameras are mere inches from your face. You're learning your way around an unfamiliar kitchen. Your dreams are riding on the success of your next move. Oh, and two of the biggest names of the food world are watching your every move. Nervous yet? So are many Food Network Star finalists as they endure these everyday competition pressures. But it turns out even Bobby Flay, an Iron Chef and one of the two mentors overseeing the finalists this year, feels those anxieties when he's working.