By now you've seen the Food Network Star fan vote, right? You know that by supporting your favorite finalists you can help them top the polls? Good, because right now it seems like you all have strong — strongly positive — feelings for one hopeful in particular. Joy Thompson, a restaurateur and mom of five from North Carolina, is currently enjoying a nearly triple lead over the next-closest finalist. To date, Joy's garnered a whopping 44 percent of your votes, while baker Erin Campbell is coming in second place with 15 percent of the votes and Martita Jara, the winner of Comeback Kitchen, is trailing Erin closely with 13 percent.
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We recently released a brand-new photo tour of Food Star Kitchen, complete with an exclusive look inside the massive arena in which finalists cook, mentors deliberate and journeys end week after week. Now, with the help of the Season 12 culinary producers, we're taking it one step further, revealing little-known details about what it takes to stock the space for competition and the multitude of ingredients the finalists can use. Read on below to get all the details.
9: Crew members on the culinary team
688: Approximate pounds of produce that arrived on set at the start of the season
In the first several episodes of Food Network Star, hopefuls Havird, Aaron and Yaku came to the end of their journeys and were ultimately sent home — but not for long. This week they returned to Food Star Kitchen for a second shot at Stardom in the first installment of Star Salvation, hosted by Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli and Eddie Jackson, last year's winner of Food Network Star. Over the course of six weeks, ousted finalists from each episode will join Alex and Eddie, plus whichever rivals remain from past battles, to compete to rejoin the Season 12 competition. And if the first showdown, featuring Havird, Aaron and Yaku, is any indication, these mentors have no-nonsense challenges up their sleeves in an effort to find the worthiest competitor.
Each week Food Network Star finalists are tasked with putting their personalities on a plate in inspiring, creative and, perhaps most importantly, delicious ways. Most competitors manage to get the job done, but in any particular challenge there's often just a small handful of rivals who succeed in creating a dish so impressive that it's worthy of the win. This week Jernard, Monterey and Yaku teamed up and wowed the panel with their ability to reinvent commonly tossed kitchen scraps, such as carrot tops and broccoli stems, into wow-worthy dishes, and together they earned victory in the Mentor Challenge. Check out their winning recipes below, then click here to browse all the mentors' top picks of plates from Season 12 and Star Salvation so far.
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.
The Realities of Live TV, Flopped Lobster Lettuce Wraps and the Need for Deep Breaths — Alex’s Star Reportby Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, June 13, 2016
What's more nerve-racking than live TV? On Food Network, I can handily say, not much. You make a mistake, you miss a line, you don't describe your food ... guess what? You don't get a second chance. It's out there forever, and I don't think our Food Network Star finalists are ready for writing their story in indelible ink. Food Network is an ever-changing hotbed of cooking trends and new ingredients. For the initial challenge, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis divide the remaining nine finalists into three groups of three. Ana, Erin and Rob tackle the hot list of new spices and ingredients, while Jernard, Yaku and Monterey are in the "Frugal Is Fashionable" department and cook with a portion of ingredients we Americans might commonly throw away, such as broccoli stems, cauliflower cores and stems. The third team, comprised of Damiano, Joy and Tregaye, has to cook a whole meal on one sheet pan.
The moment of truth?
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.
If 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.
It 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.
You 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.