All Posts In Judges

Exclusive: Giada Looks Back on a Groundbreaking Season and Dishes on Dom’s Return

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, August 12, 2015

Giada De Laurentiis on Food Network Star"My proudest moment would be Dom coming back from Star Salvation. I think that for the first time in all of these years, I actually feel like Bobby and I actually mentored somebody, like truly mentored them," said Giada De Laurentiis, one half of the powerhouse mentoring duo that she makes up with Bobby Flay. Star Talk caught up with Giada on the set of Food Network Star, just moments after Dom Tesoriero, previously ousted in Week 8, rejoined the competition. She told us about how, with solid mentoring, he was ultimately able to find his way into the top three and what his strengths were following that transformation.

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“I’m Pretty Sure I’ll Never Forget It” — Katie Lee’s Live-TV War Story, Plus How to Share the Spotlight and Multitask

by in Food Network Star, Judges, August 4, 2015

Katie Lee on Food Network StarThe name of the game was live TV on Sunday night's episode of Food Network Star, from a quick demo with Catherine McCord to an ensemble live television special — Summer Live — a la The Kitchen. Katie Lee and Jeff Mauro, both veterans of The Kitchen and no strangers to live productions, stopped by to judge the final four competitors as they tackled their Summer Live segments, offering them advice and been-there knowledge on how to deliver a succinct, engaging presentation. Star Talk caught up with Katie on set to find out more about how she approaches the shared segments on The Kitchen, plus her tips for multitasking in the kitchen, both at the stove with the camera and with her co-hosts. Read on below to hear from Katie, and learn what one live-TV snafu she'll "never forget."

What’s it like to share the spotlight?
Katie Lee: I don’t ever think of it as one person being in the spotlight. We really are a collaborative group, and I think that when one of us looks good, we all look good. So it’s about lifting each other up and having a good time. There are definitely moments where you have to take control, like if you’re doing the demo; then it becomes yours because it’s your recipe, but it’s still about interacting with each other, and with our audience and viewers.

Did it take the five of you long to find your groove when you first started filming The Kitchen?
KL: One of our biggest challenges when we first started was talking over each other, because it’s a natural way to speak. You know, if you’re at a dinner party, everybody’s talking over each other, and it’s just the way that people naturally talk. So, we really had to learn how to let the other person speak and naturally interject without talking over.

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The Makings of Live TV: Jeff’s Lessons Learned and His “Number One Rule”

by in Food Network Star, Judges, July 30, 2015

Food Network StarAs all of the previously eliminated Food Network Star finalists would likely attest, camera challenges are difficult — so much so that multiple takes may be needed in order to execute just one presentation. But on Sunday's brand-new episode of Food Network Star, the remaining rivals will learn that their past challenges were mere practice for the main event in television: live productions, where there's no such thing as a redo. Unpredictable in time and format, live TV requires personalities to think on their feet, especially when there are multiple hosts of a show on at the same time.

On Sunday the final four hopefuls will come together for their first ensemble-based live challenge, something the five castmates of The Kitchen know well. Two of those co-hosts, Jeff Mauro and Katie Lee, will be on hand Sunday as the cast attempts their first live demos, and we caught up with Jeff recently to find out what he's learned about live TV after six seasons of The Kitchen. "The No. 1 rule," he told us, is "the process of giving and taking, waiting for your moment and giving a moment." He says that finalists ought to do well if they have one key component: confidence. "Make sure whatever you’re cooking is practiced," he recommends, "because then it just becomes, you know, muscle memory." Read on below to hear more from Jeff as he shares "been there, done that" advice with the hopefuls.

What's it like balancing the efforts of an ensemble while claiming a bit of spotlight for yourself?
Jeff Mauro: It like it. I like being able to feed off other people and give and take, [like] the world of … improv and sketch comedy. That's, like, the No. 1 rule: the process of giving and taking, waiting for your moment and giving a moment. So that’s what I love about it. But then again, it’s also nice just to be in the spotlight too.

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When You Cook Brunch for Bobby, It Better Be Perfect

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, July 16, 2015

Food Network StarJust as the Food Network Star finalists ought to put their best dishes forward in an Italian-food challenge for Giada De Laurentiis, on Sunday they surely better bring the best of their brunch game in the Mentor Challenge, as Bobby Flay knows just what to look for in this beloved morning meal. From savory selects like scrambled eggs with ham and herbs to rich, sweet plates like cinnamon-laced pancakes with cherries, Bobby — the host of Brunch @ Bobby's and a longtime lover of brunch — is no stranger to creating craveworthy brunch dishes. So he'll expect to see finalists' most-impressive offerings come Sunday, especially since time is running out before a new Star will be crowned.

Ahead of Sunday's brand-new episode and the upcoming brunch challenge, Star Talk caught up with Bobby to find out what it takes to turn out a quality brunch plate. "Brunch takes a lot of attention to detail," he told us. "And that’s the key to brunch. It’s a casual eating event, but it takes a lot of attention to detail." He also noted that part of the essence of brunch is "all in the details," as the meal often depends on multiple components. "Cooking the eggs perfectly, making sure you have a lot of muffins and scones and things like that."

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Anne Burrell Previews Her Star Appearance with Been-There-Done-That Advice for Working on a Team

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, July 2, 2015
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Anne BurrellOn Worst Cooks in America, Anne Burrell sets off to find who among her cast of recruits is the best of the worst, but as a guest judge on Food Network Star this weekend, she'll work with mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis in the search for the best of the best, that one person worthy of Stardom. She's familiar with what it takes to work with — and compete against — a teammate, as her Red Team of recruits regularly faces off against Tyler Florence's Blue Team, something that will likely affect how she judges the Star finalists during Sunday's brand-new partner challenge.

Ahead of her special appearance, Star Talk caught up with Anne to find out what she's looking for from the finalists at this stage of the game, and to learn her advice to them for working as a pair. "Whenever I watch Food Network Star — and I watch it every year — I always have such anxiety for the people who are on this show, because I know how hard it is to do a cooking show, the stand-and-stir kind of show when you're just talking to a camera," she told us. "It's so wildly unnatural. I feel for these people because I went through it, and I think if I'd had to compete on this show to be able to get a show, I would have never had a show." Read on below to more from Anne in an exclusive interview.

When you meet the finalists, they'll be five weeks into their Star journey, nearly halfway through the competition. What are you expecting to see from them at this stage? What should they have mastered by now?
Anne Burrell: To understand how to be comfortable in your own skin and in such an unnatural situation and have a camera presence that doesn't annoy people or come across as fake. The camera can see everything, and if you are trying to sell me something that you don't really believe in, people can tell and they'll turn the channel. So when they really say, "What's your point of view and do you believe this?" you have to, otherwise you're not going to go anywhere. By week five, I still expect to see people who are figuring it out but who are on the right track to getting there. This is a crash course in an education, and you have to be a little bit crazy to be able to do it. I think a lot of people want to do it, and then actually when they see what goes into it, it's actually very, very difficult.

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A Star Salvation Preview: Host Alex Shares Must-Have Skills and Reflects on Competition Flashbacks

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 25, 2015

Alex GuarnaschelliWhile three Food Network Star finalists have already met their fate at elimination — and another one will do the same this week — all hope is not lost for those competitors, or for the next few to follow in the coming weeks. Beginning this Sunday night, ousted rivals will have the chance to rejoin the competition, but only if they can survive a six-week journey on Star Salvation, a Web-exclusive contest hosted by Jeff Mauro and Alex Guarnaschelli. At the end of boot camp, one rival will have verified his or her worth, and will ultimately return to the on-air competition with the finalists that remain.

Ahead of Sunday's premiere Salvation battle, Star Talk is catching up with Jeff and Alex for the inside details on what they have in store for the contestants, and what it will be like for this dynamic duo to work together as both mentors and judges. Read on below to hear from Alex about how her past competition experiences will influence her judgment on Salvation, then click here to hear from Jeff.

What's it going to be like working with Jeff? What's your professional relationship like?
Alex Guarnaschelli: We are like Starsky and Hutch. We are like Rizzoli and Isles. ... We have a really great relationship because we both use a lot of humor in what we do, and yet we take food super seriously. We know that there's so much at stake for these contestants that we want to be the perfect balance of lighthearted where the contestants are open to learning and hearing from us, and yet also critical enough that they can grow and kind of sculpt themselves, give themselves clarity, fill in the blanks, color in the lines, curate their own personality. That's what Food Network is all about: growing really good flowers. Start with a seed, some dirt, some water, and just keep on going with that sunshine.

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A Star Salvation Preview: Host Jeff Dishes on Working with Alex and the Importance of Calming Nerves

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 24, 2015

Jeff MauroWhile three Food Network Star finalists have already met their fate at elimination — and another one will do the same this week — all hope is not lost for those competitors, or for the next few to follow in the coming weeks. Beginning this Sunday night, ousted rivals will have the chance to rejoin the competition, but only if they can survive a six-week journey on Star Salvation, a Web-exclusive contest hosted by Jeff Mauro and Alex Guarnaschelli. At the end of boot camp, one rival will have verified his or her worth, and will ultimately return to the on-air competition with the finalists that remain.

Ahead of Sunday's premiere Salvation battle, Star Talk is catching up with Jeff and Alex for the inside details on what they have in store for the contestants, and what it will be like for this dynamic duo to work together as both mentors and judges. Read on below to hear from Jeff, then click here for an exclusive interview with Alex.

What's it going to be like working with Alex? What's your professional relationship like?
Jeff Mauro: We've done other events before, and I think we've shot some stuff together before. I know she's judged me on Chopped before. So we do have a rapport. We see each other out; we're friendly. But I get her totally — I know what she's all about. I get her gruffness, but her level of comedy is so underappreciated, I think. And I think she's so warm, and you want her to like you, which is an interesting gift. But she does it in such a way where I'm super comfortable around her. So I think my kind of goofy attitude and her kind of faux sternness, it's a nice little straight-talk-silly-man combo.

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From the Chopping Block to the Dinner Party: Geoffrey Zakarian Previews His Star Appearance

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 18, 2015

Geoffrey ZakarianWhen it comes to judging chef competitors, few others do it as well — or as frequently — as the Chopped panel, including Geoffrey Zakarian, which means that the remaining 10 rivals are in for a world of surprise when he shows up to judge this Sunday night. From the time constraints to the pressures to please, he's familiar with the issues affecting the finalists, and he's no stranger to doling out constructive criticism in an effort to help them better their performances. Come Sunday, he and Sunny Anderson, one of his fellow co-hosts on The Kitchen, will be on hand to attend a dinner party thrown by the competitors; ultimately Geoffrey, Sunny, and mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will evaluate who has the Star potential to go the distance in the business.

Recently Star Talk caught up with Geoffrey to find out what he'll be looking for in Star hopefuls this weekend. Read on below for his insider take, and find out what he believes to be one of the best pieces of advice he's ever received.

When you meet them, the finalists will be only three weeks into this journey. What are you hoping to see in them?
Geoffrey Zakarian: Well, I always try to see if they have real fire. How disappointed they get from setbacks — this says a lot.

Giada has said that she focuses on molding finalists' personalities, while Bobby's all about their cooking chops. Do you think one piece of the puzzle is more important in this competition: the camera presence versus the food?
GZ: As a chef, I think food is foremost. But you need to learn to understand the camera and the power it has.

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What Does It Take to Impress Alex Guarnaschelli? The Judge’s First Impressions, Plus Lessons Learned

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 17, 2015

From mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis to guest judges Melissa d'Arabian and Alex Guarnaschelli, the competition was brimming with superstardom this weekend as the finalists endured two rounds of challenges: one to turn leftovers into family dinners and another to bake up savory sweets. Alex was on hand during the Star Challenge's baking task, and in true Chopped judge fashion, she doled out constructive criticism to the 11 remaining rivals and ultimately deliberated with Bobby and Giada about who should go home.

Star Talk recently caught up with Alex to get the dish on her experience both in the judge's seat and in the arena as a contestant. Read on below for an exclusive interview, then click the play button above to get her take on the finalists' best baked offerings.

Not only have you judged competitions before, but you've also competed on Chopped All-Stars, The Next Iron Chef and Cutthroat Kitchen, among other shows. Do those experiences affect the way you look at the finalists who are going through this journey for the first time?
Alex Guarnaschelli: Of course. It’s just like being a chef in a restaurant. If you’ve been a busboy and a dishwasher and a cook and a sous chef, then when you’re the chef, you have empathy and understanding of each part that’s played to make something successful. The same is true in a competition show. I’ve competed, I’ve judged, I’ve watched, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve won, I’ve lost. When someone walks in front of me and starts cooking, I know already how this is going to go.

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“Food Network Star Finalists, I Support You in Pursuing Your Dreams:” A Letter from a Former Winner and Guest Judge

by in Food Network Star, Judges, June 16, 2015

Melissa d'ArabianOn Sunday night, I judged a challenge on Food Network Star. Returning to where it all started for me is more emotional than one might expect. I arrived at my hotel well after 1 a.m., exhausted from a full day of work. I set my alarm for 5:15 a.m. and tried to sleep — but I couldn’t. I couldn’t help but put myself in the finalists’ position. I remembered all too well tossing and turning in the bunk bed that was my home for weeks during the filming of my own season of Food Network Star. I could almost feel myself lying there only inches from the ceiling (I had the top bunk), waxy earplugs wedged into my ears to blot out evidence of the other female finalists who were both my competitors and my roommates. I would lie there, trying to quiet my mind with focused breathing, doing my best to stamp out thoughts about whatever had happened in the latest challenge or elimination, only to find myself speculating on what challenge might lie ahead, or even, what time we would be awakened with the next task.

I feel for these finalists, and I know how deeply they want to succeed. They have left behind careers and families to pursue their dream job, and missing the mark on a challenge can feel like ultimate failure in the moment. Hearts are broken and character is built. It is about so much more than just cooking. It is harder than it looks.

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