by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, August 1, 2016
by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, July 25, 2016
The finale of Food Network Star — wow. It has been a long journey to this point, and I have genuinely enjoyed getting to know the finalists far more intensively than ever before. It has been a privilege to watch them spread their wings, make mistakes, be humbled, be exhilarated, reboot and then finally arrive at the final three.
When the finalists walk out, I am struck by how different each one is from the other. Jernard, the self-described "chef of love," is such an affable, loving Creole-cooking chef. Damiano, our resident Italian prince, has such an elevated idea of food. He has great cooking chops and can make both Mexican and Italian food with such ease. He can also bake a mean cake and whip up fab gelato from ice pops — a critical skill set for a Star! Tregaye is all about mixing fun and food. She feeds off food trends and represents what's new and exciting (#OnFleek) in the food world. She also happens to back it up with great, flavorful cooking.
by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, July 18, 2016
We are down to the final three Food Network Star competitors: Jernard, Tregaye and Damiano. What a season! I don't know about you, but I feel like the cream has definitely risen to the top in this pack of finalists. I just can't really decide who the winner will be.
I have had the pleasure of co-hosting a great web series, Star Salvation, with Eddie Jackson, the divine Food Network Star, Season 11 winner. Together we put the eliminated finalists through a series of additional tests as a learning process before picking one winning finalist to head back to the Food Network Star competition for a second chance. Eddie is all smiles and confidence, but he is also a tough cookie! Together we explored each finalist's culinary point of view and coaxed more dimension in front of the camera. Truth? More than one of the eliminated finalists deserved another crack at Stardom, but one really brought it: Chef Yaku. How can such a tall human become almost small and vulnerable in front of a camera? It's a simple answer: love of food. The man just gets so into his cooking and sharing his recipes! He is the obvious winner of Star Salvation. And now, just as the three finalists emerge for their final pre-finale test, out walks Yaku to join the competition. The mission in this episode is to make a dish in 60 minutes that embodies their points of view. Then, make a video (only one minute long!) in which they each describe and eat their dish. Piece of cake, right?!
by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, July 4, 2016
“I have the most clearly defined culinary point of view,” boasts Ana in the beginning of this tense episode of Food Network Star. “I don’t know what ‘fun, fusion, fleek’ — that's not a culinary point of view,” she says, throwing shade in Tregaye’s direction. What a way to begin. There’s no denying Tregaye has been a trailblazer these past few weeks. Building momentum with Giada and Bobby is critical, and we are down to a small enough group that mentor support is either obviously there or about to end. We begin the Mentor Challenge by picking dates (and their corresponding national food holidays). Each finalist has to make a dish and do a live streaming event with a surprise guest and questions from viewers in the mix. This is like a seven-ball juggling act!
by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, June 26, 2016
First things first this week. So all we had to do was spring some frozen ingredients on the Food Network Star contestants to see a whole other side of Damiano’s personality? There was no talk of Italy. No farm stand of fresh fruit that he will bring back to the bakery. There was only a cranky and somewhat compellingly edgy Damiano making a shortbread cookie with (gasp!) frozen egg yolks and (eek!) frozen butter. The cookie looks a little overbaked, and the fruity gelato he makes from ice pops is, according to Bobby Flay, a bit light on flavor. Not one of Damiano's strongest dishes here, but I kind of like this side of him. There is something worth exploring with him when life is not filled with unicorns and Italian gelato dreams.
by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, June 20, 2016
The pressure mounts. The finalists dwindle in numbers. The nerves are frayed. Want the truth? I have picked my potential winner. That’s right. And I’m wondering if you’ve picked yours. (Tell me in the comments, if so!) But don’t think it’s so easy to tell whom my money is on for the win.
by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, June 13, 2016
To kick off this episode of Food Network Star, we dive into the world of food hacks. A food "hack" is when you use a utensil for a purpose other than for what it is intended. I feel like we all have our own food hacks at home, such as using an iron as a panini sandwich press or repurposing a wine bottle as a rolling pin. This challenge revolves around one of the most-important skills for a food star: how to think quickly on your feet and be resourceful. My hack? Use a stovetop burner as a makeshift broiler and char whole bell peppers (on all sides). Peel the skin and toss the pepper with a little red wine vinegar, oregano and olive oil. Delicious. Sometimes you can make great food by "burning" it and making it your own, and sometimes, well, you just get burned. (Check out more of my ideas for kitchen hacks above: rubber-banded pickle jars, floating eggs and others.)
by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, June 6, 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?
by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, May 30, 2016
This week’s Food Network Star integrates the important world of Food Network Magazine with developing an important muscle for any burgeoning food star. That muscle? "Flexing" written recipes and food images to engage viewers and make them eat with their eyes. The challenge? Create an "original" dish based on a proposed recipe title. Giada and Bobby offered the following titles: "Batter Up" (Joy), "Crab Appeal" (Yaku), "Mount Everzest (Tregaye), "Better Off Bread" (Monterey), "Meat Me Halfway" (Martita), "For Heaven’s Flake" (Erin), "Cold-Hearted Cake" (Rob), "Hot or Not" (Damiano), "Sea and Be Seen" (Jernard) and "Carved for Attention" (Ana). I definitely felt some of these were harder to visually convey with food. While "Cold-Hearted Cake" could be illustrated with heart-shaped cake, and "Mount Everzest" could be sculpted into something mountainous with lots of citrus zests, "Sea and Be Seen" and "Meat Me Halfway" were not good matches for Jernard or Martita, respectively. The added catch? If esteemed judge and Food Network Magazine Editor-in-Chief Maile Carpenter didn’t connect the title and the food, the judges wouldn’t taste it! That’s rough. Can you imagine if you made a dish and no one ate it? Jernard, Martita and Monterey suffered this fate. The winner? Tregaye. Her tasty Lobster Bread Pudding gave the judges the clearest connection among the title, food and ingredients. This challenge win left Tregaye with an advantage.
by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network Star, Recap, May 23, 2016
What a mash-up of an episode! A challenge where our beloved Food Network Star finalists work in pairs? Fun, right? Just hide behind your teammate if your food or presentation is weak. That sounds good, right? Hmmm. Maybe. If you haven't seen the premiere episode yet, we're about to break down each finalist's performance, so don't read any further until you watch.
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!