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A First-Person Account of Being Judged by Bobby and Giada, Plus the Finalists to Watch — Alex’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, June 20, 2016

Food Network StarTo 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.)

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The Realities of Live TV, Flopped Lobster Lettuce Wraps and the Need for Deep Breaths — Alex’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, June 13, 2016

Food Network StarWhat'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?

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Bold Food + Big Personalities + Bumps in the Road = 5 Unusual Finalist “Recipes” — Alex’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, June 6, 2016

Food Network StarThis 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.

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6 Important Pitfalls to Avoid, Plus the Makings of a Mash-Up Pizza — Alex’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, May 30, 2016

Food Network StarWhat 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.

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A Culinary POV Pie for the Premiere and a la Mode Suggestions for Next Time — Alex’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, May 23, 2016

Food Network StarThere’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!

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From One Star to Another, Jeff’s Welcome Letter to Eddie

by in Food Network Star, Recap, August 17, 2015

Food Network StarDearest Eddie,

First off, congratulations on your victory. It was a long journey with tough competition, and I truly believe you deserved the W. Enjoy the moment.

When asked that my final post be an advice letter to the winner and not a standard rundown, I was excited after my 10 weeks of recaps. But now as I’m sitting here writing this letter, dearest Eddie, I, for the first time, do not know what to say, so I will try my best. Granted I’ve been at this for only four years, but I do feel I’ve had a decent trajectory, and with that comes a decent amount of experience. Take my advice or not; I won’t be offended either way. Here goes.

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The Ins and Outs of Star Salvation, According to Its Co-Host, Plus Pilot Time with Rachael Ray — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, August 10, 2015

Food Network Star, Star SalvationMy season of Food Network Star did not have this nifty little competition sub-series known as Star Salvation, and you know what? I am quite glad we didn't! It’s one thing to compete against other finalists hungry for a chance at their own Food Network show; it’s another thing to compete against a finalist who’s tasted defeat and then got a miraculous second chance. The winner of Star Salvation will be a battle-hardened warrior ready to slay anyone in his or her path. The Salvation winner might as well be a half-human, half-cyborg soldier sent back from the future to take down the POV mainframe and save the planet from the destruction caused by the wrong finalist winning Food Network Star. The winner of Salvation may just win it all. It’s like the montage scene in every sports movie ever, especially Rocky IV: They lost, they got back on their feet, they trained harder than ever by lifting giant logs in the Russian tundra and doing inverted sit-ups in a dusty Soviet barn. They are now ripped and ready to step back into the ring.

This is why I’m glad my season did not have Star Salvation. It was hard enough trying to beat the normal contestants, let alone these reincarnated-zombie contestants who came back from the dead to destroy you.

Pound for pound, every finalist had majorly improved from his or her time on the big show. Emilia, Rue and even Grunwald were all a bit more refined in their presentations and cooking. Rosa seemed sharper, and I could tell instantly that Christina wanted this more than anything. We start Round 1 with the first four eliminated — Christina, Grunwald, Sita and Rosa. When Alex Guarnaschelli (my lovely co-host) and I walk in, I’m sure there are quite a few things going through their heads — mainly that there is a definitely a good-cop/bad-cop situation going on here. Sure, Alex may be known as a tough critic, and I may be known as a goofball, but rest assured, we both took this job very seriously. I wanted the right person to win Star Salvation, and I wasn’t going to make it easy.

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“The Food Processor Fumble,” Reunion Ramen for Aunt Bea and the Best Web Series of All Time — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, August 3, 2015

Food Network StarIt’s a Dom-free week here on Food Network Star, and his personality and great narration will be missed. His witty every-man narrations were a large part of the previous eight episodes, and I’m curious to see how the episode flows without them.

We are left with the final four, and they are faced with a challenge involving live TV. In walks television’s own Catherine McCord to help guide the guys through the unpredictable wilderness of live television. Per usual, Eddie gets very excited at the site of a real-life woman. Because of this, I am confident Eddie will nail this first challenge.

They get assigned various themes: Eddie gets burgers, Jay gets after-school-snacks, Alex gets a hot date, and Arnold gets to make yet another yummy breakfast.

The 30-minute cooking session begins and the vibe is tense. Everybody is going for the gold here, except Jay, who is keeping it simple and concise, just like an after-school snack should be.

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“Dom Dust,” Coolers Full of Capers and Holidays with the Stars — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, July 27, 2015

Food Network StarAfter Michelle's intentional exit last week, we are left with a complete and all-American five-man sausage fest. Mmmmmm.

We quickly learn about the ever-growing importance of culinary membership clubs from Bobby and Giada. The boys each have 30 minutes to prepare a dish that a home cook can prepare from a package of fresh ingredients, and each rival's dish must be indicative of his personal brand. Per usual, Dom doesn’t know squat from Shinola about his brand.

Jay is making blackened fish and grits; Dom is sticking to his Staten Island roots by making chicken Milanese. And Arnold wants to literally put himself (Arnold Myint) inside the box and jump out of it, surprising the recipient with champagne towers and Mylar balloons. Alex just re-quoted my four-year-old quotes about sandwiches. That being said, he is bringing a very intriguing kofte burger. It’s amateur hour by Eddie’s station, as he is overcrowding his pan with shrimp.

Time to present. Alex is up first and he needs a good day. Even with that pressure, my fellow sandwich man preformed beautifully. His burger, tasty. Jay’s cadence is off at first, but he finds his zydeco rhythm once he starts talking about his food, which Bobby and Giada loved. Arnold’s brand is still not clear to the judges, nor is his food. Dom is calm for a change and he clearly didn’t overthink his presentation this time. He had a fluid and charming on-camera portion and wowed the judges with his signature breadcrumb mixture. May I suggest marketing this product as “Dom Dust”? You’re welcome, Dom; I just want 25 percent off the top. An agreement is in the mail.

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Slap Fights, Homesickness and a Decision to Leave — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, July 20, 2015

Food Network StarWe begin this episode with a quick (yet tasty) amuse-bouche of heavy foreshadowing, served by the only remaining female finalist, Michelle. According to my brain muscle, she might be going home today.

That being said, we begin the day with a round of brunch confessions. Guess what? Dom likes meatballs and girls for brunch, Eddie likes steak and grits for brunch, and International Man of Mystery, Alex, is addicted to that classic brunch dish of chipped beef on toast. Brunch, brunch, brunch, crunch. Who doesn’t love a good ol’ brunch? It’s the most relaxing of all weekend breakfast-lunch hybrid meals. It’s the only time of the week when it is A-OK to drink unlimited Cold Duck mimosas with your friends and loved ones. It truly is the only meal of the week where you can eat pancakes and lamb shanks — SIMULTANEOUSLY. Most of all, it’s the only time you can legally get drunk during breakfast. Brunch is the best! Right? Wrong, at least for the finalists, because now they have only 20 minutes to piece together a quality brunch dish — to go!

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