All Posts In Recap

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

“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.

Read more

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

by in Food Network Star, Recap, July 27, 2015
  • Comments Off

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.

Read more

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!

Read more

A Risky Roast and a Brick Wall Made of “Duck on the Regular” — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, July 13, 2015

Food Network StarThe finalists start this week with a fresh new attitude. So long, bickering and negativity; hello, pizza and Duff Goldman.

Challenge numero uno is a pizza extravaganza judged by Duff and the CEO of CiCi’s Pizza, Darin Harris. The winner of this Mentor Challenge will not only receive glory, but also have his or her original pizza creation featured on the menu at CiCi’s Pizza. They have only 30 minutes to bake the pies, so I am predicting a lot of soggy, undercooked, white-crusted pizzas. And they begin ...

Photos: Inside the Pizza Challenge

Dominooch is ecstatic to sling some stovetop sweet sausage pizza; Alex believes a pizza is just an open-faced sandwich; Arnold’s going the clever samosa pizza; Michelle is sticking to her Mediterranean guns; Eddie is making a fruity Caribbean pie; and Emilia is also doing a samosa pizza.

Time’s up. Hands up. Jay begins with another fluid delivery. The guy might as well be hocking Satsuma ShamWows at 3:00 a.m. on QVC. Unfortunately, his pizza is piqued. Arnold’s presentation begins with some promise, but again he fizzled out midway. Wisely, he remembers to take a bite of his pizza and FOCUS ON THE FOOD, which totally saved his dying presentation. Alex read a recipe out loud again and delivered a lackluster pie.

Read more

Love Bites, Hard: Turf and Surf, Tough and Stuff, and the Opportunity of a Lifetime — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, July 6, 2015

Food Network StarWe start this episode Rosa-less, and I’m feeling a little bummed by the absence of her bubbliness. What we start out with instead is each finalist's favorite ingredients, ominously plated right in front of them. Right off the bat, I’m calling shenanigans! Jay has venison, Dom’s got ricotta, Michelle has grape leaves and Eddie has a giant pile of dangerous habaneros. Just when you think all is loosey-goosey in LaLaLand, here come the caveat: the good old switcheroo! The finalists must switch their signature ingredients with another finalist. In turn, Eddie trades his pepper for Michelle’s grape leaves, Alex swaps his five-spice powder for Dom’s ricotta, and they're off to the races.

I love this challenge. It’s a great way to force the finalists to break free of their supposed “comfort zone.” Case in point: I often receive a recipe assignment on The Kitchen that forces me to research and develop a new technique or cuisine that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I enjoy a challenge, and as a Food Network Star, you need an almost-bottomless repertoire of culinary knowledge if you expect to last more than a year in this business.

The cooking begins, and I’m seeing some clever applications. Eddie’s turning grape leaves into a play on escarole and sausage soup, Dom has finally left his own neighborhood for his Grandma’s and is dipping into Asian territory. Michelle is aiming to incinerate the judges' taste buds with a whole mess of habanero, something she has never cooked with before (!?).

Read more

Happy Birthday, America! The Death of a Rib Eye, Lessons in Japanese and the Dials of Doom — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, June 29, 2015

Food Network StarMy favorite personal moment from Food Network Star, Season 7 was during the Fourth of July celebration (check out a photo). It was held on a horse farm in the hills of Malibu, and it was hot, windy and packed with a hungry audience. These conditions, coupled with malfunctioning grills and Guy Fieri as a guest judge, led to a very challenging afternoon. The presentation portion was a live demo on a large stage. We had the options to grab props, so naturally, I grabbed a guitar and an American flag that I donned as a cape, a la Apollo Creed from Rocky IV. Needless to say, this was my moment to lay all my cards on the table and get gutsy. I made an excellent pretzel-fried chicken sandwich and gave a highly charged performance, complete with guitar work, singing, knife throwing and stage jumping. It could have backfired, but it was Week 4, and this is a crucial time in the Food Network Star journey. By now you should have your POV on lock and your cooking-under-pressure muscle exercised and definitely be more comfortable on camera. If you do not posses all three of these at this moment, you are potentially doomed.

On that note: Happy birthday, America! It is now time for a proper Fourth of July cookout competition on a bucolic farm in the middle of the Southern California nowhere. It’s time for teams. The finalists use that classic method of team picking: drawing napkins out of a picnic basket. The teams are as follows:

Team White: Rosa, Jay, Michelle
Team Red: Emilia, Rue, Dom
Team Blue: Alex, Jay, Arnold

Read more

A Boys vs. Girls Dinner Battle, and Why It’s Not About Being “Thesaurus Rex” — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, June 22, 2015
  • Comments Off

Food Network StarThis week is all about trends, so the finalists' first challenge is to craft a dish that is both delicious and camera ready. Photographing food and food styling are often-overlooked skills that usually require the work of several experienced and talented professionals. Thanks to social media, however, we have all become food stylists and photographers, snapping pics of every malt ball, pretzel rod and airport kiosk sandwich we shove down our gullets. I'm 100 percent guilty of this as well and make no apologies, but oftentimes, the photos do not do the food justice (mine included). Regardless, I love this trend, and it only connects us more to the magic and allure of food. But I digress ...

And they’re off! Emilia is a bat out of hell, Rosa is frying meatballs, Dom is icing his pesto, Eddie is contrasting, and Big Jay is tasting the rainbow. Arnold is not worried one iota because he plates like Picassette (Picasso’s drag queen alter ego). Sandwich man Alex makes that classic mistake of “plopping on the top bun.” I would have halved the sandwich and exposed the colorful interior structure. In my opinion, that makes for a much better sandwich photo.

Read more

“You’re a Beast:” Avoid This Phrase, and 6 Other Savvy Rules of Star — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, June 15, 2015

“You're a Beast:” Avoid This Phrase, and 6 Other Savvy Rules of Star

We begin this episode Christina-free. That first elimination is always quite humbling; you realize quickly that anyone at any time can easily have a bad day and, in turn, get the ol’ boot. Nobody wants to be the first gone, and now that the remaining finalists are 100 percent not the first eliminated, they can start fresh and tackle the day’s challenges, starting with …

… What's for dinner?! A classic leftover challenge. Jay is evidently a licensed food psychic, because he called it from the very beginning! This is an indispensable gift to have during Food Network Star. I hope he uses this talent only for good.

My sister-from-another-mister Melissa d’Arabian walks in, and, per usual, the room ignites with class and brightness. She guest-judges these dishes, and she guest-judged my dish during my season too. To be honest, when she judged one of my Star Challenges, she did not like me too much. Rightfully so — this was the second episode and I was still a foul-mouthed ugly duckling, not yet a glorious swan. So there is hope yet for those who biff this challenge.

The finalists charge toward the fridge to fight for that specific leftover they MUST have in order to craft the perfect dish. Sita wants some chicken and cuts whoever gets in her way. Eddie grabs the pasta that evidently belongs to Rosa. Emilia gets Sita’s chicken. Nobody gets what they wanted, and everybody is scrambling.

In my opinion, there is nothing like the melee that surrounds the fridge and pantry during one of these challenges. It’s "eat or be eaten," and sometimes you just grab anything and everything; think later and adapt quickly. Don’t blame the ingredients! Ever! On with the presentations. Read more