by Jeff Mauro in Food Network Star, Recap, June 8, 2015
by Justin Warner in Recap, August 4, 2014
Ahhh, early June is upon us. The flowers are in full bloom, the pollen count is off the charts, my tank-top tan is ripe and another cast of hopeful foodies — with often questionable culinary points of view — are presented before us in the grand parade known as Food Network Star. I could not be more excited for two reasons. First: I am, first and foremost, a longtime Food Network Star fan. And second: I am an alumni and winner of the show. Having been through this experience, I am the perfect person to guide us all through this season’s journey of ups and down, cuts and burns, unexpected challenges, and the ubiquitous quest for one’s culinary “personality.” Every Monday I'll be bringing you inside my mind for the latest dish on the previous night's contest.
It takes a lot of moxie to put yourself out there and audition for this show. An overnight process it is not. I tried out three times (getting very close once) before I was cast on Season 7. On that Sunday evening, when the premiere episode of Season 7 aired, my life instantly CHANGED. I know it’s a cliche statement, but from that point on my life has been a whirlwind wooden roller coaster of shoots, flights, appearances, the good and the bad, and tons and tons of fun. That being said, to whomever wins Season 11 of Food Network Star, I have a couple words of advice: Family is everything. Keep them close and be sure to have them remind you daily that, yes, indeed your poop does still stink. Be nice to everyone, especially the crew. Give back. My career has thankfully lasted, and I believe these are the reasons why.
OK, onto the premiere episode.
by Justin Warner in Recap, July 28, 2014
Congratulations, Star fans! You've waited 10 weeks for this moment. Indeed the power to transform the life of a formerly ordinary cook into a bona fide Food Network Star is in your hands — but not before one final hopeful's head rolls.
The final four are in front of us. Luca came back from the dead. Sarah has struggled with her POV, but now wants to be the Lone (Food Network) Star. Nicole has had some presentation issues, but has held on. Lenny has endured the duct-tape-induced removal of his chest hairs, ripped pants and intimacy issues. What a ride it's been.
by Justin Warner in Recap, July 21, 2014
Time flies when you are watching hoping-to-become celebrity chefs duke it out on camera. Two months ago, we were introduced to 12 hopefuls, and one by one, the mentors have crushed the dreams of all but five of them. Now in New York City, the competitors are given a heaping helping of "It’s Getting Real," which is one of my favorite buffet-style dishes.
They stop by Food Network HQ, which Sarah says feels "like Christmas morning." I still get that feeling when I stop in. This reminds me, I have a mood ring that belongs to one of Susie Fogelson's kids', and I need to give it back.
If the competitors had mood rings, the rings would turn black the second it’s revealed that the gang will be doing a live field story in Chelsea Market. It sounds simple. The gang will head to a vendor downstairs. There they will find a summer staple (think ribs, lobsters, ice cream, yogurt-based dips and corn) and report to the Mentors back upstairs.
by Justin Warner in Recap, July 14, 2014
Last week, Luca returned from Star Salvation, and Chris couldn't prove himself as the culinary elevator. Emma showed her silver tongue describing her food, and Lenny was deemed "the man to beat." As the competition rages on in Las Vegas, we see a poker-faced dealer flanked by Giada an Alton.
The gang is dealt a single card with the name of a world-class Vegas Eatery. Little do they know, each contestant will use his or her edible experience to craft a course in a team-based tasting menu, to be presented at Guy Savoy. Alton reminds the gang that the food is just a part of a world-class dining experience — ambiance, showmanship and presentation are crucial as well. Bob and Susie will be back, joined by Penn Jillette, who will hopefully make terribly good fun of the soon-to-happen disasters.
by Justin Warner in Recap, July 7, 2014
Last Sunday the gang of seven stared into the greenscreen of death with their POV-packed products in hand. Only six survived, and they headed to Las Vegas. Insert obligatory "steaks/stakes" joke here!
Salvation: If you didn't know it, over here on the Internet, Luca has been on a rampage in Star Salvation. After plowing through two fan favorites from previous seasons and the rest of the eliminated finalists, Luca walks back onto the set. The gang of six is now seven, and everybody's looking like they might get an endorsement deal for adult undergarments.
Nicole points out that Luca hasn't had as much of an opportunity for growth. While I agree to some extent, Luca has the confidence boost of personally slaying every other competitor.
Bacchus and Havoc: Giada offers to take the gang out to eat at Bacchanal Buffet. What sounds like a fun afternoon turns out to be Giada chewing up the contestants like they are linguistic linguini. Indeed, the crew must taste multiple dishes and articulate to Giada what makes each so tasty. Describing food is crucial to the career these cats covet, but only a few have a tongue that can taste and talk.
by Justin Warner in Recap, June 30, 2014
One week ago, eight Food Network Star finalists made their way to Knott's Berry Farm for a live culinary demonstration. Everyone had their fair share of hiccups, but Christopher was the Charles Osborne of the bunch. With Christopher's culinary chops stuck in Star Salvation, the gang awaits another challenge.
Your Very Own Product
Remember last year when Rodney made that pie kit out of a coat hanger and gaffer tape? It looked like a Mason jar and a sumo wrestler mated. That's what I was hoping to see this year. Instead of pitching to supermarket execs, the gang is to make a commercial incorporating their POV. Because absolutely nothing is ever as it seems in Food Network Star, the gang will also shoot their commercials in front of a green screen, with a randomly selected location as their backdrop. Whose product will fly off the shelves? Who’s product will be in the bargain bin? Read on, Star fans.
by Justin Warner in Recap, June 23, 2014
Remember that time the Food Network Star hopefuls had to make viral-marketing videos? I bet you are LOL-ing right now. That was last week, and with that episode we saw the elimination of Aryen, who could almost cut the mustard on camera, but had a dull blade in the culinary department.
After that so-bad-it's-good challenge, the gang heads to Knott's Berry Farm. Where there was once a patch of beautiful berries, there are now roller coasters and funnel cakes. With eight left, the once many-sided dice of elimination rolls closer to doom for the gang. Read on to see who got jammed and who was preserved in the Knott's Berry Farm Corral.
Mentor Challenge: The finalists are to cook some real American dishes for the 4th of July.
by Justin Warner in Recap, June 16, 2014
A week ago we watched the culinary sabotages of Cutthroat Kitchen get the better of the remaining finalists. Fast-casual Kenny’s wonky breakfast parfait sent him to Star Salvation. On the other side of the spectrum of success, Christopher and Emma were scoring high marks for their Bloody Mary Pasta and ChocoBacoBurrataBomb, respectively. With nine finalists left, tensions are high.
The gang gets hand-held cameras with the assignment of making a video incorporating their POV from their POV. The whole set is opened up to the contestants, and they can shoot what they please. Who will get the most "likes" from Chef Flay? Read on.
Nicole: The Star de la mar channels a surfer bro for the first half of her selfie, calling the kitchen "sick." It was pretty refreshing to see her drop the "professional" shtick for a second, but a typhoon of "polish" wipes her out in the end.
Reuben: A sofrito is a pretty cool thing to know about, but Reuben falls into his old (meaning from birth) habit of speaking with the same clarity as Miami Sound Machine's "Conga."
by Justin Warner in Recap, June 9, 2014
Last week the camera shy Luca was sent to battle it out in Star Salvation. Kenny and Chris were up the creek without a plated dish — and they were assuredly nervous about the next challenge. Will Lenny hold tight to his reins or ride off in to the sunset? Read on, Star fans.
If you haven't seen this show, stop reading right now and click one of the many banners to the left or right that will take you to the hottest (and most-evilicious) program on Food Network. Watch it now.
I'm so glad CTK wasn't invented during my season of Star. The concept is terrifying to me. Not only am I a bad gambler, but I'm also a bit OCD. Sure, I can make some creative dishes, but not having the right tool, protein or appendage for the job would irk the heck out of me. The claws will come out, but when the claws come out, they sometimes get stuck on curtains or shag carpet.
Last week we saw the first elimination of Season 10. Donna was shown the door, while Emma and Sarah were dragged to the next round, like babies attached to the wedding dress of stardom.
Alton's Teacher Challenge
The gang is split into two: Team Green Bean Casserole and Team Chicken-Fried Steak. The kicker is each finalist must talk Alton through a few steps of the recipe. I anticipated a few hiccups, but what ensues is embarrassment and certifiably awkward moments:
- While Mr. Brown is Hulk-smashing green beans and throwing them into boiling water, Lenny, who sees through Mr. Brown's shenanigans, delivers a smart tip: "If you are going to chuck things in to boiling water, chuck them away from you, so as to scald your competition."
- I would like to adopt Christopher for the holidays and show that man what a can of French's French Fried Onions looks like. Diced and sauteed onions on a green bean casserole is like putting ketchup on a hot dog in New York.
- Seizing the opportunity, Sarah Zambonis Christopher's mistake and leaves a glistening, slick recipe for Luca.
- Reuben forgets to make a roux. Rouxben. I bet he rues this mistake.
- Aryen has to deal with Rouxben's folly. Lenny talks her through it and she overcomes, but Lenny is bummed she's getting credit for his clever solution.
- Nicole navigates the sometimes-tricky world of breading a country-fried steak. She advises that Alton keep one hand for eggs and another for flour. I kind of wish she didn't because it would be very funny to see Alton with battered clubs for hands.