For 12 hopeful Food Network Star finalists, the journey to potential stardom is just beginning, and the world of food television is likely still endlessly exciting and overwhelmingly daunting at once. As they prepare for the ultimate hands-on interview and attempt to score the sought-after job of Food Network host, they'll need all the guidance and constructive critiques they can manage in order to land among Food Network royalty at the end of the summer.
Because no one is able to speak of the ways to succeed in the business quite like those who already are, superstars Guy Fieri, Damaris Phillips, Geoffrey Zakarian, Sunny Anderson and more A-list chefs came together to offer the Star contestants their key pieces of must-know advice. They spoke of expert tips, like the ability to "understand what your point of view is," according to Scott, and offered tales of insider experience that only industry veterans could share. Browse this photo gallery to hear from these icons and more, and learn their ultimate advice just in time for next month's Season 10 premiere.
Before Season 10 kicks off, the editors of Star Talk wanted to sit down with show's ultimate trio of stars, Giada, Bobby and Alton, to talk about what fans can expect, their favorite elements of the show, as well as what they think of each other. First up, Giada De Laurentiis.
Star Talk: How has the show evolved? Giada De Laurentiis: I think that the finalists have become more savvy. Each time the viewers are able to watch the show, they start to understand what we're looking for. Although, having said that, each time Bobby, Alton and I meet a new group of finalists, they tend to have the same issues. I think they're getting savvier, but they're still missing the point as to what we're looking for. I think they think they're polished, but they're not quite as polished as they need to be. I think people think this job is very, very simple, when actually it's a bit more complicated than they anticipated once they get into it.
Star Talk: What are the most-common mistakes you see in finalists? GDL: I think there are several. One is too polished and media trained. Second, I think that they all come in thinking that they're going to pitch their point of view. They're passionate, so of course they think they should be the next Food Network Star — as if that's enough to get you this job, which we all know it goes way deeper than that. We're looking for charisma. I think the finalists need to feel empowered, show they can be a leader, be an authority and also be a little spontaneous so we never get bored.
No strangers to Food Network, Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are culinary superstars — and just the kind of icons that the Food Network Star finalists are hoping to become. To achieve such a level of fame both in the kitchen and on television, the contestants will have to prove to Alton, Bobby and Giada that they have the coveted combination of culinary chops and shining personality that the judge-mentors seem to naturally exude. As you prepare to watch what will unfold on the all-new 10th season (premiering Sunday, June 1 at 9|8c), FN Dish is testing you, Star fans, to find out how well you know this year's decision makers. Test your Star smarts with a quiz and answer questions on insider trivia about Alton, Bobby and Giada.
How Well Do You Know the Food Network Star Mentors?
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True or false: Alton knows how to play the guitar.
Which of the following is not the name of one of Bobby's shows on Food Network?
Beat Bobby Flay
Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addiction
Takedown with Bobby Flay
Boy Meets Grill
Before Giada became a Food Network chef, she earned her college degree in which subject?
__________ is not one of the secret ingredients Bobby has worked with on Iron Chef America.
Alton's Good Eats aired for how many seasons?
What's the name of the finalist Team Giada brought to the finale of Food Network Star, Season 8?
Bobby has said that __________ and __________ are among his favorite comfort foods.
Burgers, chocolate cake
Biscuits, pumpkin bread pudding
Before Alton started appearing in front of the camera, he once worked in which profession?
True or false: Bobby and Giada once competed on the same team in a special episode of Iron Chef America.
Alton has said that he has a collection of approximately how many bow ties?
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Sarah Penrod, 30, is a born-and-bred Texan who comes from a family of entertainers. She's been performing for her whole life and also has serious culinary chops, as she now owns her own business. This feisty chef has worked with celebrities and athletes, and she always keeps things entertaining in the kitchen. Read on below to hear from Sarah, and learn about her style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can. Sarah: The concept is that we're all so busy, and we're losing the source of love and joy and passion in our lives, and that's our relationship with our partner. And I want to bring that back to you by teaching you how to do these awesome date nights, and I'm the perfect person to 'cause I've been a private chef to celebrities and professional athletes. I have to do some really cool stuff visually, and I think that I'm the perfect person to do date night 'cause I'm madly in love with my husband.
How did you prepare for the competition? Sarah: I auditioned [for Season 8] and I didn't make it, and I was heartbroken 'cause I've been watching Bobby Flay since I was 10. And it felt like a personal rejection, but I knew it wasn't, and I knew I had major camera issues, so I went and trained with a communications trainer, and I self-produced my own show, called Let's Eat Houston, which is a Web series, and it's also on our Houston public access [which] is pretty huge, and it's pretty significant. ... So I did that, and that is how I prepared to do this. I literally prepared.
Reuben Ruiz, 27, grew up in a traditional Cuban family that owns restaurants, and he started working in kitchens when he was just 10 years old. After struggling with his weight for many years, he now specializes in healthy dishes with a Latin influence, and he's honest, outspoken and high energy with a strong work ethic. Read on below to hear from Reuben, and learn about his style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can. Reuben: The flavors of Miami — I want to bring those to the limelight. The tropical cuisine of the Caribbean, and Central America and the flavors that we have over there. But also with a healthier perspective on life as well. Most people don't know I've lost a hundred pounds, and I did so naturally. And I've been able to maintain it, more importantly, now for seven years.
What are you most looking forward to in this experience? Reuben: I think more so the critiques that I'm going to get from the judges. I think any critiques help you grow as a person, as an individual as well. And hopefully be able to take that and make my business better as well.
Nicole Gaffney, 29, isn’t just another personal chef — her magnetic personality and innate culinary talent set her apart from the crowd. She grew up cooking with her Sicilian grandparents and comes from a family of commercial fishermen, and her "coastal cuisine" take on food is heavily influenced by her family and growing up in a seaside town. Read on below to hear from Nicole, and learn about her style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
What are you most looking forward to in this experience? Nicole: Learning. Yeah. I'm really looking forward to learning. Just with the other competitors alone, I think there's so much each of us can take away from the other person — not just in terms of cooking knowledge, because there's a ton of stuff to be learned there, but just about life in general and TV presence. This whole experience — the things that we can take away from the judges and the mentors ... I feel like what I'm going to know when this is all said and done versus what I knew going into it is going to be monumental.
How did you prepare for the competition? Nicole: I definitely tried to hone up on my recipes. I reference recipes all the time. I feel like if I was thrown into a kitchen and had to wing it, I would be alright, but I wanted to really memorize certain things, especially when it comes to baking. I don't know if there's going to be any baking challenges, and that kind of stuff has to be pretty precise. Whether it's a half a teaspoon of baking powder or a teaspoon of baking soda can totally make a difference in what you're baking, so I wanted to make sure that I had some really solid stuff in my head ready to go. I tried to watch some past seasons and listen to some of the critiques that the judges gave.
Luca Della Casa, 38, was born in Italy and is an adventurous, rugged outdoorsman with a passion for food. He worked his way up from dishwasher to executive chef, and he is determined to bring people together around a table to share food, Italian style. Read on below to hear from Luca, and learn about his style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can. Luca: My point in my culinary view is what I learned from my grandma. That means very simple recipes, a good knife and the freshest ingredients. That makes the most-amazing meal.
How did you prepare for the competition? Luca: Well, yes. I went to see some old seasons of the show. I was aware of the show and I saw episodes of it, but I didn't know it perfectly, so I thought I better go back and see everything they do, what they ask them to do. And so that's what I did, and try to put my thoughts together.
Loreal Gavin, 26, is motorcycle-riding, guitar-playing chick who loves tattoos, and she's been trained in culinary arts, baking and pastry. She was raised by her grandmother, who taught her to cook from her soul. Read on below to hear from Loreal, and learn about her style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can. Loreal: I have a grandmother's soul from the Deep South and an insatiable lust for adventure.
How did you prepare for the competition? Loreal: I didn't. I just knew that I had to come in here and be myself.
Lenny McNab, 42, is a one-of-a-kind gourmet cowboy with over-the-top confidence and culinary skills. He trained in Germany and is now the executive chef at a hunting ranch. With his signature hat, belt buckle and boots, you can’t miss Lenny in a crowd — and he is ready to bring his unique take on food to the rest of the country. Read on below to hear from Lenny, and learn about his style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can. Lenny: My culinary point of view is to bring back the traditional ways of the cowboy cook.
What are you most looking forward to taking away from this experience? Lenny: The thing I think I'm most looking forward to in taking away from this experience is the recognition of being out there in an elite association of chefs, restaurateurs, hoteliers that have made it big enough so that their name gets noticed, because I imagine anybody that does something like this has a touch of an ego.
Kenny Lao, 36, grew up making Chinese dumplings with his mom, and his passion for that signature dish led to the creation of his fast-casual restaurant business. He wants to take the intimidation out of cooking and share how to make food that is simple but delicious. Read on below to hear from Kenny, and learn about his style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can. Kenny: Fast and casual
What are you most looking forward to in this experience? Kenny: I love playing games, and I love puzzles, and I love competitions and sorting things out. Not even the takeaway, but just the experience itself is so awesome — just to be into this intense, totally immersive game.