Star Commentary: Aaaaand She’s Out

by in Food Network Star, July 20, 2011
It’s been fun, Penny.

Well, it finally happened. The moment many of you have been waiting for came on Sunday night: Penny Davidi, the Middle Eastern Mama, was sent home. But not necessarily because of her food. After seven weeks of mostly stellar dishes that the judges described as “great,” “very well-seasoned” and having “lots of great flavors and textures,” the likeability factor — or lack thereof — sent Penny packing.

While the comments on Food Network’s Facebook page and our Star blog are largely in support of the judges’ decision to eliminate Penny, many of you cannot deny her unique culinary point of view and have expressed interest in learning Middle Eastern recipes. One viewer wrote that she “felt sorry for Penny last night,” while another thinks “it [is] a shame that Penny had to go home” because she has “warmed up to her over the past few weeks” and because “Penny brought something Food Network is lacking.”

Other commenters noted that despite Penny's “awkward personality,” she may have been “worth keeping around,” given the judges’ apparent praise for her food. Another viewer wrote that she “would appreciate some education” on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors but “couldn't imagine watching Penny to receive that education even though her food was so appealing.”

And then there are those of you who are simply gleeful over Penny’s departure. Viewers wrote that “Happy days are here again” and that “It is about time,” while another told Food Network, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for getting rid of Penny!!” It seems that Penny’s “penchant for drama,” about which you have been complaining since the second episode, is what most viewers found so frustrating and unappealing. Many wrote that “she was harsh,” “her attitude stinks” and that she showed “disrespect to all those around her.”

Given her previous tense moments, many of you were shocked at how Penny’s demeanor seemed to have changed during her final week as she handled her own dismissal. Several of you wrote that she “was a good sport,” showed “grace,” “behaved civilly” and was “more compelling this week than ever.”

Do you think that this week could have been a turning point for the Middle Eastern Mama, that, if given just a little more time, she could have become more personable, both on camera and off? Hear from Penny herself in her Exit Interview and learn her thoughts about viewers’ perceptions of her. Then, join the conversation on Facebook and Star Talk, and tune in next Sunday at 9pm/8c to see who has what it takes to make it in New York City.

Who’s your favorite finalist so far? Cast your Fan Vote up to 10 times per day.

Guest Star Spotlight: Wolfgang Puck

by in Food Network Star, July 19, 2011
Wolfgang Puck Check out our on-set interview with this week's guest star, Wolfgang Puck.

At the Food Network Star dinner table this week sat a culinary icon: Wolfgang Puck, one of the first-ever "celebrity" chefs. We stole a few minutes with him to chat about everything from his favorite comfort foods to his own first on-camera experience. Jyll, don't sweat it — Wolfgang knows what it's like to be nervous!

What did you think about Wolfgang's impromptu risotto tutorial (and Jyll's response)?

Plus: Want more behind-the-scenes time with Wolfgang Puck? Check out Food Network Magazine's peek into his home kitchen.

Penny for Your Thoughts

by in Food Network Star, July 18, 2011

Penny Davidi

Right or wrong, good or bad — she made for great television. Every interesting story needs to have an antagonist, and wouldn’t you agree Penny filled that role perfectly? Whether you like to admit it or not, I bet that she brought many of you to your TVs week after week. Every Sunday you all hoped to see her get her comeuppance. And, well, last night she finally did.

Yes, the self-proclaimed “Middle Eastern Mama” was a difficult personality, a pot stirrer and someone you loved to dislike. But, to keep engagement up, we needed a little drama — a bit of spice — and no one dished it out like Penny. Remember Debbie Lee from Season 5? She reminded me of her. I enjoyed that Penny brought some “Deb drama” back to Food Network Star. Come on, this is a reality show — drama is a good thing!

Then there was Chris. If I were to cast Chris as a character in a story, he would have been the resident class clown. I have no doubt that he’s a great, fun guy, and probably a really good cook. However, his endless bouncing off the walls wasn’t appealing to watch. I don’t mind “big kid” personalities, but know when to shut it down and act your age. I just kept thinking someone needed to give him a timeout (or a Xanax).

Wolfgang Puck is a trip. Anytime the man is on this show, I know something unexpected will happen (which I love). When he escorted Jyll with a y to the kitchen to show her how to properly make risotto, I smiled. Well, hey, he’s the master, and I think she should embrace his correction and learn from it. Was she embarrassed? Absolutely, but this is one of those times when she should simply feel honored to have a world-renowned expert show her how to better the dish. Shake it off Jyll with a y — at least you’re headed to New York. You did something right!

The remaining finalists head to the Big Apple next week. Let’s all get in a New York state of mind.

 

Caption It: Hands-On Edition

by in Food Network Star, July 15, 2011
Your Caption Here

This week’s jam-packed episode of Star is full of surprises, tears, drama and a double dose of shocking eliminations. The one-and-only Mr. Wolfgang Puck guest-judges, as the remaining finalists face him and the selection committee for their midterm examinations.

In this sneak-peek shot, Star finalist Susie Jimenez relieves the pressure of test-taking by getting up close and personal with the ingredients for her Camera Challenge dish. Will she and the other contestants be able to hide their stress on camera, or will the demands of the competition get the better of them?

Before you tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to watch Susie in action, we’re challenging you, Star fans, to write your best captions (tastefully appropriate, please) for this moment in the comments below.

Who’s your favorite finalist so far? Cast your Fan Vote up to 10 times per day.

Melissa’s Take On Orchid

by in Food Network Star, July 14, 2011

Melissa d'Arabian

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. You can catch new episodes of her show, Ten Dollar Dinners on Sunday mornings at 9am/8c. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

Oh, Orchid. Last time I felt this way Pia Toscano was singing over credits without a shot at the judges’ save. Here is why I am so blue: I think Orchid really could have won and she just got in her own way. I hesitate to write that because I imagine her reading this, kicking herself instead of making peace with the outcome. Not that I presume the finalists are at home clinging to every word I write, but I also know that the ability to Google one’s own name and get actual results beyond a random high school swimming score is a temptation that is too strong to abandon for at least a few months. So I’ll go out on a limb and guess that Orchid is reading this.

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The “Mama Orchid” Fan Club

by in Food Network Star, July 12, 2011
We'll miss you, Orchid.

Early front-runner and Star fan favorite Orchid Paulmeier was driven out of the competition on Sunday night after a sub-par food-truck performance. Judge Bob Tuschman told the barbecue-loving, restaurant-owning mom of three that she tends to “simmer” while other finalists “are at full boil” in the competition.

Immediately following the shocking elimination, comments on Food Network’s Facebook page and our Star blog indicated that you devoted Star fans questioned whether or not it was really her time to leave. Many wrote that “Orchid was robbed” and that the judges made “a bad call” in sending her home. Others “expected her to be in it pretty much until the very end” and were simply confused by her departure, noting that “Her food has been lackluster the last few weeks, but the judges still seemed to favor her.”

One viewer wrote that “Orchid was a pleasure to watch and her food appeared to be something I would be willing (and frequently eager) to attempt,” though others were not as enthusiastic about the Southern "Mama." Several commenters noted that “she hasn't blossomed and seems to lack confidence in herself and her cooking abilities.” Another felt that it “shouldn't have taken this long to get rid of Orchid.”

Hear from Orchid in her Exit Interview and learn her plans for the future. How do you feel about Orchid’s elimination? Should other finalists have been sent home before her? Join the conversation on Facebook and Star Talk, and tune in next Sunday at 9pm/8c to see who goes home after the season's midterm.

Who’s your favorite finalist so far? Cast your Fan Vote up to 10 times per day.

Oh, Orchid.

by in Food Network Star, July 11, 2011

Orchid Paulmeier

She’s gone and I’m sad.

Was I surprised by her elimination? I wasn’t, but I still hated to see her go. She started off as a front-runner in this competition and a fan favorite. But something happened. She began to change in the last couple of episodes. Did she start to lose confidence? Was she homesick? Were the other finalists intimidating her? Whatever the case, I had been hopeful that she would pull it together and bring back the Orchid we all loved. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Sigh.

Breaking News: Orchid Responds

Caption It: Vegas-Style

by in Food Network Star, July 8, 2011
Your Caption Here

This Sunday on Star, tough guy Vic “Vegas” Moea dons big, dark glasses and a less intimidating baguette bat while filming the next Camera Challenge, a commercial advertising his food truck — bank robbery-themed, perhaps? Will guest judge and food-truck fanatic Tyler Florence and the selection committee approve?

Before you tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to watch Mr. Vegas in action, we’re challenging you, Star fans, to write your best captions (tastefully appropriate, please) for this macho moment in the comments below.

Who’s your favorite finalist so far? Cast your Fan Vote up to 10 times per day.

Melissa’s Insight: Keeping It Real

by in Food Network Star, July 7, 2011
Guy Fieri
To celebrate the 4th of July, the finalists faced Guy Fieri and live demos, which Melissa tells us are much harder than they look.

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. You can catch new episodes of her show, Ten Dollar Dinners on Sunday mornings at 9am/8c. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

Week five and Guy Fieri: First, live demos for the finalists are on the agenda, and this is a biggie, because they are much, much harder than they look. And, interestingly, a theme of the week emerges: authenticity. Some finalists rise to the occasion and share themselves organically: witty Whitney (who knew? hooray!), off-the-cuff Mary Beth (“I’m here all week … maybe not!”), charming Susie (thumb story a true gem), hilarious Jeff (despite my initial silent “ugh”), and tender Vic, who somehow managed to use that wig as a meaningful prop.

Some fall a little flatter. Penny tries too hard to pull off a crowd maneuver best left only to the Julie McCoys of this world, Jyll comes off as “eternally perky” according to Susie Fogelson, and Chris makes me squirm with Guy-isms. (I love Guy, but we have Guy.)

Being authentic and live demos: Let’s dive in.

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Star Spotlight: Focus on Fieri

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, July 6, 2011

Guy Fieri can identify with this season’s Star finalists better than most. As the winner of season 2, he is no stranger to Camera and Star Challenges and remembers the pressure and anxiety that go along with them. Well, that stress has done Guy well, as he has proven that super-stardom is super possible for the next Food Network Star.

Check out this behind-the-scenes video from Guy's visit to the Star set and learn how the show has changed since he was a finalist. Guy also shares his personal tricks for always being camera-ready and his idea for the ultimate Star challenge. Then, tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to watch the competition heat up and see who goes home next.

Who’s your favorite finalist so far? Cast your Fan Vote up to 10 times per day.

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