Guest Star Spotlight: Impress the Press

by in Behind the Scenes, June 6, 2011
Mario Lopez
The first Star Challenge brought members of the press to the table, including Mario Lopez from Extra.

"One of the most important aspects of a star's life is the press," said tough-guy Vic Vegas, sounding not-so-tough after learning who would be judging the first elimination challenge. "They make you or they break you."

Alton Brown, Hal Rubenstein and Jess Cagle
Alton discusses the promos with media honchos Hal Rubenstein from InStyle (center) and Jess Cagle from Entertainment Weekly (right).

When our finalists entered the dining room of STK to present for their Star Challenge, they faced an intimidating group of diners. Along with the heavy-hitters of the regular judges' panel (Bob, Bobby, Susie and Giada), they stood before Good Eats superstar Alton Brown and three influential members of the press: Mario Lopez from Extra (some finalists might have gotten a little weak in the knees at the thought of presenting to AC Slater), Jess Cagle from Entertainment Weekly and Hal Rubenstein from InStyle.

Check out this exclusive behind-the-scenes video to hear our guest judges' advice for the finalists, plus their favorite comfort foods. It's too bad the Star contenders didn't have this inside scoop before the challenge — they could've won over Jess Cagle with carbs and Mario Lopez with Mexican food.

Check out Bobby's Instant Re-Flay, Giada's Take and more behind-the-scenes videos from the Food Network Star season premiere.

 

 

About Last Night

by in Behind the Scenes, Judges, June 6, 2011
Food Network Star Judges
My fellow judges agreeing with everything I say.

What did you think? Pretty good premiere, right? Let’s dive right in to the deep end and talk about my impressions of the finalists. Then, I want to hear yours. Let me warn you – I reveal last night’s eliminated finalist in this post. If you don’t want to know who went home, then you shouldn’t read.

Vic. His tattoos make him look tough, but there’s a sweetness to him that jumps off the screen. He’s likable and when Bobby commented that he makes you, “want to know more about him” – well, I couldn’t have said it any better.

Alicia. When we questioned her on her accent, we had no idea that she would take it the way she did. She sounded like a Valley Girl -- I didn’t think saying so was insulting. Were we wrong? And by the way, I was taken completely by surprise by the immense disdain between her and Penny – more to come there, later.

Orchid. Warm, engaging and the camera loves her. Her food was to die for. It may sound cliché, but I can’t wait to see how this orchid blossoms. I know – that was a bit cringe-worthy.

Whitney. I like her confidence. Camera loves her. She has a slight edge to her which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ll see how it shakes out.

Jeff. Funny guy. Can be a bit over the top. Warm. Love the sandwich POV – accessible, everybody loves him (if he can bring something new to the game). Sandwich King? We’ll see.

Mary Beth. Food Writer + Former Attorney = Smart. Love that. But can she bring warmth and humor to the screen? Can the food writer be a food star? Jury is way out.

Chris. Loud and a bit “frat boyish.” He has a lot of work to do. Right now, I’m having trouble coming up with something more to say about him. That’s not good.

Susie. She’s a spitfire. Love her personality (and what a story). But I’m confused about by her POV. I need to see more of HER in it.

Katy. Boy am I confused. She wants to be a thousand things. This may work in her life, but not on TV. All those props illustrated the problem. I need a simpler, clearer, stronger POV and persona.

Justin D. Seems nice and smart, but so far hasn’t left a big impression.

The Other Justin. Memorable – for good and bad reasons. Anybody else thinking Avatar? Confident cook. There’s an expert, passionate guy there – but NOT on camera. Flat.

Juba. Such a likeable guy with an interesting POV – until he gets on camera. Like ‘The Other Justin,’ persona is not translating on camera. Lots of work needed here.

Penny. She’s a tough personality, but she cooks great food. I wouldn’t want to get caught in her cross-hairs (Alicia), but I could eat her food all day. Just stop with all that “sexy” talk.

Jyll. Something I really like here. Funny, down to earth, warm. But her promo? Ouch. Teleprompters are evil. I’m withholding judgment because overall I see promise.

Howie. I always feel bad for the first to go. I really thought his success in radio would have translated into an advantage to get him further. Oh well.

You’re Invited!

by in Food Network Star, June 3, 2011

Bobby and Giada

Join us for a live Twitter party to celebrate the premiere of Food Network Star Season 7 — and dish on every little detail, of course. An all-star guest list has already RSVP’d: Judges Bobby Flay (@bflay), Giada De Laurentiis (@gdelaurentiis) and Bob Tuschman (@bobtuschman) will be tweeting along with special guests from episode one.

Alton Brown (@altonbrown), Mario Lopez from Extra (@mariolopezextra), Hal Rubenstein (@hal2r) from InStyle and Jess Cagle from Entertainment Weekly (@jesscagleEW) will all share their impressions as they watch themselves at the Star dining table.

Obviously, we'd love for you to be there too. Here’s how: Follow @FoodNetwork on Twitter during the super-sized two-hour Star premiere on Sunday, June 5, at 9pm/8c. Use #Star in your tweets to join and track the conversation.

Can't wait two more days? We understand — we're getting antsy, too. Get a sneak peek here, check out all the finalists and support your early favorites in our Fan Forecast vote.

See you Sunday!

Where’s “The” and “Next?”

by in Behind the Scenes, Judges, June 2, 2011
Star Judge Bob Tuschman
Bob Tuschman, General Manager, Food Network

It seems like only yesterday that we were launching this show called The Next Food Network Star. We premiered the show in the summer of 2005 and immediately you made it a success (you also made a few people big stars). Is it as hard for you to recall that Guy was once a competitor on this show as it is for me? It feels like he has always been a Food Network talent. But look at us today. Here we are on the cusp of season 7. We’ve dropped “The” and “Next” from our show title (Food Network Star is cleaner) and we’ve added more finalists (15 this year) along with new twists and turns to the show. (You’ll have to watch to find out what those are.)

What can you expect this season? Look for great food, tears, not-so-great-food, more tears and truly outrageous moments. Did I mention tears? This show is dramatic, but the most exciting season to date. Here’s a small glimpse of what’s to come. Also, starting Monday I’ll be blogging here weekly to give you my firsthand account of the previous night’s episode. I’ll share my honest opinions and I expect you to do the same. If you disagree with Susie, Bobby or myself (I expect you to disagree with them more than me), lay it on me.

Sunday night’s premiere (9pm/8c) is two hours and doesn’t disappoint. Check out our finalists then vote in our pre-season poll.

I’m excited to start another journey with you. Buckle up.

Keeping Up With the New Star

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 27, 2010

Aarti Sequeira

You followed her journey through all the Star challenges, marveling as she progressed from early insecurities to a few misses and many hits to a knock-out showing in the series finale.

Now Aarti's the latest and greatest addition to our Food Network Family, and her new show, Aarti Party, is gaining fans at lightning speed.

Keep up with future Aarti happenings over on our FN Dish blog, and follow her Facebook and Twitter updates, too.

Plus, check out videos of her latest recipes in the video section of her show page.

Finally, to all you fans and bloggers who made this such an awesome season, thank you. We couldn't be happier with our new Star, and we hope you love her as much as we do!

Looking for some spice? Share a favorite dish or two you'd love to see Aarti feature on her show.

More Reasons to Paarti: Happy Birthday, Star!

by in Behind the Scenes, August 19, 2010
Next Food Network Star Aarti Sequeira
Watch now as Aarti and her husband, Brendan, break into song for her 32nd birthday. Make a wish, Next Food Network Star!

What a whirlwind for Aarti Sequeira. Sunday was her Star win, followed by a busy week of appearances and interviews. And today Aarti celebrates her 32nd birthday. We caught up with her up in Studio B at Food Network's Chelsea HQ with her husband, Brendan, and raised a fluffy-flowered cupcake in her honor. Watch her hubby serenade her — so sweet. And yes, she shared the treat during the impromptu b-day "paarti." (You can also catch some cute pix of the couple and their family here.) Want to share your birthday wishes with Aarti? Leave comments and we'll share them with her, or check out her Facebook fan page.

How should Aarti celebrate her birthday?

Welcome, Aarti!

by in Food Network Star, Judges, Recap, August 16, 2010
Next Food Network Star Aarti Sequeira and Rachael Ray
Food Network host Rachael Ray and Star winner Aarti Sequeira

We have a winner. And I mean a real winner.

Bobby, Susie and I agreed that Aarti is a fresh, natural and exciting talent. She’s both sophisticated and down to earth. Beautiful and relatable. Her food is both comforting and exotic.

Mostly, I think she’s a natural television presence: relaxed, radiant and warm.

Choosing wasn’t easy. She, Tom and Herb were each so different — in personality, point of view and cooking styles. There was something to love about each of them. And fans were passionate for their favorite. And sometimes against anyone who wasn’t their favorite.

Seeing the volley of comments last night from viewers showed the passionate emotional connection that Tom, Herb and Aarti were each able to establish with fans. That encouraged me that any of them could have been the right choice.

But ultimately, Aarti was our choice: a natural star, with an exciting point of view, amazing cooking skills and most importantly, ready to have her own series on television next week.

Aarti will be bringing her party to Food Network starting next Sunday at noon.

Over and out.
Bob

In Aarti’s Own Words: Macarena, Anyone?

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 16, 2010

Next Food Network Star Aarti Sequeira

Where am I? What time is it? Who am I?

All these thoughts are running through my mind this morning.
Oh yeah.

I'M THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR!

I've never been able to do a cartwheel or else I'd do one right now. Would you take a round of the Macarena instead?

No?

Oh, ok.

To think, on day one, that I served raw chicken. Raw. To Bobby Flay. I remember thinking, I'm going home. I can't believe I'm going home already. My friends and family will be so disappointed in me.

Oh, and that budget-friendly, tastebud-unfriendly egg curry I served at the swanky Sinatra estate. I'm sure Frank was rolling his twinkly blues that night.

And of course, that monkey that sat on my back from day one, whispering, "You're no good. And it's only a matter of time before they figure it out." I know that it was frustrating for you guys to watch me collapse time and time again. I know, because it was beyond frustrating for me! I don't know why, but I never saw myself the way the committee, the house, or you guys saw me, even though I'd won more challenges than anyone else at the house. It wasn't until Bob Tuschman called me a "former frontrunner" in episode 5 that I realized who I was, or had been.

That's why this victory is so powerful, so meaningful. I can shove this metaphorical crown in that evil monkey's face (I think of the monkey from Family Guy gritting his teeth and pointing!): "See? I AM good!" This is proof to myself that I do have a purpose, that my life does have meaning. When I doubt my creativity, I'll remember that Turk-Eye Meatloaf or the Pomegranate-Glazed Lamb Kebabs that impressed the Obi-Wan of the cooking world, Chef Jonathan Waxman. When I doubt my energy or my strength, I'll remember sleeping four hours before prepping, cooking and serving on the cramped, smoky food truck for six hours ... or going straight from a long day at the supper club into a late-night evaluation. When I don't think my food is fancy enough or good enough for the most discerning taste buds, I'll remember how I killed it on the Iron Chef Challenge, how my culinary superhero, Chef Morimoto, loved my food. I mean, I did an Iron Chef battle, people. Not only did one. Won it (not against an Iron Chef, but... well, not YET!). How many people can say that?!

And so, to that monkey I say, "Adieu and thank you. I'm sure you had a purpose in my life, but I'm done with you now, and I never want to see you again." For any of you struggling with the same monkey, know that you don't have to carry him around forever. To my fellow contestants, especially my brothers from another mother, Tom and Herb: Thank you so much. To stand up there with you two was an honor and a blessing. I learned something from all of you, whether it was how to be strong in the face of adversity (Brianna), or how to coat your chicken wings in mustard to make them extra crispy (DAS!). Thank you to the selection committee for your patience with me, for all the therapy during evaluation (!), and for giving me another chance to lift my head up with pride. To all the producers, crew, culinary crew: we all saw how hard you guys worked even when you were more tired than we were. Thank you. And to you, out there in TV-terra: Your constant messages of support and encouragement were like a chorus of angels willing us forward. Thank you. And I hope you stay for the next chapter in this crazy story! And finally, I hope you'll allow me one final shout-out to God: Father, You know I'm nothing without You. Thank you so much! AMEN! Selah!

WOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!

Finale Chatterbox: Party’s Here

by in Community, August 15, 2010
Congrats, Aarti!
Congrats, Aarti!

Cue the confetti: Aarti Sequeira is the Next Food Network Star. Challenge after challenge, she fought for the spot, rollercoastering past insecurities and weaving the Selection Committee's suggestions into her delicious dishes and effervescent demos. Big-flower purveyors rejoice! More important, home cooks can look forward to Aarti's sparkle and charm as she teaches them--starting next week!--how to experiment with exotic ingredients and use them in everyday cooking. Tons of you joined Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson for our live finale chat tonight, talking through the whys and wherefores of this wild season, commenting along as the judges and a focus group screened the demos and as the drumrolls rolled. Check out the archive to see who said what. Kudos to all this season's finalists, but only one person can be the Next Food Network Star. Congrats, Aarti.

What do you think?

So How About You — On Star?

by in Food Network Star, August 13, 2010

Next Food Network Star Final Three

You've followed their progress all the way to this Sunday's finale, watching as Herb, Aarti and Tom aced the challenges ... or fell flat. And at some point maybe you thought, "I could do that."

So why don't you give it a shot?

Casting for the 2011 season of The Next Food Network Star is happening now. And after taking in all the action of Season 6, you already know what we look for: great cooking chops, a passion for teaching and a winning personality.

If you're confident you've got the goods, remember this: the final three got started by just throwing their hats in the ring. So come on. Roll the dice and see if you could be the next Star!

 

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