Heading Into the Finale Feeling Good

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 9, 2010

Herb Mesa

This whole experience has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, but all in all it’s been worth every up and every down! Linda and the girls are the most amazing part of my life, and I wouldn’t be here on the show if it weren’t for them.

Going into the pilot, I feel really good -- and nervous, but I feel that I have a very good chance at winning. My show idea just came to me as I realized that The Energy Chef concept alone may not be the right fit for Food Network, and that they really seem interested in my Latin culture, so I went with it and made it work still keeping it healthy.

Rachael Ray on The Next Food Network Star My food has gotten better, and I feel more comfortable with the cameras and with my new culinary POV. Meeting Rachael was sooo surreal -- I was like, ‘I can have her job one day! This rocks!’

I Just Have To Be Myself

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 9, 2010

Aarti Sequeira

There aren't enough exclamations to convey my excitement:
Leaping Lizards!
Jumpin' Jehosaphat (sp?)!
Holy Carp!

Nope. None of them work.

Here it is, our chance to actually DO the thing we've been fighting tooth 'n' nail for! And while I'm nervous (who wouldn't be), most of me is actually calm. It was always the cooking at the drop of a hat that spooked me. Being in front of the camera is fun! When I look in that camera, I'm going to imagine my husband Brendan, my family and my friends on the other side. I wonder whether anyone is going to help us through this thing? Cooking and talking to camera is much harder than it looks. I'm going to stick to my original mantra: be bold, and be joyful. After all, this may be one of the toughest challenges yet – putting everything we've learned so far together in one short pilot – but people watch Food Network to escape the difficulties, the pain, the doldrums of real life. We've got to bring the warmth, the joy, the fun... and wrap it around a tasty morsel and some kitchen know-how.

What could be easier, right? Hmmm.

I'm so happy to be up here with Tom and Herb. They've become brother-like to me. They even tucked me into my bed last night (an empty room now that Aria has left), and simultaneously kissed me on either cheek.

"My two dads!" I said, and they laughed.

Next Food Network Star Finalist Herb Mesa Next Food Network Star Finalist Tom Pizzica Don't get me wrong. They're fierce competition. Each of them can cook their pants off, and their brand of personality is so unique to who they are. I can't replicate it. Herb energizes you, and makes you feel optimistic about reaching your health goals. Tom makes you laugh and makes you feel like extraordinary food is within your grasp. It's sort of comforting to me - I can't be them. So I just have to be myself, do what I do, and see what happens.

We're all going to have a new career at the end of this, whether we win or not. But let's be honest. None of us want to lose. We might love each other to bits, but our competitive streak is still alive and kicking. Winning this thing would be a massive, humongous, gargantuan blessing to any one of our lives. Winning would make the last 9 weeks of sacrifice, challenges and no sleep all worthwhile.

Still, should either of my brothers win, I know I'll be almost as happy as if I had. I will wrap my arms around them, squeeze them half to death, and cry with joy. Because once you win this thing, it is no understatement to say that your life will never be the same again.

My Friends Call Me Big Chef

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 9, 2010

Tom Pizzica, Next Food Network Star Finalist

Oh God, there it is again. You would think with 9 weeks down in this competition this feeling of raw nerves in the pit of my stomach would have diminished a little bit by now. With my hanging-on each week and practically clawing my way through 9 other finalists to reach this: the pinnacle, the finale, I can honestly say that I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life. It is probably because I’ve never wanted anything more than this!

I have only one solo Star challenge victory under my belt, but I made it to the end and I could not be prouder of what I’ve accomplished so far. The Committee sees something in me, and I cannot let them down with a ho-hum “slacker Tom doesn’t care” performance on the pilot!

Waking up in NYC the morning of the pilot shoots, I still can’t believe I made it this far. Well...I guess I can believe it, but there is still the biggest challenge yet to go. Oh God, I’m going to throw up. This is it. This is why I fought tooth and nail (and got some good luck) for nine weeks. This is my “Big Chef” pitch to the Network, the last chance to blow away my competition and win my dream, and it has to be more perfect than anything I’ve done so far. It will be. “Big Chef” isn’t a cooking technique. It’s more of a cooking philosophy and a way of life in the kitchen that is absolutely 100% me and one I’ve been working on for 18 years. No fear Big Chef and stay bold and in control Big Chef. Man, I really should have eaten something this morning instead of pounding 3 cups of coffee. I should know better by now!

Giada De Laurentiis on The Next Food Network Star In the car over to Chelsea Market, Aarti, Herb and I run through the list of Food Network stars we have met along the way and those who we have not. We know somebody big is going to help mentor our pilots and we all guess Giada since she knows us and has been there for us throughout the competition (I would have been dead in the water at the Grove challenge if not for her advice and guidance!).

Rachael Ray on The Next Food Network StarSo when Rachael Ray shows up...well, it doesn’t help the nerves at all! She’s the master! The guru of cooking and talking at the same time! To say I’m intimidated would loosely describe my emotions; however, like all the personalities we have crossed paths with in this competition she is warm, genuine, and well receiving. She gives me great confidence and advice going into my pilot, and then she tells us she will be there to direct them. I can’t be more excited to get in the studio. Hi Rachael, I’m Tom Pizzica, my friends call me Big Chef.

All I’m Looking For Is a Star

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Judges, August 9, 2010

Bob Tuschman

So here we are heading into the final stretch with TOM, HERB and AARTI. Am I surprised by these final three? Yes, actually.

If you had asked me before we taped, I may have guessed that the final three standing would be ARIA, AARTI and, maybe, BRAD.

I couldn’t have predicted that ARIA would have started out as astoundingly impressive as she did … and end up on such a low note.

I couldn’t have predicted that BRAD would struggle so much for so long with the camera … and never really make peace with it.

I couldn’t have predicted that TOM would finally find a way to mix his low key slacker vibe with humor and cooking creativity to become a real contender.

I couldn’t have predicted HERB would find a way to fuse his Latin and Healthy point of views so appealingly, and in a way that lets his inner-star shine through.

And I couldn’t have predicted AARTI would struggle all season long with her self-confidence in ways that nearly sunk her, and our confidence in her, over and over.

That’s what I love about doing this show. You can never predict anything.

So, do I have a favorite going in? Not really. All I'm looking for is a star. I think each of these three have the potential, but in wildly different ways. Can't wait to see what they do with their pilots. I'll see you at the finale.

Chatterbox, Episode 9: Iron Chef-Style

by in Community, August 8, 2010

Did you watch? This was the last episode before the finale. The four remaining finalists were inside the famed Kitchen Stadium being judged by their toughest critics to date (the Iron Chefs, themselves).

I'm not going to give anything away here (look around the website or read the chat replay below for answers), but it has now been announced who the final three are to head in to the finale. Exciting stuff, people!

For the finale next week, Star judges Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson will be chatting live. Be sure to join us.

We are only one episode away from knowing who will be The Next Food Network Star! Pretty amazing, right?

Tag, you're it. Start commenting!

 

Now That Brad’s Gone ….

by in Community, Food Network Star, August 4, 2010

Brad Sorenson of The Next Food Network Star

Aside from just wishing he was still around, I've been thinking some about what Brad could have done differently. What might have kept him in the running? His food had some inconsistencies, but he certainly proved himself enough times on the cuisine front. His camera presence, at first so shaky, definitely seemed to be coming around. Should he have taken more risks? Or maybe it was the late discovery of his culinary point of view. Would he have pulled through with just one more episode to see how this newly defined direction (which the judges seemed to like) played out?

So based on what Brad wasn't able to do, who of the "final four" seems to have the best shot at going the distance where he fell short? Who's your money on at this point? Whoever it is, don't forget to vote for them ... just one more week and it's finale time.

Caption This: Episode 9

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 3, 2010
Alton Brown
Alton Brown

Sunday's episode finds the remaining four finalists (Aria, Herb, Aarti and Tom) in New York competing in an Iron Chef America Challenge. Alton, Morimoto, Cat Cora, Michael Symon and of course, Bobby, will all be there inside Kitchen Stadium.

In the episode, Alton has an "interesting" exchange with one of the finalists.

How would you caption this photo?

 

Your Questions, My Answers

by in Food Network Star, Judges, August 2, 2010

0137558_Bob-and-Giada-laughing_s4x3_lead

Another episode, another finalist sent home – this season seems to be flying by, doesn’t it? What did you think of last night’s elimination? I think we surprised many of you.

Keep your questions and comments coming on our blog, on Facebook and Twitter. I’m attempting to read them all (and respond to as many as possible).

There is an interesting variety of questions this week:

You mentioned Charisma and Passion. No argument there. Question: How do you decide when charisma is too loud – and how do you decide when passion becomes over-the-top (and simply too much)? What is your "yardstick?" – From James

That’s an excellent question, James. For which there is no excellent answer. It's always 100% subjective. The bigger the personality, the more polarizing they are. The personality that strikes me as electrifying and effervescent will oftentimes strike others as obnoxious and annoying. Ultimately, we go with our guts on which we think has the right combo of charisma, energy and passion to excite a wide variety of viewers.

Guy seems to be the most successful of The Next Food Network Stars and to me it is because the viewing audience voted on it. Have you reconsidered returning to that format? – Sarah Lyons

Sarah, I would offer that Guy's huge success is totally a factor of Guy's unique talents and personality. We love hearing from viewers which is why we have fan votes, polls, and chats. But we ultimately think what makes The Next Food Network Star unique and popular is that viewers get insight in to how the network chooses and develops its stars.

Do the stars and/or the contestants all have to have original recipes or is there a staff for that? – From Gillian

All of our stars and contestants use original recipes that they create for the shows they appear on. We do have a talented staff of chefs in the Food Network Kitchens, but they develop recipes for our non-television products, like the Food Network Magazine, our website, cookbooks, etc., but not for our stars.

In deciding elimination at this stage of the game, how much of the decision weighs into their performance this week versus their overall performance? – Nat Atkins

We start by just considering how each finalist did in this week's challenge. Then we broaden out to consider how this performance fits into everything we know about them so far. Ultimately we're trying to answer just one question: are we looking at a potential star?

How do the judges handle disagreements? – Dottie Jo

Bobby, Susie and I have had our fights and some have been real doozies. You'd think as head of Programming, I'd have the last word. But you'd be wrong. This week's elimination decision was made only after 4 hours of painful debate, which ended at 3am. Susie was so emotional about it, that when it came time to announce our decision, she couldn't get the words out through her tears. She whispered to me that I would have to announce it. It's a painful process.

I have so missed your weekly commentaries this season. Thanks for giving viewers this glimpse behind the camera. Unfortunately, there often seems to be some manipulation within challenges as to pairings and/or food prep assignments, even though that may not be the case. Would you consider some method for assigning partners, groups, or food that would dispel even a hint of manipulation--a drawing of numbers? – From tigergal75

Thanks Tigergal, I've missed writing my weekly blog too, which is why I'm hopping back into the weekly fray now. Assignments and pairings happen in all sorts of ways throughout the competition. Sometimes they're totally random. Sometimes the winner of a camera challenge gets to make the assignments as their advantage for winning. And sometimes we make the assignments precisely because we need to see how someone will react in a challenging situation. Personally, I like the variety.

Is there going to be another competition show for Anne Burrell? I loved the Worst Cooks in America show – she made it amazing and is my favorite and it doesn't seem she gets the air time like Alex and some of the other chefs. – From Sammie

This year was the first season of Worst Cooks in America with Anne Burrell, and it was a huge hit. Happy to tell you Anne will be back in January with an all-new crew of worst cooks.

Bob, any chances of seeing the judges cook alongside the contestants at any point? – From Miessj

Not a chance – for your sake as well as ours. I'm the first to tell you I'm a passionate food lover, but not a chef.

Would you consider bringing back some of the strongest contenders in the previous NFNS seasons to compete for a spot? Many of them seem to have grown in their culinary expertise (and perhaps camera presence) since they last competed. – From Nikki

We have actually discussed this. But every year we've found so many intriguing new contenders, we haven't wanted to give up one of their slots to someone who already got their shot.

When the contestants do a camera challenge, do they just get one shot, or does the audience just see one shot? In a real show, would not the host get a couple of takes to get a bit right? – From Lisa

The finalists only get one chance at a camera challenge, and you see it. Yes, in a real show, the star would get multiple passes, and eventually the final few will get the same opportunity. But for now, we're still testing innate camera skills, potential and charisma – so just one take per person.

 

Chatterbox, Episode 8: Giada and Eva

by in Community, Judges, August 1, 2010

Tonight! Wow, I can put the evening in to one word: "Exciting." Eva Longoria Parker jumped in as our celebrity guest judge (I'm still laughing at her question to Timberlake) and Giada De Laurentiis stepped in to the Star Lounge to answer some of your questions. In my humble opinion, Episode 8 and tonight's chat were the best (and most surprising) we've had this season.

What did you think of Timberlake's elimination (and the episode overall)? Review the chat log below and let me hear your thoughts.

 

The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned From Star

by in Food Network Star, Judges, August 1, 2010

Next Food Network Star Finalists, Season 6

It'll be over all too soon ... just three more shows until the finale! Seems like a good point to reflect on some of the Star wisdom I've gained in the last seven weeks:
(Can't remember who did or said what? Click the links to see who gets credit.)

1 – Being a Star judge is no cake walk.
2 - Simply saying "I love butter" at the end of a presentation won't win you a camera challenge.
3 – Even in a TV food competition, shushing or interrupting someone is still bad manners.
4 - Wearing crazy oversized sunglasses on camera doesn't buy much in the way of credibility.
5 – Bobby Flay has a serious tie collection.
6 – Singing for the judges only works if you're on a show where that's the thing.
7 – Some foods — like say, beef stroganoff — just need to stay on the not-so-healthy list. (Comfort food should be, umm … comforting.)
8 - Chorizo taquitos aren't the way to go when planning a kids' birthday menu.
9 – The Frank Sinatra house is no place for talk of budget-friendly meals.
10 – Bob Tuschman could make the world’s worst insult sound completely pleasant and courteous.

So how about you? What Star lessons have you learned?

 

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