Melissa’s Insight: The Art of Losing

by in Food Network Star, August 11, 2011

Mary Beth and Jeff

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.

Today I’m dedicating my blog to losing. Yes, losing. Next week at this time, we will be focused on who won, so now’s our chance to talk about not winning. Believe me, I’ve earned the air I breathe around this subject. While I did win my season of Star, I know what it’s like to watch someone else get something I wanted so badly, something I believed was my destiny. I’ve had to step aside with a graceful smile and applaud the victories of others. And I’ve replayed events over and over in my mind, wondering if there was a key moment where I lost and, more importantly, what could I have done to avoid it.

I’ve learned more by losing than by winning. When I lose, I try to nurse my hurt ego for a short time and then set it aside. Only then can I see losing as the valuable feedback it is. I evaluate and adjust course. In my experience, losing is a speed bump on the way to winning.

I believe that any given moment, I am right where I am supposed to be, good or bad. If it weren’t uncomfortable, then where would I find the motivation to try something different? Besides, discomfort tells me that life is in session. And that’s a good problem to have.

Here are some truths that have become apparent to me, through the gift of losing:

You are always auditioning for life, never just for the job. Think how many people have lost out on the prize in front of them only to go on to succeed in ways unimaginable. Do you think Jennifer Hudson imagined winning an Oscar when she was sent home from American Idol? My advice: When you lose, impress anyway. Be graceful. Be so good that people can’t imagine not calling you when they are looking for someone with your skill set. Mary Beth may not be the best cook Food Network has seen, but I will be very surprised if she ever has to seek work again as a writer. She’s great at that, and she showed what a class act she is. (Her parting words, “A lot of people don’t ever find their passion; how could I be anything but grateful?” show exactly why she will be successful.)

Penny Davidi

Make people want to pick you first for the big dodge ball game of life. Which makes Penny’s decision to phone in her work this week such a crime — not against Mary Beth because I think she would have been edged out anyway — but Penny robbed herself of the opportunity to turn it all around. Imagine if she had just knocked herself out for her teammate? What could have come from that? We’ll never know, and sadly neither will she.

Your life mission is not becoming a Food Network Star, even if it feels that way. You weekly readers know how I feel about having a personal life mission — it’s critical. Indeed, knowing what small mark I want to leave on the world gets me up in the morning. Here is the secret: If a life mission is about winning a contest (or job or any achievement), then consider the possibility that you aren’t thinking big enough for your life’s mission. As much as I wanted to win FNS (a lot), and as much as I knew why I wanted to win (to pursue my life’s mission), I also knew that my life’s mission could be served without winning. Making the mark is more important than doing it exactly the way I imagined. My life’s mission is helped along by my TV career, certainly, but my TV career is not the mission itself. Means versus ends.

Making peace with not winning is actually pretty simple. Know why you are playing (meaning know your life mission), play a game you can win (for instance, no one can bring Susie’s family recipes to life like she can), put in the work to win that game (no shortcuts), and then let the results fall where they may, accepting you are right where you are supposed to be at the end of it, win or lose.

Lastly, I remember the Olympic creed, which states that the most important thing is not to win but to take part — just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.

Good luck Vic, Susie and Jeff. Winning the FNS finale is not as important as what it took to get there, nor as important as where you will go after. Whoever wins, though, call me, and we’ll chat about winning, and your new life. Because it’s all about to change.

See what Melissa’s cooking up on Ten Dollar Dinners, check out her Facebook Fan Page and follow her on Twitter (@melissadarabian).

Poll: Who’s Your Least Favorite Finalist?

by in Community, August 10, 2011

Season 7 Finalists

We're down to three Star finalists remaining and just one episode to go until one of them has a new show on Food Network. You've been voting for your Fan Favorite all season, but now we've got another question. Of the 12 eliminated finalists, who was your least favorite? Cast your vote for the finalist who you were relieved to see go home.

Star Commentary: Finale Loyalties

by in Food Network Star, August 9, 2011

Vic, Susie and Jeff

Well, there’s only one episode left. Come Sunday night,  Vic "Vegas" Moea, Susie Jimenez or Jeff Mauro will officially be named the next Food Network Star. After 10 episodes of trying challenges, dramatic exchanges and emotional moments, loyal viewers and eager commenters on Food Network’s Facebook page and our Star blog have become attached to the finalists, particularly the remaining three, and are fervently rooting for their favorite.

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And Then There Were 3 (Finale Bound)

by in Food Network Star, August 8, 2011

The Remaining Four Finalists

Mary Beth’s elimination was tough. I liked her so much! Her food may have been unremarkable (and I do understand that’s kind of the point), but her personality was sparkly. I think I was most taken with her genuineness — every word out of her mouth was honest and authentic. Even her parting words to the judges were endearing. Mary Beth can leave this competition with her head held high. As a side note, her line of having to work with Penny again was amazing: “Like a horror movie villain who you think is gone, she comes back.” Loved that.

I’m sort of stunned that Vic has made it to the finale. Yes, it’s impossible to dislike the guy, but he has had some memorable fumbles throughout this competition. But hey, how you recover from your fumbles is what people respect. My hat goes off to the “Mama’s Boy.”

Susie has a smile that lights up a room. Apparently her food is pleasing too, but that smile is unforgettable. As for Jeff, he’s a powerhouse and has been on a strong roll. The judges love his sandwiches, his personality and the guy even won over Alton — if he does nothing else, that alone is out-of-this-world impressive.

Next Sunday is a biggie. The reunion show starts at 8pm/7c followed by the finale at 9. I can't believe we're about to wrap this up (and crown a new star). Exciting stuff. I hope no one gets hurt at the reunion. Maybe Penny ought to come with bodyguards?

Caption It: Look Who’s Back

by in Food Network Star, August 5, 2011
Iron Chef battle sous chefs
Your Caption Here

No, this is not a recycled image from a previous episode. This sneak peek shot was taken on the set of Sunday’s episode of Star, during which the most recently eliminated contestants – Chris, Penny, Jyll and Whitney – return as their former fellow finalists’ sous chefs in an Iron Chef battle.

Don’t let their calm demeanor here fool you, though. The competition gets heated in Kitchen Stadium as these four join forces with their once-rivals in order to impress Iron Chef Michael Symon, Alton Brown and the selection committee. Will the remaining contestants be satisfied with their sous chefs, or will the latter add chaos and distraction to the already-complicated challenge?

Before you tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to see whose cuisine reigns supreme, we’re challenging you, Star fans, to write your best captions (tastefully appropriate, please) for this Kitchen Stadium moment in the comments below.

Only two episodes to go! You can still cast your Fan Favorite Vote up to 10 times per day.

Melissa’s Insight: Listen to Those Judges!

by in Food Network Star, August 4, 2011
Jeff Mauro
Jeff did well in one of Melissa's favorite challenges: The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

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.

This week, I’m extra excited for the episode: It’s a Best Thing I Ever Ate (love that show!) challenge and then a finalist roast with top comedians. Before I move onto the episode, I thought I would share a couple of (random) fun facts, since I’m feeling like we are now friends.

1. Whenever I see The Best Thing I Ever Ate, I think of the time my husband and I ate what seemed like a gazillion spoonfuls of spicy aioli on camera at 7 a.m. in order to illustrate how delish the sauce was in a fried calamari dish for the appetizer Best Thing episode. Nothing says “good morning” like a belly full of mayonnaise and fried seafood.

2. Speaking of roasts, little-known fact about me: Years ago, before kids, I was a full-fledged member of the Friars Club. And you thought I could just make a mean potato-bacon torte!

Back to FNS: A few weeks ago on my blog I imagined sitting down with each of the finalists to give them some been-there-done-that advice. Today, I’m going to highlight some advice or words from the judges that jumped out at me as being the important gems of the episode. (You are all welcome to agree, disagree, discuss, right here in the comments.)

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Star Commentary: Roasted, With a Side of Funny

by in Food Network Star, August 3, 2011
Vic Vegas
Vic Vegas and his roast

For the first time in seven seasons, Sunday night’s episode of Star featured a panel of comedic guest judges brought on to roast the remaining five contestants and their food — aptly, variations on the classic roast. This unique challenge elicited mixed reactions from the passionate and opinionated commenters on Food Network’s Facebook page and our Star blog.

While some of you found the roast to be “clever and different” and “a brilliant idea,” one viewer argued that typically “you roast people who are at the top of their game, not people struggling to get a start” in the industry. Another commenter worried that the roast would simply involve mindless “heckling,” although upon watching the episode, many found that the comedians offered “insightful” remarks and “were able to give the best feedback in terms of audience likeability.”

And while the challenge proved too much for Whitney, one commenter noted, “If you can't take the heat, now's the time to jump out of the frying pan! It's simply a test.”

What did you think of the roast challenge? Was it fair for the finalists to be judged by non-food people? Join the conversation on Facebook and Star Talk, and tune in Sunday at 9pm/8c to see who can withstand the pressure of Kitchen Stadium.

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

Star Spotlight: Comic Relief

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, August 1, 2011
Anthony Anderson, Bobby Flay and Bob Tuschman
Check out our behind-the-scenes interviews with guest-star comedians.

This week’s challenge brought something totally different to the Star set. Usually the finalists are trying to impress Food Network stars – members of the elite club that they’re vying to join. The surprise guests for the Roast were stars from the comedy world: Anthony Anderson, Gilbert Gottfried, Judy Gold, Louie Anderson and Aubrey Plaza. This impressive panel of comedians — faces you may recognize from stand-up, movies and television — was tasked with making fun of the finalists to see who could roll with the punches and take themselves a little less seriously.

Check out our behind-the-scenes footage of these funny men and women answering questions like “What would be your Food Network show?”

More Star Extras:

Funny Business

by in Food Network Star, August 1, 2011

The Remaining Five Finalists

Brevity can be a good thing. With that in mind, my overall summation of last night's show is this: They laughed, Whitney cried, she went home — and we now have our final four!

Jeff, Mary Beth, Vic or Susie: One of them is going to become Food Network's next star. If you were a betting person, who would you put your money on?

This post is short, you now have some free time. Fill it with:

Whitney's Departing Words

Vote for Your Favorite Finalist
Watch Last Night’s Recap
Top Moments From the Episode
Starlicious Recipes

Star Commentary: Time to Get Serious

by in Food Network Star, July 29, 2011
Mama's Boy Vic Vegas

After Jyll was sent home on Sunday night, the conversation on Food Network’s Facebook page and our Star blog turned to the remaining five contestants: Who among them has a clear enough culinary point of view (POV) to deliver creative, approachable and TV-worthy recipes to a viewing audience every week? After all, Jyll was eliminated because of her inability to sell her vacillating POV to the judges, so, at this stage of the game, knowing who you are and what your food represents is the key to Star success.

Vic has implemented a “Mama’s Boy” POV, inspired by growing up with his Italian mother in the kitchen, about which viewers seem equally confused and excited. One commenter asked, “I thought he was Vegas, not Mama's Boy?” Many others, however, complimented his obvious “food chops,” and several wrote, “I would love to have some of [his] ideas for Sunday dinner,” and “He’s the only one I would make it a point to always watch.” Still, commenters seemed to question his “one-dimensional character” and “awkward” persona more so than his POV.

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