4 Questions for Adam G

by in Community, Food Network Star, July 11, 2010

Adam Gertler, our special guest in tonight's Star chat, will have (I’m sure) some enlightening takes on how this competition's playing out. Things are starting to get wilder, and he was, after all, in the finalists' shoes himself not too long ago. But … I also have some other, non-Star questions I think might be fun to run by him, too:

1) What are three foods you'd pick now if you ever did another "Freaky" special on cuisine?

2) Would you be willing to do a karaoke performance we could post here?

3) Besides a bra, have you ever attempted to make any other item of clothing with chocolate?

4) Do you need an assistant host for Kid in a Candy Store? (Please?)

Got Your Own Questions for Him? Join Us at 9p/8c

I Think Paula Will Just Know

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, July 10, 2010

So as many of you are already aware, Paula Deen is the special guest judge on tomorrow’s episode of The Next Food Network Star. What do you think she'll be able to bring to the table for the finalists?

I'm actually a pretty avid Paula fan: I, too, adore Southern cooking and, I too, think it might not be worth hanging around if the world somehow ran out of butter. Add to that the time I had the good fortune to actually meet her in an airport. She soooo did not disappoint: on-the-spot clever, jokingly self-deprecating -- believe me, I could go on. In short: I’m ALL ABOUT seeing her hang out with the Star cast.

And yet … most of my anticipation has nothing to do with how downright fun and engaging I think she is. Here's the thing. Whether you're watching her on TV or being briefly (though very graciously) accommodated by her in an airport, you sense that this is a woman with crazy-sharp instincts when it comes to sizing people up. I got the sense she could tell me my ultimate life goal with nothing else to go on besides my description of the in-flight meal. (Yes, this was awhile back when you could still get those.) So tomorrow, I'll be keeping a sharp eye out for any subtle Paula "indicators." (Of course, the finalists' food will be a factor -- this is not a lady to hold back when it comes to stating what she likes and what she doesn't, I mean come on). But ... Is she looking a bit longer at Brad? Taking a moment to squeeze Aria’s hand? Smiling more when she’s around Serena? Hmmmm ….

Star Cooking: Killer Spiced Kebabs

by in Food Network Star, Recipes, July 9, 2010
Aarti's Lamb Kebobs
Aarti Sequeira's Ground Lamb Kebabs, Bengali-Spiced Potatoes and Persian Cucumber Raita

The sizzle of the finalists' lunch trucks dishes in the preview for Sunday's Star episode made me hungry for street food, (alas, no Smell-O-Vision) so I cooked up Aarti's street food-inspired winning dish from the last episode while I waited it out for Sunday night. Her take on Jonathan Waxman's favorite dish -- lamb and potatoes -- had the "Obi-Wan Kenobi" of the food world singing her praises, so I figured that the Ground Lamb Kebabs with Pomegranate Glaze, Bengali-Spiced Potatoes and Cucumber Raita would be a sure-fire hit at my dinner table.

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Behind the Scenes: A Hot Tamale, Green Day and Obi-Wan

by in Behind the Scenes, Judges, June 29, 2010
Good company: Bobby, Jonathan Waxman, Susan Feniger and Eric Greenspan Good company: Bobby, Jonathan Waxman, Susan Feniger and Eric Greenspan

Think about the best thing you ever ate and how you'd make it again. Now think about someone else's fondest food memory and cook it, recapturing their happiness. Then make the dish the pick of a world-famous chef. Good luck, right?

That's why on Sunday, guest judge Chef Susan Feniger of Ciudad in Los Angeles (and co-host with Mary Sue Milliken of Food Network classic Too Hot Tamales) was "impressed with the calmness of many of them." Keyword many. Herb had a tough time, still recovering no doubt, and Serena and Paul stumbled while Aarti and Brianna sparkled. (Check out some caught-in-the-act pictures.)

Guest judge Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose and sometime Food Networker, said, alluding to his own experience on last year's Next Iron Chef, "One of the greatest things about these shows is everyone is working from their own perspective." After the challenge, Chef Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto, kind of a cook's Obi-Wan Kenobi (he says) and a mentor to Bobby Flay, offered advice to the finalists. Note to producers: This would've helped the finalists, uh, beforehand. "Make it simple," Waxman said. "It's harder to edit yourself than to add." Standing next to Waxman and introducing him as an inspiration, Bobby needed a little editing--see for yourself.

See the Judges' Real Reactions Now

Dazzled

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Judges, Recap, Recipes, June 28, 2010

NF0604-BTS_DAS-Feature1_s4x3_tzDAS. I’m not exactly sure what to say about his elimination – other than for the judges, he clearly lost his dazzle. For me, I was never all that taken with Mr. Smith. He seemed like a nice dude and someone you’d totally want to hang with, but for this competition, I just wasn’t wowed. The one thing about DAS that will stand out to me? He always looked so tired. Now, I can relate, these days so do I, but for TV, looking like you’re on cold medication just isn’t going to work. So long, DAS. Go get some rest.

NF0604-BTS_Herb-Feature_s4x3_tzLet me speak a bit about Herb. Like me, he’s from Atlanta, and I absolutely hate to speak ill of one of my own. But, Herb! All that crying and sobbing was a bit much. We all have our sad stories and we all have times when our emotions get the best of us. But, this week, Herb was letting it all hang out and this wasn’t the place or time. He was so emotional that at one point he made Susie tear up. Yes, I understand he misses his family – however, you know what you’re getting yourself in to when you sign up for this competition. Herb, calm yourself down, wipe those tears away and get your head back in the game. You’re representing the ATL – so, represent!

0137558_Brianna-wins-challenge_s4x3_tzAs for Tom, he was on fire this week! I enjoy watching him come alive in front of the camera. He seems like he is quick on his feet and very witty – two qualities that I believe will serve him well. And, he and his big hair seem to be having genuine fun (or, either he’s faking it very well). My girl, Brianna, won the competition to have a recipe featured on Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill menu (Chile Chicken Skewers). That is a huge honor! I’ve been a Brianna fan since day one, so I must admit, I loved seeing her win this challenge.

That’s my quick take on Episode 4. Tag, you’re it!

Chatterbox: Ep. 4 Live Chat, For Crying Out Loud

by in Community, June 27, 2010

Phew--the ante is up. A trio of famous chefs asked finalists to re-create the best thing they ever ate. A pile of hot, hot, hot peppers challenged Star wannabes. Chefs told tales of dads and moms and grandmothers. Dry eyes were scarce. Oh, Herb! A very judgy-judgmental Selection Committee was in the house. Big shoes, being worn (oh, Brianna) and hoping to be filled. Melissa d'Arabian talked live with Star fans about her out-of-this-world world nearly a year later. "I still get stressed watching this!!" she said. "NFNS was an amazing experience, even beside the winning, but phew...it was a tough one. Really showed you what you are made of." Some finalists are made of rock starness--Justin Timberlake (ish) took to the deep fryer. And tons of chatters bid on one finalist or another, guessing at winners and losers. I tear up at the drama. Who're you betting on? Take comfort--as in fried chicken or mac and cheese--as you revisit the pre-July 4 fireworks. Then tell us what you really think.

Star Cooking: Scary-Good DIY Meatloaf

by in Food Network Star, Recipes, June 24, 2010
Aarti's Turk-Eye Meatloaves
Aarti Sequeria's Turk-Eye Meatloaves didn't scare the judges!

Aarti, we hope your confidence is rising, because you’re on a roll! Last week, Liz cooked Aarti’s Tandoori Chicken on Scallion Blini, and now we’re back with another Aarti winner from Episode 3.

Turk-Eye Meatloaf is an unfortunate and not-exactly-appetizing name for a recipe, but the flavor of Aarti’s dish proved otherwise. She drew Horror as her inspiration for the movie-themed camera challenge, and the judges ate up her cute "wandering eye" story that tied this dish to the genre.

Since I wasn’t stuck with any scary movie challenge while making Aarti’s meatloaves at home, I left off the (intentionally) creepy “eye” garnish. Without it, these individual meatloaves make a healthy and simple weeknight meal. Keep the garnish and it would certainly be a fun dish for Halloween.

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Still Got That Chill

by in Behind the Scenes, Judges, June 23, 2010

It's pretty clear by now that Brianna knows what she's doing when it comes to cuisine. So far she hasn't had a single dish come out less than great — no mean feat under typical challenge conditions, you know? But when will she start to thaw? Despite recent urging from the judges to start warming up to her guests, her demeanor is still detached, even arrogant. So how did she wind up with a win this week? Listen to Bob's take on her victory ... and see if you think she would have won without the "luck" factor he mentions ....

See What You Think

From Where I Sit: Episode 3

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Recap, June 21, 2010

I'm going to miss Dzintra. I must admit, I cringed with the rest of you when she shushed Aria – but, come on, you couldn't take your eyes off this finalist. Her unpredictability was fascinating. She was a pistol and the show won't be the same without her theatrics. I've written so much in previous blog posts about Ms. Dzenis, that now, I'm simply going to let Dzintra leave and stop talking about her. She has moved on and so must I. Farewell, Dzintra.

Brad (aka Justin Timberlake’s Lookalike) took his hat off in a few scenes this week and it totally threw me for a loop. I almost didn't recognize the guy. If Aarti stops wearing her flower I’m really going to be in trouble. I'm certain both Brad and Aarti wear these items to help them stand out from the crowd. I like these little added touches and think they shouldn't be filmed without them. You know how restaurant waiters have a pencil stuck behind their ear? I'd like to see DAS carry a utensil behind his. Perhaps a spoon? Yes, that should be his thing.

Herb. I dig him. He's an Atlanta boy and so am I. If for no other reason, I have to cheer for one of my own. However, if I could speak to him before Episode 4, I would offer my brother this advice, "Be authentic." Herb's enthusiasm, his smile and often times his whole demeanor comes across as forced to me. Be yourself, Herb. We Georgia boys have enough genuine personality – we don't have to be fake.

I did not care for how Paul treated Serena in the team challenge. I found him to be obnoxious, overbearing and a bit sexist with his comments. He needs to dial that mess down. He has a comedic, stand up background and maybe his shtick is funny in one of those venues? But, in this format, he's coming off as a big jerk. And, I like Serena too much to see her treated like this. Stop it, Paul.

Tom. I think he may be a sleeping giant here. He seems like that kid who sits in the back of the classroom all quiet and elusive, and then he graduates and invents something the world can't live without. Sure, his hair makes me nervous, but like Aarti's flower, Brad’s hat and DAS's spoon, it's his thing. Don't get a trim, Tom. I'll get used to it with time.

Clearly her teammate didn't want to hear anything she had to say (first paragraph), but Aria's voice comforts me. She has been told that she speaks to people like they are kindergartners (and she really does), but there is something about this cook that draws me in. I would so watch a show starring Aria. Perhaps more than any of the other finalists, I find Aria very easy to relate to.