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.

Holiday Recap

by in Food Network Star, July 4, 2011
Happy 4th of July!
Fireworks are on and off screen this weekend.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! I hope you’re having an amazing weekend and that great food has been (or will be) included in your Independence Day celebrations. Enjoy!

Now, about last night’s Star episode — this is what I’ve been left thinking:

Justin D. – wow, what happened there? He got the boot and his performance definitely justified the elimination. I didn’t know what to make of the persona he put forth. That newly created hip-hop alter ego came out of nowhere. The judges had been asking him to show more of his personality, but that must have proved too difficult and he decided to make up a random one instead. It was strange and Justin had to go.

Penny, once again, stirred the pot. I find it amusing that she has spent five episodes being unfriendly to everyone in the house and yet became emotional when talking to the judges — almost insinuating she, herself, had been mistreated. Jyll with a “y” hit the nail on the head: Penny is self-entitled.

You know who really surprised me last night? Susie! She has previously been forgettable, but she came out swinging. I loved her in both challenges and I feel like I got to see more of Susie’s personality shine through. She’s one to watch.

And finally, Mr. Guy Fieri. He is the example of what this show can do for someone. Like Guy, one of these season 7 finalists will walk away from this experience with their life forever changed. I’m excited to see who that person is.

That’s it for this week. I need to prepare for this afternoon’s barbecue, so I’m keeping it short. Before you head to your festivities, tell me what you thought of the episode.

Caption It: Guy’s Watching You

by in Food Network Star, July 1, 2011
Your Caption Here

On this Sunday’s episode, Food Network superstar Guy Fieri — a Star alum from Season 2 — joins the remaining 10 contestants on location. Here, Guy offers Chris Nirschel some sage advice as he coaches the finalists through a unique camera challenge — one that's very close to Guy's heart. Will Chris get tripped up during filming or does his performance prove star-worthy?    

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

Melissa’s Finalist Pep Talks

by in Food Network Star, June 30, 2011
Melissa d’Arabian, Michael Symon, Bob Tuschman
Melissa judged this week’s Kellogg’s challenge with Iron Chef Michael Symon and Bob Tuschman.

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. Her show, Ten Dollar Dinners, premieres its fifth season this Sunday, July 3. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

I’d love to sit down with each finalist and chat.

Orchid — I adore you. Code blue: brilliant. I’m going to try it on my four little daughters. Regarding the episode, I understand being starstruck. I felt that way many times during my season, and I have some wise words to share: Get over it. I’m (kind of) kidding. I still pinch myself when I look at the names on my phone’s speed dial.

Jyll — Your crab cakes were seriously delish, but I’m disappointed that you served something cliché to vegetarians: a salad. You missed an opportunity to serve something surprising or original. I had a similar missed opportunity during my season (Miami Beach Challenge), and to this day, I can still tell you what I would have made (spicy pecans) instead of what I did serve (awful chicken skewers). Mark Twain is right about regretting the things we didn’t do.

Justin D. — I thought the black bean with jalapeno was pretty tasty. I will not lie to you — I was alone. But I thought you should know. Oh, and can we call you just Justin without the D. now? I’ve confused that D and B more times than my 4-year-old daughter learning to read.

Chris — Let’s start off by bringing up the obvious question: Did you really say something was “whack” on national TV? Regarding your menu choice: Lamb shank that you usually spend 24 hours making in only 3 hours? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Don’t choose recipes that have an 80 percent chance of failure before you even begin. Unless you happen to be …

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Star Commentary: The Great Debate

by in Food Network Star, June 29, 2011

A rare smile from super-serious Justin B.

Sunday’s episode of Star was jam-packed with surprises: celebrity guest appearances from the cast of Cougar Town, Southern queen Paula Deen, Iron Chef Michael Symon and season 5 Star winner Melissa d'Arabian. But perhaps the most unexpected moment of the night came not from the kitchen or behind the camera but during elimination: Justin Balmes was sent home.    

This week’s batch of fearless commenters on Food Network’s Facebook page and our Star blog are divided in their opinions on Justin B.’s exit. At the heart of this discussion lies one simple question: What is more important — a big television personality or rock-solid cooking chops? We’ve seen from the last six seasons of Star that the winners must find the coveted sweet spot: a point at which they’re completely themselves on camera while displaying culinary credibility.    

Of Justin B.’s exit and the camera vs. food debate, viewers wrote that “he could have been great” and that they “found his food the most exciting seen on this show since Guy.” Others noted that “It's obvious that Justin B. can ‘bang some pots’ but he REALLY had no stage personality or presence at all.”

And while some of you said that “his camera presence did not show any signs of growth or improvement,” another wrote simply, “I was disappointed that Justin B. left last night … I would have liked to watch a show of his because I probably could have learned a lot.”

Hear from Justin B. himself in his Exit Interview and learn his reaction to the elimination and plans for the future. Join the conversation on Facebook and Star Talk, and let us know what you thought of his final Star performance. And be sure to tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to see who goes home next.

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

Star Spotlight: It’s Paula, Y’all!

by in Behind the Scenes, June 28, 2011

Paula Deen

Behind the scenes of this week's Cougar Town challenge, we caught up with our favorite Southern cook. Paula's tips for being camera-ready? "Being rested...and of course, having the greatest makeup and hair people helps!"

The Star finalists were star-struck when they learned that this Food Network icon would be tasting their food, but who would Paula herself most like to cook for? Check out the video to find out — plus, the queen of comfort food tells us what she craves most after a long day.

What's your go-to comfort food? A Paula recipe, perhaps?

Code Blue

by in Food Network Star, June 27, 2011
Paula and Eliminated Finalist Justin B.
Paula and Eliminated Finalist Justin B.

Let me begin by stating the obvious: Paula is the absolute best. Any time I see her I just get the best feeling. Maybe it’s because I’m from the South and she reminds me of home, or maybe it’s simply because she is an amazing cook and I have enjoyed every buttery recipe she has created. Whatever the reason, she is a SUPERSTAR (far beyond just a “star”) and the finalists were completely justified in their awe of her. The kind of warmth and engaging personality Paula exudes is what they should be aspiring to.

When Melissa d’Arabian introduced the Kellogg’s Camera Challenge, I was intrigued. I live off most of those treats that the finalists had to use as ingredients. Rice Krispies? Um, I have a bowl every Saturday morning. A Pop-Tart is my go-to Monday through Friday breakfast choice. And Cheez-Its? I enjoy them regularly with little scoops of French-onion dip – so tasty! How though would the finalists use these snacks in serious dishes? Well, I was impressed to see what they did.

Chris’s chicken nuggets made with Corn Flakes sound delicious. I can just imagine the crunchiness of those flakes on little nuggets — I want to taste them. Bob was definitely impressed. Whitney’s use of the crushed Pop-Tarts on Parmesan crackers wasn’t a big hit, but come on — that’s a toughie. What could you make with a Pop-Tart? I eat them all the time and I’m completely clueless. I admire Whit’s effort. Justin B.’s Cheez-It crust on top of mac and cheese? That’s mad genius! Can’t you just taste it?

The Cougar Town Challenge was interesting. The Penny/Mary Beth teaming made me nervous. I kept expecting to see Penny be short-tempered with MB, but she wasn’t. Instead, I was surprised to watch Penny be so friendly to MB while working with her, yet in her video interviews talk so hatefully about her. The characteristic that I respected previously (and took heat for) about Penny was that she owns who she is and doesn’t seem to change herself no matter the circumstance she finds herself in. Sorry, Penny — I’m now questioning your authenticity. As for Mary Beth, this lady continues to shine.

Justin D. needs to wake up. Is he sleepy? It’s like Giada should snap her fingers in front of his face and snap him out of his “slumber.” He’s really beginning to stumble and I’m not sure he’s going to gain his footing. When Busy Phillips said of Jyll, “she’s very polished, but I don’t want to watch that show,” I smiled. That summarized beautifully what I’ve been trying to articulate for weeks now.

And now, back to Justin B. I enjoy the guy and was sad to see him go. I really feel with time, he would have been able to bring his personality out on camera. But, I guess that’s just the problem: There isn’t any time.

Finally, before I close, I want to give props to Orchid. She seemed to have had a calming effect on Jeff with her “Code Blue” signal. Chris’s frenetic energy is exhausting to watch and would irritate me greatly if I was there in person. I thought it funny that little Orchid could settle this big guy down.

That’s it for me — now let me hear from you.

Caption It: Goofing Around

by in Behind the Scenes, June 24, 2011
Your Caption Here

On the next episode of Star, headband-clad Jeff and usually stoic Justin B. share a lighthearted moment on the set of Cougar Town — where their next Star Challenge goes down. What's going on here? Are the guys trying to impress Paula or Courteney Cox with an interesting form of martial arts?

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

Melissa’s Insight: Four Rules for Finalists

by in Food Network Star, Recap, June 23, 2011
Vic Vegas
Melissa's advice: Take a cue from Vic and sell the heck out of your food.

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. Her show, Ten Dollar Dinners, premieres its fifth season on July 3. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

Next week, Melissa is live-chatting on Facebook on Monday afternoon! Join in at 1pm EST with your questions and comments.

Week three: I’m getting to know the finalists, and I’m emotionally invested. I crack up when Jeff talks about his mojo-in-sweat theory; I cringe at Chris “making the ice cream … oh yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh”; I brace for impact when Alicia announces that the “only thing” she is worried about is her cupcake recipe (uh oh); and I want to hang out with Susie over coffee and tell her how much I love her sleek hairdo. I have some early favorites: Jyll and Orchid. And I am dying to jump through the screen and tell Whitney and Justin B. to get out of their own way; this competition might be theirs to lose if they could only find a way to bring their genuine selves, however imperfect, to the audience.

This week’s BTDT insights for the finalists:

You eat with your ears first, not your eyes.
Make it sound good. What you name your dish counts, and how you talk about your food matters since your audience cannot taste it. A corollary: Don’t be a walking apology for a dish. Serve it and own it completely. Or leave it in the kitchen — there is no in-between. And a tip: Never, ever use the word “just” to describe food to Bobby Flay. It will drive him bananas, trust me. Justin B. starts off calling the orange fennel ice cream “just an anglaise base,” and Whitney is similarly tepid in her description of a brownie (although in all fairness, she was right — it was indeed “just” a brownie, which is not a good thing at all). Take a cue from Vic: He sells the heck out of his tequila lime cream puff with his culinary authority, no pitch needed.

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Star Commentary: Bake or Be Baked

by in Food Network Star, June 22, 2011
A Tear-Free Moment

On Sunday’s episode of Star, Alicia Sanchez, a former bakery owner, was sent packing as the fourth finalist eliminated. Despite her proclamation that she is “good at cakes,” Bobby Flay told her that the cupcake pop on which she took the lead for her team was “under-baked” and that the guests were “spitting it out.”

Although you all couldn’t taste those pops for yourselves, many commenters on Food Network's Facebook page and our Star blog seemed to be in agreement with the judges’ decision to let go of Alicia. Some of you noted that she looked “way out of her element” and that her “kitchen hysteria and meltdowns were getting old.” And others simply asked “how the heck could she not remember a cupcake recipe when she owned a cupcake shop?”

A few viewers, however, were a bit more sympathetic toward Alicia and suggested that “if Alicia was not in front of the camera she would [have] been OK.” Another commenter went so far as to blame Penny for Alicia’s meltdowns, writing that Penny “was awful to Alicia, bringing her to tears right away.”

Hear from Alicia herself in her Exit Interview and let us know what you thought of her run on Star. Was it her time to leave, or do you think she could have improved with a little more time? Join the conversation on Facebook and at Star Talk, and tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to see who goes home next.  

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